Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In search of David Bowie, or My First Six Shooter

(Note: Last Friday I went out with a bunch of friends for a Denver Six Shooter. In the most basic of terms, a Six Shooter involves going to six bars, having one drink per bar and there's some sort of theme that brings it all together. Each Tuesday one Six Shooter is featured on the website. This was my week. Check out the website though, it has some of the most entertaining drink writing I've found. And by "I've found" I mean that Kyle has shown me.)

I’m a beer girl. A very passionate one. But when it comes to going out, I almost always avoid downtown and rarely venture past my local bars. For the sake of my first Six Shooter, I decided to make an exception and wander the streets of downtown, at least the ones where you can find good beer.

So I called up a few friends and started planning a route around Blake Street. My goal was to have beers I had never had before. Knowing this is a difficult feat, I had a backup theme of craft beers, just in case I had to settle on New Belgium at some point.

When Porphyry Kyle realized our night of drinking fell on the same night that a David Bowie cover band was at the Meadowlark, our final destination was determined.

Thus began our David Bowie Craft Beer Night.

8:07 p.m.
Great Divide Tap Room
2201 Arapahoe St
Claymore Scotch Ale, $5

Great Divide was crowded. I think of the Tap Room as more of a stop-by-and-find-out-about-Great-Divide-type place, rather than a place to go out drinking on a Friday, but the place was packed. I guess more people think like me than I expect.

Fortunately, we started with just four people and halfway through our time there, the place cleared out. Either there was a bigger pub crawl than ours going on, or we missed something. Regardless, I got to sit down, so I was happy.

The Tap Room is exactly what you expect from a tasting room. It's small, it feels industrial, with metal signs and huge windows looking into the brewhouse, reminding you that the beer was made only feet from where you're standing.

Sticking to my attempted theme of beers I haven’t had before, I flipped through their seasonal beer menu and decided on Claymore Scotch Ale. Porphyry Kyle went for the Old Ruffian and I instructed the Semi-Native to order an Oak Aged Yeti (he’s new to Denver and I know his taste in beer. For the record, he really liked it.). Wyatt ordered the same.

The Claymore was wonderful; Great Divide really knows its darker beers. It tasted like a lighter Yeti, their signature stout, with a bite; a dark beer that I could drink in the summer time. (Random fact: A Claymore is a medieval Scottish sword. Great Divide says “...unlike its namesake, this beer only requires one hand, but it’ll still make you feel like nobility.”) Definitely the right way to start the night.

Around the time that Wyatt and I lost the Semi-Native and Kyle to an intense conversation about sports, the twins showed up. Our group split in two, like seventh graders at a middle school dance, until Porphyry Kyle finished his beer. We herded ourselves out the door to our mantra: “David Bowie cover band.”

9:20 p.m.
Celtic Tavern
1801 Blake St.
Pint of Bridgeport IPA, $5.25

I hate Irish pubs. I went to college in Ireland and spent two years drinking at Irish bars before I could legally drink in the States, so the novelty is lost on me. Plus, American Irish pubs represent the American idea of what is Irish: signs that say “Erin go bragh” (none of my Irish friends even know what that means), tons of four-leaf clovers (another inaccurate representation of Ireland) and the like. Irish cheese. These bars are about as authentically Irish as Tom Cruise's accent in Far and Away. But we needed another bar on our list, and since the Celtic is only a block away from Falling Rock, and it was only for one drink, I figured "Why not?"

I hadn’t been to the Celtic Tavern since before I was 21, and I was pleased to see it was less obnoxious than I expected. The Celtic is huge, with the requisite amount of tacky Irish paraphernalia: Irish road signs, among other things. I have a terrible sense of direction, but I can almost guarantee that Donegal is not in the direction that the sign in the Celtic Tavern suggests.

But on to beer. The Bridgeport was remarkably wheaty for an IPA. The strong citrus flavors lead Porphyry Kyle and I to debate whether it tasted more like a wheaty IPA or a hoppy wheat (it was definitely a wheaty IPA). Regardless, I liked it and was pleased with myself for finding a memorable microbrew that wasn’t Coloradan.

