Review: Powder Keg Brewing Company, Niwot CO

20140727 185751 Review: Powder Keg Brewing Company, Niwot CO

 

 

Lest we forget, visiting breweries is about a lot more than just sampling new beers. If that were the case, a trip to Applejack, Total Liquors or Argonaut could almost certainly keep your average beer aficionado busy with exotic brews both foreign and domestic.

 

20140727 185852 Review: Powder Keg Brewing Company, Niwot CO

 

No, the focus of our brewery treks around Colorado are as much about the small towns, unique buildings and interesting like-minded beer connoisseurs that we discover along the way. Had we just stuck to browsing the aisles of a liquor store we’d never have discovered the cute, small-town charm of Niwot less than an hour north of Denver up I-25.

20140727 190437 Review: Powder Keg Brewing Company, Niwot CO

 

Less than a few blocks away from Bootstrap Brewing Company is the fortnight-old Powder Keg Brewing, so for anyone holding off from visiting the former (great) brewery now you have double the reason to spend an afternoon in a nearby town that oozes rural American charm.

 

20140727 185803 Review: Powder Keg Brewing Company, Niwot CO

 

 

Nestled in a building constructed in 1911 (note the plaque above), Powder Keg is adorable both inside and out. The taproom itself is certainly one of the more refined and tastefully decorated ones to have opened in recent months and the owners appear to have made a hefty investment in its design. You’ll see no taps jutting out from white stucco walls or sit upon chairs that may or may not have been “re-purposed” from a local yard sale (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And while I have a soft spot for jerry-rigged taprooms that feel like someone’s private garage, there’s something to be said for a new taproom that sports a tasteful amount of polish, especially when it isn’t a large, soul-less chain establishment.

Our service was prompt and amiable on this quiet, late-Sunday afternoon nearing closing time and music was played at a comfortable volume. We helped ourselves to 4 tasters of their signature brews and settled upon the stout on nitro which had a nice, roasted coffee edge to it. The saison was pleasant enough and their pale and IPA were both obviously geared toward hop-heads (especially with the addition of some dry hopping). While not my personal IBU-packed preference, I’m sure many will delight at the intense hoppiness on display.

Overall, our experience was a positive one, and I especially appreciated the fine selection of guest beers on tap (for those of us who weren’t in a hoppy state of mind). Among the more unique choices were a fine saison from Crooked Stave and a lovely tart sour from a Missouri brewery whose name evades me at this time. Furthermore, a small food menu was available, as well as a selection of ciders and wines.

Powder Keg Brewing is worth a look.

 



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Review: Joyride Brewing Company, Edgewater CO

20140720 141221 Review: Joyride Brewing Company, Edgewater CO

It was crazy busy when we visited Joyride this weekend due to the Dragon Boat Festival taking place at Sloan’s Lake across the street, so this will be a super-short review. I’d like to give them another visit ’cause the crowds were nuts and we didn’t try every beer on the menu…

That being said, the amber is AMAZING. Biscuity, malty beautifully colored and refreshingly delicious, this beer alone makes a trip down to the adorable old Edgewater “downtown” worthwhile.

20140720 142803 Review: Joyride Brewing Company, Edgewater CO

 

Furthermore, our service was good despite the crowds and the Kolsch was refreshing on this ridiculously hot Denver afternoon (over 90 degrees).

Regardless of our limited time and experience at Joyride, we feel comfortable recommending them to anyone in the Denver area.

Review: Living The Dream Brewing Company, Littleton, CO

20140713 154057 Review: Living The Dream Brewing Company, Littleton, CO

 

 

I love it when a brewery makes writing this blog a pleasure. Living The Dream Brewing Company did just that.

 

 

20140713 154337 Review: Living The Dream Brewing Company, Littleton, CO

Amazingly, all a brewery really has to do sometimes is simply make amazing beer — who’d have thought?

20140713 154128 Review: Living The Dream Brewing Company, Littleton, CO

Yes, the atmosphere was good, the service was excellent, the dogs were adorable and the location ideal for anyone who lives in the southwest part of the Denver metro area…but none of this would have mattered much if the beer were lousy. And lately, I’ve taken a fair amount of flak for my stance that breweries have been opening prematurely and serving sub-par beer. Well, thank God, I can report that Living The Dream has a couple of the best new brews I’ve consumed in ages.

