Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

20141016 144951 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

Us Colorado folk can sometimes be a little dismissive of other states. Some might even consider us a tad cocky. It’s not that we don’t think other places can be cool, it’s just that where we live is so ridiculously fantastic that we simply assume other states (especially the adjacent ones) are, uh, inferior.

Let this blog post set the record straight: New Mexico is easily the most under-rated state I’ve ever been to, and every Coloradan should start planning their next trip accordingly. Is it as wonderful as Colorado? Well…we’ll leave that discussion for another day.

 

But first, we had to drive about four hours south just to get there, and fortunately for us thirsty beer-types, a new brewery in Trinidad offered some respite from the tedium of I-25.

20141016 145034 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

Only eight weeks old, Dodgeton Creek Brewing Company on the outskirts of town (which is a bit strange considering “town” is so small) was the answer to our prayers. As a most fitting precursor to the trip ahead, Dodgeton is housed in a cool little adobe-style structure more suitable for Santa Fe than the Centennial State. While not “real” (it was built in 1990) it still gave the place a nice vibe we weren’t accustomed to seeing up north. Plus, the odd isolation of it made us feel like we’d ventured far from the Mile High City and were truly distant from any urban center. Suffice to say, the unique nature of the building itself added to the ambiance.

For a brewery as young as they are, the selection on hand was impressive: 8 in-house brewed beers on tap. We tried the pale, kolsch, IPA and Scotch 4oz samplers and all were totally up to snuff.

Where DCBC truly shined, though, was in the spectacular service. Our beer-tenders supplied us with tons of information about our New Mexico destinations and generally offered up great conversation all-around. The taproom was small, so we were given especially dedicated service and were made to feel like we were the only customers in the world.

Long story short, Dodgeton Creek is a very welcome respite from the I-25 slog and a lovely way to wave goodbye from Colorado before crossing the border. A visit is mandatory.

 

20141016 2104101 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

Once arriving in Santa Fe we set about the task of locating some local breweries, of which the town has five: Santa Fe Brewing, Marble Brewing, Duel Brewing, Blue Corn Brewery and 2nd Street Brewery. Unfortunately, our trip was a mere 4-day weekend so we had to skip a few places and only made it to 2nd street.

That was a mistake.

20141016 210435 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

While the beer was very good – I had a wildly smokey Rauchbier and my girlfriend had an authentic-style ESB – the atmosphere was loud, crowded and somewhat obnoxious. Furthermore, the service was perfunctory at best, outright rude at worst. Overall, the place lacked any of the New Mexico-style charm we became accustomed to later in the trip. If you’re looking for true Southwestern hospitality, try one of the myriad other places we (unfortunately) missed.

 

The next day was spent at Bandolier National Monument about an hour west of Santa Fe and it was glorious. Something we quickly discovered in this part of the country was the embarrassment of riches on hand — there’s really no way to see even remotely as many things as are available to admire in a short trip. Take note: you should plan a week’s stay as a long-weekend will leave you with painful decisions of what to skip and what to see.

20141017 124654 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

 

Our third day of travel landed us in Taos, and fortunately most of the sites (and breweries) are all easily accessible and nearby, thus granting us the opportunity to hit virtually everywhere on our visit list.

20141018 115515 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

Our first stop of the day landed us at Taos Ale House, and were were instantly over the moon at what the delightful town had to offer.

20141018 115505 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

Housed in an authentic adobe-style building (mud brick/stucco and massive log beam supports), the taproom may not have been built in 1600 like a great many of the buildings in the area, but it may as well have been. There was nothing remotely inauthentic about the space, and it was absolutely beautiful.

Being early in the day, we opted for a single glass of their seasonal pumpkin ale. While I tend to fall on the “pumpkin-flavor is over-used and usually gross” side of the Great Annual Pumpkin Debate, theirs was excellent — neither overpowered by artificial pumpkin spice additives, nor lacking in real pumpkin flavor.

