Brewery Snapshot: Blue Moon Brewing Company

When some friends scheduled a Happy Hour at the Coors-owned Blue Moon Brewing Company taproom in RINO I tried to keep an open mind, but unfortunately the experience confirmed my worst fears and in some areas lowered the bar to surprising depths. On the positive side the exquisite space shows what Coors-level money can buy. On the downside the beers were generally bland and the service was abysmal. Given that Great Divide Barrel Bar, Mockery Brewing, and numerous other RINO breweries are a short walk away, if you come to this area for craft beer you can do much, much better.

BEER LINEUP:  Blue Moon offers a range of styles, including a number of barrel-aged options. However our group’s consensus was that most of the beers were washed-out versions of their advertised style. The only exceptions were a few of the barrel-aged and high gravity brews that exhibited some sparks of taste.

ATMOSPHERE: Trendy-industrial. The indoor and outdoor spaces were definitely the high point of the visit. Blue Moon offers a spacious patio along with a modern-industrial take on a brewery space. Like many taprooms there are lots of hard surfaces, which are offset with colorful, quirky décor. The circular central bar looks like it could have great service potential and the taproom has a full kitchen (see service below). The patrons looked to be an upscale mixture of tourists, business people, and families.20170803_193906_HDR

SERVICE: Truly awful. When table service proved rarer than Haley’s comet, a trip to the bar was met with workers who shuffled past waiting patrons in a seemingly zombified state. Even getting their attention didn’t generate much reaction as they very slowly got around to providing service. The server who eventually cruised by the table compounded the disappointment with a scolding for those thirsty few who had the nerve to walk to the bar, then proceeded to ignore half the table, and delivered the requested beers at a snail’s pace.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Blue Moon occupies the fast-developing Brighton Boulevard portion of RINO. While street work currently causes some headaches in getting around, once complete the area will no doubt have a long-overdue facelift with even more convenient access. The surrounding area offers only a few retail business today but with the development slowly creeping out from downtown it will no doubt pop in the near future. In addition to some street parking, Blue Moon offers a decent-sized lot as well.

STANDOUT BEER: None, really, although I had a sip of one of their high-gravity beers that seemed to have some potential.

Brewery Snapshot: Mockery Brewing Co

You might think Mockery Brewing Co. would face stiff completion based on its location within view of Great Divide Barrel Bar and a couple blocks from Blue Moon. However the small taproom is always somewhere between full and insanely packed, probably owing to the diverse and interesting beers on tap. Getting there and parking can be a bit of a challenge at the moment, with major construction on Brighton and side streets, but if you can find a spot you’ll be rewarded with an interesting and tasty beer lineup.

BEER LINEUP: Mockery never fails to surprise, with a large taplist that includes traditional styles but primarily focuses on beers with their own unique spin. With offerings like a smoked wheat and a spiced imperial saison Mockery shows its willingness to push the envelope and generally succeed. This is somewhere I almost always get a flight because they have so many new brews that deserve a taste.

ATMOSPHERE: Very busy and energetic. In cold weather the taproom crowds could fill a place twice as big and in the summer often spill out onto the large sunny patio or into the game shed in back. The taproom offers just a few tables but outside has numerous benches and the game shed also has tables and bar games. The younger crowd appears to turn quickly and not make this a hangout place – people drop in for one or two and then move on. Without any restaurants in the area, Mockery brings in frequent food trucks for hungry drinkers.

SERVICE: The staff does their best to be attentive but when the taproom is standing room only it can take a few minutes to get their attention at the bar. However, no matter how busy they are the servers remain patient and friendly when you do get ahold of one.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Definitely not a place you’d stumble upon by chance, Mockery is a bit buried one block behind Great Divide Barrel Room in an industrial neighborhood offering little besides breweries. 20170429_161109_HDRHowever the advantage of this is generally easy parking and quick access from either downtown or I70 via Brighton Boulevard (when it’s not under construction).

STANDOUT BEER: Sweet Darkness Cocoa Coconut Porter. While I generally steer clear of candy-sounding beers I tried a friend’s and simply had to get my own. It seems like coconut beers often assault the palate with artificial flavors and gagging sweetness, or conversely with weak flavor. However the Sweet Darkness tasted perfectly-balanced with natural-tasting coconut flavors offset by a slightly-bitter dark chocolate flavor. Some additional woody oak and dark roast flavors provided even more depth. As you might expect, the beer is dark and dense.

