Monday, April 19, 2010

Hey everyone,

Jenn and Beer has officially moved! Check out the new digs at


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Native? Really?

Here’s the thing about being native to Colorado. You have to be born here. If you were born somewhere else, you’re not a native. Exceptions can be considered for people who move to Colorado by the age of five. But we Coloradans, we’re pretty picky about the use of the word “native” and its application to our state.

So, when AC Golden Brewing released their Colorado Native lager, I was ready to judge.

Now the premise of this beer is that 99.8% of the ingredients come from Colorado: hops grown at employees’ homes, bottles from Rocky Mountain Bottling Co. in Wheat Ridge, barley from the San Luis Valley, even cardboard packaging from Temple-Island in Wheat Ridge.

I, of course, support the idea of locally grown ingredients – the premise behind it is to lower the carbon footprint of the beer. And Colorado Native is only available in, well, Colorado. So there’s a fun level of exclusivity when it comes to the beer distribution.

But here’s where I have an issue with the beer. In their promotion, the concept of the “Colorado native” is completely ignored by AC Golden. At the release party, there was a large sign describing the beer that asked “Are you a Colorado Native?” and then started its response with: “Being a Colorado Native isn’t really about where you were born; it’s more a state of mind.”

Lies, damned lies all around

Actually, being a Colorado Native is about where you were born. I’ll accept that being a Coloradan isn’t about where you were born; but as an actual, honest to God, native, I know how picky we natives are about using the term “Colorado native.” In most cases, we welcome new people to our state (unless you’re a Lakers fans. And with two days to go until the playoffs start, I’m really going to need the Lakers fans to get out. Now.), but that doesn’t make you a native.

The idea of a completely Colorado based beer appeals to me, a lot. As exciting as it is watching our breweries start distributing throughout the country, it’s nice to have something that’s meant to be exclusively for us back home.

But given how much attention AC Golden Brewing is putting towards its promotion -- much of the press its received has related to the concept and advertising of Colorado Native, rather than the beer itself, the failure in messaging really bothers me. Call it Coloradan Lager, something, anything, just not Colorado Native.

Now about the beer

The beer itself is a flavorful beer pong beer: better than Coors Light, but you wouldn’t mind throwing a dirty ping pong ball into it, then chugging it down without stopping to taste it. Quite frankly, my friends out of state aren’t missing much.

And has anyone else noticed how the packaging of the beer is remarkably similar to Breckenridge’s Avalanche?

Coors, I’m trying to get over my negative feelings towards you, but this Colorado Native thing isn’t helping your cause. Great idea, terrible execution.

If you want something more than just my "Colorado Native" rantings, here are links to a few articles that are more about the production of the beer:

Denver Business Journal


Denver Post

I hope this doesn't make it snow

Top Five Patios:

With spring peaking its head out in Colorado, and then getting smothered by another winter-that-just-won’t-quit, it’s time to think about warm weather drinking. And that means beer on patios.

One of my absolute favorite things to do is spend a warm summer evening enjoying beers on a patio with good company and, preferably, my dog. I obsess over it. When the weather starts to improve I neurotically check the forecast trying to determine when I can partake in this activity.

The criteria are as follows:

beer choice

atmosphere of patio


is Sasha welcome?



Keep in mind, the descriptions and criteria highlight where this place stands out. If the patio doesn’t receive the “service” shout out, it doesn’t mean the service is bad, just not noteworthy.

So here are, in no particular order, my favorite patios around Denver:

1) Vine Street Pub

Good food (with good vegetarian options), great beer on a crowded, but not too crowded street. What more could you want? Oh that’s right, Sasha’s welcome there too, as long as she stays on the other side of the fence.

This is the first place my mind visits when the sun starts to shine. It might be a bit strong on the Grateful Dead/Phish theme, but I’ve never heard anyone criticize it for such, and that includes the friends of mine who shudder at the word “Boulder”.