Our service was attentive, fast and enthusiastic and the over-all vibe was that of a small-town full of art-inclined weirdos — basically, our kind of people.

The kicker, though, was the incredible food on the menu: a wide variety of giant hamburgers topped with great southwestern ingredients such as Hatch chilies, cactus jelly and habanero peppers, plus a “dip bar” that served up six different dip sauces that even the most jaded foodie would adore — including a smokey ketchup, a marshmallow sauce (!!) and some of the finest porter mustard we’ve ever had the good fortune of tasting.

Taos Ale House is an absolute must-visit when in town, no two ways about it.

20141018 144825 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

Next up was Taos Mesa Brewing Company, which luckily happened to be right on the way to Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

20141018 141823 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

 

Yep, a mere five minutes away from the brewery lies the stunning and huge canyon you may recognize from the “wedding” scene in Natural Born Killers. So, if you’re a movie freak like us, this brewery is a bad-ass two-fer.

20141018 144903 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

Fortunately, even if the gorge had not been a hop-skip-and-a-jump away, Taos Mesa is still worthy of your time. The building itself is a wonderful, artsy hodge-podge of disparate styles, materials and construction, and is a perfect reflection of the attitudes and mentality of the Taos region. What’s more, it’s so isolated on the vast mesa that you’ll feel like you’re drinking on a set from Mad Max. Suffice to say, it’s very, very cool.

20141018 144926 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

20141018 144951 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews 20141018 145000 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

Beyond the incredible setting and stunning vistas, they even (gasp!) feel it’s necessary to give outstanding service and serve quality beer. Our server was quick and friendly despite the busy atmosphere and our extra-high alcohol ESB hit the spot perfectly. This is the kind of place people travel to specifically — it’s just that unique and captivating.

And on the way back to town there’s the UNESCO World Heritage site of Taos Pueblo. No biggie, just an extremely culturally and historically significant site minutes from downtown. Yep, Taos is so casually magnificent it’s almost silly.

20141018 161521 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

20141018 165114 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews 20141018 165134 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews 20141018 165209 Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico Breweries: 5 New Reviews

 

 

Our final Taos brewery stop (and, sadly) our final stop of the weekend was Eskes Brew Pub back in “town” proper. Proving that Taos can apparently do no wrong, Eskes was virtually as cool as the other two places in the area: more classic adobe style, another gorgeous beer garden, more small-town-friendly service and a green chile beer that pleased even us seasoned green chile fanatics. While not bringing the heat whatsoever, the chile flavor shone through boldly and deliciously, making for an ideal hot summer day brew that one will want to order a second pitcher of.

While my poor cell phone photos and brief descriptions do little justice for the staggering beauty on hand, hopefully they help to convey a small amount of what’s in store for visitors. Northern New Mexico, and Taos in particular, are bucket-list worthy destinations that just so happen to also have some damn fine breweries. Just go.

A Few (Unpopular) Thoughts About The Great American Beer Festival

20141003 202807 A Few (Unpopular) Thoughts About The Great American Beer Festival

 

I’ve been delaying my write-up for GABF because I, quite honestly, have very mixed feelings about the event.

20141003 194351 A Few (Unpopular) Thoughts About The Great American Beer Festival

 

Granted, my first reaction upon entering the gargantuan hall was a sense of overwhelming emotions. Yep, I was almost a little teary-eyed at finally witnessing this Mecca of beer. The sheer magnitude of what was on the floor before me was awe-inspiring. Some people feel this way when they see the Eiffel Tower or the Great Pyramids. Some of us, however, are awestruck by the grandeur and majesty of BEER, and this was the Taj Mahal.

