10 beers.

There is a fairly interesting/annoying (aren’t they all?) chain status post rolling around Facebook asking people to list the 10 books that have had some sort of influence or left a lasting impression on their lives. If for no other reason, it’s a good way to add to your reading list. But you know what’s more interesting than books? Nothing. But do you know what is a close second? Beer!

A buddy of mine tagged me on a twist to this meme: the 10 beers that have left a lingering flavor, and I thought it would be a fun post. These may not be my favorite beers (but some are), or even very good beers (most are), but they always bring me back to a specific time and place in my life. Some have even resulted in my life spinning off in an entirely different direction.

So, the 10 beers that have stayed with me in some way, in rough chronological order, are:

#1

The beer: Odell 90 Shilling

On the list because: It was my gateway

The story: I grew up in a valley between the foothills and the plains in South Denver. For a long time, all I remember being in my house for alcohol was either Coors or boxed white wine. Then, through some miracle, my parents discovered Odell (or Odell’s as it was called back then). Weekend after weekend my parents would make the almost 2-hour-each-way trek from our little burg to Fort Collins to fill their (clear, unmarked) growler of the dark amber liquid called 90 Shilling. Even when I was eight, I knew that this was something special. This was different than Coors. This was different than boxed wine kept in its special little cupboard (yes, warm). I actually didn’t make the connection that Coors and 90 Shilling were even in the same category of drink until high school. My dad loved it so much, his friends got him a half BBL keg of 90 Shilling for his 45th birthday celebration. 90 Shilling is still a solid choice when I visit a bar and they don’t have a solid selection. And it will always be my gateway craft. Not too shabby of a start, really.

#2

The beer: Guinness Stout

On the list because: A rule breaking, a great day, and an epic night

The story: My history with Guinness goes back to high school. On my senior trip to the UK and Ireland with my AP English class, I spent a couple of days with my sister’s now in-laws. They are, probably, the sweetest people on the planet. I was ill with the flu, so they gave me medicine and took care of me. They also took me around Dublin and took me out to a very fancy restaurant (yes, there are fancy restaurants in Ireland). Before my trip, my (now) brother-in-law told me how to ask for a Guinness in Irish. I told his father, and Paddy was delighted (yes, his name is really Paddy. I am not making any of this up). I did say, however, that it was against the rules for me to drink on the trip, so Paddy only ordered me a half pint. It was like drinking coffee mixed with motor oil. I hated it. But considering all of my classmates thought I was the person narcking them out when they went clubbing (hint: it wasn’t me) and were trying to make my trip miserable, it felt pretty damn good to break the rules.

A few years later, I returned to Dublin with my parents. While there, my dad at I visited the Guinness Brewery (or The Brewery). It was a flashy, commercialized tour without any personal touch, but it was educational if not fascinating. As a bonus, it was great to spend the day alone with my dad (which is a very rare thing) and to enjoy a beer, poured properly, at the place where it’s produced. It was just about as perfect as a day can get.

Finally, when my sister’s eldest was Christened, my parents and I went back to Ireland. Christenings, like most formal events in Ireland, usually end up at the pub. As we all did that night. It was about as stereotypically Irish as you can get: a group of lads sitting around telling stories and singing songs, everyone drinking Guinness, a Southwestern restaurant attached to the bar (wait… what?), deep conversations about sentence structure and symantics (huh?), my mom telling me that I should just stay in a much older friend’s room (yikes), and my mother drinking 17 Guinnesses (Guinni?) and me close behind her with 15. Now, when you have three adults sharing one hotel room after drinking that much Guinness, a fun night quickly turns into a disturbing morning. But nothing could ruin how awesome that party was. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is like a post-Christening party in Ireland.

And my mom and I are now legends. I’m pretty sure we will never pay for another pint in Ireland.

#3

The beer: Le Fruit Defendu (Verboden Vrucht)

On the list because: I had to pick just one of the beers I drank in Belgium

The story: When you fly from Denver to Brussels, you leave at 10:30am and arrive at 7:30am. And when you are flying coach, it can be absolutely brutal. When I landed in Belgium for the first time to visit my parents on their amazing overseas adventure, I was one whupped puppy.

One whupped puppy in the Delirium Cafe.

One whupped puppy in the Delirium Cafe.

