"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, January 6, 2015

1.1 Miles Away and Worlds Apart

With a new year comes new beer!  Fresh off our temporary conquest of Denver, Nicole and I decided to begin 2015 the best we know how: visiting new breweries.  Since we’d recently ran through all the Mile High City has to offer, we set our sights south, rode C-470 to the ‘burbs, and checked out Living The Dream Brewing Brewing Company (LTD) and Grist Brewing Company.

Living the Dream
Separated by only 1.1 miles, LTD and Grist are in different cities (Littleton and Highlands Ranch, respectively) and worlds apart.  LTD’s in as gritty a locale as one could hope for in an otherwise affluent suburb; it’s off the main road, behind a Murdoch’s ranch supply store, surrounded by landscape company yards, auto body shops, firearms and archery stores, fence post suppliers, and a multitude of other blue collar, rough-neck businesses.  Drive north on Santa Fe Dr. a short distance, turn right, and, suddenly, you’re in the land of Starbucks, national banking firms, chain restaurants, and, shoved into the middle of a blank, corporate-looking building, Grist. 

It looks like a Wal-Mart but, thankfully, Grist has more soul than that

Despite the discrepancy in surroundings, LTD and Grist fit their environments splendidly; once there, you can’t imagine the space without a brewery and, before walking through the door, you get a pretty good idea of the ambiance that awaits in the taproom.

Inside LTD
Inside LTD
For example, when driving up to LTD, one turns into a parking lot and is faced with a metal-sheeted building and a parking lot landmined with pallets of stone pavers, bricks, rock, and other construction material.  A posh, Belgian abbey-inspired ambiance would be inappropriate for such a setting so LTD doesn’t even try to be fancy.  Instead, they play the hand they were dealt and go for more of a secret hangout atmosphere, sort of like a speakeasy; decorative walls only go halfway up, leaving metallic columns and rafters exposed, the table tops are rustic wood, appearing as though they were scavenged for use in a treehouse, and—oh, yes—skis.  Lots and lots of late model skis and snowboards.  The place is covered with them: the beer menu, the bar face, the tap handles, the shelving…etc.  Living The Dream for LTD apparently means brewing beer and hitting the slopes—a fitting dream for any Coloradoan, really.

Inside Grist
Triangular peninsula attached to Grist's bar 
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s Grist.  The laidback, no-frills approach won’t fly when the other occupants of the building are design studios and science labs.  The flight of the approach becomes even more like a cinder block when, in the vicinity, there are golf courses, soccer stadiums, and an equestrian jumping park—the trifecta of WASP sports.  Grist acted accordingly with a rather chic taproom.  First, the brew room is massive and the tanks butt right up to the customer space.  The enormous fermenters tower over the customers, benevolent deities rewarding loyal subjects with the nectar of their bodies.  The bar is a jagged island in the center of the room with catwalk-style storage hanging from the ceiling.  A clever touch at the bar: triangular peninsulas that add extra seating and allow customers to actually look at each other instead of being forced to face the same direction.  A bold, yellow feature wall with a light-up sign, large, windowed garage doors, and worn-wood accent pieces make Grist a lively but clean-cut place to quaff.

Brew equipment at LTD
Brew equipment at Grist
If there’s a common link between LTD and Grist, it’s the beer.  For being a touch removed from the craft beer epicenter that is Denver, both are cranking out some damn decent brews.  At LTD, I enjoyed a flight of Arrogant Hipster Lager, Alt Whitman, C-470 Collaboration Weizenbock, and Helluva Caucasian Cream Stout with peanut butter. 

Left to right: Arrogant Hipster, Alt Whitman, C-470, & Helluva Caucasian 
The Arrogant Hipster is intended to be the craft version of PBR and, based on the taste, I’d say they achieved that goal; everybody should brew something light and easy for when beer geeks drag their craft-adverse friends to the brewery.  Getting non-craft drinkers into the taproom is step one, getting them to drink a gateway beer like Arrogant Hipster is step two.  With a few more steps, our domestic lager-guzzling friends will be downing quadrupels and Russian imperial stouts like a champ.  I only hope a certain southern California brewery doesn't get its panties in a twist over the use of the word "arrogant."  

