"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!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cementing Colorado's Dominance

There is no doubt that Denver is the best city in the U.S.  Although they may do it inadvertently, the denizens of other cities support my theory.  When the Cubs are in town, Coors field is filled with more Fukudome jerseys than Tulowitzki jerseys.  When skiing the slopes, one can’t help but encounter a jean-bedecked gaper in a University of Texas sweatshirt.  The Californians are scooping out our mountainsides and building multi-million dollar mansions, the Arizonians are sending their old people up here to congest our roads, and the Wisconsinites have made their church at Swanky’s wherein they suckle at the cheese-flavored teat of the Packers. Why are they here if they love their birthplace so much?  Because Denver is the best city in America.  Case closed.

Now that we’ve established the fact that Denver is the best, let’s take a look at why.  I could go on for eons on this subject but this is a beer blog and that’s what I will focus on.  It’s no secret that the breweries in Colorado are numerous and exalted but what may be a slightly better-kept secret is that Denver is home to several fantastic craft beer bars: Hops & Pie, Freshcraft, Falling Rock, Uptown Brothers, and the focuses of this post—AleHouse at Amato’s and Highland Tap & Burger (HTB).

Amato’s and HTB are both located within a few blocks of each other in the Lower Highlands (LoHi) neighborhood of Denver.  If you know anything about LoHi then you know it is hipster central.  Too-tight pants, terrible facial hair, retro shirts, and upturned noses at commercial bands abound.  Nevertheless, it is worth swimming the sea of irony to reach these craft beer hotspots.

The building that Amato’s is housed in was formerly a fountain and statuary store known as Amato of Denver.  Amato of Denver has since moved their operations a block away, opening up the space to Breckenridge Brewery who transformed the building into the trendy watering hole that it is today.

Nicole and I met fellow Geeks Who Drink fans Robin and Justin at the rooftop patio and had ourselves a sit.  My first beer was SummerBright Ale (4.5% ABV) from Breckenridge.  When viewed in normal light, the beer looks like any other wheat beer: golden yellow.  However, when held to a bright light, it takes on the color of Mountain Dew; it’s almost neon.  The aroma and the flavor are both yeasty and similar to that of a pretzel and the mouthfeel is Sahara dry.
After I had finished SummerBright, the waiter asked if I wanted another one.  I asked him what he had in the way of Colorado-made, off-the-beaten-path beers.  It took awhile to get to the ones I hadn’t had before but eventually I ordered both 72 Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout from Breckenridge and Dry Dock Brewing Co.’s Hefeweizen.  They both sounded great so I had to order both.  I did, however, insist that the rest of the group help me polish them off as I doubt I’d be able to drink both and still get home safely.

72 Imperial is impenetrably black; no highlights of red or brown can be found in this beer.  The head is tan-colored.  Strong whiffs of milk chocolate and coffee emanate from the brim of the glass and the taste is much like the aroma except with burnt toast and nut flavors added.  The mouthfeel is full-bodied and wet.
Usually, I avoid hefeweizen beers.  It reeks of machismo when I say that hefeweizen is a girl’s beer but there is some truth to the statement.  Plus, I crave hoppy or robust beers and hefeweizen simply does not fit the bill.  However, the flavor I like most in a beer is a unique flavor.  When the waiter said that Dry Dock’s hefeweizen had hints of banana and bubble gum I let my manly façade wan a bit.  The beer is a hazy, light yellow and the banana is apparent on the nose.  And, by God, it actually does taste like bubble gum if you let the beer sit in the mouth a few moments before swallowing.  It is more like the candy-coated gumballs you get out of the machines rather than, say, Bazooka Joe.

Hefeweizen on the left, 72 Imperial on the right

We took a few moments to take in the gorgeous skyline view from the patio and headed out to HTB for dinner and a few more brews.

HTB is yet another hip place in a hip neighborhood but, again, it is worth the risk of looking like the un-cool kid at the jock party for HTB’s great food and great beer selection.  HTB is so devoted to beer, in fact, that the casual eater may well be drinking beer even without ordering a pint: so many of their dishes are cooked using craft beer as an ingredient.  The divinely delicious mac n’ cheese is made with Modus Hoperandi from Ska Brewing and the fish and chips as well as onion rings are made with Mama’s Little Yella Pils from Oskar Blues. 

The beer list was also impressive but I opted for something a little different and ordered the Tap Chilada: Mama’s Little Yella Pils, tomato juice, and some spices.  I’ve had similar concoctions at El Diablo as well as at my own house via my own recipe and have had a lot of success with them.  This time, however, it just wasn’t doing it for me.  Yella Pils is a great beer but I’m not so sure it is fit for a beer cocktail of this sort.  Plus, it needed lime, hot sauce, more juice, and a salted rim.  Next time I think I’ll order the Shandy Gaff: Dale’s Pale Ale mixed with ginger beer over ice.

I would recommend both Amato’s and HTB to all Denver residents as well as all visitors.  If the interlopers aren’t ready to admit Denver’s superiority yet, perhaps a few sips of our finest ales will loosen their tongues.

Tap Chilada



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