Friday, November 30, 2012

Tis the Season 2012

With the fall season over in Colorado that means there are only two things that you look forward to: the opening of the ski slopes and the tapping of all the different winter ales. After all it is the season of giving, and what better way to enjoy the offerings from breweries all over the state. The styles of ale are plentiful but all have one thing in common, they are unique and equally delicious in their own way. So if a hearty beer is your way of unwinding after a day on the slopes, or just relaxing in front of a fire then here are the five best winter beers Colorado has to offer.
Isolation Ale (Odell’s Brewing Fort Collins, CO): Definitely the lightest and most traditional ale on the list this beer still remains full flavored, and a treat during the winter months. The copper colored amber ale pours smooth, and that remains through the flavor profile. Caramel malts provide a malty but sweet, and smooth taste and mouth feel. The addition of English hops does not add a bitterness but instead balances the entire beer out into a smooth ale. The aftertaste is incredibly smooth and balanced leaving you only the craving of another sip. A beer that can truly be enjoyed any time of year but is best is best saved for winter, and one that will be enjoyed by new fans of winter ales and those that look forward to it on a yearly basis.
Old Jubilation Ale (Avery Brewing Boulder, CO): When it comes to beers at Avery it is always best to expect the unexpected, especially when it comes to their seasonal ales. The Old Jubilation is no different, which explains why it has been a winter tradition since 1997. An English Style ale this beer has a bold flavor while maintaining a medium-full body. A strong malty flavor leads to a smooth, slightly bitter hop finish with complex flavors on all levels of your pallet. Undertones of chocolate, hazelnuts, and toffee fill your tongue with each sip making this complex beer more enjoyable as you get deeper into it. At 8.3% ABV this beer is not for the faint of heart but this time of year when the frigid weather calls for a hearty beer that warms the body why reach for anything other than this one?
Cocoa Porter (Tommyknocker Brewing Idaho Springs, CO): As kids who didn’t love coming home and drinking a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows? Now as adults who doesn’t love coming home from work and relaxing with a beer? Thanks to Tommyknocker Brewing we can now have the beer we love as adults with the memories of hot cocoa we had as kids with the annual brewing of the Cocoa Porter. A full bodied porter base ale with the addition of chocolate and honey makes for not only a unique but also a festive beer fitting for the season. The chocolate adds an extra dimension of body and a slight bitterness, but the sweetness of the honey balances out the cocoa. All the flavors work well together but still have their own presence. Add all that with a clean aftertaste and this annual beer could replace hot chocolate entirely come winter time.
Hibernation Ale (Great Divide Brewing Denver, CO): Since 1994 this LoDo Brewery has been producing high quality award winning ales, and since 1995 they added to that with the yearly arrival of Hibernation Ale (an English Style Old Ale). This ale does not come with any unique flavors to the season, instead it is a strong, traditional ale that is hearty and warming for the coldest of winter nights. A strong malt flavor and aroma fills your nose and taste buds with each sip, but that fades into a complex hop flavor on the finish. Through it all there are undertones of figs that add a unique flavor. Now come holiday time people like to indulge and treat themselves, and if a regular six pack of Hibernation won’t suffice then how about a Barrel Aged Hibernation? Aged for 9 months in Stranahan’s Bourbon barrels this rare, limited edition beer brings forth the classic flavor, but with all the accents whiskey, and vanilla that come with barrel aging. The same beer two different ways, and one that brings out the best of the cold weather.
Christmas Ale (Upslope Brewing Boulder, CO): Once all is said and done the most popular Christmas Ales are those that have the spice flavors we are all used to this time of year. A darker ale infused with cinnamon, ginger, or cloves bring a sense of comfort and warmth during the holidays. In Boulder, Colorado at Upslope Brewing their Christmas Ale with the traditional flavors one would expect, but the beer still remains unique. A dark Belgian ale base mixed with the right blend of spices creates this well rounded ale. At first sip it is realized how surprisingly light the body on such a dark beer is, as well as effervescent. The sweet taste of caramel quickly fades to the spices of the season with notes of cinnamon and ginger hitting the tongue. This was all accented but a light citrus note due to the Belgian yeast. A traditional winter ale that has been crafted so well this ale could find a regular spot in your fridge on a yearly basis, and start a new tradition in ones household.
Fiver beers from five breweries, and while they were all different they have one thing in common with each other. They bring out the best and what is most enjoyable from the cold winter months. Whether the beers remain traditional, strong, spicy, or unique these are the beers that people look forward to every year, and each year they do not disappoint. The holidays come early when these ales hit the tap lines or shelves as these craft brewers give us an early gift each year.
