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. 
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