"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, October 21, 2011

Oktoberfestivities and the Colorado/Oregon War

The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) may be more than two weeks over but that doesn’t mean Denver’s going light on the beer events.  This is the Napa Valley of beer and the city doesn’t want to lose that title so local businesses keep the festivities coming faster than an assembly line on I Love Lucy.  This past week, Denver Beer Co. and Highland Tap & Burger each hosted an event that would be considered worthy of Denver’s high standards in beer celebrations: Oktoberfest 2011 and Battle of Beer Supremacy, respectively. 

What: Oktoberfest 2011
Where: Denver Beer Co.
When: Oct. 15 from 12pm till close

Still well under a year old, Denver Beer Co. (DBC) is quickly establishing itself as a major contender in the Denver craft beer scene.  Already it has a GABF bronze medal for Graham Cracker Porter, a mention in USA Today concerning the beer garden, and mad props from the beer drinking community.  Expect the accolades to keep comin’ because DBC keeps coming up with new ways to attract customers like the previously mentioned Barleywine Burritos Brewer Breakfast and the about-to-be-mentioned Oktoberfest 2011.

In case you haven’t noticed, I end all of my updates with “Prost!”—the German version of “Cheers!”  Also, if I felt so inclined as to release my last name, you would see that it is quite obviously of German origin.  I’m quite proud of my German heritage; I come from a long line of car manufacturers, wristwatch makers, sauerkraut eaters, and, of course, beer brewers.  Yep, aside from starting two World Wars and committing unspeakable crimes against humanity, the German people have done a lot to improve the lives of people around the word.  You may think that, because this is a beer blog, I’m going to say that beer is Germany’s greatest gift to mankind.  Nay, Germany’s greatest gift is the excuse to drink bucket-sized steins of beer and not seem like an alcoholic because it’s a “cultural event.”  God Bless Germany and God bless DBC for bringing a little bit of Munich to Platte Street.

The author and his sisters at Oktoberfest 2011

For $15, Oktoberfest 2011 patrons received a souvenir 24 oz. stein filled with one of the three German-style beers on tap, $6 refills of the stein, a “tiny” pretzel (ironically, it is as big as your face) and oompah band entertainment from The Rhinelanders.

I filled my stein with the Oktoberfest-style beer (naturally) and settled in with Nicole and my sisters for a few hours of enthusiastic stein-smashing and subsequent beer-spilling.  The Rhinelanders periodically interrupted our drinking with chants of Ziggy Zaggy, Ziggy Zaggy, Oi, Oi, Oi! and monolingual (and drunk) attendees struggled through the German lyrics to Ein Prosit.  The Rhinelanders even demonstrated the alpenhorn AKA “that thing from the Ricola commercial.” 

A Rhinelander with the alpenhorn
The burliest of drinkers entered the masskrugstemmen contest in which competitors held a full stein out in front of them, parallel to the floor, for as long as possible.  This resulted in a lot of spilled beer and sore upper-body muscles but, really, all the competitors were winners.  I don’t mean that in a sappy, every-nerd-on-the-little-league-team-gets-a-trophy-for-trying way, either.  Everybody did end up a winner because everybody got their steins topped off for free prior to the start of the contest.

What’s a party without a whole roasted pig?  Something I don’t want to be at, that’s what!  Thank God DBC had just that and they let the patrons know about it by parading "Helga" through the tasting room on a silver platter garnished with hop leaves.  Oh, what a sight (and smell) it was; it could have turned a vegetarian carnivorous.  The pig was handed over to the participating food truck, Chile Billy, and, through some sort of sorcery, it became a delicious pulled pork green chili sandwich which I topped off with sauerkraut.  There’s something about the combination of green chili, sauerkraut, and German-style beer that makes me want to yell ¡Viva Deutschland!  Both Nicole and I snarfed it without delay. 

Yummy, yummy piggie

In addition to the German-style beers, Nicole and I also partook in some of DBC’s other offerings namely Whakapapa IPA and a hot chile pepper beer that Nicole said would be great to cook with (a beer cheese soup would be awesome).  I was excited to try Whakapapa because, in my days as an undergraduate student, I spent a semester at the University of Otago in New Zealand wherein I took a class in Māori studies and I’m pretty sure—as any pretentious world traveler can assure you—that makes me an expert on the subject.  Whakapapa is the Māori word for genealogy, lineage, and basically everything that’s important (correct me if I’m wrong, Kiwi readers).  The beer is Māori themed because the recipe includes hops from New Zealand.  It is a tasty, grassy IPA and, even though DBC is almost constantly rotating beers in and out, I hope they keep bringing this one back.  However, I have to warn you, DBC, to watch your ass; you don’t want to end up like Funkwerks and their Māori King. 

We all left the event filled with great beer and surprised that nobody chipped a stein from our forceful prosting.  It was a great time despite the fact that the crowded room kept bumping into Nicole's chair and fondling her sweaters.  I can say that I hope DBC continues this trend of hosting awesome events but that’s just silly because I know they’ll keep having events; they’ve already hosted more than I can keep up with.  Good work, DBC, good work.