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Friday, November 16, 2012


In north Denver there is are certain areas that most people will drive by without thinking twice. Like in the Stapleton area where outside of the shopping center the only people that visit are the warehouse workers that surround that area. But within all the warehouses lies some hidden gems, and that is no more true than off 39th and Peoria where in a small building facing I-70 houses one of Denver’s newest microbreweries. With a small but personal tap list, a friendly staff that will educate you on their beers, and also one of the newer microbreweries to open their tap room in Denver it is no wonder why Caution Brewing should be at the top of anybodies list to visit.
While this may be one of the most difficult breweries to find in the Denver area whether it is following the arrowed signs in the ground to the tap room, or once you find the tap room there is no lit sign to attract customers it is all worth it once you sit at the bar stool. The environment inside matches the environment outside being surrounded by warehouses. Whether it is the concrete floors, the small bar area, few tables, or the pallets of ingredients lining the wall. There is no patio, instead a garage door is opened to allow fresh air in. The menu is simple with all the beers in information on them written on a simple chalkboard next to the taps. This is one of the few breweries where the production area and brewing equipment is not visible. But there is one thing that is certain about Caution, and that is the beer is both unique and flavorful, and trying just one is not easy.  
What started off as a beer at his parents Chinese Noodle House has now become the signature beer at this small brewery, and that is the Lao Wang Lager. A light lager with a very subtle malt taste but the real flavor comes from a blend of Asian spices. Made famous from the secret blend of spices used at the Lao Wang Noodle House in Denver, this beer is extremely complex, and has a distinct spice not in its flavor. The true flavor remains a mystery and a family secret, but that does not change the popularity and great flavor that this beer provides. If light beers are your flavor of choice but you do not want something spicy, Caution also offers the Wild Blonde Ale. A light ale that is made unique through the addition of rice that adds some depth of flavor, and a slight citrus note. Very light and refreshing this beer will not disappoint, and is perfect to sip on any days.
If light beers are good but dark beers are what you are craving, and supporting local ingredients is your passion then the next pint you enjoy should be none other than the Honey Matrimony hone brown ale. Not only are the malts grown in Alamosa, Colorado and the wildflower hone harvested in Evans, Colorado but the two ingredients together create a balanced beer, that is both balanced and refreshing. Each ingredient comes through from the hops and the malts, but they are balanced out through the addition of the honey. There is a slight sweetness but the beer is not sweet, because of the bitterness from the hops, and the malts add that depth of flavor to round out this brown ale. Truly delicious, and all local, what could be better in a Colorado beer?
One thing that is true of all Colorado breweries is that they cater to the hop lovers out there, and that is just as true at Caution as the offer not one, but two different IPAs. For a traditional take on an IPA sip on none other than the Hippity Hops Chrysanthemum IPA. Featuring three different styles of hops during the boil but also introducing chrysanthemum flowers and Chinese Rock brown sugar this beer has all the distinct flavors of an IPA but its bitterness is cut with the floral notes, and a subtle sweetness. The hops are still the primary flavor, and the additional ingredients come through in the aftertaste creating a clean tasting brew. Now if you are a fan of IPAs but want something slightly more adventurous than how about the Big Bunny Cascadian Dark Ale? A standard dark IPA dry hopped with Cascadian hops the question is what makes this beer unique? The answer is simply that the hops are roasted, and that simple act adds so much complexity and depth of flavor. Currently it is the most hoppy beer offered at Caution but it is still as easy and smooth to drink as anyone on the menu. The roasted flavor comes through but does not dominate the flavor; it all comes to one in a harmonious beer.
 It’s hard to believe that in such a small location in a large warehouse district there is a brewery that produced such bold flavored beers. In such a variety to choose from and a fearless approach to experimental flavors it is no wonder that Caution has developed such a loyal following. The only question is what is next for this small brewery, and how big can they become with their unique brews? So the next time you are in the Northfield area ignore the large chain bars, and drive a few miles east to enjoy the offerings at Caution.
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Friday, November 9, 2012


When towns in Colorado are mentioned for destinations to visit microbreweries there are a few towns that always come to mind. Without any doubt the town that should be mentioned first is Boulder, Colorado. After all it was in 1978 when the first microbrewery in the state was opened in this small college town. 30 years after the Boulder Beer Company opened another small microbrewery opened, and in November of 2012 they celebrated their four year anniversary. An eco friendly brewery that serves a great lineup of flagship ales, limited edition seasonal ales, and barrel aged ales out of the tap room, and a destination brewery. Located in the north part of Boulder, Colorado this is Upslope Brewing Company.  
Located in a small warehouse strip Upslope is easy to drive by without thinking twice, but it is worth the stop. Inside the tap room is small, but a very comfortable environment. The bar top is black stone that does not seat many. Above the tap handles is a chalkboard menu, but it is the scenery behind the bar that is impressive. A large window behind the tap handles shows the massive barrel system used to create all their ales, and to the left of the bar is a collection of barrels used to age some of their ales. With so many types of ales, the only question one has to ask themselves is which one to try first.  