The one drawback of Vine Street is I’m not the only person who thinks it’s the bees’ knees. I don’t remember the last time I went there and didn’t have to wait at least half an hour for a table. And when the weather improves, the wait only grows. Still, when I eventually get my patio seating, I’ve never regretted losing the time it’s taken to get there.

2) My Brother’s Bar

I’ve only sat on their patio once, but every time that I visit the bar in the winter, I inevitably mumble something about how I wish I could be sitting on the patio.

There are a series of wooden benches that blend naturally into the fence and environment of the stone paved patio. Vines wind over the walls, creating a more intimate atmosphere. The surroundings are like the perfect backyard for a neighborhood party.

The beer selection’s not amazing. I can always find something worth drinking, but it’s a destination I would choose for the atmosphere rather than to educate someone about beer. As for the food, well, all I can say is, this place makes me miss eating meat.

3) Max Gill & Grill

Another backyard type patio. Only this one feels like it should be in Louisiana or Florida. The décor is what you would expect if a Coloradan moved down south and opened up a bar on the waterfront: fairy lights, a few knickknacks without becoming kitschy, beat-up wooden fence and some special element that makes you feel like you’re on the bayou.

The food here is fantastic; it’s by far my favorite non-sushi place to go for seafood. In fact, I know that if I mention their lobster stew, I’ll get an angry “why’d you have to bring that up? Do you have any idea how much I miss it?!” message from a particular friend of mine currently residing in Iowa.

The drawback of Max as a summer beer-drinking patio is that it’s a restaurant. You can’t just sit and drink -- meals need to be ordered, tables need to be overturned. I’ve never been rushed out of the place, but it’s not like Great Divide where you can sit back, relax and drink for a few hours.

Which brings me to…

4) Great Divide

It goes without saying that great beer is drunk on this patio.

Now the environment isn’t the best – Great Divide isn’t in the best part of Denver, which means homeless people wandering past isn’t unheard of, but it’s not enough of an issue that it should deter anyone from going. And I’m fairly certain, though not positive, that Sasha would be allowed to visit Great Divide’s patio with me.

Its location is central enough that it’s a great place to grab a drink after work, but not in the heart of the city so you won’t find every other 9-5er there. Plus, the service is great – Jenny and Collin will get a little overwhelmed when there’s a rush and they don’t have additional help, but spend an hour or so there when the place is empty and they’ll make a point of saying hello the next time you come back.

5) The Meadowlark

I’m kind of cheating here. Their patio isn’t just a patio, it’s a venue. In fact, it was the 2009 Westword's Best Outdoor Stage. But considering the amount of time that I have spent at the Meadowlark this winter, I know this will be my most frequently visited patio this summer.

The patio is essentially the back yard (spend enough time there and you’ll run into at least one of the people who lives there), with a large wooden stage, sandstone tiles covering the ground (a common fixture in Colorado home patios).

In addition to that, the Meadowlark crowd is fantastic. The people are friendly and willing to chat – within a few visits, you start to feel a part of the scene.

The beer is better than I expect at venues, and there are rumors of beer being brewed on site in the future. But, obviously, the selection is nothing special. And considering the crowd of starving musicians that frequent the joint, I’d guess that more PBR is ordered in a night than any other beer is ordered in a week.

Honorable mention:


-good beer selection, great people watching, good food

The Thin Man

-good beer selection, similar atmosphere to Vine Street, but without the food, Sasha’s allowed

-only drawback is the proximity to East and running into everyone I knew growing up when I go there.

The Freeman porch

-great environment, good company, usually good beer selection (menu changes), service could use improvement

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Random thought about Fat Tire

At the game last night I came up with what, in my opinion, is the perfect analogy for Fat Tire:

Fat Tire is to Nuggets games what hot dogs are to baseball games. Yes, there are better options out there; yes, it’s not the most tasty thing ever; but, in those particular circumstances, it’s the only thing that’s right.

