Beer in Situ: Colorado Six Pack

Don’t worry, this was over a couple days. Don’t drink a six pack all at once, guys. That’s not moderate.

COsixpack

Since I’ve been away, a lot of beery places have sprung up, even here in the beautiful beery country of Colorado. Around here, one can make a six pack with single beers from all over, and try out a lot of the stuff in the craft beer market. I chose six beers that I’d never tried before to see what I’ve been missing while living in China.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 1.14.04 PM10,000 Summers

  • Big Choice Brewing (Broomfield, Colorado, USA)
  • ABV: 5.1%, IBUs 21
  • Honey Farmhouse Belgiany Ale Thingy (technical term)

Tasting notes: Smells like clover honey, but the taste is really different from what I was expecting. Verging on acidic initially, and then blending out into malty undertones. The finish is a blend of belgian bitterness and wheat bread. The can I’ve got is a little low on the carbonation, and the head doesn’t seem to stick around for long.

I don’t mind this beer, but I’m not sure I’d seek it out.

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Compass IPA

  • Bristol Brewing, Co. (Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)
  • ABV 6.5%, IBUs 55
  • India Pale Ale (US Style)

Tasting Notes: Holy moly. So. Many Hops. On the nose. Wow. I missed you, West Coast beer.

It’s bright and zippy, with a whole lot of flavour. The bitterness is prominent, and it tastes a little bit like tea as a result. But there are still some mega Alpha-acid hops in there, although I’m not sure which ones. Welcomes me back to big, in your teeth beers.

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Firestarter IPA

  • Bonfire Brewing (Eagle, Colorado, USA)
  • ABV 6.6%, IBUs 72
  • India Pale Ale

Tasting Notes: Dang, this is hoppy. Even more so than the last one. I am out of shape when it comes to hoppiness. The nose on this one is deceptively strong, and made me think it would kick me in the face. Not the case.

Subtle, as far as massive West Coast IPAs go. Well-balanced. It has honey notes, none of the grassy flavors of some IPAs, and good, clean, bright taste. Orange, grapefruit, and something vaguely creamy in there. Super carbonated. Hell yeah. I’m home. I could drink this every day.

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Alice

  • Wonderland Brewing Co.
  • ABV 5.2%, IBUs 17
  • Belgian Blonde

Tasting notes: Clean and bright. A hint of sunscreen-like flavor but in a good way. Tastes like summertime. It tastes a bit more Belgian on the second sip, but still not too spicy. The main taste is just clean, beautiful Colorado-i-ness. Tasty!

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Yes, that’s a cocktail glass. Closest thing to a Teku I have.

Poblano Stout

  • Big Choice Brewing
  • 5.7%, IBUs
  • Oatmeal Chili Stout (no heat)

Tasting Notes: Hmmmm. It’s got a lot of chocolate flavors, and is smooth to drink. The Poblano manifests as a slightly-there taste, a bit too subtle for my liking. It’s a good stout, but nothing particularly special. I’d prefer heat.

Specialty: Chubna

  • Oskar Blues
  • 12.6%
  • Imperial Scotch IPA

Tasting Notes: God damn it. Ladies and gentlemen, a Cicerone pour.

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Ok for reals, this time.

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I believe the words ‘holy fucking shit’ came out of my mouth twice in quick succession, once for the cascade of beer all over the counter, my hands, and the cat food below. Then again for the taste of this thing. It’s like flavor and bombast had a baby. Thick, carmely, like a boozy barrel-aged barleywine with mega hops. As I wrote that, a massive thunderclap sounded here in Louisville.

This beer may have powers I underestimated.

The initial taste is burn, followed by bright toffee with candied orange and a very subtle undertone of something herbaceous (oregano?). Hardly any bourbon prominence, but it might be edged out by the sheer BAM of the beer itself. I taste lychee on the aftertaste.

…I couldn’t drink this whole ‘stovepipe,’ so I ended up making a spice cake with the rest of the beer. I admire Oskar Blues’ intensity and innovation, but this beer is just too many things mixed together.

What Colorado craft beers should I try next? 

Beer In Situ: Finkle and Garf

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. Yesterday we went to the one of the newest microbreweries in Boulder, CO.

Games!

Games!

The Pertinents

Their Self-Description

“Finkel & Garf Brewing Company is a collaboration between Eric and Dan Garfinkel, a father (Finkel) and son (Garf). We share a love of well crafted beer and an appreciation for the life experiences we have enjoyed with a beer in hand. Our reason for being is simple:

To make outstanding craft beer

To facilitate great moments among family and friends.

