"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!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Drunk and Jittery: Coffee Beer Fest at Denver Beer Co.

When you drink champagne in the morning, people think you have an alcohol problem.  When you drink champagne with orange juice in the morning, people think you’re a jetsetter.    When you drink vodka in the morning, people think you should attend AA.  When you drink vodka with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, a celery stick, and a dash of hot sauce in the morning, people don’t think twice.  When you drink a beer in the morning, people think you’re a frat brother or a fisherman.  When you drink a beer brewed with coffee in the morning, people think you, like me, attended Denver Beer Co.’s Coffee Beer Fest this past Saturday, February 18th.

Let me just get it out of the way right now: I love Denver Beer Co.  I love their industrial taproom, I love their hip location on Platte Street, I love their constantly-rotating list of off-kilter beers, and, most of all, I love their quirky events like Barleywine Burritos Brewers Breakfast and Oktoberfest 2011.  Everything they do I enjoy so when Nicole asked if I wanted to go to Coffee Beer Fest it was like asking Pauly D if he wanted more Ed Hardy shirts.

We arrived ten minutes early for the 9am event and milled outside the taproom.  That may seem early for a beer festival but, as my dad says, “You can’t say you drank all day unless you start in the morning.” 

It may have been a mid-February morning in Colorado but, even then, we could tell by the clear, clean air and sunny warmth that it was going to be glorious beer–drinking weather.  A digression: why do out-of-staters assume Denver is the frozen tundra?  People walk around in sandals during the winter months and the fact that they’ve numbed their toes through years of snow sports is only half the reason; the other half is because the city’s weather is usually blue sky with a chance of awesome.

The doors opened and, like herded sheep, we funneled into the front door.  We picked up our souvenir coffee mugs in which our unlimited beer pours would be served as well as a coupon for one Chile Billy breakfast burrito.

We snagged a table fast since the taproom was quickly filling in behind us. We bellied-up to the bar and ordered our first beer.  It is an interesting study in perception when you serve beer in a black coffee mug; wires in the brain get twisted.  You know those optical illusions where names of colors are spelled in letters of a different color (e.g. Blue, Red, Yellow, Purple) and it takes a moment for you to realize the color of the letters because different sides of your brain are giving you disparate information?  That’s what it was like drinking beer from a coffee mug.  Even though you know it’s beer in your cup, it is somewhat of a shock to taste cold liquid because something inside your head tells you to expect a hot beverage.  The beer’s foam also looks like coffee froth thus strengthening the illusion.

Happy, wired attendees at Coffee Beer Fest

Denver Beer Co. served up six different types of beer and, although they all shared the common ingredient of coffee, they were all quite different from one another.

Stormy Winter Stout is a stout that had been oak-aged for five months in a barrel that first contained red wine and then contained coffee beans.  The end result is a beer that features an almost La Folie-like tartness with an underlying coffee flavor. 

Espresso Milk Stout is a cask conditioned stout with Brazilian espresso beans from Paris on thePlatte.  This was the most “coffee-like” of all the beers.  I would even say it is more coffee than beer; it tastes like cold, dark, roasted espresso with very little of the stout coming through.

Swineheitsgebot is a smoked lager that was aged with coffee beans and infused with bacon.  The funny thing about this beer is that it featured three strong flavors—smoke, coffee, and bacon—but, when they’re put together, they seem to keep each other in check so that no flavor dominates.  One would think that a beer with so many wacky additions would make for a wacky taste but Swineheitsgebot’s coffee and smoke are only supporting flavors and the bacon is most prevalent as an aftertaste when breathing out after a swallow.  Overall, the flavor of Swineheitsgebot is that of a traditional, German lager with minor deviations. 

Paris’ Neighborhood Roast Coffee Stout is another stout brewed with Brazilian beans.  It is a lot like Espresso Milk Stout except that the “stout-ness” is more noticeable on the palate.  If Espresso Milk Stout is like black coffee, this beer is the cream version. 

Cascara IPA was brewed with cascara—the dried fruit shell one is left with when the coffee bean has been extracted.  There is a cherry and tobacco quality to this beer that is unlike anything I’ve tasted in a beer before.  I was struggling for a comparison and I almost wrote down that it “tasted like a fine cigar with dried cherries rolled in” but realized that was a bit obscure.  Finally, I realized that I have tasted this flavor before—in a hookah.  Cascara IPA is liquid shisha. 

