"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!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Station 26 Douses the Flames of Beer Craving

What did you want to be when you grew up?  An astronaut?  A truck driver?  A dinosaur wrangler?  Many people aspired to be firefighter.  And why not?  They carry an axe, they drive a rad truck, and there’s a reason many playgrounds include a fireman’s pole on their jungle gyms—they’re fun!  Alas, as time slipped away, dreams of Dalmatians, fiery rescues, and asking motorists to put money in a big, rubber boot faded into the ether.  Next thing you know, you’re crammed in a cubicle with a noose-like necktie and a Machiavellian manager/overlord who’s ready to give you the old heave-ho the minute you miss your quota.  This is your life now.  Somewhere along the line, you traded in a Nomex jacket for a three-piece suit and you traded in firehouse chili for a sad, little bologna-on-white-bread sandwich wrapped in plastic (you write your name on it but somebody still keeps stealing it from the break room fridge!).  The flicker of fluorescents a mocking reminder of the flames you dreamt of dousing.

There’s hope yet.  There’s a chance for you to resurrect your youthful ambition—albeit briefly—and enjoy a nice glass of beer while you’re at it.  I speak of Denver’s newest brewery, Station 26 Brewing Co., built in the remnants of an old firehouse. 

Way out east in the Stapleton neighborhood, Station 26 is situated just off Quebec Street between the tent-shaped Renaissance Denver Hotel and Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.  The exterior remains largely unchanged from its years as an operational firehouse: a wall of garage doors from which fire engines once roared out in pursuit of conflagrations, towers and antennae housing all manner of equipment, and simple, no-nonsense brick walls.  Indeed, if one were to remove the word “Brewing” from the front of the building, the place would look much as it did prior to its suds-slinging days.

Cherrywood-Smoked Golden Ale (the red wall is actually a fire hose)

No heroes will be sliding down this pole

The interior continues the theme although in a more stylized fashion.  For example, the wall on which the taps are attached is, in fact, covered with a deflated red fire hose.  The brass poles countless firefighters have slid down are intact (even if the holes in the ceiling have been filled in) and the under-bar coat hooks are actually industrial-grade pipe faucets.  The communal tables, while not exactly fire-related, look great with their butcher-block tops and the shiny, metal brewing tanks—in full view from the taproom—are an impressive substitute for the laddered vehicles which once idled in the same space. 

While we didn’t have much time to spend, Nicole and I squeezed in a couple of brews including Cherrywood-Smoked Golden Ale, a beer that’s not technically a rauchbier yet still possesses an undeniable smoky quality.  It isn’t the intense, BBQ flavor oft found in rauchbiers.  It’s a subtle smoke, not an asphyxiating one.  Peel off that oxygen mask, you won’t need it with this beer. 

As we took in the ambiance, Nicole and I overheard the bartenders converse about their hopes of drawing in out-of-town cowboys and ranchers from the National Western Stock Show (Nicole and I did pass a lot of horse trailers on our way to Station 26; they’re definitely in the area).  That got me wondering about craft beer’s target audience.  On one hand, I imagine salt-of-the-earth folks drink nothing but the same ‘Merican beer their pappy drank on the old homestead’s front porch, none of that hoity-toity, artsy-fartsy craft beer junk (never minding that many of those craft beers are truly American while most macrobeers are majority owned by foreign interests).  On the other hand, we’re also talking about rodeo riders, here: risk-takers, adventurers, manly-men.  If they got the guts to strap themselves onto a 2,000 pound, horned quadruped with a bad attitude or un-ironically wear a bolo tie in public then what excuse do they have for not trying a different beer from time to time?  I know that Elevation Beer Co., rodeo grounds adjacent, gets a lot of cowboy clientele (of course, they pretty much stick to the 8 Second Kӧlsch, hardly dabbling in the more advanced stuff) so why not Station 26?  Stock Show attendees certainly represent a tough demographic for craft beer to crack but it’s not an impossible endeavor and it’s important to open up new markets so that craft beer can continue to grow.  Now, we just need to wrap about eight rolls of duct tape around Toby Keith’s head so he can never again spout the asinine philosophy that “you sir do not have a pair of testicles / If you prefer drinkin' from glass” thus poisoning the minds of these potential craft customers.

Whether you’re a buckaroo, a wannabe firefighter, or somebody who just plain likes beer, Station 26 is the place to be.  Have a seat, have a beer, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll find the marble in the oatmeal and get to drink from the firehose (don’t ask me to explain, just click the link).



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