"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, September 7, 2012

After the Beer Bloggers Conference: Part 2


Porter
After experiencing the artistic ambiance of Wedge Brewing Company, Nicole and I headed downtown to Jack of the Wood, a Celtic bar and former home of Green Man Brewery.  The brewing equipment may no longer be housed on-site (as such, if it were in Colorado, it wouldn’t be eligible on Nicole and I’s brewery count—our requirement is that the beer must be enjoyed at its birthplace; the Buxton Avenue location would have qualified, though) but Green Man beer was nonetheless on tap.  I ordered the Porter (6% ABV), a black, red highlighted ale with short-lived, off-white foam.  It smells of milk chocolate or mild coffee with perhaps a hint of caramel.  The flavors are all-around light but with milk chocolate being the strongest of the weak.  A faint, roasted quality takes a backseat.  As in the aroma, there is a caramel sweetness deeply entrenched but an attuned palate can find it.  Porter finishes relatively dry except for a gob of spit that forms in the back of the mouth.

Just across the street from Jack of the Wood is the Thirsty Monk, a beer bar with a unique concept: American craft beer and appropriate d├ęcor upstairs, Belgian classics in a cellar-like atmosphere downstairs.  All due respect to the Belgians but I’ve said it before and, by God, I’ll say it again—I always drink local.  I wanted something from North Carolina, not from across the Atlantic.  We remained upstairs.

Ceiling of Thirsty Monk
I did, however, order a Belgian-style ale: a saison from Asheville’s Craggie Brewing Company.  There was a minor issue, though: it was served in a pint glass!  I begrudgingly admit that pints suffice (and I stress suffice; a pint is still the least acceptable of all acceptable drinking vessels) for most beer styles e.g. pale ale, IPA, porter, stout…etc. but Belgian-style beers—saisons included—ought to be served in a bulged, stemmed glass--tulip-shaped, if possible.  Belgian beers are famous for complex aromas and flavors of fruit and spice, it’s a shame to kill the experience with glassware that diminishes such unique attributes.  Think this is just beer snobbery talking?  How would you react if you ordered white wine and had it brought to you in a coffee mug?  The concept's the same.  Respect the beer; use appropriate glassware.  

Saison
Despite the cards being stacked against it, the beer still smelled and tasted quite lively.  Craggie Saison has a rocky head and a body that’s lemon-peel yellow when held to light.  It’s hazy but one can hold the glass at eye level and see what’s happening on the other side as if looking through a Vaseline-smeared window.  Nicole thinks I’m crazy (and perhaps I am) but when I first sniffed Craggie Saison I smelled cinnamon.  I also detected a touch of sour and an aroma like banana bread.  The flavor and aroma are alike—banana with suggestions of sour (like sour apples) in the aftertaste.  A Big Red-esque cinnamon flavor that only I seem to taste jumps up quickly then, just as quickly, fades away.  Like a typical saison, it’s light and finishes dry.         

We departed Thirsty Monk and drove to the nearby town of Black Mountain where we set up camp and visited our last brewery of the day: Pisgah Brewing Company Did I say in my last post that Wedge Brewing Company and Strange Brewing Company were similar?  Well, those two are fraternal twins; Pisgah and Strange are identical twins.

Pisgah from the outside

Pisgah taproom from the beer garden

Pisgah beer garden from taproom 
May the Lord help you if you don’t know exactly where you’re going when attempting to visit Pisgah.  This little brewery is tucked deep in an industrial strip with hardly a sign indicating its existence.  It feels like entering Fight Club when I walking through the front door: concrete walls, concrete floors, and nothing that doesn’t say “you’re about to be murdered by a backwoods psycho killer.”  Then, after navigating a short hallway, the mood changes from intimidating to welcoming.  Although concrete is still the building material of choice, the walls are adorned with artwork, flashy, colorful paper orbs hang from the ceiling, and an inviting wooden bar sits to the side ready to sate your beer cravings.  It’s a secret beer oasis, a reward for those with the ambition to search-out its unmarked location and brave its foreboding ingress.
Blueberry and Pale Ale

I ordered their Pale Ale and sat out on the beer garden i.e. the loading docks.  Pale Ale is a hazy, brassy color with thin head.  The aroma betrays something spicy—perhaps rye?  Likely, it's simply the hop character.  A very low level of bitterness and a slight hint of lemon, fresh-cut grass, and black pepper define the flavor.  I assumed there were Chinook hops in this beer and, after further investigation, I turned out to be correct.

