"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, April 15, 2013

Former Future Brewing Company and the art of the swanky beer event

Imagine a swanky party in a turn-of-the-century hotel suite—a hotel suite resplendent with thick, frilled draperies, dark wood cabinetry, an ornately-carved four-poster bed, and a fireplace in the corner.  Imagine a penthouse view of a downtown, urban area, hardwood floors, plush, leather seating, and decorative molding on the wall.  The setting is chic, the partygoers are laughing gaily, and libations are flowing.  What, do you suppose, the people are drinking in such a classy locale?  Champagne?  Cocktails?  Decades-old Scotch?  No, if you were among the lucky few to receive tickets for Former Future Brewing Company’s tasting event in the Presidential Suite at LoDo’s Oxford Hotel, the drink of choice was beer.

The result of the collaborative efforts of James and Sarah Howat, Former Future is a Denver-based brewery that’s currently searching for a location (presently, they brew at Our Mutual Friend Malt & Brew) but, in the meantime, they’ve turned to us, the beer geeks, to help steer their business in the right direction.  Hence, this past Saturday’s tasting event was a chance for the Howats to collect valuable feedback on their beers.  This isn’t a one-time data collection, though; in fact, customer feedback will always be a major component of Former Future’s business operations.

Besides seeking input from beer drinkers, Former Future also defines itself as a brewery that reimagines classic beer styles.  They put modern twists on age-old favorites thus creating completely unique concoctions.  The four beers available at the event were The Harvester saison, The Red Coat English IPA, The Magistrate chocolate stout, and The Mariner salted porter.
James and Sarah explain the Former Future concept
The taproom at the Presidential Suite bedroom
The Harvester was brewed with rye and wild yeast captured from an apple tree in the Howats’ Baker neighborhood.  The beer’s aroma is fruity (most notably and unsurprisingly, apple) and bubblegum-like while the flavor is refreshingly citrusy, crisp, and dry.
The Harvester
Nowadays, “IPA” is synonymous with “hop-bomb” but that wasn’t always the case.  When it was first conceived by the British, the IPA was earthier, less bitter.  It was American brewers that pushed it over the edge with monstrous amounts of hops.  The Red Coat, with its piney nose, subdued hoppiness, and lightly toasted aftertaste, harkens back to those early days of IPA.

While it is classified as a chocolate stout, there is no actual chocolate in The Magistrate.  It is from the malts that this beer derives its chocolate aroma and taste.  The Magistrate is very low in roasted bitterness and high on creamy sweetness. 
The Red Coat
The Mariner is a salted porter.  Yes, it’s a porter—with salt.  This was, by far, the most unusual beer at the event and, from what I overheard from conversations around the room, the beer with the most detractors.  Personally, I hope Former Future keeps this beer around because I enjoy salty foods—pretzels, saltines, prosciutto…etc.—but I do think that a different beer style would showcase the salinity better than a porter.  Maybe something slightly lighter such as a brown ale or even lighter since I also love TRVE Brewing Company’s Prehistoric Dog salted wheat beer.

The Magistrate
While sipping our samples, Nicole and I floated about the room, snacked on some cookies from The Cookie Brewer, and talked to other beer geeks and bloggers like Dave from Fermentedly Challenged (who we met in person for the first time at the Indianapolis Beer Bloggers Conference), representatives from the Denver branch of Girls Pint Out, some homebrewers from Boulder, Matt Sandy, my Examiner.com handler, and Sarah Howat who owed me a T-shirt because I helped name the brewery’s mascot: Professor Phineas Barleyhop (I contributed the “Phineas” part).  It’s a pretty rad shirt, too; I made a few other attendees jealous with my kickin’ new apparel. 

I have been to the grand, open chaos of Great American Beer Festival, I have experienced the wild wonders of Rails & Ales Brewfest, but there’s something about the intimate elegance of Former Future’s tasting event that will stick in my memory for a very long time; drinking in the Presidential Suite at The Oxford Hotel makes one feel like Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris—transported back to a more glamorous time. 
The Mariner
If you weren’t among the fortunate few to attend, you can still enjoy Former Future beer at the upcoming South Denver Beer Festival.  Also, keep an eye on their Facebook page to keep tabs on their progress in finding a location. 



