Brewery Snapshot: Pilot House Brewing Company

20181230_185839_hdr.jpgOnly six months after opening, Pilot House Brewing Company in Aurora features and impressive lineup of beers, both in quantity and quality. Combine that with excellent service and a unique nautically-themed taproom and it makes the drive deep into the ‘burbs worth the effort.

BEER LINEUP: Pilot House brews many of their beers in small batches, which allows for an extensive and diverse selection on their 24 taps along with frequent rotations. All of the beers that I tried were solid and most went above average. The vast majority of the beers represent traditional styles from light kolsch to dark stout including several high-gravity choices. Pilot House also offers a handful of slightly more experimental beers like their Smoked Plum American Porter.

ATMOSPHERE: The coastal New England motif of the taproom offers a refreshing contrast to the typical industrial look of most suburban breweries. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into the design, including the large outdoor patio, and the space truly reflects the owner’s New England sailing roots. 20190111_171640_hdr.jpgDepending on the night the taproom atmosphere can range from relaxed and comfortable to busy neighborhood hub with events like trivia or live music. The taproom serves pizzas and a bit of snack food but the surrounding area holds plenty of restaurants where you can order food or do takeaway. The diverse crowd looked like mostly neighborhood folks, with some families, stopping in for a quick pint or two.

SERVICE: The friendly servers had an impressive knowledge of the beers, the brewing process and the brewery’s history, all of which they happily shared. Service was also reasonably fast and the brewery has a unique ordering system; order at the bar and they serve you at the table.20181230_194825_hdr.jpg

NEIGHBORHOOD: The area meets expectations for a brewery deep in the burbs; lots of small businesses in strip malls surrounded by housing. Given that restaurants, stores and service businesses populate all four corners of Pilot House’s Buckley Road & Quincy Avenue location you could definitely get a few errands done in combination with some tasty beers, or just make it a destination. Keeping with the suburban spirit, parking is close and plentiful.

STANDOUT BEER: Everyone in our party agreed that the Chardonnay Creme Ale was a unique and exceptional “wine-beer”. The brewing process starts with a standard Creme Ale then adds Chardonnay grapes, specialized yeast, and oak chips for an additional fermentation. The resulting beer pours dark-golden with relatively full body and a very smooth, balanced flavor. The initial Champagne-style bite and white-wine acidity give way to a light malt sweetness for a complex and pleasant overall experience.

Brewery Snapshot: Two22 Brew

Normally I’m a little suspicious of any business that leads their sales pitch with a cause, versus their products or services. Happily, Two22 Brew in Aurora stands as a clear exception to that guideline and offers great beer in a friendly atmosphere. Two22 donates $2.22 of every $10 in profits to a foundation started to honor the father of one of the owners, and which makes grants to nonprofits focusing on the environment, education, and “whole person” enrichment. But enough about the cause; on to the beer!

BEER LINEUP: Two22 serves a wide range of beer styles. The menu covers the traditional spectrum of light-to-dark with a blonde, hefeweizen, several IPAs, a porter, and a stout, but also branches out into some adventurous territory with peach-flavored beers and a gose. Short version: something for everyone.

ATMOSPHERE: The decent-sized taproom and 20180601_174220_hdr.jpglarge, shady patio offer plenty of space to spread out and get comfortable. The Friday-evening crowd was a mix of after-work beer drinkers and young families with small children and dogs (patio-only). It seemed like many customers were regulars and the comfortable chairs and patio games gave the entire place a very relaxed feel and encouraged kicking back and having one more beer on a pleasant summer evening.

SERVICE: The servers occasionally make a loop of the taproom to take orders but for immediate refreshment head to the bar. Attentiveness was hit or miss but once we had a server engaged they were very friendly and helpful in discussing the beer and providing samples. 20180601_173812_hdr.jpg

NEIGHBORHOOD: This is a love it or hate it proposition. Those in south Aurora, Centennial, and the like will probably enjoy the convenient location and comfortable suburban strip-mall feel, but access is difficult from other parts of the Denver metro. 20180601_174236_hdr.jpgOnce there you will find convenient parking and several food options by way of a food truck and local restaurants with takeout and delivery. Aside from that the area is mostly residential.

STANDOUT BEER: Watermelon Gose. The delicate balance of sour and fruity/sweet watermelon accented by hints of savory and salt make this beer a delicious easy-drinker on a hot summer day. The light body and slightly-hazy golden color also contribute to the refreshing experience.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Or as Copper Kettle Brewing Company calls them, the Twelve Firkins of Christmas . . .

Forget about silly lords-a-leaping or turtle doves – this’ll get you in the Christmas spirit! Image result for christmas art public domainToday through Christmas Eve Copper Kettle continues their longstanding practice of releasing a firkin a day to count down to the holiday. It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions and the menu looks to give everyone at least one beer to be thankful for this season!

  • 12/13 Black Berliner Weisse w/ Blackberries
  • 12/14 Gingerbread Latte
  • 12/15 Bourbon Barrel Aurora Strong
  • 12/16 Key Lime Wit
  • 12/17 Imperial Smoked Porter
  • 12/18 Passionfruit Charlie’s Golden Strong 
  • 12/19 Eggnog Stout
  • 12/20 Mocha IPA
  • 12/21 Imperial Cafe Con Leche
  • 12/22 Basil Cherry Blond
  • 12/23 Golden Stout (Imperial Cream Ale with Chocolate and Lactose)
  • 12/24 Christmas Spice Strong Ale

Brewery Snapshot: Dry Dock Brewing South Dock

As one of the more established and medal-winning craft brewers in Denver, Dry Dock Brewing just celebrated their 12th anniversary and while you can find a few of their staple beers in bars and liquor stores throughout Denver, their taproom has a wealth of additional beers. The original South Dock is attached to the Brew Hut, which offers a wealth of home-brewing & winemaking supplies and advice.

