"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!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Beer Not in Colorado: Homecoming IV -- Back in the Habit

Colorado.  It’s where I live.  It’s where I matriculated.  It’s where I met and married my wife.  It’s where my first child will be born.  It is my home.  However, I, like a good portion of the state’s population, am not originally from Colorado.  I cannot, in good conscious, decorate my car with the ubiquitous “Native” bumper sticker à la the green mountain license plate.  Nay, my roots are in the Crossroads of America, the Hoosier State, the Land of Letterman—Indiana.

Nicole at the Indy Mini expo
My brother is fond of saying, “Indiana is a great place to be from.”  I’ve no desire to live there again but I’ll always hold it in a special part of my heart.  It’s my place of birth, the state that shaped me in my formative years, and its influence on me cannot be understated.  That’s why I feel the need to make a short statement on a recent controversy: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The big hubbub surrounding RFRA has died down due to amendments made to the law but residual stigma won’t wash out.  I’m embarrassed my homestate passed such a law.  Do I think RFRA had any real power to significantly harm the gay community?  No, not really; it wasn’t as bad as social media made it out to be.  However, the very statement “wasn’t as bad” suggests it was at least a little bad and any backwards step for LGBT Hoosiers is a damn shame.


Then again, disgusted though I was with Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to pass RFRA, I was equally perturbed by the #BoycottIndiana campaign.  Yes, companies, please do pull your businesses out of Indiana, deny an already poor, working-class state of desperately needed money.  Yes, performers, cancel your Indiana tour dates and withhold the arts from mostly rural communities most in need of entertainment and enlightenment.  Yes, supporters of #BoycottIndiana, punish an entire population for the decisions of a few politicians, politicians who barely feel the sting of your actions whereas the good and honest masses receive the brunt.  There’s no holes in that plan, no sir (gosh, I hope the sarcasm is as obvious as I intend it to be). 

We went to the Colts pro shop; notice anything wrong with the packaging for this helmet?
#BoycottIndiana is a shotgun, not a surgeon’s scalpel.  Precision is lacking, there’s too much collateral damage.  Believe it or not, there are gay Hoosiers and #BoycottIndiana affects them, too.  There must have been some supporters of RFRA in Indiana for it to get passed, true, but you wouldn’t know that by the outcry I’ve witnessed from people living there and that includes—as we get back on topic—local breweries.  Nearly all of them went out of their way to make a statement on their Facebook page rallying against RFRA; usually breweries stay out of such political quagmires because, hey, conservative customers pay with the same money as liberal customers.  This time they felt the urge to speak out.  The issue was important enough to make a stand.  Major kudos to Indiana breweries!  They’re not just makers of great beer, they’re makers of social change 

My favorite anti-RFRA protest; Bier Brewery decided to "turn the other cheek" to discriminatory laws

 In sum, supporters of RFRA and proponents of #BoycottIndiana both really, really suck.  With Hoosier blood flowing through my veins, I choose to be ashamed of my state’s backwards government yet proud of the Indiana people’s backlash towards that reprehensible bill.  But there’s more pride than shame—I’m pretty well used to government officials doing dumbass things, it’s lost its shock value.  But my heart will always swell when the masses make the morally correct decision and spurn homophobic laws.   

Ha! But, in all seriousness, Indy still loves Peyton; they just love Luck more
Did I say earlier that would be a short statement?  Well, enough soapbox pontificating; let’s get down to beer.  Nicole and I were in Indianapolis to run the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (Indy Mini), the nation’s largest half marathon.  As any runner will say, one must carb-load before a big race.  Know what has a lot of carbs?  Beer.  Thus, the day before the race, we partook in the wares of a few of our favorite Indy beer spots.

Biergarten at The Rathskeller
First, we popped into Scotty’s Brewhouse, a downtown hangout near Bankers Life Fieldhouse.  Popular for its large patio (which, due to crowds, we could not enjoy), Scotty’s isn’t actually a brewery but is among the many satellite taprooms associated with Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co. (the guy who started the company’s named Scott Wise); it’s kind of like the Ale House at Amato’s/Breckenridge Brewery of Indy—a non-brewing beer bar operated by a brewery.  The beer selection at Scotty’s is good but, as an out-of-towner, I’d appreciate more local options.  Then again, I understand I’m not their target demographic, repeat local customers are what keep the place in business, people who might want to taste beers from far-flung lands.  Sure, Indiana beer is a special treat to my Colorado palate but it’s the norm to those living in Indy.  But, I almost always drink local so I had a couple Taxman Brewing Co. beers (a brewery that’s been highly recommended to me several times; I’ll visit the facility one of these days) and headed for the next destination.

