Sunday, July 07, 2019
breadth and depth of its beer scene outside of metro areas. Summit County features some of the best experimental (Broken Compass) and hazy (Outer Range) beer makers in the state. Durango (Ska, Steamworks) and its 18,000 residents rates on a per-capita basis with anywhere. And Greeley (Weldwerks, Wiley Roots), well, wow.
So it was interesting to note on a recent trip to Steamboat Springs that the 13,000-person skiing and hiking paradise now boasts four breweries of its own, ranging from a production brewery with statewide distribution to a 25-year-old restaurant brewery that offers its beer just there in its bar. But while the production brewery, Butcherknife Brewing, has a wide range of excellent offerings, the rest of the scene seems to be a work in progress, hitting at times with bold flavors and missing at other times with basic staples, particularly in the area of IPAs.
First, Butcherknife. You may know its Amputator IPA, which can be found up and down the Front Range, a boozy (7.2% ABV) and vaguely old-fashioned (it's crammed with Centennial hops) piny but balanced hop bomb that's won "Best of the Boat" five years running. It's a quality and reasonably unique offering, with its malt-heavy quality — but it's hardly the best thing on this excellent menu.
Storm Peak Brewing, meanwhile, is the beer maker everyone seems to be talking about, and with roughly 15 beers on tap, it certainly makes an impression from the moment you see its menu board. But while its Hoochie Mama — a sour blonde ale with guava that pleases by having a high fruit-to-tart ratio that makes it both intriguing and accessible — is one of the best things you'll find in town, the quality of beers varies significantly from there.
Mountain Tap Brewery is the downtown spot, with a wood-burning oven that makes its full food menu, and its location just feet away from the path winding beside the Yampa River (see photo at bottom) makes this a must-hit for juggling both beers and beauty in a short period of time. But the beer here is even more inconsistent than Storm Peak.
The highlights of the menu were the Mountain Macaroon — a brown ale aged on lightly toasted coconut that has a nice roast and just enough sweetness to make it unique — and the Passionate Pedal, a passionfruit wheat that refreshes completely and has a bonus tinge of tart. But the several IPAs on the menu were beers that let their malts talk more than their hops and even the more experimental tastings like the offshoot of Mountain Macaroon aged for several weeks with rum-soaked oak seem to diminish the original beer (with a shockingly boozy taste for a 6% ABV offering) rather than boosting creativity.
Maybe the biggest surprise in town was Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill, a 25-year-old restaurant brewery whose beer menu has changed only a little over the past 15 years despite the enormous changes in the craft-brewing scene. The offerings feel as dated as that description makes them sound, from an Alpenglow amber ale that is reminiscent of an early copper ale to an Elk River ESB that lacks hop bite and feels amateurish.
When asked about the local scene, one beertender told me it was "up and coming." Truth be told, Steamboat Springs' breweries are a little more coming than consistently up at the moment, but there are quality offerings at each — and a wide range of special beers at Butcherknife — that give indications that an up-and-down selection may be on the upward curve in the local sector's taste evolution.
Labels: Butcherknife Brewing, coconut, IPA, Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill, Mountain Tap Brewery, mountain-town breweries, New Colorado breweries, Porters, sour ale, Steamboat Springs breweries, Storm Peak Brewing
Thursday, June 27, 2019
It's been two months now since the Regional Transportation District opened the G Line, extending from Wheat Ridge through Arvada and into Denver Union Station. Many people likely haven't experienced the ride yet. And that is a mistake — particularly from a beer perspective.
Urban dwellers may not realize it, but Arvada now has a brewing scene equal to any Denver-area town that is not Denver. One of the most underrated beer bars in the area sits just a five-minute walk from the first stop on the G Line. And the starting point of this excursion, Denver Union Station, sits in one of the most beer-friendly areas of downtown, even if you have only a short time to imbibe.
Here, then, is a beer-lovers' guide to the G Line — a trip I tried out myself during a birthday crawl of the new rail route that I organized last month.
Stop 1: Denver Union Station
Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Thirsty Lion Gastropub are out-of-state chains but are replete with good beer and high-quality food starting at 11 a.m. And Wynkoop Brewing, just across the street from the station, has undergone a serious renaissance since John Sims took over as head brewer a few years ago and reintroduced serious experimentation to the 31-year-old brewpub.
