Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com

Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. HayesSpecial to the Aspen Times WeeklyAspen, CO Colorado

While the wine industry in Colorado is still fledgling, the boys who make beer up here in the high country have established a fully-grown business.The state that brought America Coors, “the banquet beer,” has seen an explosion in all things hops over the past 20 years. Brewers like New Belgium and Odell’s in Fort Collins, Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, Breckenridge’s eponymous Breckenridge Brewery and Denver’s Great Divide Brewing Company regularly top the tasting competitions at beer events throughout the nation.One could make a claim that Colorado is, in fact, the beer capital of America. This is, after all, the home of the Great American Beer Festival, which will take place Sept. 16-18 at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. This is the granddaddy of all beer events and, unless you already have a ticket, you are out of luck. The 29th rendition of the event has sold out once again, meaning that close to 50,000 suds aficionados will make their way to the Mile High City to taste, talk and compare the very best craft brews in America.Some may think this event is simply beer bacchanalia for amateurs, but the majority of the GABF participants are serious students of quality craft beer. They may drink a bit more than the average consumer, but they do so with the same appreciation for quality ingredients and brewing techniques that wine-lovers possess.A new addition to Denver’s downtown dining scene is a testament to this very concept. Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen is the third leg of the geometric triangle of restaurants conceived and opened by the team of Chef Jennifer Jasinski and her partner in culinary creativity, Beth Gruitch. The pair have already succeeded admirably in the Larimer Square neighborhood that Euclid Hall calls home with the upscale, Spanish-inspired Rioja and the French-themed Bistro Vendome. Now they round out their little empire with a place that defines what a Gastro Pub should be.Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen is serious about pairing food and beer. On their current list, there are 12 different draught beers, 10 of them from Colorado, and 33 beers available in bottles and cans. But it’s not just the number of beers; it’s the quality and the pedigree of the brewers that stands out. Lagunitas from California, Dogfish Head from Delaware and Boulevard from Kansas City share space with Belgian ales from Duval and an Irish Stout from O’Hara. Each can be paired with hand-cranked sausages that are served with house-cured pickles and home-made mustards at the bar. Other beer-friendly foods include the Canadian dish called Poutine, piles of hand-cut French fries topped with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, or roasted duck and cheddar cheese curds. Schnitzel, the quintessential Austrian beer hall dish consisting of a breaded and fried protein (veal, pork or chicken), goes down great with a beer as do the oysters (on the half-shell, or shooters) and Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in New Belgium Trippel ale.There is nothing wrong with drinking wine with any of these Euclid Hall nibbles. In fact there is an extensive wine list with a number of keg wines and some imaginative cocktails on the list, but for me, this food screams for a cold beer.Euclid Hall is currently working with Kris Oyler, Co-Founder of the Steamworks Brewing Company in Durango, Colo., to produce a special brew that they will introduce this week for the Great American Beer Festival. The Steamworks Euclid Hall Pale Ale is currently in production. What makes this batch of beer especially unique is that it will include ingredients that are exclusively from the state of Colorado. Kris has sourced organically grown Cascade and Centennial hops from Thistle Whistle Farms in Hotchkiss and 450 pounds of premium Colorado two row barley and 150 pounds of red wheat malt from Colorado Malting Company in Alamosa. His yeast comes from a batch at the Brewing Science Institute in Woodland Park and he is using water from the San Juan Mountains. The beer will be poured at Euclid Hall this upcoming Thursday and it should taste of the Rockies. While I am a fan of Colorado’s ever improving wines, I can’t deny that this is first and foremost a beer state.Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and a black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at malibukj@wineink.com.