Novo Roast IPA is the same as Cascara IPA except with roasted Ethiopian coffee beans.  The beans do much to balance the fruit and tobacco essence of the cascara thus making for a less intense drinking experience. 

There was a seventh, non-caffeinated beer on tap for those who started developing the shakes: Pueblo Chile Beer served with a splash of Bloody Mary mix.  It’s not bad but I’m proud of my Bloody Beer (or michelada) recipe and a pre-made mix cannot compare; you got to make each concoction by scratch.   

In between beers, Nicole and I also snarffed-out on breakfast burritos and an unlimited supply of bacon (by the end of the event, about 45 pounds had been served).  We also enjoyed the company of other attendees and held deep, intellectual debates on when it is and is not okay to inform your server that her fly is down (note: mentioning a “giant V” is probably an uncouth way of going about it).

Everybody wants a little Chile Billy
By the time we had finished, the left half my face was sunburned and I was so juiced on caffeine that I was shaking like a crackhead jonesing for a fix.  Nonetheless, the event was worth both the jitters and looking like a certain Batman villain.  What can I say that I haven’t already said about Denver Beer Co. events?  Nothing, so I’ll repeat myself: Denver Beer Co. throws the best events in town.  If you haven’t been to one yet, you have a mental illness that makes you averse to fun situations.  Seriously, you should get that checked out.



I’ve mentioned my addiction to smart phones in previous posts; I use mine to check Facebook and email about 20 times a day. This may seem excessive but there’s a good reason behind my addiction: finding out about the latest events that are happening at my favorite places. When I saw that Denver Beer Co. was having a Coffee Beer Fest I was only mildly interested because I don’t really like coffee and I can handle only a little bit of coffee flavor in my beer. However, when I read through the description of the beer fest and saw that I could get a breakfast burrito from Chile Billy and unlimited bacon, I thought it might be worth mentioning to Chris. The other part of the event description, the unlimited mugs of coffee beer, was also tantalizing.

I generally over-estimate the time that it takes to travel places and find parking. I am proud of my punctuality. That said, I am used to spending a lot of time searching for parking at Denver Beer Co. on busy Saturday afternoons but at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning, when most of the city is still asleep and/or hung over from the night before, it became clear that I didn’t need to allow for so much time. The fact that we arrived before the beer fest started came as no surprise.

I started my morning with the Espresso Milk Stout. I was surprised by how this beer tasted more like coffee than beer. Although I don’t like the bitter coffee flavor I nonetheless really liked this beer. My second favorite beer of the morning was a toss-up between Paris’ Neighborhood Roast Coffee Stout and the Novo Roast IPA (also listed on the board as the Ethiopian IPA).  Both had bold coffee flavors infused into the beer. Maybe I like coffee more than I thought. The most interesting beer was the Cascara IPA. Chris said it tasted like hookah, I thought it tasted like cherry or raspberry iced tea.

This was a beer fest but I don’t want to skip over the food. Chile Billy is at Denver Beer Co. almost every Saturday.  I believe I have mentioned in previous posts their delicious chicken pot pie. If I haven’t mentioned it, I will now: it is the best pot pie I have ever had! It has a cornbread top instead of the traditional pie crust. Try it!  Trust me, you will enjoy it.

Since it was Coffee Beer Fest, it’s only appropriate that they have breakfast burritos and bacon. The burrito was smothered in green chili and packed with flavor—a great way to start the morning. And, really, who can go wrong with unlimited bacon (well, I guess if you’re a vegetarian)? One of my more vivid memories was seeing a woman wearing a shirt that had a cute little pig holding a plate of bacon and a caption reading, “Please don’t eat me – I love you!” I am not sure if she actually ate any of the bacon but I am curious to know if she did. I remember her wearing that same shirt at Oktoberfest 2011 where Helga the Pig was roasted and paraded around the room before being made into pork sandwiches.

Every time we go the Denver Beer Co. we meet fun and interesting people and this time was no exception. Chris and I were originally seated inside at our own table but, as the sun started to warm up the tap room, we decided to move out to the beer garden. We sat down next to a couple that, like Chris and I, sometimes participates in the Denver Beer Co. Run Club on Tuesday nights. Their friendly Australian Shepherd wanted to see if we would share our bacon with him.  No dice.