Now Upslope does distribute canned beer throughout the state, and at most liquor stores you can find their four flagship beers: a pale ale, IPA, brown ale, and craft lager. However while all those are good the beer that is reserved for the tap room are the ones worth trying. Take their IPA for example which is already a delicious balance of hops with a malty undertone. But what happens when you take that IPA and barrel age it in cabernet barrels from two doors down for 7 months? You get an ale with a deep red color that still has a strong hop flavor but is muted through the wine notes within in the beer. Each sip brings out a different flavor but the true flavor of the IPA comes through. It is complimented with the wine taste which adds a nice acidity note and bitterness as well. While this beer is not always available at the tap room when it makes its rotation on the tap line it is a must try.
Also available is a German style beer that is still a fairly uncommon beer among microbreweries, and that is a Dunkelweizen. A rich, dark wheat ale with a very complex flavor, aroma, and aftertaste. The aroma is slightly sweet with hints of nuts, and that leads into a rich taste. The malt is the main ingredient flavor that you taste but there are undertones of caramel and chocolate. There is also a subtle spice note of nutmeg, and like with any good dunkel there is also a hint of banana flavor which ties it all together. Very light and refreshing even for a dark beer. Like with the IPA sometimes Upslope feels adventurous and barrel ages their Dunkel, but it is not in wine barrels, but instead bourbon. The result is a beer that in a way reminds you of the classical dessert banana fosters. The richness of the malts, spices, and banana flavor are all still present as is the intense flavor of bourbon. A very hearty beer with a strong flavor and aftertaste, and one that needs to be savored for all the added complexities the barrel aging brings to this beer. Very enjoyable, still refreshing, and a rare treat any beer lover would enjoy.
In a beer and brewery rich community like Boulder each business has to bring something different to the tap line. At Upslope that has happened with four high quality flagship ales, barrel aging, and seasonal ales that are so limited people will search the state just to say they tried it. In four short years this brewery has established themselves among the big breweries in Boulder and has the awards to show for it. It just makes you wonder in four more years just how much growth this brewery will experience, and where will they be then?
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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wild Woods

In such a small town like Boulder, Colorado it is often wondered if there is really room for another microbrewery. The answer is simply yes. Especially when the idea for a brewery is bringing together high quality craft ale that is inspired from the nature that is all around Colorado. So when the husband and wife team of Jake and Erin Evans moved from Wisconsin to Colorado they got to enjoy the hiking in the Rocky Mountains and perfecting recipes in their basement as avid home brewers. The end result is a small brewery that takes traditional style ales, and mixes them with flavors inspired from the outdoors, and it is Boulder’s newest brewery Wild Woods.
Located down the street from Avery this brewery is hidden, and from the exterior it is a brick warehouse, with climbing rope squaring off the outdoor seating area. Step inside and you are in a lodge environment. The bar top is long and all wood, along the middle of the tasting room is a wooden island, and along the back wall are tables and chairs. Behind the bar is a wood paneled wall which houses the chalkboard menu of the available beers and along the wall next to the bar is more wood paneling which only adds to the lodge environment. An opening to the left of the bar allows guests to see the 2 barrel system used to make the ales, as well as shelving with all the ingredients. With such a small brewing system it allows the beer to be very fresh at all times, and with beer so fresh it can be difficult to decide which to try first.
Wild Woods has beers of all style to cater to beer fans of all sorts, and that includes two for the fans of hoppy beers. The Treeline IPA has the classic flavors one would expect, however it has been conditioned with juniper berries. The end result is a dry IPA with the complex yet subtle flavors of pine and citrus, and a tiny spice note from the addition of juniper. While the hops are still the primary flavor the undertones all from the little juniper berry took and ordinary beer to a new level of complexity. Another adventurous beer for the hop fans is the Wildflower Pale Ale. This is a very light pale ale with all the citrus qualities, and bitterness from the hops that one would expect. Add the extra flavor of jasmine flowers during the brewing process and the flavors are elevated. The floral note lightens up the whole beer adding a crisp and clean flavor that sets this beer apart. Also available for fans of lighter beers is the berry patch wheat. A light wheat ale that combines both raspberries and strawberries. Both fruit flavors come through strong, but do not overpower each other. Not too sweet, and with a clean aftertaste this is a unique and very enjoyable fruit ale.
