Beer News, Reviews and More!

Archive for April, 2012

Weekend Wrap Up 04/30/12

The weather forecasters claimed we were going to be in for some wet weather over the past weekend, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.  It turned out to be the perfect weekend.  I hope you were able to get out and enjoy it.

We made the trip over to Prost Brewing in Denver, CO, to donate a few hours of our time and help with a little painting.  It was our first time in their facility.  Bill and Darlene Eye have picked a great location and the building is shaping up nicely.  They still have quite a bit of work left to do, but they’re making steady progress and hope to be brewing in June.  We can’t wait!  In the meantime, check out their fancy new website.

After washing off the paint, we headed over to Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora, CO, to check out their Avon Walk for Breast Cancer silent auction and special tappings.  They were pouring a Second Base Brown, brewed exclusively for the event, a Pink Tripel, Strawberry Hefeweizen firkin and a few barrel aged beers.  My favorite was the Shotgun Stout, a big 10% ABV, barrel aged, Russian Imperial Stout.  An awesome sipper!

Dry Dock’s Shotgun Stout

They had tons of items up for auction.  We perused the tables and saw everything from gift cards for local merchants, concert tickets, beers from other Colorado breweries, hotel stays, golf packages and even a pair of tickets for the Great American Beer Festival! My wife won a bid for an hour long massage and I won a Stranahan’s Whiskey Barrel!  I’ve been looking for a Stranahan’s barrel for quite some time and I wasn’t going to let this one get away.  My plan is to use it as a beer tasting table down in the man cave.

The Stranahan’s barrel really made my weekend.  Dry Dock put on a great event and raised a lot of money for charity.

In other beer news, more than 6,000 people made the trip out to Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, IN to enjoy Dark Lord Day.  Every year after I see the pictures and hear the stories, I tell myself I’ll have to go next year, yet I still haven’t gone.  I really need to make Dark Lord Day a higher priority next year.  In the meantime, there are some nice pics up HERE.  Time to make some trades and get a few bottles.  Oh, and I’ve got a special prize if anybody can help me land some Dark Lord Espresso beans.  That sounds amazing!

Happy Birthday to David Parry over at Parry’s Pizza in Highlands Ranch, CO.  He celebrated by brewing a beer with the folks at Odell Brewing up in Fort Collins, CO.  They whipped up a Pale Ale that will be available on tap at the upcoming Odell Tap Takeover at Parry’s Pizza on May 19th.  If you made it to Parry’s earlier this month for the Avery Tap Takeover, you know they put on a good show and bring out some nice, nice beers for these events.  More details to come.

Did anybody come up with tickets for Avery’s SourFest?  Tickets went on sale last Friday and sold out in under 2 minutes!!!  I got a pair, but it sounds like I was one of the few lucky ones.  Just wondering if anybody else was able to snag tickets.  I realize Avery is limited on the amount of beer available for this event, but I really wish they’d come up with a way to either host two sessions or move to a bigger venue.  It gets tougher every year.

Hope everybody had a nice weekend.  Stay tuned as I’ve got some new beers to share later this week along with some BIG events going on this weekend.  Cheers!

Advertisements

Weekend Beer Buzz 04/26/2012

I’m going to help you out this weekend.  The forecast is for rain, off and, on from Thursday to Sunday, which means you won’t need to set up your sprinklers and can forget about the yard work.  You’re officially off the hook from doing your chores for a few days.  Hmm, what to do, what to do?  Let’s see….

Start it up over in Aurora, at Dry Dock Brewing on Friday, April 27th with Firkin Friday.  Firkin Master / Freak / Czar / Man Walt Chleva, has brewed a Roasted Pecan Old Ale.  Sounds delicious as usual and will start flowing at 3PM.

Firkin Friday

Head back to the Dock on Saturday, April 28th, for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Silent Auction.  They will be pouring Second Base Brown Ale, brewed specifically for the event, plus a Strawberry Hefeweizen firkin.  Don’t be surprised if more surprise beers get tapped as well.

The silent auction starts at noon and will feature some great items including a pair of tickets to the Saturday night session of the Great American Beer Festival, gift cards for merchants around town and a day of brewing with Dry Dock head brewer Doug Hyndman.  Go early, bid often!

Dry Dock

The Pretzelpro’s will be at Dry Dock during the event on Saturday, selling their tasty creations.  I got to try their pretzels the other night over at Lone Tree Brewing.  Super tasty and the perfect snack to go with your beer.  They’ll donate $1 to the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer for every pretzel sold.  Dry Dock Brewing is located at: 15120 E Hampden Ave., Aurora, CO 80014.  303-400-5606.

Dry Dock also has special pink growlers available for a limited time.  They will donate $1 to charity for every growler sold.  Get your beer-to-go and give a little something back at the same time.

On Friday, April 27th, up in Boulder, is the annual Microbreweries for the Environment.  The event returns once again to The Boulder Theater and will be raising money for local environmental causes.  This year’s event will feature 3 bands and 20 breweries, including Great Divide, Odell, Avery, Oskar Blues and Asher.

Tickets are $25.75 and beers are $2 / pint, with a $12 / unlimited tasting option.  Get your tickets ahead of time as this is sure to sell out in advance.  The fun starts at 8PM and runs until 1AM.  Tickets can be purchased on The Boulder Theater website.

