For the past two years we’ve made the 6 hour trip to Durango for the Ska Brewing Anniversary Party each September. But while Ska Brewing is our destination, it’s only one stop in our journey. We make the most of this road trip by visiting our favorite places along the route, which always includes a stop to the fun and lovely town of Pagosa Springs.
Pagosa Springs is a beautiful, bustling tourist town located just 35 miles north of the New Mexico border in Archuleta County, Colorado. It’s actually the only incorporated municipality in the county, surrounded by the 3 million acre San Juan National Forest, as well as the Southern Ute Indian land. Located on a high desert plateau 7000 feet above sea level, Pagosa Springs offers incredible views of the Rocky Mountains and lots of fun attractions. The town got its name from Pah gosah, the Ute Indian word for “healing waters,” because Pagosa Springs is home to the worlds deepest geothermal hot spring, and the mineral-rich water here is said to be therapeutic. You can soak in any one of three hot spring pools in town year-round, and depending on the season you can also partake in their great hiking, fishing, rafting, golfing, hunting or skiing. Best of all when you’re done being outdoorsy you can head to one of three local breweries, which is where we were headed during our recent trip through Pagosa Springs.
Our first brewery stop was at Riff Raff Brewing Company. Riff Raff Brewing opened in 2013 in downtown Pagosa Springs. Their brewery can be found in what appears to have once been a Victorian home, which gave the place a real comfortable, homey feel. We settled into their sunny “front yard” at a small table in the shade of a huge pine tree. It was warm and welcoming atmosphere, as was the service we got from their staff. There was quite a large beer selection, several year-round favorites, a few seasonal brews, and some guest taps and wines. Being that this was our first stop of many, we limited ourselves to a just a few samples, but still found some really stand-out beers. The Hopgoblin IPA was delicious, with a wonderful citrus aroma and delicious grapefruit finish. Their seasonal Spruce Juice was amazing if you like a little pine in your brew, which I do! Finally, we both really loved the Hazelnut Porter, for its nutty, creamy flavor and soft mouthfeel. As good as the beers were, the food looked just as tasty. We didn’t arrive hungry but we were tempted by the food menu, which offered a variety of tasty treats and great happy hour deals. Their “Nacho Bidness” looked like something we definitely need to check out, so next time we’ll come hungry.
Riff Raff Brewing Co
Riff Raff Brewing Co
Riff Raff Brewing Co
Next stop was at Pagosa Brewing Co. Pagosa Brewing has been around 7-plus years, and we’re no stranger to their award-winning beers. Last year we made our one and only Pagosa stop here and fell in love with their amazing (and ever-changing) lineup of brews. Pagosa Brewing Head Brewer Tony Simmons is a professional beer judge and talented brewer, and Pagosa has won over 70 awards for their beers as evident by the awards lining the walls of their quaint tasting room. Here Jeff had a pint of the Powder Day IPA, a piney, bready, refreshing IPA. I couldn’t decide on a pint so I had tasters of three very different, eclectic brews. First was the Grog, a rum barrel-aged brown was a little sweet, slightly spicy, and had just the right amount of rum and oak flavor to make it interesting without being overpowering. Next was the ¡Holy Molé!, a Mayan-influenced brown that was wonderfully spiced, giving it a nice warm finish. Finally, I couldn’t leave without a sample of the Peachy Peach, a wheat infused with the aroma and flavor of juicy, delicious peaches. Yes, it was an odd assortment, but they were all incredible beers and I only regret I didn’t have time to try more.
Pagosa Brewing Co
Pagosa Brewing Co
Pagosa Brewing Co
Pagosa Brewing Co
Pagosa Brewing Co
During our 2013 visit to Pagosa Brewing Company there was an amazing outdoor beer garden patio, complete with hop-covered trellises and a stage for a live band. This year things looked quite a bit different. They relocated the outdoor seating area and music stage pp front, and while several hop plants remained the had removed the trellises that held them last year. These changes were made for good reason: they’re clearing space in preparation for some future expansion. It’s a long overdue change for popular brewery, which has ample outdoor seating but only a tiny indoor tasting room. Finding a seat inside isn’t easy, especially during peak times. In addition to the expansion, they’ll be moving their kitchen in the building and out of the airstream trailer where it resides today. Our bartender assured us that despite all the changes, Pagosa Brewing will still have the same incredible lineup of great beers and fresh food, and we have no doubt they’ll only be better after expanding their space. It’s all very exciting and we can’t wait to visit again once the changes are complete.
Finally, our last stop in Pagosa Springs was at Wolfe Brewing Company. Wolfe is the newest brewery on the scene in Pagosa Springs after opening earlier this year. We actually weren’t even aware they were open until we drove by – so it was a happy (hoppy) accident that we stumbled across them. Wolfe Brewing has a much smaller beer lineup than the other two breweries, but they were still packed. They seem to have found their niche by being a bar that brews beer – not just a brewery. They’re just a bit divey, but in a good way! It’s the kind of place where peanut shells are strewn across the floor, regulars line up to play pool, and people show up ready to let loose and have a good time. The decor is a random mixture of beer memorabilia, deer heads and western artifacts, but somehow it all works. We had two of their beers, the Yippie-Ki-Yay IPA and Taxi Dog Amber Ale, along with some garlic knots and pizza for dinner. Both of the beers were decent, unfiltered and pretty true to style. The Amber was caramely and malty, while the English style IPA was well malted but still resiny and bitter. The food was also good, though fairly unremarkable. While they didn’t quite offer the same food or beer variety as the other two local breweries, the atmosphere at Wolfe Brewing was fun, and best of all, they offered us these amazing sunset views:
Overall, all three breweries of Pagosa Springs are doing good things, and they’re all great in their own ways. While we still prefer Pagosa Brewing for their amazing and always incredible beer selection, we were really impressed by the beers at Riff Raff Brewing, and we look forward to the chance to visit Wolfe Brewing again and party on their patio. Maybe next summer we’ll stick around Pagosa Springs longer, so we can take in some outdoor activities, soak in their therapeutic hot springs, and enjoy more of their breweries. Even if we just end up passing through again, we’ll be sure to stop for a beer or two.
Last weekend we took a road trip to Durango for Ska Brewing’s annual Anniversary Party and Brewers Invitational. You can read about it here. During our road trip we traveled through several great cities – big and small – a few of which had breweries. It seemed rude not to stop, so we did whenever we could. Today we want to tell you about our first stop in Alamosa to visit San Luis Valley Brewing Company.
Alamosa is a cute town in south-central Colorado, located in the San Luis Valley. The city was established in 1878 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, and quickly grew to be an important rail center. Nowadays plenty of tourist come to Alamosa to visit the nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, explore the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, or just enjoy the beauty and history of this town nestled along the Rio Grande River. For folks staying in Alamosa there is no shortage of breathtaking scenery or outdoor excursions. You can even still enjoy the scenery by train, by taking a ride on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad to view landscapes and mountain views that are inaccessible by car.
While we didn’t have time to fully explore all that Alamosa has to offer, we made time to stop at San Luis Valley Brewing Company. Open since March 2006, San Luis Valley Brewing is a full service brew pub. Located in a building that used to house a bank, San Luis Valley Brewing keeps the history of their location alive by featuring the original bank vault door behind the bar, where you can see all the gears and mechanisms. It’s a great focal piece for the bar, beautiful in an industrial, steampunky sort of way.
San Luis Valley Brewing had a nice selection of year-round beers, seasonal specials and guest taps. We started with two of their year-round offerings: the Grande River IPA and the Valle Caliente. The Grande River was a really decent IPA, with notes of grapefruit and pine it was really refreshing – a good, typical IPA. The Valle Caliente is a Mexican-style lager infused with hatch green chili. It has a big chili flavor without being too hot, which was really awesome. If you like chili beers, this one is a real winner. Finally, we finished with a summer seasonal, the Royal Gorge Route Rogue. This beer is somewhere on the spectrum between a red and an IPA, with a much more maltier base than the IPA. It was a decent beer, though we both tended to prefer the Grande River IPA as this one seemed much more malty and sweet in comparison.
With our beers we also had some lunch. It was a tough decision since their menu had some great options. San Luis Valley Brewing takes their food as seriously as they do their beer, offering some delicious sounding steaks, salads, sandwiches and appetizers. We decided on sharing the Sausage Sampler – because what goes better with beer than sausage? Answer: nothing; sausage was made to pair with beer! Given a choice of 3 different locally made, all natural sausages we selected the Pork Bavarian, Chili n’ Chive Chicken, and Andouille Cajun Pork sausages. Served with pita bread, sauerkraut, mustard and caramelized onions, these sausages were pretty fantastic. All were flavorful, but the Bavarian was our favorite. It seemed to pair best with the sauerkraut, stone ground mustard and beers.
There were some very intriguing businesses around San Luis Valley Brewing Company. First, the owners of San Luis Valley Brewing have recently opened ROAST Craft Coffee and Libations in a space directly adjacent to the brew pub. Here you can get a coffee made from fresh beans roasted on site. If you need something sweet with your coffee there is a Nestle Tollhouse cookie and ice cream shop just across the street. There is also a bar across the road called the Purple Pig Pub that we just have to visit next time. Because how do you pass up a place called the Purple Pig Pub? Answer: You don’t, at least not easily. We had to pass it up, but it was really, really hard. We got a Tollhouse cookie instead to ease the pain.
