"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!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

When Breweries Don't Count: Vine Street Celebrates 4 Years

If you’ve read more than, say, three Beer in Colorado posts then you’re doubtless aware of Nicole and I’s mission to visit every brewery in the state (we’re at 79).  We realize it is a daunting task.  So daunting, in fact, that we never intend to complete the goal; for every new brewery we visit, two or three spring up elsewhere.  Furthermore, there are tons of tiny, mountain-town breweries that are well removed from the beaten path thus making for a difficult destination. 

There are ways of alleviating the enormity of the situation, though.  Foremost, not every brewery in Colorado “counts.”  Some breweries have subsidiary locations sprinkled throughout but these outposts are not included in our overall total.  For example, the Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge does indeed count but the Breckenridge Tasting Room on Kalamath Street in Denver does not count; it may be the main production facility but it wasn’t the first to operate under the “Breckenridge” name.  The same goes for SandLot Brewery at Coors Field as it is, unsurprisingly, a Coors-owned facility.  Likewise, C.B. & Potts, Hops Grill & Brewery, and the Anheuser-Busch InBev facility in Ft. Collins do not count as their corporate headquarters are located out-of-state—we do have standards, you know.  Downtown Denver’s Rock Bottom kind-of, sort-of counts because, although the parent company is based in Tennessee, the very first Rock Bottom to exist was the one on 16th street.  It’s a bit of a gray-area. 

Which brings me to the point of this post: not long ago, I received an e-mailed press release concerning Vine Street Pub & _______.  Why the blank space?  Because, for years, that’s what their sign advertised; they had beer but they didn’t have the means of making it.  That changed this past weekend when a 4th anniversary party was held in honor of Vine Street’s new brewing system.  Usually, that means our brewery count rises but, according to our self-imposed rule, we remain at 79 since Vine Street Pub & Brewery is an offshoot of Boulder’s Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery.  We may refuse to consider it among our list of Colorado breweries visited but that doesn’t mean we refuse to have a good time.

Hopefully their brewing facility is more permanent than their sign

The party started on April 20th at 4:20 (this family of breweries is known to be exceptionally hippie-centric) and featured live, outdoor music complements of By All Means Band, BBQ from Chef Annabelle Forrestal, beers donated by Great Divide Brewing Co., Brewery Ommegang, and Green Flash Brewing Co. in support of Judi’s House, and a special beer release known as Capital Saison.

The new equipment

 Everything about this event was great except that our schedules wouldn’t allow us to be present for the party's kick-off—a huge annoyance to Nicole and I whose punctuality is so ironclad that our friends have turned it into a running joke.  Alas, we couldn’t attend until a little after 7pm and, by then, the party was in full swing—crowds inside and out, the band rocking the whole neighborhood, and BBQ smoke wafting through the air like ascending spirits.  All of this was great to see as it makes me happy when local breweries succeed but it’s much easier to be present for the transition from quiet get-together to raging party than to interject one’s self into the mayhem after the fact.  That’s where Nicole and I found ourselves: on the outside looking in. 

I was still going to get a celebratory beer, though, so I ordered Hooligan Oatmeal Porter (6.1%), a beer that’s black when sat on the table, dark, ruby-red when it’s held to a light, and topped with a mocha-brown foam.  It smells of sweet milk chocolate and the flavor is a bit smoked, a bit roasted, and all-around chocolate-y.  A velvety mouthfeel rounds out this beer.


Aside from a mighty tasty Cuban sandwich, that pretty much sums up our time at Vine Street.  If it sounds like I’m cutting this short, I am.  Don’t worry, though, I’m currently working on a more intimate look at the new Vine Street facilities.  Stay tuned, folks.