BEER LINEUP: As Dry Dock has grown, their beer lineup has matured and today provides something for everyone, from traditional light styles to dark, plus specialty beers like sours, seasonals, and fruit beers including their famous Apricot Blonde

ATMOSPHERE: Over the years Dry Dock has expanded their taproom multiple times from a Brew Hut closet and their mountain-lodge-style taproom generally buzzes with activity. The feeling is comfortable and friendly, with guests hanging out chatting, playing games, and making new friends at the bench-style tables. The only critique is that it can get a bit loud inside, although they also offer a reasonable patio in front of the taproom.

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Medal Scroll of Fame

SERVICE: Always great. The staff seems like they are having fun and the feeling rubs off on the whole environment. They’re always very engaging and informative regarding the beer selection and quick to offer suggestions and opinions.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Tucked on the far side of Cherry Creek Reservoir, the South Dock can be a hike for those not in Aurora or Southeast Denver, with access from I225 and Parker Road. The surrounding area is typical suburbia with single-family homes and strip malls, and the strip-mall-heavy corner where Dry Dock sits provides lots of parking along with restaurants offering takeout or delivery since Dry Dock has no onsite food.  The neighborhood doesn’t offer many reasons to linger unless you also have a few errands to run.

STANDOUT BEER: Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. While some may find this beer a little gimmicky I thought it hit the spot on a cool fall day with rich roast malt combined with dark chocolate and peanut butter. The beer had the appropriate deep-brown color and thickness that one would expect for this type. Truly a well-balanced cold-weather comfort beer!

Hilly Southeast Ride

This ride packs in a lot of beers and a fair amount of riding, taking you from Glendale to Aurora via Cherry Creek State park using mostly paved trails. There are several big hills and it is exposed so riders need to be in decent shape and keep an eye on the weather.

The ride starts in Glendale at Bull & Bush Brewery , a British-style venue that offers good parking, nice outdoor seating, food, and of course beer! Bull & Bush has been making beer for 20 years and offers a broad range of house-brewed styles along with bottles and drafts from domestic and British brewers. We visited with a large group and the servers were extremely accommodating and efficient, juggling beer and food orders and getting everything right.

From there we crossed the street and headed south on the Cherry Creek Trail til we turned left at Place Bridge Academy, then right onto a trail that aligned us with E Florida Ave and our first big hill of the day. This portion requires the only (brief) street-riding of the day and after crossing Parker Road and turning left on the sidewalk we quickly arrived at Copper Kettle Brewing Co. In comparison with Bull and Bush, Copper Kettle is a stripped-down craft brewery. The taproom and patio are smaller and food comes from takeout or food trucks. However the focus on beer remains and Copper Kettle keeps crowd-pleasers on tap like the light Helles, an IPA or two, and of course their Mexican Chocolate Stout. They also roll out seasonal and experimental beers so you may luck into something adventurous. Continue reading “Hilly Southeast Ride”

Brewery Snapshot: Dry Dock North Disc Golf

While I’ve been to Dry Dock Brewing Co.’s South Dock in Aurora dozens of times over the years, this past weekend I finally made it to the Canoe Room at the North Dock, partly to check out their taproom and partly to try their disc golf course. The taproom side was much less busy and and more laid back than South Dock but the beer selection didn’t seem to be much different, despite what I had previously heard. The disc golf course was fun but a little rough, located on an old industrial site filled with prairie dogs. If you golf, grab a map from the taproom before starting, since some of the hole alignments are hard to decipher. We didn’t fully realize that until we got back to the taproom and realized we missed an entire hole. There are some challenging placements right on the edge of a ditch that runs through the site, but overall the course is on the short side.

BEER LINEUP: From what I could tell the lineup looked much like South Dock, ranging from light Pilsners through the IPA and Amber range up to a couple stouts and their famous Vanilla Porter. Basically they offer something for 20170610_195333_HDRabout every taste, generally solidly-made.

ATMOSPHERE: The taproom had a chill, fun vibe going on in with a graduation party happening as well. Aside from the wood-paneled taproom, the Canoe Room has an industrial back room in the production area featuring couches and games like air hockey.  People kept drifting in and out of the different spaces and the brewery so the whole thing seemed a little more like a college party than people trying to make a scene, as in some breweries in town.

SERVICE: Reasonable. We asked for beer; the server delivered. Not much chitchat but after a hot day of disc golf we happily settled for an efficient beer-delivery mechanism.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Kansas, basically. Clearly a production facility vs. retail, the industrial location east of the airport puts function over form. Don’t count on any food or other local businesses to visit. However it is easy to find on Tower Road just south of I70, with clear signage and ample parking. The truly cool thing about the remote location is that it leaves room for the disc golf course, which is a pretty unique amenity for a brewery.

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STANDOUT BEER: Maybe it was disc golfing in 90-degree weather but the Wheat offered a refreshing and satisfying experience. Normally I wouldn’t get too excited about a wheat but this packed more complexity than your stereotypical light-yellow beer. The maltiness on the front provided a  unique surprise for such a light beer, but then some hefeweizen-like banana esters kicked and pulled it back in the wheat direction. The end result was a beer with a lot going on but ultimately a refreshingly balanced and satisfying beverage.

Ursula Anniversary & Pig Roast

If you’re looking for an excuse to get out and drink beer this Saturday June 3, head down to Ursula Brewery in Aurora and help them celebrate their 3rd anniversary starting at 11:00 am.

They’ll have live bands and a pig roast, along with (of course) new beers on tap and a special release. At 11:00 am they plan to release Angel of the Odd, their new sour