"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!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Return to Mecca: Revisiting the Breweries of Fort Collins

If one belongs to the Islamic faith then one is obligated to visit Mecca only once in a lifetime.  However, if one is a Colorado beer geek on a mission to visit every brewery in the state, a single trip to Colorado’s beer Mecca—Fort Collins—just doesn’t suffice; each time one thinks every brewery in town has been hit, another pops up a few weeks later.  A never-ending cycle of pilgrimages is required to keep up with the seemingly infinite number of sprouting breweries.  I suppose one could complain about the need for repeat visits but I consider it a privilege to keep coming back to the town that started Colorado’s beer dominance.

If one doubts that Fort Collins (or FoCo to the tragically hip) is Colorado’s beer Mecca then I have only a few words to say:  New Belgium, Odell, Fort Collins Brewery.  Those are only the monoliths of FoCo’s craft beer scene; there’s also Equinox, CooperSmith’s, and Funkwerks which—while being smaller than the three previously mentioned—have all garnered mad respect from the craft beer community.  The beauty of FoCo is that, no matter how saturated the market may seem there are plenty of resident beer geeks to help any new-kid-on-the-block breweries hit the ground running.  Case in point, Pateros Creek Brewing Co.

Pateros Creek (pronounced Puh-TAR-Os), opened in the summer of 2011, is located in Old Town Fort Collins—set back a bit from the road at the end of a warehouse-esque line of businesses; one must keep alert for the roadside sign else it will be passed by without notice. 

The taproom at Pateros Creek exemplifies everything that I like in a small brewery.  The space is small—not cramped—and cozy.  The décor is clean, simple, and unpretentious—some agriculturally themed photographs and a few pieces of old barn wood are the extent of Pateros Creek’s ambiance.  The bartenders are sociable and knowledgeable about the product they’re serving.  It’s simply a comfortable, quiet place to enjoy some of Colorado’s newest craft beer.

Nicole and I sat ourselves down and bellied-up to the bar.  I ordered a taster platter of the four flagship beers—Old Town Ale (4.4% ABV), Stimulator Pale Ale (5.5% ABV), Cache La Porter (5% ABV), and Car 21 (4.5% ABV)—and Nicole ordered a flight of each of their seasonal offerings. 
From near to far: Car 21, Cache La Porter, Stimulator, and Old Town
Old Town is a Kölsch beer and is pale yellow and slightly opaque.  The aroma packs a yeasty, bready punch.  Like any good Kölsch, the flavors are subtle, crisp, and inoffensive.  There is a minuscule amount of hop bitterness but wimps afraid of a beer with bite ought not to shy away from Old Town since the bite is really more of a nibble.  Underlying these dominate flavors is a hint of citrus.  Old Town leaves the drinker with a mild case of cottonmouth; it dries up the tongue like a slightly-moistened sponge. 

Stimulator is a clear, darkish yellow with a touch of orange tint.  The foam is thick and moldable.  Upon the nose, Stimulator makes no impact.  It has an underplayed aroma and the hops—the hallmark of the pale ale genre—are difficult to sniff out.  The hops are a little easier to detect on the tongue although, unlike many pale ales in America, Stimulator doesn’t shock the palate with intense bitterness.  The hops are, instead, floral and flowery.  The rye used in the beer imparts a certain slight spiciness, too.  Stimulator is a pale ale that is quite session-able and, because of its easy-drinking quality, flirts with the parameters that define English Pale Ales. 

In America, we like our porters like we like our coffee: strong, black, and tasting like coffee.  This describes the most common type of porter in the states: the robust porter.  Pateros Creek’s Cache La Porter, however, belongs to the lesser acknowledged porter sub-genre known as “brown porter.”  It isn’t inky black and impenetrable to light, it is mahogany or cherry wood in color and quite easy to see through.  It has a tan head and it smells and tastes of sweet caramel which is very much unlike its robust cousin.  While both robust and brown porters possess a certain roasted quality to them, they are not nearly as strong in the brown variety.  Cache La Porter is light-bodied; it doesn’t sit in the pit of the stomach like a lot of heavier porter varieties do.            

Car 21 is an English best bitter style of beer that is clear and deep, rusty red in color.  Unmistakable toffee aromas waft from the glass’s open mouth and, once it hits the palate, Car 21 becomes a bitter, caramel-y maelstrom.  While it is quite bitter, said bitterness is fleeting; the drinker doesn’t have to keep tasting Car 21 when they’ve moved on to another beer.

Before we left, we chatted it up with some of the other folks in the tasting room.  We talked to brewer Steve Jones about our mission to visit every brewery in the state and about beer in general.  We conversed with some other patrons who had Midwestern roots so I talked up Indianapolis’ craft brew scene e.g. Sun KingThr3e Wise Men, Broad Ripple Brewpub.  It’s a small, quaint, friendly place and I’d recommend it to anybody visiting the FoCo area.  Sure, hit the big breweries, too, but don’t forget that the top brass in craft brewing started out at about the same size Pateros Creek is at now.

In addition to bolstering our brewery count, we also visited Odell to partake in Dan Williams’ competition-winning Dortmunder.  Dan is an old friend of Nicole’s so we thought we would support his brewing endeavors.  Plus, his beer was really good.
Williams with Dortmunder

Before we left, we dropped by Funkwerks to see if they had any glassware since the last time we visited they were all out.  Well, they were all out again.  Then we asked if they had any merchandise that still had the “Māori King” name on it since it would probably be a collector’s item due to the beer’s name change.  They said they had gotten rid of all of it.  The trip wasn’t a total loss, though.  I did pick up a bottle of Pure Guava Petite Sour from another exceptionally new brewery to the FoCo scene: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project.  Since Crooked Stave shares a facility with Funkwerks, I guess you could say we actually visited two new breweries on this trip.


The first thing that caught my eye when I walked into Pateros Creek was the pumpkin beer. Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite foods so, naturally, I like to try any pumpkin beer that I find. Pateros Creek’s Old Canyon Pumpkin Ale did not let me down. Old Canyon is a hazy, rust colored beer with gold highlights. It has a light pumpkin aroma but what really excited me was the flavor; Old Canyon has a true pumpkin pie taste with strong nutmeg and clove flavors. Some of the commercial pumpkin beers are too bitter and have a pumpkin taste, rather than a pumpkin pie taste. When I drink a pumpkin beer, I want to feel like I am drinking a slice of pie. If I could buy this year round, I absolutely would!

The second seasonal beer I tried was Lady Moon American Wheat. Lady Moon also has a hazy, rust color but with pink highlights. It has a strong fruity aroma; it is a very sweet smelling beer. The raspberry and cherry aromas are noticeable; Lady Moon smells almost like a cherry soda. Although the aroma is sweet the flavors are more subtle. It has the traditional “wheat” flavors but without a coriander aftertaste. The flavors are slightly tart with a tart aftertaste. I thoroughly enjoyed the seasonal offerings at Pateros Creek.


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