"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Guanella Pass and Westbound & Down

My wife trudging along with our son and my daughter prancing towards the modest yellow box that is Guanella Pass

  • Living in the Denver-area causes one to forget what Colorado really looks like.  The Mile High City is a fine city indeed but it is a city and more similar to other American metros of similar size than different.  Colorado’s tourism industry doesn’t rely on people visiting Denver, it’s the mountains that beckon vacationers.  Our half-day trip into the hills was a needed reminder of our state’s majesty, even if we were never more than a stone’s throw from I-70.

Brew equipment at Guanella Pass

Guanella Pass taproom
  • Bold opinion: Guanella Pass in Georgetown is the quintessential Colorado brewery in terms of the actual building and location.  It is, of course, in the mountains which has got to be the first thing checked off the list.  The surrounding shops and museums ooze of classic Old West false front architecture.  Its own building is a modest cinder block affair half sunk into the ground; a simple structure reflecting our state’s down-to-earth citizenry.  Though the brewery’s housed within rudimentary building material, the cheery yellow paint and Tibetan prayer flags serve to remind one of Colorado’s New Age, hippie streak.  And no Colorado brewery is truly complete without a patio to catch those 300 days of sunshine!  Perhaps you have a different idea as to who claims the title of most prototypical Colorado brewery but, as far as I’m concerned, until John Elway and Trey Parker team up to open a brewery made of recycled skis and bricks of recreational marijuana, Guanella Pass is it.
  • What is happiness to you?  It’s an emotion that comes in small and unexpected moments.  A warm day juxtaposed with snow on the ground, on a patio gazing up at a green wall of pine with my wife and kids, sipping on a flight of Guanella Pass beer, that’s where I find my Zen.  For a few minutes—nay, moments—everything felt right.  Beer, family, and Colorado have that effect.
  • Let’s talk about those beers.  Honestly, this trip happened right before Thanksgiving and my memory’s a bit fuzzy due to the passage of time.  I really should pay more attention to the beer since this is a beer blog and all, but I increasingly find myself living in the moment and not in a beer journal, and I'm okay with that.  Not that I could write anything down anyway, what with a squawking one-year-old and a jabber-jawed three-year-old distracting me all their waking hours.  This is more than a beer blog, though, it’s also a travel log and a family diary.  Hopefully the other aspects of this blog are enough to compensate for my unsatisfactory tasting notes.
    My happiness, visualized

  • Now the point in the blog in which I contradict myself.  Before I ever visited Westbound & Down I heard its praises sung for it eschewed the local, mining town ambiance, opting for a more Scandinavian modernist vibe.  In principle, I’m not down with that.  A brewery should embody its place.  I don’t necessarily condone conformity but I do appreciate a respect for location and local history.  I don’t like sore thumbs sticking out just for the sake of being different.  On the other hand, down the block is a pizza joint with a logo of crossed pickaxes and directly across the street is an outdoor apparel company also with a crossed pickaxe logo.  So, I guess I understand the need to stick out every so often.  In a town such as Idaho Springs where they’re only known for one thing (mining) then you might as well make a hard left and decorate your brewery sleek and sophisticated.
    Alright, Idaho Springs, you like crisscrossed axes...

    ...like, you really like them
  • Another reason I’ll give Westbound & Down a pass for its decidedly un-Colorado atmosphere: it’s partnered with their neighbor The Buffalo Restaurant & Bar which exudes Old West antiquity like the prop closet on the set of a John Wayne movie.  The businesses are connected inside, but the interiors are black-and-white distinct.  If you yearn for an old timey saloon, step out of the urbanity of Westbound & Down and into the ruggedness of The Buffalo.

Inside Westbound & Down
Inside Westbound & Down

  • I ordered the 9 & 11 Pale Ale brewed with nine grains and 11 hops.  I once heard from an expert brewer that it if you use more than three grains you’re using too many.  Well, I don’t really care about that, the beer was tasty enough.  Were there so many grains that they all melded together making it impossible to discern one from another?  Yes.  But I’m a beer drinker before I’m a beer judge and I found it to be a perfectly acceptable beer.
    Fancy-ass water dispenser at Westbound & Down
  • I’ve always found it amusing that the local high school team’s mascot is The Golddiggers.  They might as well call themselves The Nose-Pickers. 



