"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!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cerveza en Colorado

Most times, when a new brewery starts up in or around Denver, Nicole and I are there within a week or two of the grand opening.  Renegade Brewing Company and Denver Beer Co.?  We were there just a few days after their doors opened.  Arvada Beer Company?  We got there before the grand opening and drank at the soft opening.  I pride myself on keeping abreast of new taprooms however, every once in a while, it takes an embarrassingly long time for Nicole and I to hit a “new” brewery—like five years.  We’ve remedied the situation, though; we can finally add number 81 to the list of visited Colorado breweries: Del Norte Brewing Co.—purveyors of Mexican-style lagers (Yes, they’re located in Denver, not Del Norte; the one in Del Norte is called Three Barrel Brewing Co.)

There is a brewery in there, believe it or not
The delay’s not all our fault, though.  In fact, we tried to drink at Del Norte two years ago but we ran into a little snag.  According to brand manager Aaron Jones (whom we met at Brew at the Zoo), Del Norte reversed the natural order of upstart breweries: they hit distribution hard and then concentrated on creating an on-premise tasting room.  On Nicole and I’s first attempt, there was no place for the public to drink—just a small space at the far end of a loading dock in an area of town that’s not exactly known for its law-abiding citizenry.  Driving down the long, industrial lot to Del Norte feels like you’re about to meet a mob boss rather than visit a brewery.    We didn’t stay long on that first trip lest a boulder from the nearby rock-crushing factory (I don’t know what they really do but crushing rocks is what it looked like they do) crumple our car or a transient meth-head gut me for the $3 in my pocket. 

We're either headed for a brewery or a mugging.  I can't tell which.
We never forgot, though, and finally made it back this past Friday to get ourselves a little Mexican liquid love.  But first, a tangent: I don’t like it when American brewers claim to brew “Mexican-style” beers because, in my opinion, there’s no such thing.  A typical Mexican beer is really an attempted imitation of a German or Bohemian Pilsner.  PacificoCorona?  Those flavors—save for the acrid piss adjunct—aren’t unique to Mexican beers, they’re just (poorly) copying the beers of the Old World.  It drives the point home when you take into account names of certain Mexican and Latin American beers like Bohemia and Costa Rica’s Pilsen and Imperial which features a German war-hawk logo (okay, maybe it's not a "war-hawk" per se but all German insignia looks pretty intimidating)—their names scream “Europe!”  Thus, when American brewers make “Mexican beer” they’re really just emulating an emulation.  This goes for you, too, Mexican Logger from Ska.

Never mind the minutiae, let’s get back to the story.  Driving up to Del Norte you can really tell their emphasis is on bottling and distribution and not on-site drinking.  The roadside sign is hand-painted on what appears to be plywood—the kind of craftsmanship usually reserved for signs reading “Garage Sale,” “Free Couch,” or “Bobby Jay & Susie Mae’s Weding Ree-sepshun.” 

The tasting room is cozy and resplendent with signage and awards from all the beer festivals Del Norte’s attended.  Nicole and I grabbed a table and ordered El Guapo, a Bohemian Pilsner, because it was the only Del Norte beer I’ve yet to drink.  A word of warning to those planning a visit: bring cash.  Credit cards are not accepted.  The bartender informed me of this as he pointed to the wall as if to indicate a sign that said as much.  I saw no such sign—I think he was just pointing to the air to confuse me.

El Guapo is, besides an allusion to one of my favorite movies, a clear, goldenrod color with an off-white head and a light, sweet aroma.  There’s hint of noble hop bitterness in the flavor but it’s but a touch.  El Guapo is also a bit yeasty and tasting of a pretzel. 

As we drank and assessed El Guapo, we were met by a fellow named Martin Noreke who owns a business called FirkinSense.  From what I gathered, his company creates software systems for small breweries so that brewers can focus on making beer and not on inventory, cash flow, sales, and things of that ilk.  They’re trying to win a $250,000 grant from Chase and LivingSocial and—guess what?—you can help them out!  Go to www.missionsmallbusiness.com, login via Facebook, search for “FirkinSense,” and vote.  They only need 250 votes so get cracking on it.
El Guapo

Before we left I took the quickie tour of the facility i.e. the bartender opened the door to the back and I walked around for a few minutes admiring the shiny tanks.  You can tell just by looking that Del Norte’s focus is on distribution—they have a lot more equipment than the average Colorado brewery.

After visiting Del Norte, my thoughts on the brewery are pretty much the same as before because I’ve imbibed most all of their beers—just not where said beers were birthed.  They make solid, traditional beers that are great for quenching a mid-summer thirst but, if you’re looking for any unique beer interpretations, look elsewhere—Del Norte’s all about the clean and simple.



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