The Corner Office, Denver, October 2018

A not so spooky night out. More networking after a long day of conferencing. My conference day started at 7:30am with a “brain date”. That’s a chat about work stuff if you were wondering. And yes, that does say 7:30am. Even if you can throw a stone at the conference venue from your hotel bedroom window, it’s still an early start.

When you get invited to a networking event later in the day, it does lift the spirits a bit. Another buffet tea, chicken legs, vol au vents, cheesecake, etc. As it turns out, no work chat, since I spent most of the evening talking about travel, our trips to Vegas, Oz and New Zealand being the main topics of the evening.

A choice of seven decent beers (and Stella, which is treated as exotic here) made for a relaxing evening, with lots to select from, including one that I had last night. Three more local beers ticked off tonight. To start, Pretzel Assassin, an amber lager from Denver Beer Co, with a nice touch of maltiness.

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More travel chat and more beer. Simone Rosé Saison from Renegade Brewing Compay was a French style Saison made with wheat and rosé juice, making for a refreshing and interesting beer-wine hybrid.

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Another Renegade brew to wrap things up, the Envy Brut IPA. For me, another fizzy lager that is not an IPA. I’ve yet to meet one that lives up to the letters I, P and A.

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A fun night. It was Halloween but there were fewer scary outfits here than I saw on Sunday afternoon’s travels around the city. In fact the staff here just had random fancy dress, nothing to do with Halloween, which was rather confusing. Denver seems to be a city where it’s harder to find bad beer than it is to find good.

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Mockery Brewing Co, Delgany Street, Denver, October 2018

In my “research” so far, I have uncovered some simple facts about Denver. One of them is that you can almost trip over brewery taps and great bars on every corner, on every block. I have been doing that this afternoon, and the final stop on my city stroll (before catching a train back downtown) was Mockery.

Another friendly welcome awaited here, and once again I picked a couple of beers for my final flight of the day, with advice from the bar staff for the other ones. A nice atmosphere inside, but given the sun was about to set over the Rockies I sat outside to enjoy the glorious pinks and reds of a Colorado sunset, and to enjoy some more beers.

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Continuing the musical theme from earlier, I started with Wish You Were Here, where the fruit was very subtle, and it was a nice easy drinking golden ale.

Blue Steel was next, another blonde ale with an interesting flavour, lightly balanced malts.

Something a little more lively next, a gose called Spruce the Goose, packed with super funky forest fruit flavours. Lovely stuff.

Proceedings closed with Farmhouse Ale, another one packed with dark fruit flavours, from 12 different malts, farmhouse yeast and rooibos tea.

And here’s that sunset.

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A lovely quiet space in the city, well worth seeking out.

Great Divide barrel bar, 35th Street, Denver, October 2018

The past!

If there’s one thing better than a brewery tap with a great selection of beers, it’s a brewery tap with a great selection of beers that’s playing a great selection of 1990s Americana, on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Only a short stroll away from my previous refreshment stop, and I was soon settled in at a table here, and off to the bar for my next tasting flight. I asked one of the friendly bar staff for a few recommendations and picked some of my own, to sit back and enjoy on this wonderfully lazy Sunday afternoon.

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Let’s run through them from left to right.

Colette Farmhouse Ale, a 7.3% saison, had a subtle fruity note and there was a slight wheatiness to it. A nice starter to go with some Counting Crows on the jukebox (well, I think they call it Spotify nowadays).

Strawberry Rhubarb, a fruity sour with mellow fruitfulness and a nice touch of rhubarb, one of my favourite vegetables to feature in a beer.

Fresh Hop (2018) is this season’s freshest beer, brewed with “wet” whole cone hops from the Pacific north west, to give something that’s a little malty with light hoppiness. I think we’d moved on to Hootie & The Blowfish at this point.

Hazy IPA does exactly what it says on the tin, full of hazy hoppiness and a nice bitterness. A decent NEIPA that puts some of the others that I’ve had recently to shame.

It was a lovely drop, but I think it’s fair to say that I saved the best for last, in the form of Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale. Sticking an old ale into whisk(e)y barrels produces wonderful results, a beautiful maltiness in this grand old ale.