Nicole, meanwhile, had a pint of Blueberry Wheat which she found delicious as it featured the eponymous fruit but didn't overwhelm the palate with sweetness.  

We camped in Black Mountain that night and headed back to Asheville the next morning where we chowed down on a southern-style breakfast at Early Girl Eatery, moseyed about The Botanical Gardens at Asheville, visited Bruisin’ Ales to make a mixer-sixer of local beer for our dog-sitting friends, and wound up at Asheville Brewing Company.

I had a Summa-Rye Lager whose artwork depicted of a Japanese warrior riding a surfboard.  Get it?  In fact, the whole establishment seemed to be based on puns.  Case in point: IPA the Fool with its gold chain and denim jacket logo and the Snidely Whiplash-looking art for Ashevillain Black IPA.  The food menu, likewise, reads like two college kids reciting pun-ified titles and lines from their favorite movies and TV shows: Lord of the Rings (onion rings), A Few Good Chicken Fingers, Gimme Your Tots (tater tots), and Homer's Garlic D'oh Knots.  



We drank what our bodies could handle in Asheville so, leaving many brewery stones un-turned for our next visit, we packed up and drove to Cincinnati.  There, we made camp at Big Bone Lick State Park (Tee-hee!), caught a Reds game, and enjoyed a post-game brew at Moerlein Lager House just across the street from the stadium (thanks to the Hoperatives for the recommendation).  I forget what I had at Moerlein because they were out of my first two choices so I eventually settled on something.  It was a house-made brew, I do know that much.  Nicole, on the other hand, ordered Roebling Imperial Robust Porter from Rivertown Brewing Company and quickly declared it one of the best beers she's ever had.  Shortly thereafter, we read some of that beer's reviews and saw that hardly a good word has been said about it.  This proves that all beer reviews should be taken with a grain of salt (mine included).  Our palates are unique; a majority of people may rip apart a certain beer but that doesn't mean that you won't like it.   


At the Reds game
Moerlein Lager House
The next day we kept on our northerly path, stopped in Oldenburg, Indiana to eat the best fried chicken ever at Wagner’s Village Inn, and eventually made it to my hometown of Marion, Indiana.  A major family reunion was slated to occur in a few days so Nicole and I took advantage of what little time of  rest we had by lounging on the porch, floating in the pond, and downing leftover beers from the Beer Bloggers Conference.  Luckily, most of my relatives are happy guzzling Bud Light so my stash of craft beer remained as untouched as a tofu sandwich at a NASCAR race.  I did, however, allow (encouraged, really) the few craft-centric kin I do have to dip into my supplies.

With the reunion over, there was nothing for Nicole and I to do but blast across the prairie and get back home to Colorado (with a stop in Kansas City to grub on that famous Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ).  It was the very definition of a whirlwind trip and, exhausted though we were, we hardly had more fun in our lives meeting new people, seeing new places, and drinking new beer.  We don’t have a century’s old brewing tradition, we have corporate beer giants sullying our good name, but, regardless, this country is truly the best when it comes to beer; vacations like the one we just experienced proves the point that, no matter where you go in America, there’s great, local beer to be had.

Prost!

Chris

2 comments:

  1. You're not wrong there.
    There are breweries everywhere in the states (much like in south Germany), and they are usually good. Hold your head high yankee, for there is something you should be very proud of!

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    1. Believe me, my head is quite high; the U.S. is in the middle of a veritable craft beer boom and I couldn't be happier about it. It's great to see people from outside the U.S. recognize our strides, too, so thanks! Now, if we could just get the rest of the world to use the term "yankee" properly we'd be made in the shade.

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