my name is dev, and you sound like an ass.

This is a quick response to an article that David Chang wrote for GQ Magazine titled “My Name is David Chang and I Hate Fancy Beer.” The amazing Garrett Oliver penned a response a few days later: “My Name is Garrett Oliver and I Hate Crappy Beer.” Please read both, as both are interesting and give some insight into the rising tide of disdain for beer geeks and the craft brewing industry. My comments were originally posted to a comment on Eater.com, but I have made some changes for this blog.

I love craft beer. I love it because I love seeking out new flavors and experiences and the people who work in the industry. It is my passion. I love educating others about beer and its history and complexities and how to pair it with food. Beer challenges me and delights me and makes me happy.

What I don’t like are people who judge others for their drink choices. Those who think that someone else’s decisions somehow negatively affect them. If you want to drink industrial beer and like it, great! Go for it! But if you ask me for a suggestion on what to drink, I’ll steer you towards a good craft or import that you might enjoy, just to expand your palate.

David Chang’s article was obnoxious and pretentious. His choice to constantly crow about his supposed “love” for industrial beer is just a way for him to put down those around him seeking different choices. He comes off as a prat, and one I wouldn’t want to eat or drink with. The fact that he has repeatedly approached Garrett Oliver, one of the gods of the craft beer industry, and “bragged” about how much he loves mass market brews just shows how crummy his character is. Also, the title of his article is about how he “hates fancy beer.” Except that he doesn’t. He flat-out says that he enjoys the flavors of many craft beer styles and that he has “seen the sunrise from the bar at Mikkeller” (good for you). This just proves that his headline is nothing but click bait. He is making the point that even though he has access to some of the best beers in the world – and clearly has favor with some brewers that many of us would kill to hang out with – he would rather shove it in their faces that he would prefer mass market beer.

And if he eschews beers even he calls “delicious” for mass market, flavorless beer… what does that say about his food? And if he is willing to be a creep to some of the greatest minds (and palates) in the beer industry, how does he treat others in his own? As someone not nearly famous or rich enough to be able to get a reservation at Momofuku, I can only speculate.

Oliver’s response is great. I love that he calls Chang out on the carpet and doesn’t let him get away with what is so clearly a cry for attention.

Yes, beer geeks (and foodies and wine snobs) can come off as pretentious. I know we can. I’m sorry for that – it’s really not (the majority of us, at least) our intention. We are just seeking out something new and different and exciting. We don’t want to waste our time and money and experiences (and calories, let’s be real, here) on something boring. I don’t think anyone has had an epiphany while drinking a Bud or felt true, deep delight while supping an MGD. But I cried when I first tried Westvleteren XII and I giggled in excitement when I tasted the Rare Barrel‘s Egregious.

Beer, for me, is so much more than something to quench my thirst.

And that’s okay. Just as it’s okay for beer to JUST be something to quench your thirst. But Chang’s crowing about how he so proudly struts his industrial beer love in the face of people just trying to do their jobs and share their enthusiasm makes him come off as a pretentious jerk. A pretentious jerk with bad taste, at that.

gabf: because one more advice blog is (un)necessary.

One of the most popular GABF-season posts is advice on how to “survive” the festival. What’s kind of sad is how many of these posts are necessary. And how many are very, very unnecessary. I’m not sure which category this post falls in to, but I felt that my almost a decade of GABF volunteering and attendance might benefit some folks attending for the first time. Or second. Or tenth. Because apparently some things bear repeating.

