"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!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Going Big with Small Breweries

America is the land of big.  Down South we have big hair, in the Northeast we have big mouths, and on the West Coast we got big personalities.  We have big cars, big houses, big egos, and, as any nutritionist can attest, big asses.  We give our natural wonders big names: Grand Canyon, Giant Sequoias, Mammoth Cave, and, here in Colorado, Mt. Massive.  We’re so infatuated with big that we use it even when it’s contradictory: Battle of Little Bighorn, Little Big Man, Biggie Smalls.  So ingrained are we with the word big, in fact, that we call decidedly small things big such as Broomfield’s tiniest, newest, and only non-chain brewery—Big Choice Brewing.

Perhaps I’m missing the point, though.  True, Big Choice’s taproom is miniscule and all of their brewing equipment might possibly fit in my garage but what it lacks in physical prominence it more than makes up for in big flavor.

When looking for Big Choice Brewing, look hard; it’s not in the most obvious location.  From the direction Nicole and I were coming, the only indication that we were on the right path was a simple, black-and-white sign that said in bold letters Brewery—nothing more, nothing less.  Of course, all you need is half a brain to know that if you’re in Broomfield, at a brewery, and the words C.B.& Potts or Gordon Biersch are nowhere to be seen then you’re at Big Choice.  Just channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and deduce a thing or two.

We had ourselves a seat and brewer Nathaniel Miller served us a taster tray consisting of Saison (5.1% ABV, 21.4 IBU), Poblano Stout (5.7% ABV, 13.9 IBU), Type III IPA (6.3% ABV, 48.2 IBU), and Disconnected Red Ale (6.7% ABV, 84.5 IBU).

Left to right: Saison, Poblano Stout, Type III, and Disconnected
 Saison is a copper penny-colored beer with a light, sweet, and quintessentially Belgian aroma full of spice and fruit wafts.  A citrusy orange flavor accompanied by a touch of tartness completes this refreshing brew.

My favorite of the four was undoubtedly the Poblano Stout because it featured just enough weirdness to make the drinking experience unique but not totally off-the wall.  This black-with-tan-highlights stout smells of roasted peppers and roasted malts and tastes like a sweet, mild coffee garnished with poblano pepper.

Type III is a mild-mannered IPA.  With 48.2 IBUs, it’s certainly not the bitterest IPA on the market but methinks that craft beer trends are shifting away from palate-wrecking bitter beers to beers with just enough bite to keep you on your toes.  The color of Type III can be described as brassy while the aroma possesses some hop aroma albeit quite faint.  More dominate scents include a certain citrusy and sugary character that—if one may stretch to make a connection—isn’t unlike the smell of a margarita.  That citrus quality comes through in the flavor, too, along with a creaminess that reminded me of an orange Popsicle.  Type III finishes dry.   

The murky, rust-colored Disconnected turned-out to be the bitterest beer of the lot.  The aroma doesn’t give away much—the power of the hops on the nose is as strong in Disconnected as it is in Type III (which is to say, not very powerful at all).  Even during the tasting of Disconnected, the hops aren’t a wallop as the malts do much to balance out the bitterness.  There is, however, a lingering aftertaste in the back of the tongue and mouth that ought to satisfy the hophead in your life. 

Big Choice doesn’t serve food beyond a bowl of pretzels but there is a Jimmy John’s located very close by.  I didn’t actually see the Jimmy John’s with my own eyes but I know it was nearby because Big Choice times deliveries and posts their personal record on the chalkboard behind the bar.  I believe the standing record is a little under four minutes held by a driver named Anthony.  We were there when a customer called for a sandwich and the delivery girl brought it in about nine minutes.  What’s the matter?  You draggin’ an anchor behind that delivery truck?  Nine minutes!  You bring much shame upon the Jimmy John’s name.

Before we left I peeked in at the upstairs seating area.  The main bar area was pretty busy but I kind of wished it were busier so that we had to sit upstairs; with floor-to-ceiling windows, wood floors, high-top tables, a sofa, and a window overlooking the brewing space, it’s a swanky lounge in the middle of industrial Broomfield.  You know those commercials that feature hip, hot 20-somethings living it up at a party?  They’re usually selling big, domestic beer or vodka or a fragrance or whatever else yuppies are into.  Well, this looked like a space where they might film such a commercial except it was higher on the hip meter and lower on the douche meter.  It’s a room in which I, myself, would like to throw a small party.

I took a quick glance at the brewing operation, Nathaniel chased me down to give us the souvenir pint glass we forgot on the bar, we headed over to the local C.B. & Potts for some Geeks Who Drink pub quiz action, and then called it a night.

In the world of craft beer, the Colorado consumer has many choices and almost any choice one makes in this regard ends up being a wise decision.  That’s where Big choice got it wrong—it’s not a “big choice” at all.  A “big choice” implies that there’s a sense of risk involved, that the decision did not come easily.  In my opinion, choosing to go to a Colorado craft brewery is no big choice—it’s a simple decision because 99.9999% of the time the craft brewery you choose is great; no exceptions made for Big Choice. 

Welcome to the Colorado family of beer, Big Choice, and thank you for filling the craft beer wasteland that once existed between the oases of Denver and Boulder.



The brewing operation as seen from the upper-room

Now that school’s out for summer (Alice Cooper is stuck in my head thanks to my co-worker having played that song more than a few times) I can focus on more important things—like visiting Colorado breweries. When I suggested to Chris that we go to trivia, the wheels I his head started rolling, figuring out how we could include a brewery trip in the plan.  It turned out to be a good plan.

Sampling the beers at Big Choice was a relaxing way to end my last day which consisted mainly of cleaning my classroom. We were able to talk to the brewer and learn a little bit more about how some of the beers came to be and his experiences in opening a brewery.

Chris’ favorite beer, the Poblano Stout, was an accidental occurrence.  Nathaniel’s wife wanted him to recreate an oatmeal stout that she had at Great American Beer Festival but there was a problem: she didn’t know which brewery it came from. When Nathaniel’s oatmeal stout didn’t turn out as planned, they divided the batch in half, finished one half with raspberries, and finished the other half with poblano peppers that had been roasted and de-seeded. The result was a beer that sold out in just a few days (as well as the raspberry stout which was also a hit having sold out in about three weeks). I like the creativity in the beer selection. Next time I'm in Broomfield I’ll see what Big Choice has on tap.


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