Monday, July 29, 2013

A Lone Tree That is Branching Out Smartly

(Note: This is part of a semi regular series looking at Colorado breweries that have opened since May 2011.)

Since its opening in December 2011, two things have stood out about Lone Tree Brewing. One is that it may have the hoppiest pale ale in the state of Colorado. The other is that it has seemed to be, by virtue of its location, the most suburban of the state's growing legion of suburban breweries.

A recent visit to its Park Meadows Drive location confirmed that, thankfully, the former designation regarding its hop content remains true - and is noteworthy in some of its newer lupulin-laced projects. And the latter superlative is only helping to bolster its uniqueness and well-deserved reputation.

The creation of homebrewing buddies Jason Wiedmaier (pictured, speaking to crowd, above) and John Winter,  Lone Tree was the first unique brewery to wander into the craft-beer no-man's land between south Denver and Castle Rock. As such, a visitor might expect slightly blander tastes those at Denver and Boulder locations catering to more seasoned palates. And, for the most part, one would be wrong.

Start with the Outta Range Pale Ale, a beer that falls short of viscous but nonetheless feels thick for can be a slightly watery style. It presents a juicy flower taste, like a celebration of blooming and filling the mouth, and you may have to think twice about what you are drinking.

The Hop Tree IIPA delivers more of the same flower-heavy body, this time with a bigger but cozy body in which to showcase the floral arrangements of a double IPA. It's bold without being overwhelming, and it earns the title "hop juice." It, in fact, is the best beer Lone Tree makes.

But it's not all hops that make the brewery stand out. The Mountain Mama Helles is extremely smooth and has just enough of an earthy wheat on its backbone to give it a pleasant, subtle personality. And Ariadne's Belgian Blonde is meaty enough to enjoy for a long time, as it presents a full body with a slightly sweet, Belgian-yeast-tinted taste.

There are some instances when Lone Tree lags in flavor. Acres O'Green Irish Red is even less assertive than the typical, laid-back Irish red ale. And the Marienplatz Pilsner on tap this summer is clean to the point of being unobtrusive, fading too quickly from your taste buds to warrant a memory.

But the fact that the brewery began bottling the pale and red in February - and expanded to add the IIPA for off-premises sales this month - shows how it is growing in the vision of Front Range beer aficionados.

And the fact that it added four 20-barrel tanks in December means that head brewer Wiedmaier will get the chance to produce more of the beers he grew to love as he was getting his master's degree in German history and immersing himself in the culture. And that is certainly a good thing, both for the Lone Tree regulars in the south Denver suburb and those urbanites who haven't gotten a chance yet to see what it can do.

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