Friday, July 26, 2013

12 Degrees Brewing

In Louisville, Colorado just outside of Boulder, driving down Main Street brings back the small town feel that has been lost in most places. With small restaurants, book stores, and other shops this is the kind of place where small business thrives. In June of 2013, the craft beer community made its claim on Main Street and is pouring their Belgian style beers to the masses. Named after one of the original methods to measure a beer’s gravity, in terms of Plato, and the second microbrewery in Louisville this is 12 Degrees Brewing.
Located inside the Main Street Marketplace next to a book and record store, this location transforms you with that small town feel, and the inside has the same feeling. Just through the doors or garage door opening, to create a patio, you find yourself inside a small but comfortable feeling tasting room with old hard wood floors, and old wooden beams throughout the entire room. To the left of the bar and tables guests can see the open kitchen where pizzas are made to order as well as the brewing equipment used. Behind the bar, above the tap handles, is the tap list, and with all Belgian style ales there were four various but refreshing styles to choose from.
When it comes to Belgian style ales there is nothing more classic than a traditional white ale and that is the case with the Walter’s White. A classic white ale that is slightly cloudy in appearance but has a light crisp flavor and is easy to drink. The crisp and refreshing citrus note is present along with the familiar spice note of coriander to enhance the citrus flavor. It is all rounded out with a prominent yeast flavor to give the beer body and depth. The aftertaste is very clean making this a very familiar refreshing beer that is done extremely well. If you want something refreshing but not as traditional then there is also a very unique Summer Saison. A style many people are familiar with, but this particular version has a flavor profile that is extremely unique. More dry than a typical saison, this one has a subtle flavor of tropical fruit that finishes with a hint of pepper for a slightly spicy finish. It has a very clean aftertaste making it very easy to drink, extremely refreshing, and a beer that will be enjoyed by all who try it due to the complexities of flavors within it.
Now of course a Colorado brewery wouldn’t be complete without a beer that brings forward the delicious flavor of hops, and that is the case with the Hommelbier, a Belgian Pale Ale that was a collaboration beer with Fate Brewing in nearby Boulder. It is a hop forward beer that has a strong bitter flavor but also has honey to balance the flavor out. Combine that with a hint of citrus, and the yeast strain and this is a very complex beer that is tart, sweet, full bodied, and bitter. The aftertaste does linger around for a little but not enough to overpower the beer, it is extremely refreshing, unique, and easy to enjoy. Also available is a traditional Tripel, a golden colored ale that is a balance of sweet and spicy that at 7 percent abv is very enjoyable.
It’s hard to believe that in such a small town like Louisville that there are now two microbreweries. Just a short drive away from such a beer rich community like Boulder this small town is producing high quality ales that can rival any microbrewery. 12 Degrees is no exception with their take on traditional Belgian Ales. Combine that with serving them in a historic location right off Main Street and it makes the small business feel that much more obvious. One sip of the beers and you want to stay around for a while, and enjoy a pint or two. So when heading in that direction make it a point to stop by and sample these four great beers, it is worth the trip.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Night to Remember Recap

July 20, 2013 was a day of remembrance across the state of Colorado and whether it was on the internet, television, or any other form of media we were reminded of what had happened a year ago that day. It turned into a day of shared memories and celebrating the lives of those lost, and on that afternoon the masses went to a small microbrewery in Denver, Colorado to celebrate their memory. After months of planning and coordinating, 12 microbreweries gathered behind this small brewery, guests received their sample cup and the 2nd annual Night to Remember event had begun.
The back lot was lined with breweries from all over various parts of Denver and a couple from northern Colorado, and they were all pouring some of the best beers they had. City Star Brewing from Berthoud was pouring the Raspberry Bandit, a brown ale with fresh raspberries added to it. This was a very unique beer that had a great malt flavor and the raspberries added both a sweetness and tartness that added complexities to the beer making it extremely refreshing on a hot summer’s eve. Great Divide brought their newest seasonal offering for people to try with their Rumble, and oak aged double IPA. This beer had all the hops people could ask for but they were muted by the oak creating a full flavored beer that was very enjoyable. The last truly unique beer also from Denver was the Oak Aged Wit from River North. This was a light and refreshing wheat beer with a slight tartness that had great complexities from the oak aging.
But the best beers of the night came from the host brewery Copper Kettle themselves. Not only were they pouring from their regular tap list but they also brought out some special beers for this night only. This included their rich, malty Barleywine from their 2nd anniversary party, plus they also brought out two aged beers that were both equally great. The oak aged double IPA made a return as well as the extremely popular High Country Breakfast Stout. Combine that with owners Jeremy and Kristen walking around socializing with everyone around them and they were very gracious hosts that made this event that much more enjoyable.
But the night was about more than just craft beer, it was about remembering and honoring those who lost their lives in this tragedy, and that was the true highlight of the evening. When victims’ family and loved ones spoke of Alex Teves and all the guests raised their glasses to celebrate his life it made the whole evening worthwhile. With the craft beer community coming together to put on this festival with pouring their beers, and donating items to be auctioned off plus the community of Aurora, Denver, and all across Colorado gathering together it makes these events more memorable. With the great crowd, amazing volunteers, and amazing breweries this was easily one of the most important festivals of the year and one that we can only hope will continue on a yearly basis.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Gravity Brewing