Look, if you don't have a recommended beer pairing for the pork cracklins just say so

Saturday, December 29, 2018

14er and Liberati

A re-cap of our recent visit to 14er Brewing and Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers.
  • For better or worse, the outside and inside of 14er looks like your typical repurposed River North building—an old brick industrial space.  Some decry the homogenous atmosphere of Denver breweries, but I appreciate the conformity.  I appreciate the sense of place.  They look the same because that’s what Denver looks like!  14er’s building ties the present to the city’s industrial past and it’s good to have those callbacks to history, especially as character-ridden old buildings are razed to make room for new glass high-rises and boxy duplexes.
Here's River North in a nutshell: an old brick building, a new condo, and a dumb electric scooter

  • During renovation, most people tear down non-load-bearing interior walls and go for an open concept but 14er left one former office space intact and that's a perk for 30-something beer geeks with kids like Nicole and me.  We stuck our children in that semi-enclosed box and they ran around causing a ruckus without disturbing the other patrons.  It's like a cry room at a church except maybe it's more of a wild ass room.  I’ve gotten word that this particular taproom (because 14er has a few in the works) is “rudimentary” and is slated for further renovations, so that parent-friendly corner may not last long. 
My kid trapped in the play box

  • I’ve had plenty of 14er beers because they contract brewed before they had their own space and they were a staple at many beer festivals thus I ordered one of their specialty offerings: Bananas Foster Cream Ale on nitro.  Pretty decent flavor but the nitro wasn’t behaving appropriately.  In my non-expert surmising, I’d guess they carbonated the beer first and then tried to put it on a nitro tap, which doesn’t work.  If you’re going to serve a nitro beer, it must be dedicated to nitro from the very beginning.
  • For any non-Colorado readers, the name 14er refers to the mountains of Colorado that exceed 14,000 feet.  As of this writing, I've only summited one: Uncompahgre Peak.  I should probably bag a few more at some point, but where does one find the time?
Bar room at 14er

Back room at 14er; the office/play pen is in the back

  • From the flannel-clad hipster masses of 14er we drove less than ¾ of a mile and entered Tuscany.  Tiled floors, Art Nouveau posters, leather-wrapped bar seats, cloth napkins: you’re gong to feel out of place when you visit Liberati if you're dressed for brewery hopping and have two fidgety kids in tow.  Not to say the ambiance at Liberati is bad, they’re just trying to be a fancy Italian restaurant first and a brewery second.  They cater to a higher-end crowd to which almost no other Denver brewery pays any mind.  But that means they might not be paying mind to the majority of craft beer drinkers.  I, for one, might visit Liberati once a year or once every other year for a special occasion meal like a birthday or anniversary and, of course, have a few beers when I'm there.  However, it's not the kind of establishment where I see myself meeting a friend after work and catching up over a few brewskis.  It feels like a place that requires reservations, not a place where you just drop in.

  •  I’m a very lenient craft beer drinker.  96% of the beer I drink is perfectly adequate, 2% is bad, and 2% really astounds me.  The beers at Liberati fall into that latter category.  It’s really good stuff!  They’re not just good beers but different beers—oenobeers.  You can read the whole spiel on oenobeers yourself but, basically, we’re talking about a beer/wine hybrid; beer made with a certain percentage of grape (on the menu, they list the percentage of grapes used in each brew).  The offerings are familiar craft beer styles like saison, IPA, stout, and Kölsch and all would have been lovely as straight-up beer but the inclusion of grape gave them that little something extra.
A nice spread of Oenobeers

  •  I ordered a flight of almost all the beers and, although there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch, I was most impressed with the beers that had a high percentage of grape like the Dictum Factum stout brewed with 25% Cabernet Sauvignon grape.  In a beer like that, you can really get a sense of how grapes impact the flavor.  The Calboni Docet Kölsch, on the other hand, only had 7% Chardonnay grapes.  A fine beer but my palate isn’t refined enough to suss out an ingredient that accounts for only 7% of the entire product.  Hit me in the face with that big grape flavor!
  • Despite Liberati’s formal setting, the brew space, like any brew space, is quite industrial and separated from the customer space by only a handrail.  The juxtaposition is stark.
The two sides of Liberati



Brew equipment at Liberati

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Burns Family and Novel Strand

As you likely surmised from the previous post, these kids of ours take up a lot of time and a lot of mental capacity, dulling our senses and making prolonged coherent thought nigh impossible.  Thus, I’m trying a new approach.  I’ll present each brewery visit recap in vignette form: short, self-contained, semi-related, bulleted paragraphs.  Let’s give this approach a spin with Burns Family Artisan Ales and Novel Strand Brewing Company.