Brewery Snapshot: Beryl’s Beer Co.

I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but Beryl’s Beer Co. seems to be aiming for a wordplay with their focus on barrel-aged beers.  Located in a cavernous space at current edge of RINO development, you may face challenges getting there through all the construction and closures, but once there you can easily park and try out their lineup of both barrel-aged and non-barrel-aged beers. Overall you’ll find a slightly less hipster vibe than a lot of RINO breweries along with a menu of standard beers styles that often have an extra ingredient or other twist to them.

BEER LINEUP: Hard to describe but maybe “eclectic” would cover it. Aside from the obvious barrel-aged offerings, Beryl’s gets creative with existing styles, for example a Strawberry Wit and Sour Saison. On our visit they offered a few “standard” styles along with a bunch of the creative ones. It seemed like some were hits and some missed a mark a bit (nothing, bad just uninspiring)

ATMOSPHERE: The space is typical RINO – a big shed-like taproom that opens to the production facility, with chunky seating and local art for sale . The crowd seemed younger and more like visitors than neighborhood regulars, and included some families so there was lots of activity going on. In warmer weather you can also take it outside to their front patio.

SERVICE: Very laid back.

NEIGHBORHOOD: In the depths of RINO at the edge of the brewery scene, Beryl’s sits in the midst of major road, residence, and business construction. Today it has a bit of an “out-there” feel in a semi-deserted neighborhood but this will surely change. Beryls is still close enough that you can walk to other breweries or restaurants and make it multi-stop visit. Depending on construction, parking is decent for the moment.

STANDOUT BEER: Donny Boy Doppelbock. This copper-colored, thick & syrupy beer packs a lot of intense flavors. From the predominant caramel to raisin and dried fruit, all the flavors have depth and intensity, giving it almost a savory quality. Although it only clocks in at 7.8% ABV the alcohol flavors occasionally poke through to make it seem even stronger. Definitely not one for the light-beer crowd.

 

Snowy Rino Walk

What was originally supposed to be a bike tour to a number of far-flung breweries, quickly turned into a local walking tour thanks to last Saturday’s snowstorm. While we still started at Great Divide Barrel Bar and ended at Mockery Brewing as planned, we changed our transit mode to the safer choice of walking and reduced the midpoint stop to just one – Beryls Beer Co.

20170429_140703_HDR
Barrels of Beryl’s

Starting at Great Divide Barrel Bar off 35th and Brighton offered everyone a reasonable place to park and a creative start to the day. Despite the snow, the intimate taproom was packed. The place feels like a mountain ski lodge and offers, of course, barrel-aged beers. You can of course get the Great Divide standbys but for me the point of coming here is trying out their latest experiment in a barrel. Given the higher alcohol and pricepoint half-pours usually feel right and that seems to put the patrons in a happy mood to despite the packed-in, standing-room-only taproom.  Continue reading “Snowy Rino Walk”

Brewery Snapshot: Epic Brewing Company

This RINO brewery is the Colorado outpost of Utah-based Epic Brewing Company. The location in brewery-dense RINO makes Epic a great stop on a brewery crawl or a destination in its own right. The ultra-modern taproom seems to be hit or miss as far as crowds, but the beer is always solid and plentiful.  You could easily order off the expansive menu all afternoon without doubling up, as the list covers virtually every style plus multiple variants of the same base beer. Street parking is usually easy but if you’re pub crawling or intent on running the Epic menu, consider Uber or public transit!

20170410_170834_HDR

BEER LINEUP: Epic covers the spectrum and then some with their generous menu of over 20 beers. In addition to the expected, Epic does experimental beers, barrel-aged, sours, fruit beers, and more. Nobody should come away disappointed.

ATMOSPHERE: Epic has a relaxed vibe with a diverse crowd of hipsters, couples, older people, and others. The only un-represented group was families – not surprising given the RINO location. It definitely seemed like a place people stopped by for one, with quick turnover. The modern industrial taproom opens to the brewery on one side and a small patio on another. Some days they have food trucks.