  1. Do not bring a backpack. I’m stating this up front, because this will be your first issue. At the doors there is hired security who will not allow you in with a backpack. Yes, women can bring massive purses in without an issue. Yes, this is stupid and arbitrary. No, it doesn’t change the rule. In fact, if you want to get it quicker, don’t bring any bags. Why do you need a big bag anyway? If you’re planning on buying something from a vendor, they have bags. If you have a coat… don’t have a coat… or tie it around your waste. If you have a bag, security will search it and send you away if you have anything “illicit” like food that you can’t wear around your neck, weapons, or beer.
  2. Do not bring your kids. Really? This has to be said? Even if your kid is a month old and you just can’t bear to leave your adorable little sex fruit with a babysitter, it’s still not okay. First off, the fest is very, very loud. Way too loud for adult ears, let alone Sweetpea’s little ones. Second, it’s a BEER FEST. This is a place where adults should be allowed to be free of screaming babies, diapers, and bottles. Third, the ticket says 21+, but for some reason I see 2-3 babies every session and, inevitably, baby will get bumped into by some drunk person, mom or dad will get super mad, and there will be a confrontation. You know what prevents this? Leaving the kid at home. Again, why do I have to explain this?
  3. Have your ID and ticket out. If you have these two things out, and you don’t have a backpack, you will get through the doors likity-split. But remember that the ticket scanners only work so quickly, so please don’t shove when the ticket is being scanned, it will just slow things down. And, really, you’re gaining ~.005 seconds. That’s not going to make a difference.
  4. Do not view GABF as a chance to get wasted. Oh yes, you will get there, but if that’s the way you approach it, you will not have as much fun. If you go to enjoy beer, taste new things, and talk to beer folk, you are just going to enjoy yourself more. Go to have a blast, not solely to get sloshed. On that subject…
  5. Have a plan. Download their app, go through, and mark all of the breweries you want to visit. The app will show you a map with how many of your breweries are on each row. If you stay focused, you are going to be able to appreciate more beers.
  6. Don’t be afraid to deviate from your plan. I was on my way to the Sweetwater booth last year when I was distracted by a chocolate milk stout. It was the best beer I drank at the festival. If I had been dead set on only hitting the breweries on my list, I would have missed it. Granted, I don’t remember what the name of that brewery was now that the beer fog has descended on my memory, but more on that later…
  7. Try beers you would normally never drink. Why would you pay $60 for a ticket to a beer fest to just drink what you always drink? Take the opportunity to try new things. “Hate” IPAs? Try a few from different regions. Sour beers not your thing? Use the GABF app and hit up their recommendations for sours. Afraid of “dark” beers? For the love of god, drink some beers with color. This is your opportunity to expand your palate, take it!
  8. Do not go to breweries you can easily get where you live. This goes hand-in-hand with #6. If you can get a beer where you live, don’t waste your time. The caveat to this is, obviously, if is an extremely pricey beer, take a taste. Otherwise, why not explore more “exotic” beers? This is where having a plan helps.
  9. Use the app to track your beers – but make sure to transfer that information out of the app when you’re done. I told you I’d get back to this one. The GABF app allows you to track and rate beers you try. It’s a quicker, more straightforward way to rate your beers while on the floor. However, once next year’s app rolls out, it will overwrite all of that work you’ve done. This is why I could not tell you what brewery I loved so much last year. So, once you are home and sobered up, take out the GABF app and put all of those beers into another format, be it Excel or Untappd or RateBeer. Trust me, there will be a lot of blank tape, but this is one thing you can hold on to.
  10. Be friendly to brewers, but also be respectful. Despite the number of beers and breweries available, this is often NOT brewers’ favorite festival. The very things that make it cool (the size) also make it overwhelming. Appreciate that a lot of time, money, and planning have gone in to being at GABF and show the proper respect. If you see one of the more famous brewers, say hi, but don’t corner them or take up too much of their time. Likely, they are trying to talk to some of their friends and don’t have an hour to debate the merits of Cascadian vs black IPA with you. And if you want a photo with them, just ask, but be okay if they say no. They aren’t being assholes, they are just being people, and that’s okay.

    The blur on the left is me, the blur on the right is the Bearded One (pre-big beard), and the blur in the middle is the brewer from Firestone Walker. Or so the rumors go...

