Saturday, March 30, 2013

West Flanders

When it comes to breweries in Colorado one things always reigns true, everyone has a different story. Whether it is one person following their dream, a change of career, or turning a hobby into a profession they are all different. But what about when two brothers opened a New Orleans style brewpub in 1996 with the help of a brew master, and when ownership changed they went their separate ways but the dream of a new microbrewery did not. Then 13 years later in 2009 the dream was brought up again with a new restaurateur and the plan was coming to life. Finally in 2012 the dream was realized when the brewery opened their doors on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado and now craft beer lovers in this community can enjoy the offerings at West Flanders.
After walking through the crowds of Pearl Street into West Flanders the friendly greeting makes one comfortable and relaxed in this small location. Being in a small location the environment feels very industrial where every inch of space was needed to create the craft beers the serve. The small upper level is full of table but at the bar is where customers will want to pull up a seat. Behind the rows of tap handles lie rows of tanks all showing which beer is stored in them. Directly above guests lie all the glassware hanging below their menu with all traditional tulip glasses indicative of the Belgian beers served here. Photos of Boulder scenery and brewing equipment line the wall opposite of the bar bringing both the local landscape and craft beer into one place. The environment is great and exciting, now to decide which beers to try.
West Flanders has a variety of beers but some of the most unique ones available are the Belgian style ales. For starters there is the St. Mark’s Dubbel, a dark red ale that is full of flavors and balance. A very sweet, caramel flavored beer that has a nice amount of hop additions that are there just to balance the beer out. A very traditional Belgian style ale that is very refreshing and easy to enjoy. Also available is another traditional Belgian ale and that is the Trippel Lutz. Despite the pale, wheat color this is a very full flavored beer. A nutty aroma leads into a crisp, tart, almost fruity taste with a slight nut flavor as an undertone. The slight bitterness from the hops is a welcome addition to create balance and it makes this beer very well rounded and enjoyable. Now for something really unique that brings together the best of Belgian beers but with a unique twist try nothing other than the Angry Monk. This ale has all the qualities that one would love in a Belgian beer but with flavors that are not standard. With a strong flavor of both banana and licorice this beer has a flavor profile that is far from the normal. The effervescence stays true to the Belgian style beers. Very unique and very refreshing this is a beer that is worth trying.
If you are not a fan of Belgian beers but still want a great brew there are other house made offerings at West Flanders. One of the other unique beers available is the Woodshed Smoked Porter, made with Beechwood smoked malts. Now unlike most porters this particular one does not have the typical roasted coffee flavor that one would expect to find in this style. Also this beer is slightly lighter in color being dark brown instead of black, but the most important aspect of this beer is the flavor. The beer is still full bodied but remains very smooth. The smoke flavor while present is very subtle and does not overpower the other flavors; instead it acts as a compliment to all the other delicious malt flavors. All this is finished with a smooth, clean aftertaste that makes this beer feel very light, and easy to enjoy sip after sip. Now if Belgian beers are not what you are after, but a English style ale instead than thankfully there is something for you at West Flanders, the Es Bueno their take on a traditional ESB. Again this is a very balanced beer that is copper in color and has a nice sweetness from the caramel malts used in the brewing process. Combine that with the combination of both American and English hop varieties and the bitterness balances out the sweetness but the two flavors work together in harmony. The end result? A very enjoyable beer that fans of both malts and hops will enjoy.
In spite of the ever growing beer scene in Boulder, Colorado there are breweries that still manage to create such high quality ales that they are able to separate themselves from all their competition. West Flanders was able to do that with their traditional and experimental take on primarily Belgian style ales. Combine that with beers that are common and popular and it is a recipe for success. To top it all off they are in one of the most popular places in Boulder on Pear Street surrounded by other dining options. So when in Boulder walking along the Pear Street mall walk a little further to a tiny brew pub, and enjoy what West Flanders has to offer.
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Bootstrap Brewing

