Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mile High Brews: Great Divide

LoDo in downtown Denver used to be one of the least desirable places to go in Colorado. Then with the opening of Coors Field in 1995 the area was cleaned up and became a trendy area for bars and shopping areas. But it was a year before that, when the microbrewery scene in Denver was still scarce, that an experimental brewery opened up just a couple of blocks away from where Coors Field would be. A brewery that has both traditional ales and beers that are very experimental in flavor combinations. A brewery inspired by the owner’s worldly travels, and of course a commitment to quality. A brewery that has won 17 medals at the annual Great American Beer Festival, 5 World Beer Cup awards, and has twice been ranked in the top 10 of microbreweries in the world. So when in downtown Denver a brewery that is a must visit and a must try is Great Divide on Arapahoe Street, where great minds drink alike.
Upon walking up to this brewery you would never imagine that a place so small could produce so many flavorful beers. There is a nice patio outside with scenery of the old buildings and warehouses, and the inside is a small, but recently expanded bar with views into the production area. There is no glitz or glamour to the environment of this bar; it is a very basic setup that allows the beers to speak for themselves. Great Divide offers nine beers year round ranging from ales to IPAs, and they also offer thirteen seasonal ales some of which are unique brews and others are year round beers with special flavors ranging from espresso to chocolate. At the tap room there is an opportunity to try any of the year round offerings plus up to seven different seasonal beers at anytime. They have sixteen taps altogether and keep them all going. The question that now has to be answered is with so much variety offered how do you know which one to try?
One of the first beers that anybody should try here is the DPA (Denver Pale Ale). If you are a fan of English style ales or of traditional IPA beers then this is the perfect fit, as it is essentially a hybrid of both of those styles into one bottle. This beer is a classic pale ale which comes with both a hoppy aroma and taste which usually leads to a very bitter ale. English style ales are known to very malty, so when the two styles are combined the end product is a beer that is both bitter, malty, but has a smooth finish. A beer totally unique to the city of Denver is a definite must try for fans of any style of ale.
Now whether people will admit it or not fruity beers can be not only enjoyable and refreshing, but flat out delicious. The Wild Raspberry Ale is all three of those and one of the best beers at this brewery. So the question is with all the fruit beers on the market what separates this one from the rest? For starters the fruit used is real so there is no worry about an artificial taste or sweetness, it is all natural. The second is the use of both red and black raspberries which adds to the depth of flavor and an extra dimension to this beer. A great ale to drink year round whenever a truly refreshing beer is what you are craving.
 Whenever the term Belgian Style Ale is thrown around the same thought comes to mind time after time. An unfiltered wheat beer loaded with citrus flavor and served with an orange wedge on the side of the pint glass. All those thoughts went out the door the first time I tried Hades. No citrus flavor, just a different type of yeast used to brew this ale which gives it a great spice note. It is a very simple beer that still has a very complex and deep flavor. The crispness of the ale followed by the subtle spices makes this a very surprising but very high quality beer that will not disappoint.
While Great Divide may only offer nine beers on a year round basis they do make thirteen different seasonal beers. None of these are better than the Hibernation winter ale, an old style English ale packed full of malty flavor. If you prefer stouts than not only is the Yeti widely available but throughout the year they add espresso and chocolate to this beer to give it a different spin and it never lets down. Not to mention using the same Belgian yeast in an IPA to give a dimension of spice to all the hops.
It’s hard to imagine that such a small brewery can produce not only so many beers but maintain such a high quality. Whether your taste is for a fruity beer, malty beer, rice ale, or an IPA Great Divide offers it all. While six packs are available throughout the state there is nothing better than going to see this brewery and having a fresh pint. Next time you are in downtown Denver this place should be a top priority to visit. While they do not serve food there is always a food truck outside to serve you as well, an added bonus.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mile High Brews: Tommyknocker

