"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, December 31, 2011

2011: The Year of the Beer

Confetti?  Check.  Annoying noise-maker? Check?  Cellar-aged beers to share with friends?  Check. A bomb shelter filled with canned foods, freshwater, and nudie magazines in preparation for a blizzard/Russian bombing/Rapture/12-year-late Y2K/one-year early Mayan doomsday prophecy?  Check.

Yep, I think I’m prepared for New Year’s Eve.  Oh, wait, just one more thing; I need to do one of those slapped-together retrospective re-caps of 2011.  So, what happened this year in beer?
  • Beer in Colorado is conceived, gestated, and birthed.  A result of boredom and a passion for the Centennial State’s brews, this blog, once only read by the author’s mother, has grown so that now the author’s mother’s friends are also entranced by its prose.

  • I let the blog evolve a bit.  I’ve started embedding links instead of just pasting them to the end of each post, I un-italicized Nicole’s comments, I received a snazzy logo courtesy of Jeff Lada, and I (hopefully) have had fewer and fewer typos and spelling errors (seriously, if you see a little mistake, let me know; dows tings drive me crazt).  Also, Beer in Colorado now has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

That’s pretty much everything that happened this year.  Here’s hoping 2012 is as beer-soaked as 2011.



A beer in review 2011

Looking back at the blog posts from this year is like looking at a scrapbook of my life. I have been meaning to sit down and actually make an actual scrapbook of the breweries that we have visited and, so far, I have about three pages done. I have promised Chris that I will get to work on that right after I finish knitting the blanket I started, reading the current book on my nightstand, grading the stack of papers I brought home, etc.

A few things about this year:
  • I started drinking outside the box. My "go-to" beer is no longer the wheat beer on tap. In fact, I don't even think I like wheat beers any more. I am willing to try any beer that Chris sends my way, even an IPA.

  • Unique beers keep the people wanting more. Last January, Chris and I visited Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs after a day of skiing. I had the Tundrabeary and Chris had the Bocknog. Both were great seasonal beers. So good that when we drove through Idaho Springs a few days ago we stopped in to see if they had the Bocknog again this year. Sadly, they did not. What a bummer! It is a big let down when you find a great beer and they aren't going to make it this year. Here's to hoping they make it next year.

  • Beer is a great way to catch-up with friends. Whether it was going to a beer event or just tasting a new beer in our living room, we had some great times this year with friends and brews.  We dressed up like rock stars for Chris and Robin's birthdays which garnered many stares from the people at Hops and Pie. After Geek Bowl, we watched as one of Chris' homebrews rivaled Old Faithful in the middle of our friends' kitchen. I ran into someone I knew from elementary school at Amato's Trick or Beer and a friend from college at the Parade of Darks. Plus, we met a lot of great beer geeks along the way.

  • When the weather doesn't want to cooperate when you're traveling, finding the closest pub/brewery is the best way to pass time. Our trips to California and Australia were rainy but breweries saved the day. During Spring Break, Chris and I had planned to ride as many California rollercoasters as time would allow but, when we drove up to Six Flags Magic Mountain it was pouring rain so we had to make a plan B. That plan involved visiting The Bruery and going to a Lakers game. This summer, we had planned on visiting the sites in Sydney and Melbourne but it was winter in Australia and we couldn't walk across the street without being completely soaked. So, we stopped into several breweries and pubs to check out the local culture and warm up before moving on to the next stop. Basicially, we saw a lot of churches, breweries/pubs, and bookstores.

I look forward to the new beer adventures in 2012. We already have some plans in the works to visit some of the Colorado mountain breweries this summer. Hopefully, we can bring you at least one international post and a few "Beer not in Colorado" posts as well. And maybe 2012 will be the year I get a few more pages done in the scrapbook.  


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.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

VIP Treatment at AC Golden Brewing Company

Venture outside the state lines and ask a craft beer enthusiast what comes to mind when they think "beer in Colorado."  More often than not, the reply will be New Belgium or perhaps Great Divide or Breckenridge Brewery.  Now, venture outside the state lines and ask a person with little to no craft beer knowledge what they think when they hear "beer in Colorado."  I bet 100% of the time Coors will be your answer.  That’s the nature of the situation; we are a state filled with countless small to medium craft breweries all living in the shadow of a beer juggernaut.

To say that Coors is a giant is an understatement.  It’s an international brand, its name is plastered on an MLB stadium, and you can’t drive five minutes in the Denver-metro area without seeing a Coors advertisement.  It is so big, in fact, that AC Golden Brewing Company, the Coors craft beer division, is housed inside the flagship brewery in Golden, CO.  That’s right, there’s a brewery within a brewery—it’s like Inception but with beer.  Somebody should start homebrewing inside of AC Golden and really blow people’s minds.
Depending on how steadfast your principles are, the existence of AC Golden can be viewed positively or negatively.  You can look on the bright side and believe that Colorado is so beer-centric that even the big boys want to serve their best possible product.  Coors doesn’t have to serve craft beer; they do just fine with the fizzy, yellow stuff but they want to supply the craft beer-loving public with the quality brew we demand.  Or, you can turn to dark thoughts and believe that AC Golden is an insidious rouse to get uninformed consumers to buy into a corporation; it doesn’t say “Coors” anywhere on an AC Brewing bottle and those not in the know might think they’re buying from a “mom and pop” brewery.  Thus, real microbreweries lose revenue every time a well-meaning, "buy local" touting consumer chooses AC Golden.  I’m not going to tell you which to believe because, really, I don’t think either notion is completely right.