Biergarten at The Rathskeller
In the Denver-area, we have the German-American Chamber of Commerce—Colorado (GACC-CO), a great organization that puts on fun events such as the Christkindl Market and Biergarten Festival.  What Colorado doesn’t have, though, is the Midwest’s history of German immigration.  Of course, those of German descent are everywhere in America, they’re the largest European ethnicity in the nation.  But, historically speaking, places like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana are where our Deutsche ancestors first settled.  The GACC-CO has to forcibly interject German joviality into Colorado culture, in other parts of the country it’s just the natural state of things.  That long-lasting and pervading aura of German heritage is why something as cool as The Rathskeller exists in Indy.

Indy skyline from Rathskeller's biergarten
An enormous and ornate beer hall, restaurant, and biergarten, The Rathskeller has operated since 1894; it is and was the place for German-Americans to hang out, socialize, and party.  It’s essentially the German Elks club.  I visited the place briefly several years ago, never seeing The Rathskeller’s crown jewel—the biergarten.  I wasn’t about to make that mistake twice.

I can say with all honesty, I’ve been to Munich and The Rathskeller’s outdoor drinking area is on-par with its Old World counterparts.  A vast, open space with endless rows of picnic tables, an amphitheater, medieval flags flapping proudly in the breeze, a view of the Indy skyline—there’s plenty to prost about!  I enjoyed the house beer, Rathskeller Amber, by local brewers Sun King Brewery—was there ever a more appropriate beer for me, a German-American-Hoosier, to drink?

They don't cite their source on the banner so it's probably a self-appointed title; doesn't mean it's wrong, though

The spectrum of beer at The Rathskeller; that's the Sun King one in the middle 
After Rathskeller, we ended the evening at Tomlinson Taproom.  It’s not a visit to Indy for me without having a beer or two at one of the best unknown beer bars in America.  Tucked in the mezzanine of the historic City Market building, Tom Tap, as the cool kids call it, serves nothing but Indiana-made beer making it possible for out-of-towners such as myself to taste the flavor of the state, to “visit” may Indiana breweries without driving through miles of cornfield.

Looking down on the floor of City Market from the mezzanine
Tom Tap is in the mezzanine of the City Market building
Tom Tap was followed by a meal at Iozzo’s Garden of Italy where we further raised our carbohydrate levels for the next day’s run.  It was my seventh time participating in the Indy Mini and it was my second-worst time—so, I wasn’t super happy with my results.  It was definitely Nicole’s slowest time because she had to walk, pregnant as she is.  But, hey, our times might not have been what we were looking for but there’s nothing quite like beer to soothe one’s wounded ego.

See the pedal bar parked in front? In Indy, it's actually legal for you to drink alcohol while riding; in Denver, you have to be sneaky about it
First stop after the race: Tow Yard Brewing Co., the closest brewery to Lucas Oil Stadium.  Built on the ground level of an old brick building, Tow Yard’s ample parking is, according to my parents, a primo spot for Colts tailgate parties, a cash-cow for Tow Yard given the fact Indianapolis law allows for open containers; tailgaters can order a beer at Tow Yard, have it poured into a plastic cup, and walk right back outside to the party in the parking lot.  It’s odd, Indiana has some of the most bass-ass-backwards liquor laws in the country (liquor stores closed on Sundays, no brewery can sell beer without also selling food, no minors allowed in the bar area…etc.) and yet, in one regard, its capital city is among the most lenient, on par with the lax liquor enforcement of Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Key West.  Supposedly, the open container law was always on the books but nobody knew it was legal until the city hosted the Super Bowl.  Event organizers started researching what they could get away with and, lo and behold, an open container wasn’t illegal to begin with!  It always pays to double-check.