We really enjoyed our short visit to Alamosa and would love to return when we can do more exploring. San Luis Valley Brewing was cozy and friendly, and served some very good beers and tasty food. We’ll be back next time we’re in the neighborhood. If you’re in Alamosa we hope you check them out and let us know what you think.
P.S.: For those of you who may notice such things, we have a few less photos than normal for this post. We actually snapped a ton of pictures only to learn after we left that there wasn’t a memory card in our camera. DOH! To provide full disclosure we wanted to note that the exterior photo of San Luis Brewing Company, above, was taken during a previous stop in Alamosa during the summer of 2013. Had this photo been taken now, you would have seen the new ROAST coffee shop. The exterior picture of the Purple Pig Pub was also taken in 2013. All other photos are from our current visit. Thank goodness we always take some backups on the iPhone!
This past Saturday Ska Brewing Company celebrated another year being badass with their 19th Anniversary Party and Brewers Invitational at their headquarters in Durango, Colorado. We love this excuse for a road trip every summer, and this party seemed like the perfect reason to hit the road. Here’s a recap of this year’s shindig, or at least what we can remember of it…
The Ska Anniversary Party and Brewers Invitational takes over the Ska World Headquarters, inside and out. Upon arrival we were given a commemorative pint glass (no sissy sample glasses here) and then we were invited to wander around the property where there are 30+ breweries waiting to give you some beer. Many of the breweries were from Colorado, of course, including greats such as Avery, Odell, Oskar Blues, Breckenridge, Great Divide and many more. There were also plenty of breweries representing the nearby southwest states, such as La Cumbre Brewing, Three Rivers Brewing, Marble Brewery and Santa Fe Brewing from New Mexico and Huss Brewing Company from Arizona. Also in attendance were Stone Brewing, Firestone Walker, and Boulevard Brewing. Apparently Ska Brewing has made a lot of friends over their 19 years, and they all make great beer.
Ska Brewing Company made two special beers for the event: The Hi-Hop Ska Rye IPA was made to commemorate the Skatalites 50th anniversary. This IPA was brewed to compliment the diversity of the season, with tropical notes from the hops and a warming spice from the rye. It was a big favorite, and we had several samples just to make sure. The second special Ska beer was a Belgian sour called Cru d’Etat that was aged for two years in oak foeders. This beer was caramely sweet with just the right amount of tartness, ending with a big and boozy oak finish. With such strong beers it’s was good that we finally got to sample Ska’s new Rudie Session IPA. At only 4.5%, this IPA has a nice fruity and fresh hop aroma with a pine finish. It’s a nice session IPA, and a great addition to Ska’s year-round line up.
There were plenty of great beers from other breweries, and while there were far too many to name we did try a few new (or new to us) beers that really stood out. One was the Oskar Blues WorldBrew3, a beer commissioned by DigitalGlobe, a Longmont-based satellite imagery company, to commemorate the launch of their WorldView satellite. This beer was a very tasty, very orangey Hefeweizen that was wonderful on such a warm sunny day. Steamworks Brewing had a spicy ginger beer called Ginger Ninja that was deliciously different, as was the tart Solara Method Sour from Three Rivers Brewery. Suffice it to say, there were a lot of great beers to choose from in nearly every style. Best of all, if you got tired of wandering around for beers outside, you could get some shade (and more beer) from inside the Ska Brewing Company tasting room. There was no lack of great beers inside or out.
When you’re having great beer, you want to pair it with good food. Fortunately Ska’s Container Restaurant was serving up a menu of delicious pizza and BBQ, but we got a tasty burrito from Zia Taqueria to pair with our beer. Okay we had two burritos. FINE, we had three…but not all at once, and we split that last one. In our defense they were delicious! If you’re judging us for three burritos, then we probably shouldn’t tell you how many Rude Boy Cookies we had. Rude Boy Cookies, a New Mexico company that’s only been open 5 weeks, was a great idea. Cookies + Beer? Hell yeah! Plus these cookies were delicious. We are seriously considering a road trip to Albuquerque for more Rude Boy Cookies, and to check out their milk “on tap.” If you’re ever in Albuquerque check them out and support this delicious business. Bring us back a snickerdoodle.
This year’s Ska party was not our first. Last year we attended the 18th Anniversary party, which was just as fun as this year. Last year we also met Chris, who works for Ska and was awesome enough to take us on an impromptu tour of the brewery at the end of the night. Seriously it was one of the best tours we’d ever had, and that’s not just the beer talking. Chris showed us all around the place and answered our endless questions, when he totally could have just been enjoying the after-party. We were super appreciative, and thrilled to run into Chris again this year! Once again he took us behind the scenes at the brewery, this time to show us how much had changed since our last tour. To give you an idea of the success of Ska Brewing, this was their canning line last year:
This summer Ska upgraded to a whole new high-tech canning line, which is allowing Ska to increase their capacity to meet the demand for their great beers. Not only will this mean that Colorado beer lovers will find more varieties of Ska in our local stores, but it means that for the first time in five years Ska Brewing has been able to expand to a new market. As of this summer, craft beer lovers in Southern California can finally get their hands on this great Ska Brewing beer, all thanks to this sweet new canning line. Now that’s technology we can get behind.
Chris shows us the new Ska Brewing canning line
Ska’s new canning line
Ska’s new high-tech canning line
After showing off the brewery Chris took us up to the catwalk, putting us above the crowd and giving us a great view of the party happening below. Chris is totally awesome. We hope he works at Ska forever and that we run into him every year. It’s great when you meet someone who loves their job so much that they’re excited to show you around when they totally don’t have to. Craft beer people are the best.
Last but not least, Ska Brewing once again lived up to their name with an amazing line up of ska music for this party. The Rebel Set started the party off right with some hard-rocking ska punk music. The Pietasters brought more of the traditional ska sound, which had the crowd skanking in no time. Finally, The Skatalites were awesome, with a reggae-ska vibe that was perfectly suited for dancing beneath the setting sun and well into the evening.
Enjoying the Skatalites
Next year, Ska Brewing turns 20. We have no idea what they have in store for that milestone anniversary. We can dream that it will somehow involve our favorite ska-core band, but who knows. There are lots a great music out there, just like there is a lot of great beer. I’m sure whomever and whatever Ska Brewing brings to their 20th, it will be great. Whatever they do, we know these things for certain: It will be a kick ass party, and we wouldn’t miss it for the world.
It’s September! The air is starting to cool, football is back on TV, and they’re already stocking the shelves with Halloween candy. If you look closely, you can even see a preview of what’s to come in our trees. The autumn maple in our front yard already has a few leaves starting to turn red. It’s true, summer is winding down and fall will soon be upon us. But never fear, September is a great time of year for beer drinkers. In fact, the fall seasonal beers are already hitting the shelves. MMM.. pumpkin beer! It’s just one of the many things to love about fall.
At this very moment we are in route to one of our favorite late summer shindigs: the Ska Brewing Company’s 19th Anniversary Party and Brewers Invitational. This party has everything: live music from three ska bands, awesome food from several vendors, and best of all, unlimited beers from Ska and about 30 of their closest brewery friends. This party is epic and should not be missed. Unfortunately unless you have a ticket, it’s SOLD OUT. Sorry.
Now that we’ve probably bummed you out, let us cheer you up. Below we are highlighting 5 great beer events happening this month that you can still attend for some great beer-filled fun:
Tour de Fat Denver: Join New Belgium for bikes, beer, and bemusement as they roll through Denver’s City Park with their Tour de Fat! Tour de Fat is New Belgium Brewing’s traveling celebration of all things bicycle. It opens with a costumed bike parade through the city, followed by a festival that includes a 1,000 person dance contest, the winner of which receives a New Belgium cruiser bike! Go for the bicycles and stay for the beer, food and music. For full details visit the Tour de Fat website.
Lafayette Brew Fest: Do like the idea of a beer fest, but you’re a cheap skate that hates to cough up the high up front cost to get in? Then check out the Lafayette Brew Fest on Saturday 9/13/2014, where you can explore craft beers one pour at a time with no entrance fee! There will be craft, business, food and beer booths for you to explore, and you’ll pay per pour: $2 for a 4-oz pour of beer or $6 for an 8-oz glass of wine, if vino is more of your thing. If you purchase tickets in advance you can receive extra pours or other prizes. Click through for the Lafayette Brew Fest website for more details
The 20th Annual Breckenridge Oktoberfest takes place the weekend of 9/14-9/16. This is when Munich meets Breck with a street party on Main Street that includes traditional German costumes, food, oompah and polka bands, and of course, beer! For full details on hours, events, and the VIP experience visit the GoBreck website.
Denver Oktoberfest is so big that it spans two weekends: 9/19-9/21 and again 9/26-9/28. Dust off your lederhosen and chicken hat for this party, which attracts over 350,000 people a year and has been called “The Best Oktoberfest” in the U.S. by Maxim Magazine and USA Today. There will be music, dancing, food, vendors, and plenty of beer! For the schedule or to pre-purchase your stein, click to visit the Denver Oktoberfest website.