After a while, we were joined by two brothers that were intent on taking advantage of the free bacon. At one point, they returned from a bacon-run to share the news that the bacon lady’s fly was unzipped. I suggested a paper airplane with a note attached might let her know of her zipper’s status. Thus, an airplane was made with the simple phrase “XYZ PDQ.” I had to explain the PDQ part which made me question if that’s a common abbreviation or something unique to my middle school [Vice-Principal Lamar Bone said it all the time on Nickelodeon’s “Doug” so I’d say it’s universal ~ Chris] . In the end, I was persuaded to break the news to her as it would seem less awkward coming from a woman than a man. It was still awkward but I hope she appreciated that I was trying to spare her some embarrassment.

I will continue to be glued to my smart phone so that I can find out about the next Denver Beer Co. beer fest and you should too! You really don’t want to miss out on any of their events.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Just Doing It and Being "That Guy" at Copper Kettle

To quote—with a family-friendly filter on—pre-alien-worshipping Tom Cruise in Risky Business (his best film ever; I’ll entertain no dissenting opinions), “there's one thing I learned in all my years. Sometimes you just gotta say, ‘What the ****, make your move.’"  It’s a quote that, if lived by exclusively, will probably cause more headache than good but, when used sparingly, can be quite beneficial.  Having trying and failing repeatedly to gather a crew to visit Copper Kettle Brewing Company (always a snow storm or general busyness getting in the way), Nicole and I, after internalizing and paraphrasing the aforementioned quote, cast our friends to the wayside and went on our own.  No worries, friends, we haven’t written you off completely; there’s, like, ten new breweries opening in the metro area within a few months so we’ll be sure to flash mob one of those establishments soon.  River North Brewery, perhaps? 

We pulled up to the brewery, walked inside, and, for an instant, thought we had entered a coffee shop.  No wobbly bar stools, stark walls, or fluorescent lighting for Copper Kettle; the taproom looks like the showroom of Pier 1 Imports: dark-stained, wood furniture, stone-tiled bar façade, and artful wall accents.  If I had looked over to see a bespectacled hipster with a sweater and scarf writing a novel on his laptop I’d have been only mildly surprised.

We snagged a two-top (although we eventually moved to a bigger table as my sister and her—I don’t know—boyfriend, I guess, joined us shortly after arrival) and Copper Kettle owner/head brewer Jeremy Gobien came by to take our order.  As we do at any new brewery, we ordered a flight of everything on tap: Bavarian Helles (4.6% ABV, 16 IBU), Kettleweizen (4.8% ABV, 14 IBU), Dunkelweiss (5.5% ABV, 13.6 IBU), High Country Breakfast Stout (10.2% ABV, 70 IBU), Better Half IPA (7% ABV, 72 IBU), Black IPA (7.6% ABV, 68 IBU), and Mexican Chocolate Stout (6.2% ABV, 50 IBU).   

Bavarian Helles is straw-colored, white-foamed, and clear.  It features a light, lemony aroma and a bready, slightly bitter (in a citrus peel kind of way) flavor that sits on the back of the tongue.  It finishes dry.

Like bubblegum?  Then you’ll definitely want to order the Kettleweizen.  This hazy, dark gold brew packs a yeasty, orange-y, bubblegum-like nose and the taste is, likewise, full of the mentioned chewable accompanied by a banana aftertaste.  An easy comparison could be made between this beer and Dry Dock’s Hefeweizen.        

Dunkelweiss is a murky brown-red topped with a beige head.  The aroma is lightly roasted and the flavor is a mish-mash of so many competing flavors that it is hard to pin down.  Certainly, a little bit of the dark malt flavor comes through but so does a fruity tartness.  Maybe my palate is unsophisticated or maybe this beer needs to go back to the drawing board but Dunkelweiss just didn’t do it for me.

Big, roasted, coffee-esque flavors epitomize High Country, a black-bodied stout with barely perceptible red highlights and a rusty brown head.  Like a strong, black cup of Joe, High Country is quite bitter and will have you spitting black like a dilophosaurus.

Better Half looks like an orange cloud with a sprinkling of eggshell-white foam on top.  The scents wafting from the glass are big on citrus hops as well as sweet sugariness thus reminding the drinker of a margarita.  Better Half tastes like pine needle tea and the bitterness tends to stick around.

Black IPA, like High Country, has a rusty brown head and a black body but, unlike High Country, the highlights are brown.  A smoky aroma paves the way for a roasted, lightly bittered flavor.

