So following the GABF media luncheon we made our way by bus to three Denver breweries: Crooked Stave, Epic Brewing and Black Sky Brewing. Our first stop was to the RiNo area of Denver. RiNo (short for River North) was once known more for aging brick warehouses and light industrial manufacturing but now is seeing a transition to converted loft spaces and fortunately, breweries. The first brewery on the tour was Crooked Stave.
Crooked Stave is newly housed in an equally new co-op called The Source, Denver’s newest artisan food market featuring two restaurants, a brewery, a bar, as well as artisans and retailers providing everything from bread to wine.
Chad, the owner and head brewer of Crooked Stave, boasts of a large collection of brettanomyces cultures that he uses for his saisons and sours. A true Belgian brewing techniques lover, Chad has managed to elevate the art of the saison and is quickly gaining a reputation within the Denver brewing arena as a brewer that will be helping to drive and define Denver brewing culture for some time. We tasted Hop Savant a 100% brettanomyces fermented pale ale and Surette a farmhouse ale. Hop Savant is a pale ale that went on vacation to Flanders, a Belgian-inspired pale ale with all the requisite tartness and nuanced funk from the brett with a hop forward flavor that contrasts starkly to the hop bombs one can get from Cali pale ales. Surette is one of the most sublime provision saisons I’ve ever tried. I feel like I’m going to overuse the word “tart” but Surette has it all in just the right ways. Surette is aged for over 8 months in oaks barrels. If you’re familiar with The Bruery and a fan like I am, if you find yourself in Denver, stop in for a goblet.
But first, back to the bus and away to Epic Brewing. Epic Brewing started operations in Salt Lake City, UT but, as it happens, has opened their new facility in Denver where the business atmosphere is much more supportive of new breweries. Their newer facility is in the RiNo area of Denver and I was told much larger than their Salt Lake facility. What this means is they have a lot more room for their barrel aging projects and with newly acquired oak taks from Sierra Nevada Epic will start producing sours in the near future too. But what about the beers? Ok, I’ll talk about the beers. The team from Epic poured two selections for us, from their Elevated series Hopulent IPA and from their Exponential series Brainless on Peaches. Hopulent IPA is an intensely hopped double IPA featuring Columbus, Chinook and Centennial hops that are added in the boil, hopback and dry hopped for a big mouthful of green, malty goodness. Strictly for hopheads only. Brainless on Peaches is a variation of their Brainless Belgian-style Golden Ale using spicy noble hops and peach puree which is then aged in French Chardonnay casks. This beautiful gal will sneak up on you, it’s 10% ABV is well hidden under layers of fruit, oak and a nuanced malt profile.
Our last stop on the tour was at Black Sky Brewery located in the arts district of Denver. Black Sky is the newest brewery in Denver being less than three weeks old at the time of this writing. They also have the distinction of being Denver’s first black metal themed brewery and you don’t even need to be Scandinavian to enjoy it! Harry Smith founded Black Sky after cutting his brewing teeth at Breckenridge Brewery and has built a brewery taproom and dungeon-cum-roadhouse pizza parlor all in one. We sampled Petal to the Metal a crisp, unfiltered American Ale infused with rose hips and hibiscus flowers that has just a hint of tart with a clean finish.
Colorado is truly a massive hub on the U.S. brewing market but more importantly Denver is seeing some established and newer players in the field take brewing culture higher, there are well over a dozen breweries and brew pubs in the Denver metro area. All I can finish with saying about this place is that this is my kind of Rocky Mountain high (ABV I mean…)