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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.

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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!

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Beer Trading Part Two, Uncle Jacob’s Release and Opening Day

So a few days ago I gave you a little tease about getting into the delicious world of beer trading.  We were going to walk through a trade, along with Tony, one of our readers and track down some tasty New Glarus in exchange for some Colorado locals.  Did you miss out?  If so, click HERE to catch up and come back when you’re ready.  (insert Jeopardy theme song…)

Good?  Good! 

So we set up our free account on beeradvocate.com; we made our simple ISO (In Search Of): FT (For Trade) post; we raked in a bunch of responses (about 15 in 24 hours).  Now what??? 

So now you’re wondering, how do I pick a trader to go with?  Like I said, we got about 15 responses the first day of our ISO:FT post.  I’ve got a few ways to narrow down the trader we’re going to work with.  The first way is to go with the first response.  Kind of seems fair that the early bird gets the worm.  Another way is to go with someone you’ve already traded with. 

For me, trading is all about establishing good, friendly relationships with traders from around the country.  That way, when a beer comes along in a certain area of the U.S. that I’m looking for, I’ve got someone that might be able to help me out and vice versa.  There are several traders that I’ve known for years and we hook each other up with local fav’s, brewery only releases and so on, to share the loot.  In this case though, I wanted to start fresh and not fall back on past experiences.  I wanted to play the “rookie” and show you that it’s still easy to lock in a trade without knowing someone ahead of time. 

So I decided on a response from Kody, who actually lives in Chicago, IL, but makes frequent trips to Wisconsin.  Kody’s initial response was simple and to the point.  He just stated that he had New Glarus Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart and was looking for Odell and Lost Abbey.  We swapped a few more messages and came to the realization that we both had access to the same Lost Abbey beers, but I suggested some beers from Dry Dock, Avery and Funkwerks that he hadn’t heard of and might be interested in. 

In the past week, we’ve exchanged about a dozen more messages, narrowing down specific beers to swap and our favorite styles.  Turns out, Kody is going to be obtaining bottles of Three Floyd’s Dark Lord later this month, which is considered to be one of the best beers on the planet.  I love me some Dark Lord and am always on the hunt for more.  So we’re already talking about future trades! 

Like I said, beer trading for me, is about making those friendships that will continue for years to come.  I enjoy making connections with people like Kody who have the same passion for beer as I do.  In the future, I can get beers exclusive to my area that he will enjoy and swap for beers in his area that I will enjoy.  This is what makes the beer geek community so cool and unique.  Granted, it’s not always this way.  I’ve done many “one and done” trades, but more often than not, I trade with the same people, over and over again.  Hell, there’s even a guy in Boston, MA that I traded with so many times that I flew him out for the Great American Beer Festival a few years ago. 

Anyway, so we’ve locked in our trader, made small talk, locked in the beers we’re going to trade and we’re one step closer to having some delicious New Glarus for our glass.  Our next step is to buy our beers, pack, ship and wait for our box o’ goodies to arrive.  Questions????  Comments????  I’m going to try and pack our beers this week, so stay tuned! 

In other news, I hit the Uncle Jacob’s Stout release at Avery last night.  Uncle Who?  Click HERE for the details.  I got there late, but avoided the line and still got my allocation.  The reviews so far have been great.  For anybody that went and popped open a bottle, what did you think?  Looks like they flipped the line around and ran it into the barrel room and back through the keg room.  After attending various Avery releases for the past few years, it seems like Avery has gotten better and better about their small batch releases.  They continue to improve the customer experience and that’s a GREAT thing.  Big shout-out to Adam, Phil and everyone else over there for their awesome efforts in making these releases run smoother each and every time.  I hope to open a bottle soon and will try to share with you when I do. 

Lastly, tomorrow is Opening Day for the Colorado Rockies.  As a huge baseball fan, I’m really, really looking forward to this.  The weather should be perfect and the beer scene will be in full effect.  Falling Rock Tap House will be rockin’ with tents set up out front representing your favorite breweries.  Freshcraft, Denver Beer Company, Great Divide and the new kid on the block, River North, will be open and ready for the baseball crowd.  Rumor has it, Sandlot, at Coors Field, will even be pouring a sour for Opening Day!  Patti and I will be there and hope to see you downtown!  Drop us a line if you’re going.  We’d love to meet up and share a brew with you.


Beer Trippin’ in Arizona. Baseball and Beer Hunting.

My family and I are big baseball fans and every year we find ourselves heading to Arizona for a few days to take in some Spring Training games.  We got up bright and early on Wednesday morning to grab the first flight from Denver, CO into Phoenix, AZ.  As we were waiting for our bags at baggage claim, we realized that we had accidentally left the kids bag at home…  NOOO!!!

In the past, my wife and I would always share a bag with them and fit their stuff in with ours.  But, since they would be flying back to Colorado with their “Mimi” and “Pap” and my wife and I were heading to California for the weekend, we decided to give them their own bag.  Unfortunately, since we got up at 2:45AM on the day of our flight, we packed the bag and had all their things in it, but we forgot it at the top of the staircase at our house.  Not a great start to the trip.  Hey, it’s not like we pulled a “Home Alone” and left our kids behind.  Trying to stay positive about the situation, it gave us a chance to get them some new clothes and was a way to kill a few hours before In ‘N’ Out opened.

mmmm, in-n-out!