But, of course, you’re not allowed to sleep because then the world will be eaten by Chuthlu or something. So, my parents promptly took my vacant shell to the Grand Place (Grawn Plaws) and stuck a waffle in one hand and a beer in the other. I believe the beer was Leffe Blonde and the waffle was made out of the ground up remains of pixies. Regardless, it was amazing. For the remainder of my month there, my mom and I would visit the supermarket every 2-3 days and grab two beers of 10-12 varieties (as well as the proper glassware, of course) and take them home. We would also try new beers when we went out (I remember eating at one Mediterranean restaurant that only had Jupiler in the can and didn’t have the glassware. It was scandalous).

My two visits to Belgium, despite being distracted by the beautiful countryside, culture, food, and potatoes, was defined by beer. It was because of that trip to Belgium that I fell, unwittingly, in love with beer. And, it was because of that trip, that I landed the job at Flying Dog Brewery, which really started me on this whole crazy (downward?) spiral. I chose Le Fruit Defendu, out of all of the other beers I had that trip, because it was one of the only beers I had again and again. I loved the glass with a tiny, naked Adam and Eve on it and the twisted stem, but the complexity of the beer: spicy, sweet, fruity, deep was what really had me enthralled. Whenever I look at my glassware collection, it is that glass I hold most dear.

#4

The beer: Flying Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter on Brett

On the list because: It completely changed my palate

The story: Speaking of Flying Dog… There are so many stories I could tell about the beers I drank, the people I met, and the crazy experiences I had during my time at Flying Dog, but none was so profound nor life-altering as my experience with Gonzo, aged in Stranahan’s barrels, with Brettonomyces yeast. This was back when I knew I liked beer, I could tell the difference between major styles, but I didn’t know much about the subtleties and intricacies of beer. I knew I liked Gonzo, and I knew I liked Stranahan’s, so I figured I’d like a marriage of the two. When they popped the bung on this beer, you could smell it throughout the brewery. It was funky and weird and sour and like nothing I had ever smelled. I had briefly flirted with a couple of Flanders Reds when in Belgium, but none of them came close to this. When my boss had me take a drink, it was like a Sour Patch Kid had sex with a vanilla bean on a horse blanket. It was horrifying and intriguing and absolutely impossible to stop drinking. I think I consumed at least half of the barrel. Now, eight years later, I still adore sour and funky beers more than almost any other style for their complexity and perplexity.

#5

The beer: Pabst Blue Ribbon

On the list because: We were so, so broke

The story: There was a stretch of time in 2007 that neither Josh nor I was gainfully employed. Although we were making it rain resumes, we were getting a whole lot of nowhere. Of course, when you don’t have any money, you can’t afford good beer. So, after depleting our supply of Flying Dog beers, we were forced to turn to PBR. Our local liquor store sold 30-packs for cheap enough that we could get one a week and drink on that. The downsides were that PBR tastes slightly like pee and it has the magical ability to have the blasting power of 10 cans of beans. The upside was that at least we had beer. Even now the Bearded One will proclaim that PBR is the only shlocky beer he likes. I will attest to no such thing. I still get the farts just thinking about it.

#6

The beer: Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale

On the list because: It introduced me to California beer

The story: After regaining employment, we were so in debt that we still didn’t have a lot of disposable income. Luckily, around that time, our local liquor store started carrying Ballast Point for $5.99 a six pack. Not nearly as cheap as PBR, but a hell of a lot better. We bought 90% of the Ballast Point the liquor store brought in. The one we liked the best was the Yellowtail Pale Ale. It was more of a hoppy blonde than a pale ale, but it was just so drinkable. Soon the Bearded One introduced me to Port and Stone and Anderson Valley, and my love for California beers grew. In 2010, we drove out to San Diego for San Diego Beer Week and, sure enough, Ballast Point was our favorite brewery we visited. Too bad more cities don’t have a beer week like San Diego (ehem: Denver). Even the year we went, which was just prior to the craft beer explosion there, we had 650 events over 10 days to choose from. That is how you do a beer week.

Reflecting on beer at Ballast Point.

Reflecting on beer at Ballast Point.

