"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, January 21, 2013

Cannonball Creek Makes a Splash

The cool wind whizzing past your ears, a satisfying splash, a shore-soaking column of water, gleeful giggles, the refreshing and rapid transition from sweltering heat to invigorating chillness, and the cheers of approval elicited from witnesses of the dramatic event: as a kid, there’s hardly a better feeling than performing the perfectly-executed cannonball at the local swimming hole. 

One can “cannonball” in a more metaphorical sense, too.  Say, for example, we replace the body of water with Golden, Colorado (AKA Coors Country) and replace the flying, tuck-positioned child with Cannonball Creek Brewing Company, the latest—and only second—craft brewery to splashdown in the mega-brewery’s backyard.  That, too, can cause waves.

Named for Clear Creek’s original appellation, Cannonball Creek held its grand opening last Saturday, January 19th, so Nicole and I, after working up a thirst hiking local landmark Castle Rock, thought it best to replenish ourselves with new, local craft beer.  Fortunately for Cannonball Creek but unfortunately for anybody trying to get a hassle-free beer, everybody else in town had the same idea.

Set to open at 3pm, Nicole and I arrived at Cannonball Creek at 2:45 and, by that time, the line of anticipating beer geeks curled around the corner.  What can one infer from this situation?  There’s no right answer to the question but I choose to see it as such: Golden locals are sick of their beer scene being exclusively linked to Coors.  They know that on a state-wide level their home is the craft beer capital but, on a municipal level, there is but a corporate Goliath and a single, miniscule David (i.e. Golden City Brewery).  Certainly, the locals can thank Coors for being a job creator and for bringing loads of tourist dollars into an otherwise sleepy, foothills burg but it must be frustrating to be in the midst of the craft beer revolution and yet have so few craft breweries to show for it.  This, I believe, is the reason for the fanfare surrounding Cannonball Creek. It is a show of appreciation; a “thank you” to a business with locals in mind—another David brewery for beer-savvy Goldenites to enjoy as out-of-staters and School of Mines undergrads horde Coors.

The doors opened and the taproom was rushed like water flowing through a burst dam.  Patrons snatched seats as if they were doomsday preppers stockpiling last minute canned goods.  Eventually, the smoke cleared and Nicole and I were able to eke out standing room by the windows for our imbibing pleasure.  Being situated by the windows, we noticed the line outside kept advancing yet never became shorter (more people came to refill it) and that nobody seemed to be leaving the taproom; I’m pretty sure there’s a black hole in Cannonball Creek—how else does one cram people into a room lacking available space?  I don’t know what the zoning laws say but there’s definitely an area in front big enough to fit a patio and I hope the brewery seriously considers installing such an outdoor space; if the massive support for this brewery lasts, they’ll need the extra seating.

Nicole wiggled her way to the bar and managed to procure a Parbuckle Pale Ale (4.5% ABV) and a Mindbender IPA (4.5% ABV).  Parbuckle is a hybrid American/English pale ale with a cloudy, pale yellow body and a cherry-like aroma.  The flavor is mildly hoppy and quite yeast-forward.  Mindbender is essentially the same color as Parbuckle but with more clarity.  It smells and tastes piney, woody; it’s a sensible American-style IPA—not too biting.

Left to right: Parbuckle & Mindbender
As we sipped the beers we fought so hard to acquire, we engaged in a bit of people-watching.  I noticed somebody in line wearing a shirt reading “The Cookie Brewer” and, having my memory sparked, I checked my Twitter followers.  Sure enough, there was The Cookie Brewer.  I started typing and the conversation went like so:

Me:  is that you right outside Cannonball Creek right now?
TCB:  Yep!!! Come say hi!
Me:  look behind you

A bit creepy?  Yes, but the situation lent itself well to this mischievous exchange and, hopefully, the presence of my girlfriend tempered the creep-factor; it would have been a different story had I been alone.  At any rate, it’s always nice to meet cyber friends in the corporal world.  Give her a follow on Twitter while you’re thinking about it.
Nicole enjoys having her picture taken

We finished our beers, made our way through the jungle of limbs and pints, and finally found ourselves outside.  While the crowds will surely wane over time, I’m willing to bet Cannonball Creek will always be a popular destination for beer geeks and especially Golden beer geeks who are desperate for more craft options.  They won’t be desperate for long, though, as three more craft breweries will be opening in Golden this year

Soon, Golden will have five small breweries firing cannons at the citadels of Coors.  Those walls are steadfast and will never crumble but artillery strikes, nonetheless, will cause cracks and dents—cracks and dents just big enough for local beer geeks to take hold.  And that’s all the damage that needs to be done to allow craft beer culture to flourish in the shadow of the giant.