When the Rocky Mountains and beer are mentioned in the same sentence one place comes straight to mind the Miller-Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado. But if you keep driving west on I-70 about 24 miles there is the historic mining town of Idaho Springs, and it is right on the corner of Miner St. that is one of the great breweries of Colorado: Tommyknocker. A brewery around since 1994, and winners of several medals at the Great American Beer Fest it is no wonder that today this once small, local brewery is no able to distribute to 22 states. What makes that more impressive is that they have been able to expand to a national level all while staying at their original mountain location.
Upon walking into this brewery you first walk through a small gift shop, turn right and you are in the bar/restaurant area. There is no wall dividing the fermentation tanks from the tables, just a small flight of stairs. Everything is in the open and the production going on only helps to not only heat the bar, but also assure that the beverage you are enjoying is as fresh as it can get. The environment of the bar matches the historic mining feeling of the entire town, capped off by a mural of a gold mine surrounding the taps. The staff was very friendly and more importantly full of knowledge about their beers. They had no issue talking about the flavor profile of their beers as well as offering recommendations of their favorites. All the beers they distribute are available at the brewery plus a couple other limited ones. At the time of my visit they had a Belgian style, and a couple pale ales that were brewery exclusives. Plus with a full menu offered it makes it that much easier to enjoy this brewery.
When it comes to the beers offered they take standard beers and put their own unique spin on them to create something very original. This is no more evident than with their version of a standard nut brown ale. Nut brown ales are typically brewed with some type of nut that usually has a medium body and a smooth after taste. They can also be very delicious or very imbalanced depending on the technique and skill of the brewer. Tommyknocker adds another level of flavor and another great sensation on the pallet by adding maple to their nut brown ale, and there is a reason this is probably their signature ale. The end result is a great beer with a medium body, and earthy flavor from the nuts, and a deep sweetness from the maple. When they first sip of beer is as good as the last it is a beer worth trying and will be enjoyed one bottle at a time.
The Jack Whacker Wheat ale is also an example of a unique take on what can be a very ordinary beer. It is an unfiltered beer that leaves a cloudy appearance but also adds a depth of yeast flavor. Their addition of lemongrass adds a nice but unexpected citrus flavor that people are used to when it comes to a wheat ale. The last of the year round ales that are a must try is the black IPA. When you think IPA the common perception is a one note beer that is bitter and hoppy. The case of that is true in that this beer is quite bold in hops, but Tommyknocker cut the bitterness of this beer with some sweetness by using chocolate malts in the brewing process. The end result is a bitter, hoppy beer with a subtle sweetness that was something I had never tasted in an IPA before and probably never will again.
But what makes this brewery really stand apart is their seasonal offerings in the summer, fall, and winter. It starts in the summertime when a very refreshing beer is in order and the Tundrabeary does not fall short on not only being refreshing but delicious. Most people have had a fruit beer but usually only one fruit is used whether it is citrus, raspberry, or blueberry. But this pale ale has both blueberry and raspberry in it that creates and naturally sweet but refreshing beer that is perfect on those hot summer days. During the fall season is when the Small Batch Pumpkin Ale can be found through some searching. It was not an easy beer to find but it is worth the hunt. This is not an ordinary pumpkin beer, in the fact that it is overpowered with pumpkin, cinnamon, or nutmeg. While this beer has all those flavors they are all brought together with molasses that creates a rich ale with a slightly smoky flavor to go along with the flavors of fall we have all come to expect. Last is the winter ale which is the cocoa porter. Porters are very dark ales that welcome accompanying flavors like chocolate or vanilla. So not only or chocolate malts used in the brewing process but also chocolate powder, and with the added flavor of honey this beer is sweet, but not overpowering. With the heavy body that a porter has this is the perfect beer to have on a cold evening.
After being around for close to 18 years Tommyknocker is still a premium beer producing not only flavorful and amazing beers, but are still maintain the highest level of quality. Beers we are all accustomed to drinking on a daily basis but with some of the most unique twists you could possibly imagine drinking. Mix that with the environment surrounding this small town brewery and it makes for a true destination. Next time you are driving on I-70 I encourage you do not speed past Idaho Springs but to stop and enjoy this place in person. If not a six pack or mixed twelve pack is at local liquor stores around the state.
Like what you are reading? Have a brewery you feel passionate about? Join and leave your feedback at the official Mile High Brews Facebook page:!/pages/Mile-High-Brews/300062080014536

