Monday, June 25, 2018

Checking in on Georgetown's Only Brewery

The first brewery to operate in the town of Georgetown since the end of Prohibition turned a year old not long ago. And while Guanella Pass Brewery's offerings vary in quality, the family- and dog-friendly brewery on the edge of downtown is certainly worth a stop at the end of the hiking or train-riding adventure that brings you to the one-time mining boom town.

Despite its youth, the brewery is not short on options, as the 16 on-tap adventures during a visit last week to the beer maker demonstrated. And they ran the gamut from a pilsner and a raspberry blond to a double IPA and a whiskey-barrel-aged Russian imperial stout, with plenty of pales, browns and ambers in between.

One of the notable highlights of the menu is that Guanella Pass' best beers don't fit neatly into one style. Certain hoppy beers are sharp and classical, while other attempts fall flat. And malt monsters range from full-bodied to oddly citrusy (particularly the Saxon Mountain Stout, which smells roasty but tastes disconcertingly bitter.)

Maybe the best offering from the brewery, which opened last year around Memorial Day, is the Kataka Mountain IPA. Bitter without being overbearing, it feels likes a classic Northwest IPA - crisp, flavorful and enjoyable.

Similarly, the Brown Ale, with its roasty and almost chocolaty nose, is more classical composition than mind-opening experimentation, but it's tasty and springs a little bitterness on the back. And the Black American Ale, containing the hop bite of a black IPA/pale hybrid, is a well-blended combination of styles.

The most interesting offering on Guanella Pass' recent menu, though, was Russian Investigation Imperial Stout, a whiskey-barrel-aged RIS that tastes nowhere near as mild as its 8.2% ABV labeling might indicate. It has such a whiskey flavoring that it transitions all the way to being sweet. And while there are meatier versions of the style on the market, this is unique and memorable.

For all of those impressive offerings, however, Guanella Pass misses at times.

The aforementioned Saxon Mountain Stout has an almost lemony character running throughout it, leaving the drinker confused at what it's trying to do. The Raspberry Blond Ale fails to assert either of its personality characteristics. And for all the punch the IPA and black pale have, the Liquid Gold Double IPA lacks identity, presenting a heavy body without particular hoppy or malty dominance.

Still, this is not a brewery to be picked apart; it's one to be enjoyed for the satisfying easiness of its mountain-town offerings. And it's one that should be applauded for opening in a town where it clearly was needed.

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