BEER IN SITU: Boulder Beer (Colorado’s First Microbrewery)

We find ourselves spending a lot of time in brewpubs, brew places, breweries, and tap rooms now that we are doing the visa waiting game for our next move abroad. It’s amazing to have so many places available to us in the Front Range of Colorado. Every time I come back from living abroad, new places have opened and new beer is waiting to be discovered. Today we went to the oldest microbrewery in Boulder, CO.

The Pertinents

Brew-Day!
Brew-Day!

Their Self-Description

“In 1979 two professors at the University of Colorado received the 43rd brewing license issued in the United States, creating Boulder Beer Company, Colorado’s First Microbrewery. The original site of the brewery was a small farm northeast of Boulder, the brew house sharing space in a shed originally housing a few goats!

In a world of light yellow lagers, Boulder Beer won industry and consumer accolades for its line of bold Boulder Beers: Boulder Porter, Stout and Extra Special Bitter. Five years later, the brewery moved to it’s current site in Boulder and expanded from its original one-barrel brewing system to a 50-barrel brew house with top-of-the-line packaging equipment. In 1994 we converted the original tasting room to our full-menu pub and epic patio under the Flatirons.” – Boulderbeer.com

The interior of the Pub
The interior of the Pub

The Space

“It looks like a church,” said Russell as we walked up in the aftermath of a winter snowstorm. It’s true; the steam coming out the top of the building from a boil made it even more picturesque and holy-looking. From Wilderness street in Boulder, you get a beautiful view of the Flatirons. It’s in the part of town I’d live in if I could afford to live in Boulder. The north bit. With the cheap(er) apartment/townhomes.

The Pub is a very Colorado pub. It’s not very English or Irish at all, so i you come from a place with those kinds of pubs, prepare yourself. It’s an open space, with slightly dated interior. It enhances the charm. Medals, homages to the original brews, and oodles of merchandise cover the walls. 16 beers on tap today, with growlers available and a variety of pour sizes. The TVs are a little bit distracting, and it’s interesting that the pub is not open on Sundays (which seem to be prime time for pubbing!)

Tasting Tray
Tasting Tray

The Beers

We tried everything on tap. Yes, I was driving. They have a great deal for tasters, where you get 16 small pours of beer for $15 and can try all the beer that is available that day. Duh. Definitely needed to order that! It works out to about four full beers, or two when shared between two people. Great for sampling when you have to drive, even though it’s a little hard to finish the giant tasting board before the beers get warm.

The beers themselves are very distinctive to me, now that I’ve got some beer training and have worked in the craft beer industry. Some of them are a little bit on the water-y side, but then again I have been drinking a lot of powerful Belgian and West Coast styles lately. I ‘grew up’ with craft beer, and some of the ones that I originally drank when I was in college or just starting to like beer have a new title now: ‘Baby Beers.’ Tasty, easy-drinking, 4-5%, usually a bit sweet, and just not all that complex. Great for getting into craft beer.

A fair few of Boulder Beer’s brews fall into that category for me. This is also due to the fact that they were some of the first beers I ever bought for myself, upon turning 21. They are nostalgic, and I’m so happy that they haven’t changed. But I have changed. And therefore, my relationship with them has evolved.

The day's menu
The day’s menu

Tasting Notes

Even though we tried everything on draft, I’m going to cut to the chase and do only a selection. Otherwise this article would become a novella.

IC1

  • Style: Hoppy Brown Ale
  • Geekery: ~5% ABV, ~50 IBUs (not sure, can’t find the deets), Color = Brown, but not overly so
  • This beer is a bit of a mystery. It seems to be a taproom-only (or at the very least, a Boulder city limits exclusive) brown ale, full of what seem to be English Hops due to the earthy, woody taste. My guess is loads of East Kent Goldings. Slightly chalky taste, possibly due to the hop terroir if they are actually from East Kent in England. Seemed to be a staff favourite. Tasty!
  • Overall Rating: 4 pints (out of five pints)

Sweaty Betty 

  • Style: “Bavarian Style HefeWeizen”
  • Geekery: 5.2% ABV, 15 IBUs , Color = Blonde Sweat, and not particularly cloudy like most Wizens
  • Sweaty Betty and I have never really gotten along. Maybe it’s because we’re rival blondes. The aroma is practically non-existent but I got a little bit of those classic banana phenols for german wheat beers. The taste is…fine. Not enough carbonation or mouthfeel thickness for me to consider it a HefeWeizen. It’s not really a Bavarian style wheat beer. Could use improvement.
  • Overall Rating: 2.5 pints

Double Trouble 

  • Style: Double Dry-Hopped, Cask (!) IPA
  • Geekery: ~7.2% ABV, ~70 IBUs (not sure, cask ales tend to alter these a little), Color = Bright, hazy, golden
  • Gorgeous. A lot of US craft breweries began experimenting with cask ales a few years ago, and this is a style that is perfectly suited to this traditional process. I’ve had a lot of cask ales (living in England tends to do that!), and this is a great one. Pine and cedar aroma, bright, crispy hoppy taste. Thick, slightly slick mouthfeel. Needs an imperial pint pour!
  • Overall Rating: 4.5 pints

    Boulder Beer holds tons of events and live music showcases
    Boulder Beer holds tons of events and live music showcases

DDouble DDelicious 

  • Style: Chocolate Porter with cherry infusion
  • Geekery: 5.9% ABV, 39 IBUs, Color = Milk Chocolate
  • So good. Tastes just like a cherry chocolate cordial, with a tiny hint of booziness at the beginning. Happily, it’s not too sweet. Three distinct tastes that your tongue moves through: booze, chocolate, and cherry. Maintains roast porter profile.
  • Overall Rating: 4 pints

Mojo Rising 

  • Style: Imperial IPA
  • Geekery: 10% ABV, 85 IBUs, Color = Caramel straw
  • For a beer so dry-hopped, not very much of a nose on it. Sweet, but clean. Not sure which hops are present, but I’d guess maybe Summit because of the slight sweet onion taste. Lingering bitterness on the aftertaste that persists a long time.
  • Overall Rating: 4 pints

Honey Saison 

  • Style: Um…Imperial Saison With Honey?
  • Geekery: 12% ABV, 25 IBUs, Color = Wildflower Honey
  • Woah. This is a doozy, and the most experimental of Boulder Beer’s offerings. It behaves like a barleywine with a saison yeast, bringing strong flavours and that typical peppery, spicy Belgian yeast character. It’s unusual, but not off-putting. I wish they made more beers like this.
  • Overall Rating: 4.5
This is an appetiser? Wow!
This is an appetiser? Wow!

The Munchies

A huge menu of pub food, with beer pairings for every dish on the side of the sections. The menu also walks through the brewing process in an accessible and informative way from ‘Mashing In’ (appetisers) to Dry-Hopping and explains the processes that go into the beer. The food is exactly what you’d want after a long bike ride or hike. Russell got the bison burger. I got the appetiser chicken tenders, but they also gave me fries. It was a TON of food. 

I loved the buffalo sauce, but it was a bit salty after a while. Paired well with the normal Mojo IPA, playing on the classic spicy-bitter contrast that so many people like.

Russell’s One-Line Review

“They were brewing. It smelled nice.”

Next Time: My hometown brewery. See all the Beer In Situ posts on one page!

One Comment

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  1. Ha! LOL’d at Russ’ comment. I feel the same way about Boulder Beer brewery.

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