"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, September 29, 2011

Even More Pre-Gaming the Great American Beer Festival

Read more about Great American Beer Festival pre-gaming here and here.

There are still more Denver beer events leading up to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF).  Does every city with a festival, ceremony, or celebration have these precursory events?  Does Los Angeles hand out awards to TV commercial actors the week before the Academy Awards?  Do skanky girls in New Orleans show half a breast during the preparation for Mardi Gras?  How often do five or six gay guys walk down the street in a mini-parade in anticipation for the San Francisco Pride celebration?  I think Denver might be the only city that completely embraces its most significant and defining event and, for that, I am grateful to live here.

I’ve missed most of what’s happening in Denver but I can thank Jared from Paramount Café for continually giving me the hook-up at his establishment.  While attending the Apps ‘N’ Ales with Avery Brewing event, Jared invited me and Nicole to the Paramount Café Beer Festival that was to be held in two days.  Unfortunately, Nicole was unable to attend so, in lieu, I brought my sister, Sarah.

The festival was fantastic!  It didn’t have the fame or enormity of the GABF but it had plenty more going for it: it’s a lot cheaper, a lot more intimate, and attendees weren’t constantly bouncing off one another like a thousand steel balls in a Pachinko machine.  Also, while breweries at GABF are usually pouring specialty beers, who wants to wait for them?  At Paramount Café, the oddities of familiar breweries were available for tasting without a miles long line.

The first booth we visited was Crabtree Brewing Company where we talked to Rob O’Connor about the homophonically called Cézanne Saison (8% ABV), so named for the French artist.  Cézanne is the color of a ripe orange and smells quite yeasty.  The flavor is slightly tart and and the mouthfeel is crisp and dry. 

From a brewery with a saison, we went to the brewery with only saisons: Funkwerks.  There, I tried Jeff Blackburn’s Motif which is clear and honey-colored.  The aroma is very faint but one might call it a bit flowery.  Motif goes down pretty smooth save for a slight burn at the back of the throat; it’s nothing to be alarmed about, beer wimps, it’s just a little warming sensation.  I could almost taste a cherry aftertaste in it, too.  The Funkwerks rep holding down the fort, Andy Mitchell, was also pouring the beer that he made: Cochon.  For the French illiterate, “cochon” means “pig” or anything else that implies garishness or uncivil tendencies.  Why such a crude name for a fine beer?  Mitchell explains that his saison—a style traditionally brewed in the French-speaking region of Belgium—has been Americanized with additional hops and that a snooty Frenchman would surely drop his baguette in disgust and turn his nose up at this bastardized version of his culture’s beloved libation.  Well, that hypothetical frog can say zees beer eez as terrableh as your deescusteen Amerycohn cheese all he wants; it won’t change the fact that Cochon, with its hoppy flavor but no bitter bite, is a great, modern take on a classic style.

Jared was pouring some Great Divide Brewing Co. beers: Fresh Hop Pale Ale (6.1% ABV) and Hibernation Ale (8.7% ABV).  While sipping on those two beers, Jared asked if we’d been to the Oskar Blues Brewery booth yet.  We said no so he strongly encouraged us to get over there before they ran out of what they were serving.  Like, now.  So, we gulped our Great Divides and pushed through to Oskar Blues.

I haven’t kept it a secret; I love weird beer.  Traditionalism?  Yeah, that’s nice but I’m looking for that creative twist.  A creative twist is just what we got at Oskar Blues.  They had two perennial classics—Dale’s Pale Ale (6.5% ABV) and Ten Fidy (10.5%ABV)—but with a little something extra to spice up the evening.  Dale’s, for example, was aged with cedar chips thus giving it a minty, spruce-y aroma and flavor.  Ten Fidy had sour cherries added and was aged in Stranahan’s whiskey barrels.  The nose on this beer is heavy on whisky and cherry but, once on the tongue, it takes on a more mild character; the whiskey complements the beer instead of overwhelming it and the sour cherry remains an underlying flavor never taking the spotlight.

We tried a little Left Hand BrewingCompany and some Breckenridge Brewery but neither of them had anything new to wow me with.

The New Belgium Brewing table was a fun one to hang out at because of the Lips of Faith beers they were pouring: Clutch (9% ABV), Kick (8.5% ABV), and Transatlantique Kriek (8% ABV).  Clutch, named after a Maryland rock band, is dark in color with a tinge of sourness.  I actually have a bomber of it sitting in my fridge; I just haven’t gotten around to it.  I’m sure a more in-depth review will be coming shortly.  Kick is a collaboration beer between New Belgium and Elysian Brewing Company—a brewery known for its many pumpkin-beer interpretations.  Kick is so named for the combination of the names Kim Jordan—founder and CEO of New Belgium—and Dick Cantwell—founder and CEO of Elysian.  Thus, Kim + Dick = Kick.  Other than the fact that they’re both higher-ups in their respective businesses, why are these two names used in the designation of this beer?  Supposedly (and I’m only quoting the New Belgium rep), Kim and Dick are now dating which came as a surprise to me since I didn’t even realize Kim and her apparent ex-husband Jeff Lebesch—co-founder of New Belgium—were no longer together.  Hell, I’m not their biographer so that news is probably decades old but that doesn’t mean I was any less surprised.  I also have a bottle of Kick in my fridge so expect a review to pop up on my Examiner.com site relatively soon.  That leaves Transatlantique Kriek which is ruby red and smells and tastes a lot like red wine.

The first time I tried to hit an event at Paramount Café, Scott Cargile, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. rep who brewed Yippie-Rye-Aye with assistance from Jared, had left early and I wasn’t able to do the meet-and-greet.  Luckily, he came back for this event.  First of all, Sierra Nevada had the best schwag of the evening: carabiners with built-in bottle openers, assorted stickers, and Velcro straps that are meant to keep pant legs from getting caught in bike gears but could also come in handy for any kinky bondage situations that might arise.  Scott was pouring the flagship pale ale (5.6% ABV) as well as FOAM Pilsner, a beer that had never been tapped outside of a Phish concert until that night, and Yippie-Rye-Aye. 

Odell Brewing Company was serving up Bourbon Barrel Stout (10.5% ABV), a beer that has a bourbon smell but is mostly stout with bourbon hints in flavor.  And, yes, Odell rep, this is a blog thus I am currently occupying the role of “blogger.”  However, when I write for Examiner.com, I am a reporter so having business cards that say “Beer Journalist” is not a falsification. 

Beer geeks with no money and no GABF ticket, stop crying in your pint glasses.  Keep your eyes open for events like this because they are a great, inexpensive substitute or supplement for the “big show” that starts tonight.  Keep drinking, friends; this fervor wanes after October 1st.
The Paramount Cafe' Beer Festival in full swing (and Sarah being a dork in the lower, left corner)



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