"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 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.


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