"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!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Failures and Successes in Experimentation

A venturesome spirit is crucial to the craft beer enthusiast.  Everybody has their favorite beer but how can you know if this untried beer won’t become your new favorite?  That pinnacle of all beer may be waiting patiently in its keg or bottle as you nonchalantly walk by lest you embrace the unknown.  More likely, though, experimentation simply defines the field of what you don’t like.
I tried something different in another of my passions this Saturday: I skied the Mary Jane area of Winter Park for the very first time.  Overall, Mary Jane left me with an overwhelming sense of…meh.  The runs weren’t very steep, they weren’t very long, and there weren’t very many of them.  I tried something different and it didn’t work out.  My adventuresome spirit had taken a blow.  Thus, Nicole decided that the best way for me to resurrect the enthusiasm would be to experience one of my tried-and-true favorites: Tommyknocker Brewery.
It was my second time visiting the Idaho Springs brewpub and, for anybody whose enjoyed one of their many award-winning beers, it’s easy to see why we decided to come back.  Quality beer notwithstanding, the building that houses the brewery also plays into its greatness.  Most brewpubs like to put their brewing equipment in view of the public but usually behind a picture window and out of reach.  At Tommyknocker, the customer sits amongst the giant, metal cans that hold the younger version of what’s in their glass and can literally reach out and touch the equipment from their bar stool.  To me, this reveals Tommyknocker’s implied philosophy of hiding nothing and emphasizing the creation of beer as much as the beer itself.

Having skied hard, we were ready to stuff our faces with pub grub and brews (have the green chili burger; it is superb).  I perused the seasonal offerings while Nicole had one of her favorites:  Tundrabeary Ale—a fruit ale with raspberries and blueberries (4.7% ABV).  I only had a few sips and it’s not too shabby but it’s definitely aimed at the female patrons. Meanwhile, Bocknog piqued my interest.
Bocknog  is a Christmas-style doppelbock brewed with allspice and rum spices and the minute its reddish, dark copper body was set before me I knew this was going to be something special.  The aroma from this beer was such that a nasally-congested Sphinx could still detect strong wafts of cinnamon and other holiday spices.  It was reminiscent of the increasingly popular pumpkin pie-style of beer.  And the taste?  Divine.  The spices are as prominent on the tongue as they are on the nose.  What truly blew me away was a beer quality that so seldom blows me away: mouthfeel.  Bocknog has a high viscosity.  It’s like having holiday-flavored Vaseline coating your entire mouth; you’ll be tasting this beer a half hour after your pint is empty.

Tundrabeary on the left, Bocknog on the right

I took a chance on Bocknog.  When I asked the waitress to explain it to me before I ordered, I knew that it wasn’t a beer for the casual drinker.  Hell, I knew that, in all likelihood, there was very little chance that I would rate it above “average.”  As it happened, I loved this beer and my gamble paid off.  Friends, no matter how many times you get burned, always try new things.  Even if it only works out 10% of the time, it’s still worth it.
We left Tommyknocker fully sated and smiling.  Nicole left with a 4-pack of their soda and I left with a bottle of Hop Strike and Golden Saison.  Stay tuned for reviews.

The author enjoying his Bocknog

As Chris sipped on his Bocknog, I enjoyed the Tundrabeary Ale.  The first time we visited the brewery (about a year ago) they were out of Tundrabeary so I ordered my favorite type of beer, a wheat.  But, this time I was fortunate to try the Tundrabeary, which had hints of raspberry flavor and a light berry aroma. The berry flavor was just enough; not overpowering like some raspberry beers. I enjoyed the subtle flavors of this beer.  As I write about it, I am wishing that I bought some of this beer home with me.  

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