Stop 2: 41st and Fox
(Note: I discovered after writing this post that Crafty Fox had closed less than two weeks beforehand. That's a loss not just for the G Line tour but for the Denver beer community. Let's hope another restaurant with good food and a good tap list can give it a shot at making this a great beer stop.)
Stop 3: Pecos Junction
collection of hazy IPAs and liver-breaking 15% ABV Decennial series are worth spending the money on getting someone else to drive you around.
Stop 4: Clear Creek and Federal Station
While Adams County officials have some grand plans to make this an area to live, work and play — including possible features on the creek — you are currently out of luck at this stop around 60th and Federal, which is all industrial without a good beer in site. But give it time. And wave hello as you pass it by presently.
Stop 5: Arvada Gold Strike (60th and Sheridan)
Similar to Pecos Junction, this is an industrial zone. But Odyssey Beerwerks in Arvada is a 20-minute walk away, and new brewery operations director Chris Griffith - late of the closed Fate Brewing and its fantastic experiments in flavor — is ramping up the brewery's menu in exciting ways, including a chai version of its tasty Psycho Penguin Porter that took that beer to a new level. So why recommend this trip more vociferously than a similar one to Bruz on an RTD pub crawl? For this reason: Bruz, while it is a great brewery, is beyond the industrial zone surrounding its RTD stop in a residential community that is easily accessed by car. Odyssey, meanwhile, is almost buried in an industrial park that really speaks to where you are getting off here, and its inclusion in any pub crawl puts the neighborhoods of the new rail line in perspective.
Stop 6: Olde Town Arvada
with its in-house burger trailer and range of Arvada-only beers, is a similar distance away. Do not, however, overlook, Homegrown Tap & Dough, an upscale pizza restaurant with a rewarding tap and bottle list that is literally a really strong stone's throw from the station (as opposed the 4-5 minutes you'll have to walk to get to the two breweries). And it's just an eight-minute walk down to Yak & Yeti, a Nepalese restaurant that also is home to Sun Temple Brewing and its daring beers, including its award-winning Chai Milk Stout.
Stop 7: Arvada Ridge
Adjacent to a shopping and dining area that features a lot of fast-casual chains, this stop just east of Kipling and Ridge Road in Arvada is probably more appropriate for a quick bite to calm your buzz if you are making this trip. But Li'l Nick's Pizza is just a six-minute walk from the station and has 14 beers on tap. And Discovery Tap House and its 28 beers are only an 11-minute walk, which, again, can be be rewarded with all kind of burgers, calzones or fast Chinese on the way back to the station.
Stop 8: Wheat Ridge - Ward Station
Like several of its brethren station on the G Line, this is not near beer oases just yet, though city leaders say they hope to build up a multi-use community around the stop that can feature restaurant and retail. But if you're willing to sit in a car for 10 minutes, you can get to either of the two Wheat Ridge breweries — Brewery Rickoli, which has taken the gluten-reduced taste profile in far-out directions, including a GABF-medal-winning barley wine and a lot of bold hoppy and sour flavors, and Colorado Plus, whose half-dozen in-house beers are supplemented by a tap list of 50-plus Colorado-only offerings, including some smaller breweries you won't find elsewhere. A trip to either place is well worth your time.
Labels: Arvada breweries, Brewery Rickoli, Bruz Beers, Colorado Plus Brew Pub, Crafty Fox, Denver Beer Co, Hopdoddy, New Image Brewing, Odyssey Beerwerks, Sun Temple Brewing, Thirsty Lion, Wynkoop Brewery
Friday, May 31, 2019
Judging by the weekday crowd at Elitch Gardens today, spring has already segued into summer, no matter what the calendar may say. But beer seasons stick around a little longer, giving that precious extra time to sup up what breweries have made to help Coloradans bridge the crucial months between ski season and full-out camping time.
This year brought a variety of tastes giving life to what used to be a blah few months for new creations and seasonal offerings. And in the catch-all spirit of spring-cleaning one's beer notebook, a half dozen that ran the gamuts of flavor and release timing need to be called out and, in some cases, lobbied to be brought back again when the calendar turns from snow to sunshine in the same week.