In other news

Apologies, once again, for the lack of posts. Life has been getting in the way of me writing. But don’t fret; there will be so much beer blogging in the weeks to come you will miss the days of no-posts.

In fact, next Monday, I, with the help of Greggers, will be launching the Jenn and Beer website. The site will have all you could ever want to know about beer and if it doesn’t, let me know and I’ll find a way to change that.

So spread the word and help support your favorite beer blogger, as she starts this new phase of beer blogging.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A bar with no name

Sam: What'll you have Normie?
Norm: Well, I'm in a gambling mood, Sammy. I'll take a glass of whatever comes out of that tap.
Sam: Looks like beer, Norm.
Norm: Call me Mister Lucky.

My friend told me that the bar was referred to a “Narnia.”

Kyle and I spent the drive questioning this. How on earth could a bar in Boulder be like Narnia?

When we arrived, the answer became obvious; we didn’t even need to discuss it. Walk in a random door between two restaurants on the Hill and you’ve completely escaped Boulder.

Even knowing about the bar and being relatively certain of its location, I wasn’t positive I was there. I called my friend to verify that I was in the right location. The sign on the door just says “Open Daily 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.” and has a small window with iron bars, as some sort of tribute to the days of speakeasies.

The place is beautiful – light wood paneling throughout the place, lovely sand-blasted glass lamps with dark steel fixtures – classy but homey in a style I have never before encountered in Boulder. The clientele was what I expected from Boulder when I was young and before I understood the term “college town” – old hippie types who seem more Coloradan than crazy acid heads. The younger crowd seemed like the kind of people I would have befriended, had I attended CU. They were certainly Colorado college students, but without the trustafarian or frat boy element.

The service was great, our waitress checked on our table at all the right times and even explained the neon sign in the window after overhearing us trying to guess what it was (I won’t tell, that’ll ruin the fun, but I will say Kyle was wrong).

The beer selection is a step above average: you have your regular taps – Guinness, Sierra Nevada, Harp, Bass, and two O’dells; then a few more interesting ones – seasonal Breckenridge IPA and Ska’s Modus Hoperandi. The bottled beer selection was more diverse with some typical brews and weaker beers, then Monty Python’s Holy Grale, Breckenridge’s 471, bombers of Avery’s Reverend and more. The rest of the menu was liquors and spirits, suggesting that their cocktails were good. After all, aren’t the best cocktails served at bars where there’s no menu listing what they can make?

I almost feel guilty talking about the bar – part of me fears that any publicity will lead to Narnia becoming just another quirky Boulder bar. But we drove 32 miles for the specific intention of visiting this place, so I’m writing about it, dammit. Expect to hear more about this bar, word will spread quickly – one of my friends decided it’s going to be his local from here on out. But for now, I’m leaving you pictures.

Arthur's craft

"What'll you have?

I'll have a pint!

I'll have a pint with you, sir!"

-The Pogues

Before I knew anything about beer, I knew about Guinness.

The summer I turned 16, I went to Ireland with my parents and brother. About two weeks before we left, my brother called me and left a long babbling message about how excited he was for the trip. I remember nothing from the message itself, except one thing: he was DAMN excited to show me Guinness.

Ten years later and Guinness has kept a special place in my heart. I, by no means, love it the same way my brother does, or even as much as my mam, but I do have a strong appreciation for it. So when I received an email offering the chance to interview Fergal Murray, the master brewer of Guinness, I couldn’t believe it. I honestly did not believe the email. Thank God I have people like Greggers and Kyle to keep me in line and look into these sorts of things; otherwise it would have been one hell of a missed opportunity.

Fergal spends about two weeks of March traveling around the States each year – acting as the face of Guinness, while the eyes of the world turn to Ireland for Paddy’s day.

Actually, regardless of the season, much of his life is spent being the face of everyone’s favorite Irish stout. Fergal spends his time traveling the world – from Cork to Dallas to Sydney and everywhere in between – talking about what makes his beer so iconic.