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Breaking the No-Beer Streak at Hops & Pie

Though this blog has undergone trivial changes since its inception a year and a half ago (I no longer write reviews for bottled and canned beers because I have my Examiner.com page for that and I no longer write about my homebrewing adventures because I want to focus on places and events that are open to the public; unless you’ve stowed away in my garage, I’m the only person that participates in my homebrewing activities), I’ve stayed true to my central goals.  One goal is to make Beer in Colorado as much a travel journal as it is a beer blog; that’s why I write about the events leading up to each post as well as the ambiance and personal encounters Nicole and I experience at breweries and tasting events.  Another goal is to be as honest as possible; it’s not always sunshine and lollipops (although it is 99% of the time) and I make a concerted effort to be steadfast in my opinions.  Lastly, I try to update often enough that my readers aren’t left hanging for multiple weeks.  It is in this last goal that I have had minor failings.

Nicole and I just haven’t been doing much in the way of beer lately and, believe me, it’s not for lack of opportunity—to think that America’s craft beer hub wouldn’t have something happening every week of the year!  Beer events are held all the time but they take time and money; we need to cherry-pick from the multitude and attend only the events in which we’re really, really interested.  Plus, we’ve hit most of the breweries in the Denver metro-area (still a few hanging over our heads, though) and hitting the mountain breweries takes a bit more effort.  We just haven’t done enough in the world of beer recently to constitute a blog post and, for that, I apologize. 

However, I fear I mislead.  Beer is still a part of our lives—it just lately hasn’t been as significant a part as I would like.  What can I say?  I’m desperate to get in an April posting and I’m willing to subject you to less-than-groundbreaking beer news to do so. 

With all my cards on the table, I present to you Denver’s Littlest Big Beer Fest at Hops & Pie featuring the beers of Equinox Brewing.  It sounds like a fun time (and it is) but it isn’t all that unique since Hops & Pie hosts these events quite regularly (I lost my shirt the last time I attended one).  Nonetheless, it was a rainy Sunday, we hadn’t had an Equinox beer for about two years, I’m always down for a visit to Hops & Pie, and, as mentioned, I needed some blog fodder so away we went.  

This was the first time Nicole and I had visited Hops & Pie since their expansion and, boy, did they need it; even now I worry that they don’t have enough space.  We found a seat and ordered the sampler platter of Equinox beers: The Details (9.2% ABV), Total Eclipse (8.3% ABV), Midwinter Warmer (10% ABV), and Paz Imperial Stout (8.3% ABV).

From left to Right: The Details, Total Eclipse, Midwinter Warmer, & Paz Imperial Stout. In background: a damned fool. 

The Details is a Belgian-style golden strong ale and is pale yellow and cloudy in appearance.  The aroma is interesting—it smells like sour apples or pear or hard cider.  At any rate, the aroma is fruity.  It’s a dry beer and the fruit flavor pops up on the palate, too.  The high alcohol content warms the mouth.

Total Eclipse, an imperial brown ale, is murky brown-red like the waters of the Mississippi River.  The aroma is quite unique; as Nicole put it, “it smells like an Asian restaurant.”  Indeed, with a big enough whiff, one can pick up on an aroma that’s not unlike hoisin sauce.  The flavor is roasted and one can pick up hints of dried, dark fruits. 

The barleywine Midwinter Warmer looks like flecks of rust that have been stirred into water.  Spicy and earthy scents emanate from the glass while the flavor leaves the drinker with trace flavors of wood and cherries.  There is a roasted quality to this beer, too. 

Paz Imperial stout is black with brown highlights and a tan foam.  If one were to take their coffee with hops then one would be familiar with this beer’s smell.  It tastes like smoke, bitter hops, and roasted coffee all mixed together in a blender and it leaves the drinker salivating after each sip. 

We finished our platter, noshed on some artisanal pizza (man, I love prosciutto on my pie), and headed back home.  Was it an epic journey to rival the likes of Odysseus and Gilgamesh?  Perhaps not.  Still, it was a great way to break up the no-beer monotony and, really, any trip to Hops & Pie is a trip worth taking; it’s a wonderful neighborhood craft beer bar and if you’ve never been then what are you waiting for? 

Nicole and I have at least one big beer-related story planned for May, June, and July so hopefully I won’t be forced to scrape together a story out of almost nothing again for a good while.