Inside Grist Brewing
Apparently, we haven’t burst the “beer bubble” yet…
Proving yet again that Colorado’s thirst for beer remains insatiable, the grand opening of Grist Brewing in Highlands Ranch was packed to the gills with eager patrons. Although as adequately staffed as anyone could hope for, the wait time for drinks was in the 10+ minute range due to the hordes clamoring for “been there first” bragging rights. And who could blame them?
As large as this South Denver suburb is, the area has remained somewhat devoid of craft breweries (not including chains such as C.B. & Potts or The Rock Wood-Fired Pizza).
Unfortunately, though, it’s doubtful that Grist will give the big guys too much of a run for their money, at least in its present state. Despite having a large facility and a decent enough taproom (as far as bland, suburban industrial spaces go), there’s nothing to really differentiate Grist from the pack. Of the five brews on tap for opening day, only the Hefeweizen was worthy of any level of praise.
With ample banana and clove notes, it at least had a little personality….which is far more than can be said about everything else they had on offer. The IPA was discouragingly run-of-the-mill and the Kolsch was acceptable, but the brown was another unpleasantly bitter American-style disappointment (I far prefer the mild and malty English variations) and the stout was a flavorless bore. Overall, neither myself nor my girlfriend thought too highly of anything they had on tap, save for the Hefe.
With a dull offering of beers and a forgettable location, Grist just doesn’t have that spark necessary to be worthy of the trek to the south side. Perhaps this is the downside of having been to every brewery in Colorado — our standards have become almost absurdly inflated, so anything less than stellar is often viewed as a failure.
With a few months of brewing under their belt these guys might fine-tune their stuff to perfection, but with a new brewery opening almost weekly they’ve got a hell of a lot of competition to fend off.
Located in the heart of downtown Denver, Jagged Mountain Brewery at least has the distinct advantage of being in a far more appealing location.
Easily accessible from the 20th Street exit off of I-25 and dominating a prominent street corner, these guys have the retail space dreams are made of. Additionally, the building itself is likely a century old, so it still retains that old downtown character that is rapidly disappearing due to rampant construction.
Although packed with grand opening traffic, the inside offered ample seating and quick, friendly service. Furthermore, there wasn’t a bad seat in the house for those looking to soak in the downtown atmosphere and do some people-watching from the abundant street-view windows. While somewhat spare in the decor department, its got a nice vibe if merely by virtue of the surrounding environment.
We had a saison, (that both my girlfriend and some friends of ours enjoyed), a Scotch Ale (that I found pleasant, albeit a tad mellow for my taste — clocking in at under 6%, I prefer mine with a bit more of a punch), and a truly bizarre IPA.
In our experience, we had never seen an IPA this cloudy (or this color, for that matter). Bearing a greater resemblance to an unfiltered Hefeweizen than any of its usual counterparts, we wondered if perhaps their India Pale Ale was perhaps an opening day disaster.
Despite its odd complexion, though, it tasted decent enough. I found its intense grapefruit flavor unusual enough to give it a pass, while my compatriots uniformly agreed that it was simply too weird to enjoy. Was it a mistake? I don’t know, but I give them kudos for at least serving something out of the ordinary…but I’m likely in the extreme minority.
Overall, Jagged Mountain is a fine addition to the downtown beer scene and a nice option for Rockies fans willing to walk a few blocks. While not exactly a home run right out of the gate, its fantastic location, quality service and decent brews should give it a fighting chance to survive in a very, very crowded market.