Wednesday, December 20, 2017

5 Things I Learned at Denver Beer Festivus 2017

Putting 55 Denver breweries together in one room is just as good an idea as it sounds, and not just because you feel no desire ever to leave. Denver Beer Festivus, held Saturday at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, allowed for great contrast and comparison of what is happening in the city beer scene, especially as most participants brought offerings that were among their most unusual.

That strategy led to some reaffirmations about the breweries that are making the beer that can't be missed, as well as some discoveries about others who should be on beer-trail lists going forward. Here are a few of the things that jumped out.

1) The beer community needs to pay more attention to Jagged Mountain. 
Known largely as a big beer maker when it opened, the brewery went through a subsequent shake-up among partners, and everyone seemed to stop talking about it. That appears to have been a big mistake, especially for anyone who found their way to enjoying beers like its spectacular blood-orange gose, Grouse Mountain, in the past year.

The most interesting beer of the entire festival was Jagged Mountain's This Beer Really Ties The Room Together, a blonde white Russian milk stout whose body was as subtle and smooth as a creation made with oats and lactose should be but whose striking taste impression was that of a rich coffee without any of the typical bitterness that accompanies that style. It felt like you were drinking something dry-hopped with coffee ("dry-beaned" was the term that was decided as correct), leaving an original taste clearly created by a masterful hand.

2) Ratio's Genius Wizard is as good as any imperial stout in Denver.
And that's saying something, given that this is the town that is home to both Epic's Big Bad Baptist
and Great Divide's Yeti. But the 2016 version of the beer being poured on Saturday was dangerously easy for a 12 percent ABV bomb, presenting overtones of both coffee and chocolate in what was a very drinkable body. This beer should start getting a lot more love.

3) Sweet and subtle dark ales also ruled the day.
Declaration's Cinnatoast Porter was just sweet enough where you wouldn't want to drink it all night but just enjoyable enough that you could slurp down a pint easily. Bruz Beer's Onyx Stout jumped out with its combination of Belgian hints and roasted edge. And Blind Faith Brewing - the new beer maker that bought DeSteeg Brewing in October, according to Westword - made a strong impression with a dark beer (whose name I failed to catch) combining chocolaty malts and orange notes.

4) The range of New England IPAs at the event shows a maturing of the style.
Woods Boss had both the most impressive and the most by-the-book version of the hazy IPA with its delicious, pineapple-scented The Oswald. Yet, Ficton's Madame Psychosis seemed to want to straddle a line between fruity and bitter. And Epic's New England-Style IPA seemed to range a bit away from tropical notes and more toward the classical, balanced tastes of the long-honored IPA genre. You could pick your favorite; more importantly, there's enough variety that you can really tell now.

5) Sour beer fans need to seek out Baere Brewing.
Its Reciprocity golden sour blend was arguably the best tart beer poured at Festivus. It brought its bite in a way that was both challenging and refreshing. And it was a reminder that these guys are shining in whatever style of beer they want to tackle.

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