Featured Event

Oskar Blues is turning 15 this weekend!  Over at the Oskar Blues Grill & Brew in Lyons, CO, they’ll be celebrating their 15th anniversary with a full day of food, fun and music.  Bring your appetite and start things off with a crawfish boil at noon, followed by a pig roast at 5PM.  They’ve brewed a 15th Anniversary Abbey Ale, which will be available at the event in 16oz. cans.  Bring the kids along so they can visit the petting zoo, go bonkers in the bouncy house and sip on some homemade root beer.  Two bands will be performing and it should be a full day of fun.  They’ll even be giving away a Harley Davidson!  Cheers to 15 years OB!  Oskar Blues is located at: 303 Main Street, Lyons, CO 80540.  303-823-6685.

While you’re out and about this weekend, keep your eyes peeled for Great Divide’s Barrel Aged Old Ruffian.  This tasty American Barleywine spent more than nine months aging in Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey Barrels.  This release kind of flew under the radar, but it’s out there and probably won’t last too long before it’s gone.  BA Old Ruffian was released in 750mL bottles and will set you back about $25 / each.  It hasn’t been made in two years and I wouldn’t expect much of it to escape from Colorado.  I’m not sure of the exact bottle count, but have heard it’s in the 5000 range.

There’s a pretty big event happening this weekend, all the way out in Munster, Indiana at Three Floyds Brewing.  Dark Lord Day is going down again on Saturday, April 28th.  Yeah, it’s back and it’s your only chance to buy bottles of the very popular and elusive Dark Lord Imperial Stout.  In addition to having the opportunity to purchase bottles of this monstrous stout, attendees will also be able to sample a variety of Three Floyds brews, including Oak Aged Dark Lord, eat BBQ, listen to some live music, trade and taste beers with other nerds from around the country and just have a ton of fun.

If you don’t already have tickets for Dark Lord Day, you’re probably out of luck.  They sold out a few months ago.  But, with the recent blogs about beer trading, maybe you can track down a bottle.  The Barrel Aged Old Ruffian mentioned above might be just the ticket to trade for a bottle.

Dark Lord is really one of the holy grails in the beer world.  It’s an amazingly complex beer that will continue to change and evolve over time, if you can resist the urge and let it age a bit.  Have fun if you’re going and good luck with your search if you’re not.

Lastly, tickets for Avery’s 3rd Annual Boulder SourFest will go on sale online tomorrow morning at 9AM.  The event is scheduled for Saturday, June 2nd, from 12-5 at Avery Brewing in Boulder, CO.  Tickets prices are set at $50 / each which covers a tasting glass, beer samples and live music.  Check Avery’s website for more details.

That should wrap things up for now.  Looks like we’re in store for another beer packed weekend.  Enjoy yourself and try to stay dry.  Cheers!


Beer Trading Part Three: Packing and Shipping

So I’ve had an ongoing project where I’ve been walking you guys through a beer trade.  In case you missed it, part 1 is HERE and part 2 is HERE

At this point, we’ve agreed on what beers we’re going to send and receive.  I’ve also responded to all of the people who sent me a message looking to trade.  It’s good to respond, even if it’s just to say “thanks, but no thanks”.  Kody (our trader out in IL) and I have agreed on a shipping date and we’re ready to pack up and send. 

There are several ways to wrap and pack and there’s plenty of different materials you can pick from.  I typically just go with the basic bubble wrap, but I’ve done so many trades at this point and recycle most of the material I receive, so as long as the packing material is still in good condition, I’ll just reuse it on a future trade. 

Wrap each bottle individually.  Don’t skimp here.  Make sure everything is covered with packing material and taped up so nothing slips out. 

Wrapping the bottles in bubble wrap.

After wrapping, it’s not a bad idea to slip each beer into a ziploc bag.  That way, if something breaks, your box won’t be dripping wet.  Most shipping companies won’t deliver a box that is leaking and it will only cause problems for you down the road.  If something does break, it’s typically the responsibility of the shipper to make good and replace the beer.  Take your time and do a good job on packing the beers.  There’s nothing worse than having a shipment out there in “beer purgatory” because something leaked out or busted during delivery. 

For your box, make sure it’s sturdy and can take a beating if necessary.  Don’t go with some flimsy shoe box or thin-walled cardboard box.  Moving boxes work, double-walled boxes are the best.  Use your best judgement here, but realize your box will be going on a long journey across the country, so pick a good one.  If you’re shipping a lot of beers, don’t be afraid to split it between two boxes. 

So you’ve wrapped your beers and picked your box, now line the box with bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts or whatever padded material you’ve got and start packing your beers.  I try to leave a little space in between each beer and fill it up with styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap.  Again, don’t skimp. 

Packing the box.

In the past, I’ve lined my boxes with a big garbage bag and tied it closed before closing up the box.  That way, if something happens to break, it won’t destroy the box and ruin the shipment.  I haven’t done this in a while, but would recommend it if you’re going to be shipping full growlers.  Make sure you completely fill the empty space in your box with packing material.  This will ensure your beers aren’t slipping and moving around inside during delivery.  Again, don’t skimp or cut corners when it comes to packing your beers. 