1) Paradox MF Gose Pamplemousse
2) Denver Beer Co. Juicy Freak IPA
3) 3 Superheroes Walk Into a Brewery
4) Melvin Brewing TGR Pilsgnar
5) Bell's Brewery Official IPA
late 2018 launch into Colorado gives its beers here a very fresh feel and makes you appreciate its unique new offerings like they were something coming for the first time from the brewery around the corner. Official IPA stands out for being a hazy IPA without diving fully into the New England citrus and tropical blend of hops, instead being smooth, juicy and very summer-ready with hints of papaya upfront and just a faint grassy bitterness remaining on the backtaste.
6) Left Hand Wheels Gose 'Round
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Your first impression of the offerings at Dos Luces Brewery, frankly, is: These aren't beer. The thick, multicolored samplers at your fingertips are bright and flavorful, but there's no way they are beer.
And yet, owner Judd Belstock not only is serving up beer, he is fashioning malted beverages in a uniquely American way from the Pulque and Chicha traditions of Mexico and Peru — traditions passed down from his father, who spent a portion of the 1960s with the Peace Corps in South America enjoying the unusual native beverages.
As the brewing world descends on Denver this week for the Craft Brewers Conference, there are no shortage of great breweries making memorable beer for them to stop by. But there may be none so wildly unique as Dos Luces, so much so that the biggest question is whether it inspires copycats or simply remains a one-of-a-kind draw.
"Our mission statement is we want to change the way that people think about beer," Belstock said.
Over the past 10 years, the onslaught of sours, pastry stouts and IPAs with all manners of adjunct ingredients already has redefined beer. What separates Dos Luces' offerings is the wide range of tastes they produce from just two base styles of beer.
Pulque, a Mexican drink traditionally made from the sap of the maguey plant, brings a slightly more familiar taste, one that's less juice-reminiscent and more earthy and malty in its design — particularly in the always-available Pulque Metztli, which is Brett-fermented and kettle-soured. It's produced fascinating spin-offs such as a slightly tart Strawberry Nutmeg Pulque and a Lime Ancho Chile Pulque that brings the full mouth of a meal cooked with spices rather than the traditional burn of a chile beer.
Belstock (pictured below) makes his creations from barley and corn in order to meet the definition of beer, though the lack of hops in his offerings renders them eligible for just two categories at the Great American Beer Festival — historical and experimental brews. At his first festival last year, just a few months after the brewery opened, he found drinkers confused as to what they were imbibing, yet still wanting to come back and have more.
But as other breweries scramble for ways to stand out in a crowded market, Dos Luces needs only to attract attention for people to note how it's different. And in a city that has embraced everything from traditional English-style cask beers to oenobeers, it deserves its own spotlight.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Technically winter is done, and that means that people already have started talking about summer beers and festivals and front-porch pounders rather than fireplace sippers. But we shouldn't forget the most recent season so quickly.
Particularly, we shouldn't forget the way that a number of breweries took traditional beers, added to them and made variants to remember for a long time. It's not that they necessarily were better than the originals - well, in the case of Westfax Brewing and owner Anthony Martuscello (pictured above), yes it was - but it was that new ingredients and aging took beer that stood tall on its own and made a separate and unique beer that stood very tall on its own.
Here, then are three in particular that are worthy of mention - and of repeats in the future:
1) Westfax Brewing Rye Are You Judging Me
Silently Judging, a Laws Whiskey bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout that the Lakewood brewery released in the fall, was big and smooth and roasty and slightly boozy - everything you want in an imperial stout. But aging the same base imperial stout in a Laws Whiskey rye barrel produced something entirely more flavorful, replete with pervasive vanilla and a back-bite spice and so much warmth that it lit up the cold night for the brewery's third anniversary in February. And, thankfully, there are still bottles available.
2) Verboten Brewing Sweet Chai Whiskey Barrel Boots
Killer Boots, the Loveland brewery's caramel porter, is a wonderful
beer that is made slightly bitter by its additive. But when the beer is aged with chai spices, brown sugar and vanilla, it takes on a complexity where the spice and sweetness take over the booze and create a level of flavor that almost gets overwhelming but stops right before it goes over the edge. Available now at the brewery (it's the third from left in the third row in this small sampler I had yesterday), it is something that has to be drank to be understood properly.