Had the flights ended there, I would have chalked Copper Kettle off as just another stop on Nicole and I’s journey to visit every brewery in the state; they’ve got solid beer, no doubt, but if you were thinking of writing home about it—don’t. 

But then magic happened.  I took a sip of Mexican Chocolate Stout.

The earth stood still, a bright, white light emanated from my core, and angels from on high rang out in joyful noise.  This, dear reader, is a beer that Colorado can rally behind.  It looks pedestrian enough—black with a tan head like any other stout—but the aroma dashes any notions of mediocrity.  Imagine yourself at the county fair as you walk by the churro vendor; that sweet, cinnamon-y scent that fills your nostrils is the same smell in Mexican Chocolate Stout.  And the flavor?  It’s a liquid sopapilla with a touch of chocolate drizzled on top and a pinch of hot peppers stuffed inside; it starts out sweet but finishes with a dull burn that, while never overbearing, is long-lived.

Mexican Chocolate Stout is a good beer.  Nay, it is a great beer.  I will go as far as to say it may be the best stout on the face of this planet—seriously!  If I’m wrong then it’s at least top five.  But, I don’t think I am wrong since Mexican Chocolate Stout brought home the gold at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival (although it was in the herb and spice beer category, not the stout category).  Go to Copper Kettle right now and don’t forget to bring a growler so you can spread the goodness of this beer to your friends and family.  

After drinking beer, the best thing to do at Copper Kettle is people-watch.  Indoor picnicking with bags and bags of brought-in food and real, ceramic dishes and pots?  Yes, you’ll find that at Copper Kettle.  It was a Thanksgiving Day feast over at that other table!  I also saw something that made me introspect a bit; a man wearing three items of clothing each featuring a brewery logo.  I admit it; when I go to a brewery, I like to let it be known through my apparel, beer journal, and business cards that I’m a beer geek.  It’s sad, really, like “that guy” who wears the band’s t-shirt at the concert.  I guess I’m no different than Captain Doofus who either really, really likes Harpoon Brewery or really, really works for Harpoon Brewery and I’m big enough to concede that point.  I am, however, not strong enough to actually stop being “that guy” so look for me and my beer shirt at your next brewery visit or beer festival.    



Our visit to Copper Kettle added something fun to my boring Sunday afternoon which consisted of grading papers and falling asleep on the couch. I was excited to try the Mexican Chocolate Stout because I had heard good things about it. I also saw it in ice cream form at Sweet Action the day before and I am sad that I didn’t try it. The Mexican Chocolate Stout is amazing! When you smell it, you feel the intensity of the cinnamon in your nostrils. When you taste it, you feel the heat of the guajillo chili peppers. The guajillo pepper is only rated a 2,500-5,000 on the Scoville Scale but it still packs a nice punch in the back of the mouth. I like the sweet dessert-like aspect of this beer but I also like that it is spicy. It’s different and I like that. I like the beers that “think outside the box” and this one definitely fits the bill.
As I write this, I am trying to figure out how many breweries we have been to. I tried to count using a brewery list on a website but I only got 71; last time I counted in our beer journal we were up to 75.  So, I started a list so that I can have an accurate count. I thought I would have started a list like this a long time ago but at least I have one now.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

How Colorado Brewers Guild and Bridgewater Grill Busted My Gut

Despite the impression one might get from my blog wherein I wax authoritative on beer and constantly berate other states for not being as good as Colorado, I am actually a fairly modest guy.  I realize that I’m not the first or only person with a beer blog and I realize I’m probably not the best, either.  Nonetheless, I write because I love to write and I drink beer because I love to drink beer and I write about drinking beer because I love to write about drinking beer.  The size of my audience has never been a factor; I’d keep writing for Beer in Colorado (and Examiner.com and Denver off the Wagon) even if I was the only person reading.  However, it instills in me a nugget of warm pride knowing that people other than my mom are reading what I’m writing.  It is especially pleasing when those other people are involved in the industry on which I’ve based my passion.

