Tag Archives: Colorado craft beer

Striking Craft Beer Gold in Boulder (The Front Range Series)

Park lands and cycling trails, winter sports, an interesting mix of people, a college town vibe, the Flatirons, three hundred days of sunshine a year, and, of course, world-class craft beer. What’s not to like about Boulder, Colorado? Last time, I checked out a few breweries and brewpubs (such as Twisted Pine and the Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery) within walking distance of one another. This set of impressionistic musings picks up where the last one left off, and explores some of Boulder’s breweries reachable by bicycle or car.

Avery Brewing Co.

Innovation is alive, well, and thriving in the shadow of the Rockies. Not far from the place where rivers of generic beer brewed with pure Rocky Mountain water and High Country Barley rise, veteran Front Range craft breweries like Avery continue to challenge our conception of beer.Avery - NewFacility (averybrewing-com) Avery first opened its doors way back in 1993, and demand for its stable of year-round offerings like Ellie’s Brown Ale, White Rascal Wit, and Out of Bounds Stout continues to grow –– so much so that Avery just celebrated its Grand Opening at its new 96,000 square-foot facility in the Gunbarrel district of northeastern Boulder.

But those solid year-rounds and more limited hefty offerings like The Reverend, Rumpkin, and The Beast aren’t the main reason to head straight to the source. No, a journey to Boulder gives you the chance to try beers that don’t make it beyond the taproom walls, beers like IPAs dry-hopped in accordance with the season, caffeinated variations on the stout theme, and one-and-done beers from the Avery Ermita barrel-aged sour series. As with any brewery that is constantly experimenting, what I tasted when I visited might not be what you get to taste.

The rich and full-bodied Fall Day IPA came infused with Colorado spruce tips, adding a beguiling fir needle aroma to the tangerine-grapefruit hop signature. A supple wall of clean but caramel-toasty malt supported a subtle coniferous character well integrated with citrus zest and mango.Avery - Samplers (averybrewing-com) A compelling IPA, to be sure. Out of Mind Stout blends in Ozo’s Organic Coffee Toddy for a café au lait-style stout that showcases roasted malts and various shades of chocolate and dried fruit (prune-fig). Baking spice (clove-cinnamon) mingles with a warming, Kahlua-like alcohol presence, and the beer finishes dry and bitter –– a tad to bitter, perhaps. I really enjoyed this stout, but found myself wanting just a bit more roundness and smoothness on the palate.

If you like American brown ales, chai, and autumnal spice mixes, the rich and russet-coloured Bhakti Chai Brown will be right up your alley. The initial aromas and flavours of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom in this unique and satisfyingly off-dry beer yield gently to toasted malts and just a hint of citrus. For something heading in a completely different direction from Avery’s chai brown, try a glass from the Ermita series, which has now stretched over eight editions. When I visited, the Ermita I tasted was a blond Brettanomyces-fermented ale aged in neutral wine barrels and infused with key limes. Hazy orange-gold like liquid caramel, this whimsical yet complex sour layered a restrained tropical fruit Brett character and citric-sour aromas over a bed of fresh grain and light brown sugar scented with clove. Key lime bursts forth on the palate, a touch of oak fills out the waifish body, and a coconut-mango sweetness tames the citrus-sour character before the key lime reasserts itself in the pleasant bitter-lime finish. A playful drink with plenty of surprises.

Servers at Avery are extremely knowledgeable. Samplers served in elegant flutes go for between $1.50 and $6. And the new location offers a food menu –– a nice improvement over the previous location on Arapahoe. Cider-brined rabbit and waffles, anyone?

Asher Brewing Company

In a town with as progressive a flair as Boulder, you’d almost expect to find a handful all-organic breweries. Not so. In fact, Asher Brewing Company was the only one-hundred percent organic brewery in the entire state of Colorado when it opened in late 2009.Asher - FrontRangeCan II (Organic-Soul-Imaging) If environmental awareness forms the bedrock of Chris Asher’s brewery, Asher is just as concerned that you walk out of his taproom satisfied with the beers you’ve just drunk. Asher’s Kölsch-style beer, the Green Lantern, is clean and crisp, hitting the sweet spot of hoppiness for the style. Hopheads will enjoy the floral-citrus explosion of the weightier Greenade Double IPA. Asher also sees to it that a steady stream of seasonals run through the taps. Asher Brewing Company is tucked into a cul-de-sac in the Twin Lakes Tech Park located in the Gunbarrel area of northeast Boulder. Even if the area is off the beaten path, the views of the mountains at sunset more than compensate for the trip out. (See my “Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company” for a longer article on this environmentally-conscious brewery.)

Upslope Brewing Company

Like many breweries in the Front Range area, Upslope is located in an industrial park a short remove from the center of town. And like all these breweries located in seemingly out-of-the-way warehouse units, Upslope draws in the crowds. Upslope shares other elective affinities with its Front Range neighbours as well: a healthy concern for the environment.IMG_9307 Matt Cutter, Upslope’s co-founder, uses a compressed-natural-gas van for deliveries, and recaptures as much of the water he uses from the Arapahoe Glacier as he can. (Indeed, “snowmelt” is listed as the first ingredient on all of Upslope’s packaged products.) Upslope is also near a busy bike path, so you can park your car and get some exercise before you tuck into their beer.

