"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!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vine Street Revisited

Ah, nostalgia!  The good old days.  Way back when.  The days of yore.  When men were men and women had some modesty, dadgummit!   When a loaf of bread cost a nickel and the schoolmarm wouldn’t think twice ‘bout upsidin’ your head for sass-mouthin’.  We spent our summers down by the crick fishin’ for crawdads and canoodling with our best gals.  Oh, you whippersnappers can’t imagine it what with your MTV and Pac-Man video games.  Why, it was way back in late April of two-aught-twelve when Nicole and I skedaddled down to Vine Street Pub & Brewery for the big hootenanny celebrating the new brewing system.  This past Thursday there was a blast-from-the-past as we had the opportunity to take a private tour of the brewing facility with Denver off the Wagon V.I.P.s PJ and Bess and Vine Street brewstaff John and Paul.

Pre-tour libation: Addiction Coffee Imperial Stout
Full disclosure: a lot of information was put into this woefully inferior brain of mine during the tour and it happened a few days ago because, contrary to my nature, I’ve procrastinated in writing this post.  Plus, the staff was quite generous with their complimentary pours.  For these reasons, I think it is best to forgo my usual, chronological narrative and instead rely on a bulleted list of the bits of information that stuck with me.

●What’s with the delay?  Vine Street’s been around for a few years but only now they’re brewing on-site?  It all stemmed from some very convoluted zoning laws that I didn’t quite understand.  I do know, however, that they had to buy up a lot of other buildings on the block including an old lady’s Victorian house which I think would make for a great addition to the tap room—a cozy, home-y feel much like the drinking space at Golden City Brewery or Yak and Yeti Restaurant & Brewery.  For now, though, it’ll remain largely unused (except during Great American Beer Festival when it’ll serve as a place for weary brewers to crash for the night). 

●The “new” brewing equipment actually came from a Cleveland-area Rock Bottom that was going out of business.  In similar recycling fashion, their overly-industrious mill was saved from the Flying Dog Brewery before they up and left for Maryland.  This contraption may be more heavy duty than a Mack truck but it’s a piece of Colorado beer history that Vine Street rightfully wants to preserve. 

●Before Vine Street existed, the space belonged to a dark and dingy dive bar called the Rhino Room: windows were scarce and the feeling that, at any moment, you would be taken out back and beaten within an inch of your life by crackheads and prostitutes was high.  Vine Street added many of the windows that exist now, they lowered the floor (and added drainage) to accommodate the brew kettles and fermenters, and they pushed up the ceiling to make room for overhead windows.

●We stepped inside the cold storage room where we were gifted a bottle of orange saison.  Can't wait to get a piece of that.

●This new brewery is the biggest of the Mountain Sun family and will be the flagship similar to how Breckenridge Brewery grew out of its original location and had to move a sizeable chunk of the brewing operation to Denver (and then out-of-state thanks to some jerkwad politicians).  Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the last post talking about Vine Street, this personal tour does not contribute to Nicole and I’s list of visited Colorado breweries because it was not the first in the Mountain Sun family—being the biggest only counts for so much.

●Time for a soapbox moment.  I asked about Vine Street’s commitment to experimental brewing and they replied that part of the reason for the expansion was, in fact, to have the time and space to devote to off-kilter concoctions.  This made me a very happy beer geek for I am always pushing for the next new thing in beer.  There are some who say that experimental beers are a fad and that the American beer geek will eventually come full-circle and rely solely (or, mostly) on simple, traditional recipes.  Nuts to that!  Do you know where you go for a traditional beer?  Germany.  England.  Belgium.  You go to those places because their identity is tied-in with beer culture; they’ve made a name for themselves by brewing and perfecting specific types of beer over the centuries. 
Flying Dog's old grain mill

But what of America—a country only two-centuries-plus-change old?  We have no traditional beers because we haven’t had the time to develop them and I’ll be damned if our “traditional” beers turn out to be clones from other countries.  This is America—the land of ballsy innovators not timid copycats (but, if we do copy something you can be sure we’ll claim to be the first and defend that claim to the death or until the opposing party gets tired of our bullheadedness and gives up).  We can’t just brew a simple Pilsner or pale ale and call it “an American tradition”—another country already claims it as their tradition. 

I’ve spoken too soon, I fear; America does have a traditional beer: experimental beers.  We define ourselves by flouting definition.  We limit ourselves to the limitless.  Every edible morsel on this planet belongs in the American brewer’s recipe book.  I don’t care if a beer brewed with bacon and maple was considered the worst beer of 2011, I’m just glad somebody had the guts to do it.  Sure, there are failures in experimentation—it comes with the territory—but if there was one success for every 100 bombs I’d still encourage our brewers to stay the course.  We, as a nation, are bold, brash, and creative and our beers ought to reflect our personality.  By all means, keep brewing simple beers because we all need something familiar from time to time and nobody likes to pay import prices but I hope that we never lose that experimental edge.  With that, I say “kudos” to Vine Street for being true American heroes (where beer is concerned, anyway).

A very big thank you to the folks at Vine Street for having us over to talk beer.  Keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll keep drinking it.



Your brew paddle is a kayak paddle? How Colorado of you.

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