"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!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Star Bar's Beer Cocktails

I find myself in a rush to write this blog update because I’ll be catching a plane and leaving the country for two weeks (expect a "Beer in Australia" post soon).  Forgive the brevity of my writing; the subject matter deserves much more than I’m giving it.

The long and short of it:

·         Star Bar in LoDo had a beer cocktail event in which representatives from Colorado bars and restaurants concocted mixed drinks using Avery Brewing Company beers and liquors from Peak Spirits.

·         Nicole and I met a lot of great people there including the owner of Star Bar, possible new yoga instructors for Nicole, and some of the upper brass from Denver off the Wagon.  The best part?  I learned that my name has been getting around in craft beer circles.  Very, very cool. 

·         We had a lot more fun than we expected.  We were both pretty tired going in to it but we perked up right away.

·         Bacon and corn rice bowls from i-Fish are delicious.  They had a table set up at the event.  Nicole had their Asian-style hot wings.  Helliemae's Salt Caramels also had a table set up and the lady running that was very friendly.  We chatted for some time. 
·    For more a lot more info (such as recipes), click here.  

This post definitely doesn't do this event justice. It was a great event and I had a lot of fun trying new drinks and meeting new people. Another mention is the bartender at the Paramount Cafe that told us about some great events that he will be hosting during GABF week. Perhaps if I can remember details about this event when I get back, I will add more to this post including info about some of the drinks that we had.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Economic Viability of Being a Renegade

I believe I got a C- in high school economics but even I know that if a lot of business selling similar goods exist in the same confined area then, chances are, the smaller businesses will struggle and eventually die out.  It’s economic Darwinism.  However, there is a phenomenon in the Denver area that eschews this seemingly common sense assertion.  When it comes to breweries, the big, the small, and everybody in between coexist in perfect harmony with nary a one stepping on another’s toes.  Is it a miracle?  Has economic Darwinism given way to economic intelligent design?  At a glance it may seem so but level-headed reasoning reveals that the explanation is quite earthbound.

Exhibit A: Colorado loves beer.  If it didn’t, why does this blog exist?  Getting a little more detailed, Denver loves beer.  If it didn’t, why does it host the Great American Beer Fest?  Having a population of beer loving citizens equals a high demand which necessitates a high supply.  What other metro area can claim to have more breweries than Denver?  Milwaukee?  They’re known for their big breweries (Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz) but how many craft beers do they have?  A few, I know, but I doubt it comes close to Denver.  Los Angeles?  New York?  Perhaps they have more breweries but that is due to sheer number of people in general not number of beer lovers.  It’s a matter of per capita.

Exhibit B:  Craft breweries are not cutthroat.  At any given tasting room, the bartender will readily admit how much he or she likes this other beer from this other brewery.  Pasted on the walls of the bathroom or in the back offices are stickers from other breweries—even ones from the same market.  Being a craft brewery does not put you in competition with other craft breweries; it inducts you into a prestigious club.  Budweiser and MillerCoors constantly bash each other like politicians during election year but the craft breweries don’t undermine each other because they’re not in competition with each other—they are, as a group, in competition with the big boys.  Every time a customer chooses a craft beer over Miller Genuine Draft, a brewmaster gets his wings.

Exhibit C:  Denver is not a very big city but it is a city and it has neighborhoods.  Numerous breweries can exist in one metro because there’s almost always a tiny area of the city that doesn’t have a brewery thus making it possible for similar businesses to exist without encroaching too far into the other guy’s customer base.  It used to be that Olde TownAravada didn’t have a brewery until the soon-to-be-opened Arvada Beer Company set up shop.  The Platte River Valley, likewise, was dry until Denver Beer Co. bought an abandoned repair shop and started installing kettles.  And what about the Art District on Santa Fe?  Well, that neighborhood is the recent recipient of…

Renegade just opened late last month and it has been killing me that I haven’t been to it yet.  Killing me, mostly, because it seems everybody I know went there before I could.  When a new brewery opens up nearby I like to be among the first to go so that I can give advice to other people who have yet to go.  When it comes to things that confuse me like trigonometry and the reason why girls wear UGG boots and knit caps when it’s 90 degrees, I’ll take advice.  However, when we’re talkin’ beer—something I know and love—I like to be the one giving advice.  Thankfully, my internal torture was short lived for Nicole and I visited Renegade this past Wednesday and finally had ourselves a taste of Denver’s newest beer.

Renegade is housed in a re-furbished adobe building with a domed, wood trestle’d ceiling giving the brewery the feel of an old-time airplane hangar.  The inside décor consists of concrete floors, exposed brick walls, corrugated steel wrapped wherever possible, and industrial tract lighting over the bar.  It’s very factory chic.

Nicole and I had a seat at the bar and the bartender/brewmaster came by and took our order.  I instantly liked Renegade brewery when I saw they offered their beer in 12 oz., 10 oz., and 4 0z. glasses.  These smaller sizes allowed me to sample all the available beers without lightening my wallet or heavy-ing my gut.  I believe every brewery should offer their beer in multiple sizes; sometimes you want to taste a lot of beer without getting rip-roaring drunk.

The first beer I had was their small-batch-brewed Hookah Smoked Rye IPA (8% ABBV, 100+ IBU).  Hookah is hazy orange in color and the aroma is, likewise, like an orange.  Hop aroma is present but not as strong as a lot of other IPAs.  Hookah tastes earthy and doesn’t have a huge hop bite but it does give the drinker a little bit of the hop fire breath.  As the beer warms, it actually does take on the qualities of hookah smoke.  I felt like I should exhale slowly after each sip and sink into a beanbag chair. 
Hookah on left, Another Thrill on right
The second beer I didn’t order but, knowing that I was a beer geek through my meticulous tasting notes and “Beer Journalist” business card, the brewmaster comp’d me Another Thrill Imperial Baltic Porter (10% ABV).  Another Thrill wasn’t technically ready to be sold to the public as it wasn’t yet fully carbed but—always loving special treatment—I graciously accepted the offer.  This beer is dark, dark brown with red-brown highlights and a coffee and caramel aroma.  The viscous, velvety Another Thrill tastes of roasted coffee malts.  When this beer has a full head of foam it will be a real contender in the porter genre. 

Renegade brags that it “defines itself not by what the craft beer world is doing, but by what our creativity drives us to do. Our ales will be made to satisfy our tastes and curiosities.”  If you know my homebrewing style then you know that this philosophy is right up my alley.  Una Mas Roasted Pepper Mexican Amber (6.5% ABV, 35 IBU) is far and away the beer that best exemplifies this commitment to the new and weird.  Una Mas is a clear copper color with hints of red in the foam.  True to its name, Una Mas’s aroma is chockfull of roasted pepper smells.  A malty sweetness undertones these domineering pepper aromas.  The flavor is very much like the aroma: full of peppers. But a Ghost Face Killah this beer is not.  Yes, there is a spiciness to the beer but the flavors of the actual peppers also come through; it’s as flavorful as it is hot.  We picked up a growler with which to make beer cheese soup.
Una Mas
Next up: Ryetous Rye IPA (7% ABV, 100+ IBU), a beer that is clear marigold in color.  Beyond that superficial description, Nicole and I differ as to what the smells and tastes are.  I’ll let her state her case in her section of the blog but, for now, this is my take.  It smells like a big juicy orange with hints of floral.  One might say it smells like an orange blossom.  It also smells sweet and sugary which, combined with the citrus, reminded me of a margarita.  The taste is also orange-y and sweet but with non-penetrating bitterness.  Being as it is an IPA, one would certainly expect a fair amount of hop bite but, as it is, the hops are present but fleeting.  They toot it and boot it. 
Renegade is certainly worthy to be counted among the great breweries of Denver and I hope that the local beer geeks feel the same way.  When you want to take your taste buds on an adventure, keep Renegade in mind.


The final beer that Renegade offers is the 5 O’clock Blonde Ale. At 5% ABV, this beer is light and easy to drink. The 5 O’clock Blonde is a light gold color that is a little hazy. The aroma is light and crisp, with a hint of sour. The flavor is pretzel-y and yeasty. Overall, this is a great summer beer. It seems that Renegade is drawing customers from the neighborhood. When Chris and I first sat down, we were the only ones in the brewery. After five minutes, there were about 6 other people that came to try the beer. As I tried the beers, I also enjoyed looking at the hand-crafted beer pulls and the wood countertops made from different colors of wood. The custom touches at the brewery make it a great place to hang out with friends.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Beer in America

With Independence Day fast approaching, true patriots reflect on what it means to live in America.  After drying your eyes over the realization that we share this great land with slimy politicians, ruthless criminals, and Michael Bay thoughts turn to the positive aspects of this country: beautiful landscapes, diverse and intermingling cultures, and the finest beer you can find on this planet.  Being teachers and having the privilege of summer break, Nicole and I took the opportunity to roadtrip a large section of the country taking in the sights, sounds, and—most importantly—tastes.
Day one consisted of getting through Kansas as fast as possible until we reached Kansas City, MO.  After devouring half my weight in that famous KC BBQ and washing it down with some Boulevard Brewing Company beer, riding a few coasters at Worlds of Fun, and touring the Royals stadium, we headed east to St. Louis where visiting Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch were on the agenda.  Eventually, we made it to Louisville, KY where we visited our first brewery of the trip: Bluegrass Brewing Company (BBC).
Bluegrass Brewing

BBC is located at the bottom of a business building in downtown Louisville and, when the weather is as hot and moist as Kevin Smith’s armpit, you can be sure patrons are thankful for the coolness of the half-subterranean, stone barroom.  My drink of choice was the Kolsch (4.5% ABV).  Normally, I go for more flavorful beers but, weather being what it was, I needed something light and simple that I could Louisville Slug down my gullet with reckless abandon.  The BBC Kolsch is a clear yellow-straw in color and the aroma is very sweet and honey-like with whiffs of floral.  And the taste?  Well, it isn’t much to make the beer geek stand up and take notice but I can say I’d rather have this beer than a mint julep on Derby Day.  The BBC Kolsch is quite yeasty with weak bites of bitterness noticeable in the back of the mouth.  A crisp, slightly wet mouthfeel rounds out this summertime beer.
BBC's Kolsch
We headed north, visited my old Indiana homestead, met up with our friends from Geeks Who Drink (GWD), and headed to Cedar Point in Ohio.  We parted ways—they going back to Denver and we going Michigan to visit Jamesport Brewing Company in Ludington. 

Unlike Louisville, Ludington, with its constant mist and low hanging clouds, looked like a Tim Burton set.  This made it a little easier to enjoy a fuller-bodied beer.  So, I had the Mocha Java Porter (5.5% ABV) brewed with French cocoa, Guatemalan coffee, and Scottville, MI honey.
Mocha Java Porter is exceptionally black with only a few red highlights visible when viewed through a strong light.  The coffee in the beer takes center stage in the aroma with chocolate providing background support.  The beer smells like a café’ brewing up a fresh pot.  The smell of the beer is misleading as it is the chocolate flavor that is most noticeable while coffee takes a backseat.  The chocolate flavor is that of dark cacao.  Mocha Java Porter has a thin, light mouthfeel (considering its genre) and drinking it causes a bit of spittle to form. 

Mocha Java Porter

We made a U-turn and started south passing through Louisville again to get to Nashville, TN.  There awaited Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery where I had Nut Brown Ale which, on sight, looks like Coca-Cola or stained cherry wood.  On nose, it smells very malty and sweet.  This velvety and viscous beer has a light hop bite and a rich, malty flavor on the tip of the tongue.  This beer is more about the malts than the hops but both play a role in the overall experience.

Blackstone's Nut Brown Ale
After walking around downtown Nashville for a spell we were on our way to Memphis and Boscos Squared: a link in the short chain that is the Boscos Restaurant & Brewing Co. family.  Despite the instant condemnation many people give to chain breweries, Boscos Squared actually had some innovative beers including a style I’ve never heard of: steinbier.  Apparently, steinbiers are a German creation exemplified by their unique brewing process in which stones are superheated in a wood fire before being placed in the wort thus giving the beer a caramel character.  At least, that’s what the menu said.  I didn’t detect much in the way of caramel in this clear, slightly dark yellow concoction that went by the elongated appellation of Boscos Famous Flaming Stone Beer.  The aroma and the taste were both yeasty and mellow with no obvious hop presence and the overall experience was like drinking a liquefied soft pretzel.  The mouthfeel is interesting—it’s dry and crisp and one might even say a bit chalky.  I do mean that in a positive way, though.  It is hard imagine how “chalky” can be a compliment but this beer manages to pull it off.

Boscos Famous Flaming Stone Beer
We had just enough time to walk down Beale Street before a torrential downpour ended our time in Memphis.  Next stop: Dallas.  In actuality, Dallas was just a stopping point between Memphis and San Antonio.  Still, we had time to kill after setting up camp so we hitched up and headed to a local watering hole: The Barley House.  It isn’t a brewery but it is a GWD venue and, having missed our usual quiz date at the D-Note in Arvada, we had to scratch the trivia itch.  It may have been best not to pick at it; Nicole and I have been to many GWD quizzes at many venues and have been subjected to the various stylings of the different quizmasters.  Some are very good and some are very bad but, at The Barley House, you get something very, very different.  First of all, yes, everything is bigger in Texas and that includes the quizmaster’s ass.  But, hey, that’s okay because fat guys are fun and jolly, right?  Not in Texas.  Then they’re just slovenly nerds who take out their geek angst on all the wrong people i.e. the paying customers.  Of course, being snarky is part of the job but it gets a little much when you are denied points for correct answers just because the quizmaster doesn’t like you.  Needless to say, I did mess with Texas that night.  Luckily, we teamed up with two very cool local guys who made up for that other bastard’s inadequacies in social exchange. 

We hightailed it to San Antonio to mosey alongside the canals and visit the site of Ozzy Osbourne’s most famous public urination.  We also had the pleasure of visiting Freetail Brewing Co. where I had La Rubia (4.9% ABV) which I ordered because it shared a name with one of my homebrews.  La Rubia is a slightly hazy, pale yellow and it smells slightly of citrus and yeast.  The taste is that of watered-down lemon juice with yeast added.  It’s a great hot weather beer—very refreshing and light on the palate.

La Rubia
We gave GWD another chance and lucked out; the quizmaster there was super friendly and, as it turned out, he works at Freetail.  I gave him my card and I hope he’s reading this blog now. 

After a long, long drive from San Antonio we finally got back to Denver weary, stinky, and with a better understanding of what beer in America is all about.  Beer, no matter where it was made, is a wonderful drink that ought to be enjoyed without zealous nationalism for beer should unite the world—create camaraderie over a pint.  It wasn’t meant to tear people and nations apart.  Still, The Fourth is upon us and there is no better time to support the local economy.  That is why I ask you—whether you’re at a BBQ, watching the fireworks, or bayoneting a redcoat—to be a true patriot over this holiday weekend and drink American.     


When Chris and I planned this trip almost a year ago I added states to our itinerary that I had not had the chance to visit. I planned our trip around coasters, baseball parks and—to keep Chris in supply of writing material—breweries. In order to get to our first destination we had to cross the state of Kansas. Thank goodness our time in Kansas, which included pit stop for lunch at a Wendy’s, was brief.  My impressions of Kansas are as follows: flat, grassy, lots of corn, and lots of wind turbines. I am sure Kansas has a couple of redeeming qualities, I just didn’t get the opportunity to see them. Maybe on my next trip.
Our next stop was Kansas City, MO to ride some coasters and eat some BBQ. After finding a campsite for the night at Lake Jacomo, we set out to find some food. Using my smart phone that I am so addicted to (I have upgraded from my BlackBerry to a Droid), I searched for the best BBQ places nearby. Of course, the first one I found that seemed promising was closed that day [A good thing since it sounded like a Bible-thumping, holy roller place.  It didn’t even serve beer for crying out loud! ~CB] So, we settled for some other place that did not leave much of an impression because I can’t remember the name. It wasn’t bad, it was just ordinary. We returned to our campsite and chatted with the friendly guy at the neighboring campsite. If you are ever driving through this area and need a place to camp, give Lake Jacomo a chance.

In the morning we made our way to Worlds of Fun. Since it wasn’t open yet I thought it would be nice to pass our time at a park. I looked at the GPS and found a park. There definition of park doesn’t match mine. The “park” was a parking lot where there was possibly a drug deal taking place and a dirt trail that lead nowhere. We quickly made our way back to Worlds of Fun to ride the coasters. While Chris is on a mission to reach a milestone of 300 coasters I am just trying to get to 100. We were able to squeeze in eight coaster rides (six different coasters) in about one hour and 45 minutes which made Chris and me a little woozy.
I was able to check out a couple more baseball parks: Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and Busch Stadium in St. Louis. I was struck by how similar Coors Field and Busch Stadium look alike. I was disappointed by the fact that all of the baseball teams in the places that we visited were playing away games. So, I guess I will have to wait until next summer’s roadtrip to see some teams actually play at other parks. I did, however, get to see how Louisville Slugger bats are made and I got to see the type of bat the Troy Tulowitzki uses.

When we arrived in Michigan the clouds put a damper of our thoughts of playing cornhole and lounging by the lake. So, I used my handy dandy GPS to see what our options were in Ludington. My first search turned up a yarn shop. Looking at all the different yarn is to me what beer is to Chris. Luckily, my search also revealed that there was a brewery two blocks away from the yarn shop. If you ever visit the Jamesport Brewing Company in Ludington, I would recommend the onion rings. Whatever spices they used were delicious. I would also recommend the JBC Cheese Ale Soup, which had a little bit of spice from some jalapenos. Another rainy day adventure was to the local wine and beer shop in Pentwater. Chris was able to pick up a lot of Michigan brews. Chris made his decisions by reading the labels to learn about the content inside the bottles. I made my decisions based on the label art. There is something to be said for having interesting art work. I guess I judge the book by its cover.
Next we made our way to Tennessee for some sight-seeing. I used my phone to try to find the “best” places to eat in Nashville. My search turned up lots of restaurants serving high priced meals. So, I changed my search criteria to local breweries. We settled on Blackstone Restaurant and Brewery. The brewery was surprisingly not busy for lunch time. I don’t know much about Blackstone but the lack of customers in such a large space gave me a negative vibe. The artwork on the walls were boring maps and flowers that looked like they came with the gaudy gold frames. Nothing about the artwork showed that this was a brewery. On my next trip out that way I hope to find a brewery that has a more cozy feeling with more beer lovers present.

Boscos Squared in Memphis definitely had a positive vibe. The locals were hanging out on the patio. I was very happy inside, away from the 99 degree heat and humidity. One of the first things I noticed was the artwork for the beers. I meant to take a picture of the Isle of Skye Scottish Porter poster which included a pint glass with mountains inside. The other posters were similar—all with a pint glass (or other type of glass) with skylines, mountains, or landscapes inside the glass. If you visit the website you can see the artwork.
Our last stop on the trip was the state of Texas. We were able to camp at three nice state parks: Cedar Hill in Dallas, Guadalupe River in San Antonio, and Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo. We were also able to experience the wildlife waking us up at all hours including deer munching on some leaves right outside our tent, a conversation between a bull frog and a bird, and many other birds trying to sing us a song. Fortunately, we did not encounter the tarantulas or rattlesnakes that were on the list of wildlife at Palo Duro Canyon. Chris may have seen one but would never tell me knowing that I would never get out of the car again. The giant daddy long legs clustered above the bathroom door in Guadalupe River were as close to any arachnid as I wanted to get on this trip.

As Chris mentioned, we were able to participate in two Geeks Who Drink quiz nights. The first night was in Dallas at a bar with a fountain made of beer pull handles. I will also add to Chris’ description of the Dallas quizmaster that he was eager to mention his girlfriend’s cleavage. Since it was only his second time quizzing, he strictly followed the answer sheet provided to him by Geeks Who Drink. He has a long way to go before becoming a good quizmaster and perhaps should take some time to back to quizmaster training school. We all make fun of Texas but the quizmaster couldn’t handle some good natured fun. The guys we teamed up with didn’t seem to mind our jokes about Texas.  In fact, they gave us some pointers about the state and places to avoid. I will not describe my annoyance with the Dallas quizmaster any further because giving him anymore time on this blog would be a travesty. The second night was at a chain restaurant (just because it was a chain restaurant doesn’t mean the food wasn’t good…the fish and chips were pretty good) in the smoking section. The quiz was fun and the quizmaster was friendly but my lungs did not approve. I will stick to quizzing in Colorado where our restaurants are smoke-free and d-bag free.

And a few more non-beer pictures:

St Louis: Home to the World's Largest McDonald's

The Louisville Slugger
Kick-ass fountain in Dallas

Unlike Pee-Wee, I actually went to the basement of this place