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 d├ęcor 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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