Tag Archives: Front Range

Friday Linkage 11/21/2014

Winter blew in with some force. Keystone XL went down in the Senate. Obama pissed off Republicans by leading, taking executive action, and doing something about the mess that is U.S. immigration policy. Remember, every time you hear a Republican moan about the imperial presidency these were the same people who were okay with W using signing statements to change the intent of laws. Every time a Republican screams an angel’s head explodes.

On to the links…

Chicken Abuse Revealed by Undercover Videos at Koch Foods Sites—Well, it looks like the Kochs just don’t hate liberals but they also hate chickens.  I wonder how fast ag gag laws are going to show up in every state with a Koch funded legislator and lobbyist?

Emissions Rules Yield Little Benefit along Colorado’s Front Range—Basically, even if emissions from any one particular well are decreasing the impact of so many new wells swamps the improvement of a single site. If you drive anywhere in eastern Colorado you get a real sense of the boom in oil and gas drilling.

‘Scandalous’ Solyndra Program Actually Earned Taxpayers A $5 Billion Profit—Where is Darrell Issa’s righteous indignation now? Oh right, he’s a vaudeville performer in politician’s clothing. The program, in total, worked even if particular projects failed.

Don Blankenship Charged with Conspiracy over Mine Explosion that Killed 29—Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy or a snappier dresser:

rally12_i0909072049581.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scaleIn case you were wondering, he plead not guilty.

New ‘Solar Cloth’ Allows Solar Cells To Be Stretched Across Parking Lots, Stadiums—The U.S. is covered in an estimated 61,000 square miles of roads and parking lots. Imagine if just a fraction of that were covered in relatively easy to deploy solar cloth?

Google, IKEA, And SunEdison Bought A Lot Of Wind Power This Week—Private companies and utilities are adding a lot of wind to their portfolios. I wonder what the driver of this behavior is right now?

Wave Goodbye to the Two-Car Family—Has there been a bigger driver of bad planning behavior than the American love affair with the personal automobile? Not that I can think of, but the switch away from auto ownership will have equally huge outcomes.

The 10 Biggest Factors Changing Millennial Driving Habits—I was going to blame hipsters, but it looks like there are a lot of correlations driving behavior here.

Why Going to the Library is one of the Best Things I Do—I think I said something similar a short while ago, even using the term “original sharing economy.” It’s good to see people agree with me.

Hellmann’s Are a Bunch of Giant, Eggless “Mayo”-Slinging Hypocrites—These clowns got all huffy with a company using the term mayonnaise in reference to their spread which did not contain eggs, but the plaintiffs also did the same thing. Huh? Oh right, it’s big food trying to smash an upstart. My bad.

Appliance Science: The illuminating physics behind LED lights—LEDs are transforming lighting, but how many of us actually understand how the little buggers work?

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Dry Dock Brewing Co. Amber Ale

Amber ale is one of the founding styles of the craft beer movement in America—think about Fat Tire Amber Ale or Samuel Adams Boston Lager which shares a lot of traits with amber ales while being a lager—but it has gotten overshadowed in recent years with the explosion of IPAs and derivative pale ale styles.

Dry Dock cans an Amber Ale:

Dry Dock Amber Ale

The beer may carry the title Amber Ale, but the brewers describe it as an extra special bitter (ESB). This may be a stylistic choice as most consumers see the word bitter in a beer and run the other way. While that is an unfair critique, this beer does have a muddled character.

Overall, the beer lacks life. The malt body comes across flat, the hops are indistinguishable, and there is an unpleasant sour taste. Not tart like a true sour beer. More like something was spoiled. Not pleasant.

I find it fascinating that I really liked the beers I had in Dry Dock’s Aurora taproom, but I have so far found the beers from its production brewery to be lacking or stylistically something I find offensive. Yes, I am looking at you hefeweizens.

Whatever it was Dry Dock’s Amber Ale failed:

Zero Mug Purchase

Upslope Brewing Company Pale Ale

What is a pale ale anymore? Is it an IPA or an ale or something different? What is an American ale? I do not know, but I see the term pale ale get put on a lot of different beers.

