"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 30, 2015

A Sesquicentennial in the Centennial State

It’s scarcely a month old yet it’s been a busy year in beer for me and Nicole.  We’ve hit multiple breweries over the past few weekends and, by doing so, reached a milestone in our mission to imbibe in every brewery in the state.  We’ve reached our Centennial State sesquicentennial: 150 Colorado breweries visited! 

Mu Brewery
Our path to that landmark number began with an eastward jaunt to Aurora’s Mu Brewery.  Now, I’ve been to breweries in the factory district, I’ve been to breweries tucked away in alleys, and I’ve been to breweries in the backwoods of North Carolina where I’d hardly be surprised if the locals complimented my “purdy mouth” but Mu may well take top honors in the sketchy location contest. 

Left to right: Cranberry Pilsner, Blumpkin, Aurora Town Brown, Boone's Maple Cream Porter, & Da Bomb Black IPA

Near the corner of infamous Colfax Avenue and less-than-notable Dayton Street, I was warned about Mu’s neighborhood by my brother and sister-in-law who live in the general area.  In short, they said don’t go there at night.  Intriguing.  Is there actually an area in the Denver metro that’s truly intimidating?  Up until this point, I’ve certainly noticed that certain places around Denver seem rougher than others but none that appeared simply rough.  Not dangerous enough for me to think twice about walking down the street, at any rate.
Inside Mu

Having now been to Mu’s neck of the woods, I’ll say that I would have no qualms in returning—day or night.  But, I’ll stick to the main road.  When Nicole and I turned a corner to park on Dayton, we drove out of the relative safety of commercial Colfax and directly into the mean street: disgruntled and suspicious stares following us as we rolled by, folks drinking mystery liquids from brown paper bags, loiterers propped against chain link fences—it was Clark Griswold’s St. Louis odyssey in real-life (Roll ‘em up!).  To be fair, this particular ‘hood was, like, one block long; once we got to 16th Street things got back to normal.

Mu's bar 
After circling the block and leaving the car in a spot less likely to result in the tires being replaced by cinder blocks, we entered Mu’s storefront taproom.  In stark contrast to its urban surroundings, Mu possesses a sort of old-timey, rustic saloon vibe albeit with a few modern twists such as the metal-cut mountain profile with rotating backlights.  Of course, no amount of homey ambiance will prevent already-drunk patrons from stumbling in and boisterously ordering Bud Light.

The beers at Mu are decent enough.  Many of their offerings leave some room for improvement but I was surprised how much I enjoyed the cranberry pilsner and, despite the disgusting name, the Blumpkin pumpkin beer wasn’t too shabby, either.  Don’t know what “blumpkin” means?  Go to UrbanDictionary.com because I’m not going to explain it to you.  Apparently, the assistant brewer jokingly scrawled the name on the recipe sheets and the head brewer, not understanding that it was a joke, went ahead and made “Blumpkin” the beer’s official appellation.  Also, they offer a blend that’s Blumpkin mixed with one of their darker beers.  They call it the Dirty Blumpkin (as if there were any other kind).


Since we were on that side of town, Nicole and I also dropped into Coda Brewing Co.—only 2.5 miles away but in an entirely different and gentrified world.  At the foot of a condominium near a golf course, Coda’s suburban surroundings stand in stark contrast to Mu’s gritty, down-trodden locale. 

Sleepyhead, a Kolsch 
As unexciting as Coda’s neighborhood might be, the taproom is hip enough to compensate: chalkboard pillars, drinks served in Mason jars and chem lab beakers, stringed festival lights, weathered wood furniture, and, being as it is a music-themed brewery, a stage.  I only had one beer at Coda plus two tasters but that's all I needed to have a high opinion of the brewery.  A spine-shivering Scotch barrel-aged Scotch ale, a nitro American red, and a Kӧlsch brewed with passion fruit were the sometimes-unconventional yet delicious treats that swayed me to Coda’s side.

Left to right: Dogcatcher American Red & McDrums Scotch Ale
With the eastern metro-area wrapped up, the following weekend we set our sights north to Broomfield and our 150th Colorado brewery: Four Noses Brewing Co. and Wonderland Brewing Co.

We rode the desolate prairie of Broomfield’s outskirts, rolling over brown knolls of tallgrass and treeless steppes, finally coming across a commercial strip as featureless as the landscape.  Like Coda, Four Noses doesn’t have much in the way of outward personality.  Also like Coda, though, it’s what’s inside that counts.

Inside Coda
Inside Coda
Cavernous ceilings, like an industrial cathedral, greet drinkers as they walk through Four Noses’ doors.  A looming logo, stretching from floor to ceiling, is painted on the far wall much like the enormous “E” which hangs in Dr. Evil’s lair; lest you forget where you’re drinking, the wall will gladly remind you.  Breaking up the steel structure is an overhang of wooden planks which envelope the center of the room like a rustic cocoon.  The brewing equipment, seemingly too massive for a brewery as young as Four Noses, sits soundly behind glass in the back of the building.  I enjoyed the Anarchy Ale III, a strong English-style IPA; a double English IPA, if you will.  It’s a clever if subtle twist to the style to intensify the usually mild-mannered English IPA or British-ify the American-born double IPA (depends on which way you look at it).

And then it happened.  After leaving Four Noses and jetting across Broomfield, we arrived at what appeared to be a former rec center; the general layout and construction of the building as well as the multi-hoop basketball court by the parking lot seem to suggest that notion, at least.  A rather immense, metal-sheeted building with spacious outdoor seating and open-concept taproom, Wonderland was fittingly grandiose to mark our 150th Colorado brewery visit. 

Spacious patio at Wonderland
Large room for rent at Wonderland
Walking into Wonderland, one notices a gymnasium-sized room for private event to the left and a near-equally expansive taproom to the right.  Granted, half the taproom is devoted to ping-pong tables but, even then, the seating is ample. 

Inside Wonderland
It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere of Wonderland.  In some regards, it feels like a dive bar with its several arcade games, aforementioned table tennis section, diner-style chairs, and vinyl booths.  On the other hand, it exudes the mountain lifestyle with snowboard accent pieces and wood-cut alpine profile behind the bar—a timber version of Mu’s metallic mountains, almost.  On the other other hand, a black ceiling, black tiling, and a stage in one corner make the place feel like a Las Vegas lounge.  It’s a real hodge-podge at Wonderland, nothing seems to be cohesive.  Then again, as it’s themed to the fantastical and ethereal world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice, perhaps the whimsically mix-matched décor is appropriate.

Inside Wonderland
After downing a Vaderade Irish Stout (Vaderade?  Is this the Sith lord’s post-exercise electrolyte replenishment?), Nicole and I left Wonderland satisfied with our accomplishment.  There was a time not long ago where, if we’d visited 150 Colorado breweries, it meant we had visited them all.  It’s a testament to the growing popularity of small and independent brewers that we’re no closer to meeting our goal today than we were when we first set out on this quest.  It’s a Sisyphean task that Nicole and I are on; for every brewery we visit it seems two more pop up.  But that’s okay with me.  I never want this adventure to end.




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