#7

The beer: Twisted Pine Billy’s Chilis

On the list because: It defined a year of our lives

The story: One rainy spring Sunday, Beardy and I decided to go up to Boulder and try some Boulder breweries that we had never before visited. Boulder Beer was closed, and Crystal Springs didn’t yet have a tasting room, so we stopped by Walnut, Mountain Sun, and, despite having a pre-conceived notion of mediocrity, made our way to Twisted Pine. What we found there were some of the nicest servers in the industry, a great atmosphere, and beers we genuinely enjoyed. So, the next Sunday, we decided that we would go back again. And the Sunday after that. And the Sunday after that. Every week we would order two pitchers (not at once) of Billy’s Chilis and sit and watch skateboarding or snowboarding or football while grabbing a bite to eat and chatting with our new friends. One time we visited on a Thursday, and when we walked in and Jayson, the bartender, was already pouring us a pitcher of Billy’s, another patron said, “so you are the couple that drinks all the chili beer.” Legends, we were. We loved it so much there that I even brought my mom there for Mother’s Day (sorry, Mom). After about a year we stopped going to Twisted Pine as it was an hour drive each way and we needed to save some money, but we still stop by occasionally to quench our thirst for chili beer and reminisce about the good ol’ days when we were locals at a brewery 50 miles from our house.

#8

The beer: Brewery Rickoli’s Single Hop 5256

On the list because: It changed how I understood hops

The story: For about a year, the Bearded Brewer and I worked at Brewery Rickoli. It was an amazing 12 months, and one that saw the Bearded One start to live his dream and really flourish. During that time I drank so many amazing beers, as Rick is a truly amazing brewer. But one stuck out, not just because it tasted good, but because it changed everything I thought I knew about hops. Rickoli’s came out with a flight of four single-hop pale ales for tasting during Colorado Craft Beer Week. It was the same base with just a different hop. The goal was to find the hop that customers enjoyed most and pick a name for the resultant beer. Of the four beers, there were two with hops that were absolutely different than anything I had ever had before: 6300, which had a distinct dill flavor, and 5256, which smelled and tasted of black currant. When I was studying in London, my drink of choice was Strongbow with black currant liquour. I love the tart, dank, only very slightly sweet taste of black currant and to find it in a hop was delightful. After trying that beer (trying it so much I drank ~2 gallons before it was gone), I started doing more research on hops and what causes all of the different flavors and aromas and how to best coax them out. That research was invaluable as I went for my Cicerone certification, and is part of the reason that I did so well.

#9

The beer: Westvleteren 12 (Westy 12)

On the list because: It lived up to expectations

The story: If you haven’t heard of Westy 12, stop reading now and go read about it. Seriously. Just go to Rate Beer or Beer Advocate or any of the other 1000 beer websites and look up Westy 12. Now, there is a lot of hype about a lot of beers that may or may not be 100% valid (I’m looking at you Pliny the Younger), but, as we all know, beer is a very subjective thing. Rarely, there is a consensus that a certain beer is pretty damned great. Westy 12 is one of those beers. Yes, it has been mythologized because of the difficulty in obtaining it (only by reservation, only at the monastery). Yes, many of those who claim to adore this beer have never even tasted it. However, for those few of us lucky enough to have supped of these suds, it is a near-religious experience. But my story of how I was able to taste it was pretty sweet as well.

Last spring, when Pliny the Younger made its yearly rounds, we thought we would stake out a spot in line at Hops & Pie to get a taste. When we arrived, four hours before tapping, there was already a line of ~10 people and it was 14 degrees out. We sat in the car for a little bit and decided that, while we really wanted to try the beer, it wasn’t worth the frostbite. To drown our sorrows at our own wussiness, we visited a couple of local breweries, including TRVE. At TRVE we met a lovely guy who works at World of Beer in Glendale (east Denver). We told him that we missed out on the Pliny tapping due to an aversion to frostbite, and he mentioned that they were tapping Younger at WOB the following week and gave us all of the details. Score! I then casually mentioned that, while I was excited to taste Younger, it was nothing like my desire to try Westy 12. His response: “well, I’ll bring one of my bottles down for you to try, then.” Wait… what!? So, that next week, I sat at the bar at WOB and had two of the highest ranked beers in the world in my hands at the same time.

While I liked Pliny the Younger, Westy 12 absolutely blew me away. It was like someone had taken my mom’s very buttery cinnamon sugar toast and turned it into a beer. It was all bread crusts and sugar and toast and perfection. Sometimes beers disappoint. Sometimes they meet your expectations. And sometimes they nuke anything you thought might be true and replace it with magic. Pure, unadulterated magic.

Pure, unadulterated bliss.

Pure, unadulterated bliss.