Golden from atop Castle Rock

Espying Coors from Castle Rock

This person (I assume a brewer at Echo Brewing Company) really likes double IPAs

Monday, January 14, 2013

Being the Proper English Gentleman at Denver Beer Co.'s New Barrel Room Annex

A misty moor, whale-oil lanterns flickering in a dim room, curls of ethereal smoke flowing from a Sherlock Holmes-esque pipe.  A boar’s head stuffed and mounted on a mahogany-clad wall, bookshelves lined with dusty, leather-bound tomes, and a regal portrait of a country gentleman accompanied by his faithful hound.  Despite a toxic River Thames, rampant disease, and the fact that people just threw their bodily waste out the window, the Victorian Era retains a great deal of romanticism for those who, like me, are easily suckered-in by nostalgia for a time before their birth.  We long for the “Good Old Days” conveniently ignoring the fact that only about 1% of the “Good Old Days” were actually good but that is the ingrained talent of the idealist.     

But where can the modern-day American indulge this nostalgia?  Where can the contemporary Denver beer geek fantasize about a hypothetical foxhunt, treat the palate to finely-crafted ales, and harrumph satisfyingly in an intimate, wood-paneled setting?  Bull & Bush Brewery certainly has the manor-on-the-moors d├ęcor down pat but that’s but one option and, for me, it’s a bit of a drive being on the opposite side of the metro area.  I suppose Pint’s Pub calls to mind Merry Old England, too, but, in my opinion, the space is too open and too well lit for patrons to experience an adequate-level of snugness.  Plus, with all the Old World tchotchkes nailed to the wall, the place looks like a British T.G.I. Friday’s (I guess across the pond it would more accurately be known as P.O.E.T. Saturday’s).  Woe is me!  Where can I enjoy the charms of the British Isles?  The new Denver Beer Co. Barrel Room annex, that’s where!

Adorned with antler chandeliers, exposed rock and brick walls, the eponymous barrels lining the walls, and reclaimed barn wood (which, I learned, needs to be baked before being screwed into the wall lest you wish it to be infested with bugs, mold, and cow dung) wafting a pleasing, rustic aroma into the space, the Barrel Room is the dark, intimate, and quiet Yin to the main taproom’s bright, open, and flamboyant Yang.  It’s a place to bring a date or host a small party.  A place to kick back, relax, and sip on “a unique beer menu…[of] limited edition IPAs, wood-aged beers and…sour beers.”  A place to enjoy your beer, close your eyes, and think of England. 

I was fortunate enough to attend the media soft opening which consisted only of the owners of Denver Beer Co., their friends and family, and a select few media representatives.  Four beers were available at the time of the event: Prelude, Saison Du Fou, Oak Aged Graham Cracker Porter, and Rwanda Abakundakawa Coffee Stout.

To the uninformed, Prelude, made with fresh-pressed apples, is hard apple cider.  It looks the part: clear, light yellow, and juice-like.  It smells the part: tart and apple-y.  And it tastes the part: dry, fruity, and with just a hint of something spicy in the aftertaste.  But Prelude is, in fact, brewed with the grain sorghum and is technically a gluten-free, hop-less beer.  Actually, I'm pretty hazy on the delineation between cider and beer.  Maybe it's a little bit of both.

Saison Du Fou is Denver Beer Co.’s foray into brett beers.  Aged in Chardonnay barrels for eight months, this saison is a cloudy orange color with a thick, creamy head.  The aroma is dominated by orange citrus wafts with a candy-like quality.  Likewise, the flavor is very orange-y but not quite like simply biting into an orange; it’s more like a complex, foreign-made orange-flavored candy.  You know those dehydrated orange chunks that shrivel and concentrate the flavor and sugar into a single bite?  That’s what this beer tastes like.

The Oak Aged Graham Cracker porter is just like Denver Beer Co.’s Great American Beer Festival-medaling Graham Cracker Porter but with the decadent addition of vanilla flavors imparted by the oak.  This one is dessert in a glass.

The coffee stout is very similar to others of the style but I would wager to say that, while roasted, it isn’t overly roasted; this beer features no black coffee bitterness, just a light and pleasant toasty quality.       

The new Barrel Room—once the gift shop next door—connects to the main taproom via the newly expanded (by 1,700 square feet) brew space.  Denver Beer Co. now boasts a 125% increase in capacity allowing for 3,500 barrels per year and the ability to fill more draft accounts around Denver.

