"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!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Remedying Disappointing Breweries with Eminent Non-Beer

Don’t believe the hype; Estes Park’s scariest building isn’t The Stanley Hotel.
The Stanley Hotel

After a short snowshoe hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, Nicole and I arrived at a haunted house.  The wooden façade was crumbly with age and mildew.  Toxic snowflakes of white paint chipped off with every wintery gust.  Floorboards creaked, cobwebs wafted, and an ominous chill coursed through my veins.  I was sure to be killed by the ghost of a vampire that was murdered by a werewolf on Friday the 13th.  Such was my first impression of the Estes Park Brewery.       

Estes Park Brewery

We passed through an eerily deserted gift shop peddling t-shirts and 6-packs and found our way upstairs to the main barroom and dining area.  One pessimistic word pervaded my mind: tacky.  Yes, the wildlife mural that encircled the dining room surely took talent on par with an undergraduate art major and the ubiquitous tabletop games where patrons flip quarters into a tiny basketball hoops added a certain county-fair chic to the joint but, overall, the feng shui was lackluster.
The only thing more unappetizing than the décor was the food.  I’m not sure how many ways one can screw-up hot wings but Estes Park Brewery found at least one way.  They were just too damn soggy and *shudder* saggy.  They looked like a chunky grandma’s varicose veined thigh.
Usually, the saving grace for breweries with substandard aesthetics and food is the awesome beer.  Unfortunately, Estes Park Brewery’s beer is merely “good.”  Having such a terrible first and second impression, they really needed to wow me with some spectacular brews.  My opinion of the brewery was only slightly more forgiving after tasting the beer.
I had the Estes Park Renegade IPA (5.8% ABV) and Nicole had the Stinger Wild Honey Wheat (6% ABV).  Renegade is a hazy, copper color and possesses a thick and creamy head.  The distinctive smell of Cascade hops is apparent.  The mouthfeel is very heavy for an IPA and the taste is as malty as it is hoppy.  If you put hops and malts on equal plains of priority, you will relish in this beer.  I personally don’t take much pleasure in extra-malty beers but I still give it a thumbs up because I love Cascade hops.  The Stinger is a clear yellow with a wheaty aroma and a light honey flavor.  Yes, the beers were delicious but they simply weren’t delicious enough to save the brewery from an overall subpar rating. 
Renegade up front, Stinger in the back.

I’m probably being overly prickish about this whole thing but, dammit, I’m proud of my Colorado beers and I’m so rarely disappointed by them.  I hate to see this place offset the curve.  Shape up, Estes Park Brewery; you’re representing the guild of Colorado brewers.  I hate to think of the possibility that a budding beer connoisseur might get the wrong impression of the state’s other offerings should they begin their journey in Estes Park.
After making a quick stop to the aforementioned setting of Stephen King’s The Shining, Nicole and I headed to Boulder to meet up with my sister Sarah to visit the Redstone Meadery.  Obviously, this is a beer blog and the focus is and always will be on beer but a little honey wine can steal a little of the limelight. 

Inside Redstone.

Inside Redstone.

The entrance to Redstone is modest and the tasting room quite small but the quality of the beverages and the customer service is exceptional.  Accommodating the uninitiated mead drinker (e.g. me), Redstone lets the customer sample all of their many offerings before buying.  I really appreciated this because, when it comes to mead, I’m as helpless as a toothless man in an apple orchard.  Being hardheaded about my passion for beer, I decided on Nectar of the Hops—mead with the faintest hint of Centennial and Amarillo hops.  It was close enough to beer for my liking.  We left Redstone with a few bottles for future enjoyment.

Despite the inadequacies of Estes Park Brewery, we still had a fine day.  We have another brewery to add to the list of conquests and we had some quality drinks even if they were in a shabby brewpub or in a genre outside of beer.  Life remains worth the effort.

Estes Park seems like a laid-back, little town with the Stanley Hotel looming over it. I don’t remember the last time I went to Estes Park and I was excited to spend my Saturday snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. After finding a trail, we started our journey. But, climbing over logs and rocks and slipping while trying to make it up the slopes was not my idea of a good time. So, we turned around and prepared to taste some beer. After misplacing my sticky note with my directions on it (which I found on the couch when we got home), I finally got my Blackberry to look up the address of the brewery. Good thing my car has a navigation system because I don’t think I would have found the brewery otherwise. For future reference, it is behind the racing slides and the go kart track. I guess I don’t have much more to add to Chris’ assessment of the brewery. My wheat beer was wheaty, as it should be, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. I was more intrigued by the Shining themed beers that they had, so intrigued that I was inspired to visit the hotel before heading home. The Stanley is a piece of history, not just for its status as a historic building or the role that it played in a novel, but it was the location where the American Association of Orthodontics was founded [Chris’ Note:  How exciting!]. My favorite part of the hotel was the piano in the lobby. The piano was different than any one I had ever seen, it was more of a long rectangle. Although Chris and I are on a journey to visit all of the breweries in Colorado, I am also on a journey to see more of the state where I grew up. Visiting the small towns and other cities in Colorado is just as much of a learning experience as learning more about beer and the breweries where it is made.


Hiking in Rocky Mountain N.P.

No comments:

Post a Comment