Beer menu at LTD
Alt Whitman is a typical, malt-forward Altbier although, just to stir things up a bit, the version I enjoyed was brewed with lager yeast rather than ale yeast, making it not a hybrid ale but rather a plain, old lager.  A good beer, to be sure, but hardly memorable.  It’s a middle-ground road for when you want something more complex than Arrogant Hipster but don’t feel like committing to anything extravagant, either. 

Weizenbocks are one of my least favorite beers but I ordered C-470 anyway if only for the story.  In a nutshell, it’s a collaboration beer amongst the breweries along the eponymous highway: LTD, Grist, Blue Spruce Brewing Company, Lone Tree Brewing Company, 38 State Brewing Company, 3 Freaks Brewery, C.B. & Potts, and Rock Bottom.  Can we call the C-470 neighborhood the next Denver-area brewery neighborhood (using the word “neighborhood” loosely, of course; these eight breweries represent four separate and independent towns)?  The resulting beer features a dominant chocolate flavor with banana-like undertones.  For a style I don’t like, I actually did enjoy this one.    
Inside LTD

Helluva Caucasian was by the far the best, though.  A decadent and creamy stout, the addition of peanut butter really helped knock this one out of the park.  I don’t know if LTD has any plans to can or bottle in the future but they should start with this one.  It’s basically liquefied Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

At Grist, I once again had a flight: Winter Saison, American Barleywine, Juniper Berry Belgian Single, and Berliner Weisse.

Left to right: Winter Saison, Juniper Berry Belgian Single, American Barleywine, & Berliner Weisse

If there’s a beer with a more pleasant smell than Winter Saison, I’ve not come across it.  It’s a big whiff of cinnamon sweetness and, while the flavor’s okay, it’s hard to beat that aromatic opening act.

American Barleywine is over 10% ABV but you can’t tell by drinking it, it hides the alcohol well; no burn, no punch, it slips down your throat with ease.  American barleywines and double IPAs are considered close relatives in the beer world and this one definitely straddles the line.  It’s perhaps a bit under-hopped to be a double IPA but only barely.

In the Juniper Berry Belgian Single, the reverse of Winter Saison is true: the flavor outshines the aroma.  Stick your nose in this beer and you’ll shrug your shoulders in a “so what?” manner.  Then, give it a sip and your palate is treated to a medley of Belgian spices and fruits.  Yes, the juniper beery makes a showing, too, but is most apparent near the end of the taste.

I’ve had a lot of Berliner Weisses in my day, they’re among my favorite styles of beer.  Although they’re famously tart, quite a few are lacking in the acidity department.  I don’t like that.  I like a nice, pucker-inducing Berliner Weisse.  Some beer geeks identify themselves as hop heads, I’m a sour head.  That’s why I enjoyed Grist’s version so well; it clenches your lips quicker than a Krazy Glue lollipop.

I’m amazed at how diverse two breweries can be when they’re so close in proximity.  It’s heartening, too, as it supports a personal crusade I’ve been waging in recent years, a crusade against the false notion of brewery oversaturation. I’ve made many points in support of my stance and I won’t repeat them all but I will say that, if two breweries are different enough, they can be located directly next door to each other and still coexist.  In my mind, breweries are no different than restaurants yet nobody’s beating a dead horse over restaurant oversaturation. Why?  Because each restaurant offers something a little different from the next one.  And so do breweries.  So long as there’re not, like, 15 Italian restaurants/Belgian-style breweries in a quarter mile radius, so long as each establishment is at least a little unique when compared to the next one, the market will continue to grow and prosper.



Live that dream, folks!
Grist's massive brew space
Why more Colorado breweries don't do things like this is beyond me; craft beer and quaffing the freshies is what this state does best.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014: The Year of the Beer

As Nicole and I look forward to a fresh, new year we look back on the past 12 months of our lives and reflect upon all the sudsy good times we had both in Colorado and away.

Here are the bottle cap cuff links the groomsmen, my dad, and I wore for the ceremony; the bridesmaids had similarly-designed earrings

Nicole's extraordinary!

A happy New Year to you and yours!  May your 2015 be filled with good cheer and even better beer.  I look forward to next year’s boozy adventures.



