Sunday, April 14, 2013

Crossing Back Over the Border

One of the greatest things about the Colorado beer scene is the diversity of great stories behind the beers that are sold in this state. And not least among them is Baja Brewing, the new Mexican craft brewery that entered the state market just last week.

Baja may come from Cabo San Lucas, but its roots lie in Steamboat Springs, where founder Jordan Gardenhire grew up before moving south of the border and opening one of the first craft breweries in Mexico. To hear the details of Gardenhire's journey and his plan to sell a Mexican ale in a market already flooded with great products, take a quick look at a story on him that I wrote Friday for the Denver Business Journal.

Cabotella, the first Baja Brewing offering in the United States, is a Mexican Ale with a little more hops and a good deal more malt backbone than most of the swill that passes for beer coming from our neighbor to the south. But, after the late Del Norte Brewing Co. of Denver made a great series of Mexican-style beers and still could not find a market for them, the question is: Is this new beer strong enough to earn its place here?

The truth is, as much as Gardenhire is a good guy with a great story, I'm hard pressed to see how Cabotella will find a fan base here at $8.99 a six-pack - a price point higher than its Mexican competition.

It's not that the beer is bad. Its hint of hops and malt content creates a slight sweetness to the body that catches your attention for a few seconds.

But after a couple sips, you get the feeling you've been there before - mild flavor, slightly listless backtaste and a distinct lack of a personality. And while this may be a fine beer to quaff when sitting in heat and humidity on a beach, it doesn't pack the punch you want in winter snow or the reward you seek after climbing a 14er. Essentially, it's just not a Colorado beer.

There is a market in the U.S. for higher-priced, lighter-bodied Mexican-style beers a notch above the usual skunky Mexican imports. But that place seems to be in the states that resemble Mexico more in their climate.

As Del Norte discovered, even Mexican ales must come with guts and zing - rather than than with a mellow vibe - to catch the attention of beer enthusiasts here. 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

So, What is "Colorado Brews"?

To put it most simply, it is my continuing attempt to tell the story of Colorado's beer culture and brewing industry.

If you haven't heard yet, "Colorado Brews" is a half-hour show whose pilot episode runs Saturday at 9:30 p.m. on Rocky Mountain PBS, Channel 6. If reaction is positive, chances are likely that the station will pick it up for a full season in the fall.

The planning for this began last summer, when I got a call from a producer by the name of Charles Nuckolls who said he was looking to do a weekly show on the state's beer scene and had seen my work in writing "Mountain Brew" and appearing on TV a number of times to talk about beer and politics (never at the same time, mind you). We taped the pilot over the course of a 10-hour day at Crabtree Brewing in Greeley, getting to know better how the town's lone craft brewery came about and evolved into an artisan that is experimenting more and more with barrel aging.

Then Charles rounded up a collection of some of the best bloggers in the area to do segment reports for the show: Dave Butler of "Fermentedly Challenged" talking about beer tech; Billy Broas of "BillyBrew" walking the viewer through homebrewing; and Leah Arthur of "Colorado Beer Girl" reporting from events. And we found David Davis, executive chef of the Golden Hotel, to talk about beer-food pairings.

The hope is that we have a chance to explore even parts of the state that I didn't get to for my book. And that we get to tell a lot of stories that make people appreciate the beer in their glass just a little bit more.

Tune in, and please let me know what you think.


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