"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!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spangalang Continues Colorado's Long Tradition of Music-Themed Beer

Colorado, for all its wonder, isn’t nationally recognized for its music scene.  There’ve been a few famous artists to come from the Centennial State (e.g. The Fray, The String Cheese Incident, OneRepublic, 3OH!3…etc.) but the list is paltry.  Even Colorado’s “native” son, the man who took the state’s capital as his stage name, John Denver, was actually born in New Mexico.  One wouldn’t necessarily call Colorado a black hole of musical talent but it is a bit lacking in the song and lyric department. 

Perhaps Colorado’s brewers aren’t oblivious to this near-absence of melodic clout.  Perhaps that’s why the number of music-themed breweries in Colorado is inversely proportionate to our tonal reputation.  Perhaps our brewers are filling a void; where there is a deficiency of groove and funk, beer will patch the hole.  For example, there’s Ska Brewing, named after a musical genre.  Oskar Blues, now themed more heavily towards bicycles and marijuana, fits that bill, too.  Then there’s TRVE Brewing Company and Black Sky Brewery—both with a heavy metal bent, Big Choice Brewing with its punk rock flair, Black Shirt Brewing Co. which dates their beers as “Studio Tracks,” and plenty more I’m surely forgetting.  Now, add to the list Denver’s newest, the jazzed-up Spangalang Brewery.

Spangalang—so named for a common jazz cymbal pattern—is located in the Five Points neighborhood, a part of town of which I have little knowledge except that it’s know to be less a “neighborhood” and more a “’hood.”  Most Denver natives are afraid to venture within Five Points’ borders due to its criminal reputation but I say the real crime is the reputation itself.  Five Points is downtrodden, yes.  It is rife with poverty, yes.  I’m also sure a few felonies and misdemeanors have indeed taken place on Five Points grounds but, nonetheless, I’d feel more comfortable walking through Five Points than I would a few places in my rural, north-central Indiana hometown of 29,500.  Don’t walk around Five Points with a $100 bill hanging out your pocket and diamond-encrusted Air Jordan’s on your feet and you’ll be just fine.

Five Points wasn’t always saddled with such a negative image, though; once deemed the “Harlem of the West,” Five Points was a thriving cultural center from the 1920s-1950s, boasting around 50 jazz clubs and hosting legends such as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, et al.  Unfortunately, by the 1960s, the neighborhood suffered the same fate as the “Five Points of the East” (i.e. the real Harlem), succumbing to the effects of drug use, illegal activity, and a general distaste for urban life.  But, as breweries are want to do, Spangalang—like Wynkoop Brewing Company to the former skid row that is hip, modern LoDo—is beckoning new patrons to Five Points, tempting them with beer, assuaging their fear, and doing their part to revive a struggling community. 

Located right by the five-street intersection from which the neighborhood derives its name, Spangalang is tucked away into a shopping plaza, occupying a space where once the local DMV resided.  The vivacity of jazz and the hum-drum beige-ness of a DMV don’t typically pair well but Spangalang makes it work.  Certainly, the fiberboard ceiling tiles (now painted, hiding their true hum-drum whiteness), the no-nonsense right angles of the walls, and the very fact the taproom’s in a strip mall recall the space’s previous bureaucratic life.  However, bright, colorful feature walls, a handsome wood-carved bar, Edison bulb light fixtures, and little potted succulents on the tabletops give the brewery the soul it needs and deserves. 

I enjoyed two of Spangalang’s beers on my visit.  The Love Supreme, a dubbel with tart cherries, was pretty darn good; the cherries added a little something fun to the beer without being overbearing or gimmicky.  But, when I asked for the beer that best defined Spangalang, the one beer they’d pick as the face of the brewery, they gave me their best-seller and employee favorite: Hop Colossus, an almost-imperial IPA. 

Holy cow.  It’s a beer worth writing home about.  Huge tropical fruit notes bombard the nose and palate as if being head-butted by Carmen Miranda.  Bitterness is nearly nonexistent with the more pleasant, soothing qualities of the hops shining through.  I know IPAs are the most popular style of craft beer and I feel like a real beer n00b getting all aflutter over such a ubiquitous and hyped-up type of beer but, dammit, I don’t care how many levels you’ve achieved on your Untappd “I Believe in IPA” badge, Hop Colossus will instantly become one of your favorites.

For that matter, if you hate IPAs you’ll probably like Hop Colossus because it’s not one of those polarizing, ultra-bitter ales for which West Coast brewers are famous; it’s mellow, smooth, and savory.  Basically, every beer lover will get a kick out of Hop Colossus.  Be careful, though; it’s an 8% ABV beer but it hides the alcohol well.  You won’t realize you’re wasted until it’s too late.

Whether a hepcat or tone deaf, everybody can find something to love at Spangalang.  They’re making top-notch beer (and who would assume otherwise with their pedigree from Great Divide Brewing Co.?) and they’re revitalizing a section of Denver many have left for dead.  So, if brewing fantastic beer and being a pillar of the community is, like peeing your pants, cool, then consider Spangalang Mile Davis. 

Week 24
Week 24

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