Friday, December 21, 2012

Big Choice

North of Denver along I-25 the microbrewery scene used to be pretty minimal between Denver and Fort Collins. The region of Westminster, Broomfield, and Thornton only housed chain breweries that are spread throughout the country, and chain restaurants where craft beer was not a priority. However that all changed in May of 2012 when two Colorado natives decided they wanted to bring high quality craft ales to the local community. The end result is named Big Choice Brewing, located in Broomfield, Colorado and the first microbrewery in this area.
Located off the beaten path on 118th in Broomfield this brewery is a little bit of an adventure to find. Just follow that homemade signs and look for the brewery on the left. Walk in to the small tap room and have a seat at the bar, or one of the few tables around it. The chalkboard menu described the eight beers that were on tap, and punk rock from the music will be filling your ears. The 7 barrel system used is behind closed doors, and roped off visible through a small window or by walking back and looking. All in all the décor is very minimal with the red and white walls, and standard wood furniture, but when at a microbrewery you are there for the beers.
Over the past couple of years a new trend has emerged in the microbrewery scene and that is the addition of chili peppers in beer to add a certain spice note. No difference at this brewery with the #42 Poblano Stout, a dark beer with poblano peppers brewed right into it. The stout has a rich, heavy body that stays true to everything a stout should be, but the aftertaste comes with a little surprise. The poblano pepper leaves a lingering taste, but the heat is very subtle and there is more a pure flavor of the pepper. There are no other flavors added to this beer to compliment the pepper, so after the roasted malt flavor has passed all you are left with is the pepper. This is definitely not a session beer, but one worth sipping on as it is very unique for a style of beer increasing in popularity.
Now if stouts aren’t your style of beer but a dark beer is on the mind then ask for nothing more than the Big Choice Brown. A rich, dark, malty ale with a subtle roasted flavor, but a medium body that makes for easy drinking. Made with roasted barley, and three different types of malts all the flavors come together to create a rich beer, complex in flavor. Also available is a dark Cascadian Ale. A dark ale made with cascade hops this beer packs a punch with the hops, but don’t call it a black IPA. Contrary to that style this flavor ale does not have the malts to balance out the hop flavor. Very bitter and hoppy but with a clean aftertaste this is a very unique beer that is not replicated at any other brewery.
For the hop heads out there, there is plenty of variety at Big Choice. The Type III IPA is a very traditional IPA that does not have any additional flavors to mute the hops. A very dry, bitter beer with a lingering aftertaste it is everything that would be expected from an IPA.  If that is not hoppy enough than how about a beer that weighs in at 9.5 ABV and 104 IBU? That would be the Hemlock Double IPA, which are pure hops from the aroma to the finish. A very dry body with one flavor and one flavor only, and that is the hops and the bitterness that people love about them. Also available is the Disconnected Red Ale which again provides a strong hop flavor but with a cleaner finish.
Sometimes when it comes to running a microbrewery it is all about risk. Somebody had to be the first to open a brewery in city, and wait for people to replicate. Well for Big Choice owners Nathaniel Miller and Tyler Ruse they decided to be the first to open one in Broomfield, and  in the short time they have been opened their customer base is loyal, and growing regularly. Even though they were the first they won’t be the last and when more and more breweries open up in Broomfield, Thornton, and Westminster the original will still stand, and that will be Big Choice Brewing.
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Brewery Rickoli's

Wheatridge, Colorado is a small town west of Denver that most people drive by alone I-70. While it is home to one of the larger liquor stores in the state for the longest time it was missing a microbrewery of its own. That all changed in November of 2012 when brew master Rick Abitbol opened up a brewery of his own after years of brewing award winning beers. With a wide variety of styles, high quality ales, and unique beers not seen at many breweries one of the best new breweries lies at 44th and Wadsworth at Brewery Rickoli’s.
Tucked inside a small strip mall this brewery is easy to drive by without noticing, but once you are inside the brewery feel is there. A few tables are around the tap room, and the wood top bar lined with stars oversees the tap handles and merchandise for sale. Other than that the décor of this brewery is pretty minimal. Photos of old Denver Broncos milestones line the wall along with assorted old beer signs like Moosehead and Buffalo Gold. It almost feels as if you are at a neighborhood bar, until you taste the beer and realize the high quality ales being produced. With 8 to choose from the variety is wide with ales that are both unique and traditional.
A beer that is known only on the mass produced side but not seen often at microbreweries is a cream ale, and believe it or not there is one offered at Rickoli. A light ale that is cloudy in appearance but also one that is not light on flavor. A light malt flavor on the tongue is followed by a slight aftertaste of hops. Slightly bitter, but the hops do not overpower the flavor of this beer. A very unique beer that is still not seen all that often, but one worth trying. If you were to go to a German beer garden there will typically be an Altbier on tap. If you go to an Irish pub there will be an Irish Red on tap, but what if there was a beer that reminded you of both? The Aldo Red brings the body of an Irish Red but has the malty flavor of a German Altbier. A very malty beer that is full bodied with just a small hint of hops that balances the whole beer out. A very complex beer with a clean aftertaste that is both traditional and unique, but one that has to be tried.
For fans of dark beers look no further than the Hearty Rye Stout.  A strong stout that pours at 6.5% abv but has all the characteristics that makes stouts so popular. The full body, sweetness, coffee notes, and roasted flavor are all there, but what makes this stout so unique is the addition of rye. The spice from the rye adds a whole other dimension to this beer and creates layers of flavors that hit everywhere on the palate. The sweet, spicy, and roasted flavor all complement each other and balance each other  out but they can be tasted on their own without taking over the whole flavor profile of the beer. Also available for the fan of darker beers is the Social Lubricant, this brewery’s take on a traditional Scotch Ale. A rich, brown ale that is very traditional and full of the malt flavor that makes this style so popular. A very malty, but slightly sweet beer with a very minimal hop flavor and has a clean aftertaste. There are hints of caramel which adds to the sweetness and to the complexities of this beer. Also available are the IPAs where there were three different types to drink, a regular, double, and black. All very good, refreshing, with a clean aftertaste that will cater to the hop heads out there.
A brewery that has the feel of a small neighborhood bar that all the local visit after work and in the process produces high quality ales. That is the impression you get after a visit to Brewery Rickoli. A friendly staff and knowledgeable owner just add to the feel this brewery has created, and it such a short time has already established a regular flow of customers. So when in Wheatridge the mega liquor store is no longer a necessary visit, instead have a fresh variety of craft beers at Brewery Rickoli.
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Friday, December 7, 2012

Pikes Peak Brewing

Sometimes when finding a brewery they can show up in the most unexpected places possible. Most of the time certain breweries are just passed by not even knowing they are there. Like in the small town of Monument, Colorado right outside Colorado Springs along I-25. Most people will drive by there not even thinking to stop and explore. However within this small town lies a small restaurant where they are also brewing their own craft ales and it is called Pikes Peak Brewing.
Inside the brewery the small town feel of Monument is replicated with the environment and décor. It feels as if you are on the back patio enjoying beers with your closest friends, with tables and chairs all around. The beer menu is underneath the overhang of a roof, and the warmth of the building is topped off with a fireplace. The staff was very friendly, and all the customers were there in groups, and nobody was a stranger to each other. A true communal establishment where everybody enjoys the craft ales they produced, and with a wide variety to choose from some stood out more than others.
Some of the richest beers out there are the Belgian Style ales, and at Pikes Peak they took that literally both in name and flavor with the Gold Rush Ale. A strong golden color with just the right amount of spice and citrus that you would expect from this kind of ale, plus the great yeast flavor and muted bitterness from the hops. This beer is very true to what a traditional Belgian beer is, very complex in flavors, yet very balanced, and truly refreshing and easy to enjoy time after time. Also available is a Rocky Mountain Wheat which is much lighter than the Gold Rush but still packs a bold flavor for such a light beer.
Another famous landmark in this area is the Devil’s Head Fire Tower which had views for hundreds of miles and was used to spot wildfires. So what beer would be named after that? Only the Devil’s Head Red Ale. A full flavored ale where the richness of the malts, and bitterness of the hops are both present but they don’t overpower each other. This beer does not have a clean aftertaste but the lingering taste it leaves has a nice quality to it that still keeps you drinking more. If full flavored beers are what you are after the red is a good choice, but there is also a great oatmeal stout again named after a landmark. The Samson House stout is a full bodied oatmeal stout that has a heavy body, a slight sweetness, and bitterness that all come together to create one very enjoyable beer. Good any time of year, but this is the perfect beer to drink on the coldest of nights, especially in front of a fire.
Small town, small brewery, and a gathering for all the locals to meet after work. Not to mention the big, bold, and full flavored beers. When you put all those factors together you have exactly what Pikes Peak Brewing is. With a loyal customer base, friendly staff and craft beers in a small town it is easy to see why this brewery has been so successful. They are living proof that you do not have to be in a big city to thrive, so the next time you are heading south on I-25 don’t worry about where to stop in Denver, or in Colorado Springs, but make a rest stop in Monument and enjoy what Pikes Peak has to offer.
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Friday, November 30, 2012