Last Monday, I received an e-mail from Steve Kurowski, the marketing manager for the Colorado Brewers Guild, who first mentioned that he reads my Examiner reviews and then asked if I, as a beer blogger, would like to attend the inaugural Colorado Beer Tour in which Colorado breweries team-up with the chefs of Bridgewater Grill—located in The Golden Hotel—and pair gourmet dishes with the appropriate beer.  The event is to become a monthly occurrence with a different brewery represented each time.  Steve was wondering if I could, via my various web-based writing outlets, muster up as much public interest as possible.  So, the Guild knows about my writing and wants to utilize my skills to promote their events?  Forget this modesty crap; I’m a badass and my blog is better than your blog.

Nicole and I arrived at The Golden Hotel, made our way to the Bridgewater lounge where we met Steve, Jeremy Friedman—the hotel’s director of food and beverage, and Adrienne Rinaldi who you may know as the Beer Snob Chick. 

We schmoozed around a bit, talked about the upcoming Beer Bloggers Conference in Indianapolis (still debating if I’ll go), and eventually found our way to the appetizer table.  February’s brewery of the month was Golden City Brewery so we were greeted with Legendary Red Ale paired with corn beef and cabbage rolls on a whole grain bun with mustard and pickled onions along with BBQ shrimp and Andouille sausage skewers.  I think the reason this beer and these apps were combined is because Legendary is an altbier (or a German amber brewed with Munich malts and German hops) while the pickled onions tasted like sauerkraut and the mustard reminded me of giant, soft pretzels so, when all’s combined, it’s like Oktoberfest in your mouth.  I’m not sure how the skewers fit into this ensemble; I guess they were just there because they tasted good. 

Legendary Red with roll and skewer
Up until this point everybody was just milling about the lounge like leaves floating in a puddle but, when it came down to the actual meal, we had ourselves a seat.  Word of warning to anybody thinking they’ll be having an intimate dining experience with their sweetie—you won’t get any of that here.  Instead, attendees sit at a long table like heroes of Heorot merrily drinking grog, hyperbolizing past accomplishments, and causing a general stir.  Nicole and I were seated next to a couple that moved to Golden just a year ago as well as some local restaurant personalities.  Throughout the night I heard stories of running a kitchen and tales of Newcastle-fueled antics in England while I, in turn, chewed everybody’s ear off with my travels and experiences in Colorado craft beer.

Our first course was Mad Molly's Brown Ale with five onion soup made with a gallon of Mad Molly mixed in.  This was a hearty spread; the thick, bready, cheesy goodness of the soup complemented the velvety mouthfeel of Mad Molly effectively filling my gut in a matter of sips.  The rustic nature of both the beer and the soup made me feel like a frontiersman hunkered down for a winter storm.

Mad Molly with soup
The second course was Evolution IPA paired with short ribs braised in said IPA with Boursin mashed potatoes, pickled red onions, and sautéed beets.  When speaking of the food portion of this course, one cannot effectively describe the flavor without repeatedly using the word “rich.”  Oh, the creaminess of the cheese, the succulent nature of the meat, the sweetness of the sauce!  So rich was the meal it could probably buy a private island.  So rich, indeed, that it would have been difficult to finish had it not been paired with the citrusy, grapefruit-like Evolution which acted as an expert palate cleanser. 

Evolution with short ribs
By the time the final course came around I was already feeling as stuffed as an over-zealous taxidermist’s mount but the food and beer was so good I was determined to see it through to the end: Lookout Stout paired with an oatmeal cookie bite, cherry cheesecake, and Breckenridge Bourbon ice cream.  This was probably the easiest pairing for the hosts to put together.  Of course a big, roasted, chocolate-y stout would be served with dessert; it’s not hard to conceive.  Plus, an oatmeal stout and an oatmeal cookie?  Hand-in-hand, my friend.  The final course was the epitome of decadence and was intended to be a knock-out punch that would put attendees in a food coma post-consumption.  It did what it was designed to do.

Lookout Stout with cookie and cheesecake
Nicole and I made it through and left a wee bit heavier and completely sated.  Before we left, we chatted a little more with our fellow beer geeks including the Golden City rep who told me some interesting anecdotes about how a small brewery runs; perhaps I’ll be able to use that information in future endeavors.

Great work, everybody (i.e. Colorado Brewers Guild, Bridgewater, and Golden City).  It was a delicious and informative occasion and I have faith that there will be many more Colorado Beer Tours in the future.  As a matter of fact, the next one is on March 7th.  Reserve your spot now; you will not regret it.



