Note: This story recounts a brewery and beer journey taken in late May of this year. I wrote the account in mid July. We were 6 “Beer Guys” on another of our group’s many Colorado brewery adventure. We took very many together over the years. Our leader was Lew Cady, who always reveled in the opportunity to organize and pursue the national beer landscape and especially what Colorado brewers, big and small, offered to beer drinkers. Lew passed away August 4 at his home in Central City, Colorado. He was one of my heroes. His contributions and fun spirit inspired many of us beer people. I will be in Central City tomorrow, Saturday August 17 at Dostal Alley Brewery with many of his friends to raise a beer and offer Lew’s spirit a taste of what he loved to do and left us to continue. Love beer. Enjoy beer. Be with friends and family.
I find myself traveling the world, visiting breweries and encountering brewers. They may be homebrewers, pro brewers at craft, national or large global brewers. I thrive on the diversity and those who have a respect for both tradition and innovation. It’s what makes any successful brewer “tick.”
What’s most inspiring to me these days is what’s happening in my own home town county of Boulder, Colorado. Like many areas of the United States, Boulder County is exploding with both growth of established small breweries and openings by new professionals. They come from all walks of life and come with many different types of business plans in hand. There’s no cookie cutter model for success.
Every brewery seems to be doing its own thing, there’s uniqueness and individuality that keeps beer drinkers, including the likes of me, excited about going out and enjoying the new beer offerings.
In May, June and July I’ve had the opportunity to work late and visit my home town county brewers. I was accompanied with my local beer buddies (Lew Cady [Central City beer icon & Colorado beer champion], Dick Kreck [Denver’s Pope of beer], Dave Thomas [Coors retiree and now assisting at Dostal Alley], Marty Jones [Wynkoops Minister of Beereligion] and Buddy Schmalz [founder/owner/brewmaster Dostal Alley Brewing Co, Central City]) and on another occasion with visiting brewers from Italy (Agostino Arioli founder of Birrificio Italiano and his brewery staff). With 30 (and about 10 in planning) breweries in the county I have not been able to visit all of them this year, but of the ones I have here are brief sketches of my visits.
My initial excursion began with lunch at Shine Restaurant and Brewhouse at 2027 13th St, Boulder. It’s a comfortable open atmosphere that I visit often to just have a few beers with friends. They primarily promote themselves as a restaurant with the brewery as a second thought or so it seems. But they’re making all the beer they can from their brewhouse in the back (originally installed as the Red Fish Brewery over 15 years ago that went out of business). The beer is refreshingly terrific. They offer possibly the best gluten free beer I’ve had – spiced with notable hops and toasted non gluten grains. The pale ale and IPA are favorites and if you’re in the mood for a pilsener Mike Kasian, brewmaster offers one of the best local downtown Boulder pilseners around. The food is very good. A community meeting place for a variety of events.
Skipping 2 ½ blocks away onto Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall West Flanders Brewing Company at 1125 Pearl Street is an absolutely must visit. An expression of Boulder’s homebrewing roots grace the walls with a few Boulder notable homebrewers (me included) in their brewing environment accompanied by their brewpots. Brewmaster Brian Lutz resurrects his brewing skills with a very nifty variety of beers. Third Kingdom IPA, Daisy Cutter Belgian strong, Trippel Lutz, Hofmeister Pils and many local guest beers are served on tap to accompany a menu that offers an exceptional dining experience. Whether you’re there for lunch, dinner or just a beer or few, you’ll feel like you’re at home.
We visited beer chef and founder Ian Clark of BRU Handbuilt Ales and Eats at his home and residential garage brewhouse the week before his big move to the new brewery restaurant at 5290 Arapahoe, Boulder. We were possibly the last beer geeks to visit his garage, jam packed to the ceiling. His small operation provided the flow of draft and bottled beer to several restaurants in the area. With a 3 barrel system this was a triple time endeavor and pursuit of a dream; The marriage of beer and food. Ian practiced his skills as a professional chef in Boulder, “retired” and pursued his love of beer and food with his own project I’ll shorten and call BRU. One week later I found him smiling to a packed restaurant serving guest brews and his own BRU’s at the new restaurant location. His is an artistic exercise and perfect balance of managing ingredients in both his beers and food; most of which are company made down to the pickles and charcuterie. His beers reflect his passion: Obitus Ale/American Brown Ale with roasted dates and caramelized sugar at 7.6% suggests a very smooth Belgian-style dubbel without the excessive fruitiness associated with Belgian yeasts. Citrum American IPA with lemon zest and juniper berries at 7.2%. Belgian Golden Ale (“Quad” ) at 9.3%; very smooth, no assertive “corn-like” characters, clean fresh taste. 1st Anniversary Quad at 10.7% a “wow” brew, fermented with a Trappist beer yeast, super smooth and deceivingly delicious. At the restaurant I also tried a cherry flavored dubbel. BRU won’t disappoint if you appreciate the origin of where your beer and food come from and the concept of deliciousness.
J.Wells Brewery at 2516 49th Street, Boulder is a small brewery in a small business district area in east Boulder. It’s an unassuming location, but with the tasting room’s comfy living room setup and the outdoor extension in good weather this is a place to appreciate exceptional hands on brewing and a friendly environment. It’s east Boulder’s secret waiting to be discovered. Chocolate Milk Stout is a must try; smooth and delicious. Somehow it seems to be great chilled on a hot summer day. An English style Best Bitter at 3.4% with Kent Goldings and legendarily good Marris Otter malt is worth topping off your session. One Hop Haze Imperial IPA will just about start and finish your session at 9%, but satisfy.
Wild Woods Brewery at 5460 Conestoga Court, Boulder is east of central Boulder and tucked into an unassuming small business park. It’s a small operation with a very impressive open, spacious and comfortable tap room. Check their website for opening hours. It’s a small brewery and their busy brewing during the early part of the day. I tasted many of their beers all very well brewed and delicious. The most memorable was their special limited edition of Wild Woods Maibock. This Maibock was as good and mostly better than any Maibock I’ve ever had in Germany or from Germany. Most of their beers are ales, but when you can make a great lager – you can make good on just about anything. An effort to find but worth your pursuit. Another cool place to hang out for a beer after work or anytime they’re open.
Next: Continuing with Left Hand, Upslope, Twisted Pine, Fate, Bootstrap Breweries in Boulder County.