Friday, October 8, 2010

Blame It On The Altitude: Our Colorado Brewery Tour

One of the best parts about the trip out to Colorado was visiting just a small sample of the 100+ breweries that exist in the Rocky Mountain state.

We were able to visit 4 full breweries and 3 brewpubs, for a total of 7 places that brew their own beer. They were: Breckenridge Brewery and Pub across from Coors Field, Great Divide Brewing Co. , New Belgium Brewing Co., Left Hand Brewing Co., Oskar Blues Brewery, Mountain Sun Brewery & Pub, and the Colorado Brewing Company-Draft House. My biggest regret was not visiting Avery Brewing in Boulder.

Quick Awards:

Best Beers Overall: Great Divide
Favorite New Beer: Oskar Blues & Great Divide*
Best Tour & Overall Experience: New Belgium
Best Personal Experience: Oskar Blues
Best Deal: New Belgium
Best Bartender: Left Hand

*Favorite New Beers: Gubna at Oskar Blues and Wild Raspberry Ale at Great Divide

Probably, the most unique place we visited was a hippie brewpub in Boulder called Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery. The best beers they had by far were their two IPAs and the Colorado Kind Ale. Definitely a cool experience, as it was a small restaurant that had some really good beer.

I've never been a big fan of Breckenridge beers, and their pub across from Coors Field was cool, but the beers were not that special. They had a small batch Pilsner that was really good, but I can't find the name of it online.

The first brewery we visited was Great Divide Brewing in Denver. You've likely had their Titan IPA if you've had any of their beers (it was the only one I had previously).

G.D. was about 3 blocks from Coors Field, which immediately made me a fan, but it also had happy hour right after the game. This means $3 beers, that are mostly high gravity, and very delicious (you can imagine what happened after being there almost 3 hours in their small tap room).

G.D. had the best overall beers on our trip. My particular favorites were their Hades Belgian Style Ale, Wild Raspberry Ale (best berry ale I've ever had), and the Hoss Rye Lager.

Others in our the crew enjoyed the Yeti Imperial Stout and Hibernation Ale. I also enjoyed the Denver Pale Ale.

This was the sign waiting for us on our tour. Lots of points for New Belgium!

Does your office have a two story slide in it? Do you have volleyball tournaments every week? Does your company give tours to 20+ insane UGA fans and then also give them FREE BEER?

Didn't think so, and that's why your life sucks if you don't work at New Belgium. Especially if you are not the "Director of Fun" that had this awesome slide installed.

A slide in the brewery. 'Nuff said.

If you've ever drank a beer, then you've likely had Fat Tire, their most popular beer. In recent times, many of the beers have become available in Georgia, so there were not too many surprises in their tap room. Don't let that fool you though, the tap room was still awesome, good bartenders, and we even got to meet the brewmaster.

The 1554, a Black Ale, was an excellent dark beer that tasted nothing like a dark beer. I know that sounds contradictory, and it is, but you just have to try it. Never had anything like it, especially a dark beer with such a smooth taste.

The actual tour of N.B. was awesome, given to us by Kaitlyn, as we got to see their beer making process, their massive bottling plant appropriately called "Thunderdome", and we got to pour our own beers and they served us plenty of free samples. FREE BEER, can you believe that!?!

I would be able to recount all of the cool things on the tour that Kaitlyn told me, but the free beer has caused me to not remember them.

The picture above is "The Thunderdome." One of the coolest things is that the brewery and Thunderdome are connected by a giant beer bridge that flows the beer from one building to another.

I learned how N.B. makes all their money though. They brainwash attendees of their awesome brewery and tap room so that they pile up on the merchandise when they leave (guilty as charged, I am a sucker!)

Dale's Pale Ale is the signature beer of Oskar Blues, and it is one that you can find in almost any store and many bars in Atlanta. It is also the official craft brew of the Bubba 'N Earl tailgates as deemed by Bubba himself (those cans count for something). Mamas Lil Yella Pils is also one of their beers you can find in many stores

We visited the brewery and tap room for Oskar Blues in Longmont, as opposed to their restaurant in Lyons, CO that served as the original brewery.

We got to the brewery in time for them to pop open a cask of special ale(wish i could remember it, but it was delicious). I also got to try a new favorite beer called "Gubna." Hadn't seen it in Georgia yet, but it is a 10% alcohol Imperial IPA. This beer was insane, with a flavor I had never tasted before. Can't wait to find it here soon.

Some jerk and Dale of the Pale Ale.

Our experience was awesome at Oskar Blues because Tree, the HR director for the brewery (and is also the longest standing employee), gave us a personal guided tour of the brewery. It's a huge operation they had going on, and she even made sure we got all of the mardi gras beer can necklaces we could want (which was alot with this group).

Also on the tour was the DALE of Dale's Pale Ale (brewery founder Dale Katechis). Unknown to us was the we had previously met Dale when we pulled up next to a giant DPA RV and asked the driver where the tap room was. Just so happens that the drive was Dale himself, and he also shouted War Eagle as we drove off.

When we saw him on the tour, we found out that Dale attended Auburn before moving out to Colorado. I'm sure we bugged the crap out of him with questions and pictures, but you'd never know it by how nice he treated us and how he just hung out with us for an hour and a
half. He seemed incredibly stoked on how popular his beer was in Georgia.

We probably spent more time at Oskar Blues than any other brewery, and the personal touch and great beer they provided us was exactly why we had such an awesome experience.

The beer comes out of these things, and by the process of magic, ends up in the cans below.

We could not have asked for a better time at a brewery. Thanks Dale and Tree!

Most here in Georgia have had Left Hand's Milk Stout if anything, and maybe their Haystack Wheat (which was the best wheat beer I had in Colorado).

Left Hand has a great tap room and patio. We weren't able to go on a tour of their brewery, so I can't give you the dish on that.

While Left Hand was the most expensive tap room we went to, it also had the best service of any place where you paid per glass (particularly given how full it was).

Our bartender, Josh, took care of us the entire time which was a huge help with our group of 12.

We managed to try nearly every beer on the menu, and there wasn't a single bad one.

As an awesome left handed person, kudos to L.H.!

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