"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!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Even More Pre-Gaming the Great American Beer Festival

Read more about Great American Beer Festival pre-gaming here and here.

There are still more Denver beer events leading up to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF).  Does every city with a festival, ceremony, or celebration have these precursory events?  Does Los Angeles hand out awards to TV commercial actors the week before the Academy Awards?  Do skanky girls in New Orleans show half a breast during the preparation for Mardi Gras?  How often do five or six gay guys walk down the street in a mini-parade in anticipation for the San Francisco Pride celebration?  I think Denver might be the only city that completely embraces its most significant and defining event and, for that, I am grateful to live here.

I’ve missed most of what’s happening in Denver but I can thank Jared from Paramount Café for continually giving me the hook-up at his establishment.  While attending the Apps ‘N’ Ales with Avery Brewing event, Jared invited me and Nicole to the Paramount Café Beer Festival that was to be held in two days.  Unfortunately, Nicole was unable to attend so, in lieu, I brought my sister, Sarah.

The festival was fantastic!  It didn’t have the fame or enormity of the GABF but it had plenty more going for it: it’s a lot cheaper, a lot more intimate, and attendees weren’t constantly bouncing off one another like a thousand steel balls in a Pachinko machine.  Also, while breweries at GABF are usually pouring specialty beers, who wants to wait for them?  At Paramount Café, the oddities of familiar breweries were available for tasting without a miles long line.

The first booth we visited was Crabtree Brewing Company where we talked to Rob O’Connor about the homophonically called Cézanne Saison (8% ABV), so named for the French artist.  Cézanne is the color of a ripe orange and smells quite yeasty.  The flavor is slightly tart and and the mouthfeel is crisp and dry. 

From a brewery with a saison, we went to the brewery with only saisons: Funkwerks.  There, I tried Jeff Blackburn’s Motif which is clear and honey-colored.  The aroma is very faint but one might call it a bit flowery.  Motif goes down pretty smooth save for a slight burn at the back of the throat; it’s nothing to be alarmed about, beer wimps, it’s just a little warming sensation.  I could almost taste a cherry aftertaste in it, too.  The Funkwerks rep holding down the fort, Andy Mitchell, was also pouring the beer that he made: Cochon.  For the French illiterate, “cochon” means “pig” or anything else that implies garishness or uncivil tendencies.  Why such a crude name for a fine beer?  Mitchell explains that his saison—a style traditionally brewed in the French-speaking region of Belgium—has been Americanized with additional hops and that a snooty Frenchman would surely drop his baguette in disgust and turn his nose up at this bastardized version of his culture’s beloved libation.  Well, that hypothetical frog can say zees beer eez as terrableh as your deescusteen Amerycohn cheese all he wants; it won’t change the fact that Cochon, with its hoppy flavor but no bitter bite, is a great, modern take on a classic style.

Jared was pouring some Great Divide Brewing Co. beers: Fresh Hop Pale Ale (6.1% ABV) and Hibernation Ale (8.7% ABV).  While sipping on those two beers, Jared asked if we’d been to the Oskar Blues Brewery booth yet.  We said no so he strongly encouraged us to get over there before they ran out of what they were serving.  Like, now.  So, we gulped our Great Divides and pushed through to Oskar Blues.

I haven’t kept it a secret; I love weird beer.  Traditionalism?  Yeah, that’s nice but I’m looking for that creative twist.  A creative twist is just what we got at Oskar Blues.  They had two perennial classics—Dale’s Pale Ale (6.5% ABV) and Ten Fidy (10.5%ABV)—but with a little something extra to spice up the evening.  Dale’s, for example, was aged with cedar chips thus giving it a minty, spruce-y aroma and flavor.  Ten Fidy had sour cherries added and was aged in Stranahan’s whiskey barrels.  The nose on this beer is heavy on whisky and cherry but, once on the tongue, it takes on a more mild character; the whiskey complements the beer instead of overwhelming it and the sour cherry remains an underlying flavor never taking the spotlight.

We tried a little Left Hand BrewingCompany and some Breckenridge Brewery but neither of them had anything new to wow me with.

