Monday, June 13, 2011

Colorado's Newest Brewery: Pikes Peak Brewing

Back in 2007, Chris Wright burst onto the Colorado beer scene with his publication of The Beer Journal, a spiral-bound 226-page notebook allowing the true beer geek to record their every sipping or food pairing experience. The book (which I still use to take notes) was such a hit that Wright produced a smaller second version available for sale nationwide.

But Wright's greatest contribution to Colorado brewing is his latest - the opening, less than three weeks ago, of Pikes Peak Brewing Company in Monument. There the computer parts salesman turned professional brewer has opened a brewpub as quaint as the bedroom community around it that serves a trove of interesting beers defying your stereotypes of their styles.

That stereotype-busting begins with The Brits Are Here!, a mild English brown ale that may be Wright's finest creation. Typically, adjectives like "light," "quiet" or even "dull" describe mild ales, but none of those can be used here. What you get is a light-bodied but surprisingly full-flavored beer that is low in hops but high in the toffee taste stemming from its crystal and chocolate malts.

Then there's his Rocky Wheat, a weissbeer that is less free-flowing wheat and more concerted clove and citrus bite because its lower-temperature fermentation compliments the fruit taste of the hops. The banana taste is low but the clove feel is especially high, specifically on the backtaste.

And just when you think you might get something you expect, Wright throws at you the Devils Head Red, a highly hopped, 7.9 percent alcohol-by-volume take on the style in which the malt and hops flavors clash for superiority. By the end, the alcohol-laden bitterness might come on a slight bit too strong, but you're still impressed at what he's tried.

The offerings are, in the words of the Beer Geekette, "the marriage of originality and drinkability."

All of this - Wright also offers three other beers currently, including a solid and warming Summit House Stout - plays out in a six-table, fireplace-laden strip-mall storefront just off of Interstate 25's exit 161. Pikes Peak Brewing has a small but satisfying menu of soups and sandwiches, and it offers four guest taps from other El Paso County brewers. (Big kudos too in the fact that the four guest beers on tap this past Sunday were of different styles than the six house beers, giving drinkers an even wider range of options.)

But while Pikes Peak is the kind of place you'd bring your parents to kick back near the fireplace with a pulled pork sandwich, it remains, true to Wright's reputation, a beer geek's delight. A chalkboard lists the IBUs, ABVs and OGs of each brew, complete with a notes section in which he breaks down the hops and malts used in brewing, just in case you were wondering.

The Beer Journal was a great gift to the world because it allowed you to geek out on its style and glass-pairing notes or to simply write down your thoughts on brews, whatever you wanted. Pikes Peak Brewing is, in many ways the descendant of that, offering complex but very drinkable brews in an atmosphere where you can break down the ingredients with the omnipresent brewmaster or just take in the homey, friendly atmosphere. Once again, Wright gives you whatever you want.


Nice to hear that Chris is expanding his beer ventures. This brewery will definitely be on my to-visit list this year as I have friends who live in Monument.
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