"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!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Small Brewery, Big Personality

I've never been a supporter of New Year's resolutions.  For one, I've always felt that if you've been meaning to do something then, dammit, just do it; no point in waiting till the end of December to create a positive change.  Also, having been raised Catholic, I already had to contend with Lent.  I could scarcely make myself commit to 40 days let alone 365.  Nonetheless, the spirit of the season possesses me and I decided, for the first time, to make a resolution.  I have heard the secret to a successful resolution is to make one that can be kept and I figure the best way to accomplish that is to make your resolution something you already like to do.  That is why I have decided that, in 2012, I shall visit new Colorado breweries and, on December 31st, the total number will be comparable to the total visited in 2011.  Thanks to Wit’s End Brewing Company, I am 1/13th closer to realizing that goal.

Having opened but a few months ago, Wit’s End was a component in the 2011 Denver brewery surge.  Along with Renegade Brewing Company, Denver Beer Co., Copper Kettle Brewing Company, and Caution: Brewing Co., Wit’s End has helped make the past year an unusually productive one for craft beer in the Mile High City (I anticipate that TRVE Brewing Company, Prost Brewing Company, Black Shirt Brewing Co., and Black Sky Brewery will continue the growth in 2012).  Yes, with the obvious exception of Tebow Mania, right now is a good time to be a Denverite. 

The first thing you’ll notice about the brewery upon your approach is the fact that you don’t notice it; tucked away in an industrial strip which is, itself, centered in a quiet, unlit neighborhood, you just need to know where you’re going if you want to visit the Wit’s End taproom.  In a weird way, this exemplifies the Coloradoan’s unbridled passion for beer.   A place like Wynkoop Brewing Company, for example, attracts a lot of customers—beer geek or not—because it is in a part of town where there is already a lot of foot traffic; it’s just a matter of luring these passersby through the front door (of course, the reason there’s foot traffic on that street is because Wynkoop set up shop there but that’s another story for another day).  Denver Beer, on ultra-hip Platte Street, and Renegade, right off of the Art District on Santa Fe, enjoy the same perks.  Wit’s End, however, cannot rely on impulse customers because there just isn’t anybody on the street to entice; every customer Wit’s End gets is there because they made a concerted effort to get there.   Like its brothers in isolation Uplsope Brewing Company, Strange Brewing Company, and Elk Mountain Brewing, Wit’s End must count on customer service, the support of rabid beer geeks, and quality of product to carry it through the day.  Fortunately, Wit’s End has all of these qualities in spades.   

We opened the door and walked into one of the smallest possible taprooms one could imagine.  Only Big Beaver Brewing Co. (before the expansion), Three Barrel Brewing Co. (though I heard they expanded, too), and Crystal Springs Brewing Co. can, I think, claim a more miniscule space for imbibing.  No matter, I enjoy a cozy space when I’m sipping my craft beer.  Aside from the overwhelming smallness, the décor of Wit’s End can best be described as minimalistic: a framed collection of drink coasters here, a wall of grain bags stapled there, and that’s pretty much what you get in the way of ambiance.  The feeling one gets when entering Wit’s End is that one is not in a commercial brewery but rather a rec room or a clubhouse where one can shuffle in wearing work clothes, have a laugh with close friends, and sling a few back.  Don’t try to get all fancy on me, Wit’s End; camaraderie amongst beer geeks flourishes in laid-back atmospheres such as the one you’ve created. 

And camaraderie does, indeed, flourish.  After drinking beer, my favorite brewery activity is shooting the breeze with other visitors.  Usually, Nicole and I can strike up five minute conversation here and there but hardly anything substantial.  At Wit’s End, you can’t help but be sociable.  We chatted with almost everybody in the room—brewmaster Scott Witsoe included—and, when we left, we felt as though we weren’t first-time customers but regulars that have been drinking there for years.  Even in other small breweries it is rare to get that experience.  I fully expect that, upon my next visit, the entire room will turn to me and say my name in Cheers-like fashion when I walk through the door. 

Ah, but I’ve yet to get to the most important part: the beer.  We ordered the sample platter (something every brewery needs to offer) which included Jean-Claude Van Blonde (6.5% ABV), Super FL i.p.a. (6.7% ABV), Kitchen Sink Porter (5.8% ABV), Ugly Sweater (forgot to write down ABV), and Green Man Ale (6.3% ABV).  The descriptions of these beers are a little skimpier than usual but that’s because we spent most of our time socializing rather than taking the usual meticulous notes.

Back row, left to right: Jean-Claude, Super FL i.p.a., & Kitchen Sink.  Front row, left to right: Ugly Sweater & Green Man  

Jean-Claude, besides having a goofy name, is straw colored and has strong aroma and taste of coriander.  It isn’t a hefeweizen but it would be hard to tell the difference if one were to drink it blindfolded.  It is crisp, clean, and the flavor loiters on the palate for some time.