Monday, December 29, 2014

Re-Conquering Denver Before the New Year

It’s the end of the year and time is running out!  Here’s a quick and dirty post about Zephyr Brewing Co., Fiction Beer Company, and Creede Brewing Company—the last three Denver breweries Nicole and I had yet to visit.  Going into 2015, we can say for the third time that we’ve conquered all the Denver breweries. 

Zephyr Brewing Co.

Thoughts on the space: Yet another brewing addition to the River North (RiNo) neighborhood, Zephyr is located on the garden level of a multi-tenant building at the corner of Walnut and 26th Street.  Sunken into the earth, it’s a pseudo-basement and feels like a venue for a hardcore punk rock concert with its exposed pipes and concrete walls.  Despite the industrial nature of the space, it retains a warm and welcoming ambiance with a glass garage door letting in a surprising amount of light as well as a massive, curved bar decorated to look like a barrel.
Inside Zephyr

Thoughts on the beer: Sampling three beers, the stand-out was Dark Chocolate Raspberry stout.  It tastes just like it sounds: dessert in a glass.

General thoughts: Another brewery in RiNo?  Yes, and here’s hoping a lot more move in.  I love the concept of a brewery neighborhood.  A brewery city (e.g. Denver) is great but the convenience and, for lack of a better word, coolness of having so many beer-makers in a single, defined area is hard to beat.  RiNo is Denver’s beer showcase to the rest of the world.  If you beercation in Denver, please check out lots and lots of different neighborhoods but remember this paraphrased Elitch Gardens slogan: “not to drink in RiNo is not to drink in Denver.”        

Fiction Beer Company

Thoughts on the space:  Three walls-worth of windows makes Fiction, a book-themed brewery, quite dissimilar to the dark canyons of shelves and catacomb-esque study rooms of a traditional library.  This bright and airy taproom features comfy leather seats, lively artwork, and, yes, books.  In fact, the entire front of the bar is faced in hardcovers.  Don’t worry, bibliophiles, I checked a number of the titles used in the bar’s construction and it doesn’t appear as though they actually used any “good” books.  The world won’t be any worse off with one less Sue Grafton novel in it. 

Left to right: 42, Communal Synergy, & Autumn Stars, a pumpkin saison

Thoughts on the beer: Green Tea Chocolate Milk Stout is a minty delight and Communal Synergy, a double IPA, was surprisingly tasty.  With so many IPAs on the market, it’s hard to get noticed in the crowd but  Communal Synergy caught my attention nonetheless.  It wasn’t anything unusual; it was just really, really good and fresh.  I have no qualms putting it in my top ten list of favorite double IPAs. 42, a bourbon porter brewed with 33 pounds of maple syrup, 30 pounds of donuts from Glazed & Confused, and 27 pounds of donut glaze sounds like a wild and wacky beer but the flavors are actually quite traditional.  It’s a decent beer but, with a backstory like that, I’d prefer a little more pizzazz.

Fiction's bar
General thoughtsBoth Fiction and Lost Highway claim to be the first Denver brewery to open on Colfax.  One of you is lying!  And, if my quick Google research is to be believed, Lost Highway is the fibber.  It looks as though Lost Highway opened on September 26th of this year and Fiction six days earlier on the 20th.  Not that it matters; they’re both exceptional breweries; But, there can be only one first.  Unless they both opened at the same time on the same day.  Which they did not. 

Creede Brewing Company

Creede is pretty hard to spot from the road
Thoughts on the space:  Way up north in unincorporated Denver, off an unpopulated stretch of Washington Street, sits Creede at the end of a nondescript strip mall.  There’s not much on the outside that lets you know there’s a brewery in there, especially with cars parked in front blocking the low-hung banner.  Once inside, the taproom is small and simple with a moderately-sized bar in front of a modest walk-in cooler.  Wooden tables, Old West-style photos on the wall, and a smattering of Denver Broncos paraphernalia fill-out the rest of the space.