I try to visualize my box taking a 6-foot fall.  Would the beers survive?  If the answer is yes, then you should be safe to ship.  If you’re not sure, repack and don’t take the risk. 

One last layer of bubble wrap.

Ready to be sealed up.

Pack it up tight and tape it closed.  I use a lot of tape and hit each open edge a few times just to be safe.

An easier way to pack your beers, is to track down some styrofoam bottle shippers.  These are molded to hold big 750mL bottles, but with a little bubble wrap, you can fill the space to hold 22oz. bombers or 12oz. bottles.  Super easy to use and you can get them in 1, 2, 3, 6, 9 or 12 bottle sizes.  Over time, I’ve accumulated a bunch of these in the garage and I typically use them with people I trade with over and over again.  I’ll ship first and they’ll fill it up and send beers back to me.  It’s a time saver and if you have regular trading partners that you trade with multiple times, it can save you money too. 

Packing up a 6-bottle styrofoam shipping box.

Shipping made easy.

Both methods work, but it’s up to you the route you want to take. 

 

All packed up and ready to go!

 

As for shipping, don’t use U.S. Mail.  It’s illegal to ship alcohol using the USPS.  Don’t bother with them.  I use FedEx and most traders will use FedEx or UPS, but don’t advertise that you’re shipping beer.  Some shipping employees won’t care, others will tell you they won’t ship it. 

If someone hears a little sloshing around in your box, they might ask what’s inside.  Good answers are steak marinade, yeast samples or collectible bottles.  You can also mask the sounds by throwing a handful of rice in the bottom of the box.  I’ve also received boxes that had a tiny box of pennies inside.  Not necessary, but not a bad idea either.   

Make life easy on yourself and set up a free FedEx account.  It only takes a minute to do and allows you to print your own shipping labels on your home printer.  Get your box dimensions and approximate weight, enter your destination and print it out.  Then you just need to tape it to your box and schedule a pickup or drop it off at your local retailer.  Aside from saving yourself the hassle of filling out all your shipping papers at the store, you get a discount and they’ll even give you free shipping supplies.  So easy, a caveman can do it. 

You’ll get a tracking number which you’ll want give to your recipient.  That way they can track it along the way and know when to expect delivery. 

Track your shipments on the FedEx website.

It’s not a bad idea to throw in a couple of extra beers in your box.  I usually drop in a few tasty local beers that I think my recipient might enjoy.  If it’s someone I’ve traded with a few times, I might throw in something that I know they’ve been looking for or is tough to track down.  Living in Colorado, I usually go with Odell, Dry Dock or if I’m shipping east, maybe some Firestone Walker or Deschutes.  Just something that our target probably doesn’t have access to and would enjoy.  Sometimes I’ll also throw in a nice tulip glass or some brewery swag in as well.  Just a little something to say thanks for the trade.  It’s not required, but is something that most traders will do and helps spread a little good beer karma.

Now you’ve done all the work, just drop off your package and wait for yours to show up in return.  I dropped off yesterday and it’s supposed to arrive on Thursday.  See, now that wasn’t so hard, was it?  I’m looking forward to getting some fresh New Glarus.  Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what we got.  Feel free to hit me up with any questions you might have.  In the meantime, sit back and have a beer. 

Plenty of great events coming up this weekend.  I should have all the details up in another day or two, so check back soon for updates.  Also, click on the Facebook page for daily updates and happenings in the world of beer. 

Cheers!


Weekend Wrap Up, New Beers and Beer News 4/22/12

The house is quiet.  The kids are in bed, Patti’s makin’ the big bucks at work and I’m sitting out back on the deck.  My cat watches me through the screen door in total jealousy.  I’m not sure if he’s jealous of the fact that I’m outside or if he’s just eyeing up the IPA I’m sipping on, but either way, he’s not happy with me.  At any rate, I’m loving this weather and I’m a little bummed that another weekend is drawing to a close.  Did you get out and enjoy it?  We sure did.

We hit the Copper Kettle 1-year Anniversary Party on both Friday and Saturday.  It gave us a chance to try some of their special releases like the Belgian Golden Strong, Belgian Black Quad and American Barleywine, among others.  If you missed it, you need to kick yourself…  hard.  It was a great, 4-day long celebration, with different beer releases each day, along with food trucks and live music on-site.  I’m not sure if they staff got any sleep over the weekend or not, but they were having fun and kept things running smoothly.

Copper Kettle beer list on Friday.

Gary V was there broadcasting his American Craft Beer Radio program on Saturday morning.  He had Jeremy Gobien and Kristin Kozik from Copper Kettle on the show, along with Bill Eye talking about the upcoming opening of Prost Brewing, Firkin Master Walt Chleva from Dry Dock and Tim Myers from Strange Brewing.  Great show and thanks Gary for the shout out!

American Craft Beer Radio live from Copper Kettle Brewing.

After the past weekend, I’m really digging Copper Kettle and their great beers.  I’ll be stopping by more and more to try their different releases and get growlers to go.  Congrats on a great first year guys!