Niwot, Colorado is a small town that lies in between two towns that are rich in the craft beer scene: Boulder and Longmont. It is one of those small towns that most people drive by without thinking twice, however that all changed in June of 2012. It was then that local residents Leslie and Steve Kaczeus time, research, and hard work of the past five years paid off and they opened the doors to their own microbrewery. With a friendly staff, a welcoming small town feel, and high quality ales this new brewery is a great addition to the rich brewery community of Boulder County, and it is called Bootstrap Brewing.
After finding this brewery tucked away on 79th Street and walking in you felt as if you are transformed into the country, and reminded what a small town brewery this is. The inside was hard wood all over the place with a variety of beer related signs decorating the walls. The fermenting tanks were behind a wood and cage wall by the bar, but visible for all the customers to see. Given that this brewery was in such a small town the environment of this brewery was very friendly. The staff and customers all knew each other, and were welcoming to all the guests that walked in. Being in such a friendly environment it made enjoying a pint that much more enjoyable, and there were plenty of styles of beer to choose from.
When it comes to trying new beers at a brewery it is best to start with a light offering and that also happens to be a gold medal winner at the 2012 Colorado State Fair, the 1956 Golden Ale. A light ale similar to a pilsner with a malt base but a light hop aroma, and slight bitterness from the hops. This beer has a light, crisp flavor and finishes very clean. It is a great session beer that is easy to enjoy on a warm day or anytime a refreshing beer is what you crave. Also available on a limited basis is a variation of this ale but with the addition of peach. The malt and hops in this beer are still prominent but the addition of peach adds a subtle sweetness and peach flavor. The extra flavor adds to this beer, but does not overpower it, instead only makes it more refreshing. For something more unique with a twist on the Golden Ale order the Backfire Chili. The golden ale infused with chili peppers this is one spicy beer, also available with tomato juice added for an extra depth of flavor.
If you are not a fan of wheat ales but instead want something darker with a little more body then order nothing other than the Boomer Brown. This is a traditional American Brown Ale, but it has English influences through the hops and yeast used in the brewing process. Combine that with the addition of oats, honey, and chocolate malts this beer has a very unique flavor. This is a very malt forward beer with a slight sweetness and rich flavor that has a clean aftertaste and is very refreshing. For something darker there is the Worthog Stout which is a traditional foreign style stout. A rich, full bodied beer that has the strong flavor profiles stout lovers are sure to enjoy. A thick tan color head leads into the strong malt flavored ale with a strong roasted flavor. Hints of coffee and chocolate are an undertone along with the small bitterness from the hops. The aftertaste is lingers slightly but with such a strong roasted flavor taking multiple sips of this hearty beer makes it very easy to enjoy.
Additional beers available are a malty red, slightly bitter amber, and strong IPA with five different hops, plus the seasonal that are rotated throughout the year. If there is anything the growth of the craft beer scene in Colorado has taught us it is that breweries no matter how big and small can be successful anywhere. This is no truer than at Bootstrap Brewing where high quality ales have no made this small community a destination for the craft beer followers in Colorado, all in what used to be a town that most people would drive through without thinking twice. So when in Boulder or Longmont make the extra short trip to Niwot, taste the craft ales at Bootstrap Brewing, and see how welcome you are made in this small community of craft beer.
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Craft Beer Week