For now, the Barrel Room will be reserved for special events, beer dinners, private parties, and general taproom overflow (the Barrel Room can handle an additional 55 people as well as 35 people on the new patio).  If you’d like to enjoy the ambiance of the Barrel Room, Denver Beer Co. is hosting a grand public opening on Friday, January 18th at 7pm.  For $60 (plus tax and gratuity), beer geeks can enjoy a beer dinner catered by Mikes2Kitchen in the cozy, new setting.  Make your reservations at 303-433-2739.

The festive atmosphere beer creates will never go away and we, as beer drinkers, will always enjoy a boisterous good time but it’s also beneficial to the soul to escape the hurried world, let one’s body sink into a chair, and languidly sip a good brew.  Toast to Old World charm and quietly enjoy your beer in Denver Beer Co.’s new Barrel Room.




Monday, January 7, 2013

Be "That Guy" with Craft Brewed Clothing Co.

“That Guy.”

You know “That Guy.”

He’s that guy at the concert wearing the t-shirt of the headlining band.  Oh, wow, that really helps distinguish you from the crowd!  I never would have known you liked Social Distortion had you been donned in some other apparel. Simply paying $40 to get crammed into a sweaty, overcrowded venue next to speakers so booming you can’t discern the current song just to worship your musical idols is for posers; true fans brandish their hero’s logo on the chest for all to see. 

For all those beer geeks out there nodding their heads in agreement, allow me to blow your mind: you are “That Guy” (or, perhaps, “That Chick”)!  You may know proper concert protocol but think back to the last beer festival you attended; I’m willing to bet you were emblazoned with images of your favorite beer, brewery, or beer-related organization.  Is that so different from “That Guy” at the concert?  We know you like beer because you’re here—no need to impress the fact upon us.

Here’s another bombshell: I, too, am “That Guy.”  As a matter of fact, I’m among the most prolific “That Guy” offender.  I can hardly help it—probably a solid half of my t-shirt selection is beer-related thus it’s a matter of statistics that the shirt I wear to a beer festival features something boozy.  Hell, so ingrained is “That Guy,” that if I only had three beer shirts it would be those three shirts I’d cycle through over and over again for each festival; I want people to know just how much a craft beer cheerleader I really am. 

You know something?  I’m okay with that.  I’m an ardent craft beer supporter and I don’t care if I go beyond the call of duty in spreading the gospel of beer.  If my shirt brings awareness of a brewery or beer organization to even one new person then I’m helping the industry as a whole because, in the craft beer community, success for one means success for all.  Of course, it’s a bummer if no new people see my shirt but I really buy beer shirts because I like them so who cares how well I’m advertising?  I’m still getting joy from it and that’s what matters most. 

Which brings me to my point: Craft Brewed Clothing Co., the company running the Craft Brewery T-shirt of the Month Club (which supports American craft brewers), has asked me to help get the word out on them so they can help get the word out on your favorite brewery.  You help Craft Brewed Clothing by joining the club, they help brewers get their name out there, brewers make great beer, and then you enjoy said beer while wearing a new shirt—it comes full circle!

Sign-up for three, six, or twelve month memberships and, each month, “receive a new, top quality T-shirt with a design or logo representing a favorite Craft Brewery, Brew Pub or Brewers Guild from around the country.”  Who knows what you’ll get?  It could be the neighborhood nanobrewery down the street or some far-flung brewers guild from the other side of the country!  The surprise is half the fun. 

Brewers and brewers guild representatives who would like to participate in the program and advertise their business on a nationwide scale can do so for free.  Actually, it’s better than free: “CraftBrewedClothing.com is not only FREE to all Craft Brewers, Breweries, Brew Pubs and Brewers’ Guilds but more importantly, it is a revenue source.

Embrace your “That Guy”-ness!  Wear your beer shirts proudly be it at home or in public.  The misinformed among us may say these actions make you, like “That Guy” at a concert, a tool but, on the scale of all things toolish, wearing your beer shirt to a beer festival is pretty socially acceptable.  It’s not like you’re talking on a Bluetooth device while driving an H2 on your way to Beaver Creek to ski in jeans—now that’s being a tool.  Wearing your beer shirt is a simple action that makes a simple statement: I like and support craft beer.  So, if supporting small, homegrown, American businesses makes you a tool then consider me Ryan Seacrest.  

Visit CraftBrewedClothing.com or check them out on Facebook, Twitter, or at the next beer festival—they get around the festival circuit.