Tuesday, September 18, 2012


The New Kid in Town: No-Li Brewhouse

The sight of John Bryant talking up his suds with a smile in a Colorado beer bar was a common one when he was a high-level official at Odell Brewing and Oskar Blues from 2004-11. So, it was with both familiarity and a bit of out-of-place oddness that Bryant appeared back at Falling Rock Taphouse on Friday, hawking a new product from out of state.

Bryant is co-owner these days of No-Li Brewhouse, a 19-year-old Spokane, Wash. brewery that is distributed throughout eastern Washington and northern Idaho but hasn't even made it to Seattle yet. However, you can now find it at select beer bars and liquor stores around the Denver area, thanks to the man who moved home to beer near family last year but never quite relocated his heart from the Front Range.

What's bold about No-Li's entry into the market, with four 22-oz. bombers for sale, is how the beer isn't earth-shakingly bold and taste bud-blasting, as some breweries have felt they needed to be to turn Colorado heads. Instead, what it offers are subtly hopped, enjoyable beers that present Northwest character without the harsh bitterness that the term sometimes can suggest.

The star of the show is the Born & Raised IPA, which hits you with an aromatic but not overbearing floral scent that leads to a similar taste - grassy without biting bitterness. It feels lighter than its 7% ABV weigh-in and, brewed with hops and barley grown within 300 miles of the brewhouse, just has a special freshness to it.

Then there is Crystal Bitter Ale, a very drinkable and surprisingly enjoyable copper-hued ale that drinks like a 1990s-style pale, very un-intimidatingly. The hops are there, but what strikes you is the cleanness of sipping that can be done with nothing more than a pure enjoyment of classic beer styles.

Also coming to Colorado are Jet Star Imperial - an imperial IPA that mixes a mildly sharp body with a late-breaking viscosity - and Silent Treatment Pale Ale, a malt-balanced pale that could use a little more hop volume.

No-Li isn't likely to set the standards or the hop bar for pales and IPAs in a state that's flooded with them. But it brings its own brand of enjoyment that really is worth trying. And if it succeeds enough to keep bringing Bryant back to the state more, that's a joy in its own.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012


English with an American Twist

English beer, at its drollest, can have a stale, dated taste: Somewhere between a wet rope and a peat field that lacks smoke. So, it was with a slight bit of trepidation that the Fearless Drinking Crew made its first trip to Hogshead Brewery this weekend, three months after the English-style brewery opened in a former garage on 29th Street.

What was found was a Denver brewery that stuck to its English roots but honored them in a way that smoothed out some of the hiccups that can be found in the most traditional British beers. The result was not an Americanized version of English beer so much as it was a full-mouthed malty experience with just enough U.S. hopping to make either a Brit or Yank feel at home.

This subtle blending was most apparent in the Boys Bitter, a malt-forward, mild-bodied ESB that had a subtle but surprising sweet hop finish that brought it to life. Hopheads won't mistake it for an IPA, but they also won't be turned away by the mellow but flavorful profile it brings to the mouth.

Lake Lightning, Hogshead's summer session ale, was everything the term implies (light-bodied, hop-deficient), but it too lacked the harshness that can come in British summer beers. A cask ale of the Lightning hopped with Delta hops actually lightened the body even more. But while this was underwhelming, it wasn't unpleasant.

The star of Hogshead's lineup, however, is the Gilpin Black Gold, a London porter with a heavily coffee-chocolate aroma and flavor but a moderate body befitting its English roots. Just a slight hint of plummy sweetness on the backtaste makes it even more intriguing.

With so many breweries coming on in the Denver area, it's hard for any to cut a stand-out niche. But Hogshead is effective in being the only one with an English-style menu of beers that will endear themselves to Brits and Americans willing to leave behind heavy hops for an afternoon of subtle but satisfactory sipping.


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