Friday, December 21, 2012

Big Choice

North of Denver along I-25 the microbrewery scene used to be pretty minimal between Denver and Fort Collins. The region of Westminster, Broomfield, and Thornton only housed chain breweries that are spread throughout the country, and chain restaurants where craft beer was not a priority. However that all changed in May of 2012 when two Colorado natives decided they wanted to bring high quality craft ales to the local community. The end result is named Big Choice Brewing, located in Broomfield, Colorado and the first microbrewery in this area.
Located off the beaten path on 118th in Broomfield this brewery is a little bit of an adventure to find. Just follow that homemade signs and look for the brewery on the left. Walk in to the small tap room and have a seat at the bar, or one of the few tables around it. The chalkboard menu described the eight beers that were on tap, and punk rock from the music will be filling your ears. The 7 barrel system used is behind closed doors, and roped off visible through a small window or by walking back and looking. All in all the décor is very minimal with the red and white walls, and standard wood furniture, but when at a microbrewery you are there for the beers.
Over the past couple of years a new trend has emerged in the microbrewery scene and that is the addition of chili peppers in beer to add a certain spice note. No difference at this brewery with the #42 Poblano Stout, a dark beer with poblano peppers brewed right into it. The stout has a rich, heavy body that stays true to everything a stout should be, but the aftertaste comes with a little surprise. The poblano pepper leaves a lingering taste, but the heat is very subtle and there is more a pure flavor of the pepper. There are no other flavors added to this beer to compliment the pepper, so after the roasted malt flavor has passed all you are left with is the pepper. This is definitely not a session beer, but one worth sipping on as it is very unique for a style of beer increasing in popularity.
Now if stouts aren’t your style of beer but a dark beer is on the mind then ask for nothing more than the Big Choice Brown. A rich, dark, malty ale with a subtle roasted flavor, but a medium body that makes for easy drinking. Made with roasted barley, and three different types of malts all the flavors come together to create a rich beer, complex in flavor. Also available is a dark Cascadian Ale. A dark ale made with cascade hops this beer packs a punch with the hops, but don’t call it a black IPA. Contrary to that style this flavor ale does not have the malts to balance out the hop flavor. Very bitter and hoppy but with a clean aftertaste this is a very unique beer that is not replicated at any other brewery.
For the hop heads out there, there is plenty of variety at Big Choice. The Type III IPA is a very traditional IPA that does not have any additional flavors to mute the hops. A very dry, bitter beer with a lingering aftertaste it is everything that would be expected from an IPA.  If that is not hoppy enough than how about a beer that weighs in at 9.5 ABV and 104 IBU? That would be the Hemlock Double IPA, which are pure hops from the aroma to the finish. A very dry body with one flavor and one flavor only, and that is the hops and the bitterness that people love about them. Also available is the Disconnected Red Ale which again provides a strong hop flavor but with a cleaner finish.
Sometimes when it comes to running a microbrewery it is all about risk. Somebody had to be the first to open a brewery in city, and wait for people to replicate. Well for Big Choice owners Nathaniel Miller and Tyler Ruse they decided to be the first to open one in Broomfield, and  in the short time they have been opened their customer base is loyal, and growing regularly. Even though they were the first they won’t be the last and when more and more breweries open up in Broomfield, Thornton, and Westminster the original will still stand, and that will be Big Choice Brewing.
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Brewery Rickoli's