After an afternoon wandering around in the mountains west of Boulder, Upslope’s crisp and deftly crafted beers made for a refreshing early evening taproom session. The full-bodied and floral-spicy Czech-style Craft Lager set the tone, and the pepper- and coriander-spiced Wit with citrusy wheat and crisp slate notes added a bit more zing to the lively conversation that was unfolding at the bar. The Original Pale Ale features the Patagonian hop, an Argentinian-grown Cascade that Upslope began using to weather the hop shortage of 2008. Toasty honeyed malt, marmalade, and tropical fruit (papaya) predominate in this effervescent beer, opening out onto traces of marzipan, fresh oats, and a mild citrus-grapefruit spiciness not unlike some white wines.Upslope Brown (upslopebrewing-com) Upslope also brews a slightly smoky and delightfully pecan- and hazelnut-accented Brown Ale that, as I noted in between snippets of conversation at the taproom, was “one of the nicer browns I’ve had.” A half year later, I picked Upslope’s Brown Ale second (behind none other than Sam Smith’s Nut Brown) in a blind tasting of brown ales for my “Brown Beers Get No Luvin’” six-pack.

Since I last visited Upslope, the brewery has opened a second taproom location in Flatiron Park to keep up with demand, and has begun packaging some of its limited edition beers (such as their Thai-Style White IPA, Christmas Ale, and Foreign-Style Stout).

Crystal Springs Brewing Company

Tom Horst and family had been brewing popular beers out of their garage for several years in Sunshine Canyon, a scenic drive into the mountains west of Boulder.Crystal Springs - Logo (large) It wasn’t until October of 2013, though, that this Boulder High School music teacher with a Ph.D. in percussion moved their nano-sized Crystal Springs operation into a new and larger-capacity facility on the other side of Boulder.

The name of Horst’s brewery pays tribute to an earlier, pre-Prohibition incarnation of Crystal Springs that was first opened by two German brothers on a site overlooking Boulder Creek. Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company did not survive Prohibition, but Horst is bent on assuring that the legacy lives on in his latter-day reiteration of the brewery, even if that legacy no longer involves cutting blocks of ice to keep the Bock cold.

Speaking of Bockbier, alas, Crystal Springs’ Wuerzburger wasn’t yet on tap when I stopped by just before their Grand Opening, but I did get a chance to sample a few of their other flagship beers.Crystal Springs - Bottle (historical) Solidly in the American brewing tradition, South Ridge Amber amber derives its fullness from crystal and Munich malts, and features a liberal sprinkling of Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, and Zythos hops. The Summertime Ale started life as a seasonal offering, but quickly became popular enough to merit year-round production. It has all the delicate fruitiness of a German-style Kölsch, with pear and citrus notes combining with a peppery spiciness reminiscent of Cabernet Franc. (“Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer” incorporates some of Boulder’s brewing history and lore.)

Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery

Just seventeen miles into the hills out of Boulder along the winding Highway 119, roughly-hewn Nederland provides one of the more stunning backdrops in the region for a pint of beer. Nestled among a row of frontier-era facades, Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery greets you with the soothing wood smoke scent of barbeque and winter fires long before you’ve found the sign above the door. Purple and green walls and a cathedral ceiling suspended over a fireplace create a laid-back ski lodge vibe. The space is bathed in natural light during the day, with a garage door-style opening bidding you to spend some time on the terrace in warmer months contemplating the dense pine forests rising up the mountain on the other side of town.

When it comes time to sample the wares, the “brew-ski” is your best bet. The brew-ski is just as you’re probably imagining it –– a ski with beers on it–– and comes with four of whichever house brews are on tap at the time of your visit, along with a guest beer.IMG_9306 For tasting notes, check out my “Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque,” which includes a brief history of Nederland and its off-beat annual Frozen Dead Guy Days. Wild Mountain’s house brews are hit-and-miss, but the smoked and grilled wings are sublime. And you won’t be disappointed at all by the scenery.

Postscript: If you’re a homebrewer who has just moved to the area, or if you’re into all things fermentable (kvass, yogurt, kombucha, and the like), check out Boulder Fermentation Supply opened up recently by Adam Kandle. I first met Adam at Upslope when he stopped in on his way back from the hills with a backpack full of prickly pears for mead.

Related Tempest Articles

Boulder: Craft Beer at the Foot of the Mountain (Northern Front Range Series)

Craft Beer in the Mile-High City: Colorado’s Northern Front Range Series

Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Milling Against the Grain: Grimm Brothers Goes All-Germanic

Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque

Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company

Images

Avery new facility and sampler: Avery Brewing Company

Asher can with mountain: Courtesy of Asher Brewing Co. and Organic Soul Imaging

Upslope interior: F.D. Hofer

Upslope Brown: Upslope Brewing

Crystal Springs logo and bottle: Courtesy of Crystal Springs Brewing Company

Wild Mountain sign: F.D. Hofer

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

At the Foot of the Mountain: Boulder’s Brewpubs and Breweries

Boulder - FlatironsAutumn (WikiCommons)Long famous for mining and ranching, Boulder and its neighbouring Front Range towns have successfully tapped a more fluid natural resource in recent decades. Few could have predicted the seismic impact that Colorado craft beer would have on our contemporary drinking habits when Boulder Brewing Company threw open its doors in 1979. But even if Colorado has slipped out of the top three in the U.S. in terms of breweries per capita and absolute number of craft breweries, you could still make a convincing case that the Front Range region of Colorado remains the epicenter of North American craft beer. Nearly 50,000 craft beer enthusiasts make the pilgrimage to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver each October. And two of the most influential organizations that advocate on behalf of craft beer and craft breweries, the Brewers’ Association and the American Homebrewers’ Association, are headquartered in Boulder.