20140713 154117 Review: Living The Dream Brewing Company, Littleton, CO

 

 

With five taps pouring their introductory flavors, it’s safe to say that all were quite good and a couple were damned near revelatory. My personal favorites were the Brown on nitro and the Helluva Caucasian Stout (also on nitro). The brown was a creamy and smooth take on the traditional favorite with plenty of malty, caramel overtones and none of the nasty bitterness we’ve encountered with many Americanized brown ales. Meanwhile, the Helluva Caucasian Stout was a gold medal winner waiting to happen — glorious coffee and peanut butter (!) flavors enhance a creamy delight that could easily serve as a dessert beverage. Add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to this one and you can die happy.

 

It can be tough to temper strong opinions about new breweries at this point. With 210 now open in Colorado, it’s extremely difficult to impress these jaded taste buds, but Living The Dream met and exceeded any expectations I have for a fledgling brewery. They get our highest recommendation.

Super-Small, Micro-Review: Beryl’s Beer Company, Denver CO

20140629 145843 Super Small, Micro Review: Beryls Beer Company, Denver CO

 

 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record:

DON’T OPEN YOUR BREWERY UNTIL THE BEER IS READY.

DON’T OPEN YOUR BREWERY UNTIL THE BEER IS READY.

DON’T OPEN YOUR BREWERY UNTIL THE BEER IS READY.

 

I’m going to assume the beer wasn’t ready because there’s no way you guys thought these brews were 100% right. They aren’t very good. None of them.

I know this is harsh, and I feel bad for saying this stuff, but it’s kind of a big deal and sorta vital to your success (which I hope you have).

 

P.S. Your service was excellent, your taproom was just fine and your location was ideal for downtown (i.e. ample parking and easy access). It’s unfortunate that the beer didn’t live up to the quality on display in other aspects of your business. Perhaps the beer will be great in a few months, but first impressions are pretty important..

 

(This post was edited on 7/02/2014).

 

 

 

Review: Chain Reaction Brewing Company, Denver

20140626 183308 Review: Chain Reaction Brewing Company, Denver

I love this place.

It’s customary to lead up to a proclamation like that after a few paragraphs of descriptive foreplay, but it seemed appropriate on this occasion to just confess love at first sight.

20140626 183331 Review: Chain Reaction Brewing Company, Denver

 

Do I have any biases? I suppose so as it’s less than two miles from my home, thereby making it one of the most convenient breweries (for me) in the state. But there are several others breweries nearby as well, thus making that particular bias somewhat irrelevant.

 

20140626 183347 Review: Chain Reaction Brewing Company, Denver

No, the simple fact is Chain Reaction does everything right. Everything.

The space they are located in may be a “typical” warehouse brewing environment, but they’ve managed to carefully create a cozy, intimate and inviting area where you can sit virtually anywhere and feel like you’ve found the best seat in the house. It’s a beautiful yet earthy taproom complete with soft couches, hand-cut wooden tabletops and sunbeams magically aimed at wherever illumination is needed. Furthermore, it’s nestled in a real Denver neighborhood, one where actual working-class families live, not a boutique neighborhood for the privileged upper-class. It feels like a place that should be filled with folks that may have spent the day working in an auto body shop and not just college kids out spending their disposable income.

 

20140626 185755 Review: Chain Reaction Brewing Company, Denver

 

The heart and dedication that went into the construction of Chain Reaction isn’t where the owner’s enthusiasm stopped, thankfully. You may have heard about the old Bedouin tribal culture wherein desert travelers are invited into the tent as honored guests and given a night’s respite from the elements — well, that is the kind of treatment visitors can expect to receive here. We were greeted and had long chats with practically every brewer, employee and owner and never once felt that their kindness was shown out of business obligation, but instead out of genuine concern for our comfort and satisfaction while in their “home”.

Of course, none of the above niceties may be your primary concern — Perhaps the quality of the beer is your solitary focus. In that case, you’ll still be in a state of absolute bliss. Offering no fewer than 10 brews right out of the gate, Chain Reaction has nonetheless ensured that every last one is refined and ready for critical evaluation. Unlike the recent spate of breweries that have opened their doors prematurely and served beers that felt half-baked, every item on tap was finely crafted and 100% fine-tuned. Among the standouts were the incredible IPA, the rye stout and the orange cream. Although spanning a vast spectrum of flavors and styles, each managed to taste like the kind of exquisitely crafted beer that any other brewery would be proud to call their “flagship” brew.