Tis the Season 2012

With the fall season over in Colorado that means there are only two things that you look forward to: the opening of the ski slopes and the tapping of all the different winter ales. After all it is the season of giving, and what better way to enjoy the offerings from breweries all over the state. The styles of ale are plentiful but all have one thing in common, they are unique and equally delicious in their own way. So if a hearty beer is your way of unwinding after a day on the slopes, or just relaxing in front of a fire then here are the five best winter beers Colorado has to offer.
Isolation Ale (Odell’s Brewing Fort Collins, CO): Definitely the lightest and most traditional ale on the list this beer still remains full flavored, and a treat during the winter months. The copper colored amber ale pours smooth, and that remains through the flavor profile. Caramel malts provide a malty but sweet, and smooth taste and mouth feel. The addition of English hops does not add a bitterness but instead balances the entire beer out into a smooth ale. The aftertaste is incredibly smooth and balanced leaving you only the craving of another sip. A beer that can truly be enjoyed any time of year but is best is best saved for winter, and one that will be enjoyed by new fans of winter ales and those that look forward to it on a yearly basis.
Old Jubilation Ale (Avery Brewing Boulder, CO): When it comes to beers at Avery it is always best to expect the unexpected, especially when it comes to their seasonal ales. The Old Jubilation is no different, which explains why it has been a winter tradition since 1997. An English Style ale this beer has a bold flavor while maintaining a medium-full body. A strong malty flavor leads to a smooth, slightly bitter hop finish with complex flavors on all levels of your pallet. Undertones of chocolate, hazelnuts, and toffee fill your tongue with each sip making this complex beer more enjoyable as you get deeper into it. At 8.3% ABV this beer is not for the faint of heart but this time of year when the frigid weather calls for a hearty beer that warms the body why reach for anything other than this one?
Cocoa Porter (Tommyknocker Brewing Idaho Springs, CO): As kids who didn’t love coming home and drinking a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows? Now as adults who doesn’t love coming home from work and relaxing with a beer? Thanks to Tommyknocker Brewing we can now have the beer we love as adults with the memories of hot cocoa we had as kids with the annual brewing of the Cocoa Porter. A full bodied porter base ale with the addition of chocolate and honey makes for not only a unique but also a festive beer fitting for the season. The chocolate adds an extra dimension of body and a slight bitterness, but the sweetness of the honey balances out the cocoa. All the flavors work well together but still have their own presence. Add all that with a clean aftertaste and this annual beer could replace hot chocolate entirely come winter time.
Hibernation Ale (Great Divide Brewing Denver, CO): Since 1994 this LoDo Brewery has been producing high quality award winning ales, and since 1995 they added to that with the yearly arrival of Hibernation Ale (an English Style Old Ale). This ale does not come with any unique flavors to the season, instead it is a strong, traditional ale that is hearty and warming for the coldest of winter nights. A strong malt flavor and aroma fills your nose and taste buds with each sip, but that fades into a complex hop flavor on the finish. Through it all there are undertones of figs that add a unique flavor. Now come holiday time people like to indulge and treat themselves, and if a regular six pack of Hibernation won’t suffice then how about a Barrel Aged Hibernation? Aged for 9 months in Stranahan’s Bourbon barrels this rare, limited edition beer brings forth the classic flavor, but with all the accents whiskey, and vanilla that come with barrel aging. The same beer two different ways, and one that brings out the best of the cold weather.
Christmas Ale (Upslope Brewing Boulder, CO): Once all is said and done the most popular Christmas Ales are those that have the spice flavors we are all used to this time of year. A darker ale infused with cinnamon, ginger, or cloves bring a sense of comfort and warmth during the holidays. In Boulder, Colorado at Upslope Brewing their Christmas Ale with the traditional flavors one would expect, but the beer still remains unique. A dark Belgian ale base mixed with the right blend of spices creates this well rounded ale. At first sip it is realized how surprisingly light the body on such a dark beer is, as well as effervescent. The sweet taste of caramel quickly fades to the spices of the season with notes of cinnamon and ginger hitting the tongue. This was all accented but a light citrus note due to the Belgian yeast. A traditional winter ale that has been crafted so well this ale could find a regular spot in your fridge on a yearly basis, and start a new tradition in ones household.
Fiver beers from five breweries, and while they were all different they have one thing in common with each other. They bring out the best and what is most enjoyable from the cold winter months. Whether the beers remain traditional, strong, spicy, or unique these are the beers that people look forward to every year, and each year they do not disappoint. The holidays come early when these ales hit the tap lines or shelves as these craft brewers give us an early gift each year.
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Friday, November 16, 2012


In north Denver there is are certain areas that most people will drive by without thinking twice. Like in the Stapleton area where outside of the shopping center the only people that visit are the warehouse workers that surround that area. But within all the warehouses lies some hidden gems, and that is no more true than off 39th and Peoria where in a small building facing I-70 houses one of Denver’s newest microbreweries. With a small but personal tap list, a friendly staff that will educate you on their beers, and also one of the newer microbreweries to open their tap room in Denver it is no wonder why Caution Brewing should be at the top of anybodies list to visit.
While this may be one of the most difficult breweries to find in the Denver area whether it is following the arrowed signs in the ground to the tap room, or once you find the tap room there is no lit sign to attract customers it is all worth it once you sit at the bar stool. The environment inside matches the environment outside being surrounded by warehouses. Whether it is the concrete floors, the small bar area, few tables, or the pallets of ingredients lining the wall. There is no patio, instead a garage door is opened to allow fresh air in. The menu is simple with all the beers in information on them written on a simple chalkboard next to the taps. This is one of the few breweries where the production area and brewing equipment is not visible. But there is one thing that is certain about Caution, and that is the beer is both unique and flavorful, and trying just one is not easy.  
What started off as a beer at his parents Chinese Noodle House has now become the signature beer at this small brewery, and that is the Lao Wang Lager. A light lager with a very subtle malt taste but the real flavor comes from a blend of Asian spices. Made famous from the secret blend of spices used at the Lao Wang Noodle House in Denver, this beer is extremely complex, and has a distinct spice not in its flavor. The true flavor remains a mystery and a family secret, but that does not change the popularity and great flavor that this beer provides. If light beers are your flavor of choice but you do not want something spicy, Caution also offers the Wild Blonde Ale. A light ale that is made unique through the addition of rice that adds some depth of flavor, and a slight citrus note. Very light and refreshing this beer will not disappoint, and is perfect to sip on any days.
If light beers are good but dark beers are what you are craving, and supporting local ingredients is your passion then the next pint you enjoy should be none other than the Honey Matrimony hone brown ale. Not only are the malts grown in Alamosa, Colorado and the wildflower hone harvested in Evans, Colorado but the two ingredients together create a balanced beer, that is both balanced and refreshing. Each ingredient comes through from the hops and the malts, but they are balanced out through the addition of the honey. There is a slight sweetness but the beer is not sweet, because of the bitterness from the hops, and the malts add that depth of flavor to round out this brown ale. Truly delicious, and all local, what could be better in a Colorado beer?
One thing that is true of all Colorado breweries is that they cater to the hop lovers out there, and that is just as true at Caution as the offer not one, but two different IPAs. For a traditional take on an IPA sip on none other than the Hippity Hops Chrysanthemum IPA. Featuring three different styles of hops during the boil but also introducing chrysanthemum flowers and Chinese Rock brown sugar this beer has all the distinct flavors of an IPA but its bitterness is cut with the floral notes, and a subtle sweetness. The hops are still the primary flavor, and the additional ingredients come through in the aftertaste creating a clean tasting brew. Now if you are a fan of IPAs but want something slightly more adventurous than how about the Big Bunny Cascadian Dark Ale? A standard dark IPA dry hopped with Cascadian hops the question is what makes this beer unique? The answer is simply that the hops are roasted, and that simple act adds so much complexity and depth of flavor. Currently it is the most hoppy beer offered at Caution but it is still as easy and smooth to drink as anyone on the menu. The roasted flavor comes through but does not dominate the flavor; it all comes to one in a harmonious beer.
 It’s hard to believe that in such a small location in a large warehouse district there is a brewery that produced such bold flavored beers. In such a variety to choose from and a fearless approach to experimental flavors it is no wonder that Caution has developed such a loyal following. The only question is what is next for this small brewery, and how big can they become with their unique brews? So the next time you are in the Northfield area ignore the large chain bars, and drive a few miles east to enjoy the offerings at Caution.
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Friday, November 9, 2012


