The next day was without any taproom stops since it was 4th of July, but the day was not without craft beer. We decided to have a mini beer fest complete with yard games and watching the fireworks from the deck. Perhaps more surprising that we didn’t get rained on despite the ominous clouds was the nobody lost an eye playing Lawn Jarts. Being that we had a vast array of summery craft beer, it was awesome that our hosts had 3 different types of turkey burgers. I always like when I can pair a lighter food with beer that has delicate flavors. The night ended with Cards Against Humanity and our stomachs and jaws painful from laughter.
The last full day in Denver consisted of trips to Caution Brewing Co. West, Diebolt Brewing Co., a return trip to Hogshead Brewery and wrapped up with a fabulous meal at the Yak and Yeti.
I absolutely had to take my wife to Hogshead because I knew that she would really love it. Dave, the bartender, was there on his day off and recognized me from my earlier trip there. He was there with some friends and we chatted for quite a while about the area and they could not have been nicer. I think that it speaks to the fact that Hogshead is a great places if the staff willingly go there on their days off. I think that if I were to show up at work on my day off, it would mean that my body had been inhabited by aliens and I would pray someone would recognize that and shoot me.
We also really enjoyed out time at Diebolt Brewing Company. They had a french bend to their beers and my wife really thought the Á la Peel Biere De Mars was the best in show there because of its yeasty and citrus balance. We chatted with a really nice couple from Michigan who picked us out right away due to my wife’s accent. It was kind of funny because some of the regulars from Hogshead walked in not too long after us and I chatted with them about the beer in that area of Denver and they said that Hogshead and Diebolt are pretty much the best in the area. We were both getting hungry and my wife was getting a lot more chatty and that usually means it is time for dinner.
We headed over to Yak and Yeti(Arvada location) to meet up with a coworker of mine and her husband along with several of her former coworkers from Colorado. The Yak and Yeti showed up on several lists of best brewpubs in Denver and I am always up for a great rendition of Chicken Tikka Masala. The food was tremendously good. In my humble opinion, Indian cuisine pairs really well with beer because of all the different spices and aromas. Garlic and cheese Naan was a revelation and went really well with the beer. My wife and I agreed that the Chai Milk Stout was the best thing they had on tap and would love to try again some day. The layout of the place was interesting as it was in an old Victorian house. Definitely a departure from all the taprooms with straight edges and new interiors. At one point, the dinner had a definite feel of a Seinfeld episode because of the wait staff’s confusion about a mystery order of Garlic Naan which only added to the amusement of the evening. The meal was great and the conversation was even better. We laughed and enjoyed stories and jokes until it was time to head out. We had a 3:30am wake-up call to drop my wife off for her flight home. I had to pack my bags and coolers and head a little bit north to Boulder.
When the alarm sounded, it was like Bea Arthur was reading erotic poetry to me, abrasive, creepy and startling. I was up and reluctantly accepted the fact that I had to drop my wife at the airport to head back to MN while I continued my beer adventure as a solo traveler. A lot of my friends will frequently comment that I am lucky to have a wife that will go with me on beer trips and out to breweries. They are all absolutely right. However, it is not like I am bringing her along as a trade off for me doing something I only kind of like with her. Our beer passion is a joint venture. We both absolutely love craft beer and plan most of our trips together with that as a focal point. When we celebrated our ten-year anniversary, we didn’t take a romantic vacation to a secluded location where we would be listening to Kenny G and eating oysters while we spread rose petals on a rotating bed. We road tripped through Wisconsin and drank craft beer. It is that reason why I was not looking forward to dropping her off at the airport. I knew how much she would love going back to Fort Collins and seeing the great places that we discovered there on our first trip. On the other hand, her presence and smile had made the long weekend a time to remember. So, we drove into the darkness before the dawn and passed the creepy red-eyed horse to the airport. I said goodbye to my wife and headed back to bed. When I awoke, I knew that I had to get on the road because the Backcountry Pizza and Tap House was calling my name.