A few days ago, Aimee Valdez, an AC Golden rep, e-mailed me out of the blue and asked if I would like to have a private tour of the brewing facility and meet some of the people that run the business.  The brewery isn’t open to the public so this was a special invitation.  She didn’t tell me why she was offering and she didn’t tell me  how she knew me (I write for this blog, Denver off the Wagon, and Examiner but I didn’t know which one she read) but I really didn’t care because I love special treatment.  I may flip-flop on my opinion of AC Golden but I’d take a tour of the Hannah Montana Museum if they treated me like a VIP so I scooped up Nicole and my sister, travelled to Golden, and met Aimee for the beginning of our tour.

Coors is in the festive mood

We followed Aimee to the AC Golden HQ housed inside the “big brewery”—as the main Coors brewing facility is called—and donned hard-toed, rubber slippers and Colorado Native Lager baseball caps/hardhats.  We met Glenn “Knip” Knippenberg, the president of AC Golden, our tour guide and headbrewer, Jeff Cornell, and were off on our voyage to explore the bowels of the operation.
We started the tour talking about Colorado Native and where the hops and malts—all Coloradoan—come from (some from the northern Front Range, some from the San Luis Valley, some from the Grand Junction area).  Then, we entered a vast room housing a forest of beer tanks where saw the mash press which is a contraption too complicated to describe; just know that it is the mechanism that extracts the sugars from the grains. 

We descended a level, had some Colorado Native straight from the tank, and that’s where I started piecing things together.  Earlier, I casually asked Aimee where it was that she heard my name and she said it was from Examiner.com.  I thought back, tried to remember if I had ever written a review for an AC Golden beer.  I had: for Colorado Native.  I gave it a mediocre rating.  Then, Jeff made a remark about how good Colorado Native is when it's fresh and that I probably had a past-prime can when I wrote my review.  That pretty much cleared up any confusion; I wrote a so-so review and that’s why they brought me to the brewery—to kill me out of retribution.  Well, if I’m going out I’m going out drunk so I tasted my beer.  Damn.  Colorado Native is pretty good when it’s fresh.  It's citrusy and has a slight hop aroma but no hop burn.  Even better, they decided not to kill me.  Happy day!

The mash press.  Figure out how it works and you get a cookie.

Colorado Native straight from the tank

Next, we saw the kegging station and the bottling and packaging station (often manned by School of Mines students).  While in the bottling/packaging room, Knip told us about the special little icon on Colorado Native that will, if you take a picture of it with your smartphone, give you a $1 coupon to send to friend who can then buy a $1 Colorado Native at a participating bar.  Even better, you can send the coupon to yourself and get a $2 Colorado Native!  Get those phones out and start clicking.

Next, we went into the room where the next new AC Golden beers were being created.  I can’t say much because they’d like to keep their “in development” beers hush-hush but I will say this: be on the look-out for a sour beer and—not an IPA—an IPL.  The sour beer wasn’t ready to be tasted but the IPL was and it’s quite tasty.  You'll just have to wait and find out, though.

The kegging station

Jeff pouring an IPL from the tank
The IPL and some sort of idiot in the background

Before we left, Knip gave us the rundown on the benefits of “liking” Colorado Native on Facebook.  The long and short of it is that they have a lot of prizes to give out and they specialize their prizes so that only people who are interested in certain hobbies are notified e.g. a skier would not know about the AC Golden snowboard giveaway.  Also, it is on Facebook that the brewery announces their special releases so, when that sour beer and IPL are released, those on Facebook will know first.

We thanked the AC Golden crew for hanging out with us and giving us the VIP tour and headed home.  What’s to be learned from this experience?  For one, beer geeks should understand that good beer can come from a big brewery.  I wouldn’t suggest forgoing the microbrewed beers altogether but there’s nothing wrong with picking up a little AC Golden on occasion.  Second, if you’re looking to make contacts in any given industry, start a blog or an Examiner.com page and write like hell; eventually, a higher-up will be in contact with you (if you write as well as me, that is).  Lastly, I learned that I will be rewarded by the breweries for which I have written mediocre reviews.  I guess I need to start writing outright terrible reviews so more companies will invite me to the premises to prove me wrong.  Or, to beat the crap out of me.

Thanks again, AC Golden crew; it was a fun experience.



P.S.  Remember in that last post where I told you that Beer in Colorado is now on Twitter and Facebook?  Well, that’s still true so check us out!

An antique mash press

It was fun weaving through the inner workings of a brewery. I have been on a few brewery tours but this was by far the best. Why? Because I got to wear a hard hat, spiffy shoes, and earplugs. Plus, we got to see parts of the brewery that you usually don't get to see on a tour. AC Golden is composed of several puzzle pieces that have been scattered throughout the Coors Brewery and, luckily, we were able to put the whole puzzle together because, unlike a jigsaw puzzle, the family dog didn't eat any pieces. As we talked about upcoming beers, I told Jeff that I they should consider making a pumpkin beer; I am always looking for a new favorite. We seemed to be on the same page in thinking that a good pumpkin beer should taste like a creamy slice of pumpkin pie ready to top off with a swirl of whip cream (perhaps that could be a nice beer cocktail: pumpkin beer and whipped cream vodka. Sure it would be sweet, but it would be like dessert in a glass).

Another things we learned about on the tour was their hop growing program. Chris and I will definitely sign up for this in the spring. We started growing hops last spring in hopes of brewing with fresh hops rather than pellets. The result was a caramel apple beer that I have yet to try (it is still bottle conditioning). When you grow hops for AC Golden, they give you a Colorado Native Hop Grower patch plus the satisfaction of telling all your friends that you contributed ingredients in the effort to get the beer closer to 100% native to Colorado. If you want to try the batch that was brewed from the hop-growing program it should be on liquor store shelves soon with the batch number Mar2012.


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.