Monday, July 15, 2013

Colorado Brewers Rendezvous: Oh Yeah!

Sure, there were 73 breweries planted in Salida's Riverside Park - the largest gathering of beer makers at an outdoor festival in Colorado history. But it wasn't the number of brewers so much as the age; at least half of them, by my count, were less than three years old.

And it was that youth, that seeming camaraderie of spirit to define Colorado beer in their own terms, that just imbued this past Saturday's Colorado Brewers Rendezvous with a certain energy, a certain newness. And one couldn't help but walk away with a few trinkets of knowledge from the Colorado Brewers Guild's annual signature event about where the state of the craft brewing industry is going.

1) Tart sours were sooo 2012. Now, even the boundary-pushing beers are having their boundaries pushed in new directions.

Take, for example, Trinity Brewing's Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta, an intriguingly dark and chewy sour that combines the tastes of roasted chocolate, raisin and a tart cherry strain. It's enough to make you stop and think a little longer than usual.

Or, if roasty sour wasn't quite enough, Three Barrel Brewing took it a step further and added ancho chile to the already jarring taste of a chocolate sour and might have made the intriguing beer of the festival with its Melaza. The Del Norte brewery is supposed to have beer in at least one Denver liquor store by the end of the summer, and it couldn't come soon enough.

2) The more herbs or spices in the beer, the more fascinating it gets.

Example A is Cannonball Creek's Rosemary Sourdough Saison, whose lighter body allows you to taste not only the floral flavor of the rosemary but just a hint of sour. Combined with Strange Brewing's excellent Zora Rosemary Pale Ale, and you have two area beers that make a baker jealous of their flavors.

Example B is Copper Kettle's Mexican Chocolate Stout, a time-tested pleaser with a chocolate-cinnamon come-on and back-of-the-tastebud kick that is now available in bottles. Everyone should try this at least once.

3) Dare I say there is a kolsch battle going on in Colorado? Steamworks was serving up its Colorado Kolsch, which is by no means new but continues to set the standard for crisp and refreshing in this state with just enough light hops to give it full flavor.

But I have to hand it to Elevation Beer, whose 8 Second Kolsch was on tap at every bar in Salida. It is sweeter, with just a hint of light fruit to its heavier-than-hops malt taste. And it presents the state with a good problem: Which of two kolsch beers to spend time with this summer.

4) You know who's impressive? Fate Brewing. Yes, one could have picked out almost any brewer at the rendezvous, admittedly, for recognition. But the new Boulder brewer, which kicked convention in the teeth by making a fantastic watermelon kolsch already this summer, debuted its Gose Saturday.

It takes guts to make a German sour to begin with, but this version calms the salty overtones too often prevalent in the style and adds a citrus twang without a peltingly sour body. At the very least, it will be fascinating to watch where this 5-month-old brewery goes.

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