Sunday, April 18, 2010

Colorado Native: An (Almost) All-Colorado Beer

One of the best trends in recent years has been the effort by Colorado breweries to include as much hops and barley grown in the state as possible in their products. And now one beer - and one from a company that you might not expect - has pushed the effort to the point where 99.8 percent of its ingredients and packaging hail from the Centennial State.

Colorado Native is an effort by Coors incubator AC Golden Brewing Co. to jump on the local-first trend and capture the growing audience of people wanting to support community businesses. I wrote about it two weeks ago for the Denver Business Journal, and you can read more about the business plan and specifics of its local nature here.

The reason that AC Golden president Glenn Knippenberg had to hedge on the full 100 percent is that the company still brings in some of its hops from out of state to brew this amber lager. And that's an important difference because almost all of the other beers made to highlight Colorado ingredients, such as Odell's Mountain Standard Reserve '09, were produced specifically to highlight the small but growing hops industry in the state.

Then again, AC Golden is a brewery that doesn't try to break the bank on hops, having produced a few delicately crafted but hop-flower-limited lagers since it first opened inside the Coors brewery about a year-and-a-half ago. The company's goal is to create quality drinkable beers that could appeal to a mass audience - though certainly not as mass an audience as Coors or Coors Light, which many beer geeks would argue don't bring quality to the equation.

In that vain, Colorado Native is much like the company's two previously marketed efforts, Herman Joseph's Private Reserve and Winterfest - not a beer that attacks and challenges the taste buds as much as one that goes for more up-scale drinkability than many lagers.

There is a dough-like, slightly baked husk of malt that introduces the flavor of this beer, and it settles quickly and unconflictingly onto your taste buds after that. Then there is a faint rush of grassy back taste that Colorado Native leaves on nether-regions of your tongue, as well as a bit of chewy, slightly caramel feel that inhabits your mouth for just a few seconds.

But what this is is an amber lager with a bit more weight and flavor then its parent company's other concoctions, a good beer for post-lawn-cutting porch sipping but not one that will inspire you to muse about its complexities with friends. But if Colorado Native lacks somewhat the daring hop bravado that's come to define the Colorado microbrew industry, it should be saluted for doing what many of those edgier beers are attempting to do for local ingredients - but taking it a step further.

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