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.