"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!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Momentarily Conquering Denver

Ah, the satisfaction acquired through finishing the last item on a to-do list.  The sense of completion!  The pride in a job well done!  One can take a step back, look at what’s been accomplished, and bask in the glory.  When one has visited every brewery in a city, it is that conquering feeling which wells up a beer geek’s ego.  It’s the feeling Nicole and I have right now.

The bigger the city the bigger the immodesty one feels.  Nicole and I have been to every brewery in Gunnison, Crested Butte, Del Norte, Niwot, Lone Tree, Alamosa, Frisco, Buena Vista, Poncha Springs, Salida, Broomfield, and many more but, in the end, who cares?  You could fit the collective population of those towns in a 10 barrel fermenter; it doesn’t take Genghis Khan to conquer those towns.  If talking about a town like Boulder or Ft. Collins, then we’re getting somewhere—they’ve got enough breweries where visiting all of them is an actual challenge.  Trust me, we’ve done it; we have been to every brewery in both Ft. Collins and Boulder.  However, due to the rapid growth of the craft beer industry, more breweries have since opened and Nicole and I can no longer make that claim.  We can, however, claim for a short time that we’ve been to every brewery in Denver. 

I stress that I do mean every brewery.  Longtime readers will know that Nicole and I have stipulations as to which breweries “count” when visiting every brewery in the state.  One such stipulation is that secondary, tertiary…etc. locations are to be ignored meaning that Breckenridge Brewery on Kalamath and Vine Street Pub & Brewery are not  represented in our overall, state-wide record (which is currently at 96).  Still, we’ve been to those no-count places anyway and, as such, have drank at every single brewery in Denver.

Our journey of completion began with a meal at El Camino Community Tavern in Highlands Square where I tried the house beer, a Dunkel called “Germexicman” from Prost Brewing.  I was sure it was a misspelling and that the beer was actually called “Germexican” but, when the server brought it to me, she pronounced it the first way—with the second “m.”  I’m not sure what that other “m” is doing there, to tell you the truth; I like it better without.

After snarfing my breakfast burrito (because I like breakfast anytime), we paid and drove a few blocks west to the service station-cum-brewery known as Hogshead Brewery.

The taproom itself is lively and bright with communal tables and floor-to-ceiling walls of windows which contradict the mahogany-clad, dimly-lit, stereotypical English pub many Americans have built in their minds.  However, if you live in the bright, cheery Colorado sun then you have to take advantage of the situation (although it was far from sunny the day we visited).

Eurotrash settling

We saddled up to the bar and I ordered Eurotrash Black Lager, dry-hopped with Saaz and served on a beer engine.  Eurotrash is mighty tasty; it’s creamy, citrusy, roasted, and it finishes dry.  While sipping on our beer, Nicole and I chatted up another customer about the current state of craft beer in Denver and the minutiae separating Scottish ales and Scotch ales.  It’s a friendly, neighborhood-centric crowd in Hogshead.

After Hogshead we headed to Denver’s newest (as of the time of this writing) brewery: DeSteeg Brewing.  “De Steeg” is Dutch for “the alley” and it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out the inspiration for that appellation: the entrance is in the middle of an alley.  While DeSteeg enjoys a prime location in the Tennyson Arts District, it can’t benefit from foot traffic due to the fact that beer geeks have to walk around the block and halfway down an alley before they see any sign indicating they’re near a brewery.  And that’s awesome!  It lends DeSteeg an aura not unlike that of a Prohibition-era speakeasy; one almost expects a tiny peephole in the door to slide open and hear a gruff voice ask for the password.  

The interior of DeSteeg is barren: white walls, no artwork, and just a few, small alley-facing windows but, due to it being such a young brewery, one expects some decorations to be put up eventually.  The most notable feature of the taproom is the bar top which was of special interest to me because it involves the only geeky passion in my life that might rival my love of beer.  The bar top is made of old bowling alley lanes.  I couldn’t care less about that pseudo-sport but I do have a deeply-ingrained love for amusement parks and amusement park history and it just so happens that these lanes were in us at old Elitch Gardens.  The original location, before it moved downtown.  As both a beer geek and a coaster freak, I couldn’t tell you how much I enjoyed the marriage of my two biggest hobbies.    