I was instructed to mention that the Celtic Tavern has a smoking room. This affects me in no way, shape or form; but while I was taking my notes, one of my companions instructed that I write that down, insisting “It’s very important.” This also meant that three of my five friends spent most of their time at the Celtic taking advantage of smoking indoors. Smokers are a funny people.

While the others were enjoying the Havana Lounge, the twins and I were joined by the Italian and his friend. The five of us entertained ourselves by watching the band set up. Based solely on their appearance and the few chords they played as they warmed up, I determined that they were the kind of people that listened to Zeppelin and Cream when they were my age and never realized that music developed after that point. When they launched in to some pretty fun blues, I was pleasantly surprised. I guess they did realize that music moved on, they just followed the same musicians on to the next style of music.

In one of those “that’s the way it goes” moments, the second we put on our coats to leave, the band started into some song that had us all singing along. One of the twins protested, insisting that we should stay just for that song. But Porphyry Kyle pushed on, assuring us that the David Bowie cover band would make up for it. (For the record, Porphyry Kyle later attested that he finds those kind of cover bands depressing, which was part of his pushing us out the door.)

10:18 p.m.
Falling Rock
1919 Blake St.
Some brew by Lost Abbey, either $5 or $6.

As a beer lover, especially one that is always interested in trying new beers, I love Falling Rock. The problem is too many other people do, as well. The bar was the busiest we had seen since starting at Great Divide. And when the bar is that busy, it’s hard to make a good selection.

I couldn’t find a beer list of the 80 taps they have, so I went for something I could identify from across the bar. A Celtic cross with the words “Lost Abbey” was visible from where I stood. I ordered that and a Ranger IPA for Kyle (I’ve been very excited about this beer since New Belgium announced it and this was the first time I had seen it. Porphyry Kyle definitely ordered it just to humor me).

As for the Abbey, I didn’t like it.

I’m not a big fan of fruity beers to begin with, but I had a hard time determining what it was I didn’t like about this beer. Something about it just tasted awkward. Fortunately for me, the Italian wasn’t enjoying his beer either (He doesn’t like hops. Who doesn’t like hops?), so we swapped. My awkward fruity beer was exchanged for a lovely winter seasonal called Santa’s Little Helper. It was a smoky, dark beer with a slight fruity taste that reminded me of both a porter and a barley wine. Also it had an ABV 10.5%. (I say this mostly because after the next beer, I was officially drunk.)

While there, another two people joined us, bringing our group count up to 11. The fact that we managed to keep this group intact almost to the end of the night astonishes me. But more people means more time at each bar. We had a less than an hour until the David Bowie cover band started and two bars to hit before then.

11:12 p.m.
Breckenridge Brewery
2220 Blake St.
Mighty Brown, $4.75

The place was empty. Empty. But by that point there were enough of us that it didn’t matter. We had managed to keep track of all eleven people and picked up another two at the bar. Plus, most of us were teetering on drunk, which made the group seem even bigger.

I order from the first tap I've never seen before: a Mighty Brown. The flavor was much too intense for a brown, with a weird prune juice after taste. I took a sip of the Italian’s drink and swapped mine for his. There’s a fairly good chance I didn’t ask his permission to do so. (I may be developing a “when you’ve known someone 11 years, you don’t always need to ask their permission to swap beers with them” policy. Though this may only apply to the Italian.)

I’m sure he told me what he ordered, but I can’t for the life of me remember. All I know is it was much better than the Mighty Brown. (He later informed me it was the Oatmeal Stout.) The swap lead to conversations about different kinds of beer: the difference between porters and stouts, educating the Canadian about what good Belgium Whites she could find in Colorado and me rambling off about how much I dislike Coors.

By the time we had finished our drinks, the we guessed that the Bowie cover band should have already started.

11:58 p.m.
Blake Street Tavern
2401 Blake St.
Flying Dog Winter Ale, $3 dollars (Three dollars!)