Inside Creede
Thoughts on the beer:  Being located in the boondocks and in a shopping center that time forgot, Creede’s in an inauspicious and unknown location.  Who would expect good beer to come from there?  Those who search, however, are rewarded with a true hidden gem.  Creede is pumping out some very interesting brews like an IPA made with an experimental, as-yet-named hop variety boasting strong tropical fruit aromas and a powerful, bitter bite as well as a tart peach ale and a chili ale that can be ordered straight or with a splash of the house Bloody Mary mix. 

General thoughts:  In most businesses, it’s location, location, location.  Not so with the brewing industry, there are plenty of tucked-away breweries in Denver: Wit’s End, Strange, CAUTION, DeSteeg,…etc.  Creede is in good company and, so long as they keep brewing innovative beers, local beer geeks will keep making the trek up to that isolated beer oasis.

Quite a creative beer menu at Creede 

All these breweries deserve an entire post dedicated to them but time waits for no man and I wanted to give them at least some credit before we hit the New Year.  Sparse though this post may be, there’s an easy and fun way to accrue more information on each of these breweries: go visit them!



Artwork at Fiction

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Mini Brew Tour of Colfax

Colfax Avenue.  Running through Golden, Lakewood, Denver, and Aurora, it’s America’s longest commercial street and, prior to the interstate system, the cities’ main thoroughfares.  Jack Kerouac referenced it in On the Road and, because of the street’s notoriety for burn-outs and prostitutes, Playboy once deemed Colfax “the longest, wickedest street in America.”  On a more innocent note, Colfax also serves as a nostalgia preserve, showcasing our country’s motoring history even if said history is in a decrepit state; flickering neon signs, old-school motor lodges (now seedy motels), and 50’s style diners both authentic and recreated line the 26.1 mile stretch of pavement.  Smattered between those relics of the past are popular concert venues, marijuana dispensaries, and dive bars but, for all its reputation, Colfax Avenue was, until recently, devoid of Denver’s most famous industry: craft brewing.

Mu Brewery opened on Colfax in late July, 2014, thus ushering craft beer onto Denver’s most (in)famous street.  Other brewers eventually followed suit and, since Mu’s opening, three more Colfax breweries have opened for business (and that doesn’t even count Coda Brewing Co., situated only 0.5 miles [by the crow flies] from that roadway of questionable repute).  Over Thanksgiving break, Nicole and I visited two of these newcomers.

Inside Alpine Dog
Lately, Nicole and I have been hitting brewery grand openings (i.e. Mockery & FERMÆNTRA) but we missed Alpine Dog Brewing Company’s big night by half a week.  Nonetheless, it remains the freshest face on Colfax (even if the address technically has it on Ogden Street) and in the entire city.

I've seen lots of chairs made of skis, I've only seen one with a binding cup holder
Located in a space made available by the downsizing of the neighboring music store and seated on one of the grittiest streets in the nation, Alpine Dog is among the most urban of Denver’s breweries.  The décor, though, is anything but urban.  In fact, the name “Alpine Dog” refers to Colorado’s mountain adventurers—skiers, boarders, bikers, hikers, and climbers (not ski bikers, though; they’re stupid).  The brewery shows admiration for the wild and rugged landscape looming to the west of town, honoring a wholly different world from the tarmac and depravity of Colfax.  Alpine Dog’s an island of mountain life amid a sea of inner-city grime.

The two sides of Alpine Dog—its nature-loving and city-slicking sides—mesh better than you might think.  In some regards, the brewery’s quite modern with its enormous, storefront windows, shiny metal chairs, and concrete floor.  In other regards, photos of extreme mountain athletes and a corner full of chairs and benches fabricated from discarded skis and snowboards encapsulates the high country.  The wood on the tables and walls straddles a line; it showcases a natural grain pattern but it’s also smoothed to a fine finish.  A metrosexual lumberjack might use this wood in his log loft. 

We only stayed for a single beer since we were scheduled to meet Nicole’s aunts later that night but the IPA is a solid example of the style and certainly worth a try.  Nicole liked it and she doesn’t normally go for the big, hoppy beers. 

Our second stop on the Colfax beer trail was Lost Highway Brewing Company.  Next to Cheeky Monk and owned by the same folks, the brewery’s name is a reference to Colfax itself, demoted as it was from major highway to lowly city street after the completion of I-70.  It is a highway no more; it’s been lost in the dust of interstate construction. 