In 1995 the Colorado Brewers Guild was formed to promote the diversity the craft beer scene in Colorado. A lot has changed since then; especially the number of craft breweries in Colorado and the quality and diversity are stronger than ever. To celebrate this there is Colorado Craft Beer Week, a celebration of all things Colorado beer. From March 18 to the 24th there will be special tappings, new releases, and special events that showcase the best of Colorado beer. Here are a few events going on throughout the state this week that are can’t miss events.
West of Breckenridge along I-70 lies the small town of Eagle and within there lies a small brewery Bonfire Brewing. They will be celebrating Craft beer week with a new beer release each night as well as special events to enjoy. The new beers you will see throughout the week will be an Irish Red to get the festivities rolling, a Karate Hop Brown, Dirtbag Munich Dunkel, Boom! Double IPA, and a Jack Daniel’s Barrel Aged Baltic Porter. Also in the nearby town of Vail there will be the opportunity to meet the brew masters of Eagle County at the Vail Alehouse, and that will be taking place on March 19.  Great new beers and the chance to meet the people who create it for you, not to mention time in the mountains sounds like a great destination to spend part of Craft Beer Week.
North of Denver lies the beer rich community of Boulder, which is home of some of the most iconic microbreweries in the state. Part of that community is the four year old brewery of Upslope which is a great reason to visit Boulder this week. With special beers hitting the tap lines, deals on pints, the main reason to visit this brewery is for the week long raffle. With all proceeds going to support the Colorado Brewers Guild which make events like this possible enter for a chance to win a ¼ barrel keg of their fine ales. What better way to support the group that keeps these events alive than by supporting the small craft breweries in the process. Pint and raffle ticket at Upslope will be a great way to enjoy a night during this special week.  
The majority of events going on this week are taking place in Denver with great collaborations between breweries, one night only events, and a celebration of the craft beer scene. The festivities in Denver will be going on all week but it is not until Wednesday when Great Divide Brewing Company and Prost Brewing get together for a 5 course beer dinner at the Coral Room in Denver. This will be an iconic brewery pairing their beers with some of the finest German beers in Denver. Tickets are limited, but this will be a memorable night that one may not get to experience again. Heading into Thursday this week will keep you in the LoDo area but the beers featured are from all over the state.
The Breckenridge Brewery by Coors Field will be celebrating craft beer from all over the state with a night of cask style ales. With a total of 16 breweries featured including Breckenridge, New Belgium, Great Divide, Oskar Blues, Boulder Beer, Odell, and Left Hand this is another great event to celebrate craft beer. With rare cask style ales these beers will not last long so get down early and enjoy while you can. Heading into Friday there are no major events planned so continue with sampling the Firkins in the area. Copper Kettle Brewing Company in Denver will be releasing a special milk stout made with chocolate malts on cask, and as always Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora always has something special lined up for their Firkin Friday.
Heading into the end of the week head to not a brewery, but a restaurant instead. Off of 21st and Arapahoe lies the Lobby where there will be a celebration of the new breweries who have been open less than two years with a 1980s themed party. Tickets are 19.86 and plan on seeing great breweries like River North, Caution, Wit’s End, Copper Kettle, plus more from throughout the state pouring some of their great offerings. End the week at Great Divide with a special tapping of their Grand Peach Cru, a beer made from their pilot system that will be sure to go fast.
In such a short week there some big things going on in the community that is Colorado craft beer. No matter what part of the state you live in there will be something for everyone to enjoy. These just happened to be some of the most interesting and unique events that we felt could not be missed. Even though this event only lasts for a week it gives everyone an opportunity to explore the world of craft beer in our own community, discover something new, and possibly find a new favorite beer or brewery in the process.
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Friday, March 15, 2013

Signal de Botrange

Sometimes the best and most unique beers come from some of the most unexpected breweries. Like in the small town of Poncha Springs, Colorado where in 2012 Elevation Beer Company opened their doors, and in doing so they created a great series of craft beers. Included in this series is the Double Black Diamond Series which are their seasonal barrel aged beers. The first of these beers was introduced to the masses in the Summer of 2012 as a Farmhouse Ale aged n Napa Valley Chardonnay Barrels, and was named after the highest point in Belgium, the Signal de Botrange. After first tasting this beer at their tap room in October of 2012, we have been holding on to our bottle until March of 2013. Here are our tasting notes of this fantastic beer.
Even though this is a barrel aged beer the root of it is a traditional Belgian ale, so only a tulip glass was fitting to enjoy this out of. A hard pour allowed the dark golden color to come to life and the off white color head to be as thick as possible. The aroma was a complex variety of both wine and beer. The prominent aroma was the wine with the strong grape notes, and the subtle hints of oak from the barrels. However underneath the grapes and oaks lies a very faint floral aroma from the hops. The aroma had a lot going on, and the flavor followed through with the same qualities.
After the first sip of this beer, it was obvious that this beer is very traditional to the Belgian style. The light body, strong effervescence, and subtle yeast flavor remind the drinker what country this beer represents. The barrel aging adds so much extra flavor that it brings this beer to a whole new level of farmhouse ales. The first obvious flavor in this beer is a strong tartness that is quickly followed by the wine notes and grape flavor from the chardonnay barrels. This is all complimented by the subtle taste of oak and vanilla which is another direct result from the aging process. What made this beer so unique is that through the entire barrel aging the integrity and flavors of the beer were not last. The sweetness from the malts and floral notes from the hops were still visible and it made this beer very well rounded as hit the tongue.
The aftertaste of this beer had a slight lingering note to it but it faded away quickly so it did not overpower enjoying another sip, but this was the one moment where the beer aspect faded away. The rich, butter taste that chardonnay is so famous for was replicated after swallowing a sip of this beer. Complimented by the oak barrels this ale had a strong wine finish, but faded away so quickly that it made each consecutive sip that much more enjoyable. Even though this beer has been around slightly longer than some of the other barrel aged beers in Colorado it still remains one of the best. With all the complexities and flavor profiles it will please both fans of beer and wine on an equal level. For such a new brewery to produce such a strong beer as its original barrel aged product it can only excite the masses of what they will think up next.
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

