Mmmmmm… Beer.

14 Dec

I figure that one-word title got the attention of most of you.  For the rest, you can buy your own damn drink.

I have a confession to make.  I am a beer snob.  I wasn’t born with a silver can in the fridge, it just sort of happened about a year ago when I started dating my wife.  Yes, I am fully and openly blaming her.  Now, I am not talking about chugging away at a case of American mass-produced swill like a freshman at a frat party.    I am talking about the finely crafted beers that are made in small batches at the microbreweries across the country.

I am lucky enough to live in what has been dubbed “the Napa Valley of craft brewing”.  Colorado, a Mecca for beer aficionados from across the country, now has over 150 breweries that produce some of the finest beers on the planet.  Luckily for us, many of these are not exported beyond the borders of our fine state, and some not even that far.  The artisans that create these masterpieces are like the wine makers of the 80’s.  They take different strains of hops, combine with flavors from the ordinary to the exotic, and create a taste and sensory explosion on your palate.  Wheat beer, Kolsch, lager, amber, brown, stout and pale.  If you can dream it, someone has probably put it into a fermenter.  However, there is nothing more beautiful than what can only be described as truly a masterful American creation:  The India Pale Ale and its beefier cousin, the Double IPA.

Since my eyes were opened to the world of beer last summer, I have gained a true appreciation for the IPA.  I look for them at every brewery, ask for them at every restaurant.  I have several favorites, some that are perfect for everyday consumption, and others that are best reserved for special occasions.  While they are all IPAs in name, they are as different as snowflakes.  Even within different batches of the same beer, one can note subtle differences.

An IPA gains its flavor and its overall character from the hops and malt the brewer uses to create the beer.  Different malts and roasts can change the backbone from sweet to smoky.  Different hops, like different grapes, provide different notes in the finished product.  Dry hopping produces a significantly different flavor than does a wet application.  Hops from different areas of the country have different subtleties, all of which combine to create a unique experience.

I am not a beer expert.  Far from it in fact.  I would consider myself more of a suds mauler than a sommelier.  But I know what I like, and for me it takes a perfect combination of hops and malts to please my palate.  One measures the hoppiness of a beer by calculating the IBUs, or International Bitterness Units.  To give you an example, most lagers (Budweiser, Coors, etc.) come in at less than 10 IBUs.  On the other end of the scale, there are IPAs that tilt the scale at over 115 IBUs.  Having had the pleasure of trying so many hoppy beers, the lesser IBU-endowed ones just don’t do it for me any more.  It’s like heroin.  The longer you use, the more you body needs.  I have built up a hop-tolerance!  Couple this with the fact that the average American beer has about 3.8 – 4.0% ABV.  Most of the IPAs out there these days run in the mid-6% range, and there are some that touch the sky (or maybe the floor after too many) at almost 11%.  I’m sold.

Anyway, to sum up here are some of the breweries and beers to which I tip my hat.  Thank you for making beer enjoyable again!

Beers:  Avery IPA; Maharaja (Brewed only twice a year, this is my favorite beer on the planet and I wait anxiously each year for it to come out again.); Titan IPA; Hercules Double IPA; Modus Hoperandi; Dale’s Pale Ale; Fisherman’s Double IPA (This is the only beer that has yet come close to Maharaja for me); Seven Seas Double IPA (It will always be Seven Seas to us, screw that Washington outfit!); Puma IPA.

Breweries:  Avery Brewing, Great Divide. Ska Brewing, Oskar Blues, Left Hand Brewing, Trinity Brewing, Twisted Pine, Boulder Beer, Walnut Brewery, Dry Dock Brewing, Cape Ann Brewing, Golden Brewing Company, Bear Republic Brewing, and our local Elk Mountain Brewing.

And if you can’t decide on which to visit or sample, never fear.  Head to LoDo and ask for Stevie at Falling Rock Tap House.  He will steer you in the right direction.



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