We took some artsy-fartsy architect pictures on our way back to the car; can you tell where we took this one?
How about this one?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Quest for 100 Pt. 2

After licking our plates clean at Wild Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery, Nicole and I snaked down Boulder Canyon Drive, parked at the Pearl Street Mall, and headed to brewery #99: West Flanders Brewing Co.

Upon approaching West Flanders, I was overcome with a sense of déjà vu; I think I’ve had a beer here before.  Indeed, it’s the former site of a BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse!  No beer geek likes to see a brewery close but, if it has to close, it’s nice that the defunct brewery wasn’t family-owned and that another brewery took over the space.  Well, actually, I think BJ's simply moved to another location so, really, there are no losers in this situation; BJ's keeps doing what they’re doing and West Flanders gets a venue that’s practically move-in ready.

We took a seat at the bar and took a moment to marvel at our surroundings.  A skylight over the bar lets sunbeams glint off silver and copper tanks, a languid light show illuminates the glassware, and photos of homebrew sessions adorn the walls.  There’s more character in the building now than when it was a chain brewery, that’s for sure.

We ordered samples of four beers: Angry Monk (7.1% ABV), Trippel Lutz (7% ABV), St. Mark’s Dubbel (7% ABV), and Lion Heart Stout (7.7% ABV).  I was mildly surprised when I glanced over the menu and noticed a glaring omission; with a name like “West Flanders,” one would expect to see a Flanders red or a Flanders oud bruin on the menu but, alas, no such beer was to be found.  It seems to me that if you name your brewery, say, “Plzeň Brewing Company” you might want to have a Pilsner on tap just as you’d probably want to have the demonymic ale at a place called West Flanders.  Perhaps they brew such beers on occasion but said occasion did not coincide with our visit.  No matter, the beer they did have was still quite lovely.

Left to right: Trippel Lutz, Lion Heart, St. Mark's, & Angry Monk
Angry Monk is, according to the brewery, a beer that does not fit any specific category—it’s just “Belgian.”  This clear, amber beer with a sweet licorice aroma has a flavor that is likewise sweet and tasting of brown sugar, toffee, and banana.  I guess if you just had to put a label on it, you might call it a mild abbey ale.

Trippel Lutz—named for brewmaster Brian Lutz—is a hazy, pale yellow beer with a citrusy aroma and a flavor like well-sugared lemon slices. 
Brewing equipment at West Flanders
The color of a copper penny, St. Mark’s is a blend of aromas and flavors ranging from dark fruit (black cherry, perhaps) to slight bitterness to sweet chocolate.  It’s a swarm of sensations and it takes some concentration to parse out each whiff and taste from the mixture as a whole.

Lion Heart with its black with red highlights has a chocolate-y aroma intermingled with a mild roast.  The flavor, too, is rife with chocolate and bitterness derived from roasted malts.

As we left West Flanders, we talked to our waiter about our quest for 100 and mentioned that our next destination, Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place, would soon have the honor of being our milestone brewery.  He looked up, smirked, and said, in so many words, that Shine was one drum circle away from being a full-on hippie commune.  That says a lot coming from another Boulder business; the whole town already feels like a miniature Burning Man festival.

Bar at West Flanders
As it was with our arrival at West Flanders, we were again struck with a sense of familiarity when we approached Shine.  Years ago, when we initiated our journey to hit every brewery in the state, we made a pilgrimage to Boulder in order to make headway on that goal.  By that point, we had only been to, like, five Colorado breweries.  On that visit that, now, seems so long ago, we had a few beers at a place called Colorado Brewing Co.  That brewery has, sadly, gone away and, happily, been replaced by Shine.  It serves as a reminder that, resilient though the craft beer industry may be, one must always expect at least a few casualties.  Still, though some breweries die, many more come to fill the void.  Since Shine is such a New Age establishment, we can just call it reincarnation.
You have to hug a tree to get into this tree-hugging establishment
And New Age it is indeed!  Visitors to Shine can expect plenty of potted plants, a blossoming tree mural, India-inspired design elements, and beer names straight out of the yoga studio.  And, like the many avatars of Vishnu, beer at Shine comes in various forms all of which Nicole and I sampled: Trilogy IPA (5.4% ABV), Imperial IPA (ABV N/A), Sanitas Imperial Stout (8.7% ABV), Pahoda Pilsner (5.2% ABV), Shine Pale Ale (6.5% ABV), Bomba Belgian Strong (ABV N/A), Down Dog Imperial Red (9% ABV), and Liberation Ale (5.8% ABV).

