"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, May 1, 2013

200, Here We Come (The Breweries of Berthoud/Loveland)!

You’ll remember earlier this month when Nicole and I reported on our 100th Colorado brewery visit.  Old news—now we’re focused on 200 and our recent trip to Berthoud/Loveland has set that new goal in motion!  The time for celebrating success is over, the time for drinking beer has resumed (granted, there’s a lot of overlap between those two times).

Inside City Star
Our first stop was Berthoud’s City Star Brewery located on quintessential small-town main street (or Mountain Avenue, as it was).  The brick exterior and barn wood-and-metal signage introduce the interior ambiance excellently: distressed wood rafters, corrugated steel siding, barrels acting as two-top tables, and a unique chandelier which is best described as a deconstructed barrel.  I shiver a little each time somebody says, “Look up [blank] in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of [blank]” because dictionaries aren’t exactly the most illustrated of books, now are they?  Maybe if you said encyclopedia  it would make more sense.  Regardless of my nerdy quibbles, if I were to use a cliché in describing City Star, I would say, “look up rustic in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of City Star’s taproom.”

We sidled up to the bar and ordered a sample platter of the following: Cowboy’s Golden (5% ABV), Whiskey Bandit (5.7% ABV), Vanilla Bandit (5.5% ABV), Mule Kick (8.1% ABV), and Widowmaker (11.25% ABV).
Left to right: Cowboy's Golden, Whiskey Bandit, Vanilla Bandit, Mule Kick, & Widowmaker
Cowboy’s Golden is a pale, hazy yellow with a crisp, cider-like aroma and an inoffensive, light flavor that hints at fruit.  It’s a take-your-boots-off-and-sit-for-awhile kind of beer.  You could knock a few of these back at the campfire and still be sober enough to ride back to the homestead. 

Whiskey Bandit is the Bandit Brown Ale aged in whiskey barrels and it didn’t take us long to realize our mistake—we should have ordered the regular Bandit, too, so that we’d have something with which to compare the whiskey’d version.  Well, that’s hindsight for you.  At any rate, Whiskey Bandit is a murky brown beer with red highlights.  The aroma is resplendent with nose-hair singing whiskey as well as vanilla which tends to be a common scent and flavor imparted by the wood of barrels.  The flavor is much like the aroma: full of whiskey and vanilla with an alcoholic burn in the aftertaste.
Brew area at City Star
As you may have guessed, Vanilla Bandit is the vanilla-fied version of Bandit.  Again, a point of comparison would have been nice but, hey, whatever.  In terms of appearance, Vanilla Bandit is indiscernible from Whiskey Bandit.  Likewise, the aromas are similar except the whiskey is absent and the vanilla is ramped up.  Vanilla Bandit starts with a chocolate flavor and finishes with ice cream-like vanilla. 

A strong ale brewed with Madhava honey, Mule kick is hazy brown and possessing little noticeable aroma.  The flavor is much like a Scottish ale except with a honey-like sweetness.

Oily black, Widowmaker, an imperial oatmeal stout, is topped with a beige head.  This velvety beast of a beer smells like chocolate and alcohol and the tongue is in accordance with the nose—it tastes of chocolate with an alcoholic kick. 

Our next stop was Loveland Aleworks which, from the outside, looks a lot like City Star with brick and iron composing much of the façade.  The interior, however, seems to have come from the same Wild West era as City Star but, while City Star calls to mind an old barn, Loveland Aleworks is more reminiscent of a frontier inn with its tin ceiling tiles, exposed brick wall, and polished cement bar that almost looks like a lobby’s check-in counter. 

At Loveland Aleworks we had samples of their IPA (7.8% ABV), Cherry Saison (7% ABV), Blackberry Wit (5.7% ABV), and American Sour Ale with Raspberries (7.2%). 

Left to right: IPA, Cherry Saison, Blackberry Wit, & American Sour
The IPA is pretty much in line with what you’d expect from the style; it’s a dark, copper color with an apparent but not overbearing hop aroma.  There are also faint whiffs of something tropical, too.  Much of the beer’s bitterness is tasted in the back of the mouth.  It’s a pretty standard beer all around. 

What wasn’t necessarily standard are the other three beers in the line-up; although only one of them mentions “sour” in its name, all three are, to some degree, sour beers.  This got me excited.  Not just excited because I like sour beers (which I do) but excited because it indicates a burgeoning trend.  Sour beers are, in spite of the growth of craft beer, still considered outliers; they’re beyond the norm, beyond the acceptable tasting range of the average palate.  They’re freakish beers designed to satisfy a lunatic fringe of beer drinkers. 