St. Patrick's Day

Once again it is that time of year where the luck of the Irish is upon us, and it is St. Patrick’s Day weekend. This year we are especially lucky with the holiday landing on a Sunday giving beer fans everywhere three days to celebrate their inner Irish with multiple beer, food, and entertainment offerings. On top of that living in the best craft beer state only adds to the options that are in front of us, so here are some options to spend your St. Patrick’s Day weekend with craft beer, not green beer throughout the state.
On Friday, March 15 there is no better way to start the weekend than with a beer anyway, but what about with a pre St. Patrick’s Day party featuring not only a new beer, but some great food in the process? If that sounds good then head down to Copper Kettle Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado to enjoy the return of their dry Irish stout on nitro tap. As if a stout isn’t enough there will also be Irish music as well as Eighty Eight food truck serving Irish food that has been braised in the same stout that will be hitting the tap lines that day. This will be the second year Copper Kettle is having a St. Patrick’s Day celebration and if 2012 was any indication then this year’s will be a great time with a fantastic beer, and the friendly staff that this brewery is known for.
Also going on Friday night, but also on Saturday in Aurora, Colorado Dry Dock Brewing will be having their own festivities to celebrate the Irish in everyone. Instead of a stout their beer of choice is their delicious Irish Red which will be hitting the tap lines Friday afternoon but will keep flowing through the entire weekend. There will not be any food options at the tap room this weekend but the entertainment will make up for that with Irish Step Dancers keeping the party alive both Friday and Saturday evening. As if that is not enough on Saturday afternoon the Colorado Youth Pipe Band will be playing a show at the tap room. Irish red, dancers, bagpipes? Sounds like a great way to celebrate this holiday, and keep the celebration going this weekend.
If you’re not going to be in the Denver/Aurora area on Saturday but further south in Parker then be sure to swing by Elk Mountain Brewing Company for their new beer and food on this holiday. There won’t be a stout, or a red but instead a rum barrel aged Amber Ale. In addition there will be the traditional Irish food including corn beef and cabbage, plus a variety of Irish breads all made with beer from this small brewery. Although it is a little out of the way from most breweries this beer and food combo is definitely something worth checking out this weekend.  
Now living in Denver one of the fun aspects of St. Patrick’s Day is the annual parade in the LoDo area which will be going on Saturday the 16th. Afterwards there are plenty of breweries in the area to check out and continue celebrating with. The first visit should be River North Brewing which is specially opening at 9:00 in the morning to pour all their offerings. While the beers are not Irish make sure to have a pint of Avarice, a Belgian style Imperial Stout. No special offerings directly from the brewery, just early hours to accommodate the masses post parade. While those are just a few of the options going on in the Denver area on the most Irish holiday of the year there will be other breweries having specials and events to celebrate. But with plenty of options to choose from it can be hard to choose just one, or more likely which one to do first.
Is there a brewery you want us to visit, or a special beer you would like us to try? Let us know at:

Friday, March 8, 2013


In 1989 Odell Brewing opened its doors and became only the second microbrewery in Colorado. 24 years and over a hundred microbreweries later this once small business is as big as ever and now known on a national level. This is partly because of their great lineup of flagship and seasonal beers. But another reason could be due to their barrel aging program where beers are so expertly crafted and available in such limited quantities that craft beer fans will flock to Fort Collins to get a sip. This was exactly the case back in February where a two year project of the brewery was realized and a barrel aged porter was released that would appeal to fans of both craft beer and Colorado wine.
The final product was Amuste a porter aged in oak wine barrels and brewed with the juice of Tempranillo grapes from the Western Slope of Colorado. We recently acquired a bottle of it, and these are our tasting notes. First of all is this is a big 25 ounce, corked beer so proper glassware was necessary. An ordinary pint glass would not do, instead a goblet style glass was used to enjoy this. The pour was fast creating a thick head at the top of the brew which meant one thing, and that was this was a heavy beer and truly a porter. The color showed only signs that this was a beer. It was a rich, chocolate brown with a slightly lighter shade making up the head. There were no hints of grape or wine in the beer based on color alone.
Now before we could enjoy a sip we had to get a feel for the beer through the aroma and there was only one word to describe it, complex. If there was any doubt that this beer did not contain the red wine grapes it promised the aroma took that away. The prominent aspect of the smell of this beer is the grape but it is still much more complex than that. There is a subtle hint of chocolate from the malts used during the brewing process, but the most unique smells come from the barrels that they were aged in. The oak creates an almost earthy aroma, and there were hints of vanilla and plum which the style of grape is known for.
Knowing that the style of this beer was a porter I was expecting a full body beer, with a big flavor and this beer did not disappoint. The full body of the beer was very noticeable from being a porter and the hints of the red wine. The heavy body was lightened up through the grape, and their acidity cut through the body to make this beer also light and crisp. To compliment that acidity is a strong malt flavor that left a subtle chocolate flavor, in addition to the subtle oak, vanilla, and fruit flavors. There were sips where the wine flavor was prominent and chalky like a red wine, and others that reminded you it was in fact a craft beer. The complexities that were in the aroma definitely carried over to the taste and this beer hit the pallet on so many levels.
The aftertaste to this beer is very strong and did linger around but it did not want to make me stop drinking it. With each sip of this beer a new flavor was introduced to the senses and the more it was realized just how many layers of flavor was packed into this bottle. This barrel aged beer brought together beer and wine into harmony, and it is a beer that any craft beer fan should try.
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Friday, March 1, 2013