* * *

Morning had come and gone when I began to weave my way along the interstates and highways leading from Denver to Boulder. Eternal sunshine and strip malls for miles. And then, in an instant, all that is suburban melts into air. To one side, the plains open up to embrace the northeast and southeast as far as the eye can see. Before me, in the shadow of the sheltering Flatirons watching over Boulder like so many dragons’ teeth, the town spills languidly out into the flatlands. BoulderColorado (Photochrome Print ca 1900 - Public Domain)This vibrant college town renowned for its casual mix of yoga practitioners, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and outdoors enthusiasts is so close to Denver it could easily have been swallowed up like so many Austin exurbs. Why all this open space protecting Boulder from the encroachment of Denver? The story dates back to 1898 when a visionary city council took the lead in purchasing land that was slated for gold exploration. Shortly thereafter, and with the help of a public bond, the civic authorities purchased Flagstaff Mountain. These actions set in motion a series of land acquisitions that set the stage for a 1967 voter-approved sales tax geared specifically toward the purchase and maintenance of open space. Not only did the 1967 measure pass with 57% of the popular vote; in 1989, 76% of voters elected to increase the Open Space Tax nearly one-hundredfold.

* * *

I tie up my grey mule at the foot of the mountain and head back in the direction of town along the creek. A block or so beyond the bridge I come across the lively, pedestrian-only Pearl Street Mall, packed with funky cafés without a buck or a star in them, plenty of eateries and brewpubs, and a handful of used bookstores. Used bookstores, a dying breed!IMG_9288 I wiled away a few hours plucking this book and that off the stacks before I remembered why I came to Boulder.

And now for some beer …

Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery

When I stepped into the subdued psychedelia of the Mountain Sun, I felt, for a moment, as if I had stepped back in time into a café or eatery on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive. This animated Boulder institution opened in 1993 and attracts a twenty-something standard-issue college crowd with a few hale mountaineering types and understated hipsters thrown in for good measure. 1960s Berkeley and a Westerner’s interpretation of Kathmandu collide in this cheerful space where New Age suns smile benevolently on South Asian wall hangings.Mtn Sun - Interior 1 (www-mountainsunpub-com) The food is cooked slow, and you can pay with cash, cheque, or karma envelope. And not a TV in sight.

I tucked into a healthy meal of vegetarian black bean chili and a spinach salad dressed with a garlic herb dressing and blue cheese while I sipped my way through samples of Mountain Sun’s beer. The FYIPA is a local favourite, and with good reason. Four kettle additions of four hop varieties plus one large dose of dry hops yields a refreshing, citrus-and-pine-inflected beer anchored by richly textured malt.

But it was the Colorado Kind Ale and the Annapurna Amber Ale that really won me over. The Colorado Kind is an amber-copper ESB that combines a floral-citrus Cascade hop presence and caramelized brown sugar malts into a toasty potpourri of ginger and autumn baking spices. Firm bitterness up front shades into an earthy spiciness and toffee-caramel richness cut through by bitter grapefruit near the finish. Slightly darker and reminiscent of chai tea in colour, the Annapurna Amber Ale shines the spotlight on malt aromatics of toasted caramel, milk chocolate, and plum.Mtn Sun - Exterior 1 (www-mountainsunpub-com) Creamy and velvety on the palate, maraschino cherry and amaretto mingle with bright cocoa in this rounded, full-flavoured beer that put me in the mind of a mild Scotch ale.

I visited Mountain Sun in autumn, but if you’re in town round about now and are a fan of stouts like I am, you’ll be happy to know that February is Stout Month. Twenty-three different house-brewed stouts and an additional twenty-three guest stouts make me want to brave the winter weather some day for a February journey back to Boulder.

West Flanders Brewing Company

Not far down the Pearl Street Mall is a much newer brewpub that serves up a completely different vibe: West Flanders Brewing Company. Iron beams support a corrugated metal awning that shelters outdoor imbibers and welcomes everyone else into a tastefully lit brasserie with cream-coloured walls and polished wooden floors.WestFlanders - Logo As the name would suggest, Belgian beer is given pride of place in the tap lineup, but aside from the well-executed Basil-Garlic Moules Frites with Malt Aïoli, I was left wishing for more dining options beyond the standard, if upscale, brewpub menu fare. As I was on my way to meet an acquaintance somewhere else and had just stopped in for a quick bite, I didn’t have time to sample more than a few beers. Of the ones I tasted, the Angry Monk, a Belgian-style Dubbel, had all of the caramel, brown sugar, plum-cherry, rum-raisin, spicy pepper, and honeyed fig aromatic notes you’d expect from a Dubbel, but with a slightly distracting banana twist. I preferred the Woodshed Porter, which bore the pleasant wood-smoked hallmark of Bamberg malts, freshly ground dark-roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and a mixture of dried fruit, leather, and licorice root across the palate and into the aftertaste.