    The blur on the left is me, the blur on the right is the Bearded One (pre-big beard), and the blur in the middle is the brewer from Firestone Walker. Or so the rumors go…

  11. Be friendly to volunteers. Believe it or not, working GABF is very hard work. It’s long hours, it’s wet, you get yelled at a lot, and it can be rather thankless. If you happen to get a volunteer who doesn’t know his stuff, don’t be too harsh. Sometimes the brewery didn’t provide any information about the beers, sometimes it’s a volunteer’s first year and they are overwhelmed, or sometimes they are just covering for another volunteer on break and are scrambling to catch up. Just shrug and move on. And if you interact with one of the safety team volunteers (red shirts) who has to tell you that you don’t have a ticket for a mini-event or asks you to please stop screaming at the support column, it’s never going to move, try to be nice. Safety team doesn’t get to drink on the job, they have to be there before other volunteers and leave after them, and most have already worked a full day at their regular jobs. They are just trying to keep GABF from falling into anarchy.

    Especially this guy. He's all about the anarchy suppression.

    Especially this guy. He’s all about the anarchy suppression.

  12. Do not be an asshole. Again, how is this something that needs to be said? Yes, I know that you know more than anyone who has ever lived about double IPAs, but that doesn’t mean that you should try to belittle the brewer who didn’t win a medal by saying how your homebrew made it to the final round at the AHA Conference. He doesn’t care. Do NOT grab boobs or butts. It doesn’t matter how drunk you are or how cute you think you are being, that’s just not cool. If you happen to run into someone because you are drunk, say I’m sorry. If they happen to run into you because they are drunk, try to keep them from falling down and laugh it off. If you get a beer dumped over your head by some guy named Lurch, flag down a safety team member. Everyone is just trying to have a good time, and if you remember that, your time will be even bette
  13. Slow down and dump your beer when you leave. By that time of the night the volunteers are simply exhausted, and they are doing their best to make sure your final moments at the fest are positive. If you decide to be a jerk and try to bolt by them with beer, it’s just going to end badly for you and make their night crappy. And don’t run down/jump down/slide down the stairs. No one needs to see your blood everywhere. Please, just don’t.
  14. Do attend events outside of the actual GABF. You are here in one of the coolest cities in the world, do not limit your experience to just the GABF. There are plenty of great tappings, beer dinners, and breweries around town for you to visit. It’s a good way to round out your trip and make it about more than just getting housed. I have some suggestions on places to go in my post from yesterday.
  15. Eat well and often. Beer drinkers cannot live on pretzels and jerky alone. Take some time to visit one of the great eateries in town and get some real sustenance. Maybe even eat some greens. We are at 5280 feet above sea level, and the beer will affect you quicker here than down lower, so getting a good base (a lot of protein and fat) will help you make it through the week. Getting some greens will also help your GI tract recover quicker. Everyone will tell you to drink a lot of water, and that is true, too, but getting the right food may be even more important.
  16. Have fun. No, seriously, have fun. I have to constantly tell myself this as I tend to get insanely stressed during this week. GABF is about enjoying everything there is to love about beer in the United States. Brewers have spent a lot of time and money to bring their product out here, and they deserve to serve it to people who are stocked to be drinking it. And we, as geeks, deserve to spend this short amount of time really, truly, completely letting our passion for beer overtake us. Literally and figuratively, drink it up.

It’s time. Get out there. Go.

Cheers.

 

gabf: so i guess we are here again.

It is that time of year again. That time that is loved by beer geeks the United States over and stressed over by brewers in the same geographic area. The week where US brewers and beer geeks gather to drink, drink, and be merry in the Mile High City: the Great American Beer Festival or GABF (pronounced Gee-Ay-Bee-Eff). Yep. For the next week Denver will be overrun with brewers, beer geeks, frat boys, woo girls, and reluctant designated drivers looking for a good time.

