October 2, 2013

Colorado Drinking September 2013 -- Part 3

Ok, let's polish off Denver and a few miscellaneous places before hitting Fort Collins.

Hops and Pie door to the kitchen

Hops and Pie

Hops and Pie is an awesome little pizza place in the vicinity of Hogshead. Delicious pizza and a great mix of
beers. It's a popular place for breweries to release beers and seems highly regarded. The food alone is a good reason to show up. You can order your pizza completely custom built with a wide range of topping options.But the pizza isn't the only reason to go. The beer selection is choice. There is a solid and diverse tap list that changes frequently but the real gems are hidden in the bottle list, which comes in a Trapper Keeper. Yes, a Trapper Keeper, like the kind of binder the cool kids had in second grade. Not only did the bottle list contain a lot of coveted beers but the markup is not entirely insane.

A couple draft beers stood out among a very strong class of competitors. We struck Hops and Pie when they had just released Jolly Pumpkin's Weizen Bam, which is a sour hefeweizen. It was my first taste of the beer and I was skeptical of the idea of a sour hefeweizen. Weizen Bam did not disappoint. The clove and banana come through gently and the sourness does not completely destroy the hefeweizen character. Left Hand also put up Ambidextrous Ale, a tasty alt that delves deep into chocolate and caramel with hints of roast, coffee, spicy hop character and dark stonefruit. I know Left Hand has a reputation among many beer snobs for putting out uninteresting beers among their regular line up and some of their series that come in bombers (but I generally do not have that opinion of Left Hand). However, the beers they put out in limited quantities only in kegs are fantastic and could easily stand up among the best in their class.

The Bruery Bois
The winner of the night was this incredible find on the bottle list: The Bruery Bois. This 15% ABV beer was among the best beers of the trip, if not the best. The Bruery produces this gem of a beer by whipping up an old ale, fermenting it with a Belgian yeast strain and then barrel ages it. The barrels are put through a solera process, so the barrels are never completely emptied and each bottling contains quantities of each prior year, much like my own lambic solera.

In spite of the hefty alcohol content, Bois is surprisingly smooth. High ABV beers tend to be boozy and harsh, which greatly detracts from enjoying the beer. Not a problem here. Bois is too easy to drink, if that can be cast as a bad thing. There's a lot of chocolate, coffee, toffee, caramel, vanilla and a sea of background flavors that quite honestly outperforms any other imperial stout or barleywine I've come across. Maybe Goose Island BCBS edges Bois out in flavor (although I'm not sure of that) but BCBS has a boozy edge that detracts from its flavor.

Freshcraft

Freshcraft is a fantastic restaurant/bar in LoDo/downtown with great food and a fantastic beer selection. The tap list and bottle list is not expansive (no trapper keeper) but diverse and solid. We scored Russian River Temptation on draft, a spry blonde ale soured in chardonnay barrels. That's a rare treat for us (well, a rare treat for almost everybody) because the only Russian River beer that has marched into Texas was the Russian River/Sierra Nevada Brux collaboration. If Russian River isn't the gold standard for American sours then it is at least on the very short list of competitors for the title. We also scored another gem: Elysian Great Pumpkin Ale. Also among the best of its class, Great Pumpkin is an imperial pumpkin ale incorporating German specialty malts, pumpkin pie spices, pumpkin flesh and roasted pumpkin seeds. It's just fantastic and probably among my top three pumpkin beers.

Freshcraft also wisely featured a run of stouts from Ska Brewing. Ska is located in southeast Colorado in Durango. Fortunately, it is one of the Colorado breweries we find fairly regularly in Texas. I've yet to have a Ska beer I didn't love and they are pumping out fantastic stouts. Their autumn seasonal is a mole stout that is a favorite of mine just behind Copper Kettle's multiple award winning variant on the style. They do a great red wine barrel stout that does a great job of keeping the red wine flavor from getting muddled or lost in the roast. At Freshcraft I scored a couple newer stouts. One is Vernal Minthe, a mint stout that did a great job of featuring the mint without overwhelming the beer. It's the first mint stout I've had and I am definitely intrigued. The second Ska stout I forget the name of but it is an orange milk stout. Yes, seriously. It was like a mix of stout and creamsicle. The stout dominated the flavor profile but there was definitely creamsicle on the back end. It was a touch sweet but not cloying.

It's also worth pointing out that the food at Freshcraft stands up to the quality of the beers. The beer cheese soup is outstanding and will ruin all other beer cheese soups for you.

0 comments:

Post a Comment