When Chris told me about the dinner, I was expecting small plates: food samples and some taster-sized glasses of beer. When we walked into the Bridgewater Grill there was a table set up with about 25 seats. I didn’t realize that was for the Brewers Guild dinner until we had already sampled the appetizers and critiqued the first beer. As the dinner began, Chris and I found ourselves sitting next to the owner, general manager, and one of the chefs of Willow Creek, a restaurant in Evergreen. We will have to plan a dinner there in the summer so that we can sit on the patio that overlooks the lake.                
The first course of the meal was a five onion soup that was baked in a crock. Paired with the Mad Molly’s Brown Ale, the soup made for a nice start to the meal. Despite its delicious taste, I didn’t want to fill up on the soup knowing there were two more courses to come.
The second course included beef short ribs that marinated in the Evolution IPA for about 14 hours. The short ribs rested on a fluffy mountain of Boursin mashed potatoes and was encircled by sautéed yellow beets. I didn’t recognize the Boursin name at first, but after looking at the website, I realized that I have tried this cheese before. I found a recipe on the Boursin website that I want to try the next time I make mashed potatoes.  The ribs were very tender but rich. I only ate a little bit which probably looked like I didn’t like it. In reality, it was something I would order again (and you can too because it is a special item on the menu at the Bridgewater Grill for the rest of the month). Knowing that there was an oatmeal cookie and ice cream being served next, I had to prioritize.  

The oatmeal cookie, Breckenridge Bourbon ice cream and dark cherry cheesecake were served with the Lookout Stout. Of the four beers that were showcased, this was my favorite. It was a perfect match with the dessert on a cold, wintery night. I am tempted to pick up a bottle to enjoy by the fireplace. My favorite part of the dessert was the bourbon ice cream made with bourbon from the Breckenridge Distillery in Breckenridge. This is something that I want to try to make. Just like Chris, who enjoys making creative beers, I enjoy experimenting with ice cream. I found a recipe, now I just need to buy some Breckenridge Bourbon and support Colorado’s economy.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl of Beer: Sam Adams vs. Saranac

Some people judge a city based on its politicians.  Some, on its citizens.  Some people say a city is great because of its natural beauty and others say it’s about the architecture.  Perhaps a metropolis is worthwhile if it has a thriving arts scene.  Maybe we’re attracted to it because of its rich history.  More often than not, though, we base a city’s greatness on how well their professional sports teams play.  That’s not the most accurate way to identify quality urban sites (six Super Bowl wins does not make Pittsburgh any less of a cesspool) but it’s the way most Americans do it nonetheless.

Why not try a different method?  Why not base a city’s greatness on the quality of its beer culture?  In anticipation of the impending Super Bowl, I have pitted Boston and New York beers against each other in a blind, head-to-head competition to see which team—Patriots or Giants—represents the better beer city.  For the Patriots, I chose the obvious: a Sam Adams variety pack.  A more difficult choice was deciding which brewery would represent the Giants.  The Brooklyn Brewery would have been a good contender but, as you can ascertain from the title of this blog, I live in Colorado and Brooklyn beer isn’t so easy to come by.  That is why I ultimately settled on Saranac—it isn’t from New York City but it is, at least, within the state and it is readily available in Denver.

I matched the beers from each brewery by style as closely as possible and had Nicole pour the competing beers in identical glasses without my observing.  This is how the game played out:

Sam Adams Alpine Spring vs. Saranac Bohemian Pilsener
Beer one is a clear, pale yellow color and has a sweet candy-like aroma: apple-y and lemony with floral hops.  It possesses a small amount of bitter flavor that quickly subsides.    It tastes sweet, malty, fruity, and cider-like.  Beer two is orange/yellow with a bit of haze.  It also has a candy-like aroma but leaning more towards oranges rather than lemons.  The floral hop nose is more apparent and the flavor is yeasty, bready, dry, and similar to that of an unsalted pretzel. 

I liked beer two best, Nicole liked them both but with the addendum that beer one would be best for summertime drinking and that beer two is an “anytime beer” so it wasn’t exactly a run-away.  The way I see it, one team scored a touchdown, the other a field goal.  The score thus far: Sam Adams: 7, Saranac: 3. 

Sam Adams Mighty Oak Ale vs. Saranac Vanilla Stout
This is an “apples and oranges” match-up—two barely similar beers—but both bottles tout a vanilla flavor thus they were matched together.  Beer one is a clear, copper color—like rust.  The aroma is apple-y with a touch of vanilla and wood in the flavor.  Beer two is pitch-black with scarcely any highlights.  The nose is like raisins, chocolate, and vanilla mixed together and the flavor is vanilla, caramel, and a more pronounced bitterness. 