It used to be that when driving along Highway 36 in search of great craft beer there was one destination in mind, and that was Boulder, Colorado.  But, just outside that beer rich community, lies the small town of Louisville.  In September of 2012, they became part of the craft beer scene as well. With a group of two CU graduates: John Frazee and Ryan Bowers along with brew master Julius Hummer, son of Boulder Beer co-founder David Hummer, along with high quality, high alcohol, and high gravity beers in a wide array of different styles, Gravity Brewing became Louisville’s first microbrewery.
Located of the beaten path behind an appliance store and next to the American Legion, the tap room is surprisingly large. The two tone wood bar top zigzags across the entire wall which leads to an outdoor beer garden. Above the bar, lanterns with hop leaves keep the area illuminated and there are also a lot of tables to accommodate large groups. Unlike most breweries where the brewing equipment is separated through a wall, at Gravity, it is directly behind the bar where guests are extremely close to the brewing process. With up to twelve beers on tap in a wide array of styles, it can be difficult to choose which one to try first, but here is a quick breakdown of some of the best.
For fans of Belgian style ales, there can be as many as four different styles including one not often seen at many microbreweries and that is the Abbey/Dubbel. A rich and malty Belgian Abbey style ale that has a very subtle spice note, and subtle hints of fruit this is a very refreshing beer that is easy to drink. But what happens when you take that same Abbey style ale and add 44 pounds of fresh raspberry puree to it? Then you get a Framboise, a rich dark red ale that has a very prominent fruit flavor but is not too sweet. There is a nice balance between the tartness from the fruit, but the spice and malt note from the ale is not lost and balances out the whole beer. Also available are a Orange Blossom Saison and a Belgian Blonde.
For fans of the hoppy beers there are plenty to choose from at Gravity but the most unique is the Ebb and Flow, a double red rye ale. A rich red ale, this beer is very hop forward in both aroma and taste due to being dry hopped, but because of the rye it has a much more complex flavor than a standard IPA. The addition of caramelized Rye malts imparts a subtle sweetness to the beer, but also a spice that helps cut the bitterness of the hops. The beer leaves a lingering aftertaste but the flavor profile is so complex that it is very easy to drink. Other IPAs available at the tap room are the standard IPA, Double IPA, and Belgian IPA which was a collaboration beer with De Steeg Brewing in Denver. In addition, there are various other styles available at the beer parlor which includes a cream ale, ESB, Weizenbock, Russian Imperial Stout, and a barrel age program.
Sometimes the more enjoyable brewery visits come when they are least expected. That is exactly the case at Gravity Brewing. Located in a town that most people drive by, far enough away from the trendy craft beer scene in Boulder, and not the easiest place to find in Louisville the small journey is worth it. Within the building lies a relaxing tap room with a friendly staff, and a lot of full flavored beers to choose from. Whatever style you prefer there is something for you at this tap room, so the next time you find yourself driving on Highway 36 don’t have just one destination in mind. Check out the small towns along the way with the hidden gems in it, and enjoy some high quality craft beer in the process.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Black Shirt Brewing