Tow Yard boasts a decent-sized patio, a spacious taproom with two bars and a whole deli in the back called The Larder!  The beer’s pretty tasty, too; I enjoyed The Wrecker, an IPA, and The All Seeing Rye, a rye pale ale.  It was also at Tow Yard where we met up with our friend-through-beer and two-time Beer Bloggers Conference acquaintance Tamre.  I mention Tamre because her presence has a significant impact on the next part of my story.




We left Tow Yard and followed Tamre’s car to the hipper-than-you’d-think-for-Indiana Fletcher Place neighborhood and Chilly Water Brewing Company.  There, we met yet another friend, Andy, a high school pal of mine (funnily enough, it turned out he and Tamre were practically neighbors and didn’t realize it).  The space is cool and modern-looking, the One Hop Wonder Mosaic IPA was lovely, and yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever—it’s a fine establishment but my memory of the place is dominated by something other than the beer.

Andy and I were catching-up, re-hashing the good ol’ days, when a dude walks through the front door wearing a t-shirt, board shorts, and a poodle on his head i.e. a glorious drape of thick, curly hair.  We stop our conversation, glance over quickly, and laugh to ourselves.  “That guy looks like Kenny G!”  We go back to our conversation, look again: “I’m actually being serious now, I’m pretty sure that’s Kenny G!”  By this point, he’s walked back outside and seated himself on the patio, right on the other side of the window from our table.  Another patron sees us taking quick, not-so-inconspicuous peeks through the glass.  “Guys!” he says, “were you wondering if that’s Kenny G?  I looked up his concert schedule; he’s playing in Indy tonight!  That’s f**kin’ him, man!”  The whole time we’re animatedly conversing, Mr. G is looking through the window and rolling his eyes—he knows he’s been recognized (you can’t just walk around with Kenny G hair and expect not to be recognized!).  Tamre couldn’t resist, she snapped a photo with the smooth jazz saxophonists:

The G-Man himself (I'm technically in this picture, too, if you look closely)
After Chilly Water, we set out for Indiana City BrewingCo. in search of Michael Bolton or Yanni.  No luck on the adult contemporary front but plenty of luck on the beer front!  Like Tow Yard, Indiana City is in a building dripping with character: old loading dock, weathered wood and brick, big, roll-up doors.  The factory ambiance is lovingly preserved while still offering a space of comfort.  While there, I drank Regulate, a single-hopped session IPA.  They have a whole Regulate series featuring different hops but, for the life of me, I forget which one I had.  Well, I remember it being pretty good, anyway.


Indiana City
Inside Indiana City
Inside Indiana City
With a dinner at Harry & Izzy’s Steakhouse later that night, Nicole and I concluded our Indiana beer odyssey.  However, having been born and raised in the Hoosier state, I guarantee it won’t be the last time we venture into the Circle City, hunting down the best and newest breweries in town.  Perhaps, if we visit once again for the Indy Mini, I’ll carb-up even more and surpass this year’s lackluster performance.  If not, I’ll console myself with some of the best beer the Midwest has to offer!  

Prost!


Chris      

I enjoy the fact that Indiana City's official vehicle is an old church van


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spangalang Continues Colorado's Long Tradition of Music-Themed Beer

Colorado, for all its wonder, isn’t nationally recognized for its music scene.  There’ve been a few famous artists to come from the Centennial State (e.g. The Fray, The String Cheese Incident, OneRepublic, 3OH!3…etc.) but the list is paltry.  Even Colorado’s “native” son, the man who took the state’s capital as his stage name, John Denver, was actually born in New Mexico.  One wouldn’t necessarily call Colorado a black hole of musical talent but it is a bit lacking in the song and lyric department. 


Perhaps Colorado’s brewers aren’t oblivious to this near-absence of melodic clout.  Perhaps that’s why the number of music-themed breweries in Colorado is inversely proportionate to our tonal reputation.  Perhaps our brewers are filling a void; where there is a deficiency of groove and funk, beer will patch the hole.  For example, there’s Ska Brewing, named after a musical genre.  Oskar Blues, now themed more heavily towards bicycles and marijuana, fits that bill, too.  Then there’s TRVE Brewing Company and Black Sky Brewery—both with a heavy metal bent, Big Choice Brewing with its punk rock flair, Black Shirt Brewing Co. which dates their beers as “Studio Tracks,” and plenty more I’m surely forgetting.  Now, add to the list Denver’s newest, the jazzed-up Spangalang Brewery.