#10

The beer: Wet Hose IPA

On this list because: It is the first beer I ever helped homebrew

The story: The Bearded One’s boss managed to get his hands on a large amount of fresh Cascade hops, and since they couldn’t be utilized at the brewery, we decided to brew a double-IPA with them. We used a Blickmann kettle and a giant cooler-tun. It took about seven hours, all told, and was an absolute blast. I cannot wait to get our keggle system up and running (we finally got the extra kegs we needed!) and we will be homebrewing like maniacs. Now if I could just afford some nice conical fermenters. The beer will be ready in another 9 days or so, and I am in absolute bits waiting to try it.

First hop addition, Wet Hose IPA.

First hop addition, Wet Hose IPA.

There are so many more beers I want to put on this list: Dom Kolsch, Flying Dog Road Dog, Port Brewing High Tide IPA, Pisgah Breakfast Stout, Stone Sublimely Self Righteous, Yuengling, Flying Dog Horn Dog, Green Man ESB, Sweetwater IPA, Odell St Lupulin, New Belgium Le Terrior, Steamworks Steam Engine Lager, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Rogue Hazelnut Brown, Brewery Rickoli Elke’s Brown Ale, Samuel Adams Oktoberfest, Blackstone Chocolate Milk Stout, Lefthand Milk Stout, Paradox Skully #1…

Beer is more than a beverage. It is a part of a memory. Drinking a beer can bring you back to a time and place like few other things. And, being that beer is an excellent social lubricant, those memories tend to be pretty great.

What are the beers that you most remember? Is it because they bring back a memory? Because it’s your favorite beer? Because it was so rare?

Go out. Drink some beer. Make some memories.

Cheers.

weekend wanderlust august 8th.

Feeling a bit under the weather today after eating some suspicious spicy red hots (the meat, not the candy) last night, but still managed to get some housework done and I actually remembered to write today’s post!

I also want to wish one of the craziest beer geeks I know a happy birthday. The Jockey (or, in his winter form, Honest Abe) is loud, obnoxious, and knows a good beer when he sees one. He’s good people.

This is one of the (blessedly) slower summer weekends when it comes to festivals in Colorado, and without any brewery openings, I plan on doing some non-beer-related stuff. So that means you’ll need to make up for my slacking!

Trouble I am getting into this weekend

August 9th

I believe the Bearded Brewer (who has requested that we find a new name for him as this one is WAY too generic considering the industry, expect a poll at a later date) will be up camping in the High Country with friends. I have opted out of this activity for my sanity, so I will be flying solo on Saturday. As a result, I have no flippin’ clue what I will be doing. Housework? Watching TV in my pajamas? Visiting some Front Range breweries?

Clearly, I am open to suggestions.

August 10th

Fermentation Fest! This is one of our favorite festivals of the year as it combines breweries with a slew of fermented foods from sauerkraut to cheese. My favorite goody last year was sauerkraut juice (yep!) which was so fantastically good that I’m pretty sure I’m still partially pickled. Watch their video from last year and you may spot a familiar face or two…

Other things going on that sound fun as crap

Chain Reaction Brewing is having yoga and beer on Sunday morning from 10:45am-11:45am. $15 gets you the class and a pint. Now, beer and yoga is a traditional combination here in Colorado, so if you are so inclined, I highly recommend hitting them up. If only more breweries would recognize that beer drinkers don’t always want to get up by 9am on a sleep-in day, like Chain Reaction has. If you’re interested, email zack@chainreactionbrewing.com to reserve your spot.

Winter Park Beer Fest. Honestly, this was in the running for Saturday, but I would hate to go solo (it’s just not as much fun). 30 breweries, music, and you get to escape from the city heat. Unfortunately, it’s out on the asphalt (note to festival organizers: parking lot fests suck hop resin), but it still looks like a good time.

Go forth and wander!

weekend wanderlust june 27 & last weekend wrap-up

Last week I started a tradition of posting our exploits for that weekend in case there is anyone out there (like me) who can be rather indecisive about what to do with those coveted days off and/or anyone who would like to join us in our shenanigans. I also realized that maaayyybbbeee I should do a post-weekend follow-up of everything we did to give some idea of the awesomeness/lamesauce of the weekend. I will try to get this post out by Tuesday each week (yeah, right, like you believe that), but this week it’s all wrapped up into one. Partially because this week has made a valiant attempt at stealing my soul, and partially because the majority of what we did last weekend can be repeated this weekend!

The awesomeness of last weekend

Shakesbeer in Glub!

Friday night the Bearded Brewer, myself, and two of our more beer-loving and adventurous friends attended a performance of Dead Drunk by Shakesbeer at Diebolt Brewing Company. It billed itself as a mash-up of Shakespeare plays and a drinking game. What’s not to love!?

