Kelly J Hayes: WineInk |

Kelly J Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. Hayes
Aspen Times Weekly

OK, so maybe it has been the snowiest spring since oh, let’s call it ’95. 1895. But fear not, things will soon change and (hopefully) it will be so hot that the only thing you’ll crave is an ice cold beer.

Beer is pretty easy to come by in this valley. But if the ice-cold part is what you are looking for, I suggest a trip to Carbondale and the Beer Cave in WineTime on Highway 133 next to the Family Dollar. The Beer Cave is in the back of WineTime and it replicates an arctic environment with the temperatures kept at a crisp 40 degrees. That’s colder than the Crystal River. It is stacked floor-to-ceiling with cases and cases of the best beers from all over the world.

Enter the Beer Cave on a warm day in flip-flops and a T-shirt still slightly damp from the river, and you’ll feel your nipples start to tighten. Whether it’s the cold or the excitement over the spectacular selection of ales and lagers is a matter for debate. Either way, on a summer’s day, the Beer Cave is a stimulating place to be.

A recent stop on a cold, damp and cloudy day (Has there been any other kind lately?) got my heart pumping in anticipation for the season to come.

I began by checking out the cans. Beer in cans has become cool lately and the WineTime Beer Cave is a great place to gauge (a can pun) the trend. Up front are the guys who started the canned-beer renaissance (if you can describe a beer movement with such a fancy word), Oskar Blues. The Dales Pale Ale and the Old Chubb Scotch Ale sit in a prime position, as they should, beckoning those who want the very best. Both the Blues brews are award winners and are sold exclusively in cans.

Seventy-six years ago, in 1935, a New Jersey brewer named Kruger’s sold the first canned beer as a test in Richmond, Va. The advertisements for Kruger’s Cream Ale touted the innovation as the “biggest news since repeal” and marveled “Imagine buying ale or beer for your home without paying the bottle deposit, without the trouble and effort of making bottle returns.” The ad featured a diagram showing patrons how to use a church key bottle opener to crack the cap of the can and get to that creamy goodness inside.

WineTime’s canned craft beers (all with pop-tops, the bigger news since repeal) include a good selection from SKA (Special ESB , Modus Hoperandi and True Blond) and the Colorado Kolsch from Durango’s Steamworks Brewing Company. These canned beers are not cheap – expect to pay $9 and up for a sixer – but they are great to drink and it is always fun to be a part of a renaissance.

But back to the glass. A walk through, much less a taste through, the bottled beers in WineTime can be like taking a trip to Europe. From Alsace in France there is Fischer; from Barcelona, Spain, Estrella Damm; from Leuven, Belgium, there is Stella Artois; and don’t forget the Paulaner from Munich, Germany. Well, at least that’s where the beers were originally from. In today’s consolidated brewing world, brands move from country to company and back again.

Which brings us to the craft beers from the States. You know where they are from and who brews them. They are regional and real. I know that Shipyard brews their IPA in Portland, Maine, and that Deschutes is home-grown in Portland, Ore. I am happy buying San Francisco’s Anchor Steam or San Diego’s Stone IPA. I can find these beers as well as Shiner Bock from Shiner, Texas, Boulevard Beer from Kansas City, Mo., and, of course, New Belgium and Odell’s from Fort Collins, Colo., in the Beer Cave. WineTime has just added 50 new micro-brews to the collection.

And that is not to mention all of the Mexican beers and big-dog domestics like Coors, Bud and Miller that can be found in bottles and cans, tall boys and 12-packs. There are even six non-alcoholic selections that are proving popular with folks who want the taste but eschew the buzz.

But enough beer geography. WineTime is not only home to the Beer Cave, it is a terrific wine and spirits store as well. Dennis Pohl, a wine veteran in the valley, has pulled together a great collection of wines and shows them off each Friday afternoon from 4-7 p.m. at a free and popular wine tasting session.

If that’s not enough to make your nipples stiffen, then maybe you just don’t drink.

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