Last week was a big mile stone, my beloved step-dad, Bob turned 70 and I used the occasion to sneak off to Colorado for a family celebration AND to lay the groundwork for an awesome Beer Craft summer tour.
The beer scene in the west is mindbogglingly huge, in four days I was barely able to visit a fraction of the breweries on my "must see" list. Each of the places I manged to squeeze in was unique with own cool vibe and the beers were pretty kick ass. The craft scene in Denver has exploded too and I manged to find a couple great spots to shop within walking distance of the breweries and at Fancy Tiger Crafts, a needle felted lamb kit I couldn't live without. Damn if this city isn't Beer Crafter utopia.
Day one of my trip had me lunching at Breckenridge Brewery a Denver institution since 1992, I sampled a Christmas Ale which perfectly off set my lamb strip spinach salad. For happy hour I met up with a friend at Renegade Brewing in the Santa Fe Arts District. Of all the beers we sampled the Sunday Morning coffee infused strong ale was my favorite, super crisp and light, the kind of flavors normally blended with a stout worked refreshingly well in this lighter bodied beer. Tucked in between the galleries, around the corner from Renegade is the delightful sewing studio and knit lounge, Fabric Bliss where I stocked up on a couple skeins of chunky yarn. Further down Santa Fe is Stranahan's Whiskey Bar which along with being a killer distillery had an amazing selection of local beers. I wound up the evening helping pour wine at Hutch and Spoon. Usually open for breakfast and lunch, the cafe was hosting an evening art opening. Owner Tracy Zimmer and I have been friends since grade school and it was a hoot to hang out with him behind the counter swapping stories during the reception. If you find yourself on Larimer St. it's definitely worth a stop with a decent wine and beer selection and arguably the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the Rockies.
I took Saturday off from crazy adventures for a little family time and last minute birthday crafting, though we did managed to sneak off to Apple Jack Liquors for emergency beer supplies and wow, what a treat huge selection of local and imported beers, lots and lots to choose from. If you like to preview the beers before you head over, check out their website, great catalog of what's in stock.
For Bob's birthday on Sunday we headed over to Pints Pub where we met up with his car club cronies for lunch before a tour around Denver on Banjo Billy's bus. Looking like something straight out of the Beverly Hillbillies, the bus offers historical and beer trips around Denver and Boulder. They've taken out many of the old seats and added couches arm chairs and even a saddle, lined with tapestries and Christmas lights, the bus feels like a comfy cabin hide-away on wheels and was the perfect way to travel around town with 25 of your favorite friends.
Since we'd booked the bus for a private tour we were able to bring snacks and beer along too, which just added to the merriment. We ended up back at Pints which has the largest single malt and whiskey selection outside the UK and lovely, lovely cask conditioned ales which they brew on the premises.
After sleeping in on Monday, I was back in research mode, though this time a bit north of Denver to see what trouble we could get into further up the range. !st stop was Avery Brewing. Making great beer since 1993, Avery is a must stop for any brew tourist, I highly recommend Ellie's Brown Ale and the 3 Point 7 Milk Stout. Things are pretty exciting at Avery these days, they've just purchased 5.6 acres of land north of Boulder and will be opening a new brewery in 2014.
For lunch we moseyed over to Boulder Beer Company this was a cool homecoming for me, this was the first craft beer I'd tried, way back in1991 when I waited tables at Walnut Brewery and we served the Buffalo Gold.
A couple things I love about this brewery, aside from the great beers and lentil soup, they've got a set of community tools to work on your bike right outside the front door and if you've left your bike behind completely, you can rent a solar powered electric one. Super efficient and green friendly, plus the roomy basket in front has space for a growler and all your craft supplies.
The last two stops on our adventure were at Oskar Blues, both the original brewery up in Lyons and the much larger Tasty Weasel location in Longmont. Wow, wow, wow, great beers, super nice folks, good vibes and so cool to see how craft beer can be made with care in a big facility. Our tour guide Rudy was super friendly and knowledgeable giving us a great run down on how the different beers get made. I was super impressed by the tower of cans waiting to go out to distribution, all that delicious craft potential, it staggers the mind.
My folks and I wound the evening down at Yak and Yeti in Arvada. This Indian Nepalese restaurant and brewpub is to die for, I absolutely love the food garlic cheese naan, chicken masala and this amazing carrot custard for dessert- but what makes this place stand out is the fabulous beers they are making on site to match the menu, unbelievable, Jalapeno Ale, Chai Cream Stout, Himalayan IPA, these guys know how to rock it, the staff is all super sweet. If you get the chance catch them on the weekend for the all you can eat buffet, a gut bursting value.
After four days of royal and debaucherous treatment it was time to head home and Denver had one last surprise for me. On the skyway bridge between the central terminal and "A" concourse, the Denver Handmade Alliance has on display featured craft pieces from artists around the city. Along with the lovely exhibits was a knitting and crochet lounge where craft addicts can chill between flights and hook a few stitches. Such a welcoming space, I couldn't help but add a couple rows and curse that fact that my plane was actually on time. Oh Denver, you've been good to me!