I’m ashamed to say I had never been to Blake Street before. I don’t usually like sports bars, which is probably why I had never been there before, and again, I don’t go out downtown much. But this place is exactly what I would want from a sports bar.

After Flying Dog Brewery moved to Maryland, Blake Street Tavern remained their Denver hub. The connection is obvious when you walk into the bar – the walls are decorated with Ralph Steadman’s Flying Dog art. There are pool tables, darts, shuffle board and enough TVs to guarantee that I’d never have to miss a Nuggets game. The place is big enough that it can handle a weekend crowd, but maintains a cozy feel that prevents it from seeming awkward there when it’s empty. Oh and did I mention my beer cost three dollars? I’m still excited about that. Expect me to return here. Frequently.

At this point I was feeling the effects of the previous four beers. I was drunk. But the winter ale was good, and after having been disappointed by my last two selections, I was happy to have chosen wisely. I honestly couldn’t describe more about the beer, other than it was dark, I liked it and it cost three dollars.

My notes at this point are limited to basic information about drinks, a quick thought about the bar, a comment about the Nuggets losing and a drawing done by Nathan. That, in itself, was a sign that we needed to move on and finish up our night.

(Side note: Had I been more sober, I’m sure I would have taken a more artistic photo of the Flying Dog art on the walls. But I was drunk, angry that my team had lost and excited to see a bar that supported both the Nuggets and the Red Sox, which explains the photo of the ATM.)

12:30 a.m. (One hour after the David Bowie cover band was supposed to start)
Meadowlark Bar
2701 Larimer St.

Fat Tire, I don’t know the price, Porphyry Kyle bought it for me and I doubt he remembers, either.
They didn’t charge a cover when we walked in, a sure sign that our Bowie cover band had finished their set. At that point none of us cared, except maybe the Semi-Native, since he was sober. I don’t imagine him getting too excited about a Bowie cover band, anyway.

Porphyry Kyle bought me a Fat Tire. I had reached the point where I didn’t care enough to examine their beer selection. And judging from my notes, it wouldn’t have made a difference if I had found a new beer to try – I wouldn’t have remembered anything about it.

I love the Meadowlark. I think it is all you could ever want from a small local venue (except maybe a better draft beer selection). This was my first visit in the wintertime and I was happy to see how well it adapted to the cold weather. While the bar lacks the craft beer theme, it was a great place to end the night.

Of our time there, our exit was the most memorable. I’m not sure how long the giant animal head has resided by the bathrooms, but none of us had noticed it before — and Kyle visits the Meadowlark probably twice a week. But given our drunken state, this animal (we called it a water buffalo, it wasn’t a water buffalo) received a lot of our attention: photos, Iphone researching, Wyatt repeatedly trying to pet it. I think it made up for missing the David Bowie cover band.


  1. I have spent some serious time in downtown Denver and am sorry to say I don't think I've ever been to any of these bars. Not positive but that's what I think. Of course, when I was there for a couple months, some native could have taken me to these places, but for some reason that didn't happen... Weird...

    I will say this. I am with you on not caring for fruity beers. I am a huge fan of IPAs and just As. And I find that they fall into the variety with a fruity or citrus finish and those that do not. I vastly prefer the latter category.

    There is something of a celebration over Magic Hat #9. Also Abita. These bars inspire real loyalty. I want to like them, but consistently find them too fruity for my personal tastes.

    Finally, why would you call me JS? Does that stand for JackasS? I don't get it. I think my identity is marvelously mysterious.

  2. Anonymous/JS,

    Maybe said native would have taken you to these bars if you lived in Denver while said native was in town. If I recall correctly, you were Denver for only a short while before said native then went traveling. Perhaps you should return to Denver and said native could take you to these bars. Just a thought. And if, by chance, you happen to be married, you could bring your (what I expect is lovely) wife with you. Again, just a thought.

    Also, I do believe that Magic Hat #9 is a beer, not a bar.


  3. You are busting me over beer vs. bar?
    Wake up on the wrong side of the vat?