Aspen Times Weekly: High Country Hops
Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewer’s Guild (coloradobeer.org) recommends brews from these Colorado producers, all west of Denver:
Broken Compass Coconut Porter
This Great American Beer Festival (GABF) award-winning porter from Colorado’s second largest brewer is chock-full of organic roasted coconut and tropical notes—the company likens it to a “liquid candy bar.” 5.9% ABV
Ska Brewing CO. Modus Hoperandi IPA
Celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, pioneer Ska Brewing brings newbies over to the bitter side with this hoppy yet smooth-finishing IPA fragrant with pine and grapefruit. 6.8% ABV
Three Barrel Brewing Co. Grammy Phil
Del Norte, threebarrelbrew.com
A collaboration with Colorado Malting Company in Alamosa, this Belgian-style seasonal brew combines custom-propagated yeast with organic dried Granny Smith apples to create a very crisp, clean, autumn sipper. 6.5% ABV
Telluride Brewing Co. Fishwater Project IPA
Perennial GABF favorite Fishwater IPA is then barrel-aged for six months in Peach Street Distillery bourbon barrels to yield a beautiful boozer available just twice per year (fall batch released recently). The brewery plans to age GABF award-winning Face Down Brown in bourbon barrels soon, too. 11% ABV
Colorado Boy Brewery Blonde Ale
Light, malty, and very mild, this true English-style brew recently won silver at the 2016 GABF. “It’s not hoppy—we call it the gateway beer,” says general manager Kip Jenkins. 5.5% ABV
Palisade Brewing Co.
Dirty Hippie Dark American Wheat
This flagship brew from the heart of Western Slope farm country is made with chocolate and caramel malts, lending a slightly sweet flavor balanced by an orange twist. 5.3% ABV
Butcherknife Brewing Co. Hefeweizen
German yeast and floral hops lend this award-winning Bavarian-style brew notes banana and clove in a frothy, hazy quaff enjoyable year-round. 5.50% ABV
Copper Club Brewing Co.
Aspen Street Coffee Porter
“[I] love to mountain bike in Fruita and wash down all that dirt with one of their delicious beers,” Kurowski says. This most-popular porter made with beans from a neighboring roaster doesn’t disappoint. 7.4% ABV
– by Amanda Rae
My mission was simple: taste beers from nine mountain-town breweries serving up their best suds at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
But with nearly 800 breweries from across the country pouring 3,900 different beers over three days, Oct. 6-8, it was easy to get distracted.
First, there was a Denver brewery bus tour; and trust me when I tell you there are a lot of breweries doing some really cool and cutting-edge things in the Big City just down the hill from us. Of course this should come as no surprise when you consider that more than 10 percent of the nation’s craft breweries are found in Colorado, which is an impressive statistic when you consider our state is home to less than 2 percent of the country’s population.
Then there was “Paired,” a craft beer and food tasting event where 22 restaurateurs and breweries joined forces to show that there’s more to drinking beer than washing back a hot dog with a Bud Light. One example to whet your whistle: A duck liver mousse served in a pickled peach macaroon (Shift FLG, Flagstaff, Arizona) served with a carina peach sour ale (Ecliptic Brewing, Portland, Oregon); and, for dessert, carrot cake with juniper, cream, orange & maple caramel (Arcana, Boulder, Colorado) paired with an Alaskan Cran-Spruce (Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, Alaska).
And finally, there was the 379,000-square-foot Great Hall at the Denver Convention Center, which can only be described as a rock concert with some 60,0000 beer geeks, beer lovers, beer experts and regular Joes just looking to get a good beer buzz in attendance.
As a passholder who perhaps embodies all of these qualities, I felt like a kid in a candy story. But alas, I has an assignment to complete. And thus, with just a few diversions — Cannabis beer? Yes, please. Sunglasses that can open a beer bottle? Let me check those out. The Don Jalapeño beer guaranteed to set your mouth on fire? Bring it! — I set out to find my mountain-town beer buddies.
Bottom line: They all rocked it, bringing individual flair to the tasting tables.
Two breweries came out as winners: Broken Compass Brewing Co. out of Breckenridge won a silver medal for their Ginger American Ale in the Herb and Spice Beer category; there were 114 entries in the category. Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co. won a silver medal for their St. James Irish Red Ale in the Irish-Style Red Ale category; there were 80 entries in the category.
Two other purveyors poured blends under the “featured brewery” category, which gave them prominent placement at the end of the aisle. A long line wrapped around Breckenridge Brewery’s taps, where 10 beers were being served, while Breck reps filled in drinkers on what they were tasting. Over at Crazy Mountain Brewing Co., out of Edwards, the team was serving up a mix of brews from their reserve series, as well as their core four.
Rounding out the Vail Valley’s presence was Vail Brewing Co., which may well take the prize for top beer name with its Brother From Another Udder. And, not surprisingly, Summit County was an über-force with Backcountry Brewery (whose Breakfast Stout really is made with coffee) and Pug Ryan’s Brewing Co. rounding out their power of four presence.
And in the one-off category of mountain-town breweries were the guys from Carbondale Beer Works, with three different offerings, and Steamboat Springs’ Storm Peak Brewing Co., which was throwing a party — and got my pick for favorite taste with its Gallagher Watermelon Gose.
ON TAP: Offseason suds at Aspen Brewing Co.
After spending a recent weekend at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, it got me thinking more and more about the craft-beer culture — and our hometown brewery, Aspen Brewing Co.
Though it didn’t hold down a booth at the festival this year — hundreds of others did, including many mountain-town breweries (see previous page) — Aspen Brewing Co. is firmly rooted in the state’s beer world. The decision not to participate in the Great American Beer Festival year after year is a strategic one, says brewery founder and owner Duncan Clauss.
“To me, (the festival) is awesome,” he says. “But as it grows bigger and bigger, we have to weigh the impact of being part of it and the cost.
“This year we hosted tap takeovers at Blake Street Vault and Brother’s Bar & Grill throughout the week… The (festival) isn’t just about the festival; Denver goes crazy for this. Colorado in general loves its craft beer.”
And Aspenites love Clauss and his brew crew, who are hard at work this offseason getting ready for the winter ahead.
“[Fall] is a big production time for us,” Clauss notes from the company’s production facility at the Aspen Business Center. “No rest for the weary.”
Among the beers being brewed at the moment are a new imperial stout that will be released before Thanksgiving; seasonal, award-winning Belgian Farmhouse Saison that will now be available year-round; and, for the fall, the Double Conundrum Red Ale. It is barrel-aging some beers for the Big Beers Belgians & Barleywine Festival in Vail this winter, too.
“That’s really a great niche: high-end craft beer,” Clauss says. “We’re looking forward to that.”
Aspen Brewing Co. is looking forward to expanding its reach outside the state (it is about to install five new tanks that will nearly triple its production capacity) but recognizes that locals are its bread and butter.
“We’re a local company run by locals and we love to serve locals and get the Aspen name out there,” Clauss says.
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Perhaps it’s because we are in the abbreviated days of winter and I instinctively know that the sun is shining down-under. But every January I go through a nostalgic period where Australian wine dominates my mind.