"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, February 28, 2014

Two22, The BoB, and Late Posts

The beauty of Beer in Colorado, a personal travel journal as much as it is a beer blog, is Nicole and I can rack up fun experiences, let the memories simmer a few days, and then write a post on it after we’ve had time to digest it all.  As far as you, the reader, know, the time between our little brewery trips and our blog postings about said trips are a narrow window, less than 24 hours, probably.  In actuality, it’s not uncommon for us to sit on a story for a week or so before it goes live. 

It’s not because we’re procrastinators, far from it.  Nicole and I are both quite active, even frenetic, and we hate missing deadlines.  It’s just that life gets in the way.  Sometimes there are more pertinent, time-sensitive articles that need to go out first so we put less significant articles on the backburner (when big events like Great American Beer Festival [GABF] come around, we make absolutely sure our posts are written in a timely manner; our lateness would be pretty obvious if we wrote a GABF article in December).  Sometimes we’re on a road trip, away from our computer, so we have to wait until we’re home before we can begin to compose a post.  Sometimes we just plain forget.  At any rate, we get around to posting our adventures eventually and try to do so in a manner where it appears up-to-date because, frankly, nobody wants to read what appears to be stale news (when I use the word “recently” in a post, for example, that can mean anything from a day ago to a week or two ago). 

However, from time to time, it’s better to admit when an article is behind the times instead of covering up its past-due date.  Great example: the grand opening of Two22 Brew in Centennial, Colorado.  I could pretend like it happened just yesterday but I can’t.  I can’t because “Two22” is so much more than the name of the brewery—it’s also the date of it’s opening: February 22nd or 2/22.

Two22 is likely the most charitable brewery you’ll visit; its name is derived from the fact that $2.22 out of every $10 of profit is donated to the Schuster Family Foundation, an organization that grants funds to various charities ranging in interest from education to environmental issues to youth and personal enrichment programs.  Two22 is beer with a conscience.

Wall of charity at Two22
Nicole and I can relate to the owners of Two22, a married couple who, as former teachers, felt unfulfilled in their occupation so they founded their own brewery instead.  I totally understand how the teaching profession can beat the motivation out of anybody.  Snotty kids.  Irate parents.  Ineffective administration.  Clueless politicians telling you how to do your job.  A public that consistently votes down school funding bonds.  A paycheck that seems a cruel joke.  Oh, yeah; I’ve been there, done that, and felt the hollow void where once my rose-colored naïveté resided.  God bless her, Nicole has a stronger constitution than I and is still in the profession, but she understands the hardships of being a teacher quite well.  While I champion all teachers, I also applaud the owners of Two22 for following their dreams and still making a positive impact on society. 

On opening day, Two22 featured Blonde Ale (4.8% ABV, 51 IBU), Session IPA (4.3% ABV, 94 IBU), Simcoe IPA (6.4 % ABV, 80 IBU), Milk Stout (5.3% ABV, 73 IBU), Centennial Chocolate Porter (4.9% ABV, 43 IBU), and Red Cinnamon.  Nicole and I got a flight of everything except Red Cinnamon because we arrived at noon and that particular beer wasn’t going to be tapped until later (at 2:22 pm, actually).

Left to right: Blonde, Session IPA, Milk Stout, Simcoe IPA, & Centennial Chocolate Porter

The Blonde Ale is a tad hazy in it’s pale, straw yellow body and the aroma is bready, yeasty, and with a twist of lemon zest.  It’s a light, crisp beer with but a touch of bitterness in the back of the mouth.

Despite an IBU rating of 94, Session IPA doesn’t show its hoppiness.  I’d almost call it a malty beer before I called it a hoppy beer because even Nicole, who hates extra hoppy beers, said she actually liked this one.  It, too, is hazy and is a yellowish amber color.

Simcoe IPA looks much like its sessionable brethren but sets itself apart with a nose full of grapefruit and a flavor resplendent with tolerably bitter, citrusy, tropical goodness. 

