Brewery Updates

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to revisit a couple of breweries that I have reviewed before – Brewability Lab and Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project – and both of them seem to have new and interesting things happening.

Brewability Lab keeps adding events and owner Tiffany works hard to make sure everyone is engaged and having fun in a friendly environment. Last weekend Brewability featured a band, a silent charity auction, and a fundraiser for Mindful Meditation – all at once. The place was packed. In short, there’s always something going on and the solid beers make it a great place to spend a chilly winter afternoon or evening. They’ve also started serving their Coffee Porter in Nutella-rimmed glasses for those with a sweet tooth.

Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project keeps serving up truly interesting world-inspired beers and each time I stop by there are several new and wild ones. Some of my favorites current favorites are:

  • Chicha, which is a corn-based beer with sweetness reminiscent of the South American beverage of the same name
  • Turkish Coffee Stout, which combines rich roasted malt and coffee flavors, pretty much as advertised in the name.
  • BA Imperial Turkish Coffee Stout, a spiced-up and boozed-up version of the coffee stout. It adds pepper, mace and other spices to create an intense and savory effect. I found it slightly addictive but was also happy I followed the bartender’s recommendation and got a short pour.

Definitely give anything here a try before you jump into a pint because many of the beers have a strong flavor profile. The only disappointment was, like my first visit, a noticeable lack of patrons. Although the bartender injected some energy into the place, it felt a little dead so my recommendation would be to bring some friends with you when you go!

Brewery Snapshot: Blue Spruce Brewing Company

Buried deep in suburbia-land in a quiet strip mall at County Line and Colorado, Blue Spruce Brewing Company wouldn’t seem particularly promising on the surface, however the breadth and quality of their beer combined with their food menu provides 20180105_192628_HDRa welcome surprise.

BEER LINEUP: Blue Spruce features a full range of traditional styles from cream ale to brown with all the steps in between. They also offer modestly different takes on the standards such as an apricot blonde and a vanilla porter. All the beers I tried were well-made and generally true to style. For non-beer-drinkers Blue Spruce carries a small selection of wine and hard liquor.

ATMOSPHERE: The taproom definitely draws from Highlands Ranch, with lots of families and a laid back atmosphere that winds down shockingly early in the evening. This brewery is clearly outside the hipster zone. The rustic communal bench seating, small bar, and heated patio provide a welcoming atmosphere to relax, eat, and of course drink. Blue Spruce also features a full kitchen with an extensive and tasty menu and occasionally bands.20180105_192716_hdr.jpg

SERVICE: Uneven. The bartender was great – engaging, informed, and efficient. The table service, not so much. We never went thirsty but we did watch our server aimlessly cruise around the dining area while we tried to flag him down, and most every interaction involved some kind of confusing interjection.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Definitely the ‘burbs. Blue Spruce sits at the far end of a retail strip mall surrounded by housing. It can be hard to see, as it’s located below Dry Creek’s street level but once you find it you’ll also find ample parking. There’s little else to do in the immediate area.

STANDOUT BEER: Serrano Sunrise Chili Beer. I’m a sucker for chili beers and this one stands out above most. With medium heat and a slight roasted-pepper taste laid over what appeared to be a copper-colored Vienna Lager, the Serrano Sunrise made for a pleasant and complex beer with just the right amount balance of heat and flavor. Though not particularly hot, it must have offended many Highlands Ranchers, as the servers are comically obsessed with making you try a sample before you order if you say you’ve not had it previously.

Brewery Snapshot: The Brew On Broadway

Part of the renaissance of The South Broadway Mile in Englewood, The Brew on Broadway (BoB) nicely complements the neighborhood of small retail business, restaurants, and The Gothic Theater. BoB’s comfortable taproom and large patio fit right in with the pedestrian-friendly vibe of the area and encourage a stop for a quick pint.

BEER LINEUP: BoB’s beers are not overly adventurous but each offers a generally pleasant experience of its style. The menu clusters around IPAs and fills out both ends of the spectrum with a few examples of both light and dark beers along with a few speciality beers like a sour, and imperial stout, and a seasonal Thanksgiving porter.

