Weekend Beer Update

This first weekend of spring brings a diverse mix of events including some anniversaries, some openings and the first annual Big Reveal where participants do blind tastings of Colorado beers, with the winners revealed during the event followed by more tasting.

Wednesday 20 – Saturday 23: Head up to Loveland for the multi-day sixth anniversary party at Verboten Brewing and Barrel Project. In addition to the usual special releases, Thursday features a four-course Anniversary Dinner and on Saturday the big guns come out with more releases, brewhouse tours, cake and music.

Friday 22: Down in Colorado Springs Brass Brewing Co. kicks off their first anniversary party mid-afternoon with a beer release followed by food and music.

Saturday 23: What might be the most interesting event of the weekend, The Big Reveal at Union Station will serve 20 Colorado-made American IPAs in a blind tasting and attendees will get to vote on their favorite. Once the votes are counted the winners will be revealed and attendees can go back and re-sample all the beers. The event is sponsored by the Colorado Brewers Guild and PorchDrinking.com to cap off Colorado Craft Beer Week. Note: This is a ticketed event.

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Joyride Rooftop Patio Under Construction

Saturday 23: The long-awaited rooftop patio at Joyride Brewing Company makes its debut with great views over Sloan’s Lake on what looks to be a relatively mild spring day.

Saturday 23: One of my favorite breweries, Weldworks Brewing Co., celebrates four years with their Super-Time Great-Fun 4th Anniversary weldworks-can.jpgGet-Down. They’re thinking big and will take over their entire parking lot, put up a big-top tent and bring in multiple food trucks. All of that on top of the usual special tappings and release of two barrel-aged barley wines. Saturday’s gonna be huge!

Saturday 23: Taking over the former Caution space in Lakewood, Olde 121 Brewhouse holds their official Grand Opening with six of their beers on tap plus a collaboration with The Grateful Gnome as well as some live music. In addition to beer, Olde 121 plans to make their own craft soda and serve flavored hot and iced teas.

Sunday 24: Wrap up the weekend with some music and fun at Seedstock Brewery’s weekly Bluegrass Jam from 4-6 p.m. If you want to join in you can bring your own instrument, or just kick back and relax with a brew.

Brewery Snapshot: Cerberus Brewing

With a huge beer garden offering mountain views and tasty gourmet-pub fare, Cerberus Brewing has created a great place to enjoy Colorado’s beautiful weather and relax outdoors. Add in a full spectrum of tasty beers and it’s the perfect combination for an afternoon of chilling.

20181026_125314_hdr1.jpgBEER LINEUP: The broad taplist offers up a full range of styles, from the 2018 World Beer Cup bronze-medal-winning Kolsch to stouts and a tripel. Some have creative twists while others stick close to style.

ATMOSPHERE: On our lunchtime visit the indoor industrial-looking taproom was mostly filled with working folks taking a lunch break while the outdoor patio and huge, comfortable beer garden seemed to have small groups of friends a grabbing a beer and food with nowhere to rush back to. Regardless, the environment felt very relaxed and pleasant for hanging out and enjoying the great food. The sunny day and mountain views from the patio no doubt encourage a more relaxed state of mind, although the traffic blasting by on the adjoining  thoroughfare counter-acts that to some extent. Cerberus had a full kitchen and specializes in brisket, which infuses the parking lot with the mouth-watering smell of the smoker.20181026_125857_hdr.jpg

SERVICE: The servers were all very friendly, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable about both the food and drink. We sat on the patio which can sometimes be a blind spot at craft breweries but we still received extremely attentive service.

LOCATION: The area has a mix of older residential houses and varied retail, service and restaurant businesses on the main road in front of Cerberus and the surrounding area. You could easily pair a quick beer and bite with other nearby errands. Whether you make Cerberus a destination or a quick stop, the medium-sized lot and additional street parking should let you stash your car, and there’s a bike shop across the street if that’s more your style.

STANDOUT BEER: Hathor California Common. This actually rather un-common style fit the warm fall day perfectly with a medium-bodied dryness bringing forth flavors of straw and non-floral hops. While that was the most noticeable flavor it was not excessive and was nicely balanced by the malt. The orange/yellow color also fit right in with the fall season.

Brewery Snapshot: Wild Blue Yonder Brewing Co.

Occupying the old Victorian space of the former Augustine Grill, Wild Blue Yonder Brewing Co. takes its place as Castle Rock’s newest and possibly busiest brewery. Offering up huge indoor and outdoor spaces plus food, a full bar and a variety of beers, Wild Blue Yonder was packed when I visited just before Halloween on their second day of business.

BEER LINEUP: While limited at this early stage, the taplist of seven beers hits most popular styles and will likely let any beer lover find something appealing. The styles that our party tried all tasted great and true to style. Additionally, there are guest ciders and a limited bar.