I found the Milk Stout and the Centennial Chocolate Porter to be quite similar.  They’re both dark beers, of course, with the stout featuring brown highlights and the porter featuring red highlights.  They both feature a great deal of chocolate in the aroma and flavor and they both feature a mild roast (the stout being a bit roastier than the porter).  I felt the porter actually had a creamier Mouthfeel; I almost wonder if I confused the two when I drank myself down the flight. 

In the future, Two22 will use customer feedback to guide their taplist, narrowing the six beers on opening day down to four flagships.  The remaining three taps will be reserved for rotating seasonals.  The tap lines at Two22 are set up for 10 beers so the brewers will be adding even more offerings including experiments with different yeast strains so keep tabs on these brewers; there’s still plenty to come from them. 

After munching on some spectacular arepas from the Freddy’s Cuisine food truck and chatting it up with like-minded beer geeks, Nicole and I started heading home.  But then we decided, since we were in the area, we might as well check out some other breweries we’ve yet to visit.  So, we stopped by The Brew on Broadway (The BoB) for an another drink.

The main marquee at The BoB
Backstage at The BoB

The exterior of The BoB, a brewery/coffee shop, lives up to its Great White Way namesake with a marquee sign (although Nicole and I opted for the backstage entrance in the alley).  The interior of The BoB is wide-open with a dark, wooden bar, exposed brick walls, art hanging everywhere, and a row of garage doors opening up onto a large patio space.  The coffee shop portion is situated at the front of the room as is a sitting space with plush, leather chairs.  In terms of ambiance, I’d say The BoB leans more towards the coffee shop side of its hybrid business concept. 

Cedar Mountain
I ordered a pint of Cedar Mountain Smoked ESB (6% ABV, 71 IBU), a beer that’s mostly clear but with a drop of haze.  It is copper in color and smells woodsy, mildly charred while the flavor’s akin to a long-extinguished campfire with a toasted, untreated-wood bitterness.

When we finished our beers at The BoB, we headed home (for real this time).  Our trip to the southern suburbs got me thinking: to me, everything below Hampden is a brewery black hole.  No, I don’t mean there aren’t breweries there, but I do mean that, with some exceptions (e.g. Dry Dock Brewing Co. because it’s becoming such a major player in the Colorado brewing scene), I hardly ever hear any updates from the southern breweries and, sometimes, I don’t even hear about new ones opening (I didn’t know about St. Patrick’s Brewing Company until a few days ago and Hall Brewing Co. was well on their way before I caught wind of them).  This is odd since I make it my business to know about new breweries in Colorado—anywhere in Colorado—yet, amazingly, I’m more knowledgeable about breweries in Boulder, Ft. Collins, and the mountains than I am about breweries in my own metro area.  I often wonder why.  Do the Denver media sources ignore the southern ‘burbs?  Do the breweries down there keep their advertising campaigns localized, focusing only on their immediate surroundings?  Is it just because I haven’t been paying attention?  I don’t know but, after visiting Two22 and The BoB, I’ll be sure to keep my ear closer to ground, stay abreast of the goings-on in the meridional sections of the Denver area, and make sure I write about Nicole and I’s southerly journeys in timely fashion (“timely” as far as you’re aware, that is).



Coffee shop at The BoB
Behind the bar at The BoB
Inside The BoB
Get your brewery passport stamped at The BoB

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Source, Crooked Stave, and the Craft Beer/Hipster Assumption

Hipsters: with their retro design t-shirts, skinny jeans, and ridiculous facial hair, they infiltrate our urban areas, bleed our ears with vinyl recordings, and deride average folk for their enjoyment of mainstream entertainment (“Yeah, I’m really into Klaus Scheißmusiker, this Austrian xylophonist and Tuvan throat singer.  You’ve probably never heard of him, he only plays on Leap Day in an abandoned subway station under Istanbul.”).  Worst of all, this wacky cultural phenomenon has somehow become associated with craft beer.

