December 18, 2011

Brewery Excursions in Colorado: Part One

Most people go to Colorado to enjoy the snow and ski/snowboard. I spent six days traveling across the state to sample beer and learn about the multitude of breweries happy to call Colorado home. By several maps I found, there are over 140 breweries in the state, not including BJ's several locations. While I didn't get close to visiting all of them, I did knock out twelve, which is pretty good. I drank a full three gallons of beer and my wife downed just a bit over two. It's not that we were trying to get drunk, we just wanted to sample so many beers.

The breweries we experienced were: Avery, Odell's, Oskar Blues (only the separate tap-house), Rock Bottom, Funkwerks, New Belgium, Dam Brewery, Left Hand, Boulder Brewing, Coopersmith, Wynnkoop and Fort Collins Brewing. This long, thirst quenching adventure really gave me some new perspectives on brewing. I wanted to share some of the things I experienced, learned and tasted along the way. Some specific beer reviews will go on my beer review blog (I Reviewed Beer) for beers that really stood out as unique or incredibly well put together, but many will get quick hits along with their respective breweries. I am putting these brewery reviews on this blog because I think these adventures reflect more on my brewing than simply sampling beers.

I've broken out each brewery into a separate entry although some are certainly longer than others. Unfortunately I didn't make careful notes or take pictures at all the breweries or about all the beers I drank but I will try to recall as much as possible and include the pictures and notes I do have (courtesy of my smartphone).

One of the most important takeaways from the trip was really appreciating the importance of the brewing process. Over 140 breweries use the same water source, the same techniques, the same equipment and the same ingredients to produce wildly different beers from the technical precision of Coors in Golden, CO to the amazingly complex and craftily balanced Mexican Chocolate Chipotle Stout on a guest tap at Wynnkoop to the rustic saisons at Funkwerks to the quaffable Old Cherry at New Belgium. It reminds me that I need to take more care about sanitation, temperature control, yeast pitching rates, etc.

I also took away an expanded appreciation for different beers and ingredients, which in turn extends my ever-growing list of beers to try brewing. That makes me really excited for the prospects of brewing ever better beers. It was also encouraging to see a beer that I thought nobody else would be foolish enough to try making appear among the Lips of Faith series at New Belgium. It was encouraging to know that sometimes as homebrewers we can really be innovators of beer, rather than just following in the footsteps of the professionals. (Although I don't take credit for New Belgium's beer I would like to think I thought of it before their brewers.)

It will probably take me a week or two to draft out all the Colorado blogging so I expect to be very active here for the rest of my short winter break from school. I also have some brewing to do and write about, so I hope to make up for the lackluster posting I've done over the past few months.

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