We also hit up the Avery Tap Takeover out at Parry’s Pizza in Highlands Ranch, CO.  This was an awesome event, featuring 21 Avery beers on tap, plus a handful in bottles.  They brought some heavy hitters for this event, including ’11 Beast Grand Cru, Tweak, Uncle Jacob’s Stout and a ton more.  Very, very impressed with the lineup.  The standout for me was the Boulder Weiss.  A (not over the top) German sour, that was served with a touch of either cherry or peach.  The peach was delish!

They also had Avery giveaways every hour throughout the day.  We couldn’t resist the food.  Dude, their food is seriously good.  We got a pizza that was dripping with tasty meat.  It couldn’t have been better.  Really good food, great beer.  If you haven’t been yet, move Parry’s to the top of your list.  Stay tuned for more Tap Takeovers in the coming weeks.

Alright, so you get the idea, the weekend rocked.  Hope you were able to get away from the yard work and enjoy it at some point.

Got plenty of new beers on the way to keep your beer hunting skills finely tuned.  First up is Stone Ruination.  Seems the gargoyle has been working out and has pumped up from 7.7% ABV to 10% ABV for his birthday.  Come on now, who doesn’t like Stone?  This classic Double IPA should be pretty easy to track down, so keep an eye out for it in upcoming weeks.

   Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA

For the sour beer and funk lovers out there, Chad Yakobson up at Crooked Stave has bottled his Petite Sour.  You might recognize the name from last year’s Pure Guava Petite Sour release, but this is a completely different beer.  It’s being described as a “tart, farmhouse, table beer”.  I know last year’s Pure Guava had a, well, uhm, interesting (?) aroma when it was released, that wasn’t necessarily well received by the funksters.  Settle down people, Chad knows his beer.  If you like wild yeast, sours and funky things, this should be on your radar.  Oh, and pick up two if you can.  One for now and one to try in a year or two, after the yeast has really gone to town and worked its’ magic.

While we’re laying down the funk, Jason Yester down at Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs just got label approval for his upcoming Oh Face Saison.  Another tribute to the movie Office Space, this was brewed with pumpkin, lavender and spices and fermented with Brettanomyces.  He’s putting that new brew system to good use.  They don’t call him Saison Man for nothing.  Jason is a master at what he does and this will definitely warrant a trip to the brewery to pick up a bottle or three.

 

Right about now you might be thinking, damn man, can’t you just tell me about a good beer that I can go to the store and buy today!  Sorry, I just get excited about all the new beers coming our way.  But yes, you’re right.  There are plenty of new, tasty beers that have found their way to your local shelves in the last week that you can easily track down and enjoy right now.

How about Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack.  This is the latest release in their Reserve Series and is listed as a Black Rye IPA.  Wookey Jack is double dry-hopped with Citra and Amarillo hops, which should give a big grapefruit or citrusy aroma.  It’s unfiltered and I’m guessing the rye will make it pretty easy drinking.  At only $5.99 / 22-oz bomber, it’s worth trying.

Firestone Walker Wookey Jack 22oz Label

Quick teaser, FW fans, Parabola will be back in mid-May.  I believe this will be the third batch.  More details as I get ’em, but if you like imperial stouts, this is a winner.  Stay tuned.

One more beer that’s out and about now is Avery’s Uncle Jacob’s Stout.  I know, I know, I’ve mentioned this beer about 6 times in the last two weeks, but it’s THAT good.  Plus, I know you’re going to be really mad at yourself when all the other little Colorado beer nerds have bought them up and you missed out.  Yep, it’s $10.00 / 12-oz bottle.  I get it, it’s expensive, but it’s also 17% ABV.  Split a bottle with someone and put on a long movie.  You’re evening is set.  It’s a nice, nice beer that is very drinkable right now and will continue to evolve and change over time.  Avery plans to release this beer again next year, so start building your vertical now.  Pick up some today.  It’s still around at a few places, but won’t be there for long.  If you don’t grab one, I don’t want to hear any whining later.  Just sayin’.

 

That’s it for now.  Again, hope you had a great weekend and hope I could add some beers to your shopping list.  Oh, almost forgot, our beer trade is going along swimmingly.  (Swimmingly???  I don’t know, just liked the sound of it)  Our beers are getting shipped out tomorrow.  Stay tuned and I’ll walk you through the whole packing process and get us one step closer to some tasty, sweet New Glarus morsels.

Happy Earth Day!  Cheers!


Weekend Beer Buzz 4/20 Edition

The weekend’s almost here and there’s some pretty nice events going on around town.  First up is Copper Kettle’s Anniversary Party.  Copper Kettle has 4 days of events planned to celebrate their first birthday.  4 days, 4 beers, 4 bands, 4 food trucks!  The fun starts today with the release of their Golden Strong Ale, along with dumplings and live music.  Check out the picture below for details and happenings over the next few days.

I might stop by on Saturday morning for their Anniversary Barleywine release.  Gary V. from American Craft Beer Radio will be broadcasting from the brewery and covering the festivities.  His show is on 102.3 FM at noon.  Should be a lot of fun over there.  Copper Kettle is located at: 1338 Valentia St. #100, Denver, CO.  720-443-2522.