SERVICE: Generally good, though we were there on a slow night. When it gets busier there tend to be traffic jams at the bar

NEIGHBORHOOD: Rino – need I say more? Epic is located far enough out to have ample street parking (for now).

STANDOUT BEER: The Santa Cruz Brown IPA stands out for its balance. The medium reddish-brown color and medium body serve up a good shot of hop bitterness with a bit of floral essence that is brought back to center by the solid malty foundation. All of the flavors intertwine to produce a complex and enjoyable beer.

Brewery Snapshot: Bierstadt Lagerhaus

bierstadt-lagerhausA relative newcomer to the RINO neighborhood, Bierstadt Lagerhaus offers an interesting destination concept by pairing with C Squared Ciders and the newly-reopened Rackhouse in an old industrial space. Bierstadt’s brewing talent comes from Bill Eye (formerly of Dry Dock and Prost Brewing) along with Ashleigh Carter (also formerly of Prost), both of whom are aficionados of German beer styles. The overall package makes for a convenient meeting place for friends with diverse tastes, as it offers a full bar in addition to the beer and cider options plus of course the Rackhouse food.

BEER LINEUP: German: that’s all

ATMOSPHERE: Bierstadt features a trendy, industrial vibe with the dining area elevated over the production facilities of the brewery and cider company. The three business have definitely configured the space for maximum impact, including mountain views out the back. If I had to name the atmosphere I’d call it “upscale industrial” compared to many breweries that jam taps into an old warehouse or strip mall and call it good. Business was a little slow the weeknight I visited, but it seems like a chill place to linger over beers and food.

SERVICE: Very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful in weighing beer choices. However the timing seemed a bit hit or miss. Perhaps they were understaffed that night or something else was going on, but from the looks of it efficiency wasn’t a strong point.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Stereotypical RINO. The area has lots of warehouses, many of which are being converted to trendy restaurants, bars, and galleries. There are also loads of other breweries in the area if you want to have a proper pub-crawl. You can generally find free parking, and best of all Bierstadt Lagerhaus has it’s own decent-sized lot.

STANDOUT BEER: All – or none – depending on your taste. All of the beers stood out equally for me as a German beer lover, but they would all probably have equally low appeal for someone who doesn’t like German styles. The beers I tried had the characteristic crisp and clean reinheitsgebot presentation of authentic German beers, and a hallmark of Bill Eye’s style

RINO Ramble

Recently some friends and I spent a chilly afternoon touring four RINO breweries on foot. Given the number of breweries practically side-by-side in RINO one could literally run them end-to-end, GABF style without any breaks. However in the spirit of getting a little exercise and not getting outstandingly hammered we threw in a few that required a walk.

We met at Epic Brewing Company, which usually offers decent parking if you choose to drive. The taproom sports the standard RINO-brewery decor – concrete & steel, lots of glass & garage doors, and an open brewing area. It also has the bonus of a cozy fireplace and a bunch of tvs with various games on. The beers lean toward barrel-aged and/or high-alcohol but there’s enough variety that anyone ought to be able to find something pleasing. Our group tasted some great IPA’s, an unusual lime lager, porters, fruit beers, and a barleywine. The Sage Saison stood out, seeming appropriately seasonal with light earthy flavors and strong sage, as did the Pumpkin Porter, with rich malty flavors and undertones of pumpkin spice.

20161203_150908_hdrA few Epic beers fortified us for the 20+ minute walk to the Great Divide Brewing Company Barrel Room on Brighton Blvd. Heading left from Epic you’ll walk down to 38th and go left, either up and over the tracks at the light rail station or under them on 38th itself. It’s definitely a developing area but seems more deserted than sketchy. The Barrel Room has a ski-bar vibe going, which would be cozy on a cold winter day. Even nicer are the warming high-alcohol barrel-aged beers. Great Divide seems to try different combinations and rotate frequently so it’s best to check out the chalkboard and chat with the bartender for the latest and greatest. Of course they also serve the traditional Great Divide offerings – Collette, Yeti, Claymore Scottish, etc. One caution is that their small space gets jammed if a bus or large group comes, which happened to us.

Continue reading “RINO Ramble”