As a resident beer drinker, I suppose it’s my responsibility to report on said festivities. I do so somewhat reluctantly as I feel the event, and all of the events surrounding it, are covered more than sufficiently (even beaten to death, perhaps) by writers much more prolific and talented than I. Some of that (excellent) coverage can be found on:

Inky Beer

Fermentedly Challenged

Denver Off the Wagon

First Drafts

And so on and so forth.

However, while reading the 1,000,000th article telling folks who are coming out here to visit Great Divide, New Belgium, and Falling Rock Taphouse, I figured I would join the conversation. While I think those establishments are fantastic, I’m a little tired of the same places getting all the press over and over when there are so many other great breweries, taphouses, and eateries out there that deserve some love as well. I thought I might as well throw a spotlight (regardless of the weird wolf-shaped gobo and strange, orangish tint) on some places I feel the dedicated beer geek would be loathed to miss on their travels to our lovely state.

Some of these breweries will be pouring at GABF*, but there’s nothing quite like visiting in-person.

Great Taphouses

- Hops & Pie, Denver. But, but, they only have 24 taps! you will likely whine to me. Yeah, but as the saying goes: it’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion of the ocean. Since their opening 4 years ago, Hops & Pie has proven to be one of the go-to spots in Denver for rare, exclusive, and delicious beers. Their tap list changes (multiple times) daily, their staff is knowledgeable, and their food is great. While their offerings can tend towards one style or another depending on the day, I have yet to visit where they haven’t had something on offer that got my yayas up. Tomorrow (October 1st) they are doing a tap takeover with a bunch of beers that were formerly unavailable in Colorado. You know I’ll be there.

- *Barrels & Bottles, Golden. Barrels & Bottles has one of those enviable locations both in that it’s easy to park and walk to, but it also gives a lovely view of the largest brewery in Golden (and down the street from the ridiculously good Bob’s Atomic Burgers). Besides their awesome location, they are quickly becoming a destination for beer lovers from the city who are looking for an escape, but not too much of an escape. In addition to 20 beer taps (including at least four dedicated to their own beers) and an infusion tower, they have 24 wine taps, wine slushies, and a nice small plates menu. They avoid a lot of the pitfalls of other “beer bars” in town by working with multiple distributors and not playing favorites with any one brewery, region, or style. You are as likely to find a rare sour on tap as a double Cascadian. They also have a short, but growing, bottle list (which, yes, includes Banquet, because you have to show some respect for your neighbors). Additionally, their staff is ridiculously learned and can recommend a beer (or wine, for that matter) that you are surely going to love. If you’re smart, you’ll make the 20 minute drive out of Denver.

- Bark Bar, Denver. If you’ve traveled with your pup for GABF, be sure to give her a break at the Bark Bar. It’s a bar and a dog park all in one. If you’re an animal lover, there are few pup-friendly spots in an overwhelmingly pup-friendly city as fun as this one.

- Other notable tap houses: Freshcraft, Euclid Hall, Falling Rock (because to leave them off would be a crime), Mayor of Old Town, Brewer’s Republic.

Great Breweries

Again, I’m going to skip the obvious. Yes, you should probably go to New Belgium (their tour is one of the best in the country, and I have been on A LOT of beer tours) and Great Divide and Odell. But there are so many great breweries out here, try not to limit yourself to those places you’ve heard of in Beer Advocate or from your buddy who had the BEST WEEKEND EVERRRRRRR last year. There are so, so many hidden gems. Here are just a few:

- *4 Noses, Broomfield. Yep, I’m bringing you into the suburbs. A newish brewery serving up some old standards and some experimental styles. Worth a visit if only for their Anarchy.

- *Big Choice, Broomfield. Wait, what!? Another Broomfield brewery!? What better way to chase down some excellent beers than with MORE excellent beers? Big Choice has some of the friendliest staff in the biz, and they have some good (leaning towards hoppy) beers to serve up. I particularly like their red (especially on nitro) and Colorado common.