The announcement encouraged us to make reservations, which I most certainly did. To my absolute delight, this is what we found when we arrived:

Reserved D.Adams

Holy fuck, I’m a celebrity!

It was a wonderful table right up front that we bellied up to around 7pm in time to get the drinking game instructions. The instructions ranged from the simple: “when the barmaid cheerseseseses (that’s right, right?) you, you drink, dammit!” to the more geeky: “when you hear a quote from Shakespeare, you drink, dammit!” Now, my compatriots were not necessarily up on their Bard, so they were relying on me to indicate when to drink on those ones. I may or may not have faked them out one (dozen) times.

The play itself was tremendously well written, the prose weaving seamlessly with some of Shakespeare’s more well- and lesser-known quotes. The story was entertaining and just the right amount of time. Even the costumes were entertaining, with one actor (Kevin Fulton) playing multiple characters against the lead’s John Falstaff (Tessa Nelson). Fulton’s Shakespeare was particularly amusing, and Nelson’s Falstaff was in turns hilarious and tragic. They made very good usage of the brewing deck as a stage, and some basic (and old school) “tricks” to change location and character. It was very interactive, as well, almost to the point of melodrama. There was even a point where we all got to peg a character with tennis balls!

My one critique was that when my beer was stolen (yes, my beer was stolen), it was replaced by a (rather warm) wheat. Now, there are very few beers that I am simply not a fan of, and American wheat and hefeweizens fall into that category. Especially when they are warm. However, the wonderful barkeep (whose name escapes me. Please put it in the comments if you know and I will add it!) came up to me after the show and asked how I liked the beer. I told her that maybe she should trade it out for a Mariposa or a bit more robust beer who will stand up to being on the warmer side for 30-some minutes. I have to admit, I liked that. (Oh – and one of my buddies – the Jockey – stole my beer back after a few minutes, so I didn’t have to suffer for long).

I rank it as one of my top five favorite Friday nights of all time (although I do suggest not getting a double IPA for the drinking game, that is just dumb). The show goes on again tonight and Saturday with pregaming at 7pm and the show at 7:30pm. The suggested donation is $5 and it is well worth it!

Dillon Lake Beer Fest and Breckenridge

On Saturday we dragged our butts out of bed to go up to Dillon for the Lake Dillon Beer Fest. It was $30 entrance fee and included unlimited tasters from over 20 different breweries. Our friends had obtained a hotel room about a mile from the absolutely stunning in Marina Park, so we decided to ride our bikes. When I say that I am out of shape, what I mean is that if you roll me down a hill, down a hill is where I stay. In the mile between the hotel and the park, I got off my mountain bike at least five times to walk it up very gentle slopes. Granted, we were a good 2000 feet above our house, and 3500 feet above where we usually roam, but that’s really no excuse. By the time we got to the fest my lungs were ready to quit me for good and go live a life of laughter and joy with my liver. Luckily, I was able to retain all three vital organs and even felt better after the first round of beers. At first we were worried that the wind was going to whip all of the brewery tents into the lake, but the weather passed quickly, and it was soon perfect festival weather: warm, overcast, and slightly breezy. With the beer and the view and the weather, it was just about perfect.

The best part of the fest were the breweries that normally don’t make it down to Front Range festivals that were represented. Kannah Creek out of Grand Junction was there, as were the new breweries Broken Compass from Breckenridge (more on them later) and Butcherknife from Steamboat. One disappointment was the Gravity Brewing didn’t make it up. As I’ve said before, I’m a huge fan of their ESB and was looking forward to having some of their brews. This is the second beer fest where I have seen them listed, but they haven’t shown. It was a disappointment, to be sure.

Luckily, there were plenty of other breweries at which I could drink my sorrows (technically, alcohol is a solution). Broken Compass’ Pepper Pale Ale was very good, as were both the Blonde and the IPA from Butcherknife (I was particularly surprised that I enjoyed this IPA as it is made with a hop I generally don’t enjoy. However, it made me think that I just don’t enjoy the particular combinations I have had in the past. Learn something new everyday!) As always we enjoyed River Runners Pale Ale from Eddyline, the selection from Station 26 (who continue to come into their own, which is delightful), and tried the very strange Orange Cream Stout from Ska, which was the favorite of one of our friends. The beers were poured in proper tulip glasses, which was a departure from the normal plastic tasters we get at fests (and made it somewhat more interesting to get home).