ATMOSPHERE: On their second day of operation the atmosphere was buzzing with energy and even a little chaotic. The mostly adult, professional crowd packed the indoor taproom and spilled onto the large front patio and huge rear beer garden. The industrial taproom has a slight aviation theme in keeping with the brewery’s name and the owners’ Air Force roots, and opens nicely to show off the production area. While the beer garden is a bit roughly-finished at the moment the plan is to upgrade the landscaping and make it a multi-functional space. The kitchen offers a full food menu.20181026_174018_HDR

SERVICE: As one might imagine for a brand-new operation that was suddenly packed to capacity, service was a little confused but overall the friendly crew did a pretty good job of keeping the drink and food flowing.

LOCATION: Situated on a corner of busy Wilcox Street at the edge of downtown Castle Rock, Wild Blue Yonder makes a great stop while strolling around the main street shops and businesses, as part of a brewery-hopping tour, or as a destination its own right. There’s decent street parking and the Douglas County School District building across the street has plenty of spots in off hours.

STANDOUT BEER: Napoleon’s Conquest French Saison showcases virtually everything I love about saisons. The orange-amber, medium-bodied beer puts forward a medley of spice flavors balanced by a little bit of breadiness and the crispness that comes with Belgian yeast.

Patio Weather in the Springs

The patio-drinking season is winding down so a friend and I decided to take a trip to Colorado Springs for a short hike and a few patio beers.

After a morning hike we stopped at Cerberus Brewing Company 20181026_125401_hdr.jpgto enjoy their expansive patio/beer garden and some lunch. Cerberus serves up what I’d call “gourmet pub food”, which seems like overkill for a brewery, but was certainly tasty. They specialize in smoked brisket and our hunger was piqued when we smelled the smoker as we pulled into the parking lot. As far as the beer, my friend went light and I went dark and we both enjoyed all of the beers that we tried. They offer a varied selection for all tastes and exceptionally friendly and efficient servers. The overall atmosphere definitely encourages lingering, chilling, eating and drinking – especially on a warm sunny day.

From there we headed 10 minutes through downtown Colorado Springs to Goat Patch Brewing Co., which looks like a dated strip mall from the outside but inside is an old 20181026_142228_HDRschoolhouse converted to retail with businesses in the old classrooms and gym. The taproom offers up the standard craft-brewery experience; light-industrial design, garage doors opening to a patio, and a handful of beers that stay reasonably true to style and cover the full spectrum. The brewery offers up a pleasant experience but nothing about it would make me go out of my way to visit. In the context of this little tour, it’s a fine drop-in between Cerberus or Atrevida but you could easily substitute one of the other downtown breweries and not miss out on anything.

Our last stop in The Springs was Atrevida Beer Co., which was  a spur-of-the-moment choice but a fortuitous one. Located in a depressing-looking industrial park/strip mall, the exterior did not inspire confidence. However the indoor Mexican-themed taproom felt warm and cozy, enough so that we didn’t even bother with the small front patio. The 20181026_154621_hdr.jpgbeers mostly focused on traditional styles with interesting additions such as the Fresas con Crema strawberry cream ale and Boriqua Belgian blonde with pineapple and citrus. Based on all the brews we sampled, Atrevida has that approach dialed-in. We greatly enjoyed the creative beers, the friendly server, and checking out the tiny production units that make these small-batch creations.

Finally it was time to head back to Denver but not without a mid-way refreshment stop in Castle Rock at Wild Blue Yonder Brewing Co., which had just held their grand opening the previous day. We expected a quiet environment20181026_173437_hdr.jpg to wind down our day but it seems like the place has already become the go-to stop for Friday Happy Hour. The trendy-industrial taproom, front patio, and huge beer garden were packed and buzzing with energy. Although I didn’t try any of their food, the two beers I enjoyed while playing cornhole outdoors were absolutely fantastic. It often seems to take time for a brewery to settle into  their recipes and equipment but Wild Blue Yonder appears to have hit the ground running. It’s definitely worth the short drive from Denver.

From there it was back to the city and on to other Friday night Halloween-ish fun. Despite the fact that we packed in a drive, a hike and four breweries this day trip didn’t seem at all rushed and would also make a great weekend excursion. And if hiking isn’t your thing, Colorado Springs offers up a bunch more breweries that could give you an early start! Note: The earliest-opening brewery we found was 11 a.m.

Route Map and Directions: https://goo.gl/maps/bsQRzWDRyFQ2

 

Brewery Snapshot: Bootstrap Brewing Company

Located in sleepy Niwot, Bootstrap Brewing Company embraces the friendly and slow-paced small-town feel. With a fittingly rustic taproom and a large patio with a grass game area this  brewery seems designed for families and locals stopping in for a pint and friendly chat.  The taplist is sufficiently broad to offer at least one option for any beer drinker and the bartender wasn’t shy about playing mix & match to create even more tasty concoctions.

BEER LINEUP: Bootstrap serves up a moderate number and variety of beers, consisting solely of light-to-medium beers. All the beers I sampled were good, but dark beer lovers be warned that the darkest on the menu was a red. The menu contained mostly traditional styles with a few experimentals like pineapple and chili. In all fairness I believe they rotate in a couple of darker styles seasonally.20180729_144122_HDR

ATMOSPHERE: The taproom echoed the feeling of the small town of Niwot, with friendly regulars hanging out and chatting with each other, the bartender, and newcomers like us to create a truly welcoming feel. The wood and metal taproom can get cramped during busy times but creates a cozy feel even when not full. Additionally, Bootstrap has a large patio for games and families.