The New Belgium Brewing table was a fun one to hang out at because of the Lips of Faith beers they were pouring: Clutch (9% ABV), Kick (8.5% ABV), and Transatlantique Kriek (8% ABV).  Clutch, named after a Maryland rock band, is dark in color with a tinge of sourness.  I actually have a bomber of it sitting in my fridge; I just haven’t gotten around to it.  I’m sure a more in-depth review will be coming shortly.  Kick is a collaboration beer between New Belgium and Elysian Brewing Company—a brewery known for its many pumpkin-beer interpretations.  Kick is so named for the combination of the names Kim Jordan—founder and CEO of New Belgium—and Dick Cantwell—founder and CEO of Elysian.  Thus, Kim + Dick = Kick.  Other than the fact that they’re both higher-ups in their respective businesses, why are these two names used in the designation of this beer?  Supposedly (and I’m only quoting the New Belgium rep), Kim and Dick are now dating which came as a surprise to me since I didn’t even realize Kim and her apparent ex-husband Jeff Lebesch—co-founder of New Belgium—were no longer together.  Hell, I’m not their biographer so that news is probably decades old but that doesn’t mean I was any less surprised.  I also have a bottle of Kick in my fridge so expect a review to pop up on my Examiner.com site relatively soon.  That leaves Transatlantique Kriek which is ruby red and smells and tastes a lot like red wine.

The first time I tried to hit an event at Paramount Café, Scott Cargile, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. rep who brewed Yippie-Rye-Aye with assistance from Jared, had left early and I wasn’t able to do the meet-and-greet.  Luckily, he came back for this event.  First of all, Sierra Nevada had the best schwag of the evening: carabiners with built-in bottle openers, assorted stickers, and Velcro straps that are meant to keep pant legs from getting caught in bike gears but could also come in handy for any kinky bondage situations that might arise.  Scott was pouring the flagship pale ale (5.6% ABV) as well as FOAM Pilsner, a beer that had never been tapped outside of a Phish concert until that night, and Yippie-Rye-Aye. 

Odell Brewing Company was serving up Bourbon Barrel Stout (10.5% ABV), a beer that has a bourbon smell but is mostly stout with bourbon hints in flavor.  And, yes, Odell rep, this is a blog thus I am currently occupying the role of “blogger.”  However, when I write for Examiner.com, I am a reporter so having business cards that say “Beer Journalist” is not a falsification. 

Beer geeks with no money and no GABF ticket, stop crying in your pint glasses.  Keep your eyes open for events like this because they are a great, inexpensive substitute or supplement for the “big show” that starts tonight.  Keep drinking, friends; this fervor wanes after October 1st.
The Paramount Cafe' Beer Festival in full swing (and Sarah being a dork in the lower, left corner)



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Pre-Gaming the Great American Beer Festival

For more Great American Beer Festival pre-gaming, click here.

When you live in Denver you know your beer.   It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a beer geek because the city is so absorbed with brew culture that you can subconsciously pick up tidbits of information by osmosis; just being surrounded by great breweries and great beer makes one a pseudo-expert.  It’s the same way everybody in Memphis knows their blues, everybody in Kansas City knows their BBQ, and everybody in Miami knows their cocaine.  Collectively, we know our stuff.

We know, for example, that, like wine, certain types of beer pair well with certain types of food.  I do not profess to be an expert on the matter because, while I do love beer and I do love to grub out, I’ve never actually been to a beer and food pairing event.  Thanks to Jared (who Nicole and I met at Star Bar’s Beer Cocktail event), I got the hook-up at the Apps ‘N’ Ales with Avery Brewing event held at Paramount Café.  That’s right, world; I can hold my head up and proudly proclaim, ‘Yes, I have eaten a snack and washed it down with a beer that has a complementary flavor!”  Truth be told, I didn’t follow the guide and I didn’t exactly match up my appetizers with my beer—I just ordered the beers I haven’t had yet.  So, technically, I’ve been to a beer and food pairing but I didn’t follow the rules.  Nonetheless, I had a great time chowing down, sipping samplers, and talking shop with Jared and the Avery reps.    

For the “app” portion of the night I ordered the Sweet Chili Dry-Rubbed Wings (so good I think they’re illegal in the Bible Belt) and Nicole had the veggie pizza.  For the “ale” portion of the night, well, where do I begin?

