My Beercation To Beer Mecca & Beyond: A Family Affair

After spending a few beercation days discovering the wonders of Tennyson Street, it is time to check a few more amazing Denver breweries off my list. Specifically, I have my sites set on Fiction Beer Company, Cerebral Brewing, & Tivoli Brewing. Despite the fact that my beer drinking buddy, Marty had to go back home, I will not be going these visits alone.

Drinking With My Cousins-In-Law

I am incredibly lucky to have married into a family where I get along with all my wife’s cousins. It seems the craft beer gods favor me, because 2 of them happen to live in Denver. Mark & Sutira and Delores & Chad have graciously opened their homes to me when I come to town. Mark and Delores are my wife’s cousins and their significant others are also big craft beer fans. I am staying with Delores and Chad this beercation and it promises to be a good time.

Chad and Sutira

After dropping Marty off at the airport, I beeline it for Chad & Delores’s house. Chad works from home and has conveniently scheduled his days to include ample time for drinking. Chad is a wonderful taproom traveling companion. He loves baseball, beer, and Seinfeld-we are definitely cut from the same cloth. Sutira, my birthday twin, is also taking the day off to tipple around the town with us. We share a birthday, the love of craft beer, and a similar sophomoric sense of humor when it comes to social situations. Sutira is married to Mark, who is my wife’s cousin. Mark is an outdoorsy nut who loves danger as much as I love lagers. When the four of us all get together, it is an ab workout from laughter waiting to happen.

Time to Thai One On

My Thai birthday twin and Chad checking in on Untappd.

Sutira is Thai and we opt to go to a local Thai eatery. In the car, she makes it very clear to Chad and I that she is not going to order in her native tongue because then the kitchen will make the food “blow out your ass hot”. We are thankful for this because adult diapers are not anywhere on the agenda for my beercation. The food is amazing and the laughter is contagious already. I cannot wait til we actually get some beer in our systems. I order the Pad Thai and they order two different dishes to share. The Pad Thai is wonderful and the lunchtime conversation is even better. We finish out food and order up a Lyft to our first brewery of the day.

Fiction Beer Company

I have no excuse for why this is my first beercation stop at Fiction Beer Company. I love the entire concept of a literature-themed taproom. Kudos go to Ryan and Christa Kilpatrick for combining two of my favorite things: reading and drinking beer. There is something quite magical about this place. It is evident that the owners and brewer are incredibly passionate about their craft.

The bar is easily the coolest I have ever seen. Last summer, at Modern Times in Portland, the floppy disc mosaic on the bar set the bar high. However, the books stacked up under the bar top is a feat of pure genius. Fiction Beer Company has kicked my beercation up to eleven and I have yet to even taste a sip of their beer.

Fiction Makes Me Thirsty

Between Chad, Sutira, and I, we get almost everything that Fiction has on tap. Knowing that it will be a full beercation day of beer, we share some sips. I also make sure I have enough to get into the flow of the story here. The Off-Script Dry Pilsner is a remarkable beer thanks to its finish. This beer finishes drier than a Steven Wright one-liner delivery. There is alchemy at work here, but due to my lack of scientific background, all I can say is that they used an enzyme in the beer to make it finish ridiculously dry. I also like the slight tartness in the beer because it makes you want to keep drinking.

The Finch Table Saison has a honey aroma. There is a dryness in this beer also that causes it to finish on the dry side. The Bewilderment is a hazy IPA that has some grapefruit and passionfruit flavors. The finish is slightly piney with a bit of dryness. I thought that this ranks near the higher end of the hazy IPAs that I have had on the beercation.

The League of Extraordinary Hopheads is a collaboration beer with Odd 13 and Cerebral. This DIPA has a lot going on. There is some chive in the aroma and then a lot of orange in the flavor. Few collaboration beers live up to the hype, but I like this one a lot.

The Juicebox is a fruited kettle sour that has a big punch of tartness. I like the white grape juice sweetness that this one has. As far as kettle sours go, there are a lot of breweries that get them wrong. Juicebox has none of the instant gut-rot inducing artificial flavors that I get with a lot of kettle sours.

The Alternate Present is a fantastic dark lager. The toasted bread character in the malt flavor and aroma are marvelous. There is so much depth in this beer and I would absolutely drink a full pint if we were staying longer.

The Electrum Bronze is another 3-way collaboration beer with Tin Roof Brewing and Kings Brewing. These 3 breweries comprise the gold, silver, and bronze winners of the 2018 GABF Hazy or Juicy Pale Ale category. The aroma is the perfect blend between grassy and juicy. It drinks bright and effervescent. There are some hints of white wine in there along with some tropical fruits. It ultimately finishes dry, which I really appreciate.

The Good People Behind The Beer

As I am snapping pictures, I introduce myself to Christa Kilpatrick, one of the owners and the main book lover in the house. I am so happy to meet her and tell her how much I love the brewery. She is incredibly friendly and willing to answer some questions. The brewery focuses on literature because it is a big passion for her family. Her husband, Ryan, started off as a homebrewer and they decided to create a wonderful place for book and beer lovers.

You will be excited to know that there is a book club that meets here regularly called the Fiction Beer Club. Fiction also has a great relationship with Colorado Reading Partners a local non-profit that focuses on literacy in schools. As an English teacher myself, I love that Fiction does this. After Christa and I chat for a bit, she introduces me to their Head Brewer, Brittany Portman.

