"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, December 30, 2014

2014: The Year of the Beer

As Nicole and I look forward to a fresh, new year we look back on the past 12 months of our lives and reflect upon all the sudsy good times we had both in Colorado and away.

Here are the bottle cap cuff links the groomsmen, my dad, and I wore for the ceremony; the bridesmaids had similarly-designed earrings

Nicole's extraordinary!

A happy New Year to you and yours!  May your 2015 be filled with good cheer and even better beer.  I look forward to next year’s boozy adventures.



Monday, December 29, 2014

Re-Conquering Denver Before the New Year

It’s the end of the year and time is running out!  Here’s a quick and dirty post about Zephyr Brewing Co., Fiction Beer Company, and Creede Brewing Company—the last three Denver breweries Nicole and I had yet to visit.  Going into 2015, we can say for the third time that we’ve conquered all the Denver breweries. 

Zephyr Brewing Co.

Thoughts on the space: Yet another brewing addition to the River North (RiNo) neighborhood, Zephyr is located on the garden level of a multi-tenant building at the corner of Walnut and 26th Street.  Sunken into the earth, it’s a pseudo-basement and feels like a venue for a hardcore punk rock concert with its exposed pipes and concrete walls.  Despite the industrial nature of the space, it retains a warm and welcoming ambiance with a glass garage door letting in a surprising amount of light as well as a massive, curved bar decorated to look like a barrel.
Inside Zephyr

Thoughts on the beer: Sampling three beers, the stand-out was Dark Chocolate Raspberry stout.  It tastes just like it sounds: dessert in a glass.

General thoughts: Another brewery in RiNo?  Yes, and here’s hoping a lot more move in.  I love the concept of a brewery neighborhood.  A brewery city (e.g. Denver) is great but the convenience and, for lack of a better word, coolness of having so many beer-makers in a single, defined area is hard to beat.  RiNo is Denver’s beer showcase to the rest of the world.  If you beercation in Denver, please check out lots and lots of different neighborhoods but remember this paraphrased Elitch Gardens slogan: “not to drink in RiNo is not to drink in Denver.”        

Fiction Beer Company

Thoughts on the space:  Three walls-worth of windows makes Fiction, a book-themed brewery, quite dissimilar to the dark canyons of shelves and catacomb-esque study rooms of a traditional library.  This bright and airy taproom features comfy leather seats, lively artwork, and, yes, books.  In fact, the entire front of the bar is faced in hardcovers.  Don’t worry, bibliophiles, I checked a number of the titles used in the bar’s construction and it doesn’t appear as though they actually used any “good” books.  The world won’t be any worse off with one less Sue Grafton novel in it. 

Left to right: 42, Communal Synergy, & Autumn Stars, a pumpkin saison

Thoughts on the beer: Green Tea Chocolate Milk Stout is a minty delight and Communal Synergy, a double IPA, was surprisingly tasty.  With so many IPAs on the market, it’s hard to get noticed in the crowd but  Communal Synergy caught my attention nonetheless.  It wasn’t anything unusual; it was just really, really good and fresh.  I have no qualms putting it in my top ten list of favorite double IPAs. 42, a bourbon porter brewed with 33 pounds of maple syrup, 30 pounds of donuts from Glazed & Confused, and 27 pounds of donut glaze sounds like a wild and wacky beer but the flavors are actually quite traditional.  It’s a decent beer but, with a backstory like that, I’d prefer a little more pizzazz.

Fiction's bar
General thoughtsBoth Fiction and Lost Highway claim to be the first Denver brewery to open on Colfax.  One of you is lying!  And, if my quick Google research is to be believed, Lost Highway is the fibber.  It looks as though Lost Highway opened on September 26th of this year and Fiction six days earlier on the 20th.  Not that it matters; they’re both exceptional breweries; But, there can be only one first.  Unless they both opened at the same time on the same day.  Which they did not. 

