"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, December 19, 2011

LTB: Making Denver Suburbs Relevant Through Craft Beer

“Hey, kids!  Who wants to go to Lone Tree, Colorado?”

Until recently, the answer to that question would have been a resounding “Nobody!”  It’s a too-far-away Denver suburb the path to which takes one through some of the most congested traffic zones in the metro-area and, once you get there, there’s not a thing to do.  Why would anybody in their right minds go to frickin’ Lone Tree?  Well, if you’re a fan of Colorado craft beer then there’s been, for a little over a week, at least one reason to visit: Lone Tree Brewing Company (LTB).

Nicole and I would have sucked it up and made the trip to LTB eventually but since I was already in the area for work-related reasons and because nearby ‘burb Centennial is now home to a Steak n’ Shake (which I adore; I grew up in the Midwest where they were commonplace and now I’m psyched that Colorado has one, too), we decided that adding a new brewery to the list would be a great way to cap off the night.   

Opened last Thursday, December 8th, LTB is, like many of its suburban craft brethren, located in one of those faceless, office space strip buildings (see also: Dry Dock Brewing Company, Elk Mountain Brewing, Upslope Brewing Company, et al).  But, at the risk of sounding like an after school special, it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it’s what’s inside that counts. 

The tasting room is minimalistic yet inviting.  There’s a bar that wraps around a corner and the table seating is open with no partitions separating fellow beer geeks.  In the back of the seating area is a waist-high parapet designating the brewing area.  I’ve mentioned it many a time and I’ll probably mention it again but I like it when a brewery puts there brewing equipment on full display; no walls, no windows, no separate building, it’s all just there to take in.  It shows that a brewery a) has nothing to hide, b) is catering to those who are really interested in beer and beer creation, and c) isn’t so highfalutin that they can’t let a bit of the industrial side of beer shine through in the taproom. 

We had ourselves a squat at one of the tables and ordered tasters of everything they had to offer: Hausfrau Hefeweizen (4.2% ABV), Ariadne’s Blonde (5.7% ABV), Puddle Jumper Pale Ale (5.7% ABV), Mountain Mama Helles (5.3% ABV), Hoptree IPA (8% ABV), and Toot’s Full-Bodied Oatmeal Stout (5.2% ABV).

Hausfrau is a very light yellow color even to the point that it almost looks white.  It is cloudy and topped with a white head.  The aroma is quit faint and possesses a banana/clove/bubblegum essence.  The flavor, too, has a bit of bubblegum-like quality but, overall, Hausfrau tastes a lot like the average witbier.  The mouthfeel is crisp, clean, and dry.

Ariadne’s looks a lot like Hausfrau except that it is slightly darker in color and perhaps a bit less cloudy (although it is still pretty cloudy).  The aroma of Ariadne’s is more reminiscent of a hefeweizen than even Hausfrau and the abundance of coriander makes it taste more like a hefeweizen, too.  As far as my palate is concerned, LTB has two hefeweizen beers.

Puddle Jumper looks like Ariadne’s except more orange.  It smells like a genetically spliced orange tree/conifer tree and this citrusy/piney quality comes through in the flavor as well.  Perhaps it is because I’ve blasted my taste buds with too many an ultra-bitter beer back in my day but I say that Puddle Jumper has no real bitterness to it.  The lack of bitter is great for those who want an easy-drinking beer but hopheads aren’t going to dig it. 

There seems to be a trend with the beers at LTB; they’re all cloudy.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a little haze in the glass, it just seems like they’d want a clear beer to mix things up.  At any rate, the miso soup-lookin’ Mountain Mama Helles doesn’t deviate from the normal LTB appearance.  It has a light aroma that reminds the drinker of bread or pretzels.  The flavor is exceptionally yeasty and it finishes very dry.

Hoptree presents an enigma that is interesting only to the most die-hard beer geeks.  See, the website calls Hoptree an IPA but I’m quite certain that, at the brewery, it was referred to as a double IPA.  Who cares? you might ask.  Well, nobody, really, I’m just trying to keep my facts straight.  Regardless, Hoptree has the same appearance of Puddle Jumper and the aroma is, likewise, the same save for the fact that Hoptree’s pine essence is much more pronounced.  The hops leave somewhat lasting bitterness and the drinking experience is akin to pine needle tea or a weaker version of Odell’s Myrcenary.

Toot’s, aside from having a decidedly unmanly name, was, along with Hoptree, my favorite of the night.  It is black with brown highlights and a beige head.   The nose is roasty, chocolate-y, and coffee-like while the mouthfeel is thick and velvety.  It tastes like a smooth coffee drink with chocolate syrup swirled in.  There is no black coffee-like bitterness like one might find in other stouts.
Left to Right: Hoptree, Puddle Jumper, Toot's, Mountain Mama, Ariadne's, and Hausfrau 

We finished our drinks and quizzed each other using the provided Trivial Pursuit cards when it struck me that, almost one year ago, Nicole and I were doing the exact same thing at Elk Mountain in preparation for Geeks Who Drink’s annual Geek Bowl.  Unfortunately, the folks at Geeks have, for the first time, moved the event from Denver to Austin, TX, so we aren’t going this time.  Well, here’s hoping it fails miserably so they bring it back to Colorado where it belongs.

We left LTB and started our way back home.  My final thoughts on LTB are that it is a solid brewery; nothing’s god-awful, everything’s drinkable.  My one piece of advice, LTB, is to brew outside the box.  Everything on the menu, while good, is so pedestrian; they’re styles that are served at every brewery.  Make something more singular like a sour beer or a cream ale or make some cool hybrid style that’s completely new.  Colorado is on the forefront of the American craft beer scene and it is our duty--the beer geeks and beer brewers of the state--to invent the region’s style; copying and pasting what everybody else is doing is no way to go about doing that.

So, once again, “Who wants to go to Lone Tree, Colorado?”

The answer now is still “Nobody!” but with the addendum, “but, if we have to, let’s definitely go to the Lone Tree Brewing Company and make the trip worthwhile.”



I heard from friends that Lone Tree Brewing Company was opening soon. While LTB is closer to home than the breweries of Boulder and Fort Collins, the thought of driving to Lone Tree in Friday rush hour traffic was not appealing. But, I figured if Chris was already in that area I might as well make the trip, too. So, I suggested that we meet up at Steak n’ Shake for dinner and then make our way to the brewery. There is nothing like a steak burger, shoestring fries, and a shake to kick off winter break. As Chris mentioned, Steak n’ Shake is a Midwest staple. Since so many Midwesterners now live in Colorado, naturally, they’re all very excited. When I pulled into the parking lot I was shocked to see the drive-thru line wrapping around the building. The line for inside dining was almost as long but the wait was worth it. The menu had some new additions including holiday shakes that sounded very tempting but I wanted to save room for beer.

When we got to the brewery, I read over the beer list trying to figure out what I was in the mood for. The bartender asked us what we wanted to which Chris and I gave her the “I have no idea” look. Lucky for us, they offer sampler flights so we could try everything. I think more breweries should approach customers like this; oftentimes we go to a brewery and order a pint to find out later that we could have sampled everything. By sampling every beer, you get to try new things that you might not have if forced to order a whole pint. I probably wouldn’t have ordered the stout but it turned out to be my favorite. The next time I plan a trip to Lone Tree, I want to see if they have any seasonal offerings. They had two winter seasonals that were going to be released this week but we were a few days too early. Hopefully, they will have some spring or summer seasonals so we have an excuse to visit both the brewery and Steak n’ Shake again in the warmer months.

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