Fresh Hop Festival: On Saturday 9/27 the brewtastic folks at Lovibond (Collaboration Fest, Sesh Fest) will be taking over Falling Rock Tap House to showcase fresh hopped beers created from great breweries across the country. The majority of the beers will come from the Colorado area, but some out-of-state brewers will be there with their wet-hopped creations as well. Cost for this event is $40, which includes unlimited tastings, a commemorative glass, snacks and more. Click here for details, or to purchase tickets.
We hope these ideas of what’s happening this month inspire you to go have some fun and some great beers. For even more event ideas for this month and beyond, check out our Colorado Beer Happenings calendar. Then get out there and have some fun, because all those beers aren’t going to regret themselves…
Saturday started bright and early, with coffee instead of beer. We had a full agenda on Saturday including some great sessions about blogging, photography, and ethics. We learned a ton, but I’m sure that’s not what you want to hear about. You probably want to know about the booze-filled events, right? Well here you go:
The first beers of the day were at Yardhouse, where we had a wonderful lunch. Yardhouse rolled out the red carpet and showered us with incredible food, free swag, a trip in the (freezing cold) keg room, and of course lots of beer. We had unlimited samples of their house brews, all delicious beers made in partnership with Uinta Brewing Company. We also got coupons to use for their full beer selection and we splurged on varieties we couldn’t get at home – like the Allagash Tripel and White, and the Iron Fist Velvet Glove. In all honesty there was hardly enough time to try all the great beers we wanted, but we put forth a mighty effort.
View from the bus, pulling up to Yardhouse
Tasty Yardhouse treats!
Great food and beer from Yardhouse
Tour of the keg room (BRRR!)
Inside the keg room at Yardhouse
Beer bloggers taking over the bar at Yardhouse
One of many, many beers!
After lunch the agenda started with our keynote speech by Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman. Ken Grossman was awesome, and told us tales that ranged from the humble beginning of Sierra Nevada to the crazy shenanigans encountered during the Beer Camp Across America tour. He was great, and we all listened and snapped pictures like he was a rock star, because in our world, he really is. After the keynote we had a session on social media – and then it was time for the event we’d all be anxiously awaiting: live beer blogging.
Live beer blogging was an event that we were anxiously awaiting since we arrived. Over the course of an hour we had 11 beers and 1 beer bread vendor come around to our table for exactly 5 minutes. During their quick visit they told us about their sample while we attempted to use social media to share our experience with the world via our blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. It was bananas! Jeff and I could barely keep up with the drinking, much less trying to talk to the brewer and send our insights into the interwebs. And we use the term insights very, very loosely. We got a few random messages out, but so many other bloggers did much better recaps (like this great one from NOLA Beer Blog) so we will spare you ours. Suffice it to say it was a fun, crazy, beer-filled blur, and we learned a lot about how to do it better next time. The entire lineup of beers were excellent. Some of the more unique beers we enjoyed: An incredible Mexican Chocolate called Xocobeza from Stone Brewing, a delicious Marionberry Braggot from Rogue, and the Deliverance thanks to Lost Abbey. We even got to try Goose Island’s Bourbon County Coffee Stout both chilled and room temperature. We did a horrible job taking legible notes, but they were all unique and delicious.
When the dust settled, our favorite beer during live blogging was the Samuel Adams Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru. Sam Adams debuted KMF Grand Cru at the Beer Bloggers Conference, and we are so thankful they did. This a small batch beer has been barrel aged 2 years, making it perfectly tart, with just a touch of sweetness and funk in all the right places. It was amazing. Coloradans’ mark your calendars, because KMF Grand Cru will be coming to Denver on a tasting tour the week of September 29th. You must seek it out.
The other amazing treat during love blogging was the Boardwalk Food Company beer bread. It was such a wonderful idea to give us a tasty treat in the middle of all the beer. The rosemary sea salt bread and lemon poppy-seed were table favorites, but honestly they were all delicious. We can say that with authority because we tried them all, and would have polished off the whole tray if we could have just distracted the Boardwalk Food team. These Boardwalk Food Company bread mixes can be purchased online and made at home with your own beer, so you can buy some and bake them up at home. Then you can scarf them down like we did, not even remembering to take a photo until all that was left were these pretty paper reminders of the tasty bread samples.
Immediately after live blogging we were on the bus, heading to Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens. This Liberty Station location of Stone is massive, inside and out. It’s impressive in size and beauty, and it’s really a must-stop place if you’re ever in the area. Here we hung out in a VIP area in the garden where we could choose from any beer at the bar, as well as some special beers being poured just for us. I remember the first beer we tasted, the Call It What You Want Hefeweizen that was cask conditioned with pineapple and coconut. It was wonderful, and we got to chat up the brewer Kris Ketchum about the beer and how amazing it must be to work at Stone. Kris, and all the Stone staff, were incredibly friendly. Unfortunately from that point on Jeff and I both sort of stopped taking notes, and just enjoyed the experience. It was a beautiful day, we were surrounded by new friends, we nibbled on great food, and we just didn’t even worry about blogging. I guess that’s unfortunate since the whole point of this trip was improving our blog, but sometimes I think it’s more important to just take in the experience. Well done Stone, you made us stop paying attention and just enjoy ourselves. I’d say that’s a huge compliment.
Kris Ketcham of Stone
Enjoying Stone Brewing Bistro & Gardens
On the party bus to Stone!
After our time at Stone came to an end we were back to the hotel, but the drinking was far from over. There was a beer social where we tasted even more rare beers, such as the Goose Island Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout and Firestone Walker Parabola. Somehow we even ended up with a Molson in the mix, ha! To inspire us to use social media we also had a wall of tweets that became especially entertaining the longer the night wore on. It was a lot of fun mixing with our fellow bloggers and sharing even more incredible beers.
Finally, after the beer social we had one more big bash to end the night: the bottle share. We’d each brought beer from home to share with our fellow bloggers, and given the incredible variety and uniqueness of the offerings made this one of the coolest parts of the entire conference. We tried beers from everywhere, some incredibly rare – and some just rare to us. It was great fun! We were way past note taking at this point, but here’s a slide show of some of the impressive offerings we had to choose from:
Because of poor planning on our part, we were heading out of San Diego early Sunday morning, so Saturday night’s bottle share was our last event of BBC14. We may have only missed a few sessions on Sunday, but they were ones we really hated to miss, like the blogger reports and cooperative blogging panel. We also missed out on some Sunday fun with our new friends who stuck around to explore San Diego. We won’t make that newbie mistake again.
Overall this conference was more fun and informative than I’d ever expected. Not only did we learn a ton, but we made some new friendships that we hope continue way after these blog posts are all finished. Next year the 2015 Beer Bloggers Conference will be in Asheville, North Carolina and we will be there for certain.
We would be remiss if we didn’t thank all our fellow bloggers for being so helpful and nice. Huge thanks also go to the sponsors for being so generous and helpful, and to Zephyr Adventures for putting this whole shindig together. We’ll see you in Asheville for #BBC15!
Last post we told you about the fun and adventures we had just getting to the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference (BBC14) site, before any real business took place. Today we want to tell you about the highlights of our first day of the conference. Spoiler alert: we had more beer.
We arrived to our San Diego hotel in the wee morning hours on Friday, so it was fortunate that the conference didn’t kick off until noon. By that time we’d recovered from our escapades of the night before and were ready to start again. Good thing too, because the Reyes Beverage Group sponsored lunch and provided several more beers. Brewers from Belching Beaver Brewery, New English Brewing, and Green Flash were in attendance to talk about their brews, and there were additional beers from Ballast Point, Coronado Brewing, Mike Hess Brewing and probably more we forgot to write down because our hands were too busy holding drinks. My favorite was the Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout, which was the best combo of milky chocolate and peanut butter that I’d ever experienced in a glass! I also loved the Zunbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout from New English Brewing. Clearly I was feeling love for all the stouts. Jeff’s top picks were decidedly hoppier: the Green Flash Hop Odyssey White IPA and the Hess Brewing Solis IPA. The food and the beers were all top-notch.
Delicious beer options during BBC14 lunch
Peanut Butter Milk Stout from Belching Beaver. YUM.
Brewers from Belching Beaver, New English and Green Flash – showing off the traditional brewer facial hair options.
Mike Hess Solis IPA – delish!
Lunch was followed by a trade show with fun vendors, a little HopVapin’ courtesy of Lagunitas, and even more beers (Stone, Firestone Walker and Goose Island, just to name a few.) After the trade show the conference introduction was given by Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director from the Brewers Association. Julia was wonderful, speaking about the beer industry in general an also specifically to us, the beer blogger community. She was incredibly passionate and inspiring. After Julia there were a few more great panels, but I won’t bore our readers with the details because if you’re not a blogger you probably don’t care, and if you are a blogger you should probably come to BBC15 to experience it for yourself. Instead, I’m going to skip directly to our evening, beginning with an excursion to Karl Strauss Brewing Company.