The first thing patrons notice when approaching Lost Highway is the signage which pays homage to the glory days of Colfax and, to a larger extent, America.  The neon sign with arrow indicating the entrance (the arrow appropriately sporting highway stripes) harkens back to the days when families packed up the station wagon and toured this great land Clark Griswold-style.  Those were the pre-Thule days when people simply strapped their luggage to the roof of the car, stopping at every roadside attraction and sending brightly-colored postcards from each tourist trap.  It’s not a completely wholesome memory the sign evokes, though; Lost Highway’s logo—a beret-wearing skull—also recalls a certain counterculture, beatnik attitude born from Kerouac’s era and still, in some form, surviving today.  Even if similar signs do exist on Colfax (my favorite being the one at “Big Bunny” hotel which, if you look closely, clearly used to say “Bugs Bunny” until they were likely hit with a copyright lawsuit), Lost Highway’s is the only one pointing to an establishment law-abiding citizens feel comfortable entering. 

Lost Highway brew equipment
The second thing patrons notice about Lost Highway is the patio.  The wall dividing the outdoor drinking space from the public sidewalk is abnormally tall and topped with iron spikes.  The floor-to-ceiling garage door opening into the taproom sits several yards behind this fortification.  Lost Highway might be on Colfax but the brewery’s wisely taken measures to keep Colfax from getting in.

Nobody's getting through that barricade 
Once inside, the taproom is as charming and welcoming as is possible.  Brick walls envelope the space, the brew equipment sits behind glass like an expensive art display, steel lintels separate rooms, and the beer menu’s presented in among the cleverest fashion I’ve seen—the wall behind the bar is sheeted in metal, the beer names written out in those plastic, magnetic letters used by children learning to spell.  It’s a creative, colorful, and whimsical touch.

Tap menu at Lost Highway
I enjoyed the 520 Copper Ale, Nicole sampled the Longest, Wickedest Wit and Golden Ghost and, as I bustled about taking photos for this blog, the brewer, T.J. Compton (incidentally, one gangsta-ass name), noticed my flitting about and offered me a quick behind-the-scenes tour.  I got a peek at the brew room, the future barrel room, and what I’m calling The B.S. Room—a place to drink and curse and argue the finer points that separate German-style and Bohemian-style Pilsners without disturbing and/or boring customers.  Apparently, during the last GABF, Lost Highway hosted a few visiting brewers and the beer debates in that room got heated and very, very nerdy.  While I don’t expect or deserve special treatment when I visit breweries, I do appreciate T.J. extending the offer.   

Left to right: Golden Ghost, 520, & Longest, Wickedest Wit (ignore the suggestive placement of the glasses)

Nicole and I had to scurry out of Lost Highway to meet her aunts but, even though our visits to both breweries were brief, I’m confident Alpine Dog and Lost Highway will prove to be two great new additions to the scandalous street.  So, after going to a concert, buying legal weed (or illegal other drugs), and picking up a few hookers, indulge in Colfax’s newest claim to fame and have yourself a craft beer.



Cap art at Alpine Dog
Inside Lost Highway
One day, this will be Lost Highway's barrel room

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The SoBo Brew Quest

Denver has a tendency for two-syllable neighborhood nicknames.  There’s LoHi (Lower Highlands) known for its upscale, yuppie population, there’s LoDo (Lower Downtown) attracting youthful partygoers, and there’s RiNo (River North) boasting a stronghold of starving artists and hipsters.  Then, perhaps because of its relative distance from the heart of the city, the lesser-mentioned SoBo (South Broadway, although it should really be SoBro but I guess that sounds too “frat-y”) famous for dispensaries, antique shops, and, as Nicole and I found out, a high concentration of breweries.