  • Transpose the “U” and “R” in “Burns Family” and you get my family name.  This pleases me.
  • Burns Family is located in the space Wit’s End Brewing Company vacated when they shacked up with Strange Craft Beer Company.  Burns Family didn’t make any dramatic changes but, cosmetically, it looks different.  Whereas Wit’s End kept the industrial space looking, well, industrial, Burns Family swanked the place up with some mid-century modern furniture straight off the Mad Men set.  Actually, I must confess I’ve never seen Mad Men.  If you’ve seen Mad Men and have also been to Burns Family, is my assessment a fair one?
    Burns Family

    Burns Family
  • I ordered the Bumblebee Feet because I needed one more braggot to get the Hey Honey badge on Untappd but some fool categorized the beer as simply “honey beer” and that generic classification does not count towards the badge.  I’m still one braggot shy and I refuse to drink any straight-up mead to get myself there.  I have standards, you know?  Untappd is for beer, not mead, cider, or root beer; this is my decree.
  • I also ordered the Ancient Art, a brut barleywine.  In the craft beer industry, every innovation will inevitably spawn more mini-innovations.  It was only a few months ago that brut IPAs came to Colorado and we’re already on to brut barleywines.  What will be the next “brutalized” beer style?
    Close-up of the bar front at Burns Family
  • On a similar note, Colorado is one of the nation’s—nay, world’s—best places to get a beer yet we don’t have a “native” or regional style to call our own.  The left side of the country has the West Coast IPA, the right side has the New England IPA, San Francisco has the California Common and the brut IPA, even Florida has the Florida Weisse.  Colorado is a much better beer region than Florida, why can’t we introduce something new to the world?  I don’t think brut barleywine is necessarily going to fill that void, but we might as well throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
  • I may have made a bit of a horse’s ass of myself at Burns Family.  Our friend Justin was entertaining our daughter by throwing her Koosh Ball really high up in the air when, against all odds, it landed on top of a rafter and got stuck.  Looking to be my kid’s hero, I wadded up my coat and tossed it up to dislodge the ball.  Well, I accomplished what I set out to do but then my coat got stuck up there.  The bar staff had to poke at it with a long stick to get it back down.  I got my fair share of I told you sos from Nicole after that.
    Here is the Koosh Ball stuck up in the rafters...

    ...and here is my coat stuck up in the rafters.  But notice the Koosh Ball isn't up there.  I was technically successful in getting the ball down.
  • Man, Bumblebee Feet and Ancient Art are high in ABV and by the time we got to Novel Strand I was pretty much done with taking photos and paying attention to details.  I was just BSing around with Nicole and the kids and our friends from that point on.  So, I don’t have much to say about Novel Strand other than I remember all the beers being really good and I like the cozy, brick-walled taproom.



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Postpartum Blogging: Getting Back to the Beer Grind with Frolic Brewing Company

Looking like a star on the way to The Butterfly Pavilion
What have you been up to these past three years?  I can tell you what Nicole and I have been doing—having and raising two kids.  Hence, our prolonged absence from this blog.  Say what you will about children, say they’re the worst thing or say they’re the best thing (both statements are true, it depends on the day) but there’s one undeniable truth—they take up a lot of time.

By no means have we stopped drinking or going to breweries.  In fact, shortly after our first-born, we went on a brewery spree, we were so excited Nicole could imbibe once again.  However, we haven’t been documenting our adventures and, even though we have two little imps sucking up our leisure time, it’s important now more than ever to keep a record.  By the time our kids are old enough to have opinions they’ll undoubtedly think their parents are lame and, frankly, they’ll be right; when one has children one no longer concerns themselves with Fortnite, My Space, La Macarena, or whatever the hell kids are into these days.  The kids need to know that their mom and I were once young and cool, too.  And then I want them to feel bad when they realize they’re the reason we now suck so bad. 
Weirdest dang butterflies I ever seen

So let's start this blog back up!  The family took a little weekend trip to Westminster (somewhat) recently and stopped by The Butterfly Pavilion which is a good, wholesome name to lure kids into the building before pulling the rug out from under them  when all the other creepy, crawly invertebrates on display besides the titular Lepidopterans are revealed.
Nobody who knows Nicole would have thought they'd ever see a picture like this

The girls in the family are beating the boys in the tarantula-holding contest by a factor of one

We gave our children the willies checking out the various spiders, scorpions, and cockroaches and probably traumatized my daughter explaining that the nightmarish giant isopod is what her beloved little rolly-polly bugs would look like magnified before we set out to explore the namesake atrium.  The actual butterfly pavilion was a good way to lull the kids into a false sense of security before telling my daughter there was something she had to do before earning her snack for the day: hold Rosie, the Chilean rose hair tarantula.  

Although a bit trepidatious, she actually didn’t mind the experience.  At only three years old she’s not had enough time to develop a phobia.  Nicole held the spider, too, which was more amazing because she has had time to develop a phobia; it’s my duty to swat down every cobweb in the house and squash every little eight-legged black dot that manifests itself on the walls.  Of course, for all my heroics at home, I sure as hell wasn’t touching Rosie.  Nicole modeled her tarantula-holding technique for our daughter so I’ll do the same for our son when he’s older.  Maybe.  I have a few years to think about it.

