"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,
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The CAUTION/Venus Flytrap Connection

CAUTION: Brewing Company: an inverse analogy to the Venus flytrap.  To the insect, the flytrap appears to be a mere, harmless plant.  More than harmless, actually, since the sweet nectar of the flytrap fools the bug into believing it’s about to indulge in a mighty feast.  But then—SNAP!—the hungry little bug becomes a meal himself.  An unassuming exterior hides a sinister plot.  Consider, then, CAUTION: Brewing Company.  What connotations are associated with the word caution?  Danger.  Trepidation.  Basically, you don’t want to be near anything labeled with that word.  However, unlike the flytrap, this brewery’s exterior betrays its true, benevolent nature; there is little to be wary of once you’re in the tasting room unless, of course, you’re afraid of good beer.

Before CAUTION, Nicole, her parents, and I visited the Denver Botanic Gardens for a Father’s Day jaunt and pretty much every thought that went through my head was “that trellis would be great for my hop plants.”  We’ve noticed a lot of fruit flies buzzing around our kitchen lately so, before leaving, we stopped by the gift shop and purchased the aforementioned carnivorous plant.  We’ve been asked more than once “what’s his name?”  Well, I suppose the cliché name would be Audrey II but then I got to thinking that the best name for a Venus flytrap would be no name at all.  Because it’s a plant.  It’s not going to come when you call it, people. 

CAUTION is, unless my geography is incorrect, the easternmost brewery in Denver; the last one to hit before arriving at the airport (or the first one to hit when you fly back).  Driving out as far as you do you’d think you were in Aurora but, no, Peoria and I-70 is still, technically, D-Town.

Once you exit the highway—good luck; CAUTION isn’t in the most obvious place as it’s tucked deep inside a warehouse/office park.  That’s not a unique place to put a brewery—consider Strange Brewing Company, Upslope BrewingCompany, et al—but, in this case, you can’t even see CAUTION from the road.  Make sure you do a little Google Maps research before visiting this particular brewery. 

Yep, there's a brewery in there
The taproom is sparse.  There’s a burgeoning sticker collection plastered on one wall, the bar is lovely with diamond plating and a veneered wood top, they have a TV screen with live Facebook and Twitter feed along with live temperature reads on the fermenting tanks, and the stickman logo is painted on the other side of the room but, beyond that, be prepared for stark ambiance.  I mean that as neither praise nor criticism—merely fact.  True, I do appreciate a little flair found in the rec room-stylings of Crazy Mountain Brewing Company but the vibe can also be overdone thus imparting an impersonal and inauthentic restaurant-like feel to the place.  CAUTION, you’re doing fine in the ambiance department.  Maybe hang a few more things from the wall if you got time but no rush—I prefer underplayed to overplayed.

Nicole and I ordered the sample platter which consisted of Lao Wang Lager (5.1% ABV), Wild Blonde (4.6% ABV), Honey Matrimony (5.9% ABV), Hippity Hops (7.5% ABV), and Toaster Bat Black (8.5% ABV).

Left to right, back to front: Lao Wang, Wild Blonde, Honey Matrimony, Hippity Hops, and Toaster Bat.  Also, a Venus flytrap.
Lao Wang Lager is CAUTION’s flagship beer.  It is also the house beer of Lao Wang Noodle House—owned and operated by brewmaster Danny Wang’s parents and brewmistress Betty Wang’s parents-in-law.  On one hand, this pale yellow lager is simple and clean.  On the other hand, the wild rice and “secret Asian spices” add just enough twist to make a unique brew.  There’s a certain spiciness that’s not unlike Great Divide Brewing Co.’s Samurai which makes me think that, since both contain rice, it must be this rice that imparts such flavor.  Then again, maybe it’s those “secret Asian spices.”  It’s probably just me but when I hear the phrase “secret Asian spices” all I can think of is that classic Calgon commercial.

Me: How do you get your beer so spicy, Mr. Wang?
Danny: Shh, secret Asian spices.

Cut to: backroom

Betty: My husband, some hotshot! Here’s his secret Asian spices: baby panda dandruff!  Baby panda dandruff help Lao Wang Lager get up to 30% spicier. 

Betty pokes head into front room

Betty: We need more baby panda dandruff!
Me: Secret Asian spices, huh?

Danny points cocked gun at my head

Danny: You know too much.

End Scene

Wild Blonde is a rich yellow with light-to-nearly-nonexistent aroma.  It’s  flowery and sweet like nectar and is a great, straightforward beer for summertime imbibing.

Honey Matrimony’s a brown ale with a deep ruby-caramel color and an off-white/beige head.  This is a malt-forward beer and is reminiscent of typical Scottish-style ales albeit with sweet undertones courtesy of the honey adjunct.  A touch of roast flavor rounds out this brew.

Brewed with chrysanthemum and Chinese rock brown sugar, Hippity Hops isn’t your grandpa’s IPA.  The color and aroma are one in the same: orange.  This hazy beer is a little pine-y, a little citrusy, and a little bitter but not overt in any category; it’s very well-rounded.

The oil-black beer that is Toaster Bat features a rich brown head and a smoky aroma that reminds one of cooking bacon.  This robust porter is big on roasted flavors making for a campfire-like taste.

The best thing CAUTION has going for it is the fact that all their beers are at the same time unique and approachable.  They each have a little extra something, be it chrysanthemum, honey, or “secret Asian spices,” but they’re also well-balanced and very drinkable.  They are smack-dab in the middle of the spectrum between Rogue Ales’ über-experimental and utterly unpalatable VooDoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale and the throngs of unimaginative, boring, but easy-drinking beers offered by the big names in domestic beer.  CAUTION walks the experimental/drinkable tightrope quite expertly.

While at CAUTION, we overheard that Hogshead Brewery—a new Sloan Lake-area brewery—was in its soft opening stage and that we could visit them, too.  We pulled up to their parking lot and, despite the fact that their website says they’re open, they most certainly were not.  And that’s the annoying part—please do not post hours unless you are serving at said hours (at the time of this writing, they have taken their hours off the website).  I popped my head in anyway and the guy behind the bar was either rude or their English accent just made them sound uppity; yeah, dude, I do see that the sign says “closed” but I also see people drinking inside, I see the hours on your website, I see that the “closed” sign says you’ll be open at 12pm (it was well after 12 at the time), and some folks at CAUTION said to check you out so that’s four things that say “open” against one thing that says you’re closed.  Don’t be a d-bag; it’s unbecoming to craft beer culture. 

At any rate, we were unable to procure a drink.  Nicole and I will still go back, of course, for the sake of the mission (CAUTION being number 82 in the Colorado brewery count) and maybe they’ll win me over yet but, then again, you know what they say about first impressions.

You won’t need to twist my arm to go back to CAUTION, though; they’re out in the prairie but the beer’s worth it.  Plus, they hold cornhole tournaments (thank you for calling it by the proper name, CAUTION; those who call it “bags” ought to be shot).  I look forward to having some more of their beers at the upcoming Rails & Ales Brewfest in Alamosa.  We’ll see ya there, Danny and Betty. 

The former Odell 5-barrel system now the CAUTION system 
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