Monday, July 11, 2016

Colorado Beer Touring

When you are into brewery culture you look for any excuse to visit Northern Colorado. There are so many classic breweries along with new ones popping up almost every month. Dave's cousin (the junior bridesmaid at our wedding) was getting married near her home in the Loveland area so we had a perfect reason to do some brewery-hopping.

We landed in Denver Thursday evening and spent our first night in the downtown convention center area. It was a 15 minute walk to our first stop: Jagged Mountain Brewing. Their location is in a brick building, which may have originally been a warehouse or light industrial building like many of its neighbors back-in-the-day. This whole section of Denver is under some form of revitalization because of its proximity to Coors Field. The crowd inside was surprisingly more yuppie than hipster. We started off with a flight mixed with wheats, porters, and a black IPA. We hung out for full pints and enjoyed a snack of mac & cheese from a foodtruck.

A short walk away was one of the more famous breweries from this area: Great Divide. Their Yeti stouts are very popular (too hoppy for us) but our favorite from Great Divide is their Claymore Scotch Ale. The tap room was nice with a bar area in the front and a few tables/communal areas in the back of the room. We started off with samples first, then moved on to full servings of our favorites. We were getting hungry and the obvious choice in the area would be to go to Breckenridge Brewery's restaurant a few blocks away (been there before). Fortunately for us the couple we had been chatting with at the bar suggested we visit First Draft, also a few blocks away. The area between the two businesses was a little sketchy, but it was still very bright out and traffic on the roads was still steady.

First Draft is a concept we'd like to see spread like wildfire across the country (read an article that there are over 300 self-pours in the country). Patrons start by securing a RFID card with their credit card. Then they get free reign to pour their own drinks. 30 taps of beer, wine, cider, and cocktails line one wall. The RFID cards are used to activate the taps and they monitor how much beverage is poured. Drinks are charged by the ounce. Information about the beer was displayed on iPads. After sampling, we picked some full serving favorites and then ordered food. We split the thai corn cakes and waygu burger. Both were awesome.

We decided we could work in one more brewery and walked a few blocks over to Ratio based on Dave's cousin's recco. Sadly we passed a brewery on the way to Ratio an did not stop. Ratio had a really cool outdoor patio. We ordered two varieties of Scotch Ale - one traditional and one coffee flavored. Quality beers but the coffee one was a bit too coffee-bitter.

The next morning our first stop was to Denver's VooDoo Donuts. We loved their products when we visited Portland and had to go out-of-our-way to get them again. Mental note: donuts topped with cereal get stale quickly. Getting 6 to eat over two days was a little much, but we wanted to try a few different types. Holly enjoyed the one topped with Tang powder.

We headed west to Boulder. Instead of visiting a brewery we visited The newly opened Skirt Sports store. It's a women's running clothing store. Dave just plopped on the chair and played with his phone while Holly took the time to try on a variety of items. Good thing we left room in the luggage.

Now for some fun! We stopped at Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids restaurant. Unfortunately it was too early for lunch but all the food that came out looked great. Oskar had about 30 beers on tap including all their own current offerings and guest taps to round out the selections. We were working individual tasters and our great bartender threw in a couple of other sippers for us to sample. We got to try a nice variety of beer.

Everyone told us to visit Grimm Brothers in Loveland. Nice place tucked into an industrial park, great bartender, fun games available in the bar, but the beers did not wow us. Dark beers must not have been their niche. Oh well.... After Grimm was time for lunch. We went to Coopersmith's In downtown Fort Collins for a quick bite. Since Dave had more driving to do during the day he tried the homemade root beer which was very good.

We met Dave's family and took possession of his dad while his aunt ran errands. We walked a few blocks from Coopersmith's to Patero's Creek Brewing. We had beers ranging from kolsch to wheat beers aged with Swedish Fish to Oreo Porter. Yes, Oreos infused into the beer. We learned about the Brewer's Olympics - a charity event taking place the next day.

After attending a pre-wedding picnic we dropped dad back at his hotel and headed back towards our hotel in Fort Collins. Black Bottle Brewing was nearby. They featured their own beers plus guest taps. We had their Peanut Butter Porter and New Belgium's Lychee Tart. Food looked good but we decided having sushi back in our room would be more enjoyable.

We had our marching orders on Saturday to be at Dave's aunt's house between 1:15 and 1:30 for pictures. That left us a little free time to walk the streets of Fort Collins and browse some shops. Beyond the breweries Fort Collins really is a nice town/city with a lot to offer. We plotted our course through town to end up at Equinox Brewing around 11am when they opened. We started with samples and enjoyed almost everything we chose. The Brewers Olympics team representing Equinox was getting ready to leave for the event and invited us to join them in a celebratory beer shot. Fun! The bartender allowed us to eat the Subway sandwiches we bought beforehand, which bought us some time to have a full beer. We really enjoyed Equinox - the taproom is very pleasant with a lot of local art and there were plenty of quality beers to choose from.

We rushed back to the hotel, changed, checked-out, and made it with plenty of time to spare for photos back at the house. The rest of the weekend was spent with family and at the wedding.


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