When towns in Colorado are mentioned for destinations to visit microbreweries there are a few towns that always come to mind. Without any doubt the town that should be mentioned first is Boulder, Colorado. After all it was in 1978 when the first microbrewery in the state was opened in this small college town. 30 years after the Boulder Beer Company opened another small microbrewery opened, and in November of 2012 they celebrated their four year anniversary. An eco friendly brewery that serves a great lineup of flagship ales, limited edition seasonal ales, and barrel aged ales out of the tap room, and a destination brewery. Located in the north part of Boulder, Colorado this is Upslope Brewing Company.  
Located in a small warehouse strip Upslope is easy to drive by without thinking twice, but it is worth the stop. Inside the tap room is small, but a very comfortable environment. The bar top is black stone that does not seat many. Above the tap handles is a chalkboard menu, but it is the scenery behind the bar that is impressive. A large window behind the tap handles shows the massive barrel system used to create all their ales, and to the left of the bar is a collection of barrels used to age some of their ales. With so many types of ales, the only question one has to ask themselves is which one to try first.  
Now Upslope does distribute canned beer throughout the state, and at most liquor stores you can find their four flagship beers: a pale ale, IPA, brown ale, and craft lager. However while all those are good the beer that is reserved for the tap room are the ones worth trying. Take their IPA for example which is already a delicious balance of hops with a malty undertone. But what happens when you take that IPA and barrel age it in cabernet barrels from two doors down for 7 months? You get an ale with a deep red color that still has a strong hop flavor but is muted through the wine notes within in the beer. Each sip brings out a different flavor but the true flavor of the IPA comes through. It is complimented with the wine taste which adds a nice acidity note and bitterness as well. While this beer is not always available at the tap room when it makes its rotation on the tap line it is a must try.
Also available is a German style beer that is still a fairly uncommon beer among microbreweries, and that is a Dunkelweizen. A rich, dark wheat ale with a very complex flavor, aroma, and aftertaste. The aroma is slightly sweet with hints of nuts, and that leads into a rich taste. The malt is the main ingredient flavor that you taste but there are undertones of caramel and chocolate. There is also a subtle spice note of nutmeg, and like with any good dunkel there is also a hint of banana flavor which ties it all together. Very light and refreshing even for a dark beer. Like with the IPA sometimes Upslope feels adventurous and barrel ages their Dunkel, but it is not in wine barrels, but instead bourbon. The result is a beer that in a way reminds you of the classical dessert banana fosters. The richness of the malts, spices, and banana flavor are all still present as is the intense flavor of bourbon. A very hearty beer with a strong flavor and aftertaste, and one that needs to be savored for all the added complexities the barrel aging brings to this beer. Very enjoyable, still refreshing, and a rare treat any beer lover would enjoy.
In a beer and brewery rich community like Boulder each business has to bring something different to the tap line. At Upslope that has happened with four high quality flagship ales, barrel aging, and seasonal ales that are so limited people will search the state just to say they tried it. In four short years this brewery has established themselves among the big breweries in Boulder and has the awards to show for it. It just makes you wonder in four more years just how much growth this brewery will experience, and where will they be then?
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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wild Woods

In such a small town like Boulder, Colorado it is often wondered if there is really room for another microbrewery. The answer is simply yes. Especially when the idea for a brewery is bringing together high quality craft ale that is inspired from the nature that is all around Colorado. So when the husband and wife team of Jake and Erin Evans moved from Wisconsin to Colorado they got to enjoy the hiking in the Rocky Mountains and perfecting recipes in their basement as avid home brewers. The end result is a small brewery that takes traditional style ales, and mixes them with flavors inspired from the outdoors, and it is Boulder’s newest brewery Wild Woods.
Located down the street from Avery this brewery is hidden, and from the exterior it is a brick warehouse, with climbing rope squaring off the outdoor seating area. Step inside and you are in a lodge environment. The bar top is long and all wood, along the middle of the tasting room is a wooden island, and along the back wall are tables and chairs. Behind the bar is a wood paneled wall which houses the chalkboard menu of the available beers and along the wall next to the bar is more wood paneling which only adds to the lodge environment. An opening to the left of the bar allows guests to see the 2 barrel system used to make the ales, as well as shelving with all the ingredients. With such a small brewing system it allows the beer to be very fresh at all times, and with beer so fresh it can be difficult to decide which to try first.
Wild Woods has beers of all style to cater to beer fans of all sorts, and that includes two for the fans of hoppy beers. The Treeline IPA has the classic flavors one would expect, however it has been conditioned with juniper berries. The end result is a dry IPA with the complex yet subtle flavors of pine and citrus, and a tiny spice note from the addition of juniper. While the hops are still the primary flavor the undertones all from the little juniper berry took and ordinary beer to a new level of complexity. Another adventurous beer for the hop fans is the Wildflower Pale Ale. This is a very light pale ale with all the citrus qualities, and bitterness from the hops that one would expect. Add the extra flavor of jasmine flowers during the brewing process and the flavors are elevated. The floral note lightens up the whole beer adding a crisp and clean flavor that sets this beer apart. Also available for fans of lighter beers is the berry patch wheat. A light wheat ale that combines both raspberries and strawberries. Both fruit flavors come through strong, but do not overpower each other. Not too sweet, and with a clean aftertaste this is a unique and very enjoyable fruit ale.
From light, dry beers to dark and hearty beers the porter and stout are classical beers done right, but the extra ingredients elevate these beers to great. The Ponderosa Porter named after a type of pine tree is known to give off a sweet aroma in the wilderness, but how does that translate to a beer? Add caramel malts and oak age it with vanilla beans. The end result is a beer that has a butterscotch taste with a floral vanilla aftertaste. Full bodied, but full flavored this beer has such a depth of flavor each new sip brings something new onto the pallet. Very enjoyable, and one might not be enough. When spending time outdoors and camping there is one thing that usually comes to mind and that is smores. So when you take a stout base and add three different malts (roasted barley, chocolate, and biscuit), milk sugar, and age the beer with cacao nibs you get a smores stout. A heavy beer that is slightly sweet, has a full body, and a slightly smoky aftertaste this beer will remind you of sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows, and is a smore in a glass. If a smoky beer sounds good but the sweetness does not then there is the Campfire Red Ale. No hops are present in this ale instead it is mostly malty (some of which are smoked), and it creates a very straightforward flavor of malts with a subtle smokiness. A very clean aftertaste follows the bold flavor of this ale and sip for sip it is very enjoyable.
In a town like Boulder, Colorado there are two qualities that define it as a town. They house the very first microbrewery in the state and many more, plus it is known for the wonderful outdoors and active lifestyle its residents have. Now it has one of the newest microbreweries in the state that has combined the best of both worlds. High quality ales and the best of the nature that surrounds them both in the beer and in the environment they have created within the brewery. After a long day of hiking in Boulder continue the outdoor experience while quenching your thirst and pay Wild Woods Brewery a visit for a flight, pint, or growler.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012


Typically when microbreweries are mentioned the first question people ask is what kind of beers do they make? The answer is more often than not either German or Belgian style ales, with a mix of microbrewery standards like a fruit ale, and IPA. But in 2012 a brewery opened that does not serve any German styles, Belgian styles, or even have an IPA on their tap list. In the Sloan Lake and West Highlands area lies a small brewery serving traditional English style ales both on tap and from the traditional cask serving system. Even the name of the brewery is English, Hogshead a term of measurement used in England.
 After taking over an old car service station the transformation for Hogshead began and the structure is the only thing that reminds you of what used to house this now brewery. The garage windows are still there but behind them now lie the 10 barrel brewing system that is used visible to guests through a doorway. A rustic wood bar top lets you sit and enjoy the neighborhood scenery through the large glass windows that surround the taste room. Picnic tables are around the outside to enjoy your beer on the patio. While the décor is minimal, the beer is bold, flavorful, and everything that one would expect from a pub in London and the only question is which one to try first.
When it comes to English style ales, one type comes to mind first and that is an ESB, and after one sip at Hogshead it is clearly obvious why the Chin Wag ESB is their signature beer. A medium color and complex aroma make this a very inviting beer to sip on, and even after the first sip this beer remains very complex. While the prominent taste after the first sip is malts, it quickly fades away to a hop finish with a slight bitterness. But there are more undertones of flavors within this beer. With each sip comes the rich flavor of toffee, and even a light, crisp flavor of orange. Despite the fact that these flavors are subtle they add a depth and complexity to this beer that makes it not only so unique but enjoyable as well.
Now if bitter beers aren’t your flavor and a light session beer is what you are craving then order a pint of the Lake Lightening, a year round Summer session ale. A light colored ale with a strong hop aroma, but subtle hop flavor. This beer is bitter, and leaves a lingering taste, and is also very dry on the tongue. For the dark beer lovers there is the Gilpin Black Gold, a traditional London Porter. A hearty body, and strong malt flavor make up the primary taste of this beer. However because the malts are roasted there are also flavors of coffee and nuts beneath the malts. A truly hearty beer that warms you up from the inside out and perfect for those cold, snowy days.
While all the beers out of a traditional CO2 keg are delicious the one thing that separates Hogshead from other breweries is the focus on bringing the tradition of London pubs to America. That is done through consistently offering cask conditioned versions of their ales which leaves the end product unpasteurized, unfiltered, and naturally carbonated. This occurs after the initial fermentation where a portion of the beer is transferred to a cask and allowed to ferment a second time. The end result is a more flavorful beer, that has a very creamy mouth feel due to the hand pull system, and it is also served at about 50 degrees making it much warmer. While it is not for everybody it is a unique, traditional way to taste a beer, and at the very least is worth trying. All three beers at Hogshead are available on cask, just as part of a rotation and each with a very complex flavor.
As the microbrewery expansion in Colorado continues to grow at an alarming rate the beers each offer are going to vary. At Hogshead the style of beer is a very unique change to Colorado, and something that has not been done before. Real English style ales served in two different ways, to create two different experiences for the same beer. A group of guys who love beer introducing Colorado to real ales out of casks, and at the same time not compromising the quality of the beer in the process. Whether it is a 10 ounce pour (sample size), 16 ounce (pint), or 20 ounce (proper pint) the beers at Hogshead are all very hearty, complex, full flavored, and do not disappoint.  
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Friday, October 26, 2012


