The Brewery Focus For GABF 2017

It’s that time of year again – time to make your list for GABF. Last year we attended two sessions and because somehow that wasn’t enough this year we have plans to attend all three days (only missing the Saturday evening session). We are all about making plans – sure you can have fun at GABF without a plan – but if you are a beer geek on a mission you will map it out.

Unlike last year we aren’t necessarily looking to avoid Colorado – this is because the breweries in our wonderful state have made it nearly impossible to miss out of what they will have flowing. I am looking at you Black Project, WeldWerks and New Belgium – all of which are going to be pouring beers – Covert, Medianoche and Oscar (Blackberry Whiskey Barrel) that will be nearly impossible to get in real life with such limited releases to the public.

Those are my top Colorado breweries for visits but in addition, I have thrown together a list of the breweries that have me hopping on their hype train and getting in line starting Thursday. These breweries are in no particular order and yes I may visit them more than once – after all GABF only comes once a year.

Great Notion Brewing Company

Toppling Goliath Brewing Company

Scratch Brewing Company 

Half Acre Brewing Company

The Rare Barrel

Founders Brewing Company

Fremont Brewing Company 

Cellarmaker Brewing Company

Speciation Artisan Ales 

Kane Brewing

Bottle Logic 

As the final and official beer list makes the round I am sure I will update my route for beers that sound particularly interesting. I just might have to stop by Loveland Aleworks purely because the description for the Tequila barrel-aged beer says “tastes like college” – can it be true?

Make sure to be following us on our Instagram Hard12Brews as we will be going live and updating photos and stories through the week – so if you can make it, you can come with us.

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Beertography | Best Shots In September

Here Are Our Best Shots From The Month of September

This was a special month since it features beers from our first (but not last trip) to Belgium

Periodic Brewing

Goed Zuur

Station 26 Brewing

New Belgium Brewing

Westvleteren, Gueze Boon, Cantillon, Rochefort and St. Bernardus

Le Trappiste

Cantillon

De Halve Maan

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Woods Boss Brewing Company | Brewery Review


Location:  Denver (less than 5 minutes from Five Points and RiNo)

The Scene: I had seen beers, posts and crowler pictures from all sorts of people as soon as this place opened downtown. The back of the bar looked awesome and people were raving about the beers. I finally found a time to get down there but first scoped out Google maps. I only mention this because I don’t want people to be alarmed. It’s not updated yet so if you were asking Google it looks like you are going to enjoy some awesome beers in an abandoned building – honestly, that made the drive down there that much more fun.

Now on to the actual atmosphere. The taproom is huge but it still felt cozy. You are immediately greeted as you walk in the door and finding the right beer no matter how picky you might be was a challenge the staff enjoyed. While the wood theme in breweries is fairly common – this lighter approach and having tables a bit oversized created a theme of their own. My favorite part of the taproom though is still probably the back bar – well that and the delicious beers.


The Beer List: The first word that comes to mind is variety. I will admit I was surprised by that since I had primarily been hearing all about their Hazy IPAs – both Eloise and The Oswald were on point by the way. But I also found myself enjoying their kettle sour and American pale ale. I didn’t get to taste the saison or amber (to name a few) but after thoroughly enjoying my flight I will be back for those.


The Best: I was captured by the Swede Hook– which just happened to be tapped that day. I do like porters but I have never been what you might call a big fan. This porter with vanilla and sweet orange checking in at just 4.7% was happiness in a glass. I even brought home a crowler of it with me – I don’t think I will be able to bring myself to share this one.


What am I going back for? To try the rest of the beer styles. I also wouldn’t mind being able to enjoy a couple of beers on their patio (weather permitting). I was only able to stop in for a bit so a longer visit is definitely on the agenda. I guess you could say I am going back for everything.

Overall Brewery Rating:     8.5 out of 10 spades

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Drinking in Belgium – Beer Experience

The Culture


In the United States, we just don’t drink like the rest of the world. I have been abroad just a few times but it’s been enough to notice it. For some reason, we look at drinking as something “grander,” not just a part of life. I have a theory on that – it’s because we as a country haven’t been around that long and alcohol hasn’t had the best relationship with us (looking at your prohibition) so we don’t just see it as a part of life.