Creede Brewing Company

Creede is pretty hard to spot from the road
Thoughts on the space:  Way up north in unincorporated Denver, off an unpopulated stretch of Washington Street, sits Creede at the end of a nondescript strip mall.  There’s not much on the outside that lets you know there’s a brewery in there, especially with cars parked in front blocking the low-hung banner.  Once inside, the taproom is small and simple with a moderately-sized bar in front of a modest walk-in cooler.  Wooden tables, Old West-style photos on the wall, and a smattering of Denver Broncos paraphernalia fill-out the rest of the space.

Inside Creede
Thoughts on the beer:  Being located in the boondocks and in a shopping center that time forgot, Creede’s in an inauspicious and unknown location.  Who would expect good beer to come from there?  Those who search, however, are rewarded with a true hidden gem.  Creede is pumping out some very interesting brews like an IPA made with an experimental, as-yet-named hop variety boasting strong tropical fruit aromas and a powerful, bitter bite as well as a tart peach ale and a chili ale that can be ordered straight or with a splash of the house Bloody Mary mix. 

General thoughts:  In most businesses, it’s location, location, location.  Not so with the brewing industry, there are plenty of tucked-away breweries in Denver: Wit’s End, Strange, CAUTION, DeSteeg,…etc.  Creede is in good company and, so long as they keep brewing innovative beers, local beer geeks will keep making the trek up to that isolated beer oasis.

Quite a creative beer menu at Creede 

All these breweries deserve an entire post dedicated to them but time waits for no man and I wanted to give them at least some credit before we hit the New Year.  Sparse though this post may be, there’s an easy and fun way to accrue more information on each of these breweries: go visit them!



Artwork at Fiction

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Mini Brew Tour of Colfax

Colfax Avenue.  Running through Golden, Lakewood, Denver, and Aurora, it’s America’s longest commercial street and, prior to the interstate system, the cities’ main thoroughfares.  Jack Kerouac referenced it in On the Road and, because of the street’s notoriety for burn-outs and prostitutes, Playboy once deemed Colfax “the longest, wickedest street in America.”  On a more innocent note, Colfax also serves as a nostalgia preserve, showcasing our country’s motoring history even if said history is in a decrepit state; flickering neon signs, old-school motor lodges (now seedy motels), and 50’s style diners both authentic and recreated line the 26.1 mile stretch of pavement.  Smattered between those relics of the past are popular concert venues, marijuana dispensaries, and dive bars but, for all its reputation, Colfax Avenue was, until recently, devoid of Denver’s most famous industry: craft brewing.

Mu Brewery opened on Colfax in late July, 2014, thus ushering craft beer onto Denver’s most (in)famous street.  Other brewers eventually followed suit and, since Mu’s opening, three more Colfax breweries have opened for business (and that doesn’t even count Coda Brewing Co., situated only 0.5 miles [by the crow flies] from that roadway of questionable repute).  Over Thanksgiving break, Nicole and I visited two of these newcomers.

Inside Alpine Dog
Lately, Nicole and I have been hitting brewery grand openings (i.e. Mockery & FERMÆNTRA) but we missed Alpine Dog Brewing Company’s big night by half a week.  Nonetheless, it remains the freshest face on Colfax (even if the address technically has it on Ogden Street) and in the entire city.

I've seen lots of chairs made of skis, I've only seen one with a binding cup holder
Located in a space made available by the downsizing of the neighboring music store and seated on one of the grittiest streets in the nation, Alpine Dog is among the most urban of Denver’s breweries.  The décor, though, is anything but urban.  In fact, the name “Alpine Dog” refers to Colorado’s mountain adventurers—skiers, boarders, bikers, hikers, and climbers (not ski bikers, though; they’re stupid).  The brewery shows admiration for the wild and rugged landscape looming to the west of town, honoring a wholly different world from the tarmac and depravity of Colfax.  Alpine Dog’s an island of mountain life amid a sea of inner-city grime.