Left to Right: Liberation, Down Dog, Trilogy, Bomba, Shine Pale Ale, Pahoda, Sanitas, & Imperial IPA
Trilogy is a clear, brassy color with a piney aroma and upfront bitterness that packs enough of a punch to send a slight shiver down one’s spine.

The Imperial IPA looks much like Trilogy except it’s a bit cloudier.  It smells essentially the same, too, and the flavor also emulates Trilogy albeit with more hops and more malts.  It imparts a dry, leathery feeling to the tongue.
Inside Shine
Black with faint highlights, Sanitas is topped with a tan head and it smells lightly roasted, creamy, and chocolate-y.  The flavor follows the aroma’s lead.

Pahoda would make for great summer drinking.  It is clear, straw yellow and the aroma consists of sweet corn and yeast.  There’s a touch of spice (likely from Saaz hops) and crispness.  The mouthfeel is a bit buttery. 

The eponymous pale ale is a darker brass color than Trilogy and it is, basically, a less intense version of that IPA in terms of aroma and taste. 

Bomba, a clear, light amber beer, smells of bananas.  The flavor brings to mind the aforementioned fruit with flavorful but not bittering hops acting as support.
Inside Shine
Down Dog is hazy and coppery in color with a faint hop aroma—like pine needles.  The flavor is somewhat grassy and spicy like black pepper. 

A gluten-free beer, Liberation is lightly hazy and moderately brassy.  It features a strawberry or raspberry aroma and a mildly tart, berry flavor.  It’s a crisp and, coming from somebody who quite despises gluten-free beer, tasty brew.

Shine, you will forever hold the honor of being our 100th brewery; that is an accomplishment we won’t soon forget: our centennial brewery in The Centennial State.  But don’t think we’re resting on our laurels, dear readers.  Our goal was never to visit 100 breweries in Colorado, it was to visit all the breweries in Colorado and, believe me, 100 is hardly a triumph when one considers how many new breweries open in the state every month.  In fact, between Shine and the writing of this post, Nicole and I have hit three more (stay tuned for a post on that)!  It may be a Sisyphean task, this campaign to drink across Colorado, but it’s a task I relish.  I may make perpetual progress without ever actually completing anything but, by golly, I’m going to enjoy the ride.



Homebrew photos at West Flanders
Cool new place opening next door to Shine

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Quest for 100 Pt. 1

Don’t let our friendly, laid-back, mountain lifestyle or our regrettable history with Tim Tebow fool you, Coloradoans are actually quite competitive.  We’re not blowhards, though; we won’t boast for hours on our accomplishments.  Nonetheless, those with an interesting story will be heard and they will be surrounded by a faint air of self-satisfaction.  And why not?  If you’ve climbed all 55 14ers, you’ve earned the right to brag.  If you got the first chair on opening day at a ski resort, you deserve major props.  If you ran a 100-mile race in Leadville, my hat is off to you, good sir.

Indeed, many people in this state have a tale of triumph.  These endeavors come in different forms but they’re all, in their own way, impressive and I’m proud to say that Nicole and I now belong in those illustrious ranks of conquering Coloradoans: we have visited 100 Colorado breweries.

Long-time readers know of our quest to visit every brewery in the state but any sane person will tell you that’s a fool’s errand; there are simply too many breweries opening at too fast a pace to keep up.  However, as the cliché goes, it’s about the journey, not the destination and said journey is chock-full of milestones.  100 breweries is, I think, the first major milestone that’s remarkable enough that one has the right to crow about it to friends, family, and any willing ear at the bar.  Or, to the readers of this blog.

The quest for 100 began this past Monday with #97: Brewery Rickoli.  Oddly enough, even though Brewery Rickoli—open for a few months now—is the closest brewery to where I live (just 5.14 miles away), it took Nicole and I an inordinate amount of time to actually visit the damn place.  There’s no real explanation for that, sometimes the easiest tasks are the ones we put off for the longest time.  But no more—we made a point to meet our friends Robin and Justin there for a few post-work brews.