Walnut Brewery

Every road trip coughs up a dud or two, and Walnut Brewery was the clear standout in this category. Not only does the space look like just about any other generic sports bar with a bit of wood slapped onto to the walls to warm up the flat-screen ambience; the frat kid bartender rendered detached service that bordered on surliness. Now, I’ve lived in countries where brusque service is more the norm than the exception, but Walnut’s ho-hum beers don’t compensate for the deficiencies in service and setting. Apparently this old stalwart has a few GABF medals under its belt, but it doesn’t seem to have kept up over the years. You can find much better beer and ambience a stone’s throw or short bike ride away.

Twisted Pine Brewing Co.

With an unwavering focus on experimentation and new beers tapped roughly once per week, Twisted Pine is the kind of place where you’re likely to encounter a beer that has, itself, met with some unlikely ingredient like wasabi.Twisted Pine - Taps (twistedpinebrewing-com) On the Sunday afternoon that I stopped by to catch up with an old friend now teaching at UC Boulder, we took advantage of the 5 X 5-oz pours for $10. Crisply acidic and light in body, the Razzy Raspberry Espresso Stout combined raspberry jam with dark coffee and a roasted accent reminiscent of jalapeno. Heftier was the Rhesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout, with its harmonious blend of smoky dark chocolate and restrained nuttiness. You may or may not see all of these beers when you pay a visit to this wood-accented industrial-chic taproom tucked away in an industrial park east of downtown. But if you’re a fan of beers that amp up the heat, Billy’s Chilies beer is, by all accounts, a constant fixture in the ever-rotating lineup. Let’s just say that I didn’t actively dislike this beer. Of the set, the Kölsch-style beer was the only one that pushed the envelope of normality.

Endnote

Tempest’s series on Colorado’s Northern Front Range rumbles on. Next up: “Boulder Further Afield,” featuring, among others, Avery and Upslope. The compendium of articles I have been and will be rolling out is eons from exhaustive––who among us can conceivably take in the bounty of craft beer in the Denver, Boulder, Longmont, and Fort Collins areas over the course of a few trips? This is a happy conundrum indeed. Feel free to chime in with a comment about your own favourite brewery and taproom gems in the Front Range region.

Related Tempest Articles

Striking Gold: Boulder Breweries Further Afield (Northern Front Range Series)

Craft Beer in the Mile-High City: Colorado’s Northern Front Range Series

Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Milling Against the Grain: Grimm Brothers Goes All-Germanic

Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque

Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company

Further Reading

For more on how Boulder elected to tax itself, see the sections on Boulder in Nate Cavalieri, Adam Skolnick, and Rowan McKinnon, Lonely Planet: Colorado (Lonely Planet Publications, 2011).

Ed Sealover, Mountain Brew: A Guide to Colorado’s Breweries (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2011), provides a comprehensive snapshot of the Colorado craft beer scene. New breweries have opened in the years since, but the book is still an invaluable resource for your explorations of all things Colorado beer.

The City of Boulder’s website includes information on history, cultural events, cycling and hiking trails, industries, and festivals. I hadn’t heard the term used before, but the City of Boulder refers to the area as the Napa Valley of craft brewing. That works.

Images

A crisp fall morning in Boulder, Colorado. 01 November 2010. Eddyl (Wiki Commons).

Photochrome Print of Boulder circa 1900 (Public Domain, Wiki Commons).

The Foot of the Mountain, F.D. Hofer.

Mountain Sun Pub, interior and exterior: www.moutainsunpub.com

West Flanders logo: http://wfbrews.com

Twisted Pine taps: http://twistedpinebrewing.com

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque

A half-hour’s drive along the winding Highway 119 out of Boulder and just east of the Continental Divide, Nederland exudes a rough-hewn and offbeat charm.IMG_9301 Nederland, which means both lowland and the Netherlands in Dutch, came by its name when a mining company from Holland purchased the nearby Caribou Mine in 1873. Indeed, the name of the town is more than a little ironic, given that Nederland sits at an elevation of around 2500 meters (8200 feet) above sea level. But for the miners who trudged up the mountain to work and then down again in the evening for a cold one after a long day, the moniker was more than apt.

The silver and tungsten mining industries eventually went bust, and not even the farmers and ranchers who came to put down stakes could halt the slide of the town’s fortunes. It wasn’t until the 1960s that Nederland turned the corner again with the arrival of mountain leisure opportunities and a laid-back countercultural vibe that still resonates through the town.IMG_9294 Blessed with a location on the threshold of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area and the Eldora Mountain Ski Resort, Nederland fast became a popular year-round destination for hiking, climbing, and winter sports.

These days, Nederland is home not only to artisans, outdoor enthusiasts, and the yearly Nedfest music festival, it is also the scene of the Frozen Dead Guy Days. Frozen Dead Guy Days, you ask? Well, according to the official website of the Town of Nederland the festival is “a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Grandpa Bredo Morstoel, who is cryogenically frozen and cared for in a Tuff Shed on private property in town, awaiting the day when science can re-animate him and cure him of the heart disease that killed him in 1989.” What better excuse for a polar bear plunge and coffin races?