HopVapin with Lagunitas
Jeff sniffin’ some hop vapors
If you aren’t from the west coast, it’s possible you don’t know about Karl Strauss Brewing Company. I know we knew nothing about them before this trip, however co-founder Chris Cramer shared a bit of a history lesson with us during our visit. We learned that Karl Strauss, the man, was a German brewer who migrated to the U.S. in 1939. He arrived in Milwaukee and was quickly hired by Pabst Brewing Company. He started in bottling, but it didn’t take long for Karl to move up through the ranks until he was the Master Brewer. During his 44 years at Pabst he helped reformulate their beer, and is at least partially responsible for creating Pabst Blue Ribbon.
College buddies Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner formed Karl Strauss Brewing Company in 1988. Chris got the idea while traveling Australia, where he happened into a small microbrewery and had “the best beer of my life.” Chris had the good fortune of being related to Karl Strauss, and naturally asked for his help in this endeavor. Karl obliged, helping to create their beer recipes and becoming the spokesperson for the aptly named new brewery. When Karl Strauss Brewing opened, after an enormous amount of red tape, they became the first new brewery in San Diego in 50 years.
It was early on a beautiful San Diego evening when we arrived at Karl Strauss Brewing Company. They whisked us down to their absolutely beautiful outdoor patio, where cold beer and freshly made street tacos were waiting. There we could help ourselves to pours from kegs of the more popular Karl Strauss brews, and my favorite quickly became the Red Trolley Ale. Apparently I’m not the only one, as Red Trolley has earned 18 combined GABF and World Beer Cup medals. While Jeff enjoyed it too, he preferred the Big Barrel Double IPA since he prefers his beers big and bitter. We shared a full sampler of beers with our pals Adam and Emily from Fresh Pints! There was only one beer we didn’t love, but that was a Helles, a style that isn’t really one of our favorites. Overall I’d say their beers are solid and great representation of the styles.
Great beers on tap for us bloggers
Those tacos! Oh, those tacos!
Chris Cramer with Karl Strauss Brewing
Karl Strauss taster flight
Once we had filled up on Karl Strauss beers, food and merchandise it was back to the hotel for an evening party thrown by Lagunitas Brewing Company. And lets make this very clear: Lagunitas knows how to party! It was a party for all the senses: there were delicious beers to taste, fun CouchTrippin’ videos to see, great music to hear, and the HopVapin’ Station was back for more delicious whiffs of hop vapors. Still, the best hops of the night were the hops in Lagunitas’ beers. They had all our favorites – Daytime, Pils, Lagunita Sucks – but also some great rare varieties. The Mandaraison was a delicious ale fermented with Belian wit yeast and spiced with citrus fruits, which was great. The best beer of the night was the Sonoma Farmhouse Sour, an incredible saison that fermented with Brettanomyces and spice. It was unbelievable, and while there were probably many other rarities in the room, we pretty much kept our glasses filled with the Sonoma Farmhouse Sour.
The man pouring the rare stuff. AKA our best friend.
The best rare Lagunitas beers!
It was at the Lagunitas party that we also got the big scoop on their next new release: the Lagunitas Born Yesterday Pale Ale. This will be a wet hopped, or fresh hopped ale, using Willamette, Citra and Mosaic hops. Given the super-fresh nature of this beer I’m guessing we won’t see it in Colorado, but you never know. One can dream…
With day one of the official conference behind us, it was off to get some much-needed rest for our heads and our livers. We still had one more day to go, which we’ll sum up for you in our third and final post.
If you have been keeping tabs on your Bottle Makes Three team on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you may have noticed that we were away last week. We were off to San Diego for the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference where we picked up some blogging tips, made new friends, and drank some great beer. A lot of beer. Seriously, a helluva lot of beer. It all started when we arrived in California on Thursday. Queue the dreamy-sounding flashback music…
We arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday to take part in the pre-conference excursion, in which we’d be filling a bus with beer bloggers and hitting the road to San Diego, stopping at 5 different LA breweries along the way. I have to admit that we were a bit anxious when we arrived at LAX. We only knew of a handful of the bloggers that would be in attendance, and we only knew them as fans of their blogs and tweets. However any nerves we were feeling faded away as soon as we walked up to the group that we can only describe as “our people.” Within 5 minutes we been handed a beer and were introduced to the folks we’d be hanging out with the entire weekend. Some we immediately recognized, such as Tiffany of 99Pours and Mike, aka Brew Dad. Others we bonded with over the course of the night, such as Adam and Emily of Fresh Pints and Dave of All the Brews fit to Pint. There were many others too, all of them very nice, fun and as beer geeky as us. And we mean that as the ultimate compliment. We found our tribe.
Once on the bus our first stop was Golden Road Brewing. At Golden Road we were greeted by a cold beer and a warm welcome by founder Meg Gill. Meg told us about starting Golden Road with co-founder Tony Yanow in 2011, and how the demand for great beer from LA has helped them to grow by leaps and bounds. Their brewery was the perfect introduction to the LA beer scene, with their bright yellow building, awesome patio and impressively large brewery. We were given a tour of the brewery by Laurel, and introduced to one of the brewers, Tim. They told us about their brewing operations and we got to peek in the boil kettle. Best of all, we got an ice-cold can of Might As Well IPL taken straight from the canning line. This was the first day of canning this brew, so the beer was as fresh and delicious as you could imagine. Following the tour was a guided tasting of five more Golden Road brews along with some delicious pub snacks. It was a great way to be introducted to the LA craft beer scene, and we were thankful to entire Golden City team – Meg, Laurel, Tim and Fran – for taking the time to show us their hospitality.
Arriving at stop one.. Golden Road Brewing
Meg Gill, co-founder of Golden Road Brewing
Golden Road Brewing’s Berliner Weisse
Canning the Might As Well IPL
A peek in the boil kettle
Fresh off the canning line, a delicious Might As Well IPL
Golden Road tasters
Golden Road guided tasting tour led by Fran
Golden Road Brewing
Jeff in his hoppy place
Up next was Angel City Brewery. While Golden Road had a laid-back surfer vibe, Angel City felt a bit more rough around the edges, but in a good way. Angel City Brewery resides in an old slinky factory (seriously) that is rumored to be the location where they filmed Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video. The interior was the perfect combo of industrial and art deco, which gave the place a vibe that felt quintessentially LA. Here Jeff chatted up Dieter Foerstner, the head brewer and the man behind their delicious Avocado Ale. Here’s a fun fact: the avocados for this ale came from Dieter’s grandmothers 25-acre avocado farm. Another fun fact: At 21 Dieter dreamed of being real estate agent. Okay, that last fact was irrelevant, but still it was fun, right? At Angel City we got a tour of the brewery, but even more impressive was the trip to the roof, where we could check out their hop garden and the sun setting over LA. This place was great, and would be one of our favorite hangouts if we were locals.
Angel City Brewery
Jeff with Dieter, head brewer at Angel City Brewery
Angel City’s amazing Avocado Ale
Hanging at Angel City Brewery
Dieter shows us around Angel City Brewery
The elevator ride to the roof… scary!
The view of LA from the Angel City rooftop.
Just when we though things couldn’t get any cooler than Golden Road Brewing and Angel City Brewery, this happened…
In case you don’t know what you’re looking at, it’s our third stop: The Bruery barrel room. As the Bruery staff put it, we’d already seen enough shiny fermenters and brew kettles, so they wanted to give us something different. Boy did they deliver. There were probably more than a hundred of barrels surrounding us as we tasted The Bruery’s amazing sours and barrel aged beers. Our big favorites was the Sour in the Rye with Coconut and Pineapple, and the Oude Tart with Cherries. We even got a special treat: samples of the Sour in the Rye straight from the barrel. Amazing! If the beer wasn’t enough, they also put out a nicely done spread of cheeses and cookies. Yum! Although it was sad to leave The Bruery, we were given a parting gift in the form of a bottle of Tart of Darkness Sour Stout and that made saying goodbye just a little easier.
Great Bruery beers
The Bruery amazing sours
Barrel of Autumn Maple
Sour In The Rye, straight from the barrel
Enjoying The Bruery
Barrels at The Bruery
This is a pretty long post, so now would be a good time for a beer break if you need it. Here is a picture of Brew Dad to enjoy while you get your refill.
Back on the tour, it was really late when we arrived at Smog City Brewing Company in Torrence. We were all a bit sleepy and bleary-eyed, but thankfully when we walked in the door the Smog City staff handed us a sample of their delicious Coffee Porter. It was the perfect little shot of espresso flavored beer, and it kept us going! Laurie Porter of Smog City showed everyone around and told us about their history, while Chris Walowski shared some stories about brewing up the amazing Smog City beers. They were very friendly and let us overstay our welcome when I’m sure they would have loved to gone home.
Laurie Porter of Smog City Brewing
Smog City’s incredible coffee porter
Smog City Brewing Co
Smog City Brewing Company
Smog City Brewing Company
Smog City Brewing Company
Finally, it was time for the final stop of our tour: Monkish Brewing Co., which was just a short walk from Smog City. By the time we got to Monkish we were not sure we could still be wowed by any new beers. We were wrong. Monkish had an impressive selection of Belgian style beers featuring unique ingredients, such as the Lumen Belgian-style pale with jasmine flowers; or the Saison de Lilah, a farmhouse ale brewed with lavender and lemon peels. That second one was so good that we purchased a bottle to bring home. At Monkish Brewing we sat in the brewery on chairs draped with bags of barley, and we sipped delicious beers in the shadows of the vessels where it was made. It was beautiful. Or maybe we were just really, really sleepy. It was probably that second one, but nevertheless it was a good time.