Inside Loveland Aleworks
Oh, sure, they’re still available.  New Belgium Brewing has some epic sours but, then again, we’re talking about New Belgium—a national brand that, at this point, can pretty much experiment all it wants without repercussion because they possess the marketing and distributing tools which allow them to get their sours into the hands of those who love that sort of beer regardless of where they live; they don’t rely solely on local support and taproom sales.  The same can be said of Avery Brewing.  They, too, have sours that’ll suck your lips to the back of your skull but, like New Belgium, they’re big enough to make it work.  One exception to the rule can be made for Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project which is not a huge brewery but it is located in Denver where there’s no shortage of adventurous beer geeks.  Crooked Stave looking for Denver customers to drink their sours is like a pastry chef looking for somebody to lick the bowl at a WeightWatchers convention

But what if you’re like Loveland Aleworks: small and in a relatively obscure town?  I’ve been to 100+ breweries in Colorado and I can attest that, for the most part, when you’re the only brewery in a tiny, out-of-the-way town, you don’t dabble much in genre-defying beer styles; just the fact that you make their own beer is gimmick enough to get locals through the door.  There really isn’t a need to push the envelope when people patronize your establishment no matter what you serve.  So why is Loveland Aleworks giving that envelope a giant shove? My theory: as insignificant one might think Loveland is, it still has four craft breweries within city limits (Big Beaver Brewing Company, Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, and the next brewery I'm about to talk about being the other three) and  they each have to differentiate themselves from the other sud-slingers in town.  Also, how’s that for a testament to the popularity of Colorado beer?  A town no out-of-staters have even heard of has four breweries?  You can’t pull that off just anywhere.  God bless Colorado and its beer-loving denizens.
Inside Loveland Aleworks
The Cherry Saison is somewhat clear and copper-colored.  It smells very bread-like and the taste is, likewise, bready but with a light cherry tartness.

A cloudy, pale yellow beer, Blackberry Wit has a nose full of yeast and the eponymous berry.  It has a mild sour flavor accompanied by a dry finish.

American Sour Ale is hazy and the color of a rosy peach.  It has an interesting aroma like watermelon Jolly Ranchers or boxwood and the flavor reminds one of a blackberry-flavored Izze soda.  It is a tart beer but doesn’t make one pucker.

Nicole and I’s last stop was Verboten Brewing.  Tucked far away from the passerby’s eye in a commercial strip, the outside of Verboten is unassuming but the interior packs a lot of character into a long and narrow sliver of property.  There’s aged wood accents, giant, bulbous lights hanging over the bar, and artsy, metalwork bar stools.

Verboten has a brilliant marketing plan of naming all their beers after obscure, meme-ish pop culture quotes.  For the people who get it, they’ll buy that beer just because of the name.  For the people that don’t get it, they’ll still drink the beer and just wonder what the wacky name is all about.  Would I have ordered the orange blossom honey wheat (4.8% ABV) had it not been named Thinking of Something Orange?  No, probably not; it’s not a style of beer that you’ll often find in my glass.  However, because I recognized the name as a quote from one of the funniest movies of all time and because it’s a quote I repeat on an almost daily basis, I simply had to drink it (click here if you need some elucidation).

I also had Five Second Frencher (4.7% ABV) and In Another Life (6% ABV).

Left to right: Something Orange, Five Second Frencher, & In Another Life
Something Orange is a cloudy, almost white beer.  It wafts a pleasant citrus aroma and the flavor tastes like orange peel, yeast, and honey sweetness.

I think I got the dregs of the barrel when they served me Five Second Frencher, a lemongrass wit.  I don’t know if it’s supposed to look that way but, when they slid it to me, it looked like cake batter or unrefined honey.  The nose has a light, lemongrass aroma and the flavor, likewise, is most notably lemongrass. 

Brew area at Verboten

In Another Life, a vanilla porter, has a tan head and a black body with no highlights.  The aroma and flavor are like extra-milky milk chocolate with vanilla popping up in the aftertaste. 

And that’s how we reached 103 breweries!  Only 97 more before you get to hear us brag about reaching 200.  I’m sure there will be plenty more adventures between now and then to write about so keep posted, readers, and keep enjoying Colorado beer.



One of the perks of my job (teacher) is having Spring Break even as an adult  so Chris and I decided to use that time wisely to visit some new breweries.  One of my favorites from our northern journey was City Star.  Although it’s spring, I nonetheless enjoyed some of their darker beers.  The one that stood out the most was the Vanilla Bandit which I wanted to take home in a growler so that I could bake with it; it was dessert in a glass.  When I checked-in Vanilla Bandit on Untappd, I noticed that City Star makes Bandit in several different flavors do I guess I will just have to visit City Star again so I can try those, too.


The other beers at Verboten (I'll let you and Google figure out the references)
I hear ya, Jack (from Loveland Aleworks)
Nicole messin' around on Loveland's artistic bike racks


  1. Just popping over to say that I am an out-of-stater - Lincoln, Nebraska to be exact - and a fellow Lincolnite actually recommended Loveland Aleworks and Verboten to me! And my husband and I just got back from Colorado two days ago, and loved both! Also went to Big Beaver Brewing, which was much better than either of us anticipated.

    I think true craft beer nuts know where to go - even if it is a small town in the middle of Colorado!

    Love reading your Colorado beer reviews!


    1. Hey, thanks for reading!

      I haven't been to Big Beaver since their expansion; they were a hole-in-the-wall when I went.

      So glad you enjoyed our beers. You're right, those who care will sniff out the great breweries no matter where they're located.

      Thanks again for reading,