Sunday, August 01, 2010

Summer Beers 2010: The Innovators
Summer too often is a time when breweries can rest on their laurels, turn out the lightest and blandest beer they've produced and claim that this is what the weather demands. But something odd has happened in the summer of 2010.

This is the year, it seems, that brewers across Colorado are finding ways to infuse not just bold tastes into their straw-golden beers but fully new tastes with which few of their peers have experimented. And so, in the first of what should be an occasional series over the next month looking at the beers of the season, I'd like to salute three Front Range breweries that are opening eyes during what once was considered the throwaway time for beer-making.

1) Golden City Brewery - Watermelon Kolsch
It's not often that you admire the pulp in a beer. Yet, sitting on the lively outdoor patio at Golden's second largest brewery and watching the sun hit the floating pieces of watermelon in this beer, you admire the creativity even more. This is a concoction that manages to take one of the subtlest tastes in the fruit world and infuse it into a beer just light enough to let it stand out without overkill. And while other popular beer fruit, such as strawberry or apricot, can make you ask why someone thought the addition was a good idea, the slighter sweetness of the watermelon actually compliments the gummy maltiness of the kolsch and really does make this stand out as a particularly appropriate and memorable combination of tastes.

2) Wynkoop Brewing - Tut's Royal Gold
Making an "imperial Egyptian ale" to go with the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Art Museum sounded at first like a cheap publicity gimmick. But tasting this unique unfiltered beer that approximates a Belgian golden ale with honey and Egyptian spices indicates that Andy Brown and his staff at Wynkoop put a lot of thought into its creation. Tut presents itself with the taste of honey sweetness, but this thick, vaguely musty beer finishes with spices that remind one of saffron and yet don't remind them of other beers. A few friends noted that the taste could have been more assertive, but overall this is an ambitious effort that should be tried.

3) Phantom Canyon Brewing - Dompfbier
Alan Stiles arrived at this Colorado Springs brewpub earlier this year with a clear desire to shake things up. And while the litany of new beers that he is producing is impressive in its length alone, none of them have been as jaw-dropping as this amber ale made with hefeweizen yeast that debuted at the start of July. This clash of American and German styles produces a vaguely Belgian product, one in which the cooling yeast fizz cascades over the tongue, mixing with the peat-like malt in a way that gives it a sizzle. Refreshing, meaty and daring, this is one of the best examples of how a beer can be a perfect summertime treat that is suitable for admiration at any time of the year.

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