Sunday, June 29, 2014

Checking In: Grist Brewing

When Highlands Ranch's first brewery opened in November, Grist Brewing seemed to be more of a symbol of the growth of the state's beer-making industry than a brewery that deserved scrutiny on its own. Heck, if the most suburban of all Colorado suburbs could now be home to a local craft brewery, then it mattered less how its beer was and more how the crowd reacted to it, some thought.

But those amused purely by the spectacle of a Highlands Ranch brewery are missing out on what is an impressively developing brewery — and a brewery, for that matter, that does some of its best work in styles that few breweries can call their finest.

Take, for example, Grist's Transition State Kolsch, a 5.5 percent joy of a beer that is light without being cloying and presents a subtle but perceptible hop kick at the end. It's as close to a perfect drink-after-cutting-the-grass beer as you'll find.

Then there is the Romancing the Cobblestone Vienna Lager, a solid beer stocked with slightly roasted caramel malt that is smooth with just a hint of nuttiness and plenty of breadiness. Just launched a few days ago, this beer is worthy of a place on Grist's permanent roster.

Grist isn't all about lagers; in fact, those were the only two lagers on the brewery's tap list this weekend. But the fact that a new brewery can roll out two exciting and fresh lagers is a sign that it's got a lot more potential up its sleeve.

That potential can be seen already in several of Grist's current beers. The White Eddy White IPA, for example, offers higher IBUs — 62 — than anything else on the menu, and a complex, almost barrel-must taste that layers woodiness on top of bitterness (even though it's not barrel-aged). And the Berliner Weisse combines a good burst of tart with an underlying and surprising sweetness.

Mind you, Grist still has its weaknesses, namely in its Belgian line of beers. The She Devil Saison and Ground Rule Tripel both have such sweet profiles that cotton candy seems to be the dominant taste. And the Niobrara Stout is a little sooty and a little too light in body to leave an impression.

But in a space where you may see kids playing and after-work crowds filling up bring-home growlers, Grist reminds us you can not only bring beer to the suburbs but make the beer impressively enough that it's worth driving down from the city in order to try it.

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