"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 22, 2012

Finding Chaka and Discovering Niwot

For a self-professed connoisseur on the subject of Colorado beer, it would behoove me to do a little research on the history of my state’s breweries—especially the major players.  I’ve made it no secret that Nicole and I are attempting to drink at every brewery in Colorado but there are certain restrictions we’ve placed on ourselves.  Significant to this particular post, the rule that, if a brewery has more than one brewing site, only the first site counts—outpost brewing facilities do not count.  For example, only the Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge can be added to the list; although their Denver site produces the bulk of their beer, it wasn’t the first in the Breckenridge family thus Nicole and I do not consider it relevant to the mission.    

This self-imposed rule has caused some frustration lately.  Namely, with Oskar Blues Brewery.  When Nicole and I started this beer-drinking journey a few years ago, Oskar Blues was one of the first we visited.  However, we went to the Tasty Weasel Tap Room which, while boasting a funky-awesome drinking environment, is not the original brewing site (we did not know that at the time).  To rectify the situation, Nicole and I headed north this past Wednesday to officially cross Oskar Blues off the list and to visit a fledgling brewery in the process.

Or so we thought.

It’s kind of embarrassing to mess the same situation up twice.  We went to Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids & Solids because somebody who’s apparently as ill-informed as me told us that it was the first in the Oskar Blues family.  ERRRRNT (that’s my attempt at a buzzer onomatopoeia)!  It was, in fact, Oskar Blues Grill & Brew that claims that honor.  What’s more frustrating is that we “accidently” went to Grill & Brew first but, upon realizing we weren’t at Home Made Liquids & Solids, turned tail.  Fate led us in the right direction but we weren’t perceptive enough to pick up what it was laying down.

It wasn’t a total disaster, though; in fact, some very fortunate events took place as a result of visiting Home Made Liquids & Solids.  We took a seat outside on the back patio which features some impressive landscaping in the form of trees, flowers, a small stream and pond, and a spewing keg fountain prompting Nicole to make the observation that Home Made Liquids & Solids is similar to a miniature Stone Brewing Co. which has a phenomenal outdoor drinking space.  This prompted me to make the joke that they should rename Home Made Liquids & Solids to Pebble Brewing Company.  This prompted Nicole to roll her eyes.

The ambiance was great, to be sure, but my eyes widened like a schoolboy with his first Playboy when I noticed they were still serving Chaka, the collaboration beer between Oskar Blues and Indianapolis’ Sun King Brewery.  When I read the press release for this beer I knew I had to get my greedy paws on it.  It represents the two states in which I’ve lived, it represents two breweries that I love, and, even though you get the same beer whether you order it in Colorado or Indiana, the design on the artillery shell-shaped, re-sealable can is different.  If, for example, you buy Chaka in Colorado then you get a blue-and-orange can with the mountain design found on Oskar Blues products except, if you look close, the sun shining down on the peaks is the same angry Aztec face found on Sun King beers.  The Indiana cans, on the other hand, are also blue and orange but with the Aztec face front and center—I’m not sure if there’s an Oskar Blues allusion on those cans or not.

I poured my Chaka (8% ABV) into a glass and admired its dark, ruby color—like a blood orange.  Thin, off-white head holds in a fruity, apple-like aroma with hints of plum and wood.  There’s no detectable hop character in the nose.  The flavor is yeast-forward and sweet with more hints of plum and a warming, alcoholic quality noticeable in the throat.  It’s quite the tasty beer but I think it might have been better to release it in the autumn rather than the summer—that seems like the more appropriate season for this type of beer.

Our waitress was kind enough to wash out our Chaka cans so that I could take them home and add them to my collection.  Now, I just need somebody in Indianapolis to pick me up the Sun King version before they sell out. 

We finished up at Home Made Liquids & Solids and headed for Niwot, Colorado.  “Where the hell is Niwot?” you may ask.  Personally, I’d never heard of it, either, but, surprisingly, it’s quite close—just outside of Boulder, in fact.  Believe me, it would have remained as unexplored as Atlantis if it weren’t for the fact that Bootstrap Brewing recently opened shop in town.  So recently, in fact, that Nicole and I were there on the first day for paying customers!  We got in even before the grand opening and were probably the 8th or 9th customers to walk through their doors.  I’d like to say we were the first to purchase a beer but some of the local beer geeks bellied-up before I could.  I was, however, the first customer to take a leak in their bathroom so that has to count for something.

The locals waiting for Bootstrap to open

This is how far I was from being the first paying customer

We ordered Backfire Chili Beer (4.5% ABV), a hazy, light yellow brew that smells like those little red pepper flakes you shake on pizza.  It’s no Ghost Face Killah when it comes to the burn but it’s spicy enough to put you in your place.  It’s somewhat similar to Una Mas at Renegade Brewing Company and I’m sure that, like Una Mas, it would go great in beer cheese soup.

Backfire Chili Beer
I’m not sure when the grand opening is set to occur but I encourage you to check out Bootstrap next time you’re in the Boulder-area—it’s really not too far out of town.  Niwot may be a speck on the map but the brewery isn’t in the most obvious location so write down the address and use a GPS if available.  Be on the look-out for the burgundy logo that reads simply “BS.”  It’s perhaps not the most well thought-out acronym but, then again, their full logo features a stamping bull so methinks there’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor going on in Niwot. 

Nicole and I are currently sittin’ pretty with 83 breweries under our belts.  Unless, of course, you want to dock us one because we technically haven’t been to Oskar Blues’ original facility.  I figure we tried to go there twice and, in the process, went to two different Oskar Blues watering holes.  That’s like getting two half points which add up to one full point (at least, that’s how my mind justifies it).  I think we can fudge the numbers a bit and keep it at 83 for the time being.



Nice touch, Bootstrap

Recycled beer bottle bar top at Bootstrap


  1. Myself like you are on a quest to visit as many breweries as possible.
    Me and some friends are going to Denver for GABF and would of course like to make the most of the trip.
    The brewpub Hops in Lakewood is listed on Rate beer as''Out of business'',but still shows up om google maps & their website show no sign of that particular branch being shut down.
    You if someone should know this. Please enlighten me 'o guru of CO-brewery-wisdom!

    157 breweries/brewpubs&counting...

  2. That's an impressive number. I'm not sure how many total I've been too, I only count Colorado ones. As for Hops, I live in Lakewood and I don't remember there being one here BUT there is one in Golden right near the border of Lakewood. As far as I know, it's open. But, really, I'd skip it in favor of some more local places--Hops is a chain brewery and I think it's HQ'd in Florida.

  3. I like that bar top. And yes, Niwot is a cute little town. Not too far from where I lived while in grad school.