Chris at Monkish Brewing Co
Monkish Brewing Co
Monkish Brewing Co
Monkish Brewing Co
Monkish Brewing Co
Jeff, showing the signs that this was brewery number 5
Beer. Hope. Love.
Monkish Brewing Co
Monkish Brewing Co
And that’s it! We had managed to get five California breweries under our belts and the Beer Bloggers Conference had not yet officially started! Clearly this was going to be a long, wonderful weekend. We will tell you more about it on our next post.
When we started this little adventure called Bottle Makes Three we had the silly notion that we could visit all 200 or so Colorado Breweries in one year. Maybe we could have done it too, if only we didn’t have jobs to work, cats to feed, and a mortgage to pay. While we are still trying to get to all of the great breweries as part of our Colorado Brewery Challenge, clearly finishing our challenge is not happening anytime soon. After all, nearly 100 more breweries have opened since we started our blog. We still try to get to as many as we can, but it’s no longer about a finish line for us. We are rather enjoying the experience and see no need to rush through our visits.
The reason I bring up our brewery challenge is to point out that while we’ve visited 94 to date, until recently we had not crossed the original Colorado craft brewery off our list. How is it possible that after all those beer tours and samplers we hadn’t yet been to the one craft brewery who cleared the path for so many others to follow? Every time we’d go to Boulder we would visit the shiny, new breweries, all the while taking for granted this old favorite. It was a damn shame is what it was, and one Saturday afternoon we decided that it was time we rectified this situation. We cleared our schedules for the day, and made a date to visit Boulder Beer Company.
In 1979, two physics professors at the University of Colorado opened the first microbrewery in the state of Colorado, then known as Boulder Brewing Company. Originally they brewed at a small farm in a goat shed – not a former goat shed mind you. They shared some space with goats as they perfected their first brews, which is now all part of their legend and still remembered by the old photos of goats gracing their brewpub walls. Over the years Boulder Brewing Company grew their business, won some medals, went public, changed their name a few times, and then finally in 2005 they became the Boulder Beer Company that we know today. Somewhere along the way they moved from a goat shed to a proper brew pub, though I admit I sort of wish they still had goats. Oh how I love goats. They’re the friendliest of all the farm animals. But I digress…
Given that the Boulder Beer Company is well-known and widely distributed within Colorado, we were surprised that their location wasn’t massive and filled with the latest and greatest high-tech equipment. Quite to the contrary, Boulder Beer Company has a quant and comfortable feeling inside their Pub, which is mostly decked out in wood and old photographs, reflective of their earlier days. The brewpub features a large dining area and equally large outdoor patio, and we bellied up to the bar area nestled between the inside and outside seating. We were thirsty and hungry, and ordered some pints of Hazed and Infused and some nachos that were, OH MY GOD delicious. The photo below of these nachos may not do it justice, because they were simple yet incredible, topped with roasted pork, black beans, fresh jalapeno, tomatoes, and layered throughout with enough melted cheddar and jack cheese to stop your heart. The nachos paired perfectly with the Hazed and Infused, an unfiltered amber dry hopped with Crystal and Centennial hops, which was hoppy but not overly bitter, and cold enough to help silence some of the heat from the jalapeno. Overall, lunch at Boulder Beer Company’s Pub was mighty tasty, and we didn’t even get past the appetizer section of the menu. If we didn’t fill up on nachos we may have also tried the Shake Chocolate Porter Milkshake. Seriously, that’s a thing, and I’m still kicking myself for not splurging on one.
Boulder Beer Pub
Hazed, and ready for the tour
Boulder Beer Co menu
We started our tour with bellies full of beer and nachos, fat and happy. Fortunately there wasn’t too much walking. The brew house at Boulder Beer Company starts in the restaurant and wraps around the building, and though it’s pretty expansive it’s all in a relatively modest area. We walked through the brewing room and got a quick lesson on how beer was made before moving on to the fermentation area, bottling lines, and their new canning line. After using mobile canning for some time, the canning line was only recently installed, which will allow Boulder Beer to produce a greater volume and variety of their beers in cans. More canned varieties is great news for the active, outdoor-loving craft beer drinkers, which let’s be real, is most of the Boulder population. After canning we took a trip into cold storage. Here we learned that Boulder Beer doesn’t follow an established brew schedule, per say, but brews on demand for their distribution needs. By brewing based on orders rather than pumping out as much as they can, Boulder Beer focuses on delivering their beer fresh. Who knows maybe all breweries do it this way, but it’s the first we had heard it done this way, so we were fairly impressed.
Into the brewery
For the last tour stop we made our way back to the dining room and into a back room where it was tasting time. Other than a few special edition brews, we were able to pour ourselves samples from pitchers of all the Boulder Beer varieties. We were already pretty familiar with the Boulder Beer lineup, but still found a new beer to try, the Honey of a Saison. This is a really big beer at 11.5% ABV that features the amazing flavor combination of French saison yeast with sweet Wildflower honey, making this a sweet, fruity, and delicious summer beer. In addition to the saison we also sampled many of our Boulder Beer favorites, like Hoopla Pale Ale, Kinda Blue Blueberry Wheat, Mojo IPA, and for dessert, their amazing Shake Chocolate Porter. It wasn’t a milkshake, but it was still pretty damn good.
We left Boulder Beer with full bellies, a few purchased t-shirts, and two bombers. One was the Honey of a Saison, while the second was one that we didn’t get to taste, the Killer Penguin Barleywine. We’re saving that strong ale to enjoy on our first cool, fall day, which you know is just around the corner.
Overall, we had a great time at Boulder Beer Company. It’s been a long time since we’ve taken a proper brewery tour, and this one was one of the better ones for certain. We’d recommend a visit to Boulder Beer over that other brewery in Golden just about any day of the week. Well, any day but Sunday. They’re closed on Sunday.
Boulder Beer Company is located at 2800 Wilderness Place, Boulder. They have great beer, tasty food, and a pretty fun tour. If only they still had goats…
Whatever IPA you choose, join in the IPA Day celebration online by tagging your drink with #IPAday on Twitter or Instagram, or on the National IPA Day Facebook page. Best of all if you’re on Untappd, check in to an IPA today and you’ll get this sweet-ass badge:
I grew up in Michigan until I was around 7 years old, and continued to visit family up there for years and years afterward. I don’t have a lot of memories of Michigan, being that I was a kid and didn’t pay attention to surroundings nearly as much as I did to people. But there is one thing I can remember: the cider mills. I can remember our family going to the cider mill in the fall to enjoy fresh pressed cider and hot donuts. When weather turns cooler and leaves begin to fall, I still crave some cider and those delicious donuts. It’s one of those memories that makes autumn one of my favorite times of the year.
Well it’s not autumn, and this isn’t about that kind of cider.
This summer Jeff and I finally looked beyond beer and started to embrace hard cider. It all started with the American Homebrewers Association rally in May, held at Colorado Cider Company. We love the AHA and wouldn’t miss a rally, though we were a bit skeptical of it being at a cidery. As it turns out, the AHA is pretty forward thinking in making this less-than-obvious choice. Cider’s popularity is growing in leaps and bounds both with homebrewers and with drinkers. Perhaps its due to the increasing trend towards gluten-free food and drink, but cider sales have increased tremendously over the past few years. Reports show that sales of cider from large producers jumped 90% in 2012, and increased another 89% in 2013. While total sales are still small compared to beer and other alcoholic beverages, cider is now the fastest growing alcoholic beverage category in the U.S. The same increase has been felt at Colorado Cider Company, who told us that their 2013 sales were up 150% over 2012, and they’ve now tripled production to 75,000 gallons annually. Yes, in the cider industry business is good.
Colorado Cider Company
Delicious Cider Samples
AHA Rally at Colorado Cider Company
Behind the scenes at Colorado Cider Company
Inside the Colorado Cider Company tap room
Buy Colorado Cider!
Barrel Aging Cider
AHA Rally at Colorado Cider Company
Things are tasting pretty good as well, as we learned during our visit to Colorado Cider Company for the AHA rally. Opened in November 2011, Colorado Cider makes popular local favorite Glider Cider, as well as several other delicious variations. We got to sample almost all of them and were impressed by the variety and amazing flavors offered. The Grasshop-Ah has a lemongrass and hop kick that they claim makes it the perfect gateway cider for beer lovers, and we couldn’t agree more, as it was delicious. Their Pome Mel was an amazing dry cider with aromas of rosemary and lavender that was divine. Probably our favorite was the Ol’ Stumpy, a strong and earthy cider aged in Chardonnay barrels. Ol’ Stumpy was amazing, and with a cool name to boot.