If the haunting existence of some Frozen Dead Guy hasn’t already convinced you that Nederland is a town worth checking out, then perhaps the material pleasures of beer and barbeque is just what you need before your hike,IMG_9292 ride, or climb in the mountains surrounding Nederland.

* * *

On this bright autumn day, I followed the scent of wood smoke to Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery. Purple and green walls and a vaulted ceiling and fireplace made me think of a ski lodge plunked down in the middle of a West Coast city. But the views from the terrace of dense pine forests rising up the ridge brought me back to where I was. So, too, did the brew-ski. The brew-ski is just as you’re imagining it and comes with four of whichever house brews are on tap at the time of your visit, along with a guest beer.

I finish sipping my way down the brew-ski before one of the servers leads me through a door and down a narrow staircase to a three-and-a-half-barrel brew kettle and stash of fermenters crammed into a space no larger than a Tokyo apartment. There, I meet Tom Boogaard, the man behind the brews on the ski, hard at work on a batch of beer. Back in the 90s, Boogaard was a comparative religious studies major aspiring to be a doctor, but decided he’d rather make the kind of medicine that soothes and lifts our souls.Wild Mtn - Taproom 1 After several years of brewing that included stints in Wyoming and with Avery, Boogaard decided to strike out on his own in 2006.

Boogaard’s affinity for big beers stems from his days with Avery––where he created the recipe for The Reverend––and these inclinations are evident in his full-flavoured brews. One of the most compelling beers on my brew-ski was the Hop Diggity IPA, a honey-golden local favourite with hop-forward aromas and flavours of mango, pineapple, some dankness, and toasted malt. A piney hop bite takes over from there, and the beer finishes with an appetizing digéstif-like bitterness. Aliyah’s Amber was a bit less impressive, looking as if it had fallen off the brew-ski during a backcountry ride: a bit hazy and shaken up, with much of the carbonation knocked out of it.

But as for Wild Mountain’s brown ale? Brown ales tend to get short shrift these days as the boring cream sherries of the beer world, but nothing could be further from the truth. If Wild Mountain’s Round and Round Brown Ale is on tap when you visit,IMG_9304 you’ll be rewarded for ordering it with smoky roast coffee aromas and flavours layered together with mild, pear-like fruit esters and delicate floral-citrus hops reminiscent of orange blossom. Rounding it all out are the malted milk and cooked cereal scents of “mash day” (crushed grain mixed with warm water, for those who have yet to go down the rabbit hole of homebrewing). With a roasted-malt acidity on the palate that lends the beer buoyancy, you’ll have found a beer that goes well with Wild Mountain’s other signature specialty: barbeque.

And what really sets Wild Mountain apart from many other brewing establishments is the personal interest Boogaard takes in the food served at the brewpub. It’s no accident that “smokehouse” comes before “brewery” on the sign hanging outside of Wild Mountain. Boogaard spent months perfecting his recipes for smoked meats, often combining his favourite elements of several barbeque and grilling cultures. His chicken wings, for example, are nothing like the fiery assault that typifies your average plate of Buffalo wings. After marinating the wings in a ceviche-style marinade for two hours, Boogaard smokes the wings before finishing them on the grill with house barbeque sauce. The resulting wings are so succulent that I never once felt the need to dip them in the ranch dressing that came as a side. IMG_9306So come to Nederland for the great outdoors (or even for the Frozen Dead Guy), but stay for the beer and barbeque at Wild Mountain.

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Wild Mountain is located at 70 E. First Street, Nederland, CO 80466, not far off the main thoroughfare running up the canyon from Boulder. Winter hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11-8pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am-9pm.

On tap/coming soon for the fall of 2014: Redemption Stout, a Dubbel, a Saison, and an American-style wheat beer made with Colorado peaches, cinnamon, and orange peel. Sounds like an interesting interpretation of the spiced autumn seasonals we see at this time of year.

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Related Tempest Articles on Colorado Craft Beer

Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Milling Against the Grain: Grimm Brothers Goes All-Germanic

Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company

Images

Tap handles: Wild Mountain Facebook page

All other photos: F.D. Hofer

© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company

Asher - PintsEvery night is Green Drinks Night at Asher’s all-organic brewery and taproom in Boulder, Colorado.

Surprised? Probably not, though you should be. In a town with as progressive a reputation as Boulder has, you’d be forgiven for expecting to find a handful of all-organic breweries. After all, you can’t throw a hop cone without hitting an organic food store. Not so on the brewery front. In fact, Asher Brewing Company was the only one-hundred percent organic brewery in the entire state of Colorado when it opened in late 2009, and still is today. And not only that: Chris Asher’s penchant for organic ingredients extends to a healthy respect for the environment as well. The brewery and tasting room are one-hundred percent wind-powered. And those chairs you’re sitting on and the table on which you just set your Green Bullet Organic IPA? Repurposed.