ATMOSPHERE: The good-sized taproom offers 20171209_152459_hdr.jpgvarious seating options including couches and feels like an industrial/ rustic combination with lots of exposed brick and wood. Outside there’s a large patio with a firepit. The mixed crowd seemed neighborhood-based with families, couples, and friends kicking back on a sleepy Saturday afternoon. BoB also appears to be dog-friendly based on the number of pooches running around.

SERVICE: BoB offers bar service only and the staff was reasonably efficient, knowledgeable, and friendly.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Englewood has focused on making the surrounding neighborhood pedestrian- and small-business-friendly so there are plenty of shops and restaurants to browse if you want to combine beer with other pursuits. The area has reasonable street parking and BoB offers a small lot in back.

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STANDOUT BEER: Although it’s a bit gimmicky, the Thanksgiving Stuffing Spiced Porter was the most interesting beer I tried. Unlike some flavored beers, the spices were not overwhelming and provided a pleasant kick to a solid porter base with distinct malt and subtle chocolate flavors. The color and body were as-expected for a porter.

Brewery Snapshot: Hogshead Brewery

20171111_130501_hdr.jpgHogshead Brewery is simply all about the English-style beers; nothing more and nothing less. It’s a bit of a quirky approach all around, from the tiny taproom to the laser-focus on a singular style but it seems to work, as the taproom regularly fills up with crowds spilling over to the outside tables.

BEER LINEUP: All things English: multiple bitters, pale ales, a mild, and a porter. Oddly, there was one Belgian light beer too. To add to the variety, many of the beers can be poured off either the cask or the keg.

ATMOSPHERE: Hogshead definitely has a neighborhood-hangout feel and if it wasn’t for being squeezed into a former gas station it could almost qualify as a local British pub. The diverse crowd includes older couples, younger groups of friends, and couples with kids. The small taproom gets cozy in cold weather but in the summer patrons can use the many outdoor tables. There is no food on premises.

SERVICE: Fast and informative. The 20171111_130651_HDRserver helpfully explained some of the nuances between various British varieties like bitter vs. ESB, among other things.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Hogshead sits in a quaint residential neighborhood west of The Highlands and is definitely a destination bar unless you’re a local. Aside from a small retail building across the street with a soon-to-open Growler USA there’s little to draw you to the area. Street parking is plentiful along with Hogshead’s small lot.

STANDOUT BEER: Gilpin Black Gold porter. Darker than your average porter but with medium body, the flavor is intensely roasty and malty with hints of chocolate. The beer provides a satisfying experience, particularly on a cool fall day.

Brewery Snapshot: Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project

The Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project brings a new and innovative approach to Denver by brewing internationally-inspired beers. Some beers originate from unique foreign styles, others use foreign ingredients, and some are inspired by international flavors. The genesis of this super-experimental approach is the head brewer’s foreign travels along with his interest in foreign cultures and history. Based on our group’s reaction during our visit, some of the experiments are hits and others, well, not so much. But I guess that’s the whole point of experimenting!

BEER LINEUP: The menu runs the gamut of foreign styles from familiar Czech Pilsner, to lesser-known ones such as Finnish Sahti. The brewery also features beer and food combinations like a Garlic Amber, Chamomile Hefe-Wit, and Basil IPA. Chances are you’ll find something comfortable and familiar, but you are assured of finding a bunch of interesting and unusual flavors as well if you feel adventurous.

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ATMOSPHERE: The taproom is furnished in the typical Colorado-outdoorsy style and features loads of games along with travel and cookbooks to help complement the theme. On the evening we were there it was pretty quiet with a handful of people in the bar at any one time. Intrepid Sojourner also offers a patio. Check their calendar for occasional food trucks and frequent beer specials.

SERVICE: With only a few patrons the service was fast and attentive and the server was seemed pretty happy chatting everyone up. She also provided helpful thoughts on the beers as we contemplated our orders.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Intrepid Sojourner is in the same artsy S. Santa Fe neighborhood as several other breweries, along with art galleries and restaurants so you can certainly make an afternoon or evening out of strolling around. After dark it feels a little deserted, but not really dangerous and regardless of the hour you can generally find street parking on a side street or in the brewery’s small lot. Note: On the First Friday Art Walk all parking hopes go out the window!