Wheatridge, Colorado is a small town west of Denver that most people drive by alone I-70. While it is home to one of the larger liquor stores in the state for the longest time it was missing a microbrewery of its own. That all changed in November of 2012 when brew master Rick Abitbol opened up a brewery of his own after years of brewing award winning beers. With a wide variety of styles, high quality ales, and unique beers not seen at many breweries one of the best new breweries lies at 44th and Wadsworth at Brewery Rickoli’s.
Tucked inside a small strip mall this brewery is easy to drive by without noticing, but once you are inside the brewery feel is there. A few tables are around the tap room, and the wood top bar lined with stars oversees the tap handles and merchandise for sale. Other than that the décor of this brewery is pretty minimal. Photos of old Denver Broncos milestones line the wall along with assorted old beer signs like Moosehead and Buffalo Gold. It almost feels as if you are at a neighborhood bar, until you taste the beer and realize the high quality ales being produced. With 8 to choose from the variety is wide with ales that are both unique and traditional.
A beer that is known only on the mass produced side but not seen often at microbreweries is a cream ale, and believe it or not there is one offered at Rickoli. A light ale that is cloudy in appearance but also one that is not light on flavor. A light malt flavor on the tongue is followed by a slight aftertaste of hops. Slightly bitter, but the hops do not overpower the flavor of this beer. A very unique beer that is still not seen all that often, but one worth trying. If you were to go to a German beer garden there will typically be an Altbier on tap. If you go to an Irish pub there will be an Irish Red on tap, but what if there was a beer that reminded you of both? The Aldo Red brings the body of an Irish Red but has the malty flavor of a German Altbier. A very malty beer that is full bodied with just a small hint of hops that balances the whole beer out. A very complex beer with a clean aftertaste that is both traditional and unique, but one that has to be tried.
For fans of dark beers look no further than the Hearty Rye Stout.  A strong stout that pours at 6.5% abv but has all the characteristics that makes stouts so popular. The full body, sweetness, coffee notes, and roasted flavor are all there, but what makes this stout so unique is the addition of rye. The spice from the rye adds a whole other dimension to this beer and creates layers of flavors that hit everywhere on the palate. The sweet, spicy, and roasted flavor all complement each other and balance each other  out but they can be tasted on their own without taking over the whole flavor profile of the beer. Also available for the fan of darker beers is the Social Lubricant, this brewery’s take on a traditional Scotch Ale. A rich, brown ale that is very traditional and full of the malt flavor that makes this style so popular. A very malty, but slightly sweet beer with a very minimal hop flavor and has a clean aftertaste. There are hints of caramel which adds to the sweetness and to the complexities of this beer. Also available are the IPAs where there were three different types to drink, a regular, double, and black. All very good, refreshing, with a clean aftertaste that will cater to the hop heads out there.
A brewery that has the feel of a small neighborhood bar that all the local visit after work and in the process produces high quality ales. That is the impression you get after a visit to Brewery Rickoli. A friendly staff and knowledgeable owner just add to the feel this brewery has created, and it such a short time has already established a regular flow of customers. So when in Wheatridge the mega liquor store is no longer a necessary visit, instead have a fresh variety of craft beers at Brewery Rickoli.
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Friday, December 7, 2012

Pikes Peak Brewing

Sometimes when finding a brewery they can show up in the most unexpected places possible. Most of the time certain breweries are just passed by not even knowing they are there. Like in the small town of Monument, Colorado right outside Colorado Springs along I-25. Most people will drive by there not even thinking to stop and explore. However within this small town lies a small restaurant where they are also brewing their own craft ales and it is called Pikes Peak Brewing.
Inside the brewery the small town feel of Monument is replicated with the environment and décor. It feels as if you are on the back patio enjoying beers with your closest friends, with tables and chairs all around. The beer menu is underneath the overhang of a roof, and the warmth of the building is topped off with a fireplace. The staff was very friendly, and all the customers were there in groups, and nobody was a stranger to each other. A true communal establishment where everybody enjoys the craft ales they produced, and with a wide variety to choose from some stood out more than others.
Some of the richest beers out there are the Belgian Style ales, and at Pikes Peak they took that literally both in name and flavor with the Gold Rush Ale. A strong golden color with just the right amount of spice and citrus that you would expect from this kind of ale, plus the great yeast flavor and muted bitterness from the hops. This beer is very true to what a traditional Belgian beer is, very complex in flavors, yet very balanced, and truly refreshing and easy to enjoy time after time. Also available is a Rocky Mountain Wheat which is much lighter than the Gold Rush but still packs a bold flavor for such a light beer.
Another famous landmark in this area is the Devil’s Head Fire Tower which had views for hundreds of miles and was used to spot wildfires. So what beer would be named after that? Only the Devil’s Head Red Ale. A full flavored ale where the richness of the malts, and bitterness of the hops are both present but they don’t overpower each other. This beer does not have a clean aftertaste but the lingering taste it leaves has a nice quality to it that still keeps you drinking more. If full flavored beers are what you are after the red is a good choice, but there is also a great oatmeal stout again named after a landmark. The Samson House stout is a full bodied oatmeal stout that has a heavy body, a slight sweetness, and bitterness that all come together to create one very enjoyable beer. Good any time of year, but this is the perfect beer to drink on the coldest of nights, especially in front of a fire.
Small town, small brewery, and a gathering for all the locals to meet after work. Not to mention the big, bold, and full flavored beers. When you put all those factors together you have exactly what Pikes Peak Brewing is. With a loyal customer base, friendly staff and craft beers in a small town it is easy to see why this brewery has been so successful. They are living proof that you do not have to be in a big city to thrive, so the next time you are heading south on I-25 don’t worry about where to stop in Denver, or in Colorado Springs, but make a rest stop in Monument and enjoy what Pikes Peak has to offer.
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