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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