How this association came to be is a mystery to me.  As a beer blogger, I’m quite familiar with craft beer culture and, even though Denver isn’t the hipster breeding ground that is Chicago, Brooklyn, or Portland, the Mile High City nonetheless has its fair share of the invasion.  Ergo, I’ve also had many an opportunity to study hipster drinking habits.  The beers I usually see being placed to curlicue-mustachioed lips are Pabst Blue Ribbon, Mickey’s, or something ending in the word “Ice.”  That’s because those beers are ironic; hipsters want suds that are cheap and cool-because-they’re-not-cool i.e. not craft beer. 

So who drinks craft beer, then?  The answer is convoluted, there is no one type of craft beer drinker.  Across the bar at my local brewery, I see the dreadlocked, jeans-patched-with-corduroy hippie sipping on a saison.  I see the dirt-streaked mountain biker and goggle-tanned skier putting down a few porters.  I see young couples, middle-aged couples, and old couples enjoying each other’s company over a flight.  I see sharp-looking business men and women rub shoulders with Carhartt-bedecked blue collar workers.  And, yes, I even see hipsters from time to time.  Craft beer is a libation for all walks of humanity; hipsters make up a small slice of the pie and so does every other type of person until there’s an aggregate whole.  Craft beer belongs to no one faction, it is the people’s drink.

The common space at The Source
The common space at The Source
Sometimes, even though craft beer in general serves all manner of people, one of those aforementioned factions opens their own brewery, focuses their recipes and décor on their specific culture.  The hippies, for example, have Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery and Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place.  The outdoorsy, sporty people have Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery and Eddyline Brewing.  The traditional suburbanites have Brewery Rickoli and Lone Tree BrewingCompany.  And the hipsters?  They have Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project’s new location at The Source.

Let me amend that statement slightly.  I actually don’t view Crooked Stave as a hipster brewery.  If you had to say something negative about Crooked Stave, you could call it highfalutin, fancy-schmancy.  If you had to say something positive about Crooked Stave, you could call it a daring, innovative brewery, among the most influential in Colorado and possibly the country.  I tend to find myself in the latter camp. 

What's behind the gate? A brewery? Or a velociraptor? 
Nay, Crooked Stave isn’t hipster—The Source itself is hipster.  It’s trendy, it’s got a vintage vibe, it’s hidden in such a way that the hip kids will know about it before the general public, and its urban, artistic aura is thicker than a zebra fart.  And I can’t help loving the place.  It’s so damn cool!  Built in a once-disheveled 1880’s foundry building, this meeting-point for all things artisan is vibrant yet, with brick walls and vaulted, beamed ceilings, retains its gritty, rough-necked past.  The location of the building, likewise, adds to its charm; situated in the River North neighborhood, with pretty much no other retail spots within spitting distance, The Source is a true destination—an oasis in the industrial zone. 

The Source boasts many tenants beyond Crooked Stave: eateries Comida and Acorn, CapRock bar, a butcher, a bakery, a coffee shop, a grocer, a design studio, a flower store, a bank, a cheese and spice shop, and a small bottle shop which, diminutive as it is, features some impressive craft beers.  While CapRock is placed out in the open, in the middle of the building, the rest of the tenants are pushed to the side behind massive, metal gates that seem to have been repurposed from the set of Jurassic Park.

Crooked Stave
Crooked Stave
Crooked Stave
When Nicole and I along with our cohorts Robin, Justin, and Stephen visited The Source a few days ago, we didn’t have the time to see all it had to offer.  We did, however, have some of the best freakin’ tacos at Comida (the grilled bacon and jalapeno taco will melt your face with deliciousness) and, because I view Crooked Stave as one of the top three breweries in the state, we had to pop in there for a drink, too.

"HmmMMM, a buzz I will catch." 

I won’t talk too much on Crooked Stave (because I already have in previous posts) but I will say that the barrel-aged Nightmare on Brett is a pucker-inducing tart beer with the amazing power of salivation inducement.  If you ate 20 saltines and then took one sip of Nightmare on Brett, it’d be like a waterpark just opened up in your mouth; you’ll be slobbering like a St. Bernard in no time.

I still don’t listen to The Decemberists, I wear no oversized, plastic sunglasses, and a courier bag is quite absent from my list of possessions.  No, I am not a hipster; that is a culture I don’t see myself breaking into.  You will, however, see me at The Source.  When out-of-town beer geeks visit Denver, I will point them in The Source’s direction.  When somebody claims that Denver is white bread, boring, I will assume they haven’t been to The Source.  When I feel I need a brett beer or a fantastic taco, I will go to The Source.  It is too badass to ignore.



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lafayette and the Case Against Oversaturation

The outside is inside at Front Range
Brewery oversaturation: it’s a phrase oft heard spilling forth from the maws of craft brewing critics.  Critics who kill our buzz, smugly shake their head with every new brewery opening, and, despite the evidence that craft beer hasn’t even begun to moisten the market, they zealously stand by their assertions.  They’re party-poopers, they’re wet blankets, they’re sticks in the mud, and they’re seemingly blind to all indications that they might just be wrong.  I won’t lecture on the faulty assumptions of these Chicken Littles—“The Brewery Industry is Falling!” alarmists—you can click the above link, peruse the Brewers Association website, or simply do a Google search on the subject and you’ll find plenty of articles arguing  for and against the myth of brewery oversaturation.

Enjoying the "view" at Front Range
Instead, I’d like to relay a bit of anecdotal evidence; a morsel of information that, when pieced together with other fragments of data, creates a collage indicating anything but market oversaturation.  I speak of Lafayette, Colorado, a town with 25,733 people and three breweries within 1.6 miles of one another.  A town with a modest population such as this would surely be considered oversaturated, yes?  Notwithstanding the supposed struggles of operating amid proximate competition, when Nicole and I took a trip to Front Range Brewing Company, The Post Brewing Co., and Odd13 Brewing, all three were packed wall-to-wall, shoulder-to-shoulder with thirsty patrons.  Oversaturation my eye!  Lafayette needs, like, eight more breweries just to keep up with demand!

Mountain Shadow
Our first stop was Front Range, one of the oddest brewery locations I’ve come across.  I’ve been to breweries in churches, I’ve been to breweries in barns, I’ve been to breweries in factories, I’ve been to breweries in baseball stadiums, and, like Front Range, I’ve been to many breweries in strip malls.  Front Range is different, though, in that it’s in a Bio-Dome-esque atrium—the “exterior” doors and windows actually separate the brewery from an enclosed hallway featuring park benches, trees, and skylights giving the illusion of outdoors while actually being safely snuggled under roof and between walls.  It’s a bit funky and, at a glance, one may think—even for a split-second—that they are, indeed, gazing into a small patch of forest.

As suburban a setting as Front Range finds itself, the interior oozes Old World charm with its barrels and wood-paneled tanks on full display imparting a rustic, cozy ambiance.  The bar top, designed with craft beer bottle caps encased in thick layers of lacquer, also exudes character.  It’s a hip little corner on the mall-walker’s route and their Mountain Shadow Black IPA (5.5% ABV), with its black body, mocha foam, and flavors of bittersweet chocolate and hoppy aftertaste, is enough to entice anybody to this wonderfully weird taproom. 

Brew equipment on display at Front Range

Next up: Post Brewing, a member of the Big Red F family of restaurants that caused quite a stir in craft beer circles when they lured Dogfish Head Craft Brewery alumnus Bryan Selders out of his self-imposed beer-making retirement and into their brewing facility.  There’s certainly a great deal of experience that goes behind the beers at Post; it’s not every day a small, Colorado brewery nabs a brewer from one of America’s biggest, most famous breweries.

Like the nearby Gravity Brewing, Post is located in a VFW hall (the difference is that Gravity is in an operating VFW while the Post took over an abandoned hall), hence the name.  The interior designers worked magic, though, and turned a once surely-stuffy space into a chic hunter’s lodge with timber accents, Rosie, a rose-covered elk mounted on the wall, and massive brewing equipment housed in a glass box.  It’s a mix of rural and urban and the end result is sleek yet woodsy.  There’s also an immense beer garden in the back that ought to be great fun in the summertime.    