A lot of people don’t realize, though, that even the Taj Mahal has it’s share of trash…

Taj Mahal Yamuna rubbish garbage 0016 A Few (Unpopular) Thoughts About The Great American Beer Festival

You can thank me later for shattering your dreams…

 

But let’s back up a little…

 

I had a distinct (albeit unfair) advantage over most people attending the event. I didn’t have to fly across the country (or world) to get there. In fact, my home is walking distance from the light rail station that takes you directly up to the doorsteps of the Colorado Convention Center (where GABF is held). Plus, I didn’t have to stand in the line to get in that stretched approximately from Champa and 14th Streets to, roughly, Albuquerque, New Mexico, since I got to use the media entrance. Oh, and rather than pay between $75 and $300 (depending on whether the tickets were acquired in the 4 and a half seconds they’re legitimately available or if they’re acquired via scalpers), I got in completely free.

This may sound like I’m rubbing in my good fortune, but I’m actually making a point: for the average attendee, GABF is an extreme expense and likely a Herculean task to get to. So with so much at stake in terms of investment and time, it had better be The Greatest Event In The History Of Mankind.

It is not.

 

Yes, it is magnificent that you’ll finally get to try many of those beers you’ve read about on Beer Advocate, or have seen on Brew Dogs – but don’t have distribution in your neck of the woods. True, the variety and scope of what’s on offer is mind-blowing. Absolutely, you’ll taste beers better than you ever thought possible…

 

But for me, it was simply too much of a good thing.

 

Let’s start with the Convention Center itself. As mentioned earlier, it’s friggin’ colossal. To accommodate 12 billion beers* from 76 million breweries*, they needed a space the size of 164 Mile High Stadiums*, and that posts some logistical issues…like, getting to the one (and only) bathroom takes a trek akin to Moses crossing the desert. And this is after having consumed copious amounts of liquid. And if you want to find a particular brewery? Good luck spotting the low-hanging signs from 500 yards away. And let’s not forget that you’ll be shoving your way through the 850,000* buzzed/drunk/Ernest Hemingway-level-intoxicated attendees to get anywhere.

 

* not official figures

20141002 183434 A Few (Unpopular) Thoughts About The Great American Beer Festival

This picture of the Three Floyds booth is blurry because I’m fairly certain there was a riot going on while people waited in line for 46 hours.

 

So yes, I’m being curmudgeonly and hyper-critical of the crowds. Anyone who’s gone to a rock festival has experienced just as bad (or worse), so I should just shut my pie-hole.

But there’s another side-effect to the embarrassment of riches on hand:

You mathematically can not try everything you want. And if you did, you’d be too drunk to enjoy/remember any of them. Even with the strict adherence to 1 ounce pours of the tasters, it all can add up pretty quick. Sure, you could wet your lips with the beer and pour the rest out (heresy!) or you could spit the beer out into the rinsing bowls (grotesque, and not socially acceptable), but those solutions are dumb. While I’m sure there are experts out there that know the proper tasting techniques, I’m an average beer drinker and I just want to drink (and swallow!) the damn beer. Furthermore, one ounce of an amazing beer is far from adequate for truly enjoying and savoring its flavor.

 

“Ok”, you hypothetically say, Mr. imaginary-reader-responding-to-my-article, “So you aren’t a big beer festival guy. These events aren’t for everyone.”

While this may very well be true, it isn’t just the festival numbers and logistics that are the problem: it’s the environment itself.

 

Long-time readers of this blog know that I believe fully half of the brewery experience is the atmosphere – that’s why we’ll drive 4 hours one direction just to see a taproom. It’s all about the company on hand, the music in the air, the weird crap hanging on the walls, the nature to be seen on the drive there (or in the beer garden), and all the other intangibles that make the trip worthwhile. With GABF being held in an enormous, fluorescent-lit, deafening, sardine-packed convention center, all the ambiance is smothered under a mountain of supreme distraction. It’s like eating lobster in a subway station or getting you first kiss in a port-a-john. The pleasures are diminished substantially, to say the least.

 

Perhaps if the organizers would scale back the event a little it could regain some of its lost magic. Instead of boasting ever greater attendance records and faster sell-outs, maybe they could hold it in one of the Denver area’s myriad beautiful parks (while instituting some sort of lottery system for attendance). This way one could sip a glorious 4 ounce pour of beer from Cigar City Brewing or Three Floyds while basking in the Colorado sun or leaning against a Cottonwood tree…and maybe have a few feet of space to spare from bumping into a drunken fratboy who hollers triumphantly every time someone else drops a glass.