The Vine Street Pub, which we can now finally call a brewery (woohoo!), is also celebrating an anniversary this weekend.  Vine Street is turning 4 and is having a “Smokin’ Hot” BBQ and party.  The beer garden will be open with plenty of BBQ, music and a Saison brewed just for the occasion.  Proceeds will go to charity.  Don’t forget, they are cash only, so hit the ATM before you go.  The party starts tomorrow, April 20th, at 4:20 PM.  Coincidence???  I love those guys.  Vine Street is located at: 1700 Vine Street, Denver, CO.  303-388-2337.

Also, don’t forget about Firkin Friday at Dry Dock Brewing.  They’ll have a Strawberry-infused Heidi Klum Golden Ale.  A german blonde with strawberries.  Brilliant and should go nice with the warm weather.  Tapping is at 3 PM.  Dry Dock is located at: 15120 E Hampden Ave, Aurora, CO.  303-400-5606.

On Saturday, April 21st, head down to Parry’s Pizza and check out the Avery Tap Takeover.  Just looking over the teaser menu below, this is going to be an impressive event.  ’11 Beast, Muscat de Amore, Uncle Jacob’s Stout and many more.  There’s something for everyone.  Bring your appetite as Parry’s makes some tasty pizza, pasta and wings.  The awesome beer and food might even make up for the fact that they’re Yankee fans.  I said MIGHT, no guarantees on that one.  The event kicks off at 11 AM and runs until close.  Parry’s is located at: 9567 S University Blvd, Highlands Ranch, CO.  303-683-0600.

That should keep you guys busy for a few days.  Enjoy the nice weather and respect your beer.  Cheers!


Road Trippin’ On I-70. Last Stops – Backcountry Brewery and Pug Ryan’s.

After a full lunch and some tasty beers at Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs, CO, it was time to move on to our final destination of Breckenridge, CO.  Breck is only another 40 minutes west down I-70 and there are a few spots worth checking out if you’ve got the time.

First up is the town of Dillon, CO.  Dillon is actually home to two breweries.  Dillon Dam Brewery has been around since 1997 and offers a large selection of beers and a full menu.  There’s only so many hours in a day, so we decided to pass up Dillon Dam on this trip and opted to hit Pug Ryan’s instead.

This was our first time visiting Pug Ryan’s and the parking lot was packed.  We arrived just in time for happy hour and seems like the rest of the town had the same idea as us.  $2.50 pints and 25% off appetizers is tough to beat.  Pug’s has been brewing since 1997 and offers 4 year round beers: Morning Wood Wheat, Pallavicini Pilsner, Over the Rail Pale Ale and a Scottish Ale.  They also keep a few rotating seasonals and on this trip it was the Gorilla Vanilla Oatmeal Stout.  Patti snagged the Oatmeal Stout before I could get my order in, so I went with the Pale Ale.  Both were solid.  The Gorilla Stout is infused with Jim Beam, Frangelico, Meyers Rum and vanilla beans.  Big, bold flavors and really enjoyable.

The place was hoppin’ and we somehow managed to snag the last two seats at the far end of the bar.  The brewery is lined with glass windows overlooking the Dillon Reservoir.  The brewhouse is just off the bar and from our seats, you could reach out and touch the fermentation tanks.   Again, really surprised by the large crowd, especially considering it was the off-season.  I guess that’s a good sign that the locals appreciate this place and business is good.

Pug Ryan’s has been serving food since 1975 and they have a huge menu.  From chicken wings to crab cakes to filet mignon to prime rib.  They really have it all.  We were still stuffed from lunch, so I guess we’ll have to hit them up for food on our next visit.

They’re currently working on expanding and had a large area roped off outside for construction.  All of their beers are available to-go in growlers, along with cans of their Pilsner and Wheat.

After Pug’s, we had time for one last stop, so we rolled down the highway to Frisco, CO.  Frisco sits just outside of Breckenridge and is home to Backcountry Brewery.  Backcountry opened in 1996 as an effort to bring great beer to Summit County.

The brewery is located on ground level, while the bar and restaurant are upstairs.  We walked upstairs and found a large lounge area with a fireplace, couches and TV’s.  Over at the bar we looked over the beer menu.  Their standard lineup covered all the bases.  Wheat, Pilsner, Amber, IPA and Robust Porter rounded out the year round options, but Backcountry really stood out with their seasonals.  On our visit, they were pouring a Double IPA and a Breakfast Stout.

I love a good coffee beer, so decided on the Breakfast Stout.  It was on nitro, which made it very, very smooth.  The beer was pitch black, with tons of coffee flavor, roasted grains and chocolate.  Tasted like a delicious iced coffee.  Patti ordered the Double IPA, which poured a clear, orange color.  Big citrus, grapefruit smell.  Nice hoppy flavor, but nothing that might make your tongue go numb.  Both were very enjoyable.

We caught the tail end of happy hour, which runs from 3-6 PM, mon-fri.  All beers during happy hour are only $2.50!  Kind of nuts to be get a 10% ABV Double IPA for only $2.50.  Between the discounted beers and 1/2 price appetizers, Backcountry might have the best happy hour in Colorado.

The dining room has an area that allows customers to look down into the brewhouse on the lower level.  In the bar, the windows look towards the mountains.  We sat in the windows looking out on the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and really didn’t want to leave.  Although we weren’t ordering food, they offer pizza, pasta, burgers and salads.

