"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!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Drunk and Jittery: Coffee Beer Fest at Denver Beer Co.

When you drink champagne in the morning, people think you have an alcohol problem.  When you drink champagne with orange juice in the morning, people think you’re a jetsetter.    When you drink vodka in the morning, people think you should attend AA.  When you drink vodka with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, a celery stick, and a dash of hot sauce in the morning, people don’t think twice.  When you drink a beer in the morning, people think you’re a frat brother or a fisherman.  When you drink a beer brewed with coffee in the morning, people think you, like me, attended Denver Beer Co.’s Coffee Beer Fest this past Saturday, February 18th.

Let me just get it out of the way right now: I love Denver Beer Co.  I love their industrial taproom, I love their hip location on Platte Street, I love their constantly-rotating list of off-kilter beers, and, most of all, I love their quirky events like Barleywine Burritos Brewers Breakfast and Oktoberfest 2011.  Everything they do I enjoy so when Nicole asked if I wanted to go to Coffee Beer Fest it was like asking Pauly D if he wanted more Ed Hardy shirts.

We arrived ten minutes early for the 9am event and milled outside the taproom.  That may seem early for a beer festival but, as my dad says, “You can’t say you drank all day unless you start in the morning.” 

It may have been a mid-February morning in Colorado but, even then, we could tell by the clear, clean air and sunny warmth that it was going to be glorious beer–drinking weather.  A digression: why do out-of-staters assume Denver is the frozen tundra?  People walk around in sandals during the winter months and the fact that they’ve numbed their toes through years of snow sports is only half the reason; the other half is because the city’s weather is usually blue sky with a chance of awesome.

The doors opened and, like herded sheep, we funneled into the front door.  We picked up our souvenir coffee mugs in which our unlimited beer pours would be served as well as a coupon for one Chile Billy breakfast burrito.

We snagged a table fast since the taproom was quickly filling in behind us. We bellied-up to the bar and ordered our first beer.  It is an interesting study in perception when you serve beer in a black coffee mug; wires in the brain get twisted.  You know those optical illusions where names of colors are spelled in letters of a different color (e.g. Blue, Red, Yellow, Purple) and it takes a moment for you to realize the color of the letters because different sides of your brain are giving you disparate information?  That’s what it was like drinking beer from a coffee mug.  Even though you know it’s beer in your cup, it is somewhat of a shock to taste cold liquid because something inside your head tells you to expect a hot beverage.  The beer’s foam also looks like coffee froth thus strengthening the illusion.

Happy, wired attendees at Coffee Beer Fest

Denver Beer Co. served up six different types of beer and, although they all shared the common ingredient of coffee, they were all quite different from one another.

Stormy Winter Stout is a stout that had been oak-aged for five months in a barrel that first contained red wine and then contained coffee beans.  The end result is a beer that features an almost La Folie-like tartness with an underlying coffee flavor. 

Espresso Milk Stout is a cask conditioned stout with Brazilian espresso beans from Paris on thePlatte.  This was the most “coffee-like” of all the beers.  I would even say it is more coffee than beer; it tastes like cold, dark, roasted espresso with very little of the stout coming through.

Swineheitsgebot is a smoked lager that was aged with coffee beans and infused with bacon.  The funny thing about this beer is that it featured three strong flavors—smoke, coffee, and bacon—but, when they’re put together, they seem to keep each other in check so that no flavor dominates.  One would think that a beer with so many wacky additions would make for a wacky taste but Swineheitsgebot’s coffee and smoke are only supporting flavors and the bacon is most prevalent as an aftertaste when breathing out after a swallow.  Overall, the flavor of Swineheitsgebot is that of a traditional, German lager with minor deviations. 

Paris’ Neighborhood Roast Coffee Stout is another stout brewed with Brazilian beans.  It is a lot like Espresso Milk Stout except that the “stout-ness” is more noticeable on the palate.  If Espresso Milk Stout is like black coffee, this beer is the cream version. 

Cascara IPA was brewed with cascara—the dried fruit shell one is left with when the coffee bean has been extracted.  There is a cherry and tobacco quality to this beer that is unlike anything I’ve tasted in a beer before.  I was struggling for a comparison and I almost wrote down that it “tasted like a fine cigar with dried cherries rolled in” but realized that was a bit obscure.  Finally, I realized that I have tasted this flavor before—in a hookah.  Cascara IPA is liquid shisha. 

Novo Roast IPA is the same as Cascara IPA except with roasted Ethiopian coffee beans.  The beans do much to balance the fruit and tobacco essence of the cascara thus making for a less intense drinking experience. 

There was a seventh, non-caffeinated beer on tap for those who started developing the shakes: Pueblo Chile Beer served with a splash of Bloody Mary mix.  It’s not bad but I’m proud of my Bloody Beer (or michelada) recipe and a pre-made mix cannot compare; you got to make each concoction by scratch.   