 

After the fest we rode over to Pug Ryan’s for some grub and more grog. Pug Ryan’s Dead Eye Dunkel is one of my favorites of the style, so I don’t often deviate from that choice when we are there. My ribs were good (although I should have, in all honesty, gotten the steak salad which looked way better), but our friend’s prime rib seriously took the table. He ordered the 16-ounce King’s Cut, but there was no way that steak was only 16 ounces. It had to have been closer to 20. It was massive and very, very tasty. Yes, I stole most of his fat off of it. Flavor!

The ride back to the hotel was MUCH more enjoyable because (A) it was mostly downhill and (B) I was feeling very little pain by that point. The Bearded Brewer was not feeling tops when we got back to the hotel, so our two friends and I wandered down to the Dillon Dam Brewery for some drinks, as it was only 9pm. I have been to Dillon Dam many times before and I have just never been overly impressed by their beers. Their Sweet George’s Brown is decent, but beyond that, they just don’t have anything overly enticing. However, I went out on a limb and ordered their chili beer. It came with a pepperoncini in it (cute), but had absolutely no chili flavor. They also offered an “extra spicy” chili beer for $6 a 1/2 pint. There was absolutely no way I was spending six bucks for a half pint of beer that was likely not even as spicy as Billy’s Chilis from Twisted Pine (and I have been known to spend a LOT on beer). The friend who had consumed the prime rib only a couple of hours earlier proceeded to purchase short ribs with French onion ale soup, because he’s insane. The soup was tremendously good, but the ribs were tough, also, he was full.

On our wander back to the hotel room, we decided to roll down a grassy knoll hill a few times and generally make a bunch of noise and fools of ourselves. It felt great! The Bearded Brewer was still feeling crummy, but slightly sassier, when we returned, so we got to be bitched at for making so much noise until we fell asleep.

When I was growing up, we owned a share in a mountain house in Silverthorne, at the foot of Buffalo Mountain. Some of the absolutely best times of my life were spent up in Summit County. Waking up that morning, with the smell of the mountains and the crisp, clean air (that sometimes alludes us even in Evergreen), brought me right back to that happy place. We loaded up the bikes and headed over to Breckenridge for some breakfast (a very good place called the Columbine Cafe), our friend bought an obnoxious pair of green sunglasses, then we headed over to Broken Compass.

Broken Compass Brewing (#244) is located on the north end of town, a stone’s throw from the Breckenridge Distillery (which we have not yet visited).  It is a really cozy tasting room with a couple of log tables with ski lift seats, four seats at the bar, and a couple of old cafeteria tables that can be pulled out when needed (they were needed). Jason Ford, the owner and brewer, as well as his staff, were all very welcoming, which is not a given in tourist-driven Summit County. We did their whole flight, all of which were solid beers. I ended up drinking a mix of their chocolate porter and toasted coconut stout (choco nuts?) that was excellent. They have a great little brewhouse with one of the best brewery views I’ve ever seen. There’s a part of me that really likes that they saved the view for the brewers, since they are there most of the time, and certainly do the most work. There is one disconcerting thing about this brewery, however, and it’s that they have “clown storage” above the brewhouse, and that said clowns are only corralled by a little half door. Since we did not see any of these clowns (the Bearded Brewer doesn’t count) on our visit, I can only assume that they are tiny little porcelain clowns come to life, which somehow makes them way more terrifying.

Our bellies full of breakfast and beer, we headed over Hoosier Pass to avoid the post-apocalyptic hellscape that is I-70 on a Sunday. The drive up 285 is one that is just terribly pretty, so if you have the time, I highly recommend it.

The top of Hoosier Pass.

The top of Hoosier Pass.

Chain Reaction

A quick pitstop at home was all we needed before heading down to Denver to Chain Reaction Brewing Company‘s (#245) second day open. Their location is along Lipan just north of Mississippi in an area that I believe will see some significant gentrification (for better or for worse) in the next few years, and these guys have gotten in on the ground floor. What’s great is that you can hit up several breweries in a single afternoon in this area, but they aren’t as congested as, say, the RiNo district.