A great place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon, relaxed and with a very chilled vibe. If you want to stretch your legs then there are tours every hour from 2-6 at weekends. There’s a food truck parked outside if you get peckish. Oh, and they love yetis.

Crooked Stave Taproom, Source Market Hall, Denver, October 2018

A beautiful sunny Sunday in downtown Denver. I spent the morning exporing the Civic Centre Park, the State Capitol area and the area around Union station. After grabbing a sandwich at the station, I decided to walk up to the “RiNo” district (short for River North) to visit a brewery or two (or three).

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As soon as I knew I was coming to Denver, there was one place that was on the top of my list. Crooked Stave. They appeared on my radar in 2015, as part of the 2015 Rainbow Project. Together with Hawkshead Brewery, they produced Key Lime Tau (2π), a mixed culture fermentation ale aged in oak with lactose, fresh lime peel and fresh lemongrass. It was gorgeous. On a trip to the Hawkshead Beer Hall in 2016, I picked up some more of their beers…

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You can spy a 2015 Progenitor (funky apricot, amazing nose, lots of tart fruit and fizz, with a few hops floating in there somewhere), a 2015 Surette Provision Saison (interesting fizz and funk, lots of barrel aged character), an Origins Burgundy Sour (fruity, acidic sourness) and that wonderful lime bomb that is Key Lime Tau.

Some of those descriptions will give you a bit of an idea as to what’s coming next, although I did choose a few items that you might not expect to find at Crooked Stave, known for their wild, sour and barrel-aged beers.

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So we start with Von Pilsner, an unfiltered Keller Pilsner, which was lovely, super fresh tasting. I didn’t know that they did a lager, and I’m so glad that I chose it.

Next is the imaginitively titled IPA, a lovely hoppy nose with well rounded bitterness. Really good stuff. There was only one way to go after that.

That was Trellis Buster DIPA (Double India Pale Ale). Double dry-hopped with Azacca, Citra, Motueka, and Simcoe to give delightfully rounded pine notes, and it was scarily easy to drink for 8%. A really great DIPA.

You can’t come here without trying some sours, so Vieille Artisanal Saison was next up. Lovely tartness and subtle oaky tones. Super sourness from this rustic ale aged in oak barrels.

To finish (because there are more places to visit this afternoon) a Sour Rosé, a wild ale fermented in oak with Washington raspberries and blueberries. A really beautiful raspberry tartness with pleasant blueberry hints. Absolutely lovely.

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What a lovely place, really nice people and a super chilled vibe on this lovely Sunday afternoon. I left with a few goodies to take home. If you find yourself in Denver, find your way here. If you prefer not to walk, the train from Union Station to 38th and Blake gets you pretty close.

MOFAD approved, of course!

Brewdog fanzine issue 12, September 2018

As I mentioned last time, my subscription is hanging in the balance. After essentially 3 rebrews, this one could have been my last. Maybe the tone deaf Brewdog do occasionally listen to what people say, because there are new brews here, although the east and west styles aren’t the most innovative.

Opaque Jake – NEIPA – 7.2%

Take the coastal road out East with this classic unfiltered IPA. Dry-hopped with Mosaic and Citra, it delivers juicy tropical and citrus fruit character. Zesty lime sits alongside pithy orange, while pungent myrcene is balanced with ripe blackcurrant. Oats and wheat lay down a velvet texture beneath the juicy sweetness and subtle bitterness.

Scarlet Fever – Red Rye Saison – 5.4%

Citrus melds to the light noble hop aromas, with orange peel adding a twist of zest to the nose. Layers of dry spicy rye fuse with toasty caramel malt notes, giving subtle and complex grain flavours to this Red Rye Saison. Spice builds with the Saison yeast, a peppery undercurrent lies alongside clove, with hints of nutmeg and thyme.

Having tried this one, there’s a tiny slice of rye spiciness, but at least it’s far better than endless rebrews of NEIPAs…

Mind Game – West Coast IPA – 6.9%

An all-American line-up for this West Coast IPA – classic floral, citrus and resinous C-hop aromas bring mango, blood orange, pine dust, lemongrass, bergamot, and lemon oil in numbers. All sitting on a resinous, bold and bitter baseline with hints of toast and cinder toffee sneaking through the perimeter.