Robin, Nicole, and Justin ruining this interior shot of Rickoli's
Brewery Rickoli is perhaps the very definition of unassuming.  Located in a retail strip on a suburban thoroughfare, there’s hardly any indication that a brewery resides there.  It’s just an inconspicuous, pink-and-earth-tone plaster building.

The interior is not unlike the façade: white ceiling tiles, white walls with a smattering of decorations ranging from merchandise to sports memorabilia, and simple wooden chairs are the essential components of the Brewery Rickoli’s feng shui.  If you’re looking for a brewery with pizzazz, look elsewhere; the focus here is on the beer, not interior design. 

But what beer it is!  I started with samplers of Hop Session IPA (5% ABV), The Black Pline (9.8% ABV), and Thrilla In Vanilla (7% ABV).
Left to right: Thrilla In Vanilla, The Black Pline, Hop Session
Hop Session is just what the name implies: a sessionable IPA.  Go ahead and knock back a few pints of this cloudy, amber-yellow beer, the low ABV will keep you from getting completely sloshed.  While low in alcohol, it is still, nonetheless, high is flavor and bitterness with a fruity, piney bite up front that’s washed away by a mild but present malt backbone.

If there was any beer that was recommended to me as a must-try at Brewery Rickoli, it was The Black Pline which, as I understand it, is a dark version of that very famous and much-sought-after beer from Russian River Brewing Company.  This mahogany (not black) brew’s aroma intermingles piney hops with a touch of chocolate and the flavor is upfront about the chocolate while a mild hop sting finishes it off.  People both on the internet and in my personal life have raved about The Black Pline and, yes, it’s quite nice but it’s definitely not my favorite Brewery Rickoli offering.

My favorite of that night, instead, was Thrilla In Vanilla—a rye stout brewed with the titular flavor.  Want to talk about decadence?  This black-with-red-highlights beer is all vanilla with a light roast finish.  There are a lot of vanilla beers on the market but few have the chutzpah to go all-out and smack the drinker around with a face-full of ice cream-like flavor.  Dry Dock Brewing Co.’s Vanilla Porter is an example of a vanilla beer that isn’t afraid to amps it up and I’d say Thrilla In Vanilla is the only other beer I’ve had that could possibly give Dry Dock a run for its money. 
Social Lubricant
After I put away the samplers I ordered a ten ounce pour of Social Lubricant (8% ABV), a Scotch ale that’s almost clear with a reddish brown/copper color and a malty, caramel, toffee flavor.  I also had M.E.H. (Most Excellent Homebrew) Cream Ale (4.3% ABV).  M.E.H. is pretty, well, meh, but I think that’s the point; it’s a simple, easy-drinking light beer perfect for unwinding after a hard day’s work.

After much group discussion involving the cuteness level of capybaras (I said "high") and whether or not The Sound of Music is considered one of those movies everybody must see before they die (I said "not for guys"), we paid our tabs and went on our merry ways.  Brewery Rickoli isn’t blowing anybody away with avant-garde design but the beer’s tasty and I’m proud to have it reppin’ my ‘hood.
We said our goodbyes to Robin and Justin and headed home but our big push to 100 was only on a short hiatus; the very next morning we were on our way to Nederland and brewery #98.

This was the first time I’d ever been to Nederland and that’s due to the fact that it’s somewhat isolated—about 30 minutes west of Boulder—and one wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a bustling hub of activity, either.  Still, it achieves a certain mountain town charm—with its mining-era architecture and proximity to the wilderness—while remaining within spitting distance of Boulder’s urban comforts.

We pulled down a muddy, snow-packed road and parked in front of a neo-rustic cabin with a large front porch, metal roof, and a Dia de los Muertos skull made of plastic beads: Wild Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery.

Having matriculated in Gunnison, a town which mixes mountain culture and hippie culture quite expertly, I found myself right at home in Wild Mountain.  The walls are a mix of ski art, Grateful Dead posters, hop and grape stained glass pieces, photo mosaics, and Green Bay Packers gear; it’s an eclectic hodge-podge reminiscent of many a college friends’ dorm rooms.

