As I got more comfortable navigating the city, I was finding it more and more like it would be hard to leave. The mountain vistas, the incredible craft beer and the fabulous quality time spent with my cousins-in-law were providing a backdrop for incredible memories. Over the next few days, I was discovering that my decision to not overplan the trip, except for some essentials which included a backpack chair, was looking like a genius move. I was also finally getting some interest in some of the beer I brought from MN to trade in the hopes of finding some gems to bring back from my travels. However, the somewhat bittersweet fact that had also set in was that it was July 1st, and the trip was seemingly going by way too fast. I was officially 1/3 of the way done and still had so much yet to see and do.
My first stop of the day on the first day of July was to the Comrade Brewing Company, which has been open a little over a year. Don’t let the young age of this brewery fool you, they are well-established in the Denver beer scene. The taproom is spacious, colorful and open. I could definitely imagine that this place would be a lot of fun during a sporting event when it is packed to the gills. However, I was there early on a Wednesday afternoon and there were only a handful of other people there. I ordered a sample flight and sat down. The heat was oppressive that day already and I was starting to miss what a temperature in the mid-80s felt like. I ordered the main flight of their beers and these 4 consisted of a Blonde Ale, Irish Red Ale, Milk Stout with Coffee and an IPA called Superpower. I mention the IPA by name because it was, by far, one of the best IPAs I have every had the pleasure to drink. The initial blast of hops are piney and earthy, but then balanced out with a biscuity malt character that is really delicious. The Superpower IPA is 7.5% ABV and drinks smooth, not heavy. All of the first four were good, but the IPA is great.
As I was enjoying my flight, another gentleman came in and sat down by the name of Chris. We started chatting when he asked me if I was reviewing the beers. I explained the purpose of my journey and that I wrote for a blog. What I picked up before we even established where he was from was a very thick New England accent. I really wanted to ask him to repeat the statement, “I want Nomar to park the car at Harvard” but decided that would be weird. We got talking and he seemed really interested in craft beer. We chatted about Comrade and some of his other favorites from around the area. I don’t know which one of us was more excited about the beer talk, but it went on for quite a while. He was able to turn me on to a couple social media groups that existed to find out more information on the Colorado craft beer scene. In the midst of a wonderful chat that was ping-ponging between craft beer and sports, I ordered a second taster flight consisting of the rest of Comrade’s beer portfolio. Some of my favorites from the six beers in this flight were the Man Oar Board a Wee Heavy Scottish Ale, 1659 Session Stout and the Single Hop Azacca. There was a common thread of all Comrade’s offerings and that was bold flavors. The malt character in the Scottish Ale danced with the booziness like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The bold and roasty flavors of the 1659 session stout made it very difficult to understand how the beer was only 4.8% ABV. The Single Hop Azacca was hitting on all cylinders for what I like in a hoppy beer. Azacca hops have incredible flavor and aroma and are quickly becoming a hop that I get very excited about. Chris had to get going and we exchanged info for Untappd and Facebook. I thanked him for sitting and chatting. I am not sure if he planned on spending as much time that day at Comrade as we did, but I am grateful for the chance to have met a new friend who was so open to chatting about craft beer.
It was on to the Declaration Brewing Company that was not too far away. This brewery was opened in February of 2015. For being so new, they definitely have a good thing going. Their taproom is a very cool space and they have a great patio. The mural of a plane on the outside, this building definitely stands out in an otherwise start and industrial part of town. In talking to one of the owners, Micheal Blandford, I got the lowdown on why the beer is so good here. At Declaration, they are all about the science of brewing. He went down the line of all the different degrees and backgrounds that their ownership and brewing team have and I was blown away. They understand how to manipulate flavors and nuances in beer through all the ingredients that they have in the beer. They are serious and dedicated to process and it shows in the beer.
Speaking of their beer, Declaration has some good ones. Of the five that I had, a light lager, a wildberry Saison, a Scottish Strong, IPA and a stout, my favorites were the Scottish Strong and the Stout. For the second brewery in a row, the Scottish Ale had a great combo of booziness and malt. The velvety smoothness of the Bus Stout was like the feeling one’s soul gets when they listen to Al Green for the first time. I was sad that I didn’t have more time to stay and hang at Declaration, but I had to get to the next brewery to meet a guy for my first ever beer trade!
One of the reasons I drove this trip was so that I could bring MN beer to trade and help bolster by beer cellar. Beer trading is something that a lot of people find fun and others find a pain. Since I have never traded before, I was curious about giving it a try. I came with an arsenal of Surly Darkness, Surly Abrasive, Surly Five, Surly Seviin, Surly Pentagram, New Glarus Scream DIPA, New Glarus 2014 Anniversary Ale, Steel Toe Size 7, Fair State IPA and a couple others. I was posting on Beer Advocate in the trade forums for the first time and was a little nervous about getting something set up. I had talked to a few folks before setting out on the trip and they had taken a trip and brought beer along to trade with breweries. They said that they got some cool things to bring back and that encouraged me to try to do the same. I was hoping that people would like the Surly and New Glarus since those are nationally known breweries with limited distribution. Had I known that Colorado didn’t get Founders or Bell’s, I would have brought some of that, too. After several posts and chats online, I found a trading partner for a 4-pack of Abrasive Ale. He was going to trade me 3 bottles of Crooked Stave sour beers that were special releases. I thought that this seemed like a pretty good deal since I was getting things I could not easily get my hands on from a brewery in Crooked Stave that I am a big fan of. We were set to meet at Baere Brewing Company at 5, so I had to get over there.
Baere Brewing Company is located in a strip mall fairly close to downtown Denver. They have lots of good Belgian beers as well as other styles ranging from Berliner Weisse to IPA. Since it was getting to the end of the day and I had already done a fair amount of sampling some pretty big beers, I was excited to drink water. I did order a flight of beers consisting of a Saison, DIPA, Hoppy Brown Ale and a Berliner Weisse. However, I knew I was not going to be able to handle much beyond that which was too bad, they had some great things on tap. They were getting ready to celebrate their one year anniversary and told me that they would have some really special brews on tap for that. Since it was around HH time, the brewery was pretty packed with people. Of the beers that I had, the Saison and Berliner Weisse were my favorites because they each had refreshing and yeasty notes that were light and balanced. I was beginning to wonder if my trading partner was going to show up, but just then, my phone buzzed and he was texting me. Minutes later, he walked in the door with a small backpack cooler and took out the three bottles. I gave him the 4-pack of Abrasive Ale and he said that he was parked illegally and had to run. Just like that, my first ever in-person beer trade was complete. Who got the better end of the deal? Hard to say, it is difficult to quantify a beer trade in my mind because what one person loves, another person might have, but not really like. At this point, the Abrasive Ale was something that I know I can get again and only bought it specifically for the trip. For my trading partner, he mentioned having a lot of sours, so it was probably a good deal for each of us. Being that the trade was easy to set up and the dude was very good with communication and showing up with the beer, I was now excited to make other trades.
All in all, it was a good day. More great craft beers and breweries checked off my list and my first beer trade completed. I was ready to head home for some food and some rest because tomorrow was another day on the Colorado Beer Trail! Prost!