There's a brewery just around that corner
Just down that alley, I swear
Seriously, we're getting close
There it is!
At the time of our visit, DeSteeg had three beers on tap: Pomegranate Açai Wheat (5.5% ABV), Imperial Pumpkin (11% ABV), and English Mild (5.5% ABV).

Pomegranate Açai is a cloudy, pale yellow with a tart and sweet aroma with that tartness accompanied by the spiciness of wheat defining the flavor.  With an American-style wheat foundation, one won’t find any clove or coriander in this beer.

The Imperial Pumpkin is amazingly drinkable considering its high ABV.  This hazy, orange beer tastes of lightly-buttered pie crust with sweet pumpkin and spices following soon after.  The aftertaste imparts a little alcoholic warmth as a reminder of the beer’s potency. 

Pitch black with an almost pure white foam, English Mild looks like a priest’s collar and it smells of tobacco, smoke, and vanilla.  It’s chocolate-y but it doesn’t have the bitterness of, say, cocoa nibs.  It’s more of a sweet, savory, brownie-like chocolate-ness.

Left to right: Pomegranate Açai, Imperial Pumpkin, and English Mild
With that, Nicole and I have crossed everything off our Denver beer list.  We have no delusions that our record will stand forever; there’s always a new brewery ready to pop up in a month or two.  Nevertheless, we think it’s a mighty fine accomplishment and we’re not going to let anybody forget how awesome we are until the next brewery forces us to reassemble and re-conquer the Mile High City.



After months and months of trying to forget our first visitation attempt [click here], we finally made it to Hogshead. First impressions are important and Hogshead did not make a good one but they’ve made improvements. The beer was enjoyable, the tasting room was full of happy beer drinkers, and the snow falling outside was picturesque.

We ventured out into said snow to visit DeSteeg.  Walking through the alley, we saw a perspective of the Tennyson Art District we’re not used to seeing.  We reached a sign with a beer glass on it; I had to assume we were in the right place.

We walked in, found a table, and Chris made his way to the bar. Remember when I said that first impressions are important?  DeSteeg did not make a good one, either.  Chris waited to give his drink order as the bartender sifted through tap receipts, walked to the other side of the bar, and then walked right past Chris to another couple waiting to order. Apparently, standing front-and-center with credit card in hand was not an indication that he was ready to order.  They’re a new brewery, DeSteeg, and they just need to iron out a few kinks in their service.

As Chris mentioned, the décor is stark; it isn’t exactly homey or welcoming. But, they are redeemed through their beer. It’s delicious!  The wheat did not have the typical coriander notes on which many wheat beers focus. It was, instead, tart and fruity and quite pleasant. I will certainly visit DeSteeg again because I have no doubt their tap list will provide even more interesting treats in the future.


Inside Hogshead

Inside DeSteeg

Inside DeSteeg

Bowling lane bar top at DeSteeg

Friday, February 1, 2013

Strange Days are Here Again

The Colorado beer geek is the human equivalent of the mother grizzly bear.  One would likely find either milling about the mountains, minding their own respective businesses, enjoying the outdoors, frolicking in streams, eating berries, and crapping in the woods (Coloradoans do a lot of camping; they have to do it somewhere).  And, if you’ve seen the impressive, bushy beards hanging on many a taproom patron’s chin, you know neither is lacking in the fluff factor, either.  For the most part, the Colorado beer geek and the mother grizzly are just affable, shaggy lugs hanging out in the wilderness. 

Unless, of course, they feel threatened. 