 

I guess the bottom line is that if you live in Colorado you already have access to literally hundreds of relaxing, delicious and even beautiful brewery options. While the Great American Beer Festival may be one of those you-gotta-experience-it-once events, in a great many ways it’s inferior to other wonderful places we have in our own backyard every day of the year.

 

 

Super-Mini-Micro-Review: The Old Mine, Erie CO

20141004 175436 Super Mini Micro Review: The Old Mine, Erie CO

 

 

This review is gonna be short and sweet because I know exactly jack and shit about ciders.

That being said, our experience at The Old Mine Cidery and Brewpub was exceptional.

 

20141004 175503 Super Mini Micro Review: The Old Mine, Erie CO

 

 

First off, the building is awesome — an actual historic landmark built in the 1800′s, complete with beautiful interior design and a lovely beer-garden out back.

 

20141004 181807 Super Mini Micro Review: The Old Mine, Erie CO

They don’t fool around with their beer selection: notice the bottle of Pliny the Elder down there…

 

Second: this place has a better selection of high-end beers than many well-known brewpubs in the Denver area.

Third: the food is magnificent (I had a pulled pork sandwich that could hold its own against some genuine, deep-south barbecue I’ve had).

Fourth: As little as I know about cider, I still have a good idea of what tastes great, and holy crap, their ciders are delicious.

BONUS!: The 2nd location for Echo Brewing Company is literally around the corner from here, so you can do a miniature pub-crawl on the adorable streets of Erie.

 

 

Anyway, that’s my half-assed review of The Old Mine (it’s been a crazy week with GABF and all, so cut me some slack).

 

Micro-Review: 7 Hermits Brewing Company, Eagle CO

20141006 152518 Micro Review: 7 Hermits Brewing Company, Eagle CO

 

 

Most Colorado natives probably drive past the town of Eagle while doing 80 mph on the I-70 and don’t give it a second thought. That would be a mistake.

Not only is Eagle the proud home of the great Bonfire Brewing, the incredible beauty of Sylvan Lake State Park (and is a mere 20 minutes from Hanging Lake), it now can also boast another great brewery, 7 Hermits Brewing Company.

 

glenwood canyon Micro Review: 7 Hermits Brewing Company, Eagle CO

Glenwood canyon (as seen from the Hanging Lake trail).

hanginglake Micro Review: 7 Hermits Brewing Company, Eagle CO

Hanging Lake

sylvanbest Micro Review: 7 Hermits Brewing Company, Eagle CO

Sylvan Lake State Park

 

Yep, that little highway exit that looks like a non-descript desert town is actually an oasis for both nature and beer lovers.

20141006 163709 Micro Review: 7 Hermits Brewing Company, Eagle CO

 

I only stopped for one beer here (thus the “micro-review”), but it was completely worth it. The flavor I settled upon was entitled “The World’s Greatest Pale Ale”, and with a name like that it was mandatory that I put them to the test.

And you know what? As much as I was ready to shake my head dismissively, scratch my chin and proclaim “False advertising!”….it actually was one of the best pale ales I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking. Unlike a certain famous pale from Longmont, CO, this one isn’t an IPA in disguise. No, this is a pale for people that don’t necessarily want their face to twist into a bitter contortion: it’s well balanced and accessible, just as a pale oughtta be, and not over-hopped into oblivion. (NOTE: I adore an IBU monster from time to time, but not with my pale ales).

Furthermore, the service was nothing short of spectacular. The woman that served me answered all sorts of questions I had about the local parks, and even opened the door for me when I’d arrived 30 minutes before the scheduled opening time. Plus, the hot pretzels I ordered along with my $3 happy hour beer brought my check to a mere $7.50. In recent days I’ve paid more than that for a 10 oz pour, so color my cheapskate heart impressed.