Chain Reaction’s large tasting room is well designed and comfortable. Inside the front doors are two leather sofas that will definitely get a dose of Dev-butt come this winter. The owners Chad and Zack are beer geeks with a dream, and are doing an excellent job of getting there. We were especially impressed with the fact they opened with 16 beers on tap (off of a 1 BBL system!) and that the majority of their beers were solid, if not downright good. I had my second IPA shocker of the weekend with their Lemon IPA hopped with Sorachi Ace hops. This is a hop that I have mostly avoided because of it’s overt astringency. However, in this single-hop iteration, it was fruity and herbal and downright bizarre. Needless to say, I got a pint. I also really liked their barley wine (another shocker). Their creme brulee stout had a good base, but was not quite as round as I would have hoped. If they brew it again, I hope they consider putting a few kegs back for a few months to allow the flavors to really come into their own. We were also delighted to run into a couple of friends we never see and be able to share some beers with them. Chain Reaction, though only a week old, is proving already a neighborhood watering hole. If they continue with the quality of beer and service they are providing, I know we’ll be back.

One last stop on Sunday was Former Future, just five minutes away from Chain Reaction, as our friends had never been there, and we had only been on opening weekend when they had only had two beers left. Former Future has some of the coolest decor of any brewery tasting room, as their bar is made of an old airplane wing and their bar chairs are reminiscent of a 60s lounge. Their beers have greatly improved since they opened, with several that were both delicious and challenging. However, the beer was on the spendy side, and the woman working behind the bar was downright unpleasant to us when we first came in, going so far as to roll her eyes at me when I didn’t immediately know I could raise or lower my chair at will. Of course, once we realized that, we made sure to raise them all the way up so our knees were knocking on the lip of the bar. Take that! She did come back down after we had completed our tasters and ask what we liked, but it didn’t really make up for her initial rudeness. We will probably return to Former Future just to try some more of their interesting beers, but they won’t make the top of our list.

Holy crap, that was a lot of stuff jammed into just one weekend! And that wasn’t even all of it… We also had a lot of fun this week, the highlight being Beer College with Steamworks Brewing at Historians Ale House. We love the guys at Steamworks and it was great to see them on the Front Range and hear some of the history and tech behind some of our favorite beers. But more on that some other time.

Now, what we are doing this weekend! I’ll (probably unsuccessfully try to) keep this short.

Trouble I am getting into this weekend

Friday, June 27th

Nothing. It is lovely and rainy and I took the day off and I’m going to sit in my PJs all day and write and do dishes and laundry and drink beer. Because I want to.

Saturday, June 28th

Beryl’s Beer is opening in RiNo, so we may go down there, which would also give us an excuse to visit some other breweries we haven’t been to in a while. Or we may make the long-delayed jaunt down to the Springs to visit the half dozen breweries we have never been to in that town. However, the Colorado Brewer’s Festival is going on in Fort Collins, so many brewers may be up there. And is a reason we won’t be going to Fort Collins this weekend.

Sunday, June 29th

Hops & Harley! I cannot express how much I am looking forward to this event. This annual event is put on by City Star Brewing in Berthoud and is a benefit for National Mill Dog Rescue. Harley is a little dog with a big dream: to end puppy mills. He was a stud dog in a puppy mill until being rescued by NMDR three years ago. Read his entire story on his Facebook page, it’s worth it. I’m excited about this event because it raises money for an organization that I wholeheartedly believe is important, it involves a brewery I adore, and I get to meet Harley!!! Also, dogs! If you are free on Sunday from 11am-5pm, please PLEASE consider joining us in supporting the important work NMDR does, and have some beers while you do it!

Other things going on that sound fun as crap

I mentioned the Colorado Brewer’s Festival above. This is not one of my favorite fests since it’s usually way too hot, it’s pay-by-the-taster (which is a pain), and they allow munchkins to be darting all over the place and generally being a nuisance. However, a lot of people seem to like it, so if it sounds like your kind of fun, then get your rear up there! It’s nice that they list the actual beers that will be poured, as well, so you’re not entirely flying blind.

4 Noses in Broomfield reportedly has a nitro porter on right now that kicks some serious ass. Considering how good their other beers are, I would say that this is a safe bet for a quick roll outside of the city.

Red White and Brews is going on up in Avon this weekend for those of you in the Central Mountains and Western Slope. Looks like a nice line-up of beer and wine they’ll be serving alongside live music.

For other awesome stuff going on, get ye to Fermentedly Challenged.

weekend wanderlust june 20th

It’s Friday, I have my Highland hoodie on, and it is time to party! Well, it’s technically 2 1/2 hours from time to party, but it’s so close I can taste it…

But first, some business. No matter how hard I try, I seem to be unable to post on a regular basis. Excuses! Excuses everywhere! But, to try and slay my laziness dragon (like a luck dragon, only even MORE stoned acting), I’m going to give this a shot, since it won’t be very time intensive and will give those who would like to join in some fun beer activities a chance to join us!