3) Left Hand Raspberry Milk Stout
It's difficult to mess with one of Colorado's deservedly signature beers, but the level of raspberries used here and their pungency in this beer, from nose to taste, actually creates a whole different brew. This is fruity sweet bordering on tart - the rare stout where the dark body, while perfectly cushioning the beer, almost takes a back seat to the vibrant addition to it. This is not some gimmicky knock-off but a bold addition to the milk-stout line to show how the base beer can be used in a totally different and more supporting way to create something that's a style unto its own.
Thursday, March 21, 2019
It used to be that Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines was the one festival after which you took out your notes the next day to revive your memory of what you had because there was so much good stuff on the floor that you inadvertently got drunk. Well, certainly after this year - if not before - Collaboration Beer Fest has moved into that category.
From daring ingredients to hopped-up gems to a surprisingly deep and wide variety of smooth dark beers, there was beauty as far as the tongue could taste at the Colorado Brewers Guild/Two Parts festival once again this year. And if there was something different from past years it was this: The beers everyone seemed to be talking about days afterward weren't the ridiculous 13 percent pastry stouts so much as a perfectly made Baltic porter or expertly crafted double IPA or even a California common. Yes, a steam beer got people talking at a beer festival.
With a few days worth of hindsight, then, here are the creations that people likely will be begging for months down the road:
1) Dueces Wild/Brass Brewing Cerberus Brewing Imperial IPL
Everyone was thoroughly ready for the Cerebral/Weldwerks New England-style double IPA, which packed in the expected pineapple rush with appropriate bitterness. But this gem from three Colorado Springs breweries actually seemed more impressive - a bright, hazy, juicy and highly Polynesian-style hop bomb that drank as easy as an India pale lager but with more mouth-filling flavor than ever has been associated with that style.
2) Station 26/Brink Brewing Imperial Milk Stout
The body was creamy and yet wonderfully dark, without any telltale sign of the high alcohol within it. But it was the cinnamon and chocolate adjuncts in here that absolutely lit up the mouth and made fantastic use of the already impressive base beer.
3) Ska Brewing/Call to Arms Baltic Porter
Yes, this is a style that appears to be on the rise again, and it's because of creations like this that imbue it with a deep roast atop an easy-drinking body. Nothing fancy here, just a lot of taste, done by two expert breweries.
4) Living the Dream/Angry James Brewing Imperial Coffee Brown
Silverthorne's Angry James deserves more attention as one of the finest coffee-beer makers in Colorado. This was a flat-out dark-roast, fill-your-mouth-and-make-you-want-to-swirl-it-more-for-fear-of-losing-the-flavor pleaser - simple yet absurdly tasty.
5) Comrade Brewing/Epic Brewing Dry-Hopped California Common
Maybe you should have figured that if anyone could have found a way to add hops to a very subtle style of beer and make it really, really interesting, it would have been the geniuses behind Superpower IPA and some of the best hazy beers made in Colorado. But truly, this flavor was complex and maybe even a little bit funky in the way the hops seemed to rest tantalizingly on top of the base beer, making for one of the most surprising finds of the day.
6) Jagged Mountain/105 West Rum-Barrel-Aged Imperial Ice Cream Old Ale
Of all the potentially gimmick beers in the show, this was the one that seemed to really capture a unique flavor that you would want to try again, even if maybe not by the six-pack. Enormous cherry from the chocolate-cherry Little Man Ice Cream that was thrown into the boil gave this a sweet but not cloying overtone, and the boozy old ale quality reminded you un-subtly that this was beer, not some kind of milkshake treat.
Labels: Angry James Brewing, Brink Brewing, Call to Arms Brewing, Cerberus Brewing, collaboration beers, Comrade Brewing, Dueces Wild Brewery, Epic Brewing, Living the Dream Brewing, Ska Brewing, Station 26 Brewing
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Collaboration Beer Fest, which has staked its claim as being one of the five best beer festivals in Colorado, goes from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Between the bomb cyclone and the college basketball conference tournaments, the event, which has more than 100 beers made together by anywhere from two to 10 breweries, seemed to sneak up this year.