- *Brewery Rickoli, Wheat Ridge. Still the smallest brewery in Colorado after almost two years, Brewery Rickoli offers a line-up of 16 beers, all of which are gluten removed. Some of the best IPAs I’ve ever tasted and their Elke Brown Ale is hard to match. Ignore the crappy stripmall appearances: these beers are class in a glass. Rickoli’s also won the Sam Adams Brewer’s Experienceship last year, so expect them to be busy at their booth.

- *Broken Compass, Breckenridge. If you are here long enough to make it to the mountains (which, let’s admit it, you should), you need to make your way to Broken Compass just north of downtown Breck. It’s nestled away by the Breckenridge Distillery and is serving up the best beer in Summit County, no contest. From their Pepper Pale Ale to their Chocolate Coffee Stout, their beers are delightful, interesting, and drinkable. The fact that their (very small) space is ridiculously charming and their staff defies the usual “locals only” attitude of most Colorado ski towns really seals the deal.

- Casey Brewing & Blending, Glenwood Springs. What Troy Casey, formerly of AC Golden, is doing up in Glenwood can be described as nothing less than magic, and it’s entirely unfair to other breweries. His Batch #1 Saison was absolute perfection in a bottle: funky, tart, crisp, playful. They are only open for their releases at this point, but they are available at a couple of locations in Denver and Glenwood and you would be well advised to pick some up. And by some, I mean every bottle you find. Then share with me. Because damn…

- Manitou Brewing, Manitou Springs. Another trip from Denver that is more than worth it. Manitou Springs, just west of Colorado Springs, is a stupidly cute mountain town with multiple public natural mineral springs smattered around town. It is also the home of Manitou Brewing, which is nestled back in an old burro barn with a great courtyard and warm interior. Their beers have yet to disappoint (although I am sad that I was only able to try their raspberry sour once) and their food is right on the money (helps to have a professional chef). I love this place so much that on our way from Salida to Evergreen yesterday, we diverted to go to Manitou. A worthy day trip, if you can make it.

- *Paradox, Woodland Park. While you’re down in the area, why not pop by Paradox Brewing? They are an exclusively barrel-aged facility fermenting wort brewed for them by Pikes Peak Brewing in Monument. The are doing some crazy experimental beers, with their Skully series being the crown jewel. If you can get your hands on some Skully #9 made with Nelson Sauvin hops, consider yourself very, very lucky.

- Golden City Brewery, Golden. Dubbed the second largest brewery in Golden for the last 21 years. I have to admit some bias here, however, if you are already up at Barrels & Bottles, it is a short four blocks up to GCB, which is located in and around a historical Victorian building. It also has one of the wackiest brewhouses in Colorado with a brick-clad kettle and old dairy tanks stacked 12 feet overhead. It also happens to employ two of the nicest guys in brewing, and two guys who you can spot as brewers from a mile away (beards, think big, luxurious beards). Oh, and one of them happens to be my partner-in-hops (thus the bias), so please go harass him.

- *Shine, Boulder. Shine is the quintessential Boulder hippie joint. It has a gluten-free menu with plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and raw options. But that’s part of what makes this place great. The food is spot-on (their grilled cheese made on gluten-free bread with cashew cream soup is out of this world, regardless of whether you’ve bought into the gluten-free fad or not). For a place that definitely flies under the radar when it comes to being a brewery, they have some mighty fine brews. A solid choice in Boulder that shows you what the Republic really is about.

- Mountain Sun/Southern Sun/Vine Street, Boulder/Boulder/Denver. The three breweries in this little group have so many of their own beers on tap, it puts the “big boys” to shame. And it’s not just quantity, it’s quality. Their beers run the gamut of styles with each one being thoughtful and well executed. This is a great side trip for anyone who is looking to have more than one beer at a location and some pretty good noms to boot. If you can find their Colorado Kind on nitro, it’s worth it. And grab some of their hummus of the day, you won’t be disappointed. But be warned: their prices are good because they are cash only, so bring the green stuff.