Backcountry offers bottles to-go and 2 gallon party pigs.  We agreed that this was probably our favorite stop of the day.  Good beers, great happy hour deals, knowledgable employees and a warm atmosphere make Backcountry a place we’ll be sure to visit again in the future.

So in the past few posts, I’ve mentioned several places that are well worth checking out.  Make a day trip or get away for the weekend and pay them a visit.  You won’t be disappointed.  If you’ve got the time and want to keep chuggin’ west on I-70, there are plenty more that await your discovery.  Seems like every little mountain town has their own brewery these days.  Trust me, that’s not a bad thing.  Get out, explore and enjoy.

Cheers!


Road Trippin’ On I-70. Part 2 – Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, CO.

After finishing our beers and losing a few dollars in the slot machines at Dostal Alley, we headed back down the mountain towards I-70.  Our next stop was at Idaho Springs, CO.  From the Central City exit on I-70, Idaho Springs is a short 10 minute drive west.  It’s a great little town, with mining tours, antique stores, the original Beau Jo’s pizza, a pinball parlour and yep, you guessed it, a brewery!

Tommyknocker brewery is located at the far west corner on Miner Street, which is the main strip through town.  It’s a small town, surrounded by mountains on all sides.  When Tommyknocker brews, most of the town can smell it.  It’s glorious!

We arrived with an appetite and were pleasantly surprised by their enticing menu.  With everything from burgers to mac & cheese, salads to enchiladas, it’s a pretty solid selection.  We placed our orders and started chatting with the bartender.

They offer a wide variety of beers and brew several seasonals throughout the year.  On our visit, they had 14 beers on tap, including a cask beer, which at the time was a Rye Porter.  Some solid beers to choose from including a Golden Saison, Cocoa Porter and an Imperial Nut Brown that weighs in at 9.0% ABV.  I went with the Hop Strike Black IPA and Patti got the Black Powder Oatmeal Stout.

The Beer Menu at Tommyknocker Brewery

Tommyknocker also does 3-4 small batch beers throughout the year that are bottle conditioned and only available at the brewery.  If you’re looking for it, you have to visit the brewery and drink it AT the brewery.  No take away sales, trust me, I tried.

Their latest creation in the series is called Black Mountain Belgian IPA.  I didn’t get any IPA qualities, but would consider it more of a Belgian Dubbel.  No matter the style, it was really, really good.   It was a 50 gallon batch, aged with cherries and a Belgian yeast.  On our visit, we were told they were down to their last 20 or so bottles.  If you’d like to give it a try, you might want to plan a trip soon, before they run out!

Black Mountain Belgian IPA

The food was excellent.  I had a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, made with brie, cheddar and gruyère cheeses and BACON!  Nom, nom, nom!  Patti got the Reuben.  Good food, tasty beer and great service.  Good atmosphere too.  You can get a table and sit at eye level with the brewers.  They were brewing during our visit and you could sit a few feet away and watch them work their magic.  Good times for the beer geek in you.

Just a few of the fermentation tanks at Tommyknocker.

We first visited Tommyknocker 5+ years ago and at the time, weren’t real impressed by the place.  Unfortunately, we had kind of avoided them since then.  In the past year, Tommyknocker has changed their labels, modified their logo, expanded production and started adding more experimental beers to their lineup.  Without a doubt, I’d have to say all the changes were for the better.  Our decision to give them another shot has put them back on the map for us.  I only wish we had paid them a visit sooner.  

Idaho Springs is a great little town and Tommyknocker should be on your list.  Even if you’re in a hurry to head up the mountain, stop by for a growler fill or grab some bottles to go.  I’m still not entirely sure what a Tommyknocker is, (some sort of oompa-loompa meets the seven dwarves meets gollum???), but if they’ve got anything to do with making good beer, I’m a fan.


Road Trippin’ On I-70. Part 1 – Dostal Alley Brewpub.

It’s no secret that I love a good road trip.  There’s something about leaving it all behind and setting out on the road for a few days.  For me, it’s exciting to explore new towns and re-discover old favorites in search of a new adventure.  Patti and I had a chance to do a little exploring over the weekend on our way up to the Breckenridge Beer Festival.  We took full advantage of the opportunity.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but we like beer.  Swill water and macro-breweries need not apply.  We’re looking for the good stuff.  Fortunately for us, Interstate 70 has plenty of great breweries to choose from, between Denver and Grand Junction, with more sprouting up each year.

We set off late Friday morning with nice weather ahead of us and a full tank of gas in the car.  We hopped on I-70 and watched the rolling hills turn into the steep, snowy peaks of the Colorado Rockies.  Our first stop was Central City, CO, in search of a little place called Dostal Alley Brewpub.  Central City is a short, scenic side-trip off the interstate.  It’s only 8 miles from the main drag and would make for a nice break during the busy ski weekends during the winter.

Central City is a tiny little town with several casinos and a handful of restaurants.  It’s listed as a National Historic Site and the surrounding area is home to thousands of gold mines.  It’s a pretty unique place that feels like you’ve stepped back into the wild, wild west.