The first sampler I received, Immitis, was a freebie from an Avery rep.  Immitis is a sour beer and, while I’ve talked about sour beers before, no previous experience could have prepared me for the wallop that Immitis packs.  Although it looks like whiskey with red highlights, this beer was actually aged in zinfandel barrels so it has a certain wine-y quality.  The nose on this beer is the first clue that Immitis isn’t your average beer; it nearly knocked me off my chair with a punch of sour aroma.  The aroma does not mislead—Immitis tastes just as sour as it smells.  So sour, in fact, that I couldn’t help but make a puckered-up face.  Despite how torturous this experience might sound I actually like this beer a great deal.  Then again, I’m a food masochist: I love Sour Patch Kids, raw rhubarb, and I douse everything in hot sauce.  If it aint painful, it aint good.  So, if you can find Immitis (and I don’t know if you can because they don’t currently bottle it) I recommend you snag it.  Make sure you don’t get a rookie bartender that might pour you a whole pint—a splash in a snifter is more than enough.

The next four beers I ordered to go along with my wings but, like I said, I didn’t put any effort into actually pairing drink to food; I just picked the ones I’ve yet to taste: The Reverend (10% ABV), Collaboration Not Litigation, duganA IPA (8.5% ABV), and Hog Heaven Dry-Hopped Barleywine Style Ale (9.2% ABV).
From left to right: Reverend, Collaboration, duganA, Hog Heaven

I lied.  I actually have had Reverend before but it was while I was an undergraduate student and a mere fledgling of a beer geek (I was still a beer geek, though, as I had it at the local brewpud: Gunnison Brewery).  I was anxious to try it again now that I’ve developed my palate.  Reverend is the color of cherries dipped in milk chocolate: deep red with a tinge of brown.  The nose is rife with the scent of black licorice and earthy aromas.  There is an unmistakable cherry flavor in Reverend that plows the way for a black licorice aftertaste.  Warming spices in the back of the throat round out the Reverend’s sermon.

Collaboration Not Litigation has a very interesting story.  You can read said story on the Avery website but I will quickly re-cap it here for your convenience.  The Avery and Russian River breweries realized that they both had a beer called “Salvation” but, because the craft beer world is a system of mutual support, the breweries didn’t sic their lawyers on each other but instead created a new beer by blending the two Salvations together.  Thus became Collaboration Not Litigation—a beer that is dark, burnt orange in color, and smells of apricot.  Peach, cinnamon, and nutmeg all make themselves known in the flavor.

Please do not ask me why duganA IPA has such unique capitalization; I do not know.  Ask the folks at Avery.  This beer is darkish yellow and clear.  The aroma is like a suburban lawn after the neighborhood kids have mowed it—very grassy.  There are also whiffs of lemon essence.  While Avery claims duganA is “brutally bitter,” I couldn’t disagree more; it has a very tame bitter bite although the Christmas tree-like flavors of the hops come through in full force.

Hog Heaven is a light ruby colored beer with an aroma that is hoppy, citrusy, and caramel-y all at the same time.  It packs a monster of a hop bite so much so that it burns as it goes down.  I felt like a dragon about to spew fire after the initial swallow. 

This is where my memory gets a little fuzzy and my notes get a little sloppier.  I honestly didn’t drink very much quantity-wise since all of these beers were served in tiny, sippy-sized cups but, because all of them hovered near or over the double-digit ABV threshold, their effect was noticeable.  Good thing I did take notes or else this information would be lost to the ages.

The Avery rep came by our table to drop off The Beast Grand Cru (14.9% ABV) and talk beer.  I like to claim to be a beer geek but I don’t like being put on the spot and having to defend that claim.  Well, that’s too bad for me because that’s what I had to do when the rep stopped by.  The initiating question: why is The Beast called The Beast?  I didn’t know.  I guessed and said it had 666 ingredients.  Well, that was dead wrong but I was on the right track: it has six types of malts, six types of Belgian candied sugars, and six types of hops.  I also learned that “Grand Cru” simply means “Best Offering” and that The Beast once claimed the highest ABV of any Colorado beer.  That title has since been usurped by some glory hogs but Avery isn’t upset; they said it was never about the record for them, it was just about making good beer whether or not it contained a ton of alcohol.  The Beast smells and tastes a lot like Lipton iced tea.