When driving on I-25 the exit to Santa Fe used to lead to one thing, Stranahans Distillery, known for fine Colorado bourbon. Further behind that on Santa Fe is the art district known for all the art displays on the first Friday of every month. But amidst all that lies a small microbrewery opened in the Summer of 2011 by avid home brewer Brian O’Connell and his wife Khara. In such a short time this brewery has not only developed a loyal following but has also recently been named the best new brewery in Denver. With a variety of unique beers it is only fitting that this establishment be named Renegade Brewing.
The taste room is small, and the décor is minimal. A patterned wood top bar, merchandise rack, and a bright red wall with the Renegade logo are the highlights, but the history of the building is where the story is at. The building that houses Renegade is historic being over 100 years old, and one that was left abandoned. When Brian and Khara moved to Colorado they found Renegade in this location and brought back to life this historic building. Currently at the moment none of the staff of Renegade is from Colorado but all wound up in this state becoming part of the craft beer craze in this state. With so many unique craft beers at Renegade there is a variety for fans of all styles to try.
When it comes to making a signature beer it needs to not only be unique but also something that people are familiar with, and at Renegade that beer is none other than the Ryeteous a Rye IPA. Copper in color this beer has all the qualities of an IPA that Coloradans have come to love. It is a dry beer, with plenty of bitterness, and a slight citrus flavor from the hops. But then there is the addition of rye with balances out those flavors with a nice spicy note. The flavors combined balance each other out to create a complex beer full of bitter, hops, citrus and spice all in one sip. With a beer this good it is no wonder it has a loyal following and has become the flagship beer of this brewery.
Other times guests will go to a brewery seeking a beer that is so unique that they will not be able to find it elsewhere. While banana splits are popular at ice cream stands during the summer months the brewers at renegade took that and turned it into a beer. Take a hefweizen base in which the yeast gives off a natural banana flavor and infuse it with chocolate. Then at the very end add some vanilla beans for good flavor and the end result is a full flavored beer that reminds you of that childhood favorite. The banana is the primary flavor, and the chocolate adds a little bitterness to the beer. The vanilla beans are the last flavor and don’t add sweetness, but instead a subtle floral and fresh note. As odd as this beer sounds it was complex, not too sweet, and all the flavors worked together. So unique that it is a must try for the adventurous beer fan.
In addition to those two there is plenty more Renegade has to offer including a 5 o’clock Blonde that has a slight bite of the hops, but is an easy drinker. Also available is an imperial pilsner that is light, bitter, and everything you would expect out of a pilsner, just slightly stronger. For fans of the dark beers  there is the Hammer and Sickle Russian Imperial Stout with a bold, and strong flavor that is a beer that needs to be sipped. For the true hop heads out there in Colorado there is a Triple IPA, and also a barley wine for people’s enjoyment. Clearly the variety is wide, and there is a beer for every pallet that anybody can enjoy.
A great area for art now houses a great brewery where the art of craft beer is being experimented with on a regular basis. What was once an abandoned building is now buzzing with life again as one of the new hot spots in Denver. With a few awards already to their name, and more to come it is no winder Renegade was named the best new brewery in Denver. With them bringing back to life a historic building it is good to know that the history in this area will only enrich, and the next time you are exploring the Santa Fe Art District take a side trip to quench your thirst at Renegade Brewing.
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Colorado Cider Company

Colorado is a state that started off with one major brewery in Golden, and now there are more microbreweries than one could count, with the number continuously growing. Then along the Western Slope Colorado wineries started opening and we developed our own little wine country. Then throughout the state micro distilleries began to open and now finding high quality bourbon and vodka made in Colorado is as easy as it has ever been. But what is there for the person who is not a fan of beer and wine but enjoys local beverages? Well just outside of downtown Denver there is a company that sources local ingredients to produce high quality alcoholic beverages, and it is none other than the Colorado Cider Company.
Tucked in amongst a lot of warehouses this place is not easy to find but once you are there it is worth it. Inside the seating area is small, with a few tables and equally as small bar top. There were people standing enjoying their beverage or sitting on the stairs leading up to the entrance way. Above guests hung pallets from the ceiling, and views of the production area were visible but they take up the majority of this space. The décor is minimal but in an industry new and unique to the Denver beer scene the beverages speak for themselves, and with a wide variety there are plenty to choose from ranging from tart to sweet, and the very unique.
When it comes to making a cider it is best to stay true to the original and not be to experimental right away, and the result of that is the signature drink the Glider Cider. This is everything you would expect from a cider. It is light, crisp, and a little on the tart side. Not too sweet, but the apple flavor is very clean, and this is one beverage that almost any craft beer fan would enjoy. There is also a dry version of the Glider Cider which is the original just a little drier, and this is a result of the fermenting process. Still a very enjoyable beverage but should be tried side by side with the original so the differences are more noticeable.
Now this place wouldn’t be innovative and original if they didn’t experiment with their flavors, and one of the results of this experimentation is the Grasshop-Ah. A traditional cider that has a very common beer ingredient in it (hops) and an ingredient more commonly associated with Asian cuisine (lemongrass). The end result is a slightly bitter, but also slightly more tart without being too acidic, but a very enjoyable drink. Also available in limited batches throughout the year is Ol’ Stumpy, a cider that brings together both granny smith and jonagold apples, and then ages them in chardonnay barrels. The marriage of that creates a strong apple flavor with a subtle wine note, and a hint of grapes.
What would a cider company in Colorado be if they did not use the best ingredients from their home state? Use Colorado apples and wildflower honey also from Colorado and you have a Pome Mel, a honey cider. A strong apple flavor, a nice sweetness from the honey, plus the light flavor of lavender and rosemary from the honey adds a very faint but noticeable herbaceous flavor. This cider is the best of what Colorado has to offer and the end result shows what the result will be when high quality local ingredients are used.
A company that wanted to help revive that apple farming in Colorado turned to making a historically European drink in hard cider. The end result is a wide variety of enjoyable, and refreshing beverages that not only quench your thirst but support local farmers as well. This place will turn anybody into a cider fan, and will continue to keep their regulars coming back. When a company is so committed to supporting the local farmers the quality is reflected in the end product. With beverages that are so unique and fresh it is no wonder that the Colorado Cider Company has an increasing customer base, and beverages anybody would enjoy.
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Elevation Brewing