After conquering her fear, Nicole was owed a beer and, after watching other people conquer their fear, I was owed some suds, too, so we headed out to Frolic Brewing Company.  Out in the suburban prairies of Westminster and occupying the endcap unit of a strip mall, Frolic makes the best of a not especially aesthetically pleasing environment with a sprawling patio, a game area with over-sized tabletop games and cornhole, and a few interesting interior design details such as the privacy wall near the restrooms which features grains of various degrees of kilning sandwiched between clear plastic creating an hombre effect.  Plus, a lot of teacher-orientated flags hanging from the ceiling which is a nice touch for an education-centric household such as ours.

Grain wall at Frolic
Grain wall at Frolic
After a short father/daughter dance-off on the vast concrete floors, we settled in for a beer.  First, I had the Anaheim Pepper Saison.  I like chili beers so I liked this one.  I don’t know about the whole “saison” part, though; I guess the hot peppers drowned out the fruity, spicy yeast qualities.  Then, a flight of Citra IPA (exactly what you’d expect; an IPA with craft beer's most popular hop), Vienna Lager (silky and malty), and Cranberry Gose (there are some who poo-poo kettle sours but I really don't care about the process; I paraphrase Andrew Zimmern when I say “If it tastes good, drink it!”).

Anaheim Pepper Saison
Left to right: Citra IPA, Vienna Lager, and Cranberry Gose

I think I’ll give this blog post the old Irish good-bye and just end it abruptly and without much warning because all this happened over Labor Day weekend and I began writing this post shortly thereafter.  That’s how much time kids will take up in your life, it took me about two and a half months to write eight paragraphs.  If I don’t post now, I never will.

Until next time:



We fed the animal
They don't just hand these out to anyone, y'know

Brewing equipment at Frolic

Bar area at Frolic
Arrr! Pirate teacher!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Baby's a-done a-Brewing

Back in March Nicole and I released the news that we were womb-aging a child and shared a series of weekly photos documenting the progression of the pregnancy.  Well, there have been a lot more pictures since then:

No clever sayings for this one but it was around the time of March 3rd AKA 3/03 AKA 303 Day so we just went with a Colorado pride theme.  I remember 38 State Brewing Company having an interesting taproom.  I believe it was a former mechanic's workshop as evidenced by the many garage doors.  One of the more peculiar (but also neat) features of the taproom was an unfinished-looking side room that served as sort of a rec room.  With big glass garage doors on opposite ends of the room, it almost felt like being outside.  We also visited Locavore Beer Works on this particular trip to the southern suburbs.   

Goldspot Brewing Company's got a quaint little space near Regis University.  A small brick building with low, wooden rafters interwoven with patio-style filament lights, this brewery has the vibe of countryside love shack.

I guess if we're trying to show off the baby-bump we shouldn't have put Nicole in a red shirt and have her stand in front of a red wall.

This was taken at what should have been the half-way mark of the pregnancy.

At this point, we had not yet found out the sex of the child.  But, as you can ascertain from our chalkboard, we were about to find out. SPOILER ALERT: it was a girl.

I would like to amend this one slightly.  We're not "trading in" anything, we're simply adding to the bottle collection.  There're still plenty of beer bottles at our residence.

A jazz-themed brewery calls for a jazz-themed chalkboard message. 

Likewise, a metal-themed brewery calls for a metal-themed chalkboard message.

We were at Week 26 of the pregnancy so, naturally, we took our picture at Station 26 Brewing Co.

CO-Brew, the homebrew shop/brewery hybrid on Broadway.  At a glance, it's more homebrew shop than brewery but the check-out register is also a bar and there's a seating area off to the side indicating it's dual nature.

Math is hard!

We weren't revealing the baby's name until she was born which prompted a lot of prying questions from friends and family.  So, being cheeky, we composed a poem and snuck her (technically misspelled) name into it.  Nobody caught the hint.  

We turned Nicole's parents into grandparents with this baby (my brother already did that honor for my parents).

I think this was taken near Father's Day.

Yes, but the actual giving birth part?  Not so much.

We took this picture out of convenience; it's the closest brewery to our hospital where we were headed to take a birthing class.

I apologize for the crappy-looking boat we drew.

Awesome spot and great beer!  I had their Luntbier, a nearly-extinct style of German smoked beer; it was delightful.  The taproom is a mix of industrial American and classic English pub.  It's in an old barrel-roofed building with lots of garage doors but within the rough-edged matrix floats classic details like a hanging pane of tin ceiling plates and a massive, ornate, dark-wood bar.  

We were actually at a different brewery when we realized we could come up with a better message at this one.  So, we packed up and drove here.

It was actually at about the same time the real, celestial blue moon was in the sky when we took this picture.  As you can see, we forgot our chalkboard for this one.

Nicole was overdue at this point; we were ready to blast this little cannonball right out of her!

And then, on August 12th, Sloane Viola Jane was done fermenting and was ready to be tapped for the world to enjoy!  I promise she doesn't always look so blobby and disgruntled, the photographer just caught her at a bad time.