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.
“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
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.
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.
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.
Dragon. Russell, 2015.
T-Rex and Beer. Russell, 2015.
Lying Greyhound. Russell 2015.
Robot with Beer. Russell, 2015.
We tried everything on draft except the house root beer.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
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.
Russell’s One-Line Review
“Not bad. Better than a kick in the blocks.”