"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 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

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