- *Comrade, Denver. Owner David and brewer Marks have such a good thing going on here that you almost don’t want to share it. One of a plethora of breweries in old garages around town, this one happens to have a great theme and serves up beer that we drive from Evergreen – over an hour each way – to get. Their Koffee Kream is brewed with coffee roasted especially for them by Denver institution Kaladi Brothers Coffee. If you are near downtown and happen to have brought a bike (or want to rent on from our excellent bikeshare program), it’s a fun ride along the Cherry Creek path out to their location.

- Baere, Denver. Baere has been open a very short amount of time, and has some really wacky hours, but our first visit there provided us with some very good beers (their IPA, in particular, was perplexing and delicious). The service is solid, and they donate their tips to a different charity every month.

- *Lowdown, Denver. After you have a drink at Baere, go over to Lowdown. Once again proving that Rock Bottom is a great training ground for brewers, the owners/brewers at Lowdown know their stuff. Again, a wide variety of beers that compliment their excellent food perfectly. And they have a parking lot! Talk about package deal…

- *Equinox, Fort Collins. There are so many great breweries in Fort Collins, but I’m going to focus on Equinox because (A) of the likelihood you haven’t heard of it and (B) of the “sleeper” breweries, this is the only one I have been to (I know… bad me…) What I love about Equinox is not only that their beers a very, very good, but that they sell their recipes and kits next door at the homebrew store. Few things show the collaborative, familial spirit of the craft beer industry quite like that.

- Happy Leaf Kombucha, Denver. Not technically a brewery, but if you’re over visiting Crooked Stave (which I’m sure you will), you would be amiss to skip Happy Leaf. The first kombucha brewery in Denver, they offer 2-6 varieties of their buch, which is tart, funky, and perfect if you love sour beers. I was even able to get the Bearded Brewer on board. If you’ve never tried kombucha, Happy Leaf is the perfect testing ground as they do samples and the staff is happy to talk about process and ingredients. Since buch in a grocery store can exceed $4 a bottle, this is both a tasty, and a frugal stopover.

I have left off breweries that are farther afield such as *Butcherknife, *Steamworks, Copper ClubThree Barrel, *Roaring Fork, etc. Not because I don’t love them, but I was trying to think of reasonable distances from Denver.

Great Noms

This list could go on forever, if I let it. I love beer, but I also love food (duh). We have some amazing places to each along the Front Range, and eating fast food would be a crime with the glut of awesomeness we have on offer. Some of the Colorado specialties you can’t find elsewhere are: chile rellenos deep fried in egg roll wrappers, Mexican hamburger, “green” chile (that’s actually orange and made with tomatoes and pork, unlike New Mexico style green chili), the goober burger (burger with peanut butter and bacon, it’s as sinfully amazing as it sounds), Rocky Mountain Oysters (yes, they are a real thing), and every permutation of game meat you can imagine. Many of the breweries I’ve mentioned either have a kitchen or have food trucks, so that should always be your first choice, but if you’re looking for some solid food outside of a beer house, these could give you a start. Again, this list of eateries is far from exhaustive, but it should give a good base for some beer drinking fun.

- Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs, Denver. Get any of the wild game dogs with caramelized onions and cream cheese on them. It’s one of those things that just works. If you can hit up his cart, do. The restaurant is nice, but nothing beats grabbing a dog from the cart and talking to the man himself.

- Bob’s Atomic Burgers, Golden. Build your own burgers done right. Be forewarned that they are huge and messy.

- Park Burger, Denver. More for the Works, a pile of fries with cheese sauce, ranch, and bacon, than anything else.

- Mexico City Restaurant, Denver. Only order the tacos. Do not deviate from that advice. They make their own shells and are greasy perfection.

- Big Mama’s Burritos, Wheat Ridge. Excellent green chile served in and on massive burritos. Grab some and head over to Rickoli’s.