Spangalang—so named for a common jazz cymbal pattern—is located in the Five Points neighborhood, a part of town of which I have little knowledge except that it’s know to be less a “neighborhood” and more a “’hood.”  Most Denver natives are afraid to venture within Five Points’ borders due to its criminal reputation but I say the real crime is the reputation itself.  Five Points is downtrodden, yes.  It is rife with poverty, yes.  I’m also sure a few felonies and misdemeanors have indeed taken place on Five Points grounds but, nonetheless, I’d feel more comfortable walking through Five Points than I would a few places in my rural, north-central Indiana hometown of 29,500.  Don’t walk around Five Points with a $100 bill hanging out your pocket and diamond-encrusted Air Jordan’s on your feet and you’ll be just fine.



Five Points wasn’t always saddled with such a negative image, though; once deemed the “Harlem of the West,” Five Points was a thriving cultural center from the 1920s-1950s, boasting around 50 jazz clubs and hosting legends such as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, et al.  Unfortunately, by the 1960s, the neighborhood suffered the same fate as the “Five Points of the East” (i.e. the real Harlem), succumbing to the effects of drug use, illegal activity, and a general distaste for urban life.  But, as breweries are want to do, Spangalang—like Wynkoop Brewing Company to the former skid row that is hip, modern LoDo—is beckoning new patrons to Five Points, tempting them with beer, assuaging their fear, and doing their part to revive a struggling community. 



Located right by the five-street intersection from which the neighborhood derives its name, Spangalang is tucked away into a shopping plaza, occupying a space where once the local DMV resided.  The vivacity of jazz and the hum-drum beige-ness of a DMV don’t typically pair well but Spangalang makes it work.  Certainly, the fiberboard ceiling tiles (now painted, hiding their true hum-drum whiteness), the no-nonsense right angles of the walls, and the very fact the taproom’s in a strip mall recall the space’s previous bureaucratic life.  However, bright, colorful feature walls, a handsome wood-carved bar, Edison bulb light fixtures, and little potted succulents on the tabletops give the brewery the soul it needs and deserves. 

I enjoyed two of Spangalang’s beers on my visit.  The Love Supreme, a dubbel with tart cherries, was pretty darn good; the cherries added a little something fun to the beer without being overbearing or gimmicky.  But, when I asked for the beer that best defined Spangalang, the one beer they’d pick as the face of the brewery, they gave me their best-seller and employee favorite: Hop Colossus, an almost-imperial IPA. 

Holy cow.  It’s a beer worth writing home about.  Huge tropical fruit notes bombard the nose and palate as if being head-butted by Carmen Miranda.  Bitterness is nearly nonexistent with the more pleasant, soothing qualities of the hops shining through.  I know IPAs are the most popular style of craft beer and I feel like a real beer n00b getting all aflutter over such a ubiquitous and hyped-up type of beer but, dammit, I don’t care how many levels you’ve achieved on your Untappd “I Believe in IPA” badge, Hop Colossus will instantly become one of your favorites.

For that matter, if you hate IPAs you’ll probably like Hop Colossus because it’s not one of those polarizing, ultra-bitter ales for which West Coast brewers are famous; it’s mellow, smooth, and savory.  Basically, every beer lover will get a kick out of Hop Colossus.  Be careful, though; it’s an 8% ABV beer but it hides the alcohol well.  You won’t realize you’re wasted until it’s too late.

Whether a hepcat or tone deaf, everybody can find something to love at Spangalang.  They’re making top-notch beer (and who would assume otherwise with their pedigree from Great Divide Brewing Co.?) and they’re revitalizing a section of Denver many have left for dead.  So, if brewing fantastic beer and being a pillar of the community is, like peeing your pants, cool, then consider Spangalang Mile Davis. 

Week 24
Week 24

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Baby's a-Brewing: A Brewery/Pregnancy Photo Project

Something’s brewing but it’s not fermenting in any stainless steel tank, plastic bucket, or carboy.  It’s something Nicole and I hope will be low in IBUs—sweet rather than bitter.  It’s something that won’t fit in a keg, bottle, or can, it’s advised you don’t shake it, and it will hopefully be 0% ABV for its first 21 years.  That something is our first child.