In Belgium, they are blessed with some of the best beer in the world and it’s just what they do. I have never walked around a place a seen beer on every table like I did strolling through the marketplace in Bruges. This good beer was everywhere and was meant to be enjoyed – there were no second thoughts about it. For this reason, the very idea of leaving the market was depressing and looking back now – I’d catch the next flight. People drank good beer because it’s inherent in their daily lives.


I felt positively spoiled enjoying a Flanders red style beer on the canal – they could do it every day if they want. Well, probably not every day because us damn tourists can be annoying. Sure, the big boy brands were there (In-Bev is after all everywhere) but even at the Bottle Shop – a must visit- each person who helped me on my multiple trips beamed when talking about beer, not just local to Belgium but to Bruges.


There was an underlying appreciation for beer – it was not taken for granted. It was about the beer and not about the buzz.

The Beers

Despite what you might think the trip wasn’t just about the beer. There is amazing history and art in Bruges. The city layout hasn’t been redone since the 11th century and the boat rides through the canals can only be matched by Venice. The only Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime is in Bruges. So while beer was on the agenda – the experience of Bruges is worth it.

Now, let’s get back to beer.


Best places to go and try beer if you want a local experience:

Cambrinus Bierbrasserie

Cambrinus Cafe

De Garre (down a secret alley – it’s a special timewarp)

De Halve Maan (full brewery review coming on that soon)

Le Trappiste

Bourgogne des Flanders

Best Place To Pick Up Local Beer:


The Bottle Shop (just off the market) they have everything, literally and a very knowledgeable staff.

Now, I have been on this journey with you all for just over a year and enjoying and learning about beer for far longer but still walked away from Bruges dumbfounded. The beer is amazing. The Quads (both De Halve Maan and yes the vaunted Westvleteren) are just above and beyond what you can get in the United States (we are getting close but we haven’t had hundreds of years of experience)

I had all three of the Westvleteren beers – the blonde, the dubbel and the quad and they are special, they are worth the hype but I also don’t think they are unattainable in their greatness. It could be the extra bonus of drinking them in their home country that pushed me into a full believer. Also, side note, don’t listen when they say St. Bernardus is right there with a Westy 12 – I did a side by side comparison and there is no comparison.

This now brings me to the sour beers. I love sour beers – if you watch me on Instagram (which you should at Hard 12 Brews) you know my adoration for all things sour. Now, I did not stay in Brussels at all this trip (it’s next time) but there was no shortage of sour beers in the local bars and bottle shops. I can say this now – I had no idea. It was humbling to drink the sours from Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen. I know we have good sours and the work that’s been doing with sours, particularly in Colorado is impressive but we are just starting to get it. Our sours are good, they can be amazing but there is something about those pucker-inducing beers from Brussels that makes you sit up and take notice. There is nothing better than taking what you know and finding out how much more there is know and drinking great beer to find out.


Until next time Belgium… because there will be a next time. 

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Beer Books | August Edition

A History of World in 6 Glasses

Written By Tom Standage 

My favorite things in life are reading, writing and drinking beer. Hopefully, as I get older and more things come together I will be able to add traveling to that list. Thankfully, a few things recently fell into place and I was able to book a trip to Beer Utopia or as the rest of the world calls it Belgium.

Since I am going to spend a decent amount of time traveling via plane and of course train I thought it was a good idea to bring along some appropriate reading. Side note: I don’t do e-books (I have tried and hated them) there is just something about holding the book in hand that my spirit and my eyes preferred.

This book explores how beverages like beer (for example) helped to create civilization and then moves to coffee, tea, spirits and ends with the impact Coca Cola and the rise of America. It has taken every last ounce of my self-control not to crack this book early. This book speaks to the history geek, the beverage geek and offers a view of the world from a glass – I can’t wait to read it and share a glass with new people.

“Fermentation and civilization are inseparable.”

-John Ciardi (American Poet)

 

 

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Hibiscus Quercus | Beer Review

Tequila Barrel-Aged Tart Hibiscus Ale – La Cumbre Brewing Company 

Every once in a while a beer calls to you like a siren. There can be no explanation – taking the first sip is simply something that has to happen. Our focus will always remain on Colorado beers but to my knowledge, no one locally has tried this particular combination. A tart beer aged in tequila barrels with hibiscus added pulled at my inner beer spirit. La Cumbre comes from our neighboring state of New Mexico – so if you think about it I am just sticking my toes across the border for this beer.

Visual: Light ruby red with minimal head.

