"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!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cementing Colorado's Dominance

There is no doubt that Denver is the best city in the U.S.  Although they may do it inadvertently, the denizens of other cities support my theory.  When the Cubs are in town, Coors field is filled with more Fukudome jerseys than Tulowitzki jerseys.  When skiing the slopes, one can’t help but encounter a jean-bedecked gaper in a University of Texas sweatshirt.  The Californians are scooping out our mountainsides and building multi-million dollar mansions, the Arizonians are sending their old people up here to congest our roads, and the Wisconsinites have made their church at Swanky’s wherein they suckle at the cheese-flavored teat of the Packers. Why are they here if they love their birthplace so much?  Because Denver is the best city in America.  Case closed.

Now that we’ve established the fact that Denver is the best, let’s take a look at why.  I could go on for eons on this subject but this is a beer blog and that’s what I will focus on.  It’s no secret that the breweries in Colorado are numerous and exalted but what may be a slightly better-kept secret is that Denver is home to several fantastic craft beer bars: Hops & Pie, Freshcraft, Falling Rock, Uptown Brothers, and the focuses of this post—AleHouse at Amato’s and Highland Tap & Burger (HTB).

Amato’s and HTB are both located within a few blocks of each other in the Lower Highlands (LoHi) neighborhood of Denver.  If you know anything about LoHi then you know it is hipster central.  Too-tight pants, terrible facial hair, retro shirts, and upturned noses at commercial bands abound.  Nevertheless, it is worth swimming the sea of irony to reach these craft beer hotspots.

The building that Amato’s is housed in was formerly a fountain and statuary store known as Amato of Denver.  Amato of Denver has since moved their operations a block away, opening up the space to Breckenridge Brewery who transformed the building into the trendy watering hole that it is today.

Nicole and I met fellow Geeks Who Drink fans Robin and Justin at the rooftop patio and had ourselves a sit.  My first beer was SummerBright Ale (4.5% ABV) from Breckenridge.  When viewed in normal light, the beer looks like any other wheat beer: golden yellow.  However, when held to a bright light, it takes on the color of Mountain Dew; it’s almost neon.  The aroma and the flavor are both yeasty and similar to that of a pretzel and the mouthfeel is Sahara dry.
After I had finished SummerBright, the waiter asked if I wanted another one.  I asked him what he had in the way of Colorado-made, off-the-beaten-path beers.  It took awhile to get to the ones I hadn’t had before but eventually I ordered both 72 Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout from Breckenridge and Dry Dock Brewing Co.’s Hefeweizen.  They both sounded great so I had to order both.  I did, however, insist that the rest of the group help me polish them off as I doubt I’d be able to drink both and still get home safely.

72 Imperial is impenetrably black; no highlights of red or brown can be found in this beer.  The head is tan-colored.  Strong whiffs of milk chocolate and coffee emanate from the brim of the glass and the taste is much like the aroma except with burnt toast and nut flavors added.  The mouthfeel is full-bodied and wet.
Usually, I avoid hefeweizen beers.  It reeks of machismo when I say that hefeweizen is a girl’s beer but there is some truth to the statement.  Plus, I crave hoppy or robust beers and hefeweizen simply does not fit the bill.  However, the flavor I like most in a beer is a unique flavor.  When the waiter said that Dry Dock’s hefeweizen had hints of banana and bubble gum I let my manly façade wan a bit.  The beer is a hazy, light yellow and the banana is apparent on the nose.  And, by God, it actually does taste like bubble gum if you let the beer sit in the mouth a few moments before swallowing.  It is more like the candy-coated gumballs you get out of the machines rather than, say, Bazooka Joe.

Hefeweizen on the left, 72 Imperial on the right

We took a few moments to take in the gorgeous skyline view from the patio and headed out to HTB for dinner and a few more brews.

HTB is yet another hip place in a hip neighborhood but, again, it is worth the risk of looking like the un-cool kid at the jock party for HTB’s great food and great beer selection.  HTB is so devoted to beer, in fact, that the casual eater may well be drinking beer even without ordering a pint: so many of their dishes are cooked using craft beer as an ingredient.  The divinely delicious mac n’ cheese is made with Modus Hoperandi from Ska Brewing and the fish and chips as well as onion rings are made with Mama’s Little Yella Pils from Oskar Blues. 

The beer list was also impressive but I opted for something a little different and ordered the Tap Chilada: Mama’s Little Yella Pils, tomato juice, and some spices.  I’ve had similar concoctions at El Diablo as well as at my own house via my own recipe and have had a lot of success with them.  This time, however, it just wasn’t doing it for me.  Yella Pils is a great beer but I’m not so sure it is fit for a beer cocktail of this sort.  Plus, it needed lime, hot sauce, more juice, and a salted rim.  Next time I think I’ll order the Shandy Gaff: Dale’s Pale Ale mixed with ginger beer over ice.

