Friday, January 6, 2012

Mile High Brews: Breckenridge

Leaving a baseball game at Coors Field and want a couple of postgame pints? You could go here. Finished a long day of skiing and want to relax over a couple beers? You could go here. In downtown Denver and want not only some beer but also some barbecue? You could go here. Visiting the town of Grand Junction along the western slope and craving some beers from the Rocky Mountains? You could go here. With four locations throughout the state, and a reputation for high quality ales, what brewery could I be talking about except for Breckenridge?
With so many locations to choose from, the best location to visit is the one in its namesake town on Main Street in Breckenridge. It is a nice old time feeling two story building with the best scenery anybody could ask for. To be able to throw back a couple of pints staring out the window on the snow filled Rocky Mountains is the most relaxing way to spend an afternoon. As for the other locations, the one in LoDo, across from Coors Field, is nice but it has too commercial a feel and being right across from a baseball stadium does not lend itself to a relaxing time enjoying high quality beer. It lends itself more to huge crowds of people wanting to either start or continue their buzz before or after a game.
With that being said though it is not always about the location that will make or break a visit to any of their locations, because it is always going to be about the beer. Fortunately Breckenridge Brewery has plenty of beers to choose from ranging in several styles. While more on the traditional style and less experimental they have still managed to create some fantastic ales and stay relevant and successful during the beer renaissance that continues to occur in Colorado.
The first beer anybody should try at Breckenridge has to be their trademark signature beer the Avalanche Amber. This beer is best described in a few simple words, subtle but delicious. The use of both pale and caramel malts gives this beer its amber color and a slight sweetness of flavor, and the minimal use of hops adds just enough bitterness to cut through the sweetness. The end result is an amazingly balanced beer with such subtle flavors and a clean after taste. Avalanche is a great ale to enjoy year-round.  There is a reason that this beer has lasted the test of time and is still one of their most popular beers offered.
Wheat beers can be pretty bland, plain and simple. Typically they can be very one note and usually need citrus on the side to enhance the flavor, and are usually unfiltered. The wheat ale here is unfiltered, but does not use citrus. Instead agave nectar is used and the end result is a truly unique wheat beer with a flavor that cannot be replicated. The addition of one unique ingredient that many are not familiar with takes this beer from ordinary to truly unique, refreshing, and a taste in your mouth that leaves you craving another one. The wheat flavor is still prominent and good on its own; the addition of agave adds an entirely new dimension. Great in the summertime, and a truly refreshing beer that is a must try especially if you are new to more experimental flavors of beer.
When the weather starts to turn cold and winter hits there is nothing better than a dark, heavy beer to help warm you up. When the brewery is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains the beers had better be that much more warming.  Let’s start with the Oatmeal Stout, a beer black in color, loaded with multiple kinds of malts, and of course oatmeal, this beer has so much depth and flavors it’s difficult where to even begin with it. This stout uses both chocolate and caramel malts which adds a nice sweetness and subtle chocolate flavor. There are also roasted malts that give off almost a coffee-like aroma, and when combined with the chocolate, add a great base flavor for this stout. The oatmeal does not add any flavor but believe it or not it actually adds a texture to this beer. By adding an ingredient as simple as oatmeal it adds a creamy element to this beer in your mouth and it makes the finish almost dry. Although oatmeal stouts are common, the one offered at Breckenridge is one of the best, and a truly unique beer that is a must try.
In addition to the oatmeal stout, Breckenridge also offers a nice smooth Vanilla Porter. This particular beer Breckenridge has been making since 2000 but did not start selling regularly until 2007 to compete with other microbreweries, and the new bold flavors that were being created. As far as porters are concerned this is a very high quality porter with the bitterness that is expected. The addition of vanilla beans from both Papua New Guinea and Madagascar add obviously a strong vanilla flavor but also a subtle floral flavor that underlies the vanilla. The quality of ingredients alone makes this beer delicious and a must try for any fan of porters.
Every brewery offers seasonal ales and Breckenridge is no exception offering up specialty beers during the summer, autumn, and winter. The Summerbright Ale is a wheat ale with citrus, and while it is very refreshing on a hot day, the Agave Wheat is slightly better and is more enjoyable. Come autumn they offer up the After Rakin’ Autumn Ale. This beer is a hybrid attempt between a German Lager and an American type ale. The end result is a full bodied, full flavored beer that combines the best flavor profiles of hops and malts. If you are not a fan of all the pumpkin ales that hit the market in September and October than this is the perfect ale for you and will quickly become a new favorite. The Christmas ale is a very strong ale that packs a strong punch at over 7% alcohol, and with a sweet flavor of both caramel and chocolate. This beer instantly warms you on the coldest of winter nights and is a must-try each season.
In a day and age where so many microbreweries have achieved success based on experimental flavors Breckenridge Brewery has stayed true to their roots through creating simplistic beers. A very straight forward brewery that has not changed their philosophy and they have stood the test of time. Simplistic, subtle beers that keep you craving more, it is no wonder their fan base keeps growing. Each location is unique on its own but all the beers are delicious. If you are new to trying microbreweries, or an avid fan that wants a great ale, Breckenridge is the right place to try.

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