- The Buckhorn Exchange, Denver. The place for wild game (not in dog form) in the city. Even if you don’t stay for a whole meal (it can be spendy), be sure to grab some Rocky Mountain oysters and hang out that the bar for some sense of the long gone cowtown Denver used to be.

- The Cherry Cricket, Denver. The inventor of the Goober Burger. Done and done.

- Wild Ginger, Littleton. A bit down south, but the best Thai food in the area. Their crab rangoon is actually made in house (unlike the frozen crap you get at most Asian places) and is like little bursts of glorious perfection in your mouth.

- New Saigon, Denver. The destination for authentic Vietnamese eats. We have a large Asian population who have set up shop along Federal Blvd, but this is my favorite. I particularly love noodle bowl 10N: noodles, sauce, pork, beef, and egg roll. Enough to feed four normal people or one me. Enter through the west doors, not the fancy south ones (that is bakery and takeout).

- Big City Burrito, Fort Collins. This has become a rather large chain, but I’m talking about the original one in Fort Collins, on College. Like Chipotle, if Chipotle had actual choices and a wide variety of sauces. Don’t miss out on their Soul Sauce, a mix of strawberry and habenero that gets the sweet and spicy mix just right. I order a 1/2 veggie, 1/2 carnitas burrito on jalapeno cheddar with potatoes instead of rice and beans with sour cream and soul sauce. Don’t judge.

- Pete’s Kitchen, Denver. Pete has a lot of different joints around Denver, but Pete’s Kitchen provides the 24/7 service necessary for hardcore beer drinkers. It’s a diner in every sense of the word and we wouldn’t want it any other way. I always order their big greek salad with gyro meat and two eggs over medium after a hard night. It’s like the night before never happened.

- SOBO 151, Denver. This was our regular haunt when we were living in the West Wash Park neighborhood. It’s strange enough to find any eastern European food in Denver, so SOBO not only serving authentic Czech food, but doing is well, is a triumph. I particularly love their sauerkraut soup, Smazak (fried cheese), and their garlic dip. They also have Krusavice Cerne on tap, which is a good beer for anyone studying for their BJCP or Cicerone to check out.

Other Stuff

Again, if you live here, you know how great this state is. But, if you don’t, why not take a little time to allow your liver to recover and visit some of the amazing places close to Front Range that we have to offer? Of course, there’s the always popular Red Rocks, but here are some potentially lesser-known spots to take a break.

- Buffalo Bill’s Grave, Goldenish. Head up I-70 to Lookout Mountain, get off the highway and follow the signs for Buffalo Bill’s Grave. After taking it the amazing vista of the Continental Divide on one side and the Front Range on the other, drive down the twisty, turny Lariat Loop. This road will drop you off in Golden, where you can whet your whistle at the aforementioned Barrels & Bottles and GCB (or, make a whole day of it and hit up Mountain Toad and Cannonball Creek as well).

- Squaw Pass, Evergreen. Go up I-70 (stop at the Buffalo herd on your way up – it’s owned by Denver and is 100% genetically bison as of two years ago) to the Evergreen exit and drive up 74 until you see the sign for Mount Evans (it will say closed, but that’s just the highway to the top of the mountain). Turn down that road and you will be treated to some of the finest colors in Colorado, as well as stunning views of Mount Evans and the Divide. Dropping down the other side will leave you in Idaho Springs, and it’s a quick 40 minutes from there down I-70 to Denver.

- Chautauqua Park. Okay, maybe this one isn’t so under the radar, but it’s a shame to miss it if you’re up in Boulder. Standing at the base of the Flatirons, you really come to appreciate the diversity of Colorado geology. Oh, and there may be a brewery or two you can visit while up that way.

Dinosaur Ridge, Boulder. I can’t seem to get out of the mountains with these. Oh well, folks here for GABF spend enough time in the city that they should know about outside of it anyway. Dinosaur Ridge is located between Morrison and Golden and is a nice walk where you can see dinosaur footprints in situ with lots of educational information. There is also a museum that is worth a peek, while you’re out there.