I would recommend both Amato’s and HTB to all Denver residents as well as all visitors.  If the interlopers aren’t ready to admit Denver’s superiority yet, perhaps a few sips of our finest ales will loosen their tongues.

Tap Chilada



Thursday, June 9, 2011

Taking a Gamble on Beer

There are two great ways to beat the heat in Colorado: 1) have a refreshing glass of craft beer and 2) stand on top of a fourteener.  The cool kids do both.

On Wednesday, Nicole and I partook in a Colorado tradition: driving up 14, 265 foot tall Mt. Evans, home to North America’s highest paved road.  Along the way we were privy to wildlife sightings including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, marmots, pikas, and gasping Kansas tourists.  We Coloradoans are more than a little proud about our fourteeners and we often brag about how many we’ve summit’d and, while driving to the top is a lame way to bag a peak, it’s still an awe-inspiring experience.  The best part about being on top of one of Colorado’s most famous mountains is that the 40 degree weather and hearty breeze ensured that no summer swelter would dare show its face. 
We dodged cyclists on the sidewinder roads and made our way to a brewery we have yet to visit in a town we have yet to visit: Dostal Alley in the gambling town of Central City.

Rear entry to Dostal Alley

Las Vegas Central City is not.  There are fewer high rollers than there are hair rollers.  The lights are less neon and more fluorescent.  The showgirls aren’t topless, they’re toothless.  It’s the quintessential Wild West gambling town and it hasn’t advanced much since the 1880’s.
Dostal Alley, which is a casino as well as brewpub, fits in with the local flavor with its weathered, wood façade and frontier interior design e.g. antique light fixtures, showgirl panorama painting hanging above the bar, wood-wrapped fermenting tanks.

It is not to seem negative or downright mean when I say our bartender looked like Grizzly Adams’ even more unkempt brother because I enjoyed the local, mountain spirit he exuded.  Plus, he was an exceedingly amiable guy.  I didn’t ask but I assumed he was also the brewmaster because he was bragging on the beers and how many awards they’ve won.  Now, when you hear the phrase “award winning beer,” it usually doesn’t mean much; there are beer competitions all over the USA and they happen throughout the entire year.  It aint that impressive to win a bronze medal at the Hayseed County Fair.  However, the Dostal Alley beers have won silvers at the Great American Beer Festival.  If there is an event whose awards I respect, it’s the GABF.

The bartender told me that the community was bummed that Jacob Mack Mild Ale (4.2% ABV)—named for a 19th Century brewer from Central City—didn’t win anything as it is a local favorite.  Not only is it loved by the townsfolk but the ingredients themselves are from Central City; ever since Jacob Mack (the man, not the beer) came to town and started brewing, the hops have been growing wild all around Central City and they’re ripe for the picking.  It’s a local beer in every sense.  I ordered a pint of Jacob Mack and Nicole had a Belgian-style wheat. 

Jacob Mack on the left, Summer Wheat on the right

A mild ale is a English-style of beer that is known for its high-malt, low-hop character and the fact that—at least in its original incarnation—it is a young beer as opposed to an aged ale or lager.  Jacob Mack certainly fits this profile; the local hops are overpowered by slightly roasty, slightly caramel-y malts.  The murky, brown beer (it looks like somebody mixed a spoonful of chocolate powder into the pint) has a very light mouthfeel.  You could almost say it is a watered down beer.  That isn’t to say it is flavorless, just that it is anything but creamy and heavy.

In the wise words of Kenny Rogers, “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” With Dostal Alley, I suggest you hold ‘em: hold your horses until you have another reason to visit Central City.  Dostal Alley has quite a bit going for it but I don’t feel like it’s worth going out of your way to get a pint.  If, however, you find yourself in Central City for other purposes then, by all means, check it out.



As Chris sipped the Jacob Mack Mild Ale, I gave the Summer Wheat a try. It has a hazy light yellow appearance with a light citrus aroma. The flavor is light and crisp with a hint of “breadiness” and lemons. The Summer Wheat would be enjoyable sitting outside on a hot summer day. Chris and read through the Rocky Mountain Brewing News, a publication about what is going on at breweries in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Colorado. We noted the names of the newest breweries in Colorado so that we can plan a visit. As I finished my beer, I was distracted by the jingling of tokens as they trickled out of slot machines, the beeping noises that accompanied the video poker machines, and the shops across the street that probably offered souvenir trinkets. I was tempted to play the penny slots. Instead, I gave in to the rumblings of my tummy and had some pizza at the restaurant in the basement of Dostal Alley.


And a bunch of pictures from Mt. Evans: