"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, 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

No comments:

Post a Comment