Every brewery has a story that led to where they are, but this has to be one of the most interesting. Brothers Branden and Chad relocated from Pueblo to Denver wanting to change careers and their ideas ranged from opening a bar to starting a winery on the Western Slope.  They soon discovered that they had a passion for beer and began home brewing which led to the new desire to open a microbrewery. While Chad was on his honeymoon with wife Carissa, they purchased a brew house system and shipped it back to Denver.  On October 13, 2012 they opened their doors to the public only to close three nights later because they ran out of beer. Now, just under a year later they are regularly open serving their beers to the masses and one other unique thing about this brewery: they only serve red ales. Of course this is Black Shirt Brewing.
After finding an old 4,000 square foot building in the River North area off 38th and Walnut, two years were spent fixing it from top to bottom. The two year transformation changed this warehouse into a music themed microbrewery. With tables around the tap room and a concrete bar top this is a small tasting room with a small fridge for to go growlers, and a garage door to let natural light in. Above the bar hangs an enlarged amplifier that displays their tap list, or set list as they refer to it. Separated from the guests but still visible, is all the brewing equipment used with lights hanging from the ceiling to keep the area illuminated. But this place is very serious about their beer, and with them all being reds in various styles the differences between them are all very interesting, but very delicious.  
With all the beers having similarities in their flavor profile, the beer to start with first has to be the BSB Red Ale, the flagship ale at this brewery. This is a very balanced beer with a medium body that has primary flavor notes of toffee, and caramel. This beer has a subtle brightness brought out by a hint of citrus and a floral aftertaste. This is a very well rounded beer with some of the same flavor profiles having a presence in all their beers. They change the yeast strain, hop additions and all the beers here, while same in color are all different in flavor. For the fans of hops, there is the Pale Red Rye and the Red IPA. The Pale Red Rye enhances the bright citrus flavor and has a heavy hop aroma, but the bitterness of this beer is not as present in the taste and is once again balanced. Add a subtle hint of spice from the rye and this is a complex beer. The Red IPA does have a big hop aroma and flavor that is strong on the citrus note. In addition there is a subtle pine flavor that creates a fairly bitter beer. It does finish fairly clean making it very enjoyable.
If hops aren’t your favorite flavor profile then Belgian inspired red ales are also available in a Red Saison, and a Sour Mash Red Saison. The saison is not as light and acidic as a traditional version but it is still acidic and full of great spice notes reminiscent to the style. Throughout this beer, spices like coriander and clove are present along with the caramel and toffee notes already in this beer. The acidity helps to cut through the spices, and the dry finish makes this a very enjoyable beer any day. The Sour Mash Red Saison is just as acidic, has the same spices, and a subtle hint of sour notes. The sour addition adds a hint of apple that compliments the caramel and toffee very well. An extremely unique beer that is bright, sweet, complex, but very enjoyable. Also available are rotating beers which have included a Red Porter, and most recently a red ESB.
As if making only red ales isn’t unique enough the story behind how Black Shirt Brewing opened is just as unique as the beers they pour. A fourteen year journey that has had a lot of bumps along the way that finally culminated with unique ales, a friendly staff, and a great tap room environment. All this off the beaten path from the popular LoDo beer scene, and in the up and coming River North area where guests still come to in masses to try what is on tap. So when in Denver go off the beaten path, grab a seat at Black Shirt and some unique red ales out of some of the most unique glassware in multiple styles.  

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Friday, July 5, 2013

A Night to Remember

In the early morning of July 20, 2012, tragedy struck the town of Aurora, Colorado in what has become infamously known as the Aurora Theatre Shooting. In the days that followed, we saw a community come together to support the victims and their families, and that was no more evident than at Copper Kettle Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado. After the names of the victims were released, it was discovered that one of their “Mug Club” members and friends Alex Teves was one of the lives lost that night. As a result, owners Jeremy Gobien and Kristen Kozik created the “Night to Remember” event not only to celebrate the life of Alex Teves, but to raise money to benefit the victims of this tragedy.
So, on a Thursday night in 2012, just a few short weeks after the shootings, the community gathered at this small brewery to pay respects, and raise money for the victims. With beer pouring from multiple areas, food trucks donating their proceeds, areas set up for donations, and a silent auction this small brewery was able to raise and donate over $17,000. Now a year later, this event is coming back at Copper Kettle Brewing Company, but in a much larger fashion. Much like the community gathered together in the days following this event, this year will be no different. Except this year, the craft beer community will be joining as well with eleven breweries from across the state and the Denver area making the trip down to the Copper Kettle tap room to pour in a mini festival.
So what breweries are making the trip? From outside of the Denver area, Grimm Brothers out of Loveland and City Star Brewing from Berthoud will both be pouring their offerings to the crowd. In addition, nine Denver based breweries will be in attendance as well. Those include Caution, Crooked Stave, Great Divide, Elk Mountain from Parker, Hogshead, Prost, Renegade, River North, and Wit’s End plus of course Copper Kettle. In addition to all the breweries to choose from and sample, there will also be four food trucks, two bands, and a silent auction going on in the private event room next door to the tasting room.
So what makes this different then the multiple other festivals going on this summer? One hundred percent of the proceeds from ticket sales and the silent auction will be donated to two great charities: The ACT Foundation which provides funding for students with academic, social or emotional needs by providing them with skills to become more confident and productive individuals and Phoenix 999 which was started after the Columbine High School Shooting with the goal to provide not only financial but educational resources to both the victims and families of tragedies.
With so many festivals to choose from on a yearly basis, and more starting up every year, it can be a difficult decision on which ones to attend. But when it comes to choosing a festival in July, that decision should be an easy one and the “Night to Remember” should be at the top of the list for the sole reason that it is so much more than a festival. It is remembering those lives lost a year prior and supporting two great causes all while getting to enjoy the environment of a festival. At $40 a ticket for unlimited tastings, with the option to donate more, this is one of the most important festivals going on this summer. Not only is it a chance to sample craft beer, but this event allows guests to support a great cause, and raise their glass to remember those from that tragic night in July and celebrate their lives.

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