The next beer came in the form of Meretrix, another sour beer.  Meretrix is a lot like Immitis except that it is a hazy brown-orange in color and it has hints of sour apple in its aroma and taste.  It still has Immitis’ KO sour punch, though.
Pretty sure this is Meretrix

God bless ya, Jared, for bringing out three more beers to review.  By golly, I was sated but you brought out more samples.  I can always make room for more.  Jared’s trio: Stranahan’s Barrel Aged Vanilla Porter (8-9% ABV) from Breckinridge Brewery, HGH from Oskar Blues Brewery, and Māori King (8% ABV) from Funkwerks.

The Stranahan’s Barrel Aged Vanilla Porter is just like Breckenridge’s normal Vanilla Porter except it was aged in Stranahan's whiskey barrels.  The coloration is basically the same—dark brown with red highlights—but the aroma blew me away.  It is, without doubt, the best smelling beer I’ve ever had the pleasure of sticking my nose in.  Sweet, sweet vanilla mixed with subtle hints of wood and whiskey?  It’s beer geek aromatherapy.  The taste is almost as good with whiskey being the most obvious flavor and vanilla as back-up.  The mouthfeel is somewhat thick making the drinking experience similar to that of eating a vanilla ice cream cone.  This is a gentleman’s drink; I want to put on my monogram robe, light up a pipe, and enjoy this beer next to a crackling hearth and a conked out hound dog. 

HGH—or Home Grown Hops—is clear mahogany and possesses a big, malty nose and a big bitter bite.  HGH’s alcoholic flavors are apparent; sipping this beer is like taking a shot of watered-down liquor.  The mouthfeel is thin and dry.

Even though it is no longer called Māori King, this imperial saison is still mighty tasty.  It is hazy and light yellow with a yeasty aroma.  The flavor is bready and slightly hoppy but certainly not a barrage of bitterness.  The mouthfeel is dry.
From left to right: Māori King, HGH, Vanilla Porter 

Thank you once again, Jared, for informing me about this event and I’m sure Nicole and I will be seeing you again so long as you keep serving fine beer.



Monday, September 26, 2011

Pre-Gaming the Great American Beer Festival

Did you get your Great American Beer Festival tickets?  No?  They sold out before you could get any?  Well, that’s okay; it probably wouldn’t be that fun anyway.  I mean, the place is a mess of people, you only get a sampler-sized glass, and the tickets are totally overpriced—you definitely don’t get what you paid for.  I really wouldn’t worry about it; you’re better off not going and just staying home.

Are you buying any of this?

Okay, okay, I can’t keep up the charade.  The GABF is great!  It’s the most fun a beer loving person can have!  Everybody who has ever glanced at this blog needs to make immediate plans to attend next year’s festival if you’re not already going this year.  If you find yourself lying on your deathbed without having gone to GABF at least once then your life did not reach its fullest potential.  I don’t care how much money you made, how many beautiful women you bedded, or how many third-world children you saved from starvation because a life without experiencing GABF is a life wasted.  Yeah, it’s that good.

Ah, nuts.  Now I’ve made you all depressed.  Hey, chin up, bucko.  There’s hope for you yet.  It’s no accident that GABF is held in Denver AKA the Napa Valley of Beer.  If you think this city’s love for craft beer can be contained in one measly event then think again!  As much as a juggernaut the GABF is, it’s still not enough to slake Denver’s thirst.  That’s why we have the third annual Denver Beer Fest wherein local bars, breweries, and restaurants put on special beer-related events in preparation for the culminating event: GABF.  Also, there are numerous other venues hosting their own beer fests that aren’t associated with either GABF or Denver Beer Week; absolutely everybody is getting in on the action!  If GABF is the big high school dance then those of you who couldn’t get tickets can be the nonconformist kids who throw a smaller, looser party together in Stacey Henderson’s garage (her parents are out of town) and take potshots at all the cool kids who’re at prom.

How does one find these smaller beer festivals?  Well, like I said, it isn’t all tied up in one, neat bundle; it’s all scattered about the city.  Look at websites, read the paper, and keep your eyes open for posters; it’s impossible not to find some information.  I, for one, don’t actively search for events—I wait for information to come to me.  Thus far, it has been a successful strategy. 