Welcome to my new weekly post “weekend wanderlust.” I will be posting events we are attending, breweries/taprooms we are going to be visiting, and other things that look cool that we may not have the money time to indulge in. This is by no means a replacement of the comprehensive list put together by the ever astonishing Dave over at Fermentedly Challenged, but more of a list of what we personally are doing and/or think look like fun.

So, I suppose I should stop with the chatter and get down to it.

Trouble I am getting into this weekend

Friday June 20th:

Diebolt Brewing is hosting a play in their brewhouse tonight, tomorrow, and next weekend at 7pm titled “Dead Drunk” by Shakesbeer. It is being billed as a theatrical event wrapped up with a drinking game. Little fun fact about me: I was a Theatre major in college, so I have a bit of a soft spot for the ol’ Bard and any parody of his works. That it includes a drinking game (and specifically invites you to pregame the show) is pretty freaking rad. I love when breweries step outside of the keg with quirky, weird, fun events like this. I will be attending tonight with the Bearded Brewer and three of our friends, so it should be a right rowdy time.

Saturday June 21st:

We live in the foothills, but tend to avoid going up I-70 much past Idaho Springs if we can at all help it because of yuppies and traffic. However, this weekend is the Lake Dillon Beer Festival, and as our friends snagged a hotel room up there, we figured that we would invite ourselves along. The fest features 25 breweries (most you’d expect, with some wildcards thrown in there) as well as live music. Now, I am not a huge fan of concerts. They are loud, crowded, and the beer is pricey a (usually) sucks. Live music at outdoor beer fests, however, is almost a requirement. It adds such a great atmosphere, gives you something to wander over to when you need a break, and makes you feel like you’re getting a seriously good deal on your ticket. The Lake Dillon Beer Fest is only $30 for entrance, which isn’t bad at all, especially since it runs from 1-5pm with music continuing until 9pm. There is also an after party at Pug Ryan’s, home of my favorite dunkel.

Sunday June 22nd:

We are a bit torn on what to do this day. I will be waking up with a wicked hangover and the Bearded Brewer will be way too perky for the day after a beer fest, so we will have to weigh our options carefully. There is the Blue Ribbon Bacon Fest at Keystone which sounds super fun, but is also a wee (wee wee) spendy. Chain Reaction Brewing  opens on Saturday, and I would love to make the journey down The Hill to check them out since (A) visiting new breweries is super fun, (B) they are right by one of our best friend’s houses, and (C) another brewery to add to the list! Or we could do some housework (that is not going to happen). The Front Range is our oyster (stout)!

Other things going on that sound fun as crap

Rails & Ales (no, not that one) is going on in Alamosa. A lot of great breweries are going to be there, and we have heard that it is one of a small handful of fests not to be missed. We are, of course, missing it. LGT the 2015 site, as 2014 is sold out.

As I mentioned above, Chain Reaction Brewing opens on Saturday. They will have all 16 taps filled for their opening, including a special edition Creme Brulee Imperial Stout. I swear to geebus that if there isn’t some left on Sunday, I am just going to… to… drink something else, but still, I really want some. They will also have their IPA, pale ale, orange cream ale, pink peppercorn saison, red ale, Belgian rye stout, lemon IPA, rye IPA, American pale wheat, blonde ale, black IPA with anise and orange peel, barleywine, oatmeal brown ale, English mild, amber ale, and cilantro serrano lime wheat. Now, while I may never be able to forgive them for polluting a chili beer with cilantro, the soapiest of all herbs, the rest of their lineup sounds wonderful. Oh – and this place is running on just a one BBL system, so suck it bigger breweries who claim they “can’t” open with more than four beers on tap! (I jest… I jest…)

It’s not happening this weekend, but Salida Brewer’s Rendezvous, our favorite Colorado beer fest is selling tickets prior to the event for the first time ever! General tickets are $35 and VIP are $65. Since VIP comes with a shirt and a bunch of other perks, I would recommend grabbing that one. Bonus: I don’t have to sit in that hot-ass line for three hours for tickets! Let’s go fishin!!!!!! Grab your tickets while you can and we’ll see you there on July 12th!

That’s what we are up to this weekend (more or less). What kind of debauchery are you indulging in?

Footnote: Google's spellcheck wanted me to change the word Brulee to Bruegel. That, far and away, is the greatest spellcheck ever.