Brittany Portman has the rare distinction to be the first brewer I have met who didn’t start out as a home brewer. Instead, she was originally planning to go to Med school. She didn’t really drink beer back in the day. However, when she tasted her first sour beer, she became enamored beer and the rest is history. She started as a Cellarperson and is not the Head Brewer at Fiction. Brittany has been at Fiction for three and a half years. She is incredibly smart and knows a ton about beer. Fiction Beer Company is lucky to have her as their brewer because she is sharper than the corner of a brand new hardcover book!

After chatting and wrapping up the beers, it is time to leave Fiction, a brewery that has the noteworthy claim to releasing the first commercial hazy IPA for a brewery that has pretty much built their brewery on the style, Cerebral Brewing.

Cerebral Brewing Company

A hop, skip, and a jump away, we are picked up by Sutira’s husband, Mark. Mark is my cousin-in-law, but as far as I am concerned, we are great friends. Mark is hilarious and is one of the first people in my wife’s family I truly bonded with. He rolls up in a 2-door vehicle that looks like a clown car once we all pile into it. Cerebral Brewing is just down the road a bit and we are there just before my legs fall asleep.

Cerebral Brewing Company is a popular place for beer geeks who love the haze. They frequently release beers and have become somewhat of a Denver darling in the craft beer scene. I first came here during GABF back in 2017 with the lads from Lupulin Brewing Company. That day, Cerebral was a complete madhouse and so it will be nice to actually sit down and unpack some of their beers.

Mark and Sutira are some wild and crazy beer nerds!

We each order a few tasters and some short pours. The beercation wackiness meter continues to escalate with Mark now immersed in the fray of beer madness. My favorite thing about this moment is when you look around the table and everyone is laughing. There are moments in life that you wish you could pause and relive over and over again. This is one of those moments. Sure, I am in the throes of an epic beercation, but it is the people who I am with that make it tremendously memorable.

The beers at Cerebral are incredibly good. We have some lagers, IPAs, sours, and a pastry stout. Their menu has quite the diversity-a nice mix of classic and trendy styles to satiate both the hazy bois and the more classic drinkers. One thing that I have to say is that no matter what styles you dig, Cerebral is brewing some fantastic beer.

Brainy Beers

When I see a Vienna Lager on tap, that always makes my beer choice easy. So, I do a bit of a shimmy when I notice Cerebral’s Character Reference. Character Reference drinks nice a crisp. There is a nice graham cracker aroma from the malt. Another noteworthy thing to know about Character Reference is that it is aged in a foeder (a large wooden barrel). The foeder gives it a nice roundness and a hint of complexity.

The Sight Unseen Export Lager is an homage to keeping it simple. This beer is clean and straight forward. The Sight Unseen and Character Reference are pleasant surprises to me. I am expecting hazy IPAs up the ying-yang and I find two amazing lagers!

The Gamma Knife IPA is more along the lines of what Cerebral is known for. Bright herbal and juicy aromas burst out of the glass. There is quite a bit of pineapple sweetness in the beer and some tangerine, as well.

The You Can’t Do This To An IPA is a wacky collaboration between Cerebral and Weldwerks Brewing. It is an IPA with a bunch of blue raspberry gummies (300 lbs.) along with Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy, and Vic Secret hops. The beer is cloyingly sweet and comes across as straight up artificial sugar. They use such amazing hops in this IPA and it comes across as a waste in my opinion. I know that beers like this sell a lot, but I cannot bring myself to embrace them like the rest of the crowd.

Last not least, it is time for dessert. Sugar Pie is a pastry stout that spent a nice amount of time in a maple syrup barrel. There are pecans, cinnamon, and vanilla in the beer as well. Unlike the previous beer, this beer is sweet, but it is not cloying. It comes across like rich chocolate cake batter. The pecans add a depth to it with the nuttiness. The mouthfeel is smooth with a velvet feel. This is a great beer to wrap up with.

Tivoli Brewing Company

After being at one of the trendier breweries in town, it is time to hit the oldest brewery in town. Tivoli Brewing Company is a historic building with an iconic tower protruding from its vast complex. I am excited to see a historic brewery in Denver because most of the places I have been to are fairly new. When a brewery tells a story, it is a beercation must!

What I know for sure about this place is that we will find no trendy beers here. From what I have read about Tivoli, they have classic styles and are definitely a purist’s type of place. We each order a different beer and they are all good.

I start off with the Tivoli Helles Lager. To me, there is no better summer lager than a Helles. It celebrates everything we all love about the season. This beer is clean and delightful. I could sit here and dissect the flavors, aromas, and feels that this beer is giving off, but I am immersed in amazing conversation. This Helles Lager is a wonderful accent to the social engagement of the evening. Because, If I am being honest, sometimes it is easier just to drink and talk.

The Sublime Pilsner has a nice lime accent to it to bring the brightness to eleven. I enjoy the flavor and have been seeing a lot of lime in lagers on this trip. I also try some of the Bohemian Girl, a pre-prohibition lager that is ridiculously crisp and clean. The theme so far is good and classic. Of course, Mark had to be an outlier and get the Hello Darkness Stout. This beer is roasty and has some wonderful bitterness from the malts used.

After tasting all the beers, I would gladly order a full pour of each one. We also order an amazing hot pretzel. This came buttery and delicious with an amazing cheese sauce to dip into. Amidst bites of pretzel and sips of beer, Mark, Sutira, Chad, and myself laugh about family stuff and the occasional Urban Dictionary definition. It is so much fun to be with these amazing people. I know that I typically tell people I come to Denver for beer, but I come back because of the wonderful family that I get to see here.

After a beercation day of drinking for the books, we have to call it a night. Our stomachs hurt from laughing, our palates are fatigued from countless beers consumed, and our eyelids are getting heavy. I know I will sleep well tonight and relish euphoric feeling of fun that the day provided.

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .