"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!

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.


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