With friends Robin and Justin in tow, we began our SoBo brewery conquest at Grandma’s House, the craft craft brewery.  That’s no typo, I mean to say it’s a craft brewery that, like Nana herself, enjoys a little arts and crafts.  The matriarch’s presence is felt everywhere in the taproom.  The tap handles are wrapped in hand-knitted sleeves.  The bar top is an actual quilt hardened by polyurethane.  50’s-style, folding, aluminum-edged tables are the base for antique vases, jars of hard candy, and tacky bric-a-brac like animatronic singing fish and dancing hamsters.  The old TV box is hooked up to an original NES, the walls are adorned with curios including, but not limited to, Bobbleheads, Elvis paraphernalia, and folksy art.  The theme is even carried into the restroom where, behind the mirror, you’ll find bunion cushions, shoe powder, constipation meds, and an admonishment from Grandma telling you not to peek behind other people’s medicine cabinets.

Yes, Grandma’s House is quite kitschy but that’s entirely the point.  It’s tongue-in-cheek and I applaud their originality.  Too often, brewery taproom themes are repeated ad infinitum.  The industrial, factory look?  Seen it.  The sleek and modern look?  Been done.  The outdoorsy, rustic look?  Join the club.  Hell, Denver alone features two breweries themed to heavy metal!  I’m not knocking these breweries; in fact, I rather enjoy those archetypal taproom designs.  But, being archetypes, they are a bit lacking in imagination.  Grandma’s House, on the other hand, got a bit nutty with their motif and the pay-off is a completely novel taproom design.  Find another geriatric-themed brewery and I’ll give you a dollar. 

Inside Grandma's House
Inside Grandma's House
Inside Grandma's House
Initially outdated though the decor might be, the beers of Grandma’s House, well, they’re not you’re grandma’s beer (although they’re served in your grandma’s glassware, emblazoned as they are with Hamm’s logos and Looney Tunes characters).  Session IPAs with peach added, oatmeal stouts with hatch green chilis, along with classic styles such as ESBs and Scottish-style ales means there’s plenty of “cough medicine” from which Grandma can choose.

Scottish Red at Grandma's House
Our next stop was a few blocks off Broadway on Pearl Street.  Platt Park Brewing Co. née Denver Pearl Brewing Company is a recent GABF silver medalist and the victim of a two-pronged litigious attack from both Pabst and an unnamed (but obvious) local brewery that took umbrage with the word “Denver” (golly, who could that be?).  I felt Denver Pearl’s pain when I heard the news; there’s too many nasty cease-and-desist letters floating around the industry.  That said, I always thought “Denver Pearl” was a lame name.  I can’t pinpoint exactly why.  Maybe it just didn’t have that snap, y’know?  Platt Park’s a good name—it’s alliterative, both words are monosyllabic, and both end with a hard, definitive consonant.  Denver Pearl had none of that.  No alliteration, no uniformity of syllables, and there’s not a clean finish to either word—the word “Pearl” extends into a slur making it sound sloppy and guttural.

I didn’t like the formula for the name, either i.e. the city + the street.  It’s an awkward way to name a brewery.  What if everybody did that?  Care to visit Wheat Ridge Wadsworth Brewery? Fort Collins Linden Brewing CompanyColorado Springs Garden of the Gods Beer Co.?  It’s plain weird. 

Former titles put to the side, Platt Park’s taproom is best defined as modern bucolic.  Although the tables and doors are wooden and although “Platt Park’s” been spelled out in rusty metal squares, there’s still a sense of consistency.  It’s not a hodge-podge, everything matches, and the overall feel is that of a city-slicker attempting to emulate a countrified abode.  The massive windows looking into the brew room and walk-in cooler are also nice touches of contemporaneousness.

Inside Platt Park
Inside Platt Park
Platt Park’s beer, like its interior design, walks a line, a line between standard and experimental.  Nothing at Platt Park is totally off-the-wall but many place a foot or two off the beaten path.  Nadare, for example, is a classic Japanese-style rice lager.  Typically, such beers are brewed with rice and Nadare is no exception—except it’s brewed with jasmine rice.  It’s those minor deviations that make a beer special.  It could have been a boring old Sapporo but, instead, leaned closer to a CAUTION: Brewing Co. Lao Wang Lager.  A pumpkin beer on nitro, a Berliner Weisse with choice of syrups (as I mentioned in an earlier post, an option sorely lacking in the American market), and several others completed the laudable tap menu.  