Nicole and I agreed that beer two was the superior beer.  Sam Adams: 7, Saranac 10.

Sam Adams Boston Lager vs. Saranac Lake Effect Lager
This was a challenge I thought would be much closer but it turned out the beers were as disparate as the previous competition.  Beer one is clear, burnt amber red with an eggshell head.  The aroma is malty, roasted, and toffee-esque.  The taste is bready, malty, low on hops, and akin to a Scottish ale, molasses, or a gingerbread cookie.  Beer two is a clear orange/yellow and smells like an orange popsicle.  It is sweet, flowery, and yeasty on the tongue with a dry mouthfeel. 

Nicole and I split our choices; she liked beer one (Saranac) and I liked Beer two (Sam Adams).  Both teams went three and out.  Sam Adams: 7, Saranac 10.

Sam Adams Black Lager vs. Sam Adams Chocolate Bock vs. Saranac Chocolate Lager
Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Sam Adams is putting in two players for this round?  That’s not fair!  Then again, history has shown that the Patriots can cheat and pretty much get away with it so why shouldn’t the beer representing them do the same?  Beer one is a clear, oaky brown—like iced tea.  A dark chocolate/brownie with an almost peppery smell permeates the nose while oak, plum, raisin, and the burn of alcohol round out the flavor.  Beer two is a deep, deep red with a lighter chocolate aroma intermingled with wood and a little vanilla scent.  It tastes a little chocolate-y, a little woody, and a little skunky.  Beer three is an even deeper shade of red than beer two with a slight chocolate aroma accompanied by a sweet essence.  The chocolate flavor is much more pronounced than it is in the nose—it’s like drinking alcoholic chocolate milk. 

From best to worst, Nicole liked beer two (Sam Adams Black Lager), beer one (Saranac), and beer three (Sam Adams Chocolate Bock).  I, on the other hand, ranked it as such: beer three, beer one, and beer two.  All three beers scored the same which means that, even though it was outmatched, Saranac held off Sam Adams.  No score. Sam Adams: 7, Saranac 10.

Sam Adams Whitewater IPA vs. Saranac India Style Copper Ale
This, too, was a match-up that I thought would be more neck-and-neck.  It turns out an IPA and an India style copper ale are quite different.  Beer one smells lemony and lightly hopped.  It tastes like coriander and the hop profile is more akin to an English IPA than an American IPA.  Beer two smells malty and molasses-y.  The malts are so much that they essentially counteract any hop bite thus making this beer taste like a Scottish ale.  The mouthfeel is thick and velvety. 

Nicole and I split out choices again.  She went for beer two (Saranac) and I went for beer one (Sam Adams).  Again, it’s a wash.  Sam Adams: 7, Saranac 10.

Sam Adams Irish Red vs. Saranac Big Moose Ale
The final round.  I really didn’t know what type of beer Big Moose was but every other beer had already found a competitor so I put it against Irish Red.  Beer one is a clear reddish orange akin to a sunset.  It smells of floral hops and sugar while the taste is bitter like that of an orange peel.  Beer two is a clear mahogany with scents and flavors that remind the drinker of plums or grapes.  It’s also quite dry. 

It came down to this round to determine the winner.  Nicole and I both agreed; beer two was better.  Final score: Sam Adams: 14, Saranac 10.

Yes, New England has won the Super Bowl of beers but, if you must know the truth, I had a hard time getting through this challenge; Sam Adams and Saranac make some pretty terrible beers.  Sure, Boston edged out New York but it’s like Kim Kardashian outsmarting a goat.  I mean, yeah, you won, Kim, but it’s a freaking goat.  And it was a close game. 

Through this competition I learned one invaluable truth—cities with great football teams have an inverse proportion of great beer.  If great beer equaled a great NFL team then the Broncos or the Seahawks or the Chargers would be in the Super Bowl every year.  And, if the same is true for basketball, the Trail Blazers would be in the finals all the time.  So, no, Denver, Tebow didn’t answer your prayers but I hope you can still enjoy the game sipping on a fine-crafted Colorado-made beer because—and I hope you don’t take it for granted—it’s some of the best beer you can get.  I know--I’ve had what the other 49 have been making.