The sun is starting to set behind the angular Flatirons as I step into the by-now bustling taproom to meet with Asher, head brewer and co-owner of the eponymously-named brewery. Like many in Boulder, Asher is a transplant, having studied in the Northeast before heading west to hone his brewing skills with Golden City BrewingAsher - FrontRangeCan II (Organic-Soul-Imaging) and the now-defunct Redfish in downtown Boulder. Asher is a soft-spoken and unassuming person, not the type to seek out the spotlight to promote his organic lineup of beers. But when the discussion turns to organic food, environmentally friendly brewing practices, and the organic beers he produces, Asher’s eyes light up. He argues that organic beer makes sense on three counts. First off, sustainable farming practices take less of a toll on the environment. Second, naturally occurring antioxidants that consume oxygen are inhibited by pesticides, Asher claims, and removing the pesticides means a longer shelf life for the beer. Finally and most importantly for Asher, drinkers of organic craft beer aren’t ingesting pesticides.

Even though Asher holds an M.B.A., organic beers are not just about market niches for him. Sure, Asher is more than content that some people make the journey to the taproom strictly because his beer is organic, and he’s rather bemused that some restaurants in town carry his beer for its organic cachet alone. But right from the top,Asher - Chris-FreshHopsTrio it was not some bottom-line notion of cashing in on organic food and beverages that motivated Asher and his business partner, but rather principle. If anything, the decision to go all-organic engenders a series of challenges due to the relatively restricted availability of organic malts and hops. Unlike many other brewers who envision a final product and then go shopping for ingredients, Asher has to build his recipes around what kinds of organic malts and hops he can source. As Asher notes, many breweries express interest in using organic ingredients, but usually balk at the prospect upon learning of the difficulties involved in acquiring organic certification.

If environmental awareness forms the bedrock of Asher’s brewery, Asher, like most any craft brewer, is just as concerned at the end of the day that you walk out of his taproom satisfied with the beers you’ve just drunk. Asher’s Kölsch-style beer, the Green Lantern, is clean and crisp, hitting the sweet spot of hoppiness for the style. Hopheads will will want to pull the pin on the weightier Greenade Double IPA and wait for the floral-citrus explosion. (Couldn’t resist that one … ). Asher sees to it that a steady stream of seasonals run through the taps. When I visited, he had an intriguing Brett- and lacto-spiked wheat beer aged over tart red cherries in red wine barrels. Despite this latter detail, the beer revealed an intriguing white wine character, pleasant acidity, and bright but subtle tart cherries. Right now the seasonal on tap is a ginger beer based on the Tree Hugger Amber, with a winter oatmeal stout planned for later in the year. Asher just brewed up a fresh-hopped pale ale with organic Cascade, Columbus, and Chinook hops from nearby Niwot Hops, so keep your eyes open for the tapping of those kegs in the very near future.Asher - 4PackBarrel

Asher Brewing Company is in the rather anodyne Gunbarrel area of northeast Boulder, tucked into a cul-de-sac in the Twin Lakes Tech Park. Prius driver or not, though, you won’t regret the drive (or bike-ride) out to Gunbarrel in search of something a little different.

*Hot off the press: Asher Brewing Company just started canning its Treehugger Amber. To celebrate, they are having a party this Saturday, October 11, starting at 2pm. Free food!

  • Address: 4699 Nautilus Court (Suite 104), Boulder, CO 80301
  • Taproom Hours: 2pm-12am, seven days a week
  • Tours are free. Call (303) 530-1381 to schedule a tour.

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Other Tempest Articles on Colorado Breweries:

Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Milling Against the Grain: Grimm Brothers Goes All-Germanic

Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque

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All images courtesy of Asher Brewing Company and Organic Soul Imaging.

© 2014 Franz D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Crystal Springs Brewing Company is a veteran newcomer on Colorado’s Front Range brewing scene. Veteran because Tom Horst and family have been brewing popular beers out of their garage for the past four years in Sunshine Canyon, a scenic drive into the mountains west of Boulder. Newcomer because the Horst family moved their operation into a new and larger-capacity facility on the other side of Boulder in the autumn of 2013.

Though both the garage brewery and the Louisville taproom are of recent vintage, the name of the brewery harks back to local nineteenth-century brewing lore.

Image Source: Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder CO

Image Source: Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder CO

In 1875, two German brothers-in-law, Frank Weisenhorn and Charles Voegtle, purchased a site overlooking Boulder Creek near where the Boulder Public Library stands today. With fresh mountain spring water flowing past in abundance, the Boulder City Brewery (precursor to the historical Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company) began servicing the drinking needs of local residents. Reports from the time confirm that their lagers and bocks commanded respect. Upon sampling beer from the kegs the in-laws brought on promotional tours to the town newspapers, writers there averred that they could “speak from actual knowledge when we assert that it is the best ever presented to this market.”

When Samuel Pell bought the brewery around 1900, he changed the name to Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company. In case you’re wondering about the reference to ice, Weisenhorn and Voegtle were, of course, brewing in the days before the advent of electrical refrigeration. Crystal Springs - Bottle (historical)Massive blocks of ice were needed to keep the beer cold during fermentation and lagering in the concrete cellars built into their new brewery. By the time Pell purchased the brewery, the pair had constructed an onsite ice pond and ice house.

