"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 5, 2011

Wynkoop: Fighting the Fight Against Beer Racism

The path people take in becoming a full-fledged beer geek is fraught with milestones.  First, they get to the point where they actually try a craft beer for the first time:  Oh, what’s this?  A Ranger IPA?  I’ve heard of that.  Hey, that’s not too bad.  Then, they enter the “loyalist stage” wherein one of two things can happen: a) they drink a lot of craft beer but only from a certain brewery: Polestar Pilsner?  No thanks, I only drink New Belgium beers [drinks a Blue Paddle] or b) they only drink a certain style of beer: You got any Modus Hoperandi?  How about an Odell IPATitan?  Eh, I only drink IPAs but thanks anyway.  The beer-geek-in-the-making can get stuck in the loyalist stage for a long time but, eventually, curiosity and the ingrained spirit of adventure that lives in all brew enthusiasts—greenhorn and veteran alike—gets the better of them; they try new styles, they try new breweries and, lo and behold, they have crossed the threshold and achieved the status of Level 1 Beer Geek.

After Level 1, one can flaunt, with all honesty, the fact that they belong to the sacred society of beer geeks.  However, they are novices when compared to higher-leveled geeks.  They are infants battling Bruce Lee, go-karts racing Jeff Gordon, the Amish in a slut-off against Ke$ha.  They haven’t yet mastered the skill.  They still need to hurdle a few more obstacles and conquer their beer fears.  Unlike the preliminary steps, the advanced steps vary from one person’s unique disposition to another.  Some people have a hard time when it comes to extremely hoppy beers.  Others shy away from barrel-aged beers (especially when said barrel used to store bourbon or wine).  I, for one, took a long time to get over my fear of barleywines and sour beers but, after many concerted efforts to acclimate myself to those styles, I now snatch those beers off store shelves without even thinking.  More often than not, though, a person cannot take that final step because they suffer from what I like to call “beer racism.”  It matters not to the beer racist what it tastes like for they believe that, if a beer is dark in color, they won’t like it.  Hey, this is America, baby!  The great melting pot!  If you can’t accept a beer just because it looks different then take your fascist ideals back to Nazi Germany, you intolerant pig!
Still, there is hope for rehabilitation.  I recommend a full-immersion program; I recommend Wynkoop Brewing Company’s 3rd Annual Parade of Darks—a tasting event focused on all beers amber-colored or darker.  Held last Saturday, December 3rd, Parade of Darks featured breweries from Colorado, the U.S., and Belgium serving over 50 different dark-colored beers.  All proceeds from the event’s ticket sales went to Metro CareRing.  A silent auction also helped raise money for the charity.

Nicole and I arrived early so we plopped down at the bar and waited for the Wynkoop staff to catch up to our craving for beer.  While waiting, we struck up a conversation with Brew2ers Co, a couple who, like Nicole and I, are trying to hit every brewery in Colorado.  Normally, my competitive nature would prevent me from saying anything positive about somebody on the same mission as me but these people were pleasant to talk to so I’ll support them by linking to their website.  Also, Nicole and I have a couple dozen breweries on them so I don’t feel too threatened.

The gates finally opened and we poured into Wynkoop’s billiard room.  The beer stations lined every available foot of the room’s perimeter and I immediately suffered decision paralysis.  Where do I go first?  What do I have when I get there?  What comes after that?  Thankfully, I snapped out of it and put my brain on auto-pilot; I’d just go where my feet and subconscious took me.  They took me to Firestone Walker Brewing Company, a California brewery that has been getting major buzz due to some substantial wins at this year’s Great American Beer Festival.  I’d never had any of their beers before so, after the hype, I had to give Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout a go.  The verdict?  Yes, it’s good.  Actually, it’s great!  The name is not misleading; it has a smooth, velvety mouthfeel.  However, like most things in life, it doesn’t live up to the hype: it is the Tim Tebow of beer.  I assumed, after hearing the rave reviews, this beer was going to blow me away with intense flavor, make my eyes roll back in my head in unbridled pleasure, and cure cancer.  Sure, I’m totally going to steal a bottle from you if you bring it to a party but I’m not ready to join the Firestone cult just yet.

Firestone Walker lives up to 77% of the hype.  So, yeah, still pretty good.

After Firestone we just pinballed around the room, tasting anything that came our way.  Renegade Brewing Company’s Radiator had a unique taste due in part to the addition of cinnamon.  It almost tasted like Big Red gum but in a way that is much more pleasing than how I just made it sound.  I’ve had a lot of vanilla porters in my day and that includes the one from Dry Dock Brewing Company.  Still, sometimes I forget just how good we Front Range beer drinkers have it; Dry Dock’s version is definitely the best because it doesn’t wimp out on the vanilla.  It’s like being slapped in the face with an ice cream cone.  I like strong flavors in my beer and Dry Dock delivers.  Christmas Ale from Bristol Brewing Company is not a pumpkin beer but it smells and tastes like they put every pumpkin pie ingredient (except pumpkin) into the batch.  Again, it is a beer with strong flavor so I enjoyed it quite a bit. 

Looking down a line of serving tables

While being served at the Golden City Brewery, I overheard some gel-haired, polo-wearing, Jersey Shore: Colorado Edition toolbag complaining to the brewery rep that he was served a flat beer—Black Hops was the name of it.  First of all, there’s no need to bitch about it; it’s an all-you-can-drink event so it’s not going to cost you anymore to come back for a refill.  Secondly, if you must bitch, bitch quietly so that nobody but the rep can hear you—no need to announce it to the world.  Thirdly, go screw yourself.  Now, I love Golden City (I need to get back there soon) and I hate toolbags so I interrupted the tirade by telling the rep how much I loved Golden City and how good the beer was and, not long after I was through, I realized I wasn’t just saying that to be nice—Black Hops is actually a damn fine beer.  It is a black IPA that retains a lot of piney aroma and flavor even when brewed with dark malts.  Check it out next time you’re in Golden’s second biggest brewery.

