Colorado Drinking September 2013 -- Part 4 - Brain Sparging on Brewing


Sour beer, saisons, farmhouse beer, homebrewing, ramblings

October 4, 2013

Colorado Drinking September 2013 -- Part 4

Alright, that's all of Denver for this trip. Now I'll address the breweries outside of Denver but not Fort Collins. So this includes Arvada, Boulder, Longmont and Colorado Springs. Let's get to it.

Oskar Blues

I have been meaning to get into the Oskar Blues production facility for a while and finally made it on this trip. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to get in on a tour or talk to anybody about brewing but I did get into the Tuesday afternoon special tapping. The picture above is obviously the taproom, which blocks off the brewhouse. I'm a fan of Oskar Blues for sure. Although they are most known for Dale's Pale Ale, I'm a bigger fan of Old Chub, their very tasty scotch ale.

Oskar Blues started out in Lyons, Colorado and has a handful of locations that are a mix of brewpub (like the original location), restaurant, burger joint and even a farm. Sadly, I hear the original Lyons location was hit hard by the floods. The production facility in Longmont seemed fine. In addition to the quality of their beers, Oskar Blues is probably best known for being an early adopter (if not the earliest adopter) of cans in the craft market. They are proud of their can packaging; you can often see Oskar Blues at beer festivals handing out empty, untopped cans with a bead necklace attached.

The reason why you may want to track down the production facility in Longmont over the other locations is that the production facility is the place to find their one off beers. On this particular Tuesday I was lucky to score a couple great one offs. One was an unfiltered G'Knight, which was very similar to the packaged version of the imperial red but with slightly subdued hop bitterness and a thicker mouthfeel. Personally I like the unfiltered beers you can find occasionally and not just because it's similar to homebrew. Filtered beers are great for shelf stability and bringing through a really clear, clean set of flavors. Unfiltered beers are a little more rough around the edges, which adds some complexity in a younger beer. The downside, as you can see in homebrew, is that the same polyphenols and other compounds that would be filtered out that add that complexity can become bland or unpleasant with time through various reactions that occur in the beer.

The other tasty offering I scored was a fresh hopped version of Deviant Dale. Surprisingly, this was my first fresh hopped beer. It's hard to get fresh hopped beers in Texas because we're not close to hop fields (although a few breweries are starting to get fresh hops shipped in) and I haven't been able to get my hops growing enough to try it myself. The wet hops added exactly what people describe, a grassy and slightly herbal addition to the hop profile and a slightly mellow version of the lupulin-based flavors. I thought it was interesting but not necessary a beer style I would rush out to buy. Maybe I need to try to track down another fresh hopped beer or two before making up my mind.

This second picture below is from the left side of the taproom. You can see the canning line and some more fermentors.

Yak and Yeti

Yak and Yeti is a brewpub in Arvada, which is a suburb of Denver, which serves a variety of beers and Indian food. The beers are mostly in English and Belgian styles, which makes a lot of sense. Malt flavors compliment Indian food a lot better than hoppy beers, which risk adding clashing flavor elements to the food. Everybody at the table seemed to agree that the beers were very solid but not the most memorable beers in terms of big flavors or crazy styles. I feel like this is intentional. Indian food is very flavorful and full of spices. You don't need beers with big flavors clashing with the food. I felt like the beers were good enough to enjoy on their own but worked extremely well with the food. The two worked well together to create a single experience.

The winner for me, hands down, was a barrel aged ESB. I'm a big fan of ESBs and I was pleasantly surprised to see the barrel added complimentary vanilla notes to the malty ESB character without losing some of the hop flavor that make an ESB something more than a brown ale. The hop character was appropriately mellow but the barrel and malt character created a nice blend of the typical English crystal malt character and oak flavors. It paired extremely well with the Indian food. The malt character blended well with the earthy Indian spices while the sweetness helped cut the spicy heat.

Avery Brewing

Avery Brewing was sadly our last stop of the trip where, after six days of a lot of drinking, I actually got beer'd out. That's not Avery's fault. I had just had a lot of beer and anywhere would have caused the same reaction. Still, I pushed through to have some good beer. Avery is a fun stop, although it's not the classiest looking place from the outside. It's on the side of a business/industrial park where they have expanded out into multiple adjoining suites to make one brewery. However, the taproom is very nice and has a great laid back atmosphere and good service. Being from Texas it's a treat to get into Avery because we only get about half their regular line up and very rarely any of their limited releases and not only can a larger range of their lineup be located in the taproom but there are also taproom only releases that are worth the short (for us) drive to Avery in Boulder.

Since both my wife and I were beer'd out, we got several tasters of some excellent beers. Here's what we liked the most:

  • Lilikoi Kepolo: a Belgian witbier with passion fruit. The passion fruit comes on big with a tart edge that makes for a very refreshing beer when paired with the classic witbier character. I usually think witbiers have enough going on that fruit adds an unnecessary dimension but it works wonderfully in this beer. I don't know if this is going to go into regular rotation but I wish it would.
  • Old Jubilation on cask: Old Jubilation is a good beer on its own but it takes to the cask approach very well. I'm pretty sure it's the first winter warmer-style beer I've had on cask but other breweries would do well to consider the same approach. Old Jubilation on draft/bottles has a flavor profile driven by hazelnut, toffee and mocha (all malt-produced flavors). On cask it brought out some caramel tones and the thicker cask mouthfeel made the beer feel more...wintery? 
  • Out of Mind: Out of Mind is Avery's Out of Bounds stout but with a coffee addition. Out of Bounds is one of the Avery beers we don't get regularly so I was happy to find it but the coffee lover in me pushed me towards the coffee-enhanced version. Out of Bounds is a great stout on its own with a big roasty kick. Interestingly, the coffee subdued some of the roast by surrounding it with the typical coffee flavors (e.g. chocolate, roast, cinnamon, etc.) to produce a deeper roast character but without making the roast character overwhelming or acrid.
  • Boulder weisse: Ok, let me say at the outset that I am not a huge berliner weisse fan. I enjoy sour beers but for some reason I don't care for the BW. I was intrigued to try Avery's version because they present it in typical German presentation. Goblet, beer, straw and syrup. They make two kinds of syrup in house (I believe they were cherry and raspberry) and serve it on the side. It was strange at first drinking beer through a straw but aside from dulling some of the aroma of drinking beer sans straw it was otherwise a decent experience. Their berliner weisse is was fairly standard for the style but the syrups were tasty and not as cloying as I expected it to be. Serving the syrup on the side is very wise because (unlike virtually everywhere in Germany that serves berliner weisse) you could taste the beer first and add the syrup as desired. Beer was good but the combination of beer and syrup was a winner. I usually don't get into the sweet-sour combination in beer because it creates that balsamic vinegar character but in this case the slightly sweet syrup and tart beer turned into a really good mix. 
I also tried the twentieth anniversary beer. It's a DIPA and while it was a good DIPA, it's just not my style of beer. Worth tracking down if that is your style.

Trinity Brewing

Trinity Brewing down in Colorado Springs has been in my crosshairs for a while as a target but we haven't had a chance to drop down to Colorado Springs because we spend so much time in Fort Collins each trip. This time, I made a strong push to drive down to Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs is built up on the foothills of the Rockies under the shadow of Pike's Peak. There's a drive-through park right outside of town called Garden of the Gods, which is quite interesting. I took some pictures but they were at night and not very good so I'll leave them out. Trinity Brewing sits on the main road that leads into the Garden of the Gods and its proximity to the mountains makes for some great scenery while drinking great beer. Before I talk about the beer some more, here's that awesome scenery:

In the above pictures you can kind of see that it was starting to rain up in the mountains. The storm rolled over us and the below pictures are afterwards. You can see the mountains caught a cooler form of precipitation than we did.

Ok, back to beer. Trinity has a reputation for brewing some crazy stuff. They do a lot of saisons along with some sour and funky beers and the saisons have a distinctly let's-throw-lots-of-spices-in-this-saison approach that Fantome helped usher in. They are also huge fans of Office Space, with beers named after popular themes and expressions in the movie, like TPS Report and Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta. Make no mistake, they are not making gimmicky beers. These beers are solid in spite of the often entertaining names. Trinity makes a great chicory stout if you're not in the mood for something saisony or funky, but the saison and funky beers were among my favorites so I'll highlight those:

  • Pumpkin saison: the pumpkin saison is a September-released seasonal and definitely my wife's favorite. I think saison and pumpkin is a weird combination but both this one and the barrel-aged version I had at Freetail in San Antonio were both great beers. Trinity's take is packed with spices outside of the usual pumpkin beer, with garam masala, brown sugar, sugar pumpkins, white sage, coriander and mace. It is somewhere in between the traditional pumpkin beer spicing and those indian-pumpkin beers that have started to show up in the fall. It's a fantastic blend of spices and pumpkin. Apparently it's a hard beer to track down unless you go to the source when it is first released. It had been released in the taproom a day or two before we got there.
  • Saison Man: This saison is packed up with a variety of grains and grains of paradise plus two saison strains and the Drie brett strain. The version we had was also chardonnay barrel aged. It's sufficiently funky with a rustic grain character. It's a gentle beer but there's a lot of subtle flavor. This was among my favorites, if not my favorite overall. 
  • TPS Report: TPS Report is probably Trinity's most well known beer. It's a brett primary beer with tangerine and lemon zest crammed into barrels. It showcases that classic brett character in a very rustic manner. It comes across like a very rustic tripel. 
  • Oh Face: How can you not like a beer named Oh Face? You can't. You must like it. Oh Face (just trying to find a reason to type it again) is another saison featuring the same five grains found in Saison Man and several other saisons--rye, spelt, oats, wheat, barley--with a saison yeast primary fermentation and three brett strains doing the dirty work on the back end (get it?). What makes this beer unique is that they age it on lavender in barrels. The lavender was interesting. When I think lavender I go right to soap so the first sip momentarily transported me back to the time my parents shoved a soap bar into my mouth A Christmas Story-style. I quickly got over it and enjoyed the beer. No more saison dry spiced with a soap bar.
One thing that strikes me as surprising about Trinity is how small the brewhouse is. It's maybe the smallest brewhouse I've seen outside of a homebrewing set up. I tried to get pictures of the brewhouse but it's enclosed and all the windows were dirty as heck (probably grain dust) so all the pictures were terrible. I'm not sure how small the system is (maybe 5-10 BBL?) but it runs a unitank plus three or four small fermentors. The "room" it's enclosed in is a really tight space. It's actually a small room within the bar area and I would be shocked if it is more than two hundred square feet. It's a rectangle-shaped space with maybe three or four feet in between the front of the vessel and the wall behind it. It can't be a great space to work in but it surely gets the job done. The brewhouse might be small but the barrel room isn't. Below is a picture of most of their barrels that I snapped from the side of the bar.

I realized I am a terrible photographer. I need to learn how to take decent pictures with the camera on this phone. Colorado is not the fuzzy mess I have made it appear to be. Maybe my Fort Collins pictures will be better on the next and final post in this string of posts.

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