Elk Mountain

Parker, Colorado is a town that is often overlooked when people talk about the craft brewing scene in Colorado. Recently that has changed due to a production facility opening in this small suburb, but in all actuality the craft beer scene changed dramatically here in 2010. It was in July of that year that Tom Bell changed careers and this avid home brewer of twenty plus years made the change to professional brewer. He decided to open his brewery in this small town south of Denver and name it after the area where he hunted for many years, Elk Mountain Brewing.
Upon walking into this brewery it is clearly obvious that aside from craft beer the other passion of this owner is hunting. After taking a seat at the bar it is hard to decide whether you are at a microbrewery or a hunting lodge. From the beetle kill pine bar top to the elk antler chandelier for a moment it is easy to forget you are not in the mountains. Then the empty malt bags hanging from the ceiling, tap handles, and chalkboard menu behind the bar are a quick reminder that you are in fact at a microbrewery, and the quick glance of being in a strip mall are a reminder that you are in fact in the suburbs, not in the mountains. Relaxing, and mountain themed environment aside there are plenty of beers to choose from in a variety of styles, and a rarity in a microbrewery something that everybody will enjoy.
While there are many types of beers offered at this brewery, some of the styles that are done the best are those from Germany. Whether that beer be the Mine Shaft Kolsch or the Wild Wapiti Hefeweizen both beers will leave you feeling refreshed but craving another sip. The Kolsch is a traditional German style ale that is light in color, but big on flavor. The addition of three different types of hops adds a very hop forward flavor, but it doesn’t overpower the beer or make it bitter. The beer finishes very clean, and is so refreshing that ordering just one might be the hardest part of this beer. From a different part of Germany but at the same brewery is their take on a hefeweizen, a Bavarian wheat that is cloudy in appearance and straw colored. This beer has all the qualities one loves from the strong banana taste to the subtle undertone flavor of clove. The beer also finishes clean and has such a unique flavor profile that you will want another sip of this very traditional wheat beer.
Aside from traditional German beers this small brewery also makes very traditional ales that are very common in the microbrewery scene, but with a unique twist on them. How about a beer that has won two awards at the Colorado State Fair? The Ghost Town Brown is an American style brown ale that has a great malt flavor but is still light in body, and finishes both crisp and clean. With hints of both nuts and chocolate this is a complex beer that appeals to fans of all styles, and it is no wonder that it has won a couple awards along the way. Now of course there is a beer that caters to the hop heads in Colorado, and the Puma IPA is both very traditional but also unique. Either way it is one that is a must try when at Elk Mountain. A very hop forward beer with three additions creates the main flavor profile, but it is balanced out by the caramel and honey malts used in the brewing process. This creates a sweetness that balances out the bitterness of the hops and creates a very well rounded beer. The aftertaste is strong but the beer is so good that taking another sip won’t be an issue.
With so many styles from different countries and regions it is no wonder that this small brewery has become so popular in a town that was strongly lacking a craft beer scene. With beers that range from light to dark, malty to hoppy picking just one to order can be a daunting task. Plus add in the constantly rotating seasonal beers and there are almost too many to choose from. So order a flight that will come to you in a snowshoe which just adds to the hunting/wilderness environment this brewery has worked so hard to maintain. Since they first opened in 2010 this brewery has been going strong with their wide variety of beers, so when in Parker, Colorado the decision is easy. Skip the chain restaurants, the bars, and go to Elk Mountain Brewing instead, it will be a very worthwhile experience.
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