The first event I attended was the tapping of Sierra Nevada’s Yippie-Rye-Aye at Paramount Café which I heard about via Star Bar’s Beer Cocktail event.  I was schmoozing it up with some of the other attendees—handing out my card and shooting the breeze—and, lo and behold, several weeks later I get an e-mail from Jared, Paramount’s bar manager, about Paramount’s two weeks of GABF lead-up events.  The tapping of Yippie-Rye-Aye, held on Friday, was right in the middle of this two week event.  Unfortunately, Scott Cargile from Sierra Nevada was supposed to be there for a meet-and-greet but, by the time we arrived, he had already left.  Nevertheless, the beer was still there so I ordered myself a pint.

Yippie-Rye-Aye is a clear, rusty brown-red (I’m only guessing about the color since I was at the back of the bar and I wasn’t getting much ambient light) and it has a faint, nearly imperceptible aroma.  What is noticeable on the nose—however difficult it is to root out—is definitely rye.  The flavors are, likewise, ethereal and light with no bitterness.  The mouthfeel continues the trend by making the experience similar to that of drinking a fluffy white cloud: very light in body.  Yippie-Rye-Aye isn’t a beer that will challenge the drinker’s palate but it is a good, solid, sessionable brew recommended for any beginning-of-fall outdoor gatherings. 

Nicole and I intend to visit Paramount Café at least one more time before this two-week event comes to completion.

I also had the privilege of visiting Hops & Pie for their monthly Denver’s Littlest Big Beer Fest (DLBBF) which, this time, featured Upslope Brewing Company.  Sure, Hops & Pie holds this event year-round thus dismissing any inkling that it might be affiliated with Denver Beer Week or GABF but it’s hard to not consider it a pre-GABF event when it’s held during this time of the year.  I heard about this event through Luke, the Upslope sales and marketing associate who read my Examiner.com review of Craft Lager and asked that I attend the DLBBF showcasing several of their non-canned, non-distributed beers on tap: Coffee and Vanilla Bean Cask-Conditioned Brown Ale (6.7% ABV), Kolsch (5.7% ABV), Pumpkin (7.3% ABV), and Randalized India Pale Ale (Fresh Hopped) (7.2% ABV).  I happily obliged.
From left to right: India Pale Ale, Pumpkin, Kolsch, Brown Ale

Coffee and Vanilla Bean Cask-Conditioned Brown Ale is dark in color—like stained wood or Diet Coke—but possesses a clarity that makes it possible to see through.  The vanilla in this beer packs a punch but the coffee flavors, though fainter than the vanilla, can be tasted from the first sip to the last swallow.  The decadence of this beer makes it straddle the line between drink and dessert.

Kolsch is perhaps the least deviant of the four beers; while it is still a very good beer, it isn’t as adventurous as the others.  Kolsch is a clear, champagne yellow in color; it almost looks colorless (especially when viewed next to the other, darker-bodied beers).  The aroma houses a lemon-like scent that is likely derived from the Hersburcker hops used in its creation.  There is little to no bitterness in Kolsch and instead features the sweetness of the grains.  It is light, refreshing, and very dry. 
Like Brown Ale, Pumpkin is situated in the overlapping section of the Beer/Dessert Venn diagram.  It is slightly hazy and it takes an intense stare to see through it.  The color of Pumpkin is (appropriately) orange with red highlights.  When viewed through a strong light source, it looks as though the colors are layered: red on top and orange on bottom with a smooth blending zone in between.  This beer is straight-up pumpkin pie complete with nutmeg and vanilla.  Some people like their pumpkin beers to have a subtle hint of the titular flavor while others want a whole pie in the face.  This beer is for those who lean towards the latter. 
Randalized India Pale Ale is a fresh hopped beer which means the flavor and aroma of the hops get a boost.  This IPA certainly has the flavor and aroma but what it doesn’t have is a vicious, bitter bite; this one is for hop wimps who don’t want a beer with bite but still want that piney, grassy hop taste.  The color is dark yellow and slightly cloudy.  