What: Battle of Beer Supremacy
Where: Highland Tap & Burger
When: Oct. 17 from 6pm till 9pm

Nobody ever calls it the “craft beer industry” because it’s really the “craft beer community”; a system of mutual support, admiration, and collaboration.  Certainly, each craft brewery is technically in competition with every other craft brewery but they are all connected by an invisible wire of respect and—dare I say?—love.  Flowers!  Rainbows!  Two people of different races shaking hands!  Other images that conjure up feelings of peace, love, and happiness!  Well, nuts to that hippie crap!  I want a fight!  I want to see the gladiators of beer compete for the honor of being on my palate.  I want to root for my home team and see the other team ride home shame-faced on the bus.  I want a glorious champion and I want an emasculated loser.  Thankfully, my bloodlust was sated courtesy of the Battle of Beer Supremacy (BBS).

BBS: Small but tons of fun

The BBS was sponsored by the Denver Ducks—Denver’s University of Oregon alumni association—in honor of the inaugural University of Colorado v. University of Oregon Pac-12 football show-down.  To commemorate the event, the state Oregon and the state of Colorado waged war on the fields of malted barley in a brewery against brewery contest that had Odell and Left Hand fighting for Colorado and Deschutes and Widmer Brothers fighting for Oregon.  I didn’t go to either school but, of course, I was cheering for the Colorado beers (I mean, read the title of this blog).  Nonetheless, I recognize that Oregon’s craft beer scene is almost as prestigious as Colorado’s and, besides that, my favorite athlete is Steve Prefontaine from the U of O so, in a way, I was an unbiased judge.  So, I donned my Odell hat and my “Go Pre” shirt and Nicole and I headed to Highland Tap & Burger. 

Left Hand showed up raring for a fight with Milk Stout Nitro (6% ABV) and Fade to Black Vol. 3 (7.2% ABV).  Milk Stout Nitro is a bottled version of its nitro-tapped brethren found in bars across the state.  Now, however, beer geeks needn’t travel to the local watering hole to enjoy the rich, creamy, smoothness of a nitro beer; they need only to pop the top off the bottle and dump—don’t pour—the beer into a pint.  In a blind taste test, I doubt many people could discern a nitro-tapped Milk Stout from a nitro-bottled Milk Stout.  Fade to Black Vol. 3 is, obviously, the third beer in the Fade to Black series—seasonal porters that, while sharing a common name, style, and bottle art, differ in flavor on a year to year basis.  Vol. 3 is defined by its hot pepper additives and the warming sensation it leaves in the drinker’s throat.

Deschutes parried Left Hand’s attack with Fresh Hop Mirror Pond (5% ABV) and Jubelale (6.7% ABV).  Yes, Jubelale was quite tasty but all my concentration went to Fresh Hop Mirror Pond and its delicious, hoppy flavor and captivating history.  Deschutes has been in business since 1988 and Mirror Pond Pale Ale (5% ABV)—generously flavored with Cascade hops—has always been a flagship beer.  However, the funny thing about hops is that, over time, the flavors and aromas of any given variety can change.  Thus, a 1988 bottle of Mirror Pond will taste quite different from a 2011 bottle even though the recipe hasn’t changed.  Fresh Hop Mirror Pond harkens back to the good-old-days by resuscitating the original hop rhizome that had been put on archive at Oregon State University and planted a four-acre patch of these heirloom hop plants at Goshie Farms in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Now, contemporary drinkers can have a taste of 1988.  I never knew the 80’s were so delicious. 

Odell, perhaps one of my favorite breweries, showed up with a knife at the gun fight.  Seriously, Odell?  You bring Easy Street Wheat (4.6% ABV) and Isolation Ale (6% ABV) to a competition?  Talk about half-assed; Easy Street is nearly as ubiquitous as Fat Tire (5.2% ABV) and even though Isolation is seasonal it, too, is hardly rare.  I paid $25 to get into this even because I wanted to try weird and wonderful beers not the same stuff I could get at any Denver bar or restaurant.  Yes, both Easy Street and Isolation are good but they’re also non-adventuresome.  Odell has several atomic bombs in the form of the 4 Pack Series, Woodcut Series, and Single Serve Series and yet, with that arsenal, they decided to bring a slingshot.  You’ve under-represented yourselves, Odell, and, by extension, the entire brew scene of Colorado.        

Widmer Brothers was above Odell but below the other two on the scale of risk; they didn’t bring anything that would knock your socks off but it was more interesting than the prosaic offerings at Odell’s table.  Plus, they brought three beers rather than two: Hefeweizen (4.9% ABV), Drifter Pale Ale (5.7% ABV), and Rotator IPA: Falconer’s IPA (7% ABV).  Every beer they had was good but I’m not running out my door to grab a six-pack, either.  Nicole was pretty fond of Drifter and was proud of the fact that she knew the "S" hop used in it.  Well, first she said "Simcoe" and then I interjected with "Saaz" but, after she did a bit of research, she answered correctly with "Summit." 

After the blood had been spilled and the body parts picked up, one warrior was declared the winner:  Fresh Hop Mirror Pond.  I can’t say I was surprised, it is an absolutely fabulous beer and, even though I stuck by my state by voting for Milk Stout Nitro, I concede that Deschutes deserved this win.  Next time, Oregon.  Next time.



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