Super FL i.p.a. is a hazy espresso-colored beer (dark brown core with light brown highlights) and smells and tastes of pine needles and cedar chips.  It is technically a black IPA but I think “brown IPA” is more appropriate. 

Kitchen Sink has a dark hazelnut color but, despite the darkness, it is still, when held to a light, a clear beer.  The aroma is similar to that of milk chocolate and the flavor is lightly roasted and nutty.

Ugly Sweater is hazy and brown-orange with little to no aroma.  The story behind this beer is that is basically an English brown ale with a bunch of random stuff thrown in and, of that random stuff, the roasted pumpkin seeds are the most noticeable—especially after a hearty belch.

Green Man was kicked moments after we got our taster and it’s a good thing we didn’t arrive any later because it turned out to be my favorite beer of the night.  Green Man is almost clear with a dash of opaqueness.  It is the color of polished brass.  Upon first whiff I couldn’t help but be taken back: what is that smell?  It was so unusual, so reminiscent of fruit.  But what fruit?  Even Nicole, with a nose like a bloodhound (in terms of ability, not appearance) couldn’t root it out right away but, after a few sips, we realized what it was: pineapple.  Now, Wit’s End makes no mention of using pineapple or pineapple juice in the creation of this beer so I have to assume that it is the hops that impart that tropical smell and taste.  A piney aftertaste follows the initial island-like flavor.

After a little more chatting and some additional short pints of Super FL i.p.a., we left what felt like a friend’s party.  I thank you, Wit’s End, for starting my New Year’s out right and I encourage my readers to have a pint or two in the tasting room.  Sure, big breweries like New Belgium Brewing, Odell Brewing Company, and Great Divide Brewing Co. may have established Colorado’s beer scene but it is the little guys like Wit’s End that keep our native beers funky and uniquely Coloradoan.



The English major in me likes how Scott cleverly imbedded his surname in the logo.

The English major in me dislikes the misspelling of "your." Unless it is written in Mr. T dialect.  It would still be wrong, though, because Mr. T would never say "please."

Friday, we went to one of the newer breweries in Denver—Wit’s End—which opened a few months ago around the time of Great American Beer Festival. Chris always keeps up on the latest beer news in Denver including new brewery openings. Wit's End is tucked away in an industrial complex but easy enough to find if you have the address. When Chris said it was a small brewery I imagined a bar with just enough room for the brewmaster to serve his beer, five or six chairs, and the bartender's buddy. In reality, the brewery had a pretty large bar with seating for about 10 people, 5 or 6 small tables, and a fairly large crowd eager for a beer. We sat down at the bar and ordered a sampler so that we could try all of the beers they had to offer. We started chatting with the people next to us about breweries and some of our favorites in the state. A group of guys walked in and we talked to them for a while about beer and breweries. Then the brewmaster’s neighbors walked in so we talked to them, too. Then a guy that we met a few months ago at Hops & Pie walked in [I also saw him at GABF ~ Chris]. I felt like we were meeting up with friends, not total strangers.

We learned from the brewer that he is going to be in Vail for the Big Beers, Belgians, and Barleywines Festival. This is a festival that we have yet to attend. Since the festival is for Belgian beers and barleywines, he was taking the Jean-Claude Van Blonde which is brewed with Belgian yeast. Thinking about Vail reminds us that we still need to visit the breweries in the Vail/Avon/Eagle area. We can probably accomplish that this summer when we don't have to deal with Saturday morning ski traffic.

We walked into the brewery with the intention of trying new beer and adding another brewery to our list but I didn't realize that we were going to hanging out with a fun little beer community. This place is like Cheers. The brewmaster, Scott, chats with everyone there and is genuinely appreciative that they are there. The art work is framed coasters from other breweries and beers establishments from around the US and around the world. The coaster from Elysian Brewing Company reminded me that we did not visit them when we were in Seattle two years ago. We only heard about Elysian in the past year when our friend used their Jasmine beer as an inspiration for one of her homebrews. So, Chris and I have made plans to go to the new Husky Stadium when it opens for the football season and visit Elysian while we’re there. Hopefully, we will get to try some of the pumpkin beers that they don't sell here in Colorado.



  1. Sounds fun...but looks like too many flourescent lights up in that joint

  2. Perhaps go during the day in the summer months; they'll probably roll up the garage door and let a little natural light in.

  3. From your description of the place, this reminds me a lot of Bristol Brewing in Colorado Springs. Have you guys been there yet? (fair warning, I just came across your blog, so I haven't had time to back read a lot yet)

  4. We have been there but it was before I started writing this blog. Bristol is a tad bit bigger and a tad more developed but, you're right, there are some similarities.