I recently went to Denver for a conference. The conference info billed Denver as the Napa Valley of beers, and as a person who lives in Portland, I felt that it was probably worth doing my due diligence to see if any of it was founded. The short answer is yes. The longer answer follows. However, before I start, I want to pose a question of Colorado brewers. People went out of their way to warn me about the affect of altitude on the body’s ability to process alcohol, and that I should drink more water than usual. Yet beers in Colorado seem to have a higher average gravity than what I’m used to. The bartender at FreshCraft even referred to several 5%-6% ABV beers as “session beers.” Maybe it’s not the altitude, Colorado…
I arrived in Denver on a Sunday afternoon, and after a bizarre encounter on public transit, checked in to the hotel. I had some time to kill before the conference kicked off, so I wandered around LoDo, or Lower Downtown. I accidentally came across Freshcraft, so I stopped in. It was rather quiet, being a Sunday evening, so I scanned the chalkboards for Colorado beers and set on a pint of Bristol’s Compass IPA (on Nitro). It was bright, delicious, and dangerously smooth. An early indication that these folks know what they’re doing with beer. Next I had a half-pint of Odell’s St. Lupalin, billed as an XPA on the board. It was fresh, fine, though not what I’d expected from a beer with this name. Last I had a half-pint of Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout (also on nitro). It was fantastic and went eerily well with the Bruschetta.
Out of pure awesome luck, the conference kick-off was at the Wynkoop Brewery. After checking out the raging South Platte river and Confluence Park, I headed over to Wynkoop. My first beer was their Schwarzbier, a lovely black lager. It was a great beer to have after walking some distance, and as a compliment to the dinner. Then, after ogling the various oak casks aging in the basement, I tried the London Calling IPA on cask. It was very authentic and reminded me why I love cask ales. One of the activities that the conference arranged was a “meet the brewer” event where two brewers were on hand for questions and samples. I chatted with Josh for over 45 minutes and got to sample their chili beer (very nice – bite in the right place) and a sip of the pilsner (it kind of tasted like pepper, which was my fault). Josh was an almanac of beer and brewing knowledge and shared some recommendations on where to visit in the area. I’m pretty sure my coworker Rebecca was bored silly by us, but I was getting a lot of great info – both on their process, and on some behind the scenes info on the various breweries in the area. Sadly, I had neither the time nor inclination to leave Denver proper to see some of the neighboring beer clusters.
That wraps it up for Sunday. What a great start.