Saturday, August 27, 2016

Estes Park's New Flavor

Estes Park is a world-class visitor destination. But for far too long, the home of the Stanley Hotel and Rocky Mountain National Park has lacked a high-quality brewery worthy of the travel-guide setting.

Rock Cut Brewing, which is located on the southern edge of downtown and celebrates its first birthday on Monday, can't quite boast of having world-class beer yet. But a stop into the taproom this week showed that the partners who took the chance of planting the brewery in a tourist-heavy town are on their way with a collection of quality and sometimes style-bending beers.

You immediately sense a willingness to experiment in Rock Cut's Blonde Wheat, a genre that typically isn't defined by an overwhelming amount of creativity. But Citra and Calypso hops give a surprisingly bitter backbone  to this light-bodied but well-flavored beer, making it one to remember.

Smoky Brunette, made with smoky German malt, also catches the attention with its very nice balance of mesquite-smoked flavor without an overwhelming assault on your palate. The malt of the thick ale takes over some from the smoke as you drink more, but the flavorful sensation remains.

Then there is the IPA, that standard bearer of Colorado breweries, a style that sets a high bar for any new entrant's offering even to warrant notice. Rock Cut's version brings its own personality to the table, however, producing both a full-mouthed piney taste and a lingering sweetness on the back of the tongue, making this 55-IBU ale both quaffable and enjoyable.

Certainly, there remain some holes in Rock Cut's arsenal. The English Porter, while fairly true to style, is lighter-bodied and lighter-flavored than porters to which the Colorado palate has become attuned. And the Black IPA seems stuck somewhere between a hoppy beer and a dark beer with a coffee backtaste, leaving it short on both counts.

But after sampling seven Rock Cut beers, one thing that jumped out is the fact that there's not a bad beer in the lineup. And that's a great upgrade for a town that has given visitors jaw-dropping views and gleefully haunted luxury hotels but not the beer with which to toast those joys.

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