STANDOUT BEER:  Garlic Amber. Perhaps not strictly the best beer, this one stands out for innovation. Garlic in a beer is so unique I had to try it. The end result is a beer with the amber/copper and light/medium body represented the typical amber style, but it seemed like the garlic accentuated the hops rather than standing out much on its own.

Brewery Snapshot: Woods Boss Brewing Company

Tapping into Coloradans’ love of the outdoors, Woods Boss Brewing Company brings an outdoors-themed taproom and beer menu to a formerly rough area of downtown that is under transition. The busy taproom serves up a wide variety of beers – some traditional, some unusual – that seem thoughtfully brewed and which, 20171109_191640_HDRfor the most part, deliver in the area of taste.

BEER LINEUP: The menu features a broad range of beer styles including many standard-style offerings like an IPA, ESB, red, etc. along with a number of styles with slight twists like a juniper wheat and oatmeal brown. There didn’t seem to be anything too far-out – just tweaks to the standards.

ATMOSPHERE: The taproom features lots of wood – tree trunks, split-log tables, beer-menu signs – which would seem at odds with the urban, industrial building but actually works to create a fresh, modern look. It seems like a place for the young professional crowd to get together and catch up or play some of the games on hand. They do not serve food.

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SERVICE: Bar service only,  but the servers were attentive, informed, and helpful in making difficult choices among the numerous tasty-looking offerings.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Woods Boss is just a little north of the downtown business district in a  former urban wasteland of trash-strewn parking lots and empty warehouses. Now the area is slowly filling with small businesses and the patrons they bring. However it still feels rather sketchy, especially at night, with homeless staggering around like zombies, but free street parking is reasonably close to the brewery. There aren’t yet a lot of other 20171109_211457_HDRbusinesses to keep you in the area, but it’s building up fast.

STANDOUT BEER: The Enrosadira pink peppercorn saison has quite a bit going on aside from the usual Belgian-yeast saison flavor. The peppercorn added spicy and savory flavors including sage, reminiscent of Thanksgiving stuffing (in a good way). The golden appearance had a slight brown tint and touch of haziness typical of a saison. Overall it seemed a good fall/holiday beer – interesting but not overwhelming.

Brewery Snapshot: Bruz Beers

In addition to the tasty Belgian beers, you gotta love the promotions that Bruz Beers puts on for their customers. Monday is Customer Appreciation Night, Tuesday is buy a draft and get a crowler at 1/2 price, and Wednesday-Friday feature Happy Hour from 3-6. However even without the promos Bruz stands out for its beers and energetic atmosphere.

BEER LINEUP: Bruz clearly focuses on Belgian-style beers in the saison/dubbel/tripel family but also offers a few beers that may appeal to hop-lovers by supplementing traditional Belgian flavors with W Coast or New Zealand hops.

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Manneken Pis from Brussels guards Bruz’s medals

ATMOSPHERE: The evening we visited, the mostly-full taproom had a great energy with a lively, younger crowd. I didn’t see any families but the taproom is VERY dog-friendly with pooches all over the place. The layout showcases the clean, industrial space with lots of concrete, metal, and glass decorated with interesting art for sale on the walls. There is also a patio.

SERVICE: The bar seemed very well staffed and despite the flurry of activity the servers were fast and friendly but still took time with each customer. They happily and successfully guided undecided members of our party to beers they loved.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Located in the recently-invented “Midtown” neighborhood at 67th and Pecos in northwest Denver, the area is an outpost of sparkling new residential construction in the midst of an industrial landscape. Aside from the brewery there’s not much of a draw, although the restaurant next door will deliver food to hungry drinkers and Bruz generally has a food truck. If you don’t see street 20171106_194213_HDRparking, Bruz has a large lot behind the building too.

STANDOUT BEER: Dubbel Trubbel hits the spot on a cold fall day. The appearance is dark and reddish and though there’s not much nose on the beer, the flavor comes bursting through on the first sip. A complex mix of roasty malts, raisin, candi sugar, mild hops and spicy Belgian yeast flavors keep your palate busy.