Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Mighty Opening

Truth is, even the best of Colorado's breweries invariably opened with a hiccup. There was that beer that tasted slightly of butter. Maybe there was a selection on the menu that didn't measure up to the rest. Or maybe there just wasn't any standouts. It's happened to everyone.

Knowing this, then, is what makes Saturday's coming debut of Ratio Beerworks such an eye-opener. Yes, it's yet another brewery going into the most crowded beer neighborhood in all of Denver, RiNo. But unlike almost everyone else, it will open without an obvious flaw - and with a lineup of offerings that should impress even the most hardened beer geek.

Lead brewer Jason zumBrunnen - who founded the brewery at 2920 Larimer Street with partners Zach Lowery and Scott Kaplan (L to R in picture) - has brewed at Wynkoop and at AC Golden, and there are touches of both in his products. He shows the willingness to make a wide array of beer that has defined Wynkoop in recent years, while he also brings a creative edginess to his work that is reminiscent of the one-off releases that have made AC Golden so sought-after.

Take, as an example the beer that could become Ratio's calling card, a French saison named Dear You. Brewed and dry-hopped with Citra and made with 50 percent white wheat, this beer (also pictured above) presents itself with just a hint of tartness. And it finishes with a dryness that leaves you sated while also being intensely interested.

For the hop head there is Repeater, a 50-IBU extra pale ale with a lingering bitterness that is more effusive than biting. And for the lighter-bodied drinker there is Domestica, a 4.9% ABV American standard ale this is whirlpool-hopped in a way to create such a crispness that it makes you unable to brush this off as just another entry-level ale.

Along with Dear You, though, the standout and market original may be Hold Steady, a dark Scotch ale that manages to be highly roasted - almost peaty, in fact - without being overly heavy. For a limited time, Ratio will open with a second version of it infused with local Novo cold-pressed coffee that envelops the mouth in java without coming off as bitter.

Ratio already has a number of beers in the back aging in whiskey and other spirit barrels, and it's opening big - a 20-barrel system that will supply about 10 off-premise accounts almost from the day they tip the taps in their tasting area. And going into the former Mile High Spirits Distillery building, it begins life in a spot that's already been a center of RiNo activities.

Ratio won't be called one of the best breweries in Denver just yet. But with a solid and extremely flavorful lineup and ambitions to produce more complex beers quickly, it starts a step ahead of where many of the city's most advanced beer makers did. And that's a new and exciting trait to bring to a crowded local scene.

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