The massive growth of microbreweries over the past couple years in Colorado has been astonishing. It seems like every month a new microbrewery is open and it seems like every town you drive through has at least one. This is true even in the smallest of towns. Roughly three hours southwest of Denver along the Arkansas River is the small town of Poncha Springs, Colorado where the last recorded population was 742. Most people will drive through this town on there was somewhere else but right off Highway 50 lies a small brewery started by four friends who wanted to mix their passion of craft beer, with their love of the outdoors. The end result is Elevation Beer Co. opened in 2012.
One of the great benefits of enjoying a beer in Colorado is getting to sit and enjoy the scenery as well, and at Elevation the first thing you notice is the San Juan mountain range that lies behind it. Inside is a transformation to a rustic looking brewery. The bar stools with cast iron seats, barrels spread throughout the tap room, and wood surround the entire interior. The windows are large and spread all around the tap room so the scenery outside can be enjoyed even from the comforts of inside. Off to the side of the bar lies a large window that allows guests to view their production facility, where all the high quality ales are made. There are plenty of ales to choose from and a wide variety for every pallet in your group.
Go to any brewery in Colorado and there will be at least one IPA available, but at Elevation they took their IPA and took it to a whole new level in creating the First Cast IPA. Made with two different types of hops the bitterness and dryness is the primary flavor, but it is the other ingredients that make this beer stand out. First are the malts which are pilsner which add to the bitterness, and then there are caramel malts which cut the bitterness with a subtle sweetness and richness. But what ultimately makes this beer so unique is the addition of pine which adds to the aroma and carries through in the taste with a fresh flavor that cannot be matched. A must try beer for both IPA fans and for the experimental beer lover.
About an hour south of this brewery lies the San Luis Valley where farmers grow a lot of the ingredients to make beer (malts, barley, hops), and what better way to thank these farmers than to create a beer in their honor. Just beneath the famous Mount Blanca lies these farmers and put all these ingredients together and you have the Mount Blanca Saison, and rich farmhouse ale. This beer is light, crisp, refreshing, and great to sip as you enjoy the scenery around you. Made with all Colorado grown malts this beer does not disappoint on flavor at all. There is a subtle citrus flavor, but so rich that it can be enjoyed in any season. It just goes to prove that with local, fresh ingredients the end result will always taste better, and in the case of this saison that statement is more true than ever.
Now if a farmhouse ale is your flavor but you want something more complex then reach for a pint of the Signal de Botrange. Very similar to the Mount Blanca in the fact that it is a Belgian style ale but this beer has one huge difference, Not only was it the first beer this brewery oaked aged, but it was aged in chardonnay barrels. All the great characteristics of a Belgian beer (the spice, yeast, citrus) plus the acidic noted from the chardonnay. There is a heightened acidity and a subtle grape flavor from the barrels. A standard beer made very complex through a simple aging process. Also available in the tasting room is the Apis IV black Belgian Quadrupel. A black strong ale infused with honey where the brewery once again sources local ingredients to craft their beer. If something lighter is what you crave then depending on the season there is a Kolsch that is very true to the traditional beverage of choice from Cologne, Germany, and a smoked Dopplebock known as the Prostator which helps benefit research for prostate cancer.
If there was one was to describe this Elevation Beer Co. it would be, “Small town, but big beers.” With full flavor in all beers, and the unique process of oak aging some of them it is no wonder that this brewery has already acquired a nice following. However beers of this caliber and flavor should be ones enjoyed by the masses. While there are bombers available in certain areas in Denver there is nothing better than enjoying a pint fresh from the tap room. Despite the fact that it is a drive to Poncha Springs it is one that is worth it and won’t be regretted so long as Elevation Beer Company is included in your trip.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Wit's End

In life everybody has a dream. For Scott Witsoe an avid home brewer who moved to Denver from Seattle that dream quickly became to own a microbrewery, and become part of the thriving microbrew community Denver is so well known for. However this dream did not become a reality until Scott was laid off from his day job in 2011. It was after that where he and his wife decided to take the opportunity and open a brewery. The rest is history and off 2nd Avenue in Denver, Colorado you can enjoy all of his offerings, at Wits End Brewing.
First thing to realize though is Wits End is not a microbrewery; it is much smaller and classifies themselves as a nano brewery. They brew each beer in a one barrel system which only produces 31 gallons of beer at a time, allowing for higher quality of beers. The small production operation is visible in the back to the tap room. Bright blue walls surround the bar area, with a parking lot patio, and board games available for any of the guests to play. But in order to totally enjoy your experience at Wits End there has to be beer to enjoy, and thankfully there is plenty to choose from here, in a variety of styles where the traditional beers are anything but that.
Of all the breweries in Colorado there are still certain styles that are not as common, and one of those is the porter. At Wits End they took a basic porter, added a few extra ingredients, and created a very unique version of a classical beer in their Kitchen Sink Porter. Now this beer contains a laundry list of ingredients that are not limited to a wide variety of malts including a smoked variety, and dark roasted. Include the rye that is added in addition to the hops, barley and you have an extremely complex beer, but with so many ingredients what is the end result? A beer that is unique, complex, and balanced. The dark roasted malts add a subtle chocolate and coffee flavor. The rye adds a slight fruity and spicy taste, and the smoked malts adds a slight flavor that brings the beer together as a whole. Definitely a unique and multi dimensional porter and a great twist on a classic.
Now of course there are certain beers that are becoming more and more common at breweries, and one of those is the hefeweizen. That classic German wheat beer cloudy in appearance but packed full of banana flavor. Well at Wits End there version of this classic has all the classic flavors but it is more complex, and it is called the Banana Hammock. The main difference is the appearance. This beer is not cloudy, but instead clear and deep gold in color. That can be attributed to the malts and again the addition of rye. The yeast is the same used in a traditional hefeweizen, and between the combination of traditional yeast with untraditional malts the end beer is a banana foster in a glass. The classic banana flavor that one expects is the prominent flavor, but the addition of rye and malts adds a slight sweetness reminiscent of that classical dessert. A must try, and only available during the summer.
Other beers available are a classical Belgian wheat named after a action movie star from the country that has all the great citrus and spice notes that one loves in a Belgian beer. The Green Man is a beer inspired by Scott’s hometown of Seattle. A cross between an IPA and a red with hops directly from the northwest but with a more balanced and less hoppy/bitter flavor. Last is the Super FL IPA, a black IPA that creates more depth and a malty flavor than a traditional IPA. Throughout the ear the tap list will change depending on the season to include stouts, and brown ales as well.
Despite the growing brewery scene in Colorado there are still more and more opening up on a regular basis for a multitude of reasons. In the case of Wits End it was a person seizing and opportunity to take their dream and turn it into a reality. Despite being one of the smallest breweries in the state by production standards the quality of beer they are pouring out of their taps makes it evident the passion they put into each barrel. A small brewery in a hidden area, this brewery should be sought out and tried, the next time you are by downtown Denver.

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Prost Brewing

When it comes to all the breweries in Colorado, there are some that are better known than others. Other times it is the owners/brewers that are better known. Like the name Bill Eye is one of the most well known names in Colorado breweries. The former head brewer at Dry Dock rose to fame through his brewing of traditional German beers, and during his tenure in Aurora he won several Great American Beer Festival medals, including gold in 2011 for his south German hefeweizen. However in 2012 Bill left Dry Dock to open a brewery of his own, and the end result is a traditional German brewery using antique equipment and producing batches of beers from all over Germany. The place to enjoy these? At Prost Brewing on 19th Street in Denver, Colorado.
Upon parking in the dirt lot and looking at the green sheet metal exterior you would not think this would be a brewery, but once you step inside you are transported into a beer garden. The tap room is well lit and banners resembling the German flag cover the ceiling. Instead of individual seating there are communal picnic tables both inside and out. Most impressive is that the beer is crafted in equipment shipped over from Germany that was made in 1963 and used in a town that has been brewing for over 300 years. Now residing in Denver this equipment is making the same traditional German beers made across the Atlantic, but which one to try first?
When at a microbrewery, it is always best to find their signature beer, and here that is a north German beer the Prost Pils (pilsner). The light golden color and thick foam are just the beginning to this crisp beer. With ingredients all from Germany including a special yeast from a monastery, this beer has a subtle spice and herbal note followed by the hops flavor that is expected with a pilsner. The hoppy aftertaste is very minimal which only keeps you going back for another sip. Now if light beers are what you crave but you are not a fan of hops then sipping on the beer Bill is known for is a can’t miss, the WeiBbier or hefeweizen, a traditional south German wheat beer. This beer stays very true to the classical recipe and its simplicity keeps you coming back for more sips. All the qualities that one would expect are in each sip from the golden color, and cloudy appearance. The flavor is full of the classical banana flavor with the hint of clove. Perfectly refreshing on hot summer days this beer is easy to sip on, and just as easy to enjoy.
The Hummer Brauerei in the German region of BreitenguBbach once made a famous beer known as the Dunkel. The equipment from that brewery now lies at Prost and they are reviving this classical recipe and introducing Denver to the Dunkel, and after one sip the popularity should spread. The stein full of this rich brown ale makes it inviting to try. After the first sip it is realized how complex this beer is. With a very unique malty flavor that is brought out through a special mashing process this beer is not overpowered with malts. The yeast gives off a very subtle banana flavor, but all flavors meld together and still create a clean aftertaste. A newer style of beer to the Colorado market but one that could easily become one of the most popular and demanded, this dunkel is a must try. Throughout the year Prost will also be tapping specialty seasonal beers from Germany including marzens, altbiers, and bocks.
After Bill left Dry Dock and word spread that Prost would be opening there was a lot of anticipation and hype regarding this brewery. After months of watching the building develop and take shape the patience of thirsty drinkers was rewarded in August of 2012 where beer drinkers could enjoy their first sip. All that is obvious is that the wait was worth it. A staff of brewers committed to the high quality standards of their beer, and staying true to the classical German recipes Prost will quickly become a go to brewery when in downtown Denver.
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Estes Park Brewing