"Sneak" is a term that rarely describes what's poured at this celebration of unity in the craft-beer industry, which often turns into a contest on who can make the strangest and yet most enjoyable experiment. This year, for example, Coal Mine Ave and Seedstock are making a margarita imperial gose, Jagged Mountain and 105 West have brewed a rum-barrel-aged imperial ice cream old ale, and eight RiNo-area brewers are presenting your run-of-the-mill mushroom schwarzbier.
But one of the secrets of the festival is that some breweries turn in another direction and go subtle - and they can often create some of the tastiest beers in the room. So, with that said, here are eight beers that are likely to fly under many attendees' radars but that should land solidly on yours if you are going (which you should).
1) Casey Brewing and Blending/Outer Range Brewing IPA
It's just a simple IPA, in a sea of double hazies, wood-added IPAs and blueberry protein milkshake IPAs (yes, that's an actual offering). But it's a simple IPA made by two of the finest brewers in Colorado who are not on the Front Range. And that sounds simply wonderful.
2) Ratio Beerworks/Revolution Brewing Southern Hemisphere Pilsner
The boom in recent years in Australian and New Zealand hops, particularly the wonderful and slightly woody Nelson Sauvin variety, typically have gone to create new tastes in IPAs. Having one of RiNo's best auteurs combine with one of Chicago's star breweries to spruce up a lighter-bodied pilsner with them should put the hops even more front and center for all to notice.
3) Cannonball Creek Brewing/Beer Media Pre-Prohibition Pilsner
Sure, I'm biased, since I was one of about a dozen beer writers who showed up at Golden's finest brewery on Feb. 1 to let Brian Hutchinson do the real work and then take turns between us stirring the mash (that's me above and Brian below). But Cannonball Creek has proven to have the magic touch with subtle beers, enough so that a bunch of hacks like us couldn't screw this up.
4) Living the Dream Brewing/Angry James Brewing Imperial Coffee Brown
You may not have made it up to Silverthorne yet to try Angry James' Two Tone Footer Stout, which is dry-hopped with coffee beans and takes on one of the least bitter, roasty mocha feels of any coffee brew in Colorado. But if you have, you know not to walk past another one of its coffee experiments, particularly when it's made with this underrated Littleton beer maker.
5) Tivoli Brewing/MSU Denver Belgian Tripel Brut
In a show full of daring professional brewers, you may not want to try the beer made partially by a bunch of college kids. But remember that Metro State has a program specifically for students to learn how to brew and to operate a brewery. And know too that this is a tripel spiced with orange zest, hibiscus flowers and Indian Coriander, so there's nothing dull about it.
6) Station 26 Brewing/Brink Brewing Imperial Milk Stout
Don't know Brink Brewing? The Cincinnati beer-maker just won Very Small Brewing Company of the Year at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival. And since Station 26 pretty much can't miss, this should be a fun, if semi-traditional, style.
7) Comrade Brewing/Epic Brewing Dry-Hopped California Common
Those who remember the Comrade/Uberbrew Triple IPA from Collaboration Fest 2017 were reinforced in their beliefs that this south Denver beer maker could do anything with hops. Dry-hopping a steam beer will put that statement to the test, but it and Epic have worked their own magic separately before.
8) Pikes Peak/Red Leg/Cerberus/FH Beer Works/Black Forest/Goat Patch/Dueces Wild/JAKs wine-beer hybrid with syrah grape must fermented with saison yeast
OK, there's nothing subtle about the beer here. But people may be tempted to overlook it because the eight breweries behind it are Colorado Springs-area crafters with limited to no distribution in Denver. In truth, the Springs scene has been improving significantly in recent years, and the breweries here (particularly Cerberus, Goat Patch and Pikes Peak) are among its stars.
Labels: Angry James Brewing, Cannonball Creek Brewing, Cerberus Brewing, collaboration beers, Comrade Brewing, Goat Patch Brewing, Pikes Peak Brewing, Ratio Beerworks, Station 26 Brewing, Tivoli Brewing