Saturday, September 03, 2011

Denver Beer Co.: Nice Stuff

When the Fearless Tasting Crew tried to visit Denver Beer Co. on its opening night in mid-August, we were rebuffed because it was just too crowded. Grousing ensued, but there was one strain running through the group: This place must be pretty good to attract that crowd.

Now, a couple weeks into its development, it is safe to proclaim the city's newest brewery, at 1695 Platte St., was indeed worthy of its initial "pretty good" prediction and may even be on the verge of the sought-after "pretty damn good" moniker. But this much is for sure: co-owners Charlie Berger and Patrick Crawford are at their best when they are not brewing to style.

Denver Beer, it should be explained first, is not a brewery like say, Oskar Blues that is going to be known first and foremost for one beer. The brewers plan to rotate beers all the time without any single constant presences but with a desire to experiment, the staff will inform you.

That experimentation takes its best form in the Saison It Ain't So!, a Belgian farmhouse ale brewed with black pepper, "dry-hipped" with rose hips (their pun, not mine) and aromatically driven by lemongrass. It is a beer bursting with flavor, an impressive display of bravado for a fruity saison that keeps you looking for different flavors.

That's true too for its Storm Summer Stout, which is light-bodied but offers a very coffee overtone and an eye-opening grape-skin feel on the back of the tongue that sweetens the overall taste. This isn't going to win any style-driven awards, but it will make you look at the beer in your glass and ask admiringly: "How did they do that?"

On more by-the-book beers, Denver Beer is fully competent and enjoyable, just not as likely to cause you to do a double-take at your glass. The Pomegranate Wheat is refreshing and light, the Rye 25 Pale Ale has nicely competing sweet and bitter flavors and the the Smoked Lager has a mesquite overtone with a slightly thicker body than you might expect.

Still, it's always hard to judge a brewery that plans to rotate its selections based on what one had a couple of weeks ago. But in terms of atmosphere, the place just feels nice: a hollowed-out garage with big, open windows that make it seem even airier and roomier than its ample room space provides.

And in terms of the feel of the beer, it just feels like a place you want to go back to at least once a month, to see what they're working on next. Not every beer will blow your mind, but it's likely there's something on the menu that will - and will make you break into spontaneous discussion about the ingredients used in there.


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