If, for example, you feel it necessary to lob a bear cub around like a volleyball, you may find that loveable, huggable ball of fur bearing down on you in a frenzy of teeth, screams, and blood.  Beer geeks, while slightly less murderous, are nonetheless protective of the people and places they love and, in the absence of fangs and talons, use social media to tear their enemies asunder.  I allude, of course, to the public outcry in support of a beloved Denver brewery, Strange Brewing Company, who has been on the defensive end of a months-long legal tussle with a somewhat-similarly named homebrew shop in Massachusetts over trademark infringement.  Now, bitchin’ and moanin’ on Facebook is one way to combat the powers of evil but, to truly fight for justice, allies must assemble.  And assemble they did last Sunday at Rackhouse Pub for Strange Days, the legal fundraiser for our brewery under attack.

With the event slated for 3pm, Nicole and I arrived at the Rackhouse parking lot at 2:30 and, even then, the line for admittance was curling all the way around the lot and past the street.  I don’t care how made-of-stone you think you are, many a beer geek “had something in their eyes” when they saw the outpouring of support for their local suds-slingers.

While it is obvious that everybody in attendance was a fan of Strange, it’s not as if we were all straight-up donating to the cause; we were getting plenty in return like unlimited samples from 33 Colorado breweries, skull-rattling Celtic rock courtesy of Indigent Row, and the camaraderie of fellow Strange supporters.  Beer geeks got their fun, participating breweries got their advertising, and Strange got some money to help battle those relentless jerkwads in Massachusetts.  It was a win-win situation for all involved (except for those relentless jerkwads). 

Appropriately, of all the breweries in attendance, Strange was placed prominently at the end of the bar, closest to the entrance. It just wouldn’t be right not to start the event off with beer from the brewery of honor, now would it?  Nicole and I got our pours of Cherry Kriek and drifted off into the melee of brews, tunes, and merriment.
Tim from Strange pours Cherry Kriek

Of all the beers in attendance, I would place my top five as such: Hippity Hops from CAUTION: Brewing Co., The Logical Fallacy from Very Nice Brewing Company, Wilford from Wit’s End Brewing Company, Apre Shred Winter Ale from Big Choice Brewing, and Ten FIDY from Oskar Blues Brewery (a classic that cannot be denied).  Although I’m pretty sure Dry Dock Brewing Co.’s Seven Cease & Desist Double IPA is just their Double IPA re-renamed for the event, it’s still a great beer and the appellation is appropriate seeing as both Strange and Dry Dock have had similar experiences in the realm of trademark infringement.

Nicole was awfully fond of Snowy River Vanilla Porter from Pateros Creek Brewing Co., the same winter ale from Big Choice, Rumba from Boulder Beer, Pome Mel from Colorado Cider Company, and the latest Fade to Black from Left Hand Brewing Co.

We mingled with familiar faces such as Danny from CAUTION, John from Gravity Brewing, and our pals Travis and Angela with Travis’s dad in tow.  I feel I drank a decent amount of beer at Srange Days (I did, after all, unlock the “Take it Easy” badge on Untappd; 12 beers in one day) but Travis’s dad, on the other hand, was systematically marking every beer off the list—that’s at least 38 beers!  Granted, they were all sample sizes but we’re talking about two-to-three times the amount as a typical Great American Beer Festival pour and most of the beers in attendance were high in alcohol.  My hat is off to that fine gentleman.

Indigent Row
What a great event and what a great cause!  The last I heard, we raised $6,000 which is, eh, a bit lacking when considering how much lawyer fees can add up to but, you know what, it’s something and that’s a whole lot better than nothing.  Besides, the money is only a small part of the picture; the ardent support put forth by the local beer community is worth more than all the hops in Bohemia.  Should the worst happen, should the judge presiding over the case happen to be the uncle of those Massachusetts jerkwads, should evil prevail in the courtroom, Strange will survive (albeit under a different name) thanks to our undying support.  No matter what happens, it isn’t the end of the world (or of Strange’s business).

When it was time to leave, I gave Tim of Strange the awkward high five/fist bump hybrid, I hopped in the passenger seat of Nicole’s car, and I mused on all the fun I had just experienced.  Hey, other Denver breweries, I got a great idea; you, too, can get yourself into a legal dispute and we can have another great party like this one to help bail you out!  Look, it’s just something to think about.