Our third stop, FERMÆNTRA, was the furthest from Broadway and is more accurately attributed to the Denver University neighborhood.  But, it was in the vicinity of Platt Park so it felt as if it belonged with the other breweries we hit that day.

We were at FERMÆNTRA for their grand opening so it was a crowded room.  We muscled our way to the bar and glanced over the list of beers.  The list was intimidating, a lot of the beer names were technical and it took some effort to pronounce them correctly e.g. Terrarum, Canticle, Aphion.  Tricky words should be expected, though, from a brewery that spells its name with the none-too-common æsc grapheme.

After practicing the word “Meristem” a few times, I ordered the Russian imperial stout of that name.  It was everything I needed on a snowy, chilly day—robust, roasted, and high in alcohol.  We all enjoyed our respective beers huddled in the corner of the taproom, handsome and cultured with its brick walls and solid-colored splashes of vibrancy, attempting, with not much success, to keep out of the path of the hordes.  We downed our brews, placed our empty glasses where the servers could easily retrieve them, and, with shoulders tucked in, waddled through the masses, out the door, and on to our next brewery.


Former Future Brewing Company is a brewery Nicole and I had visited previously but a) we didn’t blog about it at the time, b) Robin and Justin hadn’t been there, and c) Nicole and I had a coupon we wanted to use.

Squeezed into a tight row of brick storefronts, Former Future has a kind of steampunk/hipster vibe.  With airplane wings as bar tops, masculine dark wood tables, black-and-white photos, globular, metalwork light fixtures, and antiquated terrarium jars housing sundry plants, the interior of Former Future might be mistaken as the den of Professor Phineas Barleyhop, the bygone, mustachioed man on the brewery’s prior logo.  I only mention that because Former Future, before they opened, held a naming contest for that man and I was responsible for one-third of the total appellation i.e. I contributed the “Phineas” part.  I got a free shirt out of it.  Now, they don’t even use that logo and I can no longer point it out and brag to anybody who will listen.  I’ve resorted to regaling blog readers with my former glories.  Soothing my troubled mind was Brettly So…, a rye ESB with brettanomyces; the taste of that expertly-crafted beer lessened the sting of my great accomplishment being lost to the sands of time.

That's actually Justin's good side--at Former Future
Then, finally, we visited our fifth and final SoBo brewery and Nicole and I’s 139th Colorado brewery, Bære Brewing Co. (another damn æsc!), so named for the Old English word for “barley” and the precursor to the modern word “beer.”  When we started this brewery mission about five years ago, our 139th brewery would have meant we were in the home stretch, only a few isolated places left to visit before we’d been to all Colorado breweries.  Because of craft beer’s exponential growth, though, Nicole and I are hardly closer to our goal than that day in 2009 when we saw the Beer Drinker’s Guide to Colorado map hanging in the Odell taproom and decided to embark on this impossible journey.  In truth, I’m glad we’ve fallen behind because the sooner our quest ends, the sooner our fun ends.  And nobody wants that.

Inside Baere
Bære, located in a former martial arts dojo in the middle of a commercial strip, is a pastoral cabin oasis on busy, urban Broadway.  The walls are absolutely covered with weathered, reclaimed planks and the bar top is a nice, solid piece of butcher block.  Walking off the street and into Bære is an abrupt transition from gritty streets to faux mountain lodge.  I enjoyed the Bære-liner Weisse, a pleasantly tart beer so brightly yellow it almost looks like somebody soaked a highlighter in a glass of water.
Baere-liner Weisse

We’ve come to a point where we can’t talk about Denver breweries anymore—it’s too broad a term.  Each Mile High neighborhood has its own beer-y reputation, separate from the rest.  Denver is, in practice, a conglomeration of several smaller beer cities, each component part boasting an enviable quantity and quality of beer.  As such, when out-of-towners ask me for suggestions in regards to great Denver breweries, I always tell them to pick a section of town lest my list of recommendations be lengthier than The Bible.  Shall we discuss the RiNo breweries?  The LoDo breweries?  The Colfax breweries (a brew crawl I hope to complete soon)?  Whatever section of town you may choose, as of now, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed with the SoBo package. 



Dino bike rack outside FERMÆNTRA