Dostal Alley Brewpub has been brewing since 1998 and makes four year round beers.  They brew a Mild, Pale Ale, ESB and Irish Stout.  In addition, they offer a rotating selection of seasonals.  On our visit, they had an American IPA called Gilpin Gold and a Smoker Porter called 1874.  Patti ordered the IPA, while I went with the Smoked Porter.  Both were well made and easy drinking.

Gambling is the name of the game in Central City.  The main floor has a bar area, with a back room dedicated to slot machines and a side room that houses the tiny brewery.  There’s another small bar downstairs, along with a restaurant and more slot machines.  It’s not exactly Las Vegas, most of the machines are penny and nickel slot machines, but it’s perfect for Central City.

The bar downstairs at Dostal Alley.

The staff was extremely friendly and were proud of their little brewery.  They recently started filling growlers and selling bombers.  The walls showcased several medals from the Great American Beer Festival.

Well worth the 10-minute diversion off of I-70.  We’ll be back.  Stop by on your next trip into the mountains.  Dostal Alley is located at:  116 Main Street, Central City, CO.  303-582-1610.

Before long, it was time to head back to I-70 and keep heading west.  Next stop, Idaho Springs!


Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival 2012

Just got back from a full weekend up in the mountains.  Patti and I made the trip up to Breckenridge for their annual Spring Beer Festival.  It was our first time attending, but we had heard good things from friends who had attended in the past.  We headed up I-70 on Friday afternoon and took our time exploring some of the little mountain towns on the way.  We hit a few breweries along the way, including some old favorites as well as a few places that were completely new to us.  I’ll try to post some reviews later in the week.

We stayed in the quiet, resort town of Keystone, CO.  Keystone is just a short, 15-minute drive from Breckenridge, CO and turned out to be the perfect place to call home for a few days.  Hot tubs, no neighbors and no crowds.  It was just what we needed.  We’re not skiers, so we kind of prefer going up there in the off-season.  In our 5-story building, there were only 3 other cars in the garage.  Perfect!

We finished off our day with some bacon-wrapped filets and a bottle of Avery’s Uncle Jacob’s Stout.  Beer was delicious.  Bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, sweet – but not overly sweet, 17.4% ABV is well hidden.  Surprisingly smooth at this point in its’ young life, but should age very well.  If you missed the release at Avery last weekend, keep your eyes peeled for the remaining bottles to start showing up around town soon.  Grab some while you can.

 

The Breckenridge area has a public transportation system that could rival New York City.  I couldn’t believe how many busses they offer to get you around town.  During the off-season, the Keystone area even has a bus that you can call to arrange pick up and drop off for personalized service.  It’s convenient and free.  To Breckenridge however, we caught the Swan Mountain Flyer.  This bus runs once an hour from Keystone and makes the loop into downtown Breckenridge.

We caught the 11:30 bus to head to the festival, which opened at noon.  We arrived in Breckenridge at around 12:10 and started our walk to Main Street Station.  Along the way, we ran into Jason, the head brewer over at Lone Tree Brewing.  Sadly, he wasn’t pouring any beers at the festival, but was just out enjoying a rare and well deserved day off with his girlfriend.

The festival offers both a standard tasting ticket, as well as a VIP ticket.  The standard ticket sells for $25 and offers admission, unlimited tastings and music.  The VIP ticket sells for $65 and comes with a commemorative stein, private buffet and lounge area, along with unlimited tastings and music.  Patti had found a deal online for more than half off VIP tickets, so we snagged a pair.  We got up to the festival entrance, traded our tickets for a map and stein and headed inside.

Once we got through the gate, the first table we came upon was Oskar Blues.  I had to get the day started off on the right foot, so I reached for a pour of Deviant Dale’s.  A great accompaniment to the band covering Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” in the background.

Main Street Station is surrounded by several buildings that are condo’s on top, with restaurants and stores on the main level.  Between the buildings is a large, open space, that’s used for different events throughout the year.  It’s a great area for a mid-sized beer festival.

Working around the outside edge of tables, were many out-of-state breweries, including Sierra Nevada, Widmer, Red Hook and Alaskan.

Towards the back were some of the smaller, local places.  A few of which I had never even tried like Bonfire (remember the Tebrew beer from last year’s Tebow mania?), Crazy Mountain and Palisade.  This was my favorite area of the festival.  The tables were situated along the river, with a beautiful mountain view in the background.  Lots of new beers to try, a great view and a whole row of bathrooms nearby.  Hey, you gotta know where your bathrooms are at a beer fest.  Good combination folks.

Back towards the middle of the festival were the big boys.  Avery, Odell, Great Divide, Bristol and more.  Great Divide tapped a keg of Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti at 2PM, which went well with the cooler, afternoon temperatures and the light snow that started coming down.

The VIP ticket also gave us access to a private buffet that was catered by Kenosha Steakhouse.  They brought some tasty BBQ for the meat lovers, plus some lighter sandwiches, wraps, appetizers, salad and even desert.  The lounge area had comfy couches and chairs, so festival attendees could sit down and enjoy their food.  There was even a table full of beers donated by the breweries.  I snagged a Dale’s Pale Ale to go with my plate of pulled pork.  As someone who was kind of on the fence about spending the extra money for VIP tickets, I’d have to say it was worth it.  Even if we had paid full price, the unlimited trips to the buffet, the quiet area to sit and eat, the big table full of beers and the private bathroom, made it all worthwhile.