As good as the beers were—and they were all quite good—the best part of any event is the people.  Nicole and I had a ball of a time talking shop with the other attendees who sat on our end of the bar.  We talked about the best beers we’ve had, the best breweries in town, homebrewing tips, caring for hop plants, and tasting notes and how they compare from person to person.  It was a total beer geek conversation and I loved every minute of it!  We got to talking so much that I found out that one of the fellow attendees is friends with the mother of a few kids with whom I went to high school.  I went to high school in Indiana so that’s pretty amazing.  Now, it’s not as if I really knew those kids but the smallness of our world still surprises me.
We also got to chit-chat a bit with Luke as well as with Matt, the founder of Upslope.  They were both affable chaps and I hope to see them again at Upslope’s third anniversary party on November 5th. 

Even after the great beers and the pleasant conversations, the highlight of the event was yet to come.  I was wearing—as I oftentimes do—my “Indiana Drinking Team” t-shirt from Sun King Brewery which features the Indiana state flag with a beer bottle substituted for the torch.  I obviously love my Colorado beers but I want to support my home state brews, too, so I often wear this shirt to beer events.  I also wear it around the house a lot because I just plain like the shirt.  This unhealthy attachment to my garments made a conundrum out the following series of events.
As we were about to leave, Luke stopped me and asked how much it would take for me to give him my shirt.  As odd as this conversation-starter was, I didn’t ask questions at first; I just tried to get the best deal possible.  I let him know that I really liked the shirt and that it would take a lot for me to give it up.  Being a sales and marketing associate, Luke knows how to haggle and sweeten a deal.  For one Sun King shirt I could get a) an Upslope shirt, b) an Upslope can coozie, c) an Upslope pint glass, d) a metal Upslope sign, and e) a free six pack. 

It was nice knowing you, shirt.  May your new owner treat you with the love and respect you deserve.
I changed out of my Sun King shirt, put on a paint-stained shirt Nicole happened to have in her car, and handed my pride and joy over to Luke.  I didn’t get everything promised in the deal right away because not everything was immediately at hand but I got your contact info, Luke, so don’t you renege on me.

I found out later that Luke wanted my shirt so that he could impress an Indiana-born girl he was meeting later that day so here’s hoping that my shirt led to some corn-fed, Hoosier lovin’.
GABF or no GABF, Denver beer geeks can still sip and savor the finest beers the craft world has to offer; you just have to keep your eyes open for them.  And wear a cool shirt.  You never know when it will come in handy.


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.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Beer Gets Beastly at Brew at the Zoo

When one hears the words “wild animal” and “alcohol involved” the mind flashes through all the possible scenarios where those two things might coexist.  Few of these scenarios have positive outcomes.  Either a couple of whiskey-infused hunters thought it would be a good idea to play keep-away with a baby grizzly or Shamu took out another late-night skinny dipper who wandered into the park after a raging bender.  Common sense states that the one does not mix drinking with undomesticated animals—history shows that’s just asking for trouble.  Apparently, Denver Zoo never got that memo because they’ve been stuffing man-eating beasts and drunken revelers into the same area for fourteen years.  It isn’t a modern day interpretation of feeding Christians to the lions—it’s Brew at the Zoo.

I have been to a number of different brew festivals from the leviathan that is the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) to the hippie-soaked Telluride Blues & Brews Festival but I’ve never before been to Brew at the Zoo.  I have been missing out.  Imagine, if you will, a gigantic party complete with flowing beer, catered snacks, live entertainment, dancing, lights, and conversations concerning non-family friendly subject matter.  Already, that’s a damn good time.  Now, imagine that instead of being bumped into by a blonde-headed, collar-popping toolbox singing Gin and Juice because he’s so “gangsta,” you run into a zookeeper with a giant, blue parrot perched on his arm.  Instead of hanging out on the host’s deck and gazing out upon a manicured lawn and a few squirrels, you see giraffes, elephants, and zebras.  Instead of a golden retriever doing stupid tricks to its owner’s exaggerated delight, there’s a hippopotamus that rears itself out of the water to catch apples in its gaping maw.  Can you honestly tell me that this party hasn’t multiplied in awesomeness by at least a hundredfold?  I’ve been missing out on this for thirteen years but on Friday, September 9th, I finally got a taste of what it’s like to drink craft beer while standing five feet away from something that could disembowel me in two seconds. 
Hungry, hungry hippo at Brew at the Zoo