As brief as my visit may have been, there’s no question that they left enough of an impression that I’ll be back soon (with friends in tow).

Highly recommended.

 

2014 GABF Medal Winners Press Release

We’ll be back with more extensive coverage of GABF this week, but for now here’s a press release on the major awards handed out at The Great American Beer Festival this weekend (as well as some other stats):

 

234 Breweries Celebrate Medals at

2014 Great American Beer Festival®

268 Professional Medals Awarded, 461 First-Time Participants Compete

Boulder, CO • October 4, 2014—The 2014 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) competition awarded 268 medals to some of the best commercial breweries in the United States, plus three GABF Pro-Am medals. Presented by the Brewers Association, GABF is the largest commercial beer competition in the world and a symbol of brewing excellence. In its 28th year, the 2014 competition surpassed all previous participation records.

View the 2014 winners or download a PDF list of the winners.

To accommodate growth, this year’s GABF competition saw its biggest panel of judges ever, with 222 beer experts from 10 countries evaluating 5,507 commercial entries, plus 89 Pro-Am entries, with assistance from some 150 competition volunteers.

Award-winning brewers received prestigious gold, silver and bronze medals in 90 beer categories covering 145 different beer styles (encompassing subcategories), establishing the best examples of each style in the U.S. Winners were chosen from 5,507 competition entries (16 percent more than in 2013) from 1,309 breweries, hailing from 50 states plus Washington, D.C.

2014 Brewery and Brewer of the Year Awards

Very Small Brewing Company and Very Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year

Sponsored by Brewers Supply Group (BSG)

Draught Works

Draught Works Brew Team

 

Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by O-I

Marble Brewery

Team Marble

 

Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Microstar Keg Management

Devils Backbone Brewing Co.—Outpost

DB Brewery Team

 

Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Beer Institute

AC Golden

AC Golden Brewing Team

 

Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Briess Malt & Ingredients Co.

Bastone Brewery

Rockne Van Meter

 

Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year

Sponsored by Brewers Supply Group (BSG)

Brasserie Saint James

Josh Watterson & Matt Watterson

 

Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Country Malt Group

Beachwood BBQ & Brewing

Julian Shrago & Ian McCall

 

Overall Competition Highlights

Reflecting craft brewing’s surging popularity and sustained excellence nationwide, overall competition highlights include:

  • ·       Fifty-two first-time entering breweries won awards.

 

  • ·       Four breweries tied for most medals won, with three medals each:

o   10 Barrel Brewing Co.

o   Barley Brown’s Brew Pub

o   Devils Backbone Brewing Co.–Outpost

o   Left Hand Brewing Co.

 

  • ·       Top three states by ratio of medals to entries by state:

o   New Jersey: 19% with 16 entries and three medals

o   Alaska: 13% with 16 entries and two medals—tied with federal district Washington, D.C.: 13% with 8 entries and one medal

o   New Mexico: 10%  with 84 entries and eight medals

 

Style Categories

Since 2002, the most-entered category has been American-Style India Pale Ale (IPA), which saw 279 entries in 2014.

The top five entered categories were:

1.     American-Style India Pale Ale (279 entries)

2.     Herb and Spice Beer (150 entries)

3.     American-Style Pale Ale (145 entries)

4.     American-Style Amber/Red Ale (140 entries)

5.     Imperial India Pale Ale (135 entries)

The winners in the most-entered (that is, the most competitive) categories were:

1.     American-Style India Pale Ale (279 entries)

Gold: Breakside Brewery, Breakside IPA

Silver: Half Acre Beer Co., Heyoka

Bronze: Columbus Brewing Co., Bodhi

 

2.     Herb and Spice Beer (150 entries)

Gold: Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant, Basil Beer

Silver: 5 Stones Artisan Brewery, Aloha Piña

Bronze: Coastal Empire Beer Co., Dawn Patrol Breakfast Stout

 