Colorado Cider Company really changed our impression of cider, but it was another local cider company that won us over for good. Shortly after the AHA rally we payed a visit to Stem Ciders, another craft cider company that had recently opened in Denver. While Stem Ciders didn’t offer as many varieties of cider as Colorado Cider Company, what they did offer blew us away. Our favorites were the Malice, a deliciously dry and tart cider, and the Le Chene, a cider aged in red zinfandel barrels that drank much more like a fine wine than an apple cider. We also tried the Banjo, which was aged in bourbon barrels and had a very mellow bourbon flavor. Finally, since they were out of their popular dry-hopped Remedy cider, we tried the guest tap: Pearsnickety pear cider from Colorado Cider Company. Ironically this was the only cider we didn’t try while at the AHA rally. Unfortunately the pear wasn’t our favorite, as the pear flavor makes it taste very different, and a bit funky. I’m sure it’s an acquired taste. Still, everything made by Stem Cider was amazing and we highly recommend giving them a try.
Malice at Stem Ciders
Stem Ciders sampler
Malice and Le Chene at Stem Ciders
Stem Ciders Tap Room
Barrel aging cider at Stem Ciders
Bonus tip: If you’re lucky enough to be at Stem Ciders (or anywhere else) when the Street Frites food truck is there - you have to try those amazing frites! Sure, frites are just fancy fries, but OHMYGOD do they make the best in town. Trust us on this, or just check out their menu, which is so crazy decadent that you know it has to be good. Stalk them on Facebook if you want to see where they’re serving.
OMG, these FRITES!
Seriously, read this menu
Be on the lookout – good food inside
If you’re still not convinced that cider is your thing, maybe you should try a cider cocktail? Angry Balls is a pretty popular drink now, combining 1 bottle Angry Orchard Crisp Apple cider with 1.5 ounces Fireball cinnamon whiskey. Don’t let the name scare you, it’s delicious! If you prefer beer to whiskey, you can also try an Adam’s Apple, which combines 1/2 a glass Samuel Adams Boston Lager topped with 1/2 a glass of Angry Orchard Crisp Apple. And if those two drinks still don’t float your boat, check out the Angry Orchard cocktail page on Pinterest for even more creative drink ideas. Yum!
Colorado Cider Company is located at 2650 W 2nd Ave #10, Denver, CO 80219. The Stem Cider Tap Room is at 2811 Walnut St Suite 150, Denver CO 80205.
You see, for the past several years your BMT team has volunteered pouring beer at GABF. This year we stepped up our game and also signed up to help with setup and to distribute GABF posters. We hung promotional Great American Beer Festival signs all over the greater Denver area, from Castle Rock to Golden to Central City. You know, because the Great American Beer Festival clearly needs to be promoted. Okay, maybe not. OR… maybe they would have done horrible in ticket sales this year without our help. You never know.
Hanging GABF signs was tough business. Over two weekends we hung 50 signs in various beer-friendly bars, restaurants, breweries and liquor stores. The first weekend went pretty smooth, but by the second weekend we were having a harder time finding places not already tagged (with signs from other volunteers) and had to expand our venture outward. The hard part was that as we visited all these great breweries and bars, we couldn’t reasonably drink at all of them. Well we could, but then the signs wouldn’t be hung and we’d be in liver failure, so we chose not to. Fortunately we did make exceptions when visiting breweries we hadn’t tried before, and stopped long enough at each for at least one drink. We didn’t spend enough time to try their full lineup or really interrogate, ahem, talk to their staff – but we were there long enough to get some first impressions. Some were good, some were bad, but for what it’s worth here are our first impressions of a bunch of new (or new to us) breweries:
LowDown Brewery + Kitchen, 800 Lincoln St, Denver. LowDown was the first place we stopped when we picked up our signs, and they couldn’t have any more friendly or welcoming if we’d actually been there to give them GABF tickets. We celebrated that first sign with a LowDown IPA for Jeff, and a Selfish Pale Ale for me. Both were aggressively hopped and delicious, and the LowDown location can’t be beat, given that it’s just a few blocks from our 9-to-5 gigs. The brewpub is has a large and open floor plan, which was very comfortable and lively, in that you had a great view of the whole place from the bar. It was perfect for people watching introverts like us. The patio is an enormous oasis full of tables and outdoor games, and would have been the place to waste the day away had we not had other obligations. The food also looked amazing, especially their pizza. In summary, we will be back to LowDown soon, we will be hungry, and we will be spending the entire afternoon on the patio.
LowDown Brewery, Denver
LowDown Pale Ale
LowDown Brewery, Denver
Beryl’s Beer Co., 3120 C Blake Street, Denver. We happened to visit Beryl’s on their second day of business. The beers were good, but as with a lot of newly opened spots, we feel they’ll get better with time. The focus of Beryl’s will be barrel aged beers, but the only had one barrel aged variety on tap when they opened. As they release more, we will expect more, but for this first visit we’d say they’re pretty good. I enjoyed the Wald Bier, a delicious German style steam beer that was very refreshing on a hot summer day. Jeff tried both the Batch 1 English style special bitter, and the brandy barrel aged version of Batch 1. Both were good, though the brandy wasn’t noticeable enough to make it stand out above the normal variety. The brewery itself was large and industrial, comfortable but not overly fancy. Clearly, the focus here is on the beer (as it should be) and though we weren’t blown away on our first visit, the beers were very good and should only get better. We’ll be back.
Beryl’s Beer Co
Beryl’s Batch 1 English Bitter
Beryl’s Wald Bier
Beryl’s Beer brewery
3 Freaks Brewery, 7140 E County Line Rd, Highlands Ranch. 3 Freaks is one of the newer breweries in Highlands Ranch, and sadly their lack of experience shows. When we visited we decided to try the flight of four to sample all four of the beers they were pouring. They guy behind the bar immediately told that he was proud of some, but not so much the others. He told us the Odd Man Stout and the Lucky Clover Irish Red were the best, the Last Man Standing Belgian Dubbel was okay, and the Hop That Ale was not good at all. In fact, it was supposed to be an IPA and it went sideways, so he didn’t recommend it. While we appreciated the honesty, the reality for us was that the stout and red were okay, the Belgian was far too sweet for our palates, and the Ale was just horrible. Horrible as in we couldn’t even finish the sample. We’re going to give 3 Freaks the benefit of the doubt that things will get better, because we want them to do well. However on a personal note, it’s disappointing to be poured a beer they flat-out knew wasn’t good. Not a good first impression.
Blue Spruce Brewing, 4151 E County Line Rd Unit G, Centennial. Blue Spruce is another newish brewpub, situated in a strip mall just outside Highlands Ranch. The location was large with lots of tables, bar space, and a big patio. Inside Blue Spruce pours their own brews plus several great guest taps and cocktails, and they have a full food menu. We decided to try a few beers – the Blue Spruce Blonde and Blue Spruce IPA – plus a soft pretzel served with cheese sauce and mustard. The Blonde was really great, while the IPA was good but nothing too memorable, likewise for the pretzel. We were stumped trying to figure out if this was a brewery that serves food, or a restaurant that brews beer, since neither seemed to be much better than the other, at least in our first experience. In the end we gave the slight edge to the beer thanks to the delicious Blonde. We’d be back again if we’re in the neighborhood, but we didn’t leave so excited as to seek them out.
Blue Spruce Brewery
Pretzel @ Blue Spruce. Yum!
Blue Spruce Blonde
Grist Brewing Company, 9150 Commerce Center Cir #300, Highlands Ranch. Grist was our last stop of the day, on the same day we visited 3 Freaks and Blue Spruce. After a long day of “meh” experiences, Grist came to the rescue and it was love at first taste. Clearly the good word about Grist is out, because the place was packed asses-to-elbows. We managed to squeeze into the last two seats at the bar and ordered a flight of their core beers. AMAZING. Our favorites were their Transition State Kölsch and the Window Tour Hefeweizen. Neither of these are typical of our favorite styles, but Grist made us love them anyway. We had the Kölsch without any flavored syrup, though they offer it if you’d like to kick things up. Grist is well decorated, comfortable, and high-tech – at least when it comes to their growler filler, which ran non-stop while we were there. Grist seems to be the hottest new brewery in ‘da Ranch, and for good reason. We’ll be back again for certain.
Grist’s core beers sampler
Grist’s bustling tap room
Grist Transition State Kolsch
Dostal Alley, 116 Main St, Central City. We made the trip to Central City for Independence Day, so we didn’t really drive all the way up to deliver a GABF sign. Still, while in town we decided to stop, drop a sign, and have a beer at Dostal Alley. This is an old school brewery, perfectly situation amongst the old buildings and casinos of Central City. The crew and the customers were just the right amount of rough around the edges, and if you were hungry there is a pizza place on site where you can grab a few slices. Unfortunately when we were there they’d run out of their GABF medal winning Pub Ale, so we opted for a few pints of Gilpin Gold IPA. It was a good, traditional American IPA – hoppy and bready and served just a bit warm, which was nice though I’m not sure if it was intentional. The beers were good, and the people watching was amazing. This casino is pretty rustic and adjacent to the pub, so you can watch the nickle slot players while you enjoy your pint. And yes, they still actually pay in nickles, not credit slips. Dostal Alley even let us wander through their tiny brewery and onto their back patio to take in the views. In the end, I don’t know that we’d make a special trip up for a pint, but next time we’re in town we’ll definitely stop by for a beer and to play some slots.
