Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mile High Brews: Dry Dock

It started with the Brew Hut, a shop for home brewers to but the necessary ingredients to make beer at home. In 2005, they decided to start making and serving their own beer in a tiny location with only four taps, seven stools, and a few tables. Then, in 2006, their HMS Victory E.S.B. won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup. By 2009, their brewery started to develop a large following and they expanded into a larger location and it was later that year that they earned the accolades they had worked so hard for. At the 2009 Great American Beer Festival, owner Kevin DeLange would win the honor of Small Brewery of the Year. By 2011, they were well known throughout the state and their Hefeweizen would win a gold medal. Hard to believe that all this happened at a small brewery in a strip mall in Aurora, Colorado. What brewery could I be talking about except for Dry Dock, the first microbrewery in Aurora?
Upon walking into Dry Dock, you don’t feel like you are in Colorado. The nautical theme reminds you more of being on the Atlantic coast. The ropes and logs that line the patio and the ship d├ęcor inside is nothing reminiscent of Colorado. Along the wall next to the bar is a mural of all the awards from both the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.  The continuously expanded brewery not only features great views into the brewing area but also has communal and individual tables, and shuffle board. There is a connecting door to the brew hut so if you are feeling adventurous and want to brew your own beer all the ingredients are available. With a menu of original greats, and new ones arriving regularly the question now is which beer to try?
When their U-Boat Hefeweizen won the gold medal and was viewed as the best in the country in 2011 it was a much deserved award. A German wheat beer that uses malted wheat instead of malted barley and a special strain of yeast is what gives this beer its unique flavor and makes it taste like banana. At Dry Dock, in addition to the natural banana flavor, there is also an undertone of clove and vanilla to give it extra depth of flavor and a slight hint of spice and sweetness. Served in a tall vase shaped glass this beer always goes down smooth, quenches the thirst, and is amazingly refreshing any day of the year. Most Hefeweizens will add citrus to the side, but at Dry Dock the beer tastes so pure and has such a complexity of flavors that it is a must try, and truly worthy of the gold medal it has won.
Over the past few years it seems like fruit ales not only have saturated the market but that the originality of them has gone by the wayside. There are a lot of raspberry and blueberry ales as far as mainstream beers are concerned, and sometimes not only is something original craved but also something very high quality. How does an apricot ale sound? A diamond in the rough of fruit flavored beers, this beer is a mouthful of apricots that tastes like you have a fresh piece of fruit in your hand on a hot summer day. From the aroma to the taste, this has such a pure and fresh apricot flavor but at the same time, the flavor of the beer is never lost. Unlike other fruit beers, this one tastes natural and is not overly sweet, and while the apricot flavor is strong it does not taste at all overpowering. While this beer is available year-round there is no better time to enjoy this beer than on a hot Saturday afternoon.
Not everybody likes wheat ales or lighter beers in general, and if it’s something dark, heavy and flavorful you crave than look no further than the URCA Vanilla Porter. All the qualities of porters that are loved are in this beer: the body, bitterness, malts, and natural sweetness, plus the addition of vanilla, and not just a hint of vanilla. Over two pounds of both Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla beans are used in the brewing process which adds not only a pure vanilla flavor but also the floral undertones associated with vanilla beans. Now, if you are a fan of porters but not so much of vanilla, Dry Dock does offer a naked porter which is the Urca Porter minus the vanilla. To make it taste as pure as possible, this beer is often offered on nitro tap so it is only available from the tap room, and it adds a very creamy head and a smooth, rich texture that coats the mouth on every sip. Both of these beers are some of the best porters you can try in all of Colorado, and have to be tasted.
While Dry Dock offers limited runs on certain beers all throughout the year none are more awaited and anticipated that the annual tapping of the Half Moon Pumpkin Ale. This ale is the true definition of what every pumpkin ale should be.  It has all the spice notes commonly associated with pumpkin ales like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves but where pumpkin ales vary, is in the flavor the beer is named for. The pumpkin flavor in this beer is so strong and pure that it tastes as close to pumpkin pie as you can get. A beer that is perfect on every autumn day this beer will not disappoint and will be missed until it is tapped again the next year.
Speaking of limited runs of beers, nothing is better than going to the tap room on Friday afternoon or early evening for Firkin Friday, a weekly tradition where one of the regularly offered beers has a unique spin put on it. Available for one day, only these beers are so unique you will have no issue remembering them and talking about them. Whether the beer is a hazelnut coffee milk stout which puts coffee houses to shame, a strawberry Hefeweizen that adds a nice acidity to an already balanced beer, or a maple bacon e.s.b. which proves that bacon really does make everything better. Available for one day only, these beers are so diverse and unique in flavor that sipping a pint might become part of your Friday routine.
Even though Dry Dock has only been around for seven years, this brewery has already made an impact on the ever growing beer scene in Colorado. The awards and accolades continue to pile up for this ever growing location, and they still have not changed anything. The beers are the same and yet they never get old, all production including bottling takes place all at the Aurora tap house. While they have grown, the quality is still the same. Dry Dock is available at bars throughout the state, and they now distribute 22 ounce bombers to liquor stores or ship right to your front door, but nothing is better than going to the tap house. The environment is relaxing, and the bartenders are so friendly and treat you like a regular from the first time you go in there. Aurora’s first microbrewery has been a favorite in this suburb for a while and now it is becoming one of the best in the state, and the only question that needs answering is what is next for this small brewery?
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