Reviews: Fermaentra Brewing, Locavore Beer Works, Alpine Dog Brewing – Denver CO

20141114 2007121 Reviews: Fermaentra Brewing, Locavore Beer Works, Alpine Dog Brewing   Denver CO

I’m gonna try something a little different with these three reviews today. Rather than comparing them to the 220+ other Colorado breweries out there, I’m simply going to compare them to each other. The competition has become so busy and fierce out there that it seems only fair to try and limit who they have to live up to.

20141114 201611 Reviews: Fermaentra Brewing, Locavore Beer Works, Alpine Dog Brewing   Denver CO

 

First up is Fermaentra in the D.U. neighborhood. Consequently, being located in a college area has its advantages and drawbacks — it’s gotta be great for overall business, but the primary clientele means loud music (we were “treated” to throbbing dubstep and techno all evening) and bigger crowds, so if that’s your style you should check it out. As for this old codger, it was a tad less relaxing than I prefer.

The beer and service were both just fine, considering the brisk business. Both their lager and amber were good and modestly malty, while the Belgian-style Dubbel pleased my girlfriend.

The exposed brick taproom’s location on the heavy-traffic portion of Evans Avenue make Fermaentra an ideal spot for college aged kids looking to grab a bite to eat at adjacent eateries and down a few pints with fellow students, but for more low-key guests it may be a tad too hectic. If you enjoy places like the Denver Beer Company or Great Divide, this may be right up your alley.

20141114 200735 Reviews: Fermaentra Brewing, Locavore Beer Works, Alpine Dog Brewing   Denver CO

 

Up next was Locavore Beer Works in Littleton (just off the Santa Fe highway and Bowles Ave). Despite being in a “sleepy” part of town on a frigid and snowy 12 degree afternoon, the opening day crowd was massive.

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Luckily, Locavore planned adequately for the throngs of customers and had ample employees on hand to pour pints. Additionally, a gas-powered fire pit out front was burning at full-blast, so those of us who couldn’t find a spot in the standing-room-only taproom were (almost) comfortably warm despite the brutal cold.

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For a large, strip-mall location, Locavore had plenty of cozy atmosphere (helped in large part by the awesome inferno on the porch), but it will likely be even more enjoyable once the crowds die down a bit.

As for the beer, these newcomers knocked it out of the park. We had a delightfully creamy porter on nitro, an ESB that was served at an authentic “cellar” temperature of (I’m guessing) around 55 degrees (especially pleasant on this Arctic weather day), and a green chile beer that could hold its own among some of the strongest entries in Colorado.

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Finally, we hit up Alpine Dog Brewery off of Colfax in Capitol Hill. Regardless of the fact that the neighborhood already has Lost Highway Brewing within walking distance, it still felt like a very welcome addition to the scene (especially with the Ogden Theater being – literally – around the corner).

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We hit the taproom in the early afternoon on Sunday before the Broncos crowd could come crawling in, so it was nearly empty.

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The place looked great, and again, the location couldn’t be more ideal for anyone attending a concert or doing a crawl along Colfax. Furthermore, our service was genuinely friendly. The beer, however, wasn’t terribly memorable… but given the option between a modest pint of craft beer and a $6 can of PBR at the venue next door, it’s a no-brainer: Alpine Dog is indeed your best friend.

 

All of these new taprooms have their own unique draws: of the three newest entries in the Denver beer sweepstakes, I’d whole-heartedly recommend Locavore for anyone seeking fantastic beer, Fermaentra for any young people looking for a night out and Alpine Dog for anybody planning on seeing a concert someday soon. Choose accordingly.

Mockery Brewing, Denver CO – Review

20141108 154636 Mockery Brewing, Denver CO   Review

Here’s an odd conundrum: so many breweries have opened/are opening in Denver this month that I actually began this review a few days back and forgot to finish it among the chaos.

20141108 155002 Mockery Brewing, Denver CO   Review

Mockery is pretty great, despite my having completely spaced-out about it. The neighborhood (shockingly) can handle yet another brewery, the facility is first-rate, the beer garden is spacious and perfect for sunny days (unlike this past frigid week), the design is really neat (featuring some of the coolest bathrooms I’ve seen yet at a brewery), the service is quick and the beer is great, especially the amazing peach ale that sports over 200 pounds of Palisade peaches per batch — and you can taste every single one.

20141108 154535 Mockery Brewing, Denver CO   Review

 

 

Basically, this review will boil down to that: the Peach Ale is absolutely phenomenal, and shockingly, stands out in my mind even after I’d forgotten I’d visited the place. That’s gotta count for something.

Mini-Reviews: Zwei Bruder and Snowbank Breweries, Ft. Collins, CO

20141101 152430 Mini Reviews: Zwei Bruder and Snowbank Breweries, Ft. Collins, CO

 

 

Zwei Bruder needs to thank their lucky stars that they’re up in Ft. Collins.

Why? Because the massive shadow of Denver’s Prost Brewing can’t quite reach them up there.

As two Colorado breweries that focus almost exclusively on German beer styles, ┬áit’s almost not fair for newcomer Zwei Bruder. Their beer is good and their location is classy and mellow, with a nice beer garden and top-notch service…but they simply can’t compete with the greatness of Prost’s amazingly authentic brews. Such is the continuing struggle for Johnny-come-lately’s in the Rocky Mountains: you simply have too much to live up to. All that being said, though, if you’re thirsting for a taste of the Fatherland you could do a lot worse. Plus, in all fairness, the service at Prost is pretty consistently mediocre, so Zwei Bruder at least wins handily in this department.

 

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On the other side of town is another newcomer, Snowbank Brewing, which sits directly adjacent to the massive (craft beer-wise) Ft. Collins Brewery. Like, literally, across the parking lot.

20141101 161318 Mini Reviews: Zwei Bruder and Snowbank Breweries, Ft. Collins, CO

What may have been considered a handicap toward getting steady business has apparently turned out to be a boon — Snowbank was packed when we visited, so it’s likely that people are doing a little brewery-hopping while in the area (which is also very close to Horse and Dragon and Funkwerks breweries).

20141101 161349 Mini Reviews: Zwei Bruder and Snowbank Breweries, Ft. Collins, CO

 

The taproom itself is a pleasant enough industrial/commercial space-type affair which is helped considerably by massive and gorgeous photos of the Colorado landscape adorning every wall. It’s rather impressive, actually, how much a few beautiful wall-hangings can impact a place, and in here it works wonders.

Our attentive and friendly beertender poured us tasters of their signature porter and red, along with a seasonal chocolate pumpkin. While the porter was a quality representation of the style and the red was intensely hoppy yet surprisingly accessible, the real surprise here was the chocolate pumpkin. For a flavor as played out as this particular fall offering, the addition of bitter dark chocolate granted new life to every critic’s favorite whipping-boy. In fact, it’s tempting to say this particular brew was the best fall seasonal we’ve come across all year. If you can make it up to Ft. Collins before it’s all gone, it’s highly recommended.

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

 

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

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Hanging Lake

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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.

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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.