While sipping on some Judgment Day from Lost Abbey, I noticed a Westword photographer taking a picture of my Beer in Colorado shirt.  He told me he thought it was cool because it looked well-worn and retro.  Actually, I got that shirt just a few months ago; it just looks old and faded because I didn’t want to spend the extra money on quality at Zazzle.com.  Nonetheless, I’m glad you liked it, dude!  I hope it gets put up on the Westword website or, better yet, in the print edition. 

Between beers, Nicole and I would cruise by the silent auction table and scope out the goodies.  They had a pretty impressive spread: neon beer signs, brewery shirts and t-shirts, bombers of beer, jewelry, artwork, and miscellaneous other stuff.  I put a bid down on some Great Divide Brewing Co. hats until I got frustrated with the idiot that kept outbidding me by a penny.  I also got in a bidding war with some guy over a bottle of Anniversary Ale and a pint glass from Firestone Walker but I soon realized that $35 was already too much for a single bomber (although I’m sure the beer was exceptionally good) and a pint glass—of which I already have too many—so I bowed out.  Simply because nobody had put a bid in yet, I put down the minimum amount on some Dry Dock shirts and immediately regretted it because a) they weren’t my size and b) they didn’t even look that cool.  Luckily, somebody put a higher amount down so I dodged that bullet.  Having lost out on those three items, I concentrated my efforts on the three bombers from Dry Dock: Double India Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, and Vanilla Porter.  For the longest time I thought I would win with the minimum bid of $15 but, with five minutes left, somebody outbid me by a few bucks.  Okay, no big deal; I can take the hit so I wrote down a few dollars more.  Then, with about one minute left, some other dude swoops in and jacks the price up by $15!  Bastard!  Well, I’m too competitive for my own good so I put down one dollar more and won the three bombers for $36 which is, eh, not the best deal but Dry Dock makes great beer and, what the hell, the money goes to charity.  But, if I ever find out that Mr. Fifteen-Dollars More works for the brewery and that he was just baiting me to get more money for his product then I’m driving down to Aurora and breaking all three bombers over his head.

The silent auction table

Parade of Darks ended so I stumbled out into the cold and crawled into the passenger seat of Nicole’s car.  I’ve been to a lot of beer events and they’re all great for different reasons: Telluride Blues & Brews is great because of the scenic locale and the live music, Brew at the Zoo is great because of the animals, and Great American Beer Festival is great because of its vastness.  Parade of Darks, however, has something else entirely: exclusivity.  That doesn’t refer to people, of course; the world of craft beer is about bringing people together, not shunning the outsiders.  No, I mean exclusivity of beer—only dark beers were allowed.  This means that participating breweries had to re-think the usual line-up in order to conform to the event’s rules.  It can be disappointing when you go to a lot of beer events and never get anything new because the breweries always bring their standard beers but a “dark beers only” rule shakes up the norm and ensures that event-goers will get to try a few new beers.

See you at the 4th Annual Parade of Darks!



P.S.  Did you know that Beer in Colorado now has a Twitter account and a Facebook page?  Check us out and get mini-updates between posts.

A few years ago, I was probably on the negative side of beer geekiness. If I was to order a beer (and that would have been very rare) it would have been a Blue Moon or an Easy Street Wheat. When I took Chris to Odell Brewing Company two years ago I am sure that I ordered an Easy Street. As it turned out, that trip was the maiden voyage of our Beer in Colorado journey. I didn't really know what other types of beers were out there so, at the first few breweries we visited, I just ordered whatever wheat they had. Chris eventually convinced me to try other beers but even then they were usually on the lighter side. The Parade of Darks would probably not have been something that appealed to me back then; I would have walked around trying to find something that didn't scare me. Luckily, I have overcome those fears.

I found some great beers at the Parade of Darks but many are, sadly, only available in the winter. A few of my favorites were the Barrel-Aged Munich Dunkel from Pug Ryan's, Chocolate Bock by Samuel Adams (yeah, I know it is a beer giant and not local but it was still pretty good), the Christmas Ale from Bristol Brewing, and the Vanilla Porter from both Dry Dock Brewing and Breckenridge Brewery. Dry Dock's Vanilla Porter has a rich vanilla flavor that would taste great in ice cream. Good thing I own an ice cream machine and good thing Chris won a bottle in the silent auction. (Note: I should suggest this to Sweet Action for their next marriage between beer and ice cream because Sweet Action rocks!) 

One of the other fun things about this event was chatting with the reps from the breweries. I talked to the folks from Grimm Brothers Brewhouse about the art work for their beers and I was excited to see a couple of their shirts at the silent auction (which I bid on and won.  I will use them in a Beer in Colorado t-shirt quilt when my shirts are no longer wearable). They told me about their new beer that is going to be available in February or March. I can't remember what type of beer or the name but I do remember that the art work is purple. Perfect! It will fit nicely into my wardrobe.

I do have one tiny complaint about the food. The food selection was chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, cheesecakes, and other rich desserts. You may never meet someone with a bigger sweet tooth than me; I love desserts. But, some cheese, meats and crackers, or pretzels might have been more suitable for a beer event. After all, they do cleanse the palate and fill you up. Just food for thought.


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