So a few hours later, after a trip to Target, they had clothes and we were off to get checked into our hotel in Scottsdale, AZ.  When we got in, everyone was tired and ready for a nap.  With not much else going on, I decided to head out for a little beer hunting.  I always try to track down new and interesting beers when I’m out-of-town.  I like trying beers I’ve never had and usually keep a mental list of things I’ve been wanting to try from different regions around the U.S.

Within a few miles of our hotel was a Bevmo! and a Total Wine.  These places are practically next door to each other.  It’d be like having Argonaut and Lukas Liquors across the street from each other back home.  Kind of crazy, but it makes an out of towner like me happy to not have to drive far for good beer.

Bevmo! was solid and had a wide variety of beers, both local and imports, but Total Wine was just awesome!  They had a sign advertising 2500+ different beers.  I liked the setup quite a bit.  They divided their beer section up by style.  For example, all the IPA’s were in one section, in alphabetical order, with notes about some of the beers and staff recommendations.  They even had a section for special releases and limited beers.  It was almost too easy.

Total Wine offers classes every month educating consumers and offering samples of different styles of beers.  They had some deep discount beers to get rid of their past seasonals.  I saw quite a few xmas seasonals for great prices.  For example, Sierra Nevada Celebration and Odell Isolation for $4 / 6-pack.  Great idea that I wish stores back home would adopt.  It prevents beer from just sitting around for months and keeps inventory fresh.

Anyway, the store was great and I got lost in their beer section for nearly an hour.  I made a mix-6 of some locals and grabbed several bombers to open during our stay or take home to the cellar.

Arizona locals.

The next day, we headed to Salt River Fields to watch the Colorado Rockies take on the Chicago Cubs.  We had perfect seats about 20 rows back behind home plate.  We were in the shade and it was 84 degrees.  Glorious!  You couldn’t have asked for a better day.  There’s not much of a beer scene at the stadium, but you can get an $8 Blue Moon or a $10 bomber of Fat Tire.  I stuck with my bottle of water and enjoyed the game.

The view from our seats. Perfect day!

Yeah, the Cubs still suck and the Rockies won 7-5.  Hey, there’s always next year Cub fans.

After the game, my parents offered to watch the kids for a few hours, which gave my wife and I a chance to visit a few local breweries.  Our first stop was at Papago Brewing in Scottsdale, AZ.  As soon as I walked in, I knew it was our kind of place.  The walls were completely covered with beer signs, tap handles, mirrors,  posters and so on.  Papago has 30 beers on tap, which featured both their beers along with a great selection of guest taps.  I decided to try their Hopago IPA and Patti went for their Oude Zuipers Tripel.  Both were well balanced and very drinkable.

An impressive tap lineup at Papago Brewing.

Oskar Blues was there doing a promotional deal with their Deviant Dale’s.  The rep, who was from Denver, spent a long time chatting with us about the Colorado beer scene and gave us some swag to take home.  I had a tough time trying to deciding on a second beer.  Papago has about 9 glass door refrigerators full of bottled beer that’s out in the bar area.  They allow you to buy bottles or make 6-packs to take home or you can pick out a bottle, bring it to your table and drink it there.  I LOVE this idea!  First, the fact that you can actually look at the bottles and not have to order from an out-of-date menu was nice, but also being able to take things to go or share with friends at the bar…  Brilliant!

They had all kinds of locals, but some nice out of state options and imports, including all sorts of beers from Dogfish Head, Epic, Marin, Ballast Point, Lost Abbey and so on.  They even had big time beers like Firestone Walker’s Sucaba, their highly sought after barleywine.  Beeradvocate.com named this one of the top 20 places to have a beer in the entire world and Papago has the beer to back it up.

I was pretty impressed and for my next beer, I went with a Three Floyds / Mikkeller collaboration called Boogoop.  This was a new one for me and is listed as a 10.4% wheatwine.  Big hops, sweet, sweet malty backbone.  I loved every drop of it.  Patti got a Bear Republic Racer 5, which is a classic American IPA from Healdsburg, CA.  You can spend a pretty penny in this place if you’re not careful.  Well done Papago.  We will be back.

Shuffleboard in the back at Papago.

Our next and final stop of the day was at Four Peaks Brewing in Scottsdale, AZ.  We got a table outside and took a look at the beer menu.  Patti went for the sampler and I ordered a Hop Knot, American IPA.  Their sampler consists of 8 different beers which range from a Peach Ale to an Oatmeal Stout.  It wasn’t anything mind blowing, but they were all well made and were pretty tasty.  They had good food and a friendly atmosphere (think Rock Bottom).  They sell growlers and bottles to go as well.

Four Peaks sampler.

Arizona is slowly transforming into a decent beer town.  Every year we come it seems that another brewery has popped up and is trying to educate the locals on choosing better beer.  Arizona Beer Week was two weeks ago and they have various beer festivals throughout the year.  It’s not exactly Colorado out here, but they’re working on it.

Today was another perfect day of baseball.  We sat 8 rows behind home plate to watch the Brewers vs. the Royals.  Spring training is tough to beat!

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and we’re heading out for a big ol’ throwdown at The Bruery in Orange, California.  This should be a pretty epic party with nearly 50 small batch, hard to get beers being poured, plus 4 guest breweries and a ton of food.  We’ll be making a few other stops along the way, so stay tuned.

Tomorrow’s schedule will consist of The Bruery, The Bruery and The Bruery!