"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!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Kicking off 2014 with Westminster Brewing and Jagged Mountain

A new year.  A fresh start.  A time of resolutions, a time of self-reflection.  A time of coming up short.  We make promises to ourselves: “I’m going to get into the best shape of my life!”  We delude ourselves: “I’m going to work out at the gym every day!”  We succumb to failure: “Ah, screw it; might as well pack on a few pounds for the winter.”  The key to avoiding a January letdown?  The secret to a successful New Year’s resolution?  Easy—promise yourself something you were going to do anyway.  Every year I resolve to visit more Colorado breweries and—guess what?—I’ve never been disappointed.  Thanks to Westminster Brewing Co. and Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery, 2014 is already shaping up to be a fruitful year.

Nicole and I’s first brewery visit of 2014 took us to the city of Westminster and the brewery bearing its name.  Nicole usually does the in-metro driving while I helm the wheel for longer trips and, when we visited Westminster Brewing, I was glad I wasn’t navigating.  There are no landmarks in that town (okay, there’s one—the Westminster Castle which adorns the brewery’s logo—but one impressive spire doesn’t do much for sight-guided course-plotting).  While it may seem a critical statement, it’s true to say our drive to the brewery was decorated with the scenery of architecturally-identical shopping malls, tract housing, and open prairie; there’s just not much a-doing in that ‘burb.  It’s a testament to craft beer that Nicole and I would willingly set aside time to journey into the heart of such a place for the sole purpose of wrapping our hands around a nice glass of beer because, quite frankly, I can’t envision myself in Westminster for any other reason (Kokopelli Beer Company will likely be the reason for our next visit).

The exterior of Westminster Brewing doesn’t do much to catch the eye what with it being located in an unremarkable beige-and-tan, plaster-walled commercial strip which, itself, is located in fairly featureless, semi-rural area.  The inconspicuous spot is, essentially, Westminster in microcosm.

The interior, though hardly extravagant, is a little more jazzed-up: local artwork hangs from the wall,  red glass light fixtures sway above the tables, and distressed wood accent pieces liven the place up a bit.  It isn’t exactly Pee-Wee’s Playhouse but, then again, the focus of any brewery ought to be on the beer, not on feng shui.  For a brewery, Westminster Brewing’s taproom is everything it needs to be and nothing it shouldn’t.   

We ordered a flight of six beers: 12 Apostles German Ale (5.4% ABV), Shiva Extra Pale Ale (4.6% ABV), Irish Ale (5.1% ABV), Moses Chocolate Porter (5.8% ABV), 1066 English Bitter (4.7% ABV), and American Pale Ale (5.9% ABV).

Left to right: 12 Apostles, Shiva, Irish Ale, Moses, 1066, and American Pale Ale

12 Apostles is exceedingly clear and vaguely pale, straw yellow in color.  With bready and floral smells and flavors, it’s a delightful, crisp refresher of a beer. 

A light copper color with faint whiffs of hops, Shiva tastes of toffee and caramel with bittering hops playing a supporting role.

Brew equipment at Westminster Brewing

Irish Ale features a brown body with hints of red highlights.  It has a toasted aroma with a suggestion of molasses and it tastes of a complex malt make-up.

Moses, a black-with-brown-highlights beer, features a roasted flavor with chocolate-y sweetness in the aftertaste. 

1066 is much like Shiva in appearance—a bright, coppery color—but features a more pronounced hoppy bitterness.  It shares the same toffee-like flavor, too.

The American Pale Ale is essentially a marginally darker version of 1066 or Shiva.  It packs the most hops out of any of the other offerings but is expertly balanced with a malt backbone.   

Cask handles at Westminster Brewing
The heart-and-soul of Westminster Brewing is in their cask beers but, because the brewery is so new, they weren’t yet able to serve on that option.  In weeks to come, expect to find some traditional, hand-pumped beers.  I’m usually of the mind that good beer is made great when served on either nitro or cask and, based on what we had at Westminster Brewing, I predict their cask ales will be quite phenomenal. 

Our next stop was a brewery in a building far removed from the steppe-laden surroundings of Westminster Brewing.  Instead of a quiet, pastoral setting, it’s situated in the hustle and bustle of downtown Denver yet, despite its urban setting, the taproom décor is a visual ode to the wild, rugged, Colorado frontier.  I speak of Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery.

Once a shelter for off-duty horse-drawn carriages, the Jagged Mountain brewery is on the busy intersection of 20th and Lawrence, a few blocks from Coors Field, and on the way for many fans walking to catch a Rockies game yet it retains a rustic flair with Edison filament bulbs, large-format photographs of sweeping, spiky mountain ranges, and climbing gear embellishing exposed and weathered brick walls.

Saddled up to the bar, Nicole and I ordered Redpoint (9% ABV), a “Belgo-American Red Rye Double IPA,” and Spearhead (8% ABV), a saison.

Left to right: Spearhead and Redpoint

Redpoint is a murky, brown/red with a touch of tan in the foam.  Its piney hop aroma preambles the flavor which is spiced up front and hoppy and bitter in the finish.

Spearhead is a clear, bright yellow.  It boasts fruity scents and a peppery spiced flavor.
Brew equipment at Jagged Mountain
With about 40 minutes left on our meter, Nicole and I also ordered the Zero Gravity saison and the Acute Malted Scottish ale but didn’t take the time to take detailed notes. 

If you’re feeling trapped in the urban jungle, if you hear the call of the wild, and if you yearn for the peace and solitude of the high country yet find yourself trapped in a high-rise prison of glass and steel, then brave the noisy streets of downtown Denver and find your mountain oasis in the desert of civilization at Jagged Mountain.  While there, be sure to donate to their “The Jagged Pack Project” and give a local homeless person a leg-up.

2014, you’re already proving to be a great year and here’s hoping we can keep these good times steaming on all the way through 2015; with so many new (and old) Colorado breweries yet to visit, I’m confident we’ll have taken yet another sizeable chunk out of the local brewing scene.



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