When it comes to the Colorado beer scene, the majority of breweries have a loyal customer base. Whether it is in a small town where are the local goes to get together, or in a high traffic area where there are both regulars and a consistent wave of new customers.  But what if there were a brewery that mostly relied not only on new customers, but tourists on top of that? Well in the small mountain town of Estes Park there is a small brewery that offers free samples downstairs, a bar and restaurant upstairs, and a wide variety of beers for all the first time customers to try. What is this brewery called? Of course it is the Estes Park Brewery, pouring quality Colorado ales since 1994.
Located next to a miniature golf course with only a banner for a sign this two story white building can be very easy to drive by. Inside on the lower level you will find racks of merchandise and a cooler with six packs available. At the back counter there is the tasting area where a bartender will be more than happy to pour you up to four samples for no charge. Upstairs you will find the restaurant and bar area with long windows that display all the wonderful scenery in Estes Park. In addition is a mural covering all the all four walls that show off the scenery and wildlife in the area, plus there is an overhead look into the production area where all the brewing and bottling occurs. With eleven beers to choose from sometimes it can be hard to decide which one to try, and there are not only high quality ales at Estes Park but also a wide variety.
With such a wide variety to choose from it is usually best to ask and try the brewery’s most popular beer, and that is the Longs Peak Raspberry Wheat. A light wheat beer with all natural raspberry flavor added to it this beer is both refreshing and subtle. The light flavor of the wheat comes through and while the raspberry is present it does not overpower the rest of the beer. One sip and it is pretty obvious why this is the most popular beer available. Now if raspberry beer is not your favorite but you like fruit ales there is also a blueberry wheat available. Estes Park’s  honey wheat ale uses six pounds of Colorado ambrosia honey per barrel and is also one of the best available for fans of light, wheat beers.
Sometimes wheat beers can be too light and if something with more body and flavor is craved then there is also a wide selection to choose from. One of the best is named after a line in a classic horror novel that took place at none other than the famous Stanley Hotel, and that is the Redrum Ale. Despite the fact that this beer is not really red, more of a copper color, it is still very complex. With a medium body and a medium bitterness this beer brings out the flavor of hops, but it does not overtake the beer. With a clean aftertaste this is one beer that you will keep sipping, and enjoy more and more with each sip. Also available is a lager, IPA, porter, and stout all named after local scenery, wildlife, and landmarks. All are  unique in their own way and all definitely worth trying.
It’s hard to believe that in such a small town there is a brewery that produces not only a large amount, but also high quality and flavorful beers. With both traditional and unique ales, it is hard to be disappointed with whatever you choose to try. While there is some distribution throughout the state, it is very limited in both where to find it and the flavors available. Even living in Colorado it is ok to be a tourist in certain towns, and when in Estes Park be a tourist and explore the town and especially this brewery.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Mile High Brews: Oskar Blues

With so many microbreweries in Colorado it can be easy to be overlooked, especially for the breweries in small towns. Like in Lyons, Colorado where the population is roughly 1400 and most people drive through it on their way to Estes Park. Well, in 1997, a Cajun restaurant opened and by 1999 owner Dale Katechis took his passion for home brewing and turned his restaurant into a brewpub. Regulars and tourists loved the beer he was producing and by 2002 it was time to start distributing. Dale did something that no other craft brewer in the nation was doing, he opted against bottles and settled on cans. The end result has been very successful and what other brewery would do this other than Oskar Blues?
At first glance walking into Oskar Blues is like stepping back in time to the 1950s, where rock and roll and the blues are king. From the statue of Elvis, to the photos of B.B. King, and the music notes on the ceiling, it is clear this is one brewpub with personality. Off to the side of the restaurant is the gift shop where mugs, t-shirts, and everything Oskar Blues is available for sale. The bold flavors of the beer match the Cajun food, and all the décor of the restaurant, but when people are thirsty and want a beer there are plenty of great ones to try.
Even though Oskar Blues is widely distributed and can be bought at the majority of liquor stores, there is still something special about having a beer fresh from the tap at the source. Even though there is something special about drinking a high quality beer out of a can, the freshness and quality in Lyons could not be beat. The standard beers include Dale’s Pale Ale, Deviant Dale’s, G’Knight, Gubna, Mama’s Little Yella Pils, Old Chub, and Ten Fidy and were all available, fresh, and delicious in their own way. The bitterness of the hops in the pale ales, the body of the stout, and balance of the malts were all that much better. Of course another advantage of visiting the actual brewpub is there is always something to try that is only available on site.
Only available on draught, one of the more unique and balanced beers offered, is the One Nut Brown Ale. A traditional brown ale with only a hint of nut flavor, this is one ale that will not disappoint. All flavors are prominent and not a single one overpowers the other.  The nut, hops and malt all harmonize together to create one refreshing ale that is easy to sip on, and one that any beer lover will enjoy. But Oskar Blues does not stop there, and despite being so mainstream and well established in the craft beer scene, they still are not afraid to experiment. From time to time there will be a brew oddity available at the tap room ranging from a doppelbock to a porter, and a red rye lager. Or they may take an existing beer and put a spin on it like the addition of tart cherries to their imperial stout. The possibilities are endless for what may be available on any given day at this small tap room.
Sometimes it is hard to believe that what started out as a Cajun restaurant in a small town has blown up into one of the biggest breweries in Colorado. What started out as a passion turned into revolutionizing the industry with the introduction of craft beer into cans, and now several breweries have copied their model for distribution. After 15 years and several awards, Oskar Blues has its place in the craft beer competition in Colorado, and with high quality ales readily available and more unique ones available at the tap room is makes you wonder just how much further they will go in the next 15 years.
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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mile High Brews: Garden to Table

Breweries and food trucks go hand in hand with each other. On a Friday evening or Saturday afternoon it is hard to go to a brewery without a food truck outside selling their offerings to the masses while waiting for a pint. But how often do the 2 come together to create an event that showcases both the brewery and the food truck? Well I had the privilege of going to a garden to table dinner that not only had some amazing food but also had beer pairings that went along with each course, and this was all thanks to the Copper Kettle Brewing Company and the Harvest Food Truck, great local brewery and a organic, fresh food truck.
While the Harvest Food Truck is a regular at the Copper Kettle Brewery this was a true rarity to have the two come together for a sit down dinner. Not only were there three courses of fresh food but there were three separates beer pairings to accompany each course, two beers of which will not be released to the general public until August 4th. However getting to spend an evening with great people while enjoying not only great beer but great food and supporting the small and local businesses is what makes going to microbreweries is really all about.
The first course started with a fresh salad with a sherry mustard vinaigrette that was paired with the Copper Kettle’s Dusseldorf Altbier. The salad was as fresh as you could possibly imagine. With fresh corn, carrots, cucumbers and lettuce that were all harvested within 24 hours of the event, paired with the malty but clean altbier these two pairings complimented each other perfectly. The slight bitterness, and freshness of the vegetables went hand in hand perfectly and it made it difficult to put your fork down to enjoy the beer and vice versa. A truly delicious food and beer pairing that was thoroughly enjoyed by all, however there were two more courses and two more beers to get through on this evening.
For the entrée of the evening we enjoyed a pork chop with roasted potatoes and braised greens, all with a green tomato romesco. With a course this complex in flavors it would require a strong flavored beer and with that we were able to enjoy a pint of the not yet releases Basil Blonde ale. The food was delicious with a great herb seasoning on the pork, perfectly cooked greens, and a sauce that only left you cleaning your plate of it and craving more, and a beer pairing that was very unique with such a strong herb. The basil blonde was exactly that, unique but also very delicious. Very light in body there were no flavors to compliment the basil. The aroma and flavor were strictly that; however the aftertaste was very clean and left you craving more. It was the perfect complement to strong flavored foods, and one that when available will easily be enjoyed on its own by the pint.
What could finish off a delicious dinner than a dessert? At this event we were treated to a peach gallette, with a tart cherry qastrique with a light whipped cream on top. The beer pairing? A cherry wheat ale that is not yet available but also one that was created by a home brewer and chosen by Copper Kettle to be on tap as the result of a home brew contest. The gallette was the weakest course of the night as there were not enough peaches and the crust was a little tough and dry, however the beer pairing that accompanied it was fantastic. This was not a typical cherry wheat ale, it was more subtle. The cherry flavor was very visible but was not prominent. There was a slight tartness, and sweetness, but the aftertaste did not linger and was very clean. This beer was very well rounded in flavor and was very easy to enjoy a whole pint of, and again it will be available on August 4th as part of their tap list rotations as one of the many must tries.
Despite the fact that this was a rare occasion it was something that was well worth trying. To have the opportunity to enjoy not only a high quality three course meal but to have three handpicked beer pairings with it is a rare treat. To make it even better was the opportunity to support local farmers, breweries, and businesses all in the same night. While this may be a rare occasion that an event like this occurs again it is worth keeping an eye out for and jumping at the chance to do it every chance you get, you will not have any regret over it. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mile High Brews: River North

From 1994 to 2008 Flying Dog Brewery was a fixture of the downtown Denver brewery scene.  After they relocated their operation to Maryland, it left a large vacancy to fill on 24th and Blake. After 4 long years, a former engineer, Matt Hess and his wife, took their love of brewing to the next level and planted themselves in the old Flying Dog Brewery. However, there are no remnants of the old brewery, as the Belgian style ales no pour to the masses that are there on a daily basis. And what did they call their brewery? Well it is only fitting that a brewery on the outskirts of the ballpark district and in the up and coming River North Art District would be called River North Brewing, a great and fresh brewery.