Cannonball Creek Brewing Company, 393 Washington Ave, Golden. What’s it with Golden and great beers? Did you all cut your teeth at Coors and then break out to make bigger, more amazing stuff on your own? Whether it’s that, or it’s just in their Rocky Mountain fresh water, the breweries of Golden are outstanding, including Cannonball Creek. The tasting room is nestled in the corner of a strip mall a bit outside of the main drag, with plenty of parking and lots of space inside to handle even the biggest crowds. We took our beers outside to the patio, which isn’t huge and overlooks a parking lot and a gas station, but was still just perfect for a enjoying our Cannonball Creek beers on a sunny summer day. There were tons of families so if you’re the type that doesn’t want to drink around kids and dogs, maybe stay inside and find a corner to yourself. We didn’t mind the crowded patio, especially once we had a sip of their Rosemary Sourdough Saison. We didn’t mind anything after a few sips of this beer, it was delicious! The rosemary aroma and flavor was amazing, especially combined with the bready malt and yeast of this beer. It was the beer version of focaccia bread, and I dare you to say there is anything wrong with that. The IPA was also very good, and the menu suggested lots of other brews we’d love to come back and try. Next time we’re in Golden we won’t make the mistake of passing Cannonball Creek without a pint or a growler, that’s for sure.
Barrels and Bottles isn’t that new, but it was new to us. Just a rock’s throw from Coors, I don’t know how we missed this place last time we were in Golden, but we won’t make that mistake again. Funny thing is, I didn’t even try the beer. Jeff had their LiL IPA, which was good but again not as spectacular as he would have liked (though he keeps that IPA bar pretty damn high.) You see, while we always believed that Barrels and Bottles dealt with barrel aged beers exclusively, the reality is that they brew beer (in barrels) as well as a plethora of great wines (from bottles.) And get this y’all … they make a WINE SLUSHY. Let me set the scene here: We drove to Golden in a Jeep Wrangler with the top off, on a 90+ degree sunny day. This was our last stop. When I saw the wine slushy machines, I almost cried I was so ecstatic. I got a mug full of some red and white swirled wine, I don’t even remember what varieties but it was frozen and delicious. Then we made friends with some friendly locals, settled in at a table under a giant-ass ceiling fan, and finally cooled off. The crowd of cyclists and hikers was fun and friendly, as was the staff. If we lived in Golden we’d be locals at this place. Yes, that means we’ll be back. Maybe next time I’ll have a beer, but only if that wine slushy machine is out-of-order.
Yak & Yeti Restaurant and Brewpub, 7803 Ralston Rd, Arvada. A long day of sign hanging can make a team of lowly volunteers hangry, so we decided to stop at Yak & Yeti for a pint and some food. There are nearly 300 breweries in Colorado, but Yak and Yeti stands a world apart from the competition, not just because of their beers, but because of their menu. Yak & Yeti serves the cuisine of India, Nepal and Tibet. They break the rules by being both a really great restaurant and a really great brewery, and we’re their newest fans. They had a huge variety of beers and beer cocktails, including incredible flavors like a Jalapeno Lena, a Chai Milk Stout, an Imperial Barrel Aged Saison and a Cherry Wheat. Unfortunately after a day of beer sampling, we stuck to the more simple stuff. I had the light and refreshing Namaste Pilsner, while Jeff had the delicious Himalayan IPA. We also had the dinner buffet, complete with all sorts of delicious foods, some we recognized and some we didn’t – but still ate. The beers were great, but in all honesty we stuffed ourselves with so much Indian food we didn’t even finish our pints. We left fat and happy, with no regrets and a lots of reasons to return. Next time we’ll try to finish a beer or two before we stuff ourselves with curry, saag paneer and naan. Maybe.
Yak and Yeti Restaurant and Brewpub
Yak and Yeti Namaste
Yaks & Yetis
Hall Brewing Co, 10970 South Parker Rd, Parker. We were pretty peeved to pull up and realize that Hall Brewing already had a GABF sign, those bastards, but we went in for a drink anyway. Hall Brewing offers their IPA as fresh hop infusion, meaning they dump a bunch of fresh hops into a French press with the beer and dry hop it at your table. How could we say no to that? The lady working that afternoon didn’t know what type of hops they were, but we let her infuse our beer anyway. Yes, this is mostly just a novelty and it didn’t cause Jeff to go into a hop-shock due to overwhelming bitterness, but it did inject a nice, fresh hop flavor. I stayed away from the hops and had Hall’s Juicy Peach Blonde Ale, which was outstanding. The great peach aroma and tart finish was delicious, making this the perfect, easy-drinking summer beer. It was like Peach Cobbler in a glass, which got me thinking … between this beer & the Rosemary Sourdough Saison at Cannonball Creek, I’m on my way to creating a full menu for a meal made entirely of beer. The main dish is likely going to be a challenge, but I think I’m on to something. Oh, sorry… I got distracted. In summary our first impression of Hall Brewing was great, and we’ll be back again and often.
Hall’s Fresh Hop Infusion
More hops please!
Freshly pressed, hopped IPA. Yum!
Overall, the Great American Beer Festival once again helped us find some great new beers, albeit in a new and indirect way. I can safely say we found several new favorite beers and breweries that we’ll visit long after those signs are taken down.
PS: Please don’t be silly and think we went to all of these new breweries on the same day. We would hit one, two, or maybe even sometimes three in a day, but we’re not idiots. These reviews were based on tastings that occurred over about 10 days, so don’t give us any grief about it. Got it?
Sierra Nevada brought their Beer Camp Across America tour to Denver last Friday, and we were fortunate enough to attend. Within an hour we’d already deemed this our favorite beer festival ever for a bunch of reasons, and that wasn’t just the beer talking. There’s a lot that other festivals could learn from Beer Camp Across America. Here are just a few things that made us fall in love with this awesome, traveling Beer Camp:
The Location. Beer Camp was at Civic Center Park, a perfect location to spend a summer evening. Yes, Mother Nature graced us with a quick rain shower, but what do you expect this time of year in Colorado? It’s not an outdoor beer fest unless you get a little wet, and there were plenty of umbrellas and tents to hide beneath if you wanted to take cover. Beside the brief shower led to a lovely rainbow just before sunset, and who doesn’t enjoy a nice rainbow?
The Size. Beer Camp Across America was a big festival with a small fest vibe. With over 100 breweries there was a lot of variety, but by spreading out the tasting tents, food trucks, and tables over a huge section of Civic Center Park, it never felt crazy or crowded. You had space to roam around and enjoy your samples. There were lots of tables placed throughout the park should you want to sit a spell or have a bite to eat. Also, lines were almost non-existent. You could walk right up and sample great beers including the Beer Camp collaboration brews with little to no wait. The only line we came across was for Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, and even that line was only a few people deep. With everything spread out and not crazy busy, it was one of the most relaxed and enjoyable festivals we’ve ever attended.
The Entertainment. While most beer festivals have a band playing off in some corner of their event, we often treat them as background music for our drinking. We stop and check them out, then continue on our way to have more beer samples. Not this time. The MarchFourth Marching Band was a spectacle that demanded, and received, our attention. It was one of the funnest and craziest thinks we’ve seen in a long time. They were a part high school marching band, part Cirque du Soleil and a whole lot of bootie-shaking fun. We spent the last hour of the festival skipping the beer to watch them, and that says a lot because you know how much we love beer.
MarchFourth Marching Band
MarchFourth Marching Band
The Breweries. With a focus on regional beers, there were lots of local favorites. We stopped by and said hello to our friends at Ska, Strange, Rickoli, Oskar Blues, and so on. That was awesome, but most exciting was getting to sample some of the breweries we don’t get to try very often, along with all of the great Beer Camp collaborations. Our favorite beer of the night, hands down, was Two Hearted Ale by Bell’s Brewery from Kalamazoo, MI. Just to be certain, we sampled it again, and again, and again. Oskar Blues also had a fabulous collaboration on hand that they brewed with Two Brothers Brewing, a pale ale called Foxy Knuckles. We had to try that one for the name, but kept going back because it was a damn fine beer.
The Beer Camp Collaborations. All of the Beer Camp Across America collaboration beers we sampled were interesting and delicious. We sampled most but didn’t take great tasting notes, so we can only clearly remember the two most uniquely delicious beers. First was the Yonder Bock Tropical Maibock, a Sierra Nevada collaboration with Cigar City that featured tropical fruit, giving a Latin/Cuban flair to a normally German styled brew. There was also the collaboration Sierra Nevada brewed with the Asheville Brewers Alliance, Tater Ridge Scottish Ale. This caramelly-sweet ale had a wonderful sweet potato aroma and deliciously strong, sweet flavor. Again, all the collaborations were pretty great, making us wish we’d gotten a 12-pack of these amazing beers before they sold out all over town.
Again, this was the perfect beer festival and we were so thankful to Sierra Nevada for stopping in our town. Fortunately, since Sierra Nevada owner Ken Grossman was pouring at the Sierra Nevada table, we were able to personally thank him for bringing us such a great event. Being the nice guy he is, Ken even offered himself up for a photo-op…
We had such fun, we can only hope that Beer Camp will travel across America again next summer.
Queue up “Another One Bites The Dust.” It seems another craft beer delivery service has gone under. Let’s Pour and their monthly beer club, Beer Boxer, have stopped shipping effective June 20th.