In between beers, Nicole and I also snarffed-out on breakfast burritos and an unlimited supply of bacon (by the end of the event, about 45 pounds had been served).  We also enjoyed the company of other attendees and held deep, intellectual debates on when it is and is not okay to inform your server that her fly is down (note: mentioning a “giant V” is probably an uncouth way of going about it).

Everybody wants a little Chile Billy
By the time we had finished, the left half my face was sunburned and I was so juiced on caffeine that I was shaking like a crackhead jonesing for a fix.  Nonetheless, the event was worth both the jitters and looking like a certain Batman villain.  What can I say that I haven’t already said about Denver Beer Co. events?  Nothing, so I’ll repeat myself: Denver Beer Co. throws the best events in town.  If you haven’t been to one yet, you have a mental illness that makes you averse to fun situations.  Seriously, you should get that checked out.

Prost!

Chris   

I’ve mentioned my addiction to smart phones in previous posts; I use mine to check Facebook and email about 20 times a day. This may seem excessive but there’s a good reason behind my addiction: finding out about the latest events that are happening at my favorite places. When I saw that Denver Beer Co. was having a Coffee Beer Fest I was only mildly interested because I don’t really like coffee and I can handle only a little bit of coffee flavor in my beer. However, when I read through the description of the beer fest and saw that I could get a breakfast burrito from Chile Billy and unlimited bacon, I thought it might be worth mentioning to Chris. The other part of the event description, the unlimited mugs of coffee beer, was also tantalizing.

I generally over-estimate the time that it takes to travel places and find parking. I am proud of my punctuality. That said, I am used to spending a lot of time searching for parking at Denver Beer Co. on busy Saturday afternoons but at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning, when most of the city is still asleep and/or hung over from the night before, it became clear that I didn’t need to allow for so much time. The fact that we arrived before the beer fest started came as no surprise.

I started my morning with the Espresso Milk Stout. I was surprised by how this beer tasted more like coffee than beer. Although I don’t like the bitter coffee flavor I nonetheless really liked this beer. My second favorite beer of the morning was a toss-up between Paris’ Neighborhood Roast Coffee Stout and the Novo Roast IPA (also listed on the board as the Ethiopian IPA).  Both had bold coffee flavors infused into the beer. Maybe I like coffee more than I thought. The most interesting beer was the Cascara IPA. Chris said it tasted like hookah, I thought it tasted like cherry or raspberry iced tea.

This was a beer fest but I don’t want to skip over the food. Chile Billy is at Denver Beer Co. almost every Saturday.  I believe I have mentioned in previous posts their delicious chicken pot pie. If I haven’t mentioned it, I will now: it is the best pot pie I have ever had! It has a cornbread top instead of the traditional pie crust. Try it!  Trust me, you will enjoy it.

Since it was Coffee Beer Fest, it’s only appropriate that they have breakfast burritos and bacon. The burrito was smothered in green chili and packed with flavor—a great way to start the morning. And, really, who can go wrong with unlimited bacon (well, I guess if you’re a vegetarian)? One of my more vivid memories was seeing a woman wearing a shirt that had a cute little pig holding a plate of bacon and a caption reading, “Please don’t eat me – I love you!” I am not sure if she actually ate any of the bacon but I am curious to know if she did. I remember her wearing that same shirt at Oktoberfest 2011 where Helga the Pig was roasted and paraded around the room before being made into pork sandwiches.

Every time we go the Denver Beer Co. we meet fun and interesting people and this time was no exception. Chris and I were originally seated inside at our own table but, as the sun started to warm up the tap room, we decided to move out to the beer garden. We sat down next to a couple that, like Chris and I, sometimes participates in the Denver Beer Co. Run Club on Tuesday nights. Their friendly Australian Shepherd wanted to see if we would share our bacon with him.  No dice.

After a while, we were joined by two brothers that were intent on taking advantage of the free bacon. At one point, they returned from a bacon-run to share the news that the bacon lady’s fly was unzipped. I suggested a paper airplane with a note attached might let her know of her zipper’s status. Thus, an airplane was made with the simple phrase “XYZ PDQ.” I had to explain the PDQ part which made me question if that’s a common abbreviation or something unique to my middle school [Vice-Principal Lamar Bone said it all the time on Nickelodeon’s “Doug” so I’d say it’s universal ~ Chris] . In the end, I was persuaded to break the news to her as it would seem less awkward coming from a woman than a man. It was still awkward but I hope she appreciated that I was trying to spare her some embarrassment.

I will continue to be glued to my smart phone so that I can find out about the next Denver Beer Co. beer fest and you should too! You really don’t want to miss out on any of their events.

Nicole

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