I said goodbye to my gracious hosts and set my GPS for Boulder, CO. The skies were cloudy and rain was sprinkling the windshield intermittently. In a way, the gloominess of the sky made the mountains stand out even more and I was struck with how absolutely beautiful this place is. Minnesota has many charms, but when you can look up and see mountains, majestic and domineering, you really do feel in awe of the wonders of nature.
I made my way to Boulder a little after 11 and was seated at the bar of Backcountry Pizza by 11:15. I had been in the town 15 minutes, but had already enjoyed some spectacular people watching. Boulder is a unique place to put it mildly. Many Colorado residents refer to Boulder as the People’s Republic of Boulder because it is so different from the rest of the state. I know that they have some incredible beer bars and breweries, but the feel of the town is off-putting to me. That being said, I absolutely love the feel of Backcountry Pizza. It has a tremendous beer list and the food is great. I went with an Upslope Citra Pale Ale to go along with my fish and chips. The bartender, who was a server last time I was there, is from Waconia and we had a nice chat about MN. I realized that the owner of the place was sitting at the bar a couple seats down from me and I was enjoying listening to him talk to the different beer reps that were stopping in to talk about getting their beers on tap. At one point, some people brought in a thank you gift for some event that Backcountry had helped with. It was an awesome Cantillon metal wall hanging that was signed and numbered. The owner was like a kid on Christmas morning as he basked in the glory of this new decoration. I think that it is cool that someone who is around tremendous beer all the time can still be floored by something that has to do with beer. It also revealed his unbridled passion for all things beer and that was fun to see. I wrapped things up and was headed to the new Avery brewery.
When I had visited Boulder before, the Avery experience was great. The beers they had on tap were tremendous and the tour was cool. The tour guide had mentioned that they are in the process of constructing a new facility that will be able to better meet the growing demand for Avery’s beer. Well, I was about to see for myself what the new facility looked like and I was more than a little bit excited. The brewery was located a little ways out of town. The white building could be seen from far away and as I got closer, the unmistakable red letters spelled out Avery on the side of the building. I entered the side of the building into a foyer with a staircase that led upstairs to the restaurant. I figured that I would check it out and see what they had on tap. Upstairs was also the entrance to the self-guided walking tour of the catwalk overlooking the brewery. I grabbed a spot at the end of the bar and knew I was in for a treat (and a longer stay) when I saw that they had no less than 30 of their beers on tap! There were seasonal beers, sour beers, barrel-aged beers and all available in one place! The restaurant was very nice. Lots of dark wood to balance out the abundance of natural light let in by huge windows. There were beers that I had wanted to try for a long time that were on tap and some new ones I had never seen before, so I started picking and choosing. I tried 12 beers in all and most of them were new to me. My favorites were easily the Uncle Jacob’s Stout which clocked in at just under 17% ABV, but had a tremendously smooth and molasses flavor to it. The Eremita VIII, a sour beer that was aged on peaches and apricots was tangy, tart and refreshing. From the lower ABV varieties, the Cloud 9, a citrusy forward rendition of their White Rascal was like drinking a whole bowl of oranges. The light and crisp nature of this beer all pumped-up with citrus aroma and flavor was incredible. Being that it was a restaurant, I perused the menu and chose the pulled pork sandwich accompanied by a fingerling potato mash. I felt this would go well with a lot of the heavier beers I was making my way through. The day was moving on and it was time for me to head up and check-in to my hotel in Fort Collins. I said goodbye to the bartenders that were taking such good care of me and packed up my things. On my way out, I noticed a gentleman at the bar with a Bent Brewstillery hat and a Minnesota Twins shirt on and figured he must have a MN connection. It turns out that his name is Tom and he is a assistant brewer at Bent Brewstillery starting a 4-week internship at Avery. We exchanged cards and handshakes and I wished him well. You never know who you will meet when you are out on the beer trail. It was back to the highway because I was a little over the halfway point of my trip and Fort Collins was on the horizon. Prost!