Rosie at Post
Post bills itself as a fried chicken and beer place and, if it weren’t so doggone busy, I’d have loved to have a sit, gnaw on some wings, and down some suds because, quite honestly, fried chicken and a brewski sounds like my perfect meal.  Seriously, if I were on death row, that’d be my last meal.  Of course, being from the Midwest, I have a natural aversion to fried chicken cooked anywhere outside of America’s breadbasket; I mean, I love the healthy, active lifestyle of Colorado and I love our populace’s general fitness but that usually translates into piss-poor comfort food.  You want good fried chicken?  You got to have grease and salt, dammit!  I’ll ski the calories off later, right now I just want to grub on some fatty poultry!  To be fair, I never got a chance to try Post’s chicken and it may well be among the best fried chicken in the world.  When I come back, I’ll make a point to order a heaping pile of crispy brown goodness and, in the end, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it because, hey, it’s still fried chicken.  I do, however, doubt it could ever hold a candle to Wagner’s Village Inn of Oldenburg, Indiana.    

Tanks at Post
I ordered the Big Rosie Porter (6.8% ABV), named for the hulking head overseeing the taproom but, because I get antsy in large crowds, I tucked myself and Nicole into a corner, drank my beer, but didn’t take the time to jot down tasting notes.  It was good but the Post hadn’t been open for very long so the tap list was lacking; I look forward to visiting again and trying more beers on a quieter night. 

Big Rosie Porter
Lastly, we popped over to Odd13.  Just as congested as the previous two breweries, Nicole and I decided to drink our beers on the back porch.  The icy chill of the night was certainly something with which to contend but it was worth the briskness just to get a little elbow and breathing room.  Thus, we strode by the mini-arcade in the corner, past the original artwork depicting the “superheroes” of Odd13 beer, and walked up to the jam-packed bar and ordered a taster (if we were going to brave the wintry weather, we didn’t want to have to endure it for long).

The beer I ordered was a brown ale brewed with spruce tips.  The name?  Spruce Campbell (7.2% ABV).  Yes, the craft brewing industry is full of pop culture, punny beer names and to prattle on about each and every goofball appellation would require the lifetimes of a thousand beer bloggers; it’s a popular trend these days for brewers to give their creations names that make their customers titter to themselves as they realize the reference.  This style of clever play-on-words names is so commonplace it’s not even clever anymore.

Outside Odd13
Arcade at Odd13
But this beer is named for Bruce Campbell; perhaps the greatest actor of his generation, famous for such notable roles as Ash Williams, Elvis Presley, Bruce Campbell, and “Snooty Usher.”  The man who pioneered the career path of starring in movies ten people watch a thousand times and playing bit parts in movies a thousand people watch ten times.  The man whose mighty chin could crush the combined mentums of Jay Leno and John Travolta as if they were made of peanut brittle and whose sarcastic wit makes him every comic con’s darling.  The man who retweeted my Untappd check-in to his namesake beer; probably the coolest thing that could possibly happen on Twitter.  He’s the man.  And the beer’s pretty good, too (although it's an affront to the greatness of Bruce to have his beer placed in "The Sidekicks" series; it takes a full-blown hero to defeat an army of Deadites, you know).

Spruce Campbell

We exited Odd13 and gasped, taking in our first breathe of air not shared with ten other people.  Oversaturation, eh?  Well, if the market really can’t handle any more breweries, wouldn’t have all these taprooms been empty?  Ghost towns?  Quiet as a librarian in a morgue in a sound-proof booth?  Consider, too, that Gravity Brewing, Crystal Springs Brewing Company, and Industrial Revolution Brewing Company, while not in Lafayette, are in the towns adjacent: Louisville and Erie, respectively.  It would be hard to find a region that, per capita, has the same concentration of breweries as these mid-sized towns wedged between the Denver metro and Boulder and yet they absolutely buzz with activity.  Come talk to me about oversaturation when patrons to these breweries can go the bathroom without rubbing shoulders with every person at the bar; until then, you might want to reconsider your stance.



Tanks at Front Range

Bar top at Front Range

Bruce Campbell artwork at Odd13