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mile High Brews: Tis the Season

December and the holiday season are officially upon us and this is when breweries all over the country will give us their gift of winter ales. Beers that are so complex in flavor that they are highly anticipated each season and rarely disappoint. In Colorado the winter beers are plentiful and all very different, and with so many to choose from it can be overwhelming. So this week I felt it was better not to talk about one brewery, but to sample and offer my recommendations on the best six winter beers from the mile high state.
Tommyknocker Cocoa Porter: When we were young hot chocolate with marshmallows was a favorite drink, and now this Idaho Spring brewery has made a beer that brings back the memories of drinking that. A porter is a dark beer that is commonly confused with a stout but it typically lighter in body and slightly sweeter. They are also known for taking on interesting flavors such as vanilla or in this case both chocolate and honey. This is one beer that was made for the winter. The heaviness of the beer warms you from the inside on the coldest nights, and the subtle flavors and sweetness from the chocolate and honey cuts the bitterness from the beer.  A must try for anybody who is a fan of porters or winter seasonal beers in general, this beer is one you will not want to have to wait another year for.
Great Divide Hibernation Ale: The holidays are all about tradition and starting in 1995 this LoDo brewery started the annual tradition of offering up Hibernation Ale every winter, and every winter I look forward to it. A very warming English style ale this beer provides a much needed warming factor on the coldest of winter nights, and a flavor profile of rich malts that coats your pallet. This beer can be slightly bitter, and the malts can leave a strong aftertaste, but as far as English style ales are concerned there is not a better one out there. This 3-time medal winning beer is worth every sip, and I bet you cannot drink just one.
Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale: Who would of thought that a beer/brewery as mainstream as Blue Moon could still produce such high quality and flavorful ales? Well their winter abbey does not fall short with its light body, rich, complex flavor, and slightly sweet but clean finish. Traditionally Belgian style beers are unfiltered, light, and have a subtly spice and citrus note. With the Winter Abbey you get the light body of a Belgian but nothing else. The rich flavor has a slight toffee flavor, and the hint of sugar provides more balance than sweetness. While some of the flavors are reminiscent of the winter season, the rest of this ale is the furthest thing I would have expected. A light body and a beer more refreshing than hearty in cold weather? Because of how unexpected this ale was it is definitely one worth sampling this holiday season.
Breckenridge Christmas Ale: Breckenridge Brewery has been producing their Christmas Ale since 1993 and it is living proof that when you make something right, then why change it. This beer is very dark in color but the taste is where all the surprises are. At first sip there was a slight bitterness due to the hops it was brewed with, but then there were undertones of caramel and chocolate due to the malts that were used. Lastly the heavy body this beer had with it only added to the warming effect this beer had (the seven percent alcohol might have something to do with that to). When a beer is made for the months of November and December, and it is brewed at over 9,000 feet there has to be a warming feeling, and comforting feeling that the beer can provide. A strong American style ale is the perfect fit, and Breckenridge Christmas Ale is a must try right now, otherwise it will be a long 11 months before it can be enjoyed again.
Avery Old Jubilation Ale: Complexity is the best word used to describe this annual, limited edition ale. But how is it complex? It probably has to do with the five malts that are used in the brewing process. It could also be the slight taste of hops, nuts, chocolate, and coffee finish. It is actually all of the above due to the depth of flavor in this ale. Upon first sip the beer has a very light body and a strong malt flavor, and as it moves to the back of the tongue the hops kick in. A very clean aftertaste with a subtle coffee flavor creates one great sip of beer, let alone a very enjoyable pint. It’s no wonder this beer has been extremely popular since 1993, because it is just that delicious. Avery Brewery is known as a small brewery that makes big beers, and the Old Jubilation is living proof of that motto. This is one limited edition beer that is a must try, it is not worth missing out on this one.
Ska Euphoria Pale Ale:  A lot of people know about the breweries in the Rocky Mountains, but what about in the  San Juan Mountains? In one of the most southern parts of Colorado is the town of Durango where Ska Brewery is located, and they are number six on our holiday beer list with their Euphoria Pale Ale. Most winter ales are heavy with more interesting flavor combinations, but the Euphoria ale is very simple. It is a pale ale that is made with golding hops which adds a small hint of spice in the aftertaste. All you get in this beer is the taste of hops followed by spice; it is that simple of a brew. With that being said it will either be loved or hated by drinkers who either love or hate hops, but to try something so simple during the holiday season this is one brew worth trying.
So there you have it, the best six winter seasonal beers to try during the holiday season. All of these beers are distributed to liquor stores throughout the state so try a six pack, or certain liquor stores sell bottles individually to make your own custom six pack. Cheers to you during the holiday season, and I hope you enjoy, and find time to relax.
Like what you are reading? Join the official Mile High Brews Fan Page:!/pages/Mile-High-Brews/300062080014536