What else to say? Complete with a spacious beer garden, room for local food trucks, a pet-friendly attitude and even sound-dampening ceilings to prevent the dreaded concrete cacophony so commonplace elsewhere, Chain Reaction is very nearly perfect.

Recommended? Hell yes.

Review: Mu Brewery, Aurora CO

20140622 154518 Review: Mu Brewery, Aurora CO

 

 

This is good.

Aurora needs a little excitement and culture, and it looks like the city council is aiming to achieve just that. The neighborhood surrounding East Colfax road has always been teetering between interesting and scuzzy, and now plans are being implemented to turn this stretch of road into a culture and arts district. Some of the basic elements have been here for a while: great ethnic food, a few small theater venues and a couple good thrifting shops…but this is Colorado. In our state a brewery is pretty much required for a neighborhood to be legit. And now they have their first real taproom, Mu Brewery.

 

20140622 154650 Review: Mu Brewery, Aurora CO

 

 

The space itself is great — a nicely decorated little place with good outdoor views and seating that allows for people watching and cool summer breezes. Moreover, it’s easy to get to, simple to park nearby and has a nice, earthy feel to it that lacks any kind of pretentiousness.

Our service was quick and amiable and the small Sunday crowd was treated to World Cup soccer on the flatscreen. There was definitely a corner-bar kinda vibe here and one could easily imagine this place acquiring many loyal regulars.

 

20140622 1623510 Review: Mu Brewery, Aurora CO

 

The only caveat I have against everyone running out and trying Mu Brewery this weekend is the same caveat I’ve had with several recent openings: the beer still has to work out a few small kinks. While not bad by any stretch of the imagination, most of the beers on the menu still lacked the kind of refinement one should expect after a few rounds of brewing. And to their credit, the owners/brewers were aware that the current batch wasn’t completely up to their standards and they were expecting the next series of beers to be much improved. As it stood, the raspberry red was the one sure-fire hit so far. It was a genuine crowd-pleaser and their most popular beer already. Meanwhile, the cream porter was almost up to snuff and the brown was nearly right. In fact, the only real miss in the bunch was the IPA which featured a variety of hops that I’m just not a fan of.

Overall, we liked the place a lot and saw tremendous potential with their adventurous line-up of slightly askew beer flavors (one of which featured clove predominantly!). Unfortunately, much like many other breweries that are (understandably) in a rush to start making money to help offset the huge investment required for a start-up, Mu Brewery may have jumped the gun just a little. Here’s hoping their next batch lives up to what we hope will be a wonderful assortment of brews. Give ‘em a month and head on out to the Denver area’s latest up-and-coming neighborhood.

Micro-Review: Three Freaks Brewery, Highlands Ranch CO

20140615 155001 Micro Review: Three Freaks Brewery, Highlands Ranch CO

 

 

Sometimes I think it would just be best to wait for breweries to be open for a good six months before trying them out and reviewing them — this way they can iron out all the kinks and brew several batches on their new equipment. It would also save me the guilt of having to write a less than stellar blog post…

 

20140615 155014 Micro Review: Three Freaks Brewery, Highlands Ranch CO

 

3 Freaks Brewery simply didn’t offer anything noteworthy. The location is just another strip mall spot that could be interchangeable with at least 50 other breweries in Colorado alone, and the four beers they had on tap were neither inventive nor particularly good. Most were cloudy (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing whatsoever if it’s an unfiltered brew) and all were just a bit…off. They weren’t straight-up bad, but they had that undefinable flavor of incompletion, as if a part of the brewing process had been overlooked or rushed in service of a grand opening date.

Our service was perfectly acceptable, if unremarkable, and the general vibe was about what you’d expect from a strip mall storefront in Highlands Ranch (i.e dull).

I wish I could say nicer things, but Colorado now has 200 breweries. Two hundred. Mediocrity just isn’t gonna cut it in a market this saturated, competitive and jam-packed with remarkable beer.

Perhaps 3 Freaks will knock it out of the park in another year or two (if they survive that long). But with Blue Spruce Brewing and Two22 Brew offering superior alternatives just minutes away, I can imagine it’s gonna be a tough road ahead.