Guinness is special, he says, because it gives people the ability to “cling on something from home; coming home to the emerald island. When they can get a pint of Guinness it connects one to Ireland; it gives them the community spirit. It’s a symbol of people who want to become Irish. But it’s also the quality of the product: the taste – that bold and distinctive taste. That’s why it sticks out to much.”

Much of the importance of Guinness, he says, relies on the visual impact of the craft. “You have to see it poured correctly. I don’t ever want to be disappointed by a bartender. It should be a work of art coming across the bar – the final top off the dome. The flavor’s the bonus. That’s what Guinness is about.”

With 250 years of brewing history, Arthur Guinness signed the lease for St. James Gate 17 years before America declared its independence, Guinness must be doing something right. Fergal tells me about how the stout has developed in the past two and a half centuries. “It got better. It has consistently improved. It’s a journey. If Arthur were around today he’d agree. The computer technology has improved, which affects the craft – it makes it easier to brew. The flavor recipe is exactly the same, but the consumers experience is so much more.”

So how does one obtain the “most envied job on earth?” “It’s about mastering a craft, understanding it and having that passion. Whether you’re making chocolate or fixing clocks, it’s about the passion, it’s about the beliefs and knowing why it’s such a great product.”

While the passion for Guinness shows in everything he says, Fergal’s love for his job is most apparent when he describes his travels, “The engagement is so cool: the passion of the people, the opportunities of pouring a perfect pint. Watching people obtain the bragging rights of pouring the perfect pint...”

Everywhere he goes, he says, he finds fantastic bars and delights in the experience of watching the training of the bartenders. “Getting it into the glass is the art, the same perfect way that they get it in the glass. I’m very content that you’ll get a great tasting pint no matter where you go.”

Fergal speaks highly of the stouts from the craft beer market, saying, “other breweries do a good job…it’s cool to see the distinctive flavors between them.” However, he insists that on Paddy’s day no beer other than Guinness should be drunk. “If anyone does something silly like drink a domestic American product on March 17th, I’m certain St Patrick will come down and haunt you.”

While my experience with Catholicism has suggested no such thing, I trust Fergal on this one. Tonight, I’ll be drinking Guinness.

Happy Paddy's Day, everyone. And remember, clovers aren't Irish.

[Timothy, you can stop holding your breath now.]

Photo courtesy of Taylor Montgomery.


"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."
-Dave Barry

I love cheese. To me, beer and cheese belong together. Great Divide apparently understands this. Once a month they, with the help of St. Kilian’s cheese shop, host a beer and cheese pairing. Five beers, five cheeses, one very happy Jenn.

We arrived late, probably around 6.30. The benefit of our tardiness was being seated in the brewery between the kegs and the Stranahan’s barrels used for oak aging the Yeti. Sure, I would see all this if I ever made it to Great Divide in time for the tour. But relaxing in the brewery, enjoying a drink and delicious cheese? Pretty close to perfect for me.

On to the pairings.

Starting in the middle and working around the photo clockwise, here’s a list of the cheeses and beers:

1) Tommy Crayeuse – Denver Pale Ale

2) Bucheron – Colette

3) Beemster – Titan IPA

4) Morbier – Hercules Double IPA

5) Valdeon – Oak Aged Yeti

With the exception of the Colette, I was quite familiar with all the beers. However, trying them with cheese was a different experience. I’ve always been prone to ignore the drink this beer/wine while eating this food guidelines. I want this beer and this food. Rarely do my choices pair well, but it’s what I want, so I’ll order it anyway.

I was surprised to discover how much one affected the other. The DPA was the same average DPA that I’ll occasionally drink. After a bite or two of the Crayeuse, it was much more exciting. I didn’t like the Beemster cheese much, but paired with the Titan, the flavor was greatly improved. And in the case of the Morbier and Hercules? They go together like Simon Pegg and zombie movies.