Indeed, we’re about to become parents!  While Nicole has been eating for two I’ve been busy upholding my end of the bargain by drinking for three (the horrors of fatherhood!).  As we are such lovers of quaffable libations, we decided to the contrary of conventional wisdom; we’ve not decreased our number of new brewery visits, we’ve increased our visits.  In fact, we’ve brewery-hopped pretty much every weekend since discovering our impending offspring.  How else could we put together this clever little photography project we concocted?  NOTE: before you call social services, I remind you I said that I’m drinking for three; no beer for Nicole.

First, I’ll quickly get you up to speed; we’ve written about many of breweries since discovering Nicole’s pregnancy but weren’t yet prepared to make our grand announcement.  So, I’ve retroactively posted them below.  Once we get to breweries I haven’t yet posted about, I’ll provide a short blurb.

Catching Up







New Breweries



Storm Peak Brewing Co. is a welcome addition to Ski Town, USA (AKA Steamboat Springs).  The off-the-beaten-path resort town has made due with Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill for far too long.  Not to say Mahogany Ridge isn’t a decent enough brewery but Steamboat has often billed itself as the anti-Vail—down-to-earth, inclusive, and free of pretension.  Mahogany Ridge’s name alone evokes a certain hoity-toity characteristic, calling to mind a greasy executive’s high-polished corner office, thus undermining Steamboat’s image of cowboy culture.  The addition of Storm Peak, a less-touristy operation in an industrial building on the outskirts of town, harkens back to that storied, genuinely Western past.  Storm Peak is decorated sparsely save for a few old-school pieces of ski memorabilia adorning the wall and is the kind of place in which the lovable losers of an 80’s ski comedy would plot their hijinks against the snobby, turtle-necked, European developers who seek to raze the locally-run youth center and build a multimillion dollar condo complex. 

  
Granted, I haven’t written about Tommyknocker Brewery recently but it was, in fact, among the first breweries we profiled when starting this blog.  Click here for a blast from the past.    


We visited Declaration Brewing on one of its soft openings.  It’s a brewery practiced in the art of juxtaposition.  The warehouse surroundings suggest a biker bar or otherwise slummy watering hole may await drinkers at Declaration’s address but the artfully painted exterior and vast biergarten quickly dispel that assumption.  Far from a cheap-o dive, it’s apparent that the proprietors of Declaration began their business venture with a sizeable chunk of money.  It’s a massive building (even if only a portion of it is customer space) with many and diverse decorative flairs such as a beer menu printed on skateboards, outdoor lighting encased in beer mugs, the ubiquitous Edison bulbs hung above the bar, and lots and lots of reclaimed wood.  Try their Belgian table beer for a classic take on session beer.


Unlike Declaration, we didn’t go to Ratio Beerworks on their soft opening; we went there on the grand opening and, as such, were crammed in there like nine of Kevin James’ relatives in an eight-man gondola.  You can’t get an accurate bead on how good or bad a brewery may be when constantly dodging elbows and slipping between people sideways, trying to squeeze through the crowd and grimacing every time asses and crotches inadvertently rub against each other.  From what I saw, though, it seems a decent place, a worthy addition to the jam-packed River North brewer scene.  It’s got the much sought-after barrel-roof, lots of garage doors, a moderately-sized outdoor space, and a few notable conversation pieces such as the theatre marquee-style beer menu hoisted high above.  Smart and simple detail: they designate one area of the bar for walk-up orders, meaning those who are already seated at the bar need not worry about other customers barging in between.  Plus, it ensures fairness of service; if five people walk up to the bar in five different spots, it’s impossible for the bartender to tell who was the first to arrive.  Having everybody line up in the same spot, however, makes the task much easier.

And, yes, we realize we got some of the math wrong in that photo.  It was crowded, we were distracted, and sometimes we just aren't good with numbers. 


I’ll let my beer blogging colleague The Beer Drifter tell you about Factotum Brewhouse; I can’t describe it better than he (click here).

We’re at Week 16 and still have plenty more to go!  Stay tuned for more updates.

Prost!

Chris

When first I found I was pregnant, I wanted to incorporate brewery visits as often as possible. A weekly baby-bump picture at a brewery seemed appropriate. It was weird at first, taking pictures in front of breweries where any stranger on the street could see our big news, while our family and friends were still in the dark. My fear was that someone we knew might see us. Well, that fear became a reality at Storm Peak Brewing Co. After taking my picture and ordering a beer, Chris and I sat down with the chalkboard laying out on the table for all to see only to realize Chris' mom and sister were sitting a mere three feet away from us!  Coincidentally, they happened to be at the same place at the same time. I quickly whisked the chalkboard away, hiding it in the car. Our secret was safe!  Our planned surprise announcement: intact.

Now that I can't actually consume those delicious brews, I've begun noticing other things about breweries.  For one, I'm discovering one of my favorite non-alcoholic beverages to be root beer, especially fresh-brewed root beer. However, very few breweries actually make their own. My hope for the future of this photography project is to find a few more that do. Secondly, I love breweries with food trucks or at least snacks of their own. It gets boring watching Chris enjoy his beer as I sit drinking water (or root beer, if available). If I have something to snack on, I enjoy my time a little more. 

It's been fun coming up with the sayings for our weekly chalkboard. But, um, I wish I could draw a little better. My crafting skills lie elsewhere (e.g. knitting). 

With about 24 more weeks to go, there's a lot more brewery visits ahead. Luckily, there are so many great new breweries opening in the Denver-Metro area as well as a few that have been open for a while that we haven't yet had a chance to visit.  This will be one epic series of photos!

Nicole   

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Sesquicentennial in the Centennial State

It’s scarcely a month old yet it’s been a busy year in beer for me and Nicole.  We’ve hit multiple breweries over the past few weekends and, by doing so, reached a milestone in our mission to imbibe in every brewery in the state.  We’ve reached our Centennial State sesquicentennial: 150 Colorado breweries visited! 

Mu Brewery
Our path to that landmark number began with an eastward jaunt to Aurora’s Mu Brewery.  Now, I’ve been to breweries in the factory district, I’ve been to breweries tucked away in alleys, and I’ve been to breweries in the backwoods of North Carolina where I’d hardly be surprised if the locals complimented my “purdy mouth” but Mu may well take top honors in the sketchy location contest. 

Left to right: Cranberry Pilsner, Blumpkin, Aurora Town Brown, Boone's Maple Cream Porter, & Da Bomb Black IPA

Near the corner of infamous Colfax Avenue and less-than-notable Dayton Street, I was warned about Mu’s neighborhood by my brother and sister-in-law who live in the general area.  In short, they said don’t go there at night.  Intriguing.  Is there actually an area in the Denver metro that’s truly intimidating?  Up until this point, I’ve certainly noticed that certain places around Denver seem rougher than others but none that appeared simply rough.  Not dangerous enough for me to think twice about walking down the street, at any rate.
Inside Mu

Having now been to Mu’s neck of the woods, I’ll say that I would have no qualms in returning—day or night.  But, I’ll stick to the main road.  When Nicole and I turned a corner to park on Dayton, we drove out of the relative safety of commercial Colfax and directly into the mean street: disgruntled and suspicious stares following us as we rolled by, folks drinking mystery liquids from brown paper bags, loiterers propped against chain link fences—it was Clark Griswold’s St. Louis odyssey in real-life (Roll ‘em up!).  To be fair, this particular ‘hood was, like, one block long; once we got to 16th Street things got back to normal.

Mu's bar 
After circling the block and leaving the car in a spot less likely to result in the tires being replaced by cinder blocks, we entered Mu’s storefront taproom.  In stark contrast to its urban surroundings, Mu possesses a sort of old-timey, rustic saloon vibe albeit with a few modern twists such as the metal-cut mountain profile with rotating backlights.  Of course, no amount of homey ambiance will prevent already-drunk patrons from stumbling in and boisterously ordering Bud Light.

The beers at Mu are decent enough.  Many of their offerings leave some room for improvement but I was surprised how much I enjoyed the cranberry pilsner and, despite the disgusting name, the Blumpkin pumpkin beer wasn’t too shabby, either.  Don’t know what “blumpkin” means?  Go to UrbanDictionary.com because I’m not going to explain it to you.  Apparently, the assistant brewer jokingly scrawled the name on the recipe sheets and the head brewer, not understanding that it was a joke, went ahead and made “Blumpkin” the beer’s official appellation.  Also, they offer a blend that’s Blumpkin mixed with one of their darker beers.  They call it the Dirty Blumpkin (as if there were any other kind).