The two sides of Alpine Dog—its nature-loving and city-slicking sides—mesh better than you might think.  In some regards, the brewery’s quite modern with its enormous, storefront windows, shiny metal chairs, and concrete floor.  In other regards, photos of extreme mountain athletes and a corner full of chairs and benches fabricated from discarded skis and snowboards encapsulates the high country.  The wood on the tables and walls straddles a line; it showcases a natural grain pattern but it’s also smoothed to a fine finish.  A metrosexual lumberjack might use this wood in his log loft. 

We only stayed for a single beer since we were scheduled to meet Nicole’s aunts later that night but the IPA is a solid example of the style and certainly worth a try.  Nicole liked it and she doesn’t normally go for the big, hoppy beers. 

Our second stop on the Colfax beer trail was Lost Highway Brewing Company.  Next to Cheeky Monk and owned by the same folks, the brewery’s name is a reference to Colfax itself, demoted as it was from major highway to lowly city street after the completion of I-70.  It is a highway no more; it’s been lost in the dust of interstate construction. 

The first thing patrons notice when approaching Lost Highway is the signage which pays homage to the glory days of Colfax and, to a larger extent, America.  The neon sign with arrow indicating the entrance (the arrow appropriately sporting highway stripes) harkens back to the days when families packed up the station wagon and toured this great land Clark Griswold-style.  Those were the pre-Thule days when people simply strapped their luggage to the roof of the car, stopping at every roadside attraction and sending brightly-colored postcards from each tourist trap.  It’s not a completely wholesome memory the sign evokes, though; Lost Highway’s logo—a beret-wearing skull—also recalls a certain counterculture, beatnik attitude born from Kerouac’s era and still, in some form, surviving today.  Even if similar signs do exist on Colfax (my favorite being the one at “Big Bunny” hotel which, if you look closely, clearly used to say “Bugs Bunny” until they were likely hit with a copyright lawsuit), Lost Highway’s is the only one pointing to an establishment law-abiding citizens feel comfortable entering. 

Lost Highway brew equipment
The second thing patrons notice about Lost Highway is the patio.  The wall dividing the outdoor drinking space from the public sidewalk is abnormally tall and topped with iron spikes.  The floor-to-ceiling garage door opening into the taproom sits several yards behind this fortification.  Lost Highway might be on Colfax but the brewery’s wisely taken measures to keep Colfax from getting in.

Nobody's getting through that barricade 
Once inside, the taproom is as charming and welcoming as is possible.  Brick walls envelope the space, the brew equipment sits behind glass like an expensive art display, steel lintels separate rooms, and the beer menu’s presented in among the cleverest fashion I’ve seen—the wall behind the bar is sheeted in metal, the beer names written out in those plastic, magnetic letters used by children learning to spell.  It’s a creative, colorful, and whimsical touch.

Tap menu at Lost Highway
I enjoyed the 520 Copper Ale, Nicole sampled the Longest, Wickedest Wit and Golden Ghost and, as I bustled about taking photos for this blog, the brewer, T.J. Compton (incidentally, one gangsta-ass name), noticed my flitting about and offered me a quick behind-the-scenes tour.  I got a peek at the brew room, the future barrel room, and what I’m calling The B.S. Room—a place to drink and curse and argue the finer points that separate German-style and Bohemian-style Pilsners without disturbing and/or boring customers.  Apparently, during the last GABF, Lost Highway hosted a few visiting brewers and the beer debates in that room got heated and very, very nerdy.  While I don’t expect or deserve special treatment when I visit breweries, I do appreciate T.J. extending the offer.   

Left to right: Golden Ghost, 520, & Longest, Wickedest Wit (ignore the suggestive placement of the glasses)

Nicole and I had to scurry out of Lost Highway to meet her aunts but, even though our visits to both breweries were brief, I’m confident Alpine Dog and Lost Highway will prove to be two great new additions to the scandalous street.  So, after going to a concert, buying legal weed (or illegal other drugs), and picking up a few hookers, indulge in Colfax’s newest claim to fame and have yourself a craft beer.



Cap art at Alpine Dog
Inside Lost Highway
One day, this will be Lost Highway's barrel room