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mile High Brews: Bristol/Black Fox

Colorado Springs, Colorado about 2 hours south of Denver is known for many tourist attractions and landmarks. You have the Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, the Unite State Air Force Academy, and beer. Driving on I-25 South, exit 140 onto Tejon Street, park at the blue star and in front of you will be a unique brewery with straight forward, full flavor brews. This of course is Bristol and Black Fox Brewing.
Established in 1994, Bristol’s has always been a brewery that has stayed true to its local roots. They are available throughout the state in bars, liquor stores and of course in growlers straight from the source. Some of their beers are widely distributed year round while other remain very limited, and are only available exclusively at the brewery, like their highly sought after pumpkin ale in the fall.
I first tried Bristol’s a few years back, and instantly developed a taste for it. The beer I tried was Laughing Lab Scottish Ale, and with its strong malt flavor, and clean after taste it made it very difficult not to enjoy, so I explored around to sample their other varieties. Mass Transit Amber Ale was the next one to try, and between the medium body and well balanced taste this beer was definitely worthy of trying. After two successful tastes I knew I had to check this place out with my own eyes and see if the experience of seeing the brewery matched the taste of its beers.
Upon walking up to Bristol’s I was greeted with mash from a tank being emptied into a window and once I walked in the aroma of hops, and mash filled the air. It was a long and narrow bar/lounge area with the fermentation tanks being divided from that room by only a thin wall covered with windows so any guest could see the production going on. A shuffle board table that has been very well used lined a wall, tables were spread comfortable throughout, and of course there was a bar to sit at and sample these great flavors. The environment inside seemed to be very sterile with sheet metal lining the walls, and at the same time it was also very modern with glass blocks stacked against the walls.
The bartenders were very friendly offering up samples, and answering any questions guests had. The variety of beers on tap was plentiful offering up more beers than are available in bars or liquor stores. Tours and growlers are available, and I enjoyed a growler of the Mass Transit Amber Ale, and the flavor did not disappoint from my first experiences with this brewery to my visit. What makes Bristol such a good brewery is that the style of ale and flavor profile are very simple and straightforward. The beers the regularly offer year round are the Mass Transit Amber Ale, Laughing Lab Scottish Ale (winner of numerous Great American Beer Fest medals), Beehive Honey Wheat, Red Rocket Pale Ale, Compass IPA, and their newest addition is the Yellow Kite Pilsner. All these beers have a very well rounded taste, and do not deviate from the perception of what each of these beers should taste like.
Now if one is feeling more adventurous, then it is more up your alley to sample beers from the same brewery just under a different name, Black Fox. Black Fox takes the traditional beer and makes it untraditional with flavor profiles that one would never imagine drinking. They are beers that border more on the idea of sweet and spicy, and are also beers with more savory notes than sweet notes. It hits the pallet in several different areas and always makes for an exciting experience drinking one of these brews. The two Black Fox brews that are a must for any beer lover to try are the Diablo and Siempre Loco. The Diablo is a dark saison that is flavored with cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and New Mexico Red Chile. It offers up the warm earthiness of the cinnamon, and then in the back of your throat you get the heat from the cayenne. Very well balanced and full of flavor.
The Siempre Loco I first sampled during Cinco de Mayo one year where I was looking for a beer that would fit the holiday, but wasn’t a typical beer served with a lime wedge. Again it is a saison style ale but the flavor profile was out of this world. Lime zest, black peppercorns, and cumin are all used in varying stages of the brewing process and the levels of flavor show during every sip. The tartness from the lime comes through instantly, but then you are hit with the earthy notes of the cumin seed, and a slight spice from the black peppercorns, all with a clean aftertaste. It takes a few sips to get used to, but after that this beer will long be in your memory.
Bristol/Black Fox is a unique experience in its own right. Who would have thought that in one location there would be very simple, classical beers and also beers full of big, bold flavors. Beers that can please everybody’s pallet and with a wide variety to offer it is not intimidating to sample all offerings put before you. This is one brewery that should be on a list of tourist attractions the next time anybody is in Colorado Springs. 
Like what you are reading? Join the official Mile High Brews Facebook Page:!/pages/Mile-High-Brews/300062080014536