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Edit : once again BD find themselves making headlines with PR that didn’t go to plan. A tie up with controversial US brewer Scofflaw somehow went sour over a “free beer for Trump supporters” promotion that appeared seemingly out of the blue. Who knows how much is truth and how much is fake news?

Rainbow Project 2018 – the end of an era

The Rainbow Project began in 2013 when Ryan Witter-Merithew was head brewer at Siren Craft Brew. I’ve written about it a few times before, as I’ve had some of the recent boxes. This year sees it come to an end, and it’s going out with a barrel aged bang. Let’s look through this year’s selection, which is very sour/saison heavy. Fine by me but that did put a few people off. I still remember that awful online buying experience from 2016 when HonestBrew challenged the #craftbeerhour crew to “come at us beer lovers” and everyone promptly nailed their web site, with things taking at least an hour to get orders through, payments not going through and other nightmares.

I still don’t use HonestBrew after this experience, and the only times I have used them since have been to order the subsequent 2 Rainbow Project boxes. This will probably be my last purchasing experience. At least it was an easy one, done at leisure in the pub last Saturday evening whilst waiting for dinner to arrive.

However, they still managed to spoil it by not sending me any dispatch information, so I had to DM them on Twitter on Thursday to find out what where it was.

Anyway, on with the final 7 beers…

Colour: Red
Breweries: Wild Beer Co x Side Project
Name: Rosa Rouge
Style: Sour Saison with Pomegranate & Rose Petals
ABV: 5%

A sour saison with pomegranate and rose petals, Rosa Rouge pairs the wild yeasts of Missouri with Somerset beasties for a co-fermented, barrel aged sour saison. Side Project and Wild Beer Co have incorporated the colour red with additions of pomegranate and rose petals. A funky mixture of microbes in burgundy wine barrels lends a tart acidity and farmhouse slant while the fragrant rose and pomegranate play with the woody tannins.

Colour: Orange
Breweries: Burning Sky x 3 Floyds
Name: Out From The Void
Style: Barrel-aged Barley Wine
ABV: 11%

Burning Sky’s second collaboration with Indiana beer legends Three Floyds comes in the form of a barrel aged barley wine. Fermented with Burning Sky’s house ale yeast and a Brettanomyces strain, the beer was then aged in sauternes wine barrels with vanilla pods and cacao nibs to give a decadent chocolate orange flavour. A truly luxurious and uncompromising swan song to Burning Sky’s brief but highly memorable contribution to The Rainbow Project.

Colour: Yellow
Breweries: Hawkshead x Modern Times
Name: Yellow
Style: Mixed Culture Barrel-aged Saison with Apricots
ABV: 5.3%

A mixed culture barrel aged saison with apricots brewed in San Diego. Fermented with Modern Times’ house wild yeast and a wildly foraged yeast found on loganberries (a blackberry and raspberry hybrid) this transatlantic collaboration was then rested in red wine barrels before going through a secondary fermentation on over 3 lbs/gallon of Southern California apricots. Yellow pours a pale starlit shade of gold with a light white head. It has the aroma of sunripe apricot skin and a balancing tartness and bright fruitiness round out the sensory experience.

Colour: Green
Breweries: Partizan x New Belgium
Name: Phoenix
Style: Wood Aged Saison with Aged Hops
ABV: 5%

A continuation of last year’s theme of destruction and regrowth, Phoenix is a “green” inspired wood aged saison that takes full advantage of the unique character of aged hops. Partizan’s aim was to showcase the flavours drawn from older hops and the barrel in the purest way possible, deciding against spirit barrels and mixed cultures in an effort to bring the nuanced flavours to the fore and retain a “greeness” to the beer. A simple yet bold counterpoint to this year’s releases.

Colour: Blue
Breweries: Beavertown
Name: Lapis Lazuli
Style: Sour Ale inspired by Ancient Egypt
ABV: 8.2%

A sour ale inspired by ancient Egypt. Beavertown drew inspiration from natural winemaking to produce an amphora and barrel aged beer. Beavertown pieced together a complex grist including Teff grains (a historic North African grain) as well as barley and wheat. For a fruit addition they used Pinot Noir grape must from Forty Hall vineyards in North London. The beer was then fermented with a sour mix featuring a range of wild yeasts and bacteria, simulating the cultures which would have been prevalent in pre-20th century beer production. The beer was then aged in amphora and red wine barrels on pinot noir grape skins for eight months.