From light, dry beers to dark and hearty beers the porter and stout are classical beers done right, but the extra ingredients elevate these beers to great. The Ponderosa Porter named after a type of pine tree is known to give off a sweet aroma in the wilderness, but how does that translate to a beer? Add caramel malts and oak age it with vanilla beans. The end result is a beer that has a butterscotch taste with a floral vanilla aftertaste. Full bodied, but full flavored this beer has such a depth of flavor each new sip brings something new onto the pallet. Very enjoyable, and one might not be enough. When spending time outdoors and camping there is one thing that usually comes to mind and that is smores. So when you take a stout base and add three different malts (roasted barley, chocolate, and biscuit), milk sugar, and age the beer with cacao nibs you get a smores stout. A heavy beer that is slightly sweet, has a full body, and a slightly smoky aftertaste this beer will remind you of sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows, and is a smore in a glass. If a smoky beer sounds good but the sweetness does not then there is the Campfire Red Ale. No hops are present in this ale instead it is mostly malty (some of which are smoked), and it creates a very straightforward flavor of malts with a subtle smokiness. A very clean aftertaste follows the bold flavor of this ale and sip for sip it is very enjoyable.
In a town like Boulder, Colorado there are two qualities that define it as a town. They house the very first microbrewery in the state and many more, plus it is known for the wonderful outdoors and active lifestyle its residents have. Now it has one of the newest microbreweries in the state that has combined the best of both worlds. High quality ales and the best of the nature that surrounds them both in the beer and in the environment they have created within the brewery. After a long day of hiking in Boulder continue the outdoor experience while quenching your thirst and pay Wild Woods Brewery a visit for a flight, pint, or growler.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012


Typically when microbreweries are mentioned the first question people ask is what kind of beers do they make? The answer is more often than not either German or Belgian style ales, with a mix of microbrewery standards like a fruit ale, and IPA. But in 2012 a brewery opened that does not serve any German styles, Belgian styles, or even have an IPA on their tap list. In the Sloan Lake and West Highlands area lies a small brewery serving traditional English style ales both on tap and from the traditional cask serving system. Even the name of the brewery is English, Hogshead a term of measurement used in England.
 After taking over an old car service station the transformation for Hogshead began and the structure is the only thing that reminds you of what used to house this now brewery. The garage windows are still there but behind them now lie the 10 barrel brewing system that is used visible to guests through a doorway. A rustic wood bar top lets you sit and enjoy the neighborhood scenery through the large glass windows that surround the taste room. Picnic tables are around the outside to enjoy your beer on the patio. While the d├ęcor is minimal, the beer is bold, flavorful, and everything that one would expect from a pub in London and the only question is which one to try first.
When it comes to English style ales, one type comes to mind first and that is an ESB, and after one sip at Hogshead it is clearly obvious why the Chin Wag ESB is their signature beer. A medium color and complex aroma make this a very inviting beer to sip on, and even after the first sip this beer remains very complex. While the prominent taste after the first sip is malts, it quickly fades away to a hop finish with a slight bitterness. But there are more undertones of flavors within this beer. With each sip comes the rich flavor of toffee, and even a light, crisp flavor of orange. Despite the fact that these flavors are subtle they add a depth and complexity to this beer that makes it not only so unique but enjoyable as well.
Now if bitter beers aren’t your flavor and a light session beer is what you are craving then order a pint of the Lake Lightening, a year round Summer session ale. A light colored ale with a strong hop aroma, but subtle hop flavor. This beer is bitter, and leaves a lingering taste, and is also very dry on the tongue. For the dark beer lovers there is the Gilpin Black Gold, a traditional London Porter. A hearty body, and strong malt flavor make up the primary taste of this beer. However because the malts are roasted there are also flavors of coffee and nuts beneath the malts. A truly hearty beer that warms you up from the inside out and perfect for those cold, snowy days.
While all the beers out of a traditional CO2 keg are delicious the one thing that separates Hogshead from other breweries is the focus on bringing the tradition of London pubs to America. That is done through consistently offering cask conditioned versions of their ales which leaves the end product unpasteurized, unfiltered, and naturally carbonated. This occurs after the initial fermentation where a portion of the beer is transferred to a cask and allowed to ferment a second time. The end result is a more flavorful beer, that has a very creamy mouth feel due to the hand pull system, and it is also served at about 50 degrees making it much warmer. While it is not for everybody it is a unique, traditional way to taste a beer, and at the very least is worth trying. All three beers at Hogshead are available on cask, just as part of a rotation and each with a very complex flavor.
As the microbrewery expansion in Colorado continues to grow at an alarming rate the beers each offer are going to vary. At Hogshead the style of beer is a very unique change to Colorado, and something that has not been done before. Real English style ales served in two different ways, to create two different experiences for the same beer. A group of guys who love beer introducing Colorado to real ales out of casks, and at the same time not compromising the quality of the beer in the process. Whether it is a 10 ounce pour (sample size), 16 ounce (pint), or 20 ounce (proper pint) the beers at Hogshead are all very hearty, complex, full flavored, and do not disappoint.  
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