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mile High Brews: Avery's

Boulder, Colorado is one town that is known for its beer. Home to eleven breweries and brew pubs, the variety is plentiful, and sampling them all in one visit can be difficult. Depending on your taste you might be in the mood for a dry, full hopped, flavored IPA, a full flavored slightly sweet brown ale. Or your tastes could be for the bitterness of a pilsner, the heartiness of a stout, or my personal favorite a Belgian style ale with citrus and spice notes. If you are in Boulder and this is what your taste buds crave, then look no further than Avery Brewery, on Arapahoe Street.
Avery’s has been making big, bold flavored beers since 1993, winning medals at the annual Great American Beer Fest along the way. They have five beers that are offered year round: IPA, Ellie’s Brown Ale, Joe’s Premium American Pilsner, Out of Bounds Stout, and White Rascal Belgian White. They are also known for flavorful seasonal brews, especially Old Jubilation Ale, a winter seasonal featuring flavor notes of chocolate and hazelnut. In addition, they also have a run of limited 22 ounce bombers that pack a full punch of flavor, and can be hard to get.
Once I found this brewery, hidden amongst a gathering of warehouses, it became obvious that this brewery was popular. All the tanks were outside behind the brewery (which is also where the tours occur so dress accordingly if you take one), all the picnic tables were full, but finding a seat at the bar was pretty easy. The inside of the bar was pretty minimal. There were a few signs around the wall and a map with thumbtacks in it showing everywhere they distribute. After sitting at the bar, the bartenders were neither friendly, nor did they have much knowledge of their beers. They did not offer any recommendations as to which beer I should try.
When I asked them a question, they acted burdened to offer an answer. Once all was said and done they seemed happier when people left, as opposed to welcoming in new guests. In the end the beer at Avery’s is very good, full of complex flavors, and it is very good that they distribute. This was hands down the most disappointing stop on my brewery travels, so I would encourage that the beer is tried, but just find a six pack at your local liquor store, or try a pint from a bar, do not go out of your way to see this place in person. It will leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mile High Brews Part 1

Since the day I turned 21, I have had an affinity for drinking a nice cold beer. Living in Colorado has made this much more enjoyable and adventerous than I ever could of imagined. Even though Colorado houses the second largest brewery in the world with Miller-Coors in the mountain town of Golden, there are actually over 100 microbreweries, and brew-pubs throughout this entire state. Whether you are in downtown Denver, the Rocky Mountains, or on the Western Slope there are a wide variety of beers to try. That is what this is all about, my travels to these breweries all around the state, my experiences with the people, the environment, and of course the beer. The adventure of stumbling across a local brewery could turn out to be one of your new favorite beverages, and the hidden gems of each one, whether it is a flavor combination one could never expect to find in a beverage, or finding a small brewery that has actually won multiple medals in competitions. This is the Mile High Brews travels, experiences, and recommendations, please join me on my journey, offer me new places to try, and be adventurous to support the local, and independent breweries that have the passion to turn four simple ingredients into something wonderful.