3.     American-Style Pale Ale (145 entries)

Gold: Ballast Point Brewing  & Spirits–Scripps Ranch, Grunion

Silver: Peekskill Brewery, NYPA

Bronze: Tampa Bay Brewing Co., Reef Donkey APA

 

4.     American-Style Amber/Red Ale (140 entries)

Gold: Canteen Brew House, Dougie Style Amber Ale

Silver: Capitol City Brewing Co., Amber Waves Ale

Bronze: Bootlegger’s Brewery, Rocco Red Ale

 

5.     Imperial India Pale Ale (135 entries)

Gold: Columbus Brewing Co., Creeper

Silver: Port Brewing Co., Hop 15

Bronze: Russian River Brewing Co., Pliny the Elder

 

The 2014 GABF competition featured three new categories: Belgian-Style Fruit Beer, with 41 entries; Historical Beer, with 12 entries; and Kuyt Beer, which had no entries.

 

There were two categories in which one of the three possible medals was not awarded:

  • ·       English-Style Brown Ale (67 entries): no silver medal
  • ·       Golden or Blonde Ale (90 entries): no gold medal


2014 Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Competition

Sponsored by Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., Country Malt Group, Hopunion and White Labs

 

Gold, silver and bronze medals were also awarded in the GABF Pro-Am competition, which pairs amateur brewers with professional brewers, who scale up the award-winning homebrew recipes. The medal winners, including the winning professional brewers and American Homebrewers Association (AHA) member homebrewers are:

Gold: Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Scottish 80 Shilling, Bear Republic Brewing Co.

Brewmaster: Team Bear Republic / Richard Norgrove, and AHA Member Michael Kelly

 

Silver: Spencer Pale Ale, Kokopelli Beer Co.

Brewmaster: Kokopelli Brew Crew, and AHA Member Daniel Christensen

 

Bronze: I Wanna Rauch!, Springfield Brewing Co.

Brewmaster: Ashton Lewis & Bruce Johnson, and AHA member Keith Wallis

 

Summary: 2014 Great American Beer Festival Statistics

  • ·        710 breweries in the festival hall
  • ·        More than 3,500 beers served at the festival
  • ·        49,000 attendees
  • ·        More than 3,200 volunteers
  • ·        1,309 breweries in the competition from 50 states plus Washington, D.C.
  • ·        5,507 beers judged (not including 89 Pro-Am competition entries), a 16 percent increase over 2013
  • ·        90 style categories judged, plus the Pro-Am competition
  • ·        222 judges from 10 countries
  • ·        Average number of competition beers entered in each category: 61.2 (excludes Pro-Am beers)
  • ·        Category with highest number of entries: American-Style India Pale Ale: 279

 

 

 

Mini-Review: Grandma’s House, Denver CO

20141001 182130 Mini Review: Grandmas House, Denver CO

 

I’m going to exhibit a bit of a double-standard on this short review. As some have noticed in the past, I’m not a big fan of breweries that open before they’re 100% ready…but for Grandma’s House I’m going to make an exception. It’s GABF week and everybody and their Grandma (pun intended) wants their brewery to be a part of the national spotlight, so a few corners had to be cut in order to open the doors in time for all the festivities. Second, the beer itself was ready to pour, and that’s typically where I become cranky. These guys didn’t start serving beer that was still in the trial-and-error phase: it was ready and it was good (especially the oatmeal stout).

20141001 182052 Mini Review: Grandmas House, Denver CO

 

 

So what wasn’t finished, and why am I only doing a mini-review? Well, for starters they don’t have awnings on the building or a proper sign yet. They also have a taproom that feels a bit spare in spots (some flooring or a few rugs would be nice)…but what IS there is AWESOME. With so many breweries vying for attention and attempting (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to be unique, it’s always impressive when taprooms put a wholly unique spin on things — which Grandma’s House does in spades.

The taproom is exactly as the name implies: like visiting Grandma’s living room. Cuckoo clocks, random, odd figurines, and crocheted art adorn the walls. Rocking chairs and delightfully 50′s tables provide seating. A wood-encased television set with a screen like a fishbowl plays vintage shows. Record players spin charmingly uncool vinyl LP’s.

All in all, it’s much more than a simple gimmick: it really does feel like a nostalgic and comforting trip down memory lane, even going so far as to including Werther’s Originals candies in bowls throughout the taproom.

So, yeah, they aren’t quite finished. The naked floors and ceilings still create a deafening roar when the room is full due to dismal acoustics, and there’s still plenty of room for more antique decorations that’ll make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. But what this place has in massive quantity is potential. I could see myself whiling away many afternoons here, rocking in Grandma’s chair and yelling at passers-by on Broadway to get off my lawn.

This place is wonderful.

 

REVIEW: Lost Highway Brewing Company, Denver CO

20140928 1553591 REVIEW: Lost Highway Brewing Company, Denver CO

 

Lost Highway Brewing Company was my white whale. This place had been dangling like a carrot in front of Denver beer drinkers for so long it had almost become a myth.

 

20140928 155718 REVIEW: Lost Highway Brewing Company, Denver CO

 

For the uninitiated, Lost Highway has been a work in progress for several years. In fact, it had an announced opening date back when this blog began, but time and time again projected openings came and went, delays piled upon delays and eventually it became a rather gruesome joke: will they actually open, or will the building be consumed by the Earth and the sands of time, only to be discovered by future archaeologists?

20140928 155710 REVIEW: Lost Highway Brewing Company, Denver CO

 

Then, with a shocking lack of fanfare (perhaps fearing it might jinx things), they simply opened their doors. The brewery version of Atlantis or El Dorado was serving beer.

Now, with such a tremendous amount of anticipation and grand expectations, there is the inevitable feeling of disappointment. Much like the Star Wars prequels, there simply was no way Lost Highway could live up to what we’d all imagined in our heads. Sure, the delays were likely from stuff as mundane as city permits or plumbing issues, but I couldn’t help but imagine they were taking so long because they were perfecting THE ULTIMATE BEER TO END ALL BEERS.

And, duh, of course that isn’t fair.

The beer on tap at Lost Highway is good. Their Pils, IPA, and Golden were all quite lovely, and the seasonal Pumpkin Ale transcended the recent overkill of that particular flavor and was actually fantastic (perhaps due to the fact that they used 72 pounds of pumpkin in the brewing process, as opposed to a bunch of faux-pumpkin chemicals like you’d find in a Starbucks latte).

What’s more, the building itself is old and cool, and the location couldn’t be more ideal for Colfax pedestrians and Capitol Hill residents.

So why did we feel a tad deflated after visiting them? Well, the service was decidedly bland. While nowhere near “bad” by any stretch, there was a palpable void of enthusiasm from our server. Our wait for service was just a few minutes, but we were two of only about half a dozen people in the taproom at the time, and when we eventually did get attended to it was without any of the expected “frills” — no explanation of the styles or how they were made, and no chit-chat concerning the myriad delays of their opening date. In fact, the servers in general didn’t seem to have much of anything to say.

With a business as storied and oft-discussed as this one has been (before even opening their doors) we figured there’d be endless conversation about their trials and tribulations, or at least a visible excitement beaming from these employees who were finally experiencing their opening weekend…but instead there was just a kind of semi-bored, business-as-usual vibe. Typically, brewers (and owners and employees) of new taprooms are practically doing somersaults of joy when they get to share their beers for the first time, and it’s infectious.

Are brewers obligated to act like they just won the lottery and rainbows are arcing outward from their butts? No. Am I being overly critical? Absolutely. But it’s easy to become acclimated to a certain festive attitude from servers at new breweries (since we’ve experienced it countless times from dozens of ecstatic brewers). Again, there was nothing wrong, per se, with Lost Highway whatsoever — it just wasn’t the life-changing summer blockbuster that insane anticipation demanded.

Go check ‘em out and tell me I’m crazy. Lost Highway is just fine, and I suppose that’s good enough.