First, I’d like to expound a bit on the “Smokehouse” portion of Wild Mountain.  I have been to Kansas City and I have eaten at Arthur Bryant’s and I have eaten at Oklahoma Joe’s—two of the top-ranked BBQ joints in the world—and both of them met or exceeded my expectations.  However, not all the great BBQ is in KC.  Maybe you’d expect a restaurant with flower child vibes to know their way around hummus and granola but  not something quite so anti-vegan as pig but you, friend, would be wrong.  Hot damn, these people make a mean pulled-pork sandwich!  And the spicy XXX sauce?  Well, all due respect to the classic BBQ sauce recipes but nothing beats the kick of Serrano, Habanero, and Cayenne peppers.  Keep that molasses-y and mustard-y stuff to yourself; I wanna feel the heat!  They do have “normal” BBQ sauce there, too, for the traditionalists i.e. boring people.

Inside Wild Mountain
But enough food talk, this is a beer blog.  We ordered a sample platter that, appropriate enough for Colorado, was served on an old ski.  We had 6 Feet Under ESB (5.8% ABV), Consummation Belgian Golden (6.9% ABV), Otis Pale Ale (ABV N/A), Hop Diggity IPA (ABV N/A), and Around + Round Brown (5.7% ABV).

Left to right: Around + Round, Hop Diggity, Otis, Consummation, 6 Feet Under
6 Feet Under, with its hazy, golden yellow body and yeasty, Belgian-y aroma sure doesn’t seem like an ESB.  My understanding is that ESBs are supposed to be coppery in color with flavors of caramel and light hops.  I’m not entirely sure this should be classified as an ESB but it’s a pretty decent brew regardless of what you call it.  I thought that maybe the waitress had mistakenly mislabeled this particular beer but everything else on the ski fit their respective category.  So, if you love ESB, be prepared to be disappointed by 6 Feet Under.  If you like Belgian-style beers, however, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

Consummation is a lemon yellow beer with a touch of haze.  It smells of sweet fruits—namely strawberries—and it tastes decidedly yeasty as many a Belgian beer should.
Neat mosaic at Wild Mountain
A clear, copper beer with a caramel backbone and hop bite, Otis is more an ESB than 6 Feet Under.  It still fulfills its duties at pale ale, though.  Hop heads will find enough to love with Otis.

Hop Diggity is very cloudy and brown-rust in color.  Piney hop scents waft to the nose and bitter, spicy, peppery flavors attack the back of the throat.

Around + Round is inversely proportionate to 6 Feet Under in terms of fitting into style guidelines.  This brown ale is a dark, ruby-mahogany with a tan head.  It’s lightly toasted with a creamy, chocolate milk aroma that carries over into the flavor.  This is a great beer if one wants cream stout taste without cream stout fullness.   

With a great meal and several great beers inside us, we left Wild Mountain and continued on our way to Colorado craft beer distinction.  100 was within our grasp and, by George!, we were going to hunt down that milestone if it was the last thing we did!  But that will have to wait until my next post because this one is already too long.  Until then,



As an almost Colorado native (born in Seattle, moved here when I was a year old), I have traveled all over the state but never to Nederland despite the allure of their Frozen Dead Guy Days which I hear about on the news every year. It was on our quest to visit more breweries that Chris and I finally decided to visit Nederland and, after our visit to Wild Mountain, I wish we lived closer. I'm actually not a fan of smoked meat and I was skeptical as to whether or not I would find something I could enjoy but, lucky for me, their menu extends beyond smoked products and other BBQ fare. I decided on the Caprese grilled cheese and tomato basil soup and, after already deciding that, I realized there was a back-side to the menu I hadn’t even noticed. Next time…

Readers may recall our visit to Cannonball Creek where we chatted with The Cookie Brewer. Chris follows her on Twitter but I did not realize her delicious cookies were actually made with beer. Our friends raved about the snickerdoodle at Rickoli so, having the sweet tooth that I do, I had to give it a try along with the chocolate chip/pretzel cookie. I am glad I did and I must say envy her cookie baking skills. If you visit a brewery that has cookies from the Cookie Brewery, get them; I promise you won’t regret it.