Following last week’s beer class – Belgians – it seemed like a good idea to give River North’s new location a try since they’re known for their Belgian beers. I tried a flight of those since they’re all high-alcohol, and in my opinion they ranged from good to great. I thought the Tripel was one of the more interesting ones because of the interplay between the carbonation, alcohol (9.2%), and slight bitterness. In many ways the flavors and body were reminiscent of champagne. Not to say it didn’t have the typical things you’d expect in a Tripel – primarily the yeasty and estery flavors – but the champagne-like characteristics added a whole new level of complexity. The color was a beautiful deep-golden with just a tiny bit of cloudiness.
With the beautiful fall weather,it’s a great time to take a brewery stroll in Idaho Springs between the new kid in town and an old standby! Earlier this year Westbound and Down Brewery opened up beside The Buffalo Restaurant at the east end of historic Miner Street. While The Buffalo Restaurant is all about old west with exposed timbers and dead animals on the wall, Westbound is sleek and modern with bar and table seating and an open brewing area.
Getting down to what’s really important, Westbound’s beers cover the spectrum from IPA to tripel to stout so everyone should find a style they like. As far as taste, the ones I tried were pretty good although some deviated from the “official” style that they proclaimed. However I’ll take a tasty beer any day and happily ignore rigid style limitations. The brewery is connected to the restaurant so you can get the beers with food in either location. The Buffalo focuses on hearty southwest/bar food. On the other hand, if you want to wait on food Tommyknocker Brewery is a short walk.
To get there, simply exit The Buffalo or Westbound and turn left (west) on Miner Street and walk about three blocks past loads of shops and boutiques to Tommyknocker Brewery (or shop along the way if that’s your thing). As the elder statesman in Idaho Springs (and one of the older craft breweries in Colorado at 20+ years old) Tommyknocker has the brewpub thing down – a mountain lodge with a pub menu and a wide variety of beers. While Westbound has the range of traditional styles, Tommyknocker leverages its history to expand on traditional beers with more experimental stuff like blood-orange IPA, oaked bock, oaked brown, and more. My recommendation would be a flight since there are so many appealing options. Overall, this brewery walk is short on the exercise/calorie burn, but if you’re already in the mountains for hiking or skiing and want an excuse to kick back with some comfort-food and comfort-beers it’s a great way to go.
As we discussed at last week’s beer class, German purity laws forbid the production of beer during the summer so brewers had to brew beers in March (Marz) that would last until the fall. Hence Marzen beers with high alcohol. Naturally I was excited to stop by Epic Brewing Company and see that they had Fest Devious Marzen on the menu. For me, it was the perfect match for a beautiful cool fall day – somewhere between hot-weather light beers and winter darks. Fest Devious was lightly carbonated with a delicious-looking light caramel color that reminded me of fall leaves. The taste was great as well; medium-bodied and malty with bready and crackery flavors. The malt was balanced on the front end with a light bitterness of German hops. Overall I was really impressed by this Marzen as well as several other of the seasonals I tried including the saison, Double Skull Doppelbock, and the Imperial Pumpkin Porter. The only caveat: These are seasonals so they won’t be around forever!
A friend of mine is studying to be a cicerone and giving beer appreciation classes to help prepare. The next one – Beers of Belgium – is Saturday October 29 at Smiley Library in the Tennyson neighborhood from 1:00-3:00. It’s open to the public and totally free. Afterward the class will adjourn to De Steeg Brewing to apply lessons learned. Last week was German beers and was very informative, followed by great company and discussions. Stop on by!
When my friends suggested meeting at Alpine Dog Brewery I was a bit skeptical, as past visits have been extremely average. However I went along with the plan and it seems like Alpine Dog has upped their game. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself sipping several tasty beers, including their Belgian farmhouse ale Ski Naked. It had all the trademarks of my favorite Belgian farmhouses – beautiful slightly-cloudy golden color with a bready, earthy, dry, and mildly straw-like flavor. Basically when I think “farmhouse” this is pretty much what I have in mind. One thing I found particularly interesting is that it tastes like a truly high-alcohol golden but only clocks in at 6.7%. Maybe not sessionable, but you can definitely get seconds!
Sometimes fate takes a strange twist, including at GABF. While talking to the brewers at Seedstock Brewery about their Bohemian Dunkel they mentioned that it was patterned after the 500-year-old U Fleku brewery in Prague. As fate would have it I had just returned from a Czech vacation and visited U Fleku not a week earlier. Even cooler, Seedstock’s Bohemian Dunkel was a dead ringer for U Fleku’s. The taste is malty with little hops and what seems to be a medium malt roast, and the color is typical for dunkel – medium brown with a hint of red but you can still see through it. The only I area I found surprising (with both beers) is the lighter body – almost like a blond. However the whole package is quite appealing and also fairly sessionable. If you’re looking for a truly authentic Czech beer to make it feel like fall, head out to Seedstock!
Well, the first night of GABF is in the books and it looks like some interesting trends are underway. After a long run of popularity pumpkin beers look to be on their way out, along with the oddly-flavored beers (peanut butters, girl scout cookies and the like). In their place, Oktoberfests and to a lesser extent browns. I also noticed fewer IPAs, however I did not make it to the Pacific Northwest where I’d expect they are still going strong. The Meet The Brewer section returned this year and far, far in the back there’s an endcap with many of last year’s medal winners. There are so many beers and so little time, so I’ll recommend the breweries below as worth seeking out because they have a solid lineup across the board.
- Denver’s own River North (Meet The Brewer – Y10)
- Lickinghole from Virginia (Mid-Atlantic – A33)
- Sierra Blanca from New Mexico (Southwest – E26)
- Rahr from Texas (Endcap across from E18/E19)
- Holy City from South Carolina (Southeast – M28)
- Taxman from Indiana (Great Lakes – U19)