For those of you who are close enough to frequently sample from our beer fridge, you should be especially saddened by this news. Last October I signed Jeff up for Beer Boxer’s monthly deliveries as a birthday gift. After checking out the various clubs, Beer Boxer seemed to be the best, offering us an “East Coast Discovery” package that meant we wouldn’t be delivered a bunch of local beers, but would rather get to sample from breweries harder to find in Colorado. For months it worked great. A box of twelve beers would show up once a month, three beers each from four different breweries. All of the beers were highly rated and they came in a nice variety of styles. Best of all we got the opportunity to enjoy brews we couldn’t normal procure from great breweries such as Bell’s, Harpoon, Cigar City, Smuttynose, Ninkasi and others. It was fun to open the boxes each month and discover what we had received. Occasionally there were weather delays during especially cold or hot months, but overall it went very smooth. We were never disappointed with a beer that had gone bad or a broken bottle.
Unfortunately, it appears the box we received in June was our final shipment from Beer Boxer.
Beer Boxer was created as a monthly beer club spun off by Let’s Pour, an online retailer that sold craft beer and artisan wine, and on June 20th Let’s Pour announced suddenly that they would stop shipping effective at the end of the day. In an email sent from Raghav Kher, CEO of Let’s Pour, they blamed policy changes with their shipping company as the reason for the sudden closure. With the closure of Let’s Pour, so apparently went our monthly beer shipments from Beer Boxer.
Let’s Pour isn’t the first craft beer delivery service to go under. In 2012, Beer Jobber was advertising all over the Great American Beer Festival that they could ship your favorite hard-to-find festival beers right to your home. Their marketing exploded all over at GABF and in beer magazines such as Beer Advocate. It seemed they were doing fairly well, until suddenly in January 2013 Beer Jobber announced they were no longer processing orders. While it’s hard to verify, it seems their shortcoming may have been in circumventing the current three-tier alcohol distribution system. The basics of this system is that producers (i.e.: brewers) can sell their products only to wholesale distributors, who then sell to retailers, who then sell to consumers. States have various exceptions to this rule, the most common being an exception that allows a producer to act as a retailer and sell directly to the consumer without the need for a distributor. This is how our favorite local Colorado breweries can have their own taprooms, selling beers and growlers to their thirsty customers. However, Beer Jobber was advertising that they could provide “Fresh beer. Picked up from the brewery and delivered to your front door.” Unfortunately if this motto was in-fact their business model, they were skipping the distribution tier by taking the product right from the producer to the consumer. This most likely was a big factor in their demise.
We don’t know for certain if it was the business model or the complicated alcohol distribution laws that made Let’s Pour and Beer Boxer cease operations. It seems unlikely that they didn’t have the funds to keep operating, given how a highly rated beer can be easily sold at a high mark-up to beer lovers who otherwise can’t get their hands on a bottle. One would think the profitability of these types of beer retailers would be good, if priced correctly. The challenge was likely in navigating the ever-changing laws surrounding distribution and shipping alcohol, especially when you’re reliant on the policies of a third-party shipping company to deliver your product. Regardless of the reason behind the sudden closure of Let’s Pour and Beer Boxer, it’s a loss for those of us beer geeks who were willing to pay an inflated price to get our hands on those unique and delicious brews.
And for those of you who enjoyed the variety offered in our beer fridge the last few months, I’m afraid to say it’s back to BYOB for now.
In just over a week, Sierra Nevada will bring their seven-city Beer Camp Across America traveling beer festival to Denver! Around here we are counting down the days like a kid waiting for Christmas. We can’t wait!!
Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America tour is staring at their home base in Chico, California and ending in Mills River, North Carolina, where they’re about to open a second brewery. Between those two festivals they’re making 5 stops, in San Diego, Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland (Maine), and of course, Denver. Clearly Denver has a reputation as a fine and worthy craft-beer town, so it’s kind of our responsibility to show up and drink. It’s sort of what Coloradans do best.
Sierra Nevada invited every craft brewery nationwide to participate in one or more of their Beer Camp Across America stops. You read that right, they invited all of them, around 7000 breweries. Around 700 (more or less) took Sierra Nevada up on their offer. As of this moment, 110 of them will be pouring at our stop in Denver. We’re no math wizards, but that’s a helluva lot of beer.
Speaking of that list of the top 50 U.S. Craft Brewing Companies – a total of 15 will be pouring at the Rocky Mountain Beer Camp Across America. And by the way, Sierra Nevada is number two on that list. That’s not too shabby.
In addition to beer there will be food trucks galore and live entertainment from the MarchFourth Marching Band. If you haven’t heard of them, click through the link and check them out. We are stoked to see them… they look amazing!
Proceeds from the Rocky Mountain stop of the Beer Camp Across America tour will benefit the Colorado Brewers Guild, an organization created to keep Colorado craft brewing alive and well today and in the future. If you think about it, attending the fest is sort of like giving back to our own craft beer community. We would say it’s not much of a stretch to consider it community service, but don’t quote us on that.. especially to your parole officer.
The Rocky Mountain Beer Camp Across America stop will be at Civic Center Park in downtown Denver, and we all know that the people watching downtown is just simply the best on a Friday night. The only thing that can really make for a better show is getting to sip on a cold craft beer while you take in all the free public entertainment. Besides it will be a fun change to kick all the pot smokers out of the park for the evening.
Finally, as if creating this amazing beer fest weren’t enough, Sierra Nevada is also releasing a special 12-pack of Beer Camp Across America collaboration beers this month. These 12 beers were made with 12 different breweries featuring collaborations between Sierra Nevada Brewing and Allagash, Ballast Point, Bell’s, Cigar City, Firestone Walker, New Glarus, Ninkasi, Oskar Blues, Russian River, 3 Floyds and Victory, plus one beer from the Asheville Brewers Alliance. You can taste all of these collaboration beers at the Beer Camp Across America stops. Everyone knows that collaboration tastes delicious.
Okay, is your interest peaked yet? If so, here are the details:
Sierra Nevada’s Rocky Mountain stop for the Beer Camp Across America will be on Friday, 7/25/2014 from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM in Civic Center Park. Tickets were still available as of the time we posted this article, but they will sell out. If you think you want to go you should get your tickets while they last. Tickets are $65 each, and yes we know, that isn’t exactly chump change. However when you consider that you’re getting five hours of amazing beer, great music, and fun times – we think it’s worth the price of admission. You’ll even get a commemorative drinking glass! That you can keep! Score!
All kidding aside, this is the most anticipated beer fest of the summer and we hope you consider checking it out. We’ll be there in our full beer geek attire, pretzel-necklaces and all, so consider that a little bonus reason #9 why you should attend. We hope to see you there!
It’s awful how sometimes the silly commitments we make (i.e.: work) keeps us from our true passion (i.e.: beer.) That’s the only excuse we have for taking so long to recognize a brewery we visited a few months ago that really deserved to be featured long before now: Red Leg Brewing Company.
Red Leg Brewing celebrated their 1st anniversary last Friday, on the 4th of July. It’s fitting that this great brewery down in Colorado Springs opened on Independence Day. The brewery was created by veterans and active duty military personnel, for a community full of more veterans and active duty military personnel. Even their name, Red Leg, pays homage to members of the field artillery soldiers who are referred to as “redlegs” because during the American Civil War these soldiers wore scarlet red stripes down the legs of their uniform pants to help indicate their location on the battlefield. This brewery is perfectly suited for a great American military town such as Colorado Springs. During our visit we felt certain that we were surrounded by some of the great men and women who were taking a well-deserved beer break from protecting our freedom. There were active duty service men and women, veterans, and then there was us… feeling like no-good dirty hippies in comparison to the brave Americans surrounding us. Fortunately for us, Red Leg Brewing was welcoming to us slack-ass non-military types, too. Damn, they’re awesome.
Devil Dog Stout at Red Leg Brewing Company
Story of Red Leg Brewing Company
SGT PILS at Red Leg Brewing Company
Red Leg Brewing bar
Red Leg Brewing Company
Red Leg Brewing Company
During our visit we had the Front Line, a sampler of all 6 of their beers. All six were delicious, but there were a few favorites that we thought outranked the others. The SGT Pils was both of our favorite, which says a lot for a brewery. I mean, everyone makes an IPA Jeff loves, and usually there’s something malty or fruity for me – but it’s rare that we both fall in love with a pilsner, and that says a lot for Red Leg Brewing Company’s SGT Pils. It was light and refreshing, very crisp, with a nice hoppy aroma that made it a deliciously easy-drinking beer. We also enjoyed the Devil Dog stout for its roasted-coffee-meets-hops deliciousness, and the Do Little IPA for being well hopped but with a well-balanced malty finish. They were all pretty good beers, in so much that we could easily drink a pint of any of them. For lack of a better analogy, lets just say the beers at Red Leg all tasted as great as sweet, American freedom.
So while it’s too late to visit Red Leg Brewing Company for their first anniversary, drop by anyway. It’s worth the trip to Colorado Springs for this brewery, and it’s the American thing to do. Red Leg Brewing Company is located at 4630 Forge Road Suite B, Colorado Springs. They’re open Wednesday – Sunday, and if all these beers make you hungry there’s often a food truck around to get you some grub. For more information on Red Leg Brewing Company visit their website or Facebook page.