Aroma: You are immediately hit with the scent of tequila. This is followed by fruity and floral notes – if you knew you were looking for hibiscus it would jump out. Do not let the strong tequila aroma dissuade you. There is no hint of hops.

Taste: The beer bubbles on the tip of your tongue and then the strangest thing happens. You notice that the tequila you smell strongly only lingers lightly in the taste. It’s tart – a bit juicy and finishes dry. The hibiscus flavor almost takes over where the tequila scent began. Sip after sip it doesn’t make sense – it just works.

ABV: 7.3%

Overall Beer Rating:     8.5 spades out of 10 

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Guanella Pass Brewery | Brewery Review

Location: Georgetown, Colorado

The Scene: Just off of I-70 there is a nice little mountain town that you can stop in before making your final ascent towards the Divide and Eisenhower tunnel. Parts of it feel like you are transported back into time with the quaint design of the homes – well preserved through many winters. Georgetown is also the last stop before making your way up to Guanella Pass and the “easiest” Fourteener in Colorado in Mt. Bierstadt. Just recently the town got its first brewery in Guanella Pass Brewery – by itself it should be considered a destination. Tucked away in a building that has seen a few things – its views are immaculate and you forget you are minutes from one of the busiest highways in the country. As soon as you walk in you know you’ve hit the neighborhood spot – its energy is great and the beers are on point.

The Beer List: While the core beer list isn’t huge – it ensures that there is something for any beer drinker. There’s an IPA, Pale Ale, Stout, Rye Saison, Wheat and a Black American Ale. The throwback designs for each beer are a fun touch as well. Go dark or go light but either way, make sure to enjoy one of them on the patio while the heat is still on.


The Best: My favorite beer was Season Pass – the Pale Ale. The beer was flavorful – citrusy and nicely layered in its taste. It was hard to pick though – Grey Wolf Mountain the Rye Saison was also special but didn’t fit my laid back vacation mood like the pale ale.

What Am I Going Back For? To spend more time. This was a last minute stop on my journey after a long day of four-wheeling and I only got to enjoy a quick flight on the patio. I need to get back – belly up to the bar and take the time to enjoy the full-size beers and the set up inside with the brewery equipment.


Overall Brewery Rating:     8 out of 10 spades

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Beertography | Best Shots in July

Here Are Our Favorite Shots From The Month Of July 

Breweries Featured

Westbound and Down Brewing Company

Denver Beer Company

Two22 Brew

Peak to Peak Brewery and Taproom

Dry Dock Brewing

Cerebral Brewing

Launchpad Brewing

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Beers in a Tulip | Proper Glassware

The Glass

The Tulip

Beer Style Recommendations

Imperial IPA

Belgian Dark

Belgian Pale Ale

Beligan IPA

Biere De Garde

Lambic – Fruit 

Saison

Farmhouse Ale

Scotch Ale

Wee Heavy 

Quad

The Reason

This glass is designed to first maintain and enhance the head of the beer. The bulb-like shape also allows the drink to gently swirl the beer allowing the full aromatics of the beer to come forward. Similar to the snifter it holds stronger style ales (hence its size) but its additional shape allows for these beers to have their true aroma and taste to shine.

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Beer Books | July Edition

Radical Brewing

Recipes, Tales & World Altering Meditations In a Glass

Written By Randy Mosher

As you may or may not have noticed our last homebrew just sort of ended. There was a seemingly successful brew day and the yeast got busy but then I didn’t offer any further updates. Let’s just say that the timing was bad and with the hot weather this last batch of beer did not meet a useful end. For a little while, this got me thinking about whether or not my foray into brewing was the right approach. Quite simply how dedicated was I to this brewing venture and what were the pros and cons of moving forward with it or shutting it down?

The fact my line of thought even traveled this way caused concern. I began to wonder if I was just playing (enjoying good beers and good people) and not taking it as seriously as I had set out to do. The answer was just that – I got wrapped up in the good times and trust me I’ve had some great adventures of late but let some of the important stuff slip. This blog and this whole enterprise is dedicated to understanding what makes beer great in the state of Colorado and the brewing is critical to that understanding.

To get back on track I picked up Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher. The way Mosher writes invites you to join in – it almost transports you. He takes you from the basics to adding fruits (and chile) all the way to the idea of going pro. Now I don’t harbor any ambitions for that (for now) since I have so much to learn and so much to practice but it has me excited again. If you are looking for another book to get into it on back into it Radical Brewing is a must read.

 

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