Sometimes, when you take two unrelated things and mash them together, you get an amalgam wherein each part is dependent on the other component.  It’s like teaching a dog to surf.  A dog on its own is pretty boring and, let’s face it, his surfing skills aren’t really that impressive, either; neither part can stand alone but, when put together, magic happens.  This, however, is not the case with Brew at the Zoo.  It is “brew” enough to stand alone as a decent beer festival even if it wasn’t at the zoo.  It is “zoo” enough that even without beer it is still interesting to see all the wildlife.  Putting two already high-quality components together results in a mash-up of the highest caliber. 

An elephant tries to ignore its noisy neighbors

Nicole and I had a great time rubbing shoulders with the giants of small brewing.  We talked to Steve Houck from Oskar Blues whom we met during Oskar Blues night on the Denver Patio Ride.  I doubt, of course, that he remembered us but it was still neat to reconnect.  We chatted a bit with the folks at Del Norte who told us that they finally have a tasting room.  Del Norte has caused a lot of frustration for us in our mission to visit every brewery in Colorado.  Sure, it’s located right here in Denver but, without a tasting room, it just sat there, out of reach, and tantalized us for years.  Now, we will be able to rectify that situation in short order.  Caution: Brewing Company, a brewery very new to the Denver scene, also told us they’d be opening up a tasting room soon.  It was a lot of fun making contacts with people who are so important to the business that I love.

In addition to the copious amounts of beer, Brew at the Zoo also offered partygoers the opportunity to make complete asses of themselves at the Silent Disco.  Basically, dancers don wireless headphones which pick up a signal from the DJ’s booth.  To participants, it’s a rave.  To spectators, it’s an undulating mass of people dancing to silence.  When the animals see such a spectacle, I’m sure they wonder how it is that humans are at the top of the food chain.
Silent Disco

We left the zoo sated from craft beer and smiling from our animal encounters.  Of all the beer festivals I’ve been to, it is hard to rank Brew at the Zoo.  It doesn’t have GABF’s enormity or Telluride’s majestic scenery but, being held at the zoo, it definitely brings something unique to the table.  Besides, you can drink happy knowing that much of the proceeds go to the Red Apple Fund for Lifelong Learning, a program that helps disadvantaged kids learn about and experience the wonders of the Denver Zoo.

This grease-powered tuk tuk was zipping around all night

For another take on Brew at the Zoo, visit this link.


I am a kid at heart. I never get tired of going to the zoo. This year alone I visited the San Diego Zoo, the Indianapolis Zoo, and Sydney Wildlife World.  It is especially fun to visit the Denver Zoo when they have special events like Brew at the Zoo. The event hosted 35 breweries (some local, some not), a couple of cider places, and about 20 restaurants. It was overwhelming trying to decide where to go first but it was fun chatting with people from the breweries and learning about new beers and changes to the brewery. The people-watching was equally fun. Chris and I watched the Silent Disco dancers and tried to figure out which song they were dancing to. In addition to the Silent Disco, there was another dance floor where DJ RIPM mixed songs from the last 50 years to please the diverse crowd. When we first walked past the dance floor there was one guy getting his groove on and, by the end of the night, the dance floor was packed and that same guy was still showing off his moves.  

Of course the night would not be complete without watching the elephants, Mimi and Dolly, nosh on hay, the young giraffe, Nitro, strip leaves off branches, and the hippopotamus, Bert, splash around while waiting for his dinner.  Parts of the zoo were closed off so only a limited number of animals were on display. We did, however, get to check out a treehouse that is part of the new Asian Tropics exhibit. The last time we visited the zoo the exhibit was hidden away from public view. Now, the fences have been taken down and we were able to get a glimpse of what the new habitats are going to look like.

We were able to score some bottle caps for our art projects including several from Alaskan Brewing Company and Odell Brewing Co. We were able to add some new Odell bottle caps since they changed the color of the Easy Street Wheat caps from maroon to yellow. I felt awkward asking for bottle caps but they were headed for the trash anyway. The people from Alaskan were more than willing to donate caps toward the cause since they are bottle cap artists themselves. They had an American flag made from bottle caps on display at their booth.
Alaskan's cap art