Colour: Indigo
Breweries: Magic Rock x Casita Cervecería
Name: Papillon
Style: Barrel-aged Sour Ale with Blueberry, Apricot and Pea Flowers
ABV: 7.5%

Magic Rock’s Indigo release comes in the form of a barrel aged sour ale with blueberry, apricot and butterfly pea flowers. The foundation of this finale comes in the form of beautiful French oak barrels. The freshly emptied barrels came from different Châteaus nestling against the “Garonne” river in Bordeaux. The white wine was made from varietals of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon (2013 and 2014 vintages). Atop of the base beer fermented in the barrels with a mixed wild yeast culture butterfly pea flowers were used to introduce the colour indigo. To augment the colour and add a fruity depth, blueberry and apricot concentrate were added. The blueberry a fitting link to Magic Rock’s first Rainbow Project beer in 2013: a blueberry IPA they called “Beauregarde”.

Colour: Violet
Breweries: Siren x Sante Adairius
Name: Equilibrium
Style: Red Wine Barrel-Fermented Saison Blend
ABV: 5.8%

Equilibrium is a red wine barrel fermented saison. This year Siren wanted to create a concept to link up with their previous release, the “blue” themed Santo del Frio. The theme for Santo del Frio was tied to cold, Siren even used cryogenically frozen hops! In order to get to violet, they blended that beer with something hot. A red-inspired, warm-pitched, red wine barrel fermented saison. The finished beer is Equilibrium – violet. It displays flavour-packed character from across the spectrum, while crucially, being a complex but incredibly easy drinking saison.

Goodbye Rainbow Project, I look forward to drinking you for the last time.

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – sour beer selection box #2 – February 2018

It’s already time for the second sour beer selection box. The highlight (so far) from the first box has to be Mango Mango Mango from Dugges, lots of lovely mango and no overbearing sweetness. Gose to Hollywood was also a good one, full of sour fruits and zingy tartness. Let’s delve into the latest box of delights…

Lines – Citrus Grisette – 3.5%

Lines decided to make a summer fruity blend, combining a soft juicy grisette with a wheat and oat body, and using a saison strain to leave some delicious sweet spice in the background. The beer, which Lines class as a fruit grisette, a lemon zest and grapefruit conditioned summer Belgian beer.

Wild Beer – Fruitbooter – 5.7%

A blast of fruitiness, a foudre-fermented (and then aged), pink peppercorn saison topped up with an acid drop of select barrels from the Wild Beer library before being packed to the brim with the ripest Somerset raspberries to create a tart, jammy, and mouthwatering beer.

Stillwater – A Saison Darkly – 8%

Brewed with dark malts and burnt sugars then lightly spiced with rose hips, hibiscus, & schisandra berries. Even though Stillwater Artisanal Ales are based in Maryland, United States, this dark saison was brewed at Sint Canarus, a house brewery in Gottem, Belgium in association with brewmaster mister Piet Meirhaeghe – also known as Dr. Canarus.

To Øl – Mr Blue – 7.5%

A rustique Saison brewed with blueberries, and the first beer to be released from the To Øl ‘Reservoir Dogs’ series. A malt base of rye, wheat and oats to deliver a spicy, full mouthfeel, hopped with Galaxy and Belma and then 500 kg of blueberries per 1000 litres. This beer is complex and well rounded with Belgian yeasty notes blended with the fresh blueberries that adds notes of Nordic forest floors.

Buxton/Stillwater – Raspberry Superluminal – 7%

A raspberry version of Superluminal Sour India Pale Ale, part of a continuing collaboration with Stillwater Artisanal. Big raspberry flavours with mango and grapefruit coming through from the hops and sweet raspberry on the finish.

Gipsy Hill/Duration – Barnstormer – 4.7%

A collaboration between Gipsy Hill and the “work in progress” farmhouse brewery Duration. It’s a wild sort of saison that’s been kettle soured overnight, cherry wood was then added to the boil and it was then fermented with three strains of yeast. Tart, dry and complex.