Upslope Brewing’s Pale Ale definitely pours like you would expect:

Upslope Pale Ale

Is apple pie a weird vibe to get from a beer’s aroma? The first few whiffs of this particular ale and I was thinking about fall baked goods. I get strange aromas from beer and it definitely puts me in a mood when drinking. Apple pie is not bad, per se, but odd.

The malt body of the beer is really light, so it does not support a ton of hoppiness which is not present. I would contrast this with a Dale’s Pale Ale that was much hoppier, maltier, and darker all while retaining the name pale ale. Interesting.

It makes you think how far craft beer has come in the U.S. in a few short years when a fairly well made pale ale in a can, like Upslope’s example today, is not catching the industry on fire because so many other breweries are putting out well made beers. It also helps that stylistically this ground has been trod pretty well by late-2014.

This was a real solid play on the pale ale field:

Two Mug Purchase

Upslope Brewing Company Craft Lager

Upslope Brewing Company from Boulder, Colorado was a new name to me as I perusing the refrigerated cases at the liquor store in Steamboat Springs. My knowledge of Front Range breweries runs toward the Denver metro and ends about there and as a non-resident I am not too unhappy with that performance.

Started in 2008, Upslope Brewing has a year-round lineup consisting of five beers and a rotating lineup of special releases. One of the year-round beers is Craft Lager:

Upslope Craft Lager

It’s a light lager with middling alcohol (4.8% ABV) and almost no bittering (15 IBU). When it’s cold it goes down easy and that is about all that you remember.

Utilizing a mild hops like Saaz for such a small amount of bittering leaves little aroma or non-bitter flavors to be exhibited. A light lager seems like a perfect blank canvas to experiment with some subtle flavors that might get lost in a beer with a more malt heavy body. I have seen this style used to showcase rose hips, ginger, peppercorns…the list goes on for a while. Some of these experiments were successful and others were less so. Some were even non-qualified disasters.

This beer was inoffensive to the point of being boring. It’s really no different than a hundred other lagers out there. If what you want was the bare minimum in beer flavor just pick the cheapest option out of the cooler and call it a day. This lack of any character is actually something that experts think is afflicting the German beer market. Sales of beer and consumption have fallen a lot recently. Experts peg the reason being the wide proliferation of a few similar styles of beer. Basically, beer is boring in Germany and consumers want something with a little excitement.

I was hoping that after a good experience with Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils that I would feel warm and fuzzy about lagers. It was just not to be:

Purchased One Mug Rating

As a note, Upslope Brewing Company has committed to donating 1% of the revenue from Craft Lager to Colorado Trout Unlimited through the 1% for Rivers Campaign. If you are into that sort of thing.

A Brewery Too Far?

Colorado is like Napa Valley for beer lovers. If there is a style of beer that you like then I am sure that there is a brewery somewhere along the Front Range that caters to your desires. After spreading my parents’ ashes somewhere west of the Continental Divide my brother and I headed into Denver for a day of sampling some of what the region’s brewers had to offer.

After filling our bellies with delicious, if odd, hot dogs from Biker Jim’s we set out into the Five Points neighborhood to see what was good on tap. First, no one actually calls this area the Five Points neighborhood anymore from what we could tell. Everyone seemed to call it the Ballpark neighborhood owing to the presence of Coors Field. Second, almost no place was open in the late morning. If you want to feel like a degenerate spend a few minutes on a beautiful Saturday morning trying to find a place to drink a beer. Yeah, I kind of felt like we were trying to bring back the glory days of Denver’s skid row.

NOTE: I am not going to give ratings to all of the beers that I tried because that would not be a fair assessment considering the amount I had consumed toward the end and my general level of inebriation. I will try and pick out some highlights.

Finally, at 11 AM the Breckenridge Brewery’s restaurant pretty much across the street from Coors Field opened and we were saved in our pursuit liquid libation.   This location is not the actual brewery of record, so it is also not a traditional taproom. BTW, this location cannot sell growlers because there is no actual brewing taking place on site.