Alas, Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company did not survive Prohibition, but Tom Horst is bent on assuring that the legacy lives on in his reiteration of Crystal Springs, even if he doesn’t brew lagers and bocks or cut blocks of ice from a pond. In what was a nano brewery before the term took hold, Horst began brewing up beers in his “two-thirds-barrel brewery,” many of which live on as staples at the new brewery and taproom in Louisville, CO. The smaller scale suited him well initially, for it meant that he didn’t have to quit his day job as band director and music teacher at Boulder High School. But demand for his Doc’s Porter, Summertime Ale, Tic Wit, and Black Saddle Imperial Stout convinced Horst that it was time to share his brewing music with a larger audience.

When I arrived for my visit on an early October morning with the autumn foliage of the Front Range in full splendour against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountain foothills, Horst was getting accustomed to the larger brewing system and putting the finishing touches on the tasting room. I sat down for a few samples after touring the newly-operational facilities and noticed the logo gracing the mats under the sampling glasses: a flying eagle grasping a numbered cask. The eagle is a direct historical reference to the former incarnation of Crystal Springs, but what of the ostensibly unlucky numeral emblazoned on the barrelhead of that cask clasped firmly in the eagle’s talons, I wondered? Crystal Springs - Logo (large)As it turns out, the number thirteen is a number that recurs with such reassuring regularity in the lives of the Horst family as to suggest its auspiciousness. Horst was born on the thirteenth, and so too was his son, granddaughter, and even a niece who shares his birthday. And there are subsequent details surrounding the number thirteen sure to inhabit the realm of apocrypha when next century’s craft beer enthusiasts and historians speak of Crystal Springs. During the design and layout stage of the taproom, Horst and company found that exactly thirteen of their chosen bar stools would fit around the bar. Even before that, Horst’s wife, Kristy, was curious about the commute between their Sunshine Canyon home and the new brewery and taproom in Louisville. Exactly thirteen miles.

Crystal Springs’ beers have names as colourful as the brewery’s ancient and recent history. Stage House 1899, a beer brewed exclusively for Boulder’s Kitchen Restaurant, pays tribute to the history of the building – an erstwhile tavern – in which the restaurant is housed. Marilyn is named after Horst’s mother. marilyn lablelRelates Horst: “It’s a golden strong, and so is she. The caricature of a girl in a bathing suit on the label is taken from a picture taken of her in 1942 when she was eighteen years old.” Solano is a beer reminiscent of summer. A solana is a terrace or garden oriented to take advantage of the sun, and the name evokes both the original brewery in Sunshine Canyon and the locally-sourced chilies from Weber, CO, that radiate heat in the beer. (Horst admits that the transliteration crept in at the time of their TTB label application. So now Solano it is.) Uncle Fat recalls Horst’s grandma’s portly brothers, at whose knees Horst had his first samples of homemade beer and dandelion wine. And Horst’s flagship, Doc’s Porter? The high school music teacher happens to hold a Ph.D. in Musical Arts from the University of Iowa, and his students have been calling him Doc for over thirty years.

Horst is also a self-styled maestro of beer and food pairings. As he puts it, Crystal Springs’ Kölsch-style Summertime Ale “gets along well with so many types of foods,” including mild cheeses, lasagna, light fish dishes, salads with citrus-based dressings, and sausages straight from the grill. Horst is also a fan of chocolate and beer pairings, and suggests trying the Southridge Amber with chocolate or as a counterpoint to salted caramel. Crystal Springs’ Black Saddle Imperial Stout also complements a panoply of rich chocolate desserts, but you could easily turn it into an adult float by adding ice cream. Speaking of icy after-dinner treats, Horst counsels whipping up a batch of Doc’s Porter Ice Cream. You can find the recipe here, along with other beer and food pairings.

The taproom at Crystal Springs has been open since mid-October 2013, and has been attracting craft beer drinkers with a creative mix of weekly sports screenings (this is Broncos territory, after all) and events that reflect Horst’s background in pedagogy. Crystal Springs periodically offers discounts to Horst’s former students, and Faculty Friday has drawn an ever-larger number of area teachers and University of Colorado faculty. If you’re a teacher or university faculty member travelling through the Rockies or in the area for a conference, be sure to stop by. Located at 675 S. Taylor Ave, Unit E, Louisville CO, 80027, the taproom serves up beers between Tuesday and Saturday, 4pm-9pm (closing at 8pm on Saturdays). Happy Hour happens from 4pm-6pm, Tuesday through Friday. AHA (American Homebrewers’ Association) members receive a ten-percent discount at all times, and educators with valid IDs receive Happy Hour prices all night on Faculty Fridays.

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Tasting Notes:

SR3Horst and company were in the midst of transitioning their production from the garage brewery to the new facility on the day of my visit, so I wasn’t able to try their full range of beers. Here’s a quick sampling of some the beers I did taste.

  • South Ridge Amber is one of Crystal Springs’ flagships and is available regionally in cans. Solidly in the American brewing tradition, this refreshing amber derives its fullness from crystal and Munich malts, and features a liberal sprinkling of Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, and Zythos hops.
  • The Summertime Ale started life as a seasonal offering, but quickly became popular enough to merit year-round production. It has all the delicate fruitiness of a German-style Kölsch, with pear and citrus notes combining with a peppery spiciness reminiscent of Cabernet Franc.
  • Using Doc’s Porter as its base, the aromatic Rum Barrel-Aged Porter (limited edition seasonal) is one to drink on the warm side of cellar temperature. The profile is bold: roasted malt, espresso, and earthy dark chocolate balanced by a touch of acidity and infused with warming rum.