20180729_144234_HDRSERVICE: The bartender was super-friendly and helpful in making beer recommendations and suggestions including a special combination of two beers (see below).

NEIGHBORHOOD: You definitely feel small-town Colorado in Niwot and the relaxed pace encompasses both the old-fashioned downtown and the brewery. Everything is nearby so you can easily stroll around and grab food or do some shopping combined with a Bootstrap visit. Needless to say, parking is plentiful and free.

STANDOUT BEER: Per the bartender’s suggestion, I tried a half & 20180729_144945_HDRhalf of Backfire Chili and Chillax Pineapple Gold. Both beers were awesome in their own right, with the Backfire bringing on intense heat and Chillax serving up light pineapple sweetness blended perfectly into the base beer without off-flavors or weirdness that I’ve found with most pineapple beers. Together they make something truly amazing. Each sip starts sweet and gives almost the full pineapple flavor and then after a few seconds the pepper catches up for a spicy finish without being as intense as straight Backfire. It may be the best beer mix I’ve ever had.

 

Brewery Snapshot: Finkel & Garf Craft Beer

In addition to an unusual name crafted out of the last name of the father & son owners, Finkel & Garf Craft Beer also stands out with their attractively-designed taproom and outdoor space that offer plenty of reasons to stick around for just one more pour. Located just a few minutes from downtown Boulder they seem to attract an energetic crowd with a reasonably-diverse set of beers.

BEER LINEUP: The taplist should offer something to satisfy about every palate, from a light Cream Ale to a dark Stout with some hop-heavy options along with various seasonal beers. Finkel & Garf does not appear to focus on any specific 20180729_163326_hdr.jpgstyle.

ATMOSPHERE: Finkel & Garf has created one of the more unique taprooms I’ve visited. All of the decorations and displays seem heavily curated and the industrial-style taproom really pops when you walk in. Combine that with numerous outdoor games on the large fake-grassy patio, active indoor games and traditional board games and the taproom draws young professionals and families that make for an active and fun atmosphere. They sell snacks and food trucks seem to be a fixture as well.

SERVICE: The lone employee working the taproom seemed rather indifferent to the task of serving customers, sometimes focusing on the patrons and other times on her tablet. While functional, the service certainly did not stand out.

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NEIGHBORHOOD: The taproom sits where industrial parks and strip malls give way to residential neighborhoods so it’s relatively quiet and easy to access, with great parking. While there are eateries in the general vicinity, walkability will depend on your level of ambition and sobriety. On a side note both Asher and Avery are just a few minutes away.

STANDOUT BEER: Rye Saison. This beer captured all the spicy and bready goodness of the saison style and accentuated it with even more spice complexity and subtle hints of rye. The dark color and noticeable maltiness were a bit unexpected but neither detracted from the overall enjoyment of the medium-bodied beer. As an honorable mention the barrel-aged Bourbon Stout served up a smooth and syrupy experience where the bourbon blended seamlessly with the dark stout flavors. The balance was great and despite the high ABV there were no overpowering hot-alcohol or liquor flavors.

Brewery Snapshot: Renegade Brewing Company

As the oldest of the four breweries in the busy Santa Fe Arts District, Renegade Brewing Company helped set the standard for the Denver taproom experience with an industrial space that opens to brewing operations, a small patio out front and frequent food trucks. This history, plus the longstanding taplist of flagship beers and steady neighborhood crowd gives Renegade the feel of a comfortable, established neighborhood business.

BEER LINEUP: Renegade has always featured a modest, hop-heavy menu and even styles that are not normally hop-focused usually end up with a noticeable hop presence. Not to knock any of the beers, just know what you’re getting yourself into whether you’re a hophead, malt-head, or otherwise.

ATMOSPHERE: The small, basic industrial taproom opens to an equally-sized patio via garage doors. The space has a lot of energy with a younger crowd, people constantly coming and going, and the activity of the surrounding area.  Renegade certainly feels like a neighborhood spot where many customers knew each other or stop in for a pint while walking the dog. Note: It can occasionally get crowded, particularly at Happy Hour. Renegade almost always has a food truck.

SERVICE: On the most recent visit our server was attentive and friendly, although on previous visits service has sometimes been less efficient. Bar service only.

NEIGHBORHOOD: The active Santa Fe Arts District area offers plenty of opportunities for strolling and shopping, eating, drinking, or taking in some cultural sights. It seems perpetually lively and offers relatively easy access from downtown and other parts of the city via highways and thoroughfares. Renegade has no parking but street parking 20180804_160644_HDRis usually available if you don’t mind a short walk, and light rail is walkable as well. The neighborhood includes three other craft breweries within just a few blocks so it’s a great area for a brewery crawl!

STANDOUT BEER: Who Runs This Mother. This Belgian tripel with plums delivers a thinner-than-normal body but an unbelievably complex flavor mix. Sitting on a traditional slightly bready/malty base, numerous flavors layer on top including plum, raisin, tea, and even something slightly floral (lavender, perhaps). At 8.6% it’s definitely a great sipper with which to end the evening.