  

Since we were on that side of town, Nicole and I also dropped into Coda Brewing Co.—only 2.5 miles away but in an entirely different and gentrified world.  At the foot of a condominium near a golf course, Coda’s suburban surroundings stand in stark contrast to Mu’s gritty, down-trodden locale. 

Sleepyhead, a Kolsch 
As unexciting as Coda’s neighborhood might be, the taproom is hip enough to compensate: chalkboard pillars, drinks served in Mason jars and chem lab beakers, stringed festival lights, weathered wood furniture, and, being as it is a music-themed brewery, a stage.  I only had one beer at Coda plus two tasters but that's all I needed to have a high opinion of the brewery.  A spine-shivering Scotch barrel-aged Scotch ale, a nitro American red, and a Kӧlsch brewed with passion fruit were the sometimes-unconventional yet delicious treats that swayed me to Coda’s side.

Left to right: Dogcatcher American Red & McDrums Scotch Ale
With the eastern metro-area wrapped up, the following weekend we set our sights north to Broomfield and our 150th Colorado brewery: Four Noses Brewing Co. and Wonderland Brewing Co.

We rode the desolate prairie of Broomfield’s outskirts, rolling over brown knolls of tallgrass and treeless steppes, finally coming across a commercial strip as featureless as the landscape.  Like Coda, Four Noses doesn’t have much in the way of outward personality.  Also like Coda, though, it’s what’s inside that counts.

Inside Coda
Inside Coda
Cavernous ceilings, like an industrial cathedral, greet drinkers as they walk through Four Noses’ doors.  A looming logo, stretching from floor to ceiling, is painted on the far wall much like the enormous “E” which hangs in Dr. Evil’s lair; lest you forget where you’re drinking, the wall will gladly remind you.  Breaking up the steel structure is an overhang of wooden planks which envelope the center of the room like a rustic cocoon.  The brewing equipment, seemingly too massive for a brewery as young as Four Noses, sits soundly behind glass in the back of the building.  I enjoyed the Anarchy Ale III, a strong English-style IPA; a double English IPA, if you will.  It’s a clever if subtle twist to the style to intensify the usually mild-mannered English IPA or British-ify the American-born double IPA (depends on which way you look at it).



And then it happened.  After leaving Four Noses and jetting across Broomfield, we arrived at what appeared to be a former rec center; the general layout and construction of the building as well as the multi-hoop basketball court by the parking lot seem to suggest that notion, at least.  A rather immense, metal-sheeted building with spacious outdoor seating and open-concept taproom, Wonderland was fittingly grandiose to mark our 150th Colorado brewery visit. 


Spacious patio at Wonderland
Large room for rent at Wonderland
Walking into Wonderland, one notices a gymnasium-sized room for private event to the left and a near-equally expansive taproom to the right.  Granted, half the taproom is devoted to ping-pong tables but, even then, the seating is ample. 

Inside Wonderland
It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere of Wonderland.  In some regards, it feels like a dive bar with its several arcade games, aforementioned table tennis section, diner-style chairs, and vinyl booths.  On the other hand, it exudes the mountain lifestyle with snowboard accent pieces and wood-cut alpine profile behind the bar—a timber version of Mu’s metallic mountains, almost.  On the other other hand, a black ceiling, black tiling, and a stage in one corner make the place feel like a Las Vegas lounge.  It’s a real hodge-podge at Wonderland, nothing seems to be cohesive.  Then again, as it’s themed to the fantastical and ethereal world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice, perhaps the whimsically mix-matched décor is appropriate.

Inside Wonderland
After downing a Vaderade Irish Stout (Vaderade?  Is this the Sith lord’s post-exercise electrolyte replenishment?), Nicole and I left Wonderland satisfied with our accomplishment.  There was a time not long ago where, if we’d visited 150 Colorado breweries, it meant we had visited them all.  It’s a testament to the growing popularity of small and independent brewers that we’re no closer to meeting our goal today than we were when we first set out on this quest.  It’s a Sisyphean task that Nicole and I are on; for every brewery we visit it seems two more pop up.  But that’s okay with me.  I never want this adventure to end.

Prost!

Chris