Attributions:

Creative History: A Guide for Researching Local History is more localized than the name of the website would indicate, focusing primarily on Boulder and its environs. As part of their “Closer Look” spotlight on local industries such as mining, railroads, agriculture, and flour milling, the site features an article on brewing that informed much of my section on the history of Crystal Springs.

Historical Crystal Springs Image Information: The Illustration drawn by Joseph Sturtevant dates from around 1905, and shows the approximate layout of the brewery and ice house. Source: Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder Historical Society Collection, 207-1-25

Milling against the Grain: Grimm Brothers Goes All-Germanic

On a continent awash with American renditions of India Pale Ale, it’s a rare and pleasant surprise to come across a North American brewery that does not have an IPA of some sort on its menu. Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, just a stone’s throw away from Fort Collins in Loveland, Colorado, continues this week’s Tempest in a Tankard German theme, venturing where few North American breweries have tread. With a bold all-Germanic line-up of beers that eschews the standard-issue IPAs, pale ales, and hopped-up ambers, even Grimms’ porter lays claim to German heritage.

The folks at Grimm Brothers not only brew up a wonderful array of medal-winning German standards such as their Fearless Youth Dunkel Lager, which brought home a bronze in the European-style Dunkel category at this year’s Great American Beer Festival, and Little Red Cap Altbier, which took bronze in the German-style Altbier category at last year’s GABF. The brewery also has a penchant for resurrecting long-forgotten German beer styles, featuring an eastern German Kottbusser-style ale (Snowdrop, available year-round) and a seasonal Lichtenhainer-style ale (Gustavus, a kind of Berliner Rauchbier), along with its soon-to-be-released Broyhahn Bier called Pack of Scoundrels, a spicy stab at historical interpretation that traces its roots to Hannover. (If you’re in the Fort Collins area on November 16, you won’t want to miss this release.)

Grimm Bros - Scoundrels Sales Sheet

And though I can’t vouch for the authenticity of a brettanomyces-laced harvest bock – craft brewers in the U.S. have, after all, embraced the sour beer and wood-aged beer phenomenon with aplomb – Grimm also pours a seasonal Willow Wren Erntebier Brett Bock. Now drink three of those and say that four times.

When I visited co-owner and vice-president, Aaron Heaton, at the Grimm Brothers’ coolly minimalist tasting room back in October, one of my first questions concerned the connection with the Brothers Grimm.

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As the story goes, Amelia Chapman, wife of Grimm Brothers co-owner, Don Chapman, is a teacher, and much enamoured of the Grimms’ fairy tales. Heaton and Chapman were initially skeptical of the Grimm idea, but with over two-hundred-and-fifty fairy tales to inspire their grain- and hop-inspired poetic fancy, they decided to run with the idea. With the help of graphic designer, Josh Emrich, the beers found their visual muse. (A standout among Emrich’s labels is his witty citation of Jacques-Louis David’s famous painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps, for the Master Thief German Porter. In the spirit of good fun, I’d be inclined, though, to challenge Emrich to produce a more historically accurate, albeit fictitious, painting entitled Disraeli Crossing the Channel.)

Little Red Cap references the Rotkäpchen fairy tale better known in English as “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Grimm Bros - Red Cap Sales Sheet

Snow Drop draws on the Snow White tale. And Fearless Youth finds its inspiration in “The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was” – which, like all Grimm fairy tales, is a far from G-rated affair.

Heaton, an erstwhile accountant, and Chapman, an engineer in his former incarnation, were both one-time members of Fort Collins’ Liquid Poets homebrew club, a storied community of homebrewers that has spawned the likes of Funkwerks, Equinox, and Pateros Creek. Shortly after opening their doors in July 2010, the pair became three after joining forces with Russell Fruits, who handles sales and marketing. Though they still brew on the same ten-barrel system that got them off the ground, the trio has been so successful that they have increased their fermentation capacity, added 22-ounce bottlings, and expanded to a nearby unit to house their tasting room.

Alas, for the time being, Grimms’ excellent beers are available in Colorado only. Future plans include distribution to other states, but in the meantime, you’ll need to make sure friends traveling to Colorado bring you back a few treats. If on a winter’s night in Denver, you might also stop by Colorado Liquor Mart, which carries a selection of Grimm bottlings.

Further Reading:

Last year marked the two-hundredth anniversary of the publication of the Grimms’ fairy tale collection, Kinder- und Hausmärchen. You’ll find plenty of literature that will introduce you to the Grimm brothers and their cultural significance, including Maria Tatar’s bicentennial annotated edition of the Grimms’ tales. (For an interview with Tatar on Tom Ashbrook’s NPR radio show, “On Point,” click here.) Another German literature scholar, Jack Zipes, has published a number of works on German fairy tales and the Grimms, including The Brothers Grimm: From the Enchanted Forest to the Modern World (1988), and, more recently, The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre (2012).

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© 2013 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.