- Plains Conservation Center, Aurora. Look! I brought you to the plains! Yes, this a ways out (but you can have a beer or two at Comrade and Dry Dock on your way there), but it’s worth it. Oftentimes Coloradans forget that we have as rich a history on our flatlands as we do on the spiky ones, and this place reminds us of it. We spent a great day out there for the Hops for Habitat beer fest and recommend you do the same.

- Staunton State Park, Conifer. Colorado’s newest state park is full of amazing rock outcroppings, waterfalls, and hiking trails. If you need a day to really, seriously get away, than the secluded Stauton should be your destination. You are unlikely to find such peace anywhere else within 45 minutes of Denver.

- Evergreen elk rut. I live in this great little mountain town called Evergreen, and around this time of year the elk begin to rut – or go at it so that they can get the ladies. Watching the bulls bugle and spar really is a magnificent sight, and one that I have to admit to taking for granted. Honestly, if you see one thing outside of Denver, make it this.

 

Look, I know that this list is far from exhaustive, and I’ve likely pissed some people off with inclusions and/or omissions, but this is what I could think of to give guests to the Mile High City a good place to start. What would you add to this list? Any taplists that are ridiculously good that I’ve overlooked? Any breweries that deserve some sweet, sweet lovin’? And places that you always bring guests when they come out (yes, I purposely left Casa Bonita off the list)?

I already have another idea for an article, so it seems you may be more of me this week than you’re used to. Maybe I’ll even post drunk from the fest itself! We shall see…

Let’s do this thing.

Cheers.

Updated to include the elk rut in Evergreen.

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. 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 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: West 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.

autumn.

I am ready for crisp days and cold nights.
For crackling fires and musty books.
For food full of earth and cream and spice.
For beer that smells of leaves shuffled underfoot.
For leaves shuffled underfoot.
For high-pitched calls driven by instinct and desire.
For the crash and clash of sparring brothers.
For the yellows oranges reds that are so intense as to feel supernatural.
For blue skies a color that is not to be believed.
For the soothing sound of rain.
For the distant smell of snow.
For cozy rainbow wool slippers.
For a the chunky sweather that still smells slightly of sheep.
For pumpkins and candy and little kids pretending to be terrifying.
For football.
For the reminder that, even in death, life is beautiful.
For the epiphany that, especially in death, life can be beautiful.
For mushrooms replacing grass in all their alienness.
For the chattering quake of golden aspen leaves sharing their mesmerizing secrets.
For the lengthing of shadows.
For September and October.
For autumn.
For the fall.
For today.

beautiful day in the [bier]garden.

I’m sitting here, sharing a table with a homebrewer and a man from Yorkshire, in the biergarden at Golden City Brewery. Their discussions thus far:

- Which local breweries have worse beer than his homebrews (most of them)
– Virtues of experimenting with brewing (if it’s shite, you can just toss it)
– American vs British beer (USA! USA!)
– Beer vs lager (or fat guys vs fit guys)
– Best cycling recovery beer (agreement to do further study)

Now they are trying to figure out the best Golden-area vantage point from which to watch the USA Pro Challenge cycling race. So, I’ve tuned out a bit…

Other than my tablemates, I’ve decided that Golden either has an obscene concentration of attractive, in shape people, or all the beautiful people in Golden gather here. Or both.

I’m not used to being ony own at breweries. Or breweries with a bar. I’m attempting to channel my father, who is a professional people-watcher. But I kind of feel like a creeper.

As I said this weekend: never go full creeper.

It’s good, though, to have some time in my own brain, but not all by myself (yes, I totally sang that in my head).

And as I write that, the Bearded Brewer pokes his head out of the brewhouse like some boozy Puxatawny Phil and calls me back. Time to go.

Have a great Tuesday. After all, at least it’s not Monday.

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!