"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, June 10, 2013

A Summer Brewery 3-fer

1967: The Summer of Love.  1985: “Summer of ‘69” ~ Bryan Adams.  1999: Summer of Sam ~ Spike Lee.  2013: The Summer of Colorado Beer.

To be fair, every summer is the “Summer of Colorado Beer” but these past few weeks have been especially foamy.  We’ve had three new breweries—Mountain Toad Brewing, Odyssey Beerwerks, and Beer By Design Brewery—open in the Denver metro area seemingly simultaneously (in the case of Mountain Toad and Odyssey, actually simultaneously) and Nicole and I are scrambling to keep up!  Fear not, for we are up to the task; we’ve started the summer out right and have already visited these three, fine additions to the Colorado beer scene.
Beer garden at Mountain Toad
First up, Golden’s fourth brewery, third craft brewery, and second since the beginning of 2013: Mountain Toad.  While Mountain Toad is technically located on Washington Avenue—the street that runs through Golden’s downtown—it is north of Clear Creek where Washington passes through neighborhoods and parks more so than shops and restaurants. 

The outside of Mountain Toad is a simple brick box with large windows and the interior is just as unassuming.  However, the beauty of Mountain Toad isn’t the brewery itself but rather what’s outside the brewery: the beer garden.  Not just any beer garden, though; with old growth trees around the perimeter, tall, wooden fences, an expansive drinking area with picnic tables and a food truck, and South Table Mountain peeking through the foliage, one can easily forget that one is actually feet away from a semi-major thoroughfare, a veterinarian’s office, and a slew of suburban homes.  When you’re at the Mountain Toad beer garden, you’re in a private, secluded, beer hideaway. 
Mountain Toad
I tried (ineffectively, I think) to explain something to Nicole when we were there and I’ll try again (with similarly ineffectual results, I’m sure) but Mountain Toad is one of those places you’d want to visit if you’re from out-of-town.  Not to say locals won’t like it; it’s just that road-trippers and tourists who visit will leave Mountain Toad feeling they’ve been somewhere really special and, I think, is due to the beer garden.  Yes, the beer is excellent (we’ve been twice and I’ve had the IPA, stout, and the amber—all worth ordering) but the setting is so—I don’t even know the right word—ethereal, maybe?  Like, if you were traveling through and stopped in for a beer you’d feel a preternatural sense of calm and well-being as you sipped your suds and watched the local merrymakers but, once you leave, you’d kind of expect to turn around and see the brewery had vanished like some sort of fairy kingdom.  Mountain Toad is the Brigadoon of breweries.  

Perhaps it’s that I recognize Mountain Toad as an instant nostalgia-maker.  During the war, before shipping out, your grandpa probably stopped off at that English pub for a bitter and wound up dancing with the “prettiest girl this side of the Atlantic.”  And he probably told that story 1,000 times.  I imagine a couple, struggling in their marriage, moving from Chicago to Los Angeles because of his corporate job, taking a pit stop at Mountain Toad, sharing a few drinks and laughs, and rekindling their passion for each other amidst the cozy, hidden garden and the general happiness that pervades the space.

I’m reminded of the time Nicole and I visited Asheville, North Carolina.  All the breweries we visited were great but, if I had to choose, it is Pisgah Brewing Company that will forever stick out in my mind.  Most of the breweries in Asheville were easy to find being located downtown and on busy streets but Pisgah was out in the boonies.  First, it’s hard to find the street it’s on, then, it’s hard to find the front door, and then it’s hard navigating the hallways to the taproom and beer garden but, once there, you know you’ve found something special—something locally-known but perhaps not on the entire nation’s radar.  Mountain Toad may not be as isolated as Pisgah but the romanticism is comparable. 

Not long after visiting Mountain Toad, we headed to Arvada’s third brewery: Odyssey Beerwerks.  In many ways, Odyssey is just as secret as Mountain Toad; even more so, really.  However, Mountain Toad’s solitude is derived from the privacy fence and trees while Odyssey’s hiddenness is due to its location deep, deep in a commercial strip complex.  Even after you’ve left any named road, you still must navigate winding parking lots, past indistinct facades, all the way to the back of the tract compound where, like an oasis shimmering in a monotonous desert, you stumble upon a loading-dock-cum-patio, an open, inviting garage door, and an interior with soaring, industrial ceilings and touches of rustic wood and metal within the otherwise simple, dry-walled taproom.  A waist-high partition separates drinkers from the brewing equipment situated to the left.      
Nicole and I grabbed a table near the open garage door and ordered samplers of the following: Ghost Rider Pale Ale (5.1% ABV), Psycho Penguin Vanilla Porter (5.5% ABV), Caber Tosser Scotch Ale (8.9% ABV) and Nebula Belgian Black Double IPA (8.2% ABV).

Ghost Rider is a brassy, mostly clear (perhaps a touch of haze), yellow/orange.  The aroma is tobacco-y, hoppy, and grapefruit-like.  With a good malt balance, Ghost Rider is quite mild with a fresh-brewed ice tea flavor.

A muddy brown color, Psycho Penguin smells of vanilla ice cream with chocolate drizzle.  The flavor is that of milk chocolate with a vanilla-y finish.
Caber Tosser is a rusty brown/red, murky, and burning, alcoholic wafts permeate the nose.  It tastes smoky, sweet, and earthy. 

Nebula, another muddy brown-colored beer, smells a lot like Juicy Fruit gum and the flavors are that of tongue-warming spice and banana.

While I may make it sound as if Odyssey is harder to find than Shangri La, it is, in fact, spitting distance from the Ralston Creek bike trail which takes riders to Olde Town Arvada and the Arvada Beer Company which, in turn, is not far from Yak & Yeti Restaurant & Brewpub.  An all-Arvada brewery bike crawl?  Yes, that’s a more than reasonable possibility. 
A few days after visiting Odyssey, Nicole and I’s next stop was Northglenn’s very first brewery: Beer By Design.  Keeping with this post’s theme of veiled breweries, Beer By Design (or BBD), is also hidden albeit hidden in plain sight; the nonchalant motorist could easily drive by the place 100 times and not realize it’s a brewery.  The ribbed concrete exterior looks like a place to buy sheetrock or rent a forklift and even the sign looks like it belongs to an architectural firm.  As far as I know, any of those might have been the building’s original uses but not anymore—now it’s a place to grab a brew.

The interior of BBD is just as industrial as the exterior: more ribbed concrete, corrugated steel plating, and exposed HVAC.  No frills or doodads here, BBD is the very definition of no-nonsense simplicity.

While Nicole and I sampled our slightly roasty, cloudy, and bready Copper Mountain Pale Ale (5.5% ABV), an older couple at the corner of the bar noticed us writing in The Beer Journal and, making the not-too-unreasonable assumptive leap that we, like them, were really be into beer, struck up a conversation.  We talked about the breweries we’ve visited, our beer-centric opinions, our travel plans for the future, and, throughout our tête-à-tête, I had a sudden realization—in sci-fi fashion, our future selves from 30 or 40 years ahead had travelled back in time to meet us at BBD and talk beer!  Seriously, if Nicole and I are an iota different from these fine folks when we reach their age, I’ll be quite surprised.  I can definitely see my appetite for fine ales and my fine lady extending well into my golden years much as it has for the gentleman that sat diagonally from me that day.  If that’s the life that’s in store for Nicole and I then I welcome the future.  Truly, craft beer is a hobby—nay, lifestyle—that transcends generations.
We left BBD with 107 Colorado breweries under our belts but, if history is any indication, there’ll still be many, many more to visit in due time.  Until then, drink safe and enjoy the summer!