Breckenridge Brewery is not a small craft brewer. The brewery has been in business for almost 25 years and is now distributed in 32 states. I can find Breckenridge Brewery beers on the shelves of my local grocery store here in Iowa. I think that the presence in the middle of the scene—squeezed by the big craft names like New Belgium on the large end and the innovators on the small end of the scale—cause people to forget that this is a brewery that is capable of delivering some excellent beers.

I started with a tasting flight:

photo 1

The tasting flight included—from left to right—Avalanche Amber, Agave Wheat, Nitro Vanilla Porter, and Lucky U IPA.

Nitro Vanilla Porter had the smoothness we have come to associate with beers dispensed from a nitro tap, but the vanilla flavor was overwhelming in an artificial way. It came across like the scent in a cheap holiday candle.

We followed up the tasting flight with a pint of Trademark Pale Ale:

photo 2

The bartender interestingly described Trademark Pale Ale as a good entry point into craft beer. Usually, I consider amber ales to be the entry point because of the lack of a super distinctive hop character. However, I would not quibble with is assertion given Trademark Pale Ale’s easy drinking nature.

It was noon and that meant that down the street Great Divide Brewing Company’s taproom on 22nd and Arapahoe was open. To say we went a little gangbusters at Great Divide would be an understatement. This was a brewery that I had wanted to visit for a long time.

It started out with a tasting flight again:

photo 3

From left to right it was Titan IPA, Hercules Double IPA, and Yeti Imperial Stout. I would love to tell you about Titan IPA, but the taster was pulled back from me by the barkeep. This was a good thing because she felt that the beer did not taste like Titan should and replaced it with a taster of my choice:

photo 4

This is Lasso IPA. I followed this up with another set of three tasters:

photo 5

From left to right it was Hoss Rye Lager, Denver Pale Ale, and a beer described only as “hoppy wheat.”

What to say about Great Divide? There was not a bad beer in the bunch, but these beers drank “big.” Each example was big in flavor, big in hops, and pretty big in terms of alcohol. Not an all-day drinking adventure for sure. For example Hercules Double IPA clocks in at ~10% ABV with an aggressive hop profile. My brother was not going the taster route and had a tulip full of Hercules. By the end of that glass he made a point of slowing down for the rest of the day.

Great Divide is an excellent example of a brewery making a lot of beers that orbit a similar style, in this case IPA. So, you get to taste a lot of variation without each beer being such a grand departure that comparison is impossible. I kind of felt like I was in my basement trying the different house pale ale recipes that I have been working on throughout the spring and summer.

We walked out into the searing afternoon sun and walked a few blocks south to a newer player in the craft beer scene, Jagged Mountain Brewery. It’s a comfortable taproom situated at an interesting Denver corner with a brewery on one corner, a yoga studio across the street, a Buddhist temple kittie corner, and a place called the Cannabis Station on the final corner. Only in Denver.

Again I hit up a tasting flight:

photo 6

From left to right it was Zero Gravity Saison, Spearhead Saison, and Keyhole Session IPA. Can you sense that I was starting to feel it by this point? Yeah, I went for the lower alcohol beers like a moth to a flame. These were again all excellent beers. I feel a little bit like a broken record when I say this, but it is hard to find a bad beer from these craft brewers in Denver. It’s not like the mid-1990s when you would order a beer at a brew pub and be served something akin to bathtub hooch.

The beer that I got really excited about was Imlay American IPA. Somehow in my increasingly drunken stupor I failed to snap a mediocre picture of the beer. I guess this means that I will just have to make a trip to Jagged Mountain again in July.

Although a somewhat “bigger” beer than I normally really dig (~7% ABV and 60 IBU) the beer had a balance to its hoppiness, body, and alcohol that was downright perfect. I really look forward to sitting down with a few of these at a later date and really thinking about what I am drinking.

By this time the pre-game meal at Biker Jim’s had worn off, but the good people at Basic Kneads had parked a truck outside the Jagged Mountain taproom and were dishing out solid wood fired pies. At some point during the day I felt like I had died and gone to my own personal heaven where good beer was everywhere, the sun was shining, and food trucks just parked a few steps away.

Although I am not ranking any of the beers I have commented upon, I can without hesitation or reservation recommend almost all of them—sorry Nitro Vanilla Porter, but you were the lone loser today. If you find yourself in the Ballpark neighborhood sometime Breckenridge Brewery, Great Divide Brewing Company, and Jagged Mountain Brewery can handle your liquid needs.

This story is to be continued with a look at breweries that are a little further afield than downtown Denver…

Left Hand Brewing Company

When I went to Colorado over the Labor Day weekend to visit friends in Breckenridge and Colorado Springs there were two breweries I was interested in seeking out: Left Hand Brewing Company and Great Divide Brewing Company.  Scheduling prevented me from actually visiting the physical breweries and tap rooms, but I was able to track down some of the beers I wanted to try in bottles.

Left Hand makes a sampler twelve pack.  Great mysteries are contained within:

The beers in the sampler pack are Stranger Pale Ale, Sawtooth Ale, Milk Stout, and Black Jack Porter.

Let’s look at the beers in order starting with Stranger Pale Ale:

I apologize for the quality of the images.  The dSLR did not make the trip to Colorado because I was trying to travel light to make room for two children’s stuff.

This is my favorite style of beer.  It’s a little lighter in body than the traditional American craft ale, but it has enough bitterness to balance that out.  There is enough alcohol (5% ABV) to know you are drinking beer, but not so much that after a couple you are wondering how to make the walk up 4 O’Clock Road.  Pale ales do not need to be overly bitter and strong to be successful.

Look who’s here…Cascade and Willamette hops along with their friend Centennial.  The two horsemen of the American craft beer movement.

Man, you can really taste the Willamette and Cascade hops used in this beer.  It’s not too powerful, but once you get used to looking for the particular flavor and aroma of these hops it is soooooo easy to point them out in a beer.  It is the signature of American craft beers.

That being said Sawtooth is a great example of American craft ale.  Since the arrival of Samuel Adams’ Boston Lager and New Belgium’s Fat Tire, the American craft ale has taken on a distinct form: medium amber color, Cascade and Willamette hops, long lasting head, and a strong mouth presence that lingers for a moment after swallowing.  Sure, there are variations on the theme but if you line the beers up those characteristics will be present.  It’s a good thing because it means that good beer is being made all over the country and the United States is developing distinct styles.

Milk stouts are an interesting breed of cat.  Like traditional stouts, a milk stout is a dark beer.  Also like tradition stouts, e.g. Guinness, milk stout will have the taste qualities of roasted malts and a rich mouth feel.  Where this variety differs from tradition is the use of lactose.  Lactose, a sugar usually associated with milk, is not fermentable by the traditional beer yeasts used in the production of most beers.  Thus, the sweetness of the sugar remains in the beer.

Left Hand’s Milk Stout is sweet, but not overly so.  The residual sweetness of the lactose gives the beer just enough to be noticeable but not enough to become sickly.  The beer is also amazingly light on the tongue for being 6% ABV which is something that attribute to the low bitterness (27 IBU).  Too often a strong beer is accompanied by a lot of bitterness from some serious hopping.  Not so with Left Hand’s Milk Stout.  This is a great alternative to the more well-known stouts available in the liquor store.

Last, but not least, is the Black Jack Porter

I drank the Milk Stout prior to pouring myself a Black Jack Porter because it was like stepping up a ladder on a progression.  The sweetness of the Milk Stout disappears and the alcohol (6.8% ABV) and bitterness (35 IBU) go up.

The dark flavors we associated with porters, chocolate and coffee, are present in spades but nothing is overpowering like a coffee stout.  The chocolate malt used in this beer is a great choice and an underappreciated ingredient in the beer universe.  Unlike actual chocolate or cocoa nibs added at various times during the brewing process, chocolate malt’s flavors get mellowed out over the process since the flavors are present from the first step in the brewing process.  It creates subtlety.

It’s pretty apparent from my notes on these beers that I really enjoyed what the fellows at Left Hand Brewing are doing in Longmont, Colorado.  I hope that I get a chance the next time I am out west to stop by the brewery and taste the liquid at the source.