Opened in February of 2012 River North is one of the newest breweries in Denver, but with a strong local following and the high quality ales they produce you would swear they have been there for years, not months. With a small tap room that has no more than 20 bar stools and only a few tables it is best to get here early, although there is room to stand. The environment is sterile and minimal with a large window that shows the production. Once all is said and done this brewery lets the beer speak for itself and with seven to choose from on a regular basis the question as always is which one to try first.

When you are at a brewery that specializes in Belgian style ales, the first beer you should try is one that is strictly Belgian, the J Marie Saison Farmhouse Ale. This beer can be described in only two words, simplistic and refreshing. Made with the most minimal of ingredients, only two different malts, one style of hop and an exclusively saison yeast, the end result is light, flavorful, and one of the most refreshing beers there is during those summer days. The flavors are all subtle but balance each other out, and the end result is a complex yet simple beer. Definitely one of the first ones you should try, as it will quench your thirst and leave you wondering what the rest of their offerings are like.

When it comes to Belgian style ales there are really none better, except for when a traditional style gets a Belgian twist. Like a very strong Double I.P.A. with the flavors that are reminiscent of all Belgian beers. All the flavors you would expect to find are in this beer, a slight yeast flavor, the subtle citrus note, and the slight hint of spice in addition to the typical cloudy and unfiltered appearance. The end result of this hybrid beer is the Hypothesis Double I.P.A. pouring out of the tap at 9 percent alcohol and approximately 130 IBUs. The hop flavor is extremely prominent but due to the other ingredients in this beer that bitterness is muted and the aftertaste clean. A beer that any hophead will love but even a novice IPA drinker will enjoy it.

So what other beers does River North offer? In addition to the saison they offer their signature River North White, a Belgian white ale that embodies everything that an American style Belgian ale is. Hello Darkness is another IPA they offer, however contrary to the hypothesis this one is a black IPA where there is more of an emphasis of malts to balance out the hops. And what would a Belgian brewery be without offering one of the most traditional styles there is, a quad? Well, there is a black quad always on draught here that is so unique it will take multiple sips to figure out the flavor profile and to enjoy all the complexities it offers.

Whenever a new brewery opens up there is always a gamble on what the risk of success or failure can be. Well at River North the risk paid off and the success has been impressive in the early going. With some of the most unique beers available inspired by a country that produces some of the best beers River North has found the balance between both countries. The popularity early on has not only increased their tap room business, but River North is now also distributing on a limited basis. There are bombers of their Quandary, Hypothesis, and J Marie available out of the tap room and at specialty liquor stores in the Denver area. After 5 months the popularity has gained and the possibilities are endless for River North, so the next time you leave a Rockies game take a walk down Blake St. to 24th and taste for yourselves. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mile High Brews: Rocky Mountain

Colorado Springs, Colorado is a town well established in the microbrewery scene. A lot of that can be attributed to one brewery: Bristol. But about 9 miles from there in a hidden warehouse part of the town lies a small microbrewery that has won multiple gold medals at the World Beer Cup, and specializes in fruit ales of all beers. Not a well known brewery, or one that is easy to find but one worth visiting, the Rocky Mountain Brewery.
The story of this brewery is one that is becoming more and more common. Owner Duane Lujan was a home brewer who owned a home brewing shop, then one day another brewery was going out of business, the equipment and space was bought, and Rocky Mountain Brewing was official. When you first drive up to this brewery you might think you are lost. It is on a back road in a warehouse and there are not even windows, but don’t drive away. Walk inside and meet the friendly bartender/owner, and try some of the interesting fruit ales they make.
Winner of the Gold Medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup, and silver at the 2012 the one beer that is a must try is the Da’ Yoopers Cherry Ale. Now while there are a lot of cherry ales on the market this one is like no other you have ever had. From the intense red cherry color to the unique flavor this is one of the most unique cherry ales there is. To top it off is the taste, it does not taste like a wheat beer with a hint of cherry, and instead it tastes just like a cherry pie. A malty golden ale base loaded with Michigan cherries and finished off with a hint of cinnamon give this beer ale the great qualities of cherry pie. The only thing missing is the crust and the a la mode. Perfect for those summer days, or even when the weather is cold and you crave something comforting, this cherry ale will satisfy every appetite, and quench any thirst.
Now with a beer as good as the cherry ale winning a silver medal at the World Beer Cup the beer that took gold in the fruit category would have had to be even more flavorful and balanced. And who else but Rocky Mountain Brewery could do this? Instead of beer this is actually a cider, and instead of apple it is peach and somehow they found the perfect balance of sweetness, tartness, and the end result is this amazing crisp and refreshing beverage. The aroma and taste are just like biting into a fresh peach at the peak of its ripeness.  Now while ciders are typically extremely sweet this one is not. There is a subtle sweetness but the tartness from the peaches balances it out. Another one of those beverages that is absolutely refreshing in summertime, and a beverage for non beer drinkers to enjoy. One of the newest offerings at this brewery and it is no wonder that it already has the following and awards it does.
Aside from the fruit ales everything at Rocky Mountain is unique. Other offerings available are a chocolate stout, a blonde, brunette, and red lager, and they are also one of the first breweries to introduce smoked beers (where the ingredients are smoked or smoked woods are added during the brewing process). While innovation has given this brewery their following and uniqueness it is the fruit beers that make them special. In addition they occasionally offer a blueberry ale and a raspberry cider, but with the quality and passion they put into them it is no wonder this brewery has won so many awards. Next time you are in Colorado Springs stop by for a pint or a flight and as their slogan says it you can taste the quality. You can also see why they have such a great following and why they have won so many awards.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mile High Brews: Strange Brewing

Sometimes in life people can find a hobby that can turn into a passion, and in even rarer occasions that passion can turn into a profession. Well this is exactly what happened in Denver, Colorado when two avid home brewers and IT techs found themselves unemployed from the now defunct Rocky Mountain News. So with a 20 gallon home brew equipment, some recipes, and combined retirement savings John Fletcher and Tim Myers set out to make their passion a reality, and in May of 2010 they opened the doors to Strange Brewery, a Belgian style brewery where as the slogan says it “All friends were strangers once.”
Most microbreweries are in high traffic areas to attract new guests, and are well signed so that these guests can find them with ease.  Not Strange though. After exiting off I-25 and navigating through some warehouses you approach a tiny warehouse and that is where this microbrewery lies. Inside the walls and floor are all wood with minimal wall decoration, and after navigating through a maze of tables you find your way to the clear bar top with hops and vines underneath. Behind the bar are more wood walls with minimal views into the production area and tap handles that spell out the Strange. Within five minutes of being in there it is clear that it is a community bar for people to interact, from the picnic tables inside to the circle of chairs on the parking lot patio. With a welcoming environment and friendly clientele it makes wanting to enjoy a pint that much more enjoyable, the question is which ones are a must try?
 With a name like Strange it is only fitting that one of the first beers that should be tried is not only a gold medal winner, but also a gluten free beer. What this beer lacks in ingredients it makes up for in flavor and you can’t even notice there is no wheat in this ale.  The special types of hops they use in this beer create a grapefruit flavor even though there is not a drop of citrus to be found. Very light in body and subtle in flavor this beer is as good as they get on a hot summer day, and one worth trying for any beer lover. You will not even realize it is gluten free.
Now if a beer with a subtle fruit flavor sounds good, but you’re craving a beer full of fruit flavor than look no further than the Cherry Kriek, or roughly translated the Cherry Cherry. A Belgian wheat ale is already good enough, infuse that beer with tart cherries and it adds a very unique flavor, and finally age that beer in oak barrels and you get a smooth beer packed with a cherry flavor that will keep you coming back for more. This beer has so many cherries that it actually changes the color of the beer to a dark red, but it still does not overpower the other great flavors in this beer. The wheat is still noticeable, as is the flavor of the yeast all brought together by the tartness and sweetness of the cherries. A truly one of a kind beer at a one of a kind brewery it is no wonder this beer is always on draught.
Coffee is a great drink on its own, and honey is a great ingredient on its own but sometimes it needs something to enhance it. Add some malts and hops and combine the two ingredients and you will find yourself enjoying the Paint it Black Stout. An incredibly dark beer with a surprisingly light body this is a beer any stout lover will enjoy. The sweetness of the honey cuts the bitterness of the coffee, and the malts only help to add another dimension of chocolate and caramel flavor. Add that with the great mouth feel that can only be experienced from a nitro tap and this stout hits so many great levels of flavor and texture that it might be hard to stop at one pint. But if you keep on drinking try one of the many other great offerings of smooth and delicious pale ales and IPAs, all so unique and smooth that they redefine what a pale ale and IPA really are.
It’s hard to believe that such a small brewery cannot only produce such high quality ales, but also keep such a large variety available for its customers. But with small batches, experimental recipes, and guests with the taste for adventure it really proves that anything is possible in the world of craft beers. With a rotating menu, and the classics always available it is no wonder that Strange has had no issue staying a local establishment. Sure it is hidden, and more of a destination than a drive by but every sip is worth it, and should be visited by anybody in Downtown Denver craving a high quality ale.
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Mile High Brews: Rockyard

About halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs right off I-25 lies the small town of Castle Rock, Colorado. Aside from the outlet malls that most there is very little reason to stop by and visit here. But amid all the large chain shops there is a local restaurant that is brewing their own craft beers. With a family first philosophy and awards winning ales that are very straight forward in flavor this is a must try the next time you are in Castle Rock. Formed in 1999 and still producing the same high quality ales this is Castle Rock’s lone brewery the Rockyard American Grill and Brewing Co.
Upon walking in it is quickly realized that this is not just another brewery but it is a local establishment, full of families enjoying a meal to the regulars who enjoy a pint every day. A lodge style environment with great views to the brewery equipment, and animal décor on every wall it is very easy to relax and feel at home at a place like this with the help of a fireplace in the lounge area. The love for wildlife is so deep that animals even grace the logo and label of every style of ale ranging from rattlesnakes to bald eagles. Speaking of the animals that represent the beers the question remains on which beers are the must haves once you find that comfortable seat at the bar? 
When sampling new beers it is best to sample from lightest to darkest, and when one of the lightest beers offered is a two time medal winner it is definitely one of the first ales worth trying. The Double Eagle Ale is the standard for what an American style wheat ale is, a bright gold color, filtered, a strong wheat flavor with a clean aftertaste. One of the few wheat ales without any additional flavor added to it to enhance its flavor, this beer is truly unique in how simple it is. No citrus, fruits, or exotic ingredients, just the purity of the wheat and malt used to brew it. A very clean, crisp, and refreshing beer that is great to sip on anytime of the year, it is no wonder this beer has won multiple awards, and a growing group of fans who flock to this brewery to drink it.
From one of the lightest beers to one of the darkest stouts are some of the heartiest beers one can drink, and the Lightning Strike Stout delivers on all the great characteristics stout lovers enjoy. Caramel and chocolate malt based with the addition of roasted malts, barley, and oats this beer has a great coffee flavor, with a light body and smooth aftertaste. The large amount of malts used also helps to create a subtle sweetness to go along with the full body this beer has. While this beer is available in six packs this particular beer should be enjoyed at the location where it is served from a nitro tap which only helps to enhance the creamy texture on the tongue that should be enjoyed with all stouts.
While that is only two of the most popular ales offered at Rockyard they also have a Lynx Light Lager, a helles style beer that is very light and refreshing with almost no aftertaste. A beer that is a perfect palate pleaser great for people first trying new beers. Also available is the Redhawk Ale which is a nice amber ale that is both malty, hoppy, bitter, and slightly sweet. A very complex beer with a lot of subtle flavors that do not overpower each other, and a medium body that makes this a very enjoyable ale. Last regular beer offered is a staple of Colorado microbreweries and that is the Hopyard IPA. The use of three malts and Amarillo hops grown in the United States this beer is everything that IPA lovers will enjoy and with the use of a domestic hop it gives the beer a unique hoppy flavor that is not too bitter. Even if IPAs are not your favorite beer this is one worth trying, and it might even make you a fan of them.
After thirteen years Rockyard brewery is still going strong keeping a loyal following and attracting new guests every day. With high quality ales that are very straight forward in flavor and a wide variety for beer lovers of all style it is no wonder this small microbrewery is only increasing in popularity. While there are no out of the box flavors of ale here, it doesn’t matter because the ales are so pure and tasting the ingredients on their own is unique it its own right. While they do distribute six packs to various liquor stores around the state nothing will beat the experience of going to the brew house and having one fresh, so the next time you are in Castle Rock ignore the large chains and support the local independent business down there.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mile High Brews: Copper Kettle

It is impressive that with already over a hundred microbreweries in Colorado that new ones are still opening up. What is even more impressive is that in the same year they opened they win a gold medal for best spiced beer at the Great American Beer Festival. A small brewery in southeast Denver located in a strip mall around some apartments without even a lit sign to attract customer. Also the fact that it was founded by a husband and wife team after he finished his doctorate at North Carolina State University. A largely German inspired brewery that opened its doors in April of 2011 this is the Copper Kettle Brewery.
Upon walking into this brewery it becomes the true definition of what a neighborhood bar really is. From the copper that lines the top of the bar to the cherry wood tables scattered throughout to the couches all on the rustic looking hardwood floors this place has a truly relaxed feel to it that makes you feel right at home. Decks of cards at each table make it easy to pass the time with the other customers around. A glass window behind the bar makes viewing the production that much easier, and to get to the restroom you walk right by all the tanks. With the friendliest staff and owners who converse with all the customers it is easy to see why this brewery already has such an established following. Mix that with the addition of some high quality and very original beers this is one place that is one of the true hidden gems in the Denver beer scene. With seven regular beers offered ranging from light to dark they are all worth trying, but there are also a few that set them apart from all the other competition.
When after only a few short months of bring open and a gold medal is awarded to a beer for the best herb and spice beer it is one that is definitely worth trying. When that beer is influenced by and ancient Aztec recipe for hot chocolate it is a recipe for a truly unique beer, and that is what you will find with the Mexican Chocolate Stout. A dark stout beer that has a pretty light body and is infused with cinnamon, chocolate, and guajillo red peppers. Sounds like a lot to be in one beer, but this beer is incredibly balanced and each flavor comes through and stands on its own without overpowering the other flavors. The strong aroma of cinnamon is the first flavor that you will notice, and the richness of the chocolate hits your pallet and adds a nice body to this beer. The last flavor you will notice is the red peppers which leaves a subtle lingering heat in the back of your throat. This is a very warming beer which is only fitting given its inspiration from hot chocolate, but no matter what weather this beer is one worth trying, and one that you will keep talking about for not only its uniqueness, but also how good it really is.
While a Mexican Chocolate Stout might sound like the perfect beer to drink during the cold winter months, there is an ale brewed that fits the flavors of the season perfectly and it is the Winter Spice Ale. A brown ale with a prominent malt flavor this beer is good based on that, but with the additional flavors of allspice, ginger, star anise, and vanilla beans it escalates this beer to a whole new level of comforting and warming flavors. All flavors on this beer come through with the licorice flavor of anise, the subtle spice of the ginger, and the floral and sweet notes of the vanilla bean. A beer that defines sitting by the fireplace in winter that has such comforting flavors, one that will be enjoyed more with each sip, and one that will be looked forward to each season.
While those are only two of the beers offered at Copper Kettle there are five others that are all enjoyable. A Bavarian Helles which is so light and so clean it is the perfect palate pleaser with a subtle flavor and very muted aftertaste. A Czech inspired Pilsner with the bitterness and hoppy flavor everybody loves but not overpowering enough that it makes to beer hard to drink. There is also the Dortmunder Lager that has a full body, a slightly more pronounced hop flavor, and a complexity of flavors that are all very refreshing. Of course every brewery offers I.P.A.s and there are two offered here. One is the Better Half IPA which was actually created by home brewers and put on tap after winning a contest. Made with seven different styles of hops and has all the characteristics of hops, bitterness, and a dry flavor it is worth trying for any avid fan of IPAs. Last there is the Black IPA where the grains are roasted and in addition to the hops, and bitterness there is a subtle flavor of chocolate and toffee that adds a unique sweetness. One that is worth trying it is a very original IPA that will be hard to come by anywhere else. Most recently they have also added to their tap list a hefeweizen and a breakfast stout as new offerings.
Award winning ales, a friendly staff that interacts with all customers and a relaxed environment that hours could be spent in not only enjoying the beers, but also talking with all the people who walk in and out. While the brewery itself may still be establishing itself as one of the newest breweries the loyal following is already there with new people coming in everyday. A truly unique brewery that is hidden it could very easily be the next great neighborhood bar, and with the hand crafted high quality ales it very easily will be. When on Parker Road do not drive by the Copper Kettle, it is worth stopping by for a pint and will very easily become one of your new favorite regular spots.
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