We are often asked why we chose to put toys in the Finkel & Garf crest rather than images of hops and barley. The answer is because we are all still kids at heart. Toys are fun and they remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.” – finkelandgarf.com

The Space

Immediately, one notices the well-honed aesthetics of the tap room just off Lookout Road. It smells strongly of the brewery in the back, pumping out steam in the freezing afternoon. The neighbourhood appears to be booming in construction, with new shops and apartments springing up in well-organised clumps of trendy wooden panels and metal siding. These guys chose a prime, growing location.

Since this is one of the newest breweries in Boulder, it has a lot to live up to. Everything is quite clearly brand new, and well-designed almost to a fault. I particularly liked the giant board games hung from leather straps on the wall, ready to play at any time. The blocks on the tables are a great touch, which Russell appreciated greatly. Beer, toys, and early 90s hip-hop and French rap music blaring? Perfect for the under 35 crowd that seems to be moving to the area.

The bar

The bar

Dogs are made to feel like valued customers. Every one of the people working in the brewery came by to sit on the floor and be licked. A minor scuffle broke out because one doggie was a little anxious, but no one was hurt. Treats are behind the bar.

Simple pricing scheme. No long descriptions of the beers on the board. No IBUs. Lots of nostalgic foods populating the shelves behind the bar, including Twinkies and Spam. Well-built, apparently handcrafted space. I especially love the lights on the bar, and were they not bolted down with welded nuts, I’d love to take one home.

House Flight, $9. With Pairing, $15.

House Flight, $9. With Pairing, $15.

The Beers

I get the impression that this brewery wants to take back some corner of craft beer from beer geeks. I get that. It’s annoying at times to have long-winded debates about beer. Listening at too much length to a rival beer geek wax poetic about the virtues of whirlpool hopping or the inherent superiority of Carafe II over Carafe III can drive a person to drinking solely double quadrupels. The Finkle and Garf philosophy is very clear from their website:

“The process of selecting and drinking a beer shouldn’t be complicated, confusing, or too serious. Beer should be straightforward in presentation, consistent in flavor and quality, and balanced. Beer shouldn’t be the center of attention, but rather a facilitator of unforgettable moments.”

Balanced can mean either ‘balanced’ or ‘not too hoppy’ according to the person using it in reference to American craft beer. At my London Brewdog bar, I got more than one person from my native state coming in and railing about how out of control US craft beer has gotten and insisting our styles were sooooooo much better (usually while drinking a US-style DIPA with 150 IBUs, but who’s counting?). I got the sense then, and have since gotten more of one from a month craftbeering in Colorado, that a pushback of sorts is underway against the big, piney, robust beers the US scene is known for.

Finkle and Garf’s philosophy is immediately apparent in the beers themselves. Balanced. Clean. Almost no dry-hopping aromas whatsoever in any of them. English-y (read: traditional) pale ale and IPA. No frills. Good. Maybe not yet great.

Russell loved the blocks, though.

Tasting Notes

We tried everything on draft except the house root beer.

American Lager 

  • Style: Light Lager
  • Geekery: 4.8% ABV, 27 IBUs , Color = Extremely light
  • Fruity and a bit hoppy for a lager. The colour is so light. So light. None of the golden colours that some light lagers take on. The hops are interesting, and this is a very drinkable beer.
  • Overall Rating: 3.5 pints (out of five pints)

Cream Ale 

  • Style: Cream Ale (cold-fermented ale)
  • Geekery: 5.4% ABV, 36 IBUs , Color = Straw
  • We initially were told that this was the wheat ale in our house flight, which means that my tasting notes are a bit screwy. I commented that it wasn’t very wheat for a wheat ale. Well, it wasn’t one. Maybe a tiny hint of lemon on the nose.
  • Overall Rating: 3.6 pints
Notes and beers. The dream.

Notes and beers. The dream.

Pale Ale

  • Style: Pale Ale
  • Geekery: 4.8% ABV, 40 IBUs , Color = Golden-y and more English-looking
  • This is not in the American Pale Ale style, but falls more into a traditional, session pale ale from England. Few hop notes, and a little bit spicy. Relatively noticeable malty backbone to the beer. A tiny bit leafy (potentially English hops).
  • Overall Rating: 3.8 pints
Volcano. Russell, 2015.

Volcano. Russell, 2015.

Wheat 

  • Style: American Wheat Ale
  • Geekery: 4.7% ABV, 21 IBUs , Color = Darkish and not too cloudy
  • This is definitely in the American style. Not too many phenolic flavours like banana or cloves, although there is a tiny bit of spiciness on the finish. Not sweet (phew), with a little bit of balancing hop character and bitterness. A little bit thin on the carbonation and mouthfeel for a wheat.
  • Overall Rating: 3.8 pints

IPA  

  • Style: India Pale Ale
  • Geekery: 6.5% ABV, 80 IBUs , Color = Golden
  • No nose! Where my dry hops at?? Very little aroma for an IPA, but maybe that’s the balance they want. There was an initial buttery taste, which was subtle but noticeable. It was a bit like diacetyl, but could have been hop-related (high alpha or maybe Pilgrim hops, sometimes they have this flavour). A bit slick on the mouthfeel. English-y and traditional.
  • Overall Rating: 3.0 pints

    Nailed it.

