My old friend anonymous sent me a number of queries last week. So to prevent him from feeling like a mangy cat, I’m going to go through the list and attempt to calm his puzzled mind. (I'm not sure why, but for some reason this photo seems appropriate.)
If you had to pick a city or town in America as the microbrew capital what would it be?
It’s hard for me to give up on Colorado so quickly, but limiting the question to a city or town rather than a state makes it hard to choose my home. Colorado breweries are scattered all over the state – Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, all worthy beer towns. If all of their breweries were in one location, then I would claim that location as the microbrew capital. But since there is, at least, two hours worth of driving between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, I can’t claim them as one town (and can you imagine the uproar if Boulder and Colorado Springs were considered to be the same place?).
So, with a limited knowledge of other towns’ microbrewing feats (I understand that Ashville, NC is making quite a name for itself), I’ll go with Portland. After all, they do have the most microbreweries per capita.
I will be visiting Seattle in a week’s time, so expect some reviews of out-of-state beer in the near future. (For some reason, Anonymous, I feel like you would appreciate me visiting there.)
I’m also going to take this opportunity to share one of my favorite moments from my drinking with strangers escapade last weekend. Rico, one of the most knowledgeable beer drinkers I have encountered, said the following:
“In Colorado, we like our beer if it’s good and it gets us drunk, which is a little harder for us since we’re used to the altitude. In Portland, they think they’ve found beer nirvana. In San Diego, it’s all surfer dudes who are like ‘we like beer!’” And then in Ashville they’re like “Rawr! Beer!”
How about more in your turf - which city or town in Colorado is the best for beer - Denver? Boulder? Fort Collins? Explain.
This is another question I will want to re-visit after a bit more exploration. But for now, here’s my two cents:
When I first think of Colorado beer, Fort Collins comes to mind. However, in consulting the beer map, it turns out this town has only six breweries. The reason it seems like such a beer-haven is it homes three of Colorado’s largest breweries: New Belgium, O’dells and the Colorado branch of Anheuser-Busch. In addition to this, three of the first Colorado breweries that I came to love (again New Belgium and O’dells as well as Fort Collins Brewery) are located up there.
Boulder steps it up a bit with ten breweries in the city and another few scattered in the neighboring towns, such as Broomfield and Longmont. What limits Boulder from being the microbrew capital of Colorado is the unfamiliarity of a lot of these breweries. Of those located in
Boulder city itself, I would only expect Avery Brewing and perhaps Boulder Beer or Twisted Pine to be known by the non-fanatic beer drinkers. I may be misjudging the popularity of Boulder breweries, and would not be surprised to find CU alums arguing with me about this, but when I started really drinking beer, these were the breweries I knew.
I will add that Upslope Brewing Company, which is located in Boulder, is starting to get a lot of attention. I recently tried their pale ale (leaving the review of it for a later post) and expect this to become one of Colorado’s biggest beers. But again, you’ll have to wait to find out more.
Denverites don’t really approve people from the suburbs claiming Denver as home. And I will readily admit that I am one of those Denverites. Because of this, I have to now limit Denver breweries to, well, Denver. This means I can only claim ten breweries to be Denver based, instead of including an additional ten or so by allowing a place like Littleton to be considered part of Denver. That being said, I am also the most familiar with Denver breweries and brew pubs, because they’re only a few miles away at most. And we do have a mighty good selection: Great Divide, Bull and Bush, Wynkoop, two outlets belonging to Breckenridge Brewery, the former home of Flying Dog. I could go on. Just by considering all of these, I have to claim my hometown as the Colorado beer haven.
The short of it is this: If you’re spending a short time in Colorado and looking for beer, there’s more than enough to see in Denver. If you have a week, make sure you take a day or two to visit Fort Collins, Boulder and any of the surrounding towns so you can get the full Colorado beer experience (or as much of it as you can). I will obviously be talking a lot more about Colorado microbrew standings when I tour the state visiting breweries (something in my not-too-distant plans). But for now, I’m giving Denver the gold.
Is Left Hand a Denver brew? How about Tommyknockers?
Left Hand is brewed out of Longmont (a town outside Boulder for my non-Coloradan readers). If included in Boulder’s list of breweries, it certainly ups Boulder’s standing in my Colorado beer-town rankings. It's logo alone is found throughout Colorado, and once I even saw it it Ireland.
Tommyknocker is from a lovely mountain town, (known to Denverites as the place to stop for pizza on the way back from Winter Park) Idaho Springs. I love Tommyknocker and I love Idaho Springs. Returning to my advice for people visiting Colorado – spend an afternoon in Idaho Springs. It’s only an hour out of Denver and you can try great mountain pizza (Beau Jos flagship restaurant is there) as well as visit one of my favorite breweries with the views of a beautiful mining town in the background. Seriously, go there.
What's the deal with Fat Tire? People love this beer and I frankly don't care for it. (though I do like 2 Below) Do you like Fat Tire? I mean, every time I try it I am disappointed. Is that just personal taste, or is Fat Tire in fact a mediocre beer?
Remember Rico? (If not, you have a terrible memory; he was quoted only a couple hundred words ago.) He doesn’t like Fat Tire either. Prior to Saturday, I may have thought you were crazy, but between you and Rico’s opinions, I’m reconsidering it.
For me, Fat Tire is a constant safe bet. It’s what I drink at the Pepsi Center during Nuggets games (only non-Coors or Bud tap available). It’s something that’s easy to find and you know what you’re ordering. That being said, no, it’s not a remarkable beer. However, the lack of complexity means I can have a few of them and not feel like I’m overwhelming my tongue or cheating it out of an actual beer. So I’ll keep drinking it, when there’s not a more exciting choice. When there are more exciting choices, I’ll let you know all about it, in hopes that you'll enjoy it too.
Thanks for all your questions. As always, feel free to leave more in the comments or email them to me.
Oh, and Anonymous, can you get that dear friend of yours some River Horse to bring to Denver? It isn't distributed here.