25 breweries in total made the trip.  It was well balanced between novice, gateway Wheat and Pale Ales, up to big Double IPA’s and Stouts for the true beer nerds in the crowd.  I tried alot of new beers and discovered some new breweries that don’t distribute out my way.  Towards the end of the festival, I snagged a nearly full stein of Great Divide’s Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti and went to listen to the live bands on stage.

The clouds eventually started to roll in and the sun gave way to snow, but it only added to our experience.  You’ve got to expect snow in Breckenridge in Spring.  We made the walk back to the bus station and caught our ride home.

As much as I love the Great American Beer Festival, these little beer fests around the country are a great way to get out and truly appreciate the beer scene, without feeling too overwhelmed.  Nice and relaxing, not too big of a crowd, good music and plenty of good beer and food to go around.  I’d definitely give it a thumb’s up.

Breckenridge also hosts a Festival in Summer, which is coming up on Saturday, July 14th.  I would expect to see a much bigger crowd, but they run a good show.  It might be worth checking out.

Random pics from the festival:

Cheers!


Main Street Station on Dwellable

 


Opening Day Recap, New Beers, New Brewery and Beer Fests!!!

Who was downtown for the Rockies Opening Day yesterday?  Maybe I should ask, who wasn’t downtown for Opening Day yesterday?  The weather was perfect again this year and baseball fans were out soaking it up.  It was a great day and good to see so many friends out and about.

Our group met up at Mellow Mushroom to try the 18th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA from Great Divide.  Before long, we moved over to Falling Rock Tap House.  Odell had their tap truck and a tent set up out front.  I got treated to a glass of Myrcenary Double IPA and a new hat from the good people out there.  They were rockin’, but the beer was flowing and everybody was enjoying themselves.

We eventually made our way inside Coors Field and I tried the Farmhouse Red at Sandlot Brewery.  It’s a Farmhouse meets Flanders Red ale, brewed with white pepper, coriander and hibiscus.  Pretty tame, but that’s to be expected for Coors Field I guess.  Still, really enjoyable on a warm day and a nice departure from the norm.  I’m not sure if this is a one-and-done deal or if they plan to keep it available all season, but give it a try on your next visit.

Sandlot Farmhouse Red Ale

After watching the Rockies get embarrassed by the Giants, we made our way over to Star Bar.  We had some friends playing in the Kentucky Street Parlor Pickers and they suggested we stop by.  Great music, mixed with a New Belgium promotion and good beer.  Not to be missed!  Denver really needs to make Opening Day a state holiday and let people take the day off from work.  It shouldn’t be missed.

So there’s plenty more new beers getting ready to roll out for Spring and Summer.  Dry Dock in Aurora, CO, is busy bottling their upcoming seasonal, Apricot Blonde.  Bottles will be going on sale at the brewery on April 16th and will be making their way to Colorado liquor stores soon after.

Dry Dock Apricot Blonde in the bottling line.

Over at Avery, in Boulder, CO, they’ve got a Belgian-Style Triple in the works called Nineteen.  This will be released in time for their upcoming 19th anniversary later this summer.   The 8.2% ABV Tripel will be widely distributed and should be hitting stores soon.  Stay tuned for more details on their big anniversary party in August.

Up in Fort Collins, CO, Odell plans to release this years batch of St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale on April 21, 2012.  A party is scheduled at the brewery with music, food, games and of course, plenty of beer.  St. Lupulin is a 6.5%, hoppy, refreshing summer-time ale, and will be sold throughout their ten state distribution area.

So where will you be this weekend?  I know it’s only Tuesday, but it’s never too early to start making plans.  Patti and I will be heading up to Breckenridge, CO for their 6th annual Spring Beer Festival.  The festival is on Saturday, April 14th, from noon-5PM and will feature 25 craft breweries.  Local favorites like Odell and Left Hand will be pouring, along with several breweries from out-of-state, including Stone and Deschutes.  Tickets and details can be found HERE.  Drop me a line if you’re going and maybe we can meet up for a beer.

Image Detail

There’s also a new brewery opening it’s doors to the public for the first time this weekend.  Echo Brewing, in Frederick, CO, will have their Grand Opening on Saturday, April 14th at 2PM.  This weekend they will be pouring a Kolsch, IPA, Brown and ESB.  Oskar Blues will have a food truck on-site from 3-6PM.  More information can be found on the Echo Brewing website and Facebook page.  If anybody is attending, I’d love to hear your feedback or see some pictures.

Dry Dock is releasing a Blackberry Porter this week for Firkin Friday.  This sounds really yummy.  Stop by and give it a try.  Firkin gets tapped at 3PM.

Oh, and don’t forget about the 4th Annual Saison and Farmhouse Ale Festival down at Trinity in Colorado Springs, CO.  I hear there are still a handful of tickets left.  Show your AHA membership card and get $5 off your ticket.  This event is scheduled for Saturday, April 14th from 11AM-4PM.  I’ve never been, but it’s definitely on my radar for next year.

Man, so much to do this weekend!  Hope you can get out and enjoy it.  Cheers!