    Nailed it.

Milk Stout  

  • Style: Milk Stout
  • Geekery: 5.5% ABV, 36 IBUs , Color = Dark Chocolate
  • Smokey and a bit rauchbier-like for a stout. The typical sweetness that is left in a milk stout from the unfermented lactose is overpowered by that. Balanced, but really more of a Milk Porter. Oatmeal Milk Porter would be a cool style to have started!
  • Overall Rating: 3.9 pints (because I love rauchbier, even if it isn’t rauchbier)
Imperial Red.

Imperial Red.

Imperial  Red

  • Style: Imperial Red Ale
  • Geekery: 9.8% ABV, 100 IBUs , Color = Reddish Brownish
  • Easily my favourite of the beers (no one is surprised). Sweet but not sickly. Pine, toffee, and light carbonation. Slightly funky. Way more bitter than most of the beers.
  • Overall Rating: 4.0 pints
The Shard.

The Shard.

Rye Saison 

  • Style: Saison with Rye
  • Geekery: 6.5% ABV, 27 IBUs , Color = Reddish Brownish
  • There’s actually a nose on this one! It’s tasty, but holy crap SO MUCH SAISON. It seems that the funkiness of the rye works really well with the funky saison yeast. Raisins, tobacco, and caramel flavours. The most interesting of the offered beers.
  • Overall Rating: 4.2 pints

The bartender also made me a taster of the Red, Nitro Cream, and Brown ale mixed together. He called it the Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson; big, brown, and smooth. They should try to make a blended beer than incorporates these three and then put it on Nitro. It was easily the best thing I tasted in the taproom!

The Dwyane 'The Rock' Johnson.

The Dwyane ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

The Munchies

Nostalgic, child-like foods. Goldfish. Twinkies. Cookies. Not too much that looked very substantial, but then again the beers aren’t very strong on average. It might be better to have snacks, but they could get food trucks to come by every once in a while to serve more substantial foods. They might well have already figured that out.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Russell’s One-Line Review

“Not bad. Better than a kick in the blocks.”

Next Time: My hometown Brewery. But for reals. Maybe even a weekend post. See all the Beer In Situ posts in one place!

New Series: Beer In Situ

Unemployment is a creative driver. So far, it’s been almost exactly a month and I’m cooking and DIYing about as much as I humanly can. My T-shirt rug is a work in progress that sheds everywhere and makes it looks like I’m covered in tiny, brightly-colored fleas. I’ve cooked four roast dinners since arriving in Colorado. I am getting up progressively later and later in the day.

And I’ve been spending a fair amount of time taking in the wonders of Colorado craft beer.

I worked in a busy Brewdog Bar in London for much of the last year, starting work as a bartender right in the midst of my final exams for the master’s degree. I easily learned more in that time than I ever did on the MA. Service. Pouring. Off-Flavors. Brewing. Cellar-monkeying. How to carry two baskets in one hand and not drop the burgers. Social media engineering (read: wandering around the bar looking for things we hadn’t taken pictures of yet).

A big reason I learned so much is the company I worked for. Brewdog has made a commitment to training their staff on all aspects of serving, storing, tasting, and producing craft beer through an international certification program called Cicerone. In September I got the first qualification, Certified Beer Server. It’s exciting to have a qualification that makes it so I could continue working in craft beer.

But I’m not right this second.

To keep up my skills and knowledge, I’m going to be writing a new series about the different breweries that Russell and I visit around Colorado and around the world. I’ll be reviewing the beers, the spaces, and the service at a bunch of breweries and showing you what some of the best and most cutting-edge craft brews have to offer. I hope to add a home brewing section at some point as well, seeing as our Wedding mead and quick mead experiments went so well over the last year. It’s so important to go to the source and see the place that great beer is produced.

Welcome to Beer In Situ, where beer and travel intersect.

This week: A new Denver Brewplace, Avery’s Grand Opening, and a Colorado Beer School. 

London Fun Thus Far

As a postgraduate student, I don’t have much time for writing on this blog these days. I’m devoting hours and hours to reading, note-taking and generally beating my head against the wall that is Syntax. I hope to begin adding a post every weekend but I make no promises. In the meantime, enjoy these shots from the beginning of my life in London.

Look for my second Great Accent Shift post this Tuesday or Wednesday!

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