My Beercation To Beer Mecca & Beyond: A Denver Finale
All good things on a beercation must come to an end. This is my last beercation article about Denver until the next time I visit. After discovering some new Denver gems, it seems fitting that I conclude my time in Denver with a visit to a familiar haunt. First and foremost, my focus of this beercation has been finding quality beer. With a quest for quality as my guide, I have discovered many new places. This article will highlight my visits to Ursula Brewery and Launch Pad Brewery. At each destination, I engage in incredible conversations around craft beer with smart people. That is Denver. The amount of knowledge and passion about craft beer in this city is unsurpassed, and that is why I love it here.
Launch Pad Brewery
On the wonderful world of Reddit, I connected with Launch Pad Brewer, Paul Mahoney. He reached out to me when I posted a question on which breweries are must-sees in Denver. Launch Pad Brewery is not too far from the airport in Aurora. I missed it the last time I visited, but am making sure I visit it this time around. I arrange to meet Paul in the early afternoon.
The brewery is located in a strip mall. I park the car and the NASA font of the brewery signals to me like the ground control tower that beer is go for launch. I walk in and see a lot going on. High top tables, low top tables, brewing equipment and a bar that has a few open seats. I settle in and get out my notebook to jot down some things. The tap list is quite substantial here. They have a lot of styles of beer on tap and I am excited to get into a few beers.
I put in a flight order and start taking pictures. As sunny as it is outside, there isn’t a ton of natural light that peaks in through the windows. There are all sorts of rocket and shuttle paraphernalia festooning the taproom at Launch Pad Brewery. I am curious to get the lowdown on where the emphasis on space exploration comes from.
Not to long after my flight arrives, Paul stops by to check in with me. He is in the midst of a brew day and I am grateful that he has set aside some time to chat. A bearded and bespectacled man with hints of salt and pepper in his beard. Paul certainly looks the part of the Head Brewer. He has extensive experience in craft beer that ranges from beer sales to running a couple prominent craft beer bars in Florida.
Paul tells me that the owner, Dave Levesque was in the Air Force and worked for Lockheed Martin. That answers my questions about satellites an shuttles all over the place. The Buckley Air Force Base is located nearby and Launch Pad is a popular gathering spot for them. Paul explains that Launch Pad strives to provide a variety of styles to help ensure that there is something for everyone. I show Paul my flight list and he gives me the ok that I manage to hit a lot of their best beers.
Unlike some brewers who only come in when they are scheduled, Paul is here every single day. Brewing is his passion and it definitely comes across in conversation and the beers I am drinking. I also discover that he is a rabid Red Sox fan. At the time of my visit, Red Sox bullpen was about as effective as a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. It was clearly causing him consternation. To compound matters, one of the sales guys is a fervent supporter of the New York Yankees. As they trade friendly barbs back and forth, I see camaraderie and humor in the workplace.
Now, I need to talk about these beers because there certainly is a lot to love about the liquid manna from heavens that is poured out of the rocket ship tap handles at Launch Pad Brewery.
These Beers Are Go For Launch
I am quite surprised when Paul tells me that the brewhouse kicks out all of these incredible beer drinking options on a 5 BBL brewhouse. No wonder he is here every day! Last year, Launch Pad Brewery brewed 593 barrels of beer. This year, they hope to be in the stratosphere of 800.
I start off with the Just Read The Instructions Hefeweizen. The aromas of bubblegum, clove, and lemon tell me I am going to love this beer. The beer has a bit of cloudiness to go along with the marmalade colored liquid. It is nice and crisp with a lemon flavor that finishes slightly dry.
The Piggyback Ride Juicy IPA is a combination of all the sexy hops that people are going crazy for. The mix of Vic Secret, Citra, Mosaic, and Mandarina Bavaria give this IPA a pineapple and grassy aroma. The fruitiness and juicy pineapple flavors are wonderful. The mouthfeel is full and it finishes with a perfect hit of resiny bitterness. I want all the juicy IPAs I drink to have this depth and complexity.
The Dystopia West Coast IPA is like finding a white rhino in my backyard. This a beer style that is disappearing faster than donuts in the break room of your local PD. The popularity of the NEIPA is driving West Coast IPAs into extinction. Luckily, Launch Pad Brewery has a good one on tap that shows why this style is a cornerstone of the American craft beer movement. The malty backbone is balanced and simply provides balance for the hops. The Centennial, CTZ, Cascade, and Amarillo give this beer the classic earthy and resiny hop profile that used to be a mainstay on tap lists everywhere. I enjoy the slight caramel malt flavor that you get to make the beer incredibly quaffable.
The Project Highwater Altbier showcases malt in a toasted bread and nutty richness. Satisfyingly delicious, this Altbier is tremendous. The Citranaut honey beer is an aromatic floral and citrusy delight. The Trinity Belgian Tripel has aromatic notes of honey and chardonnay. There is a nice hint of honey sweetness in the taste. It is well-attenuated and finishes superbly dry.
As I am sitting at the bar and enjoying everything about my beercation stop to Launch Pad, there are some four-legged patrons who have decided it is 5:30 somewhere. They are carousing and playing with each other. One is a puppy and the other is an older pooch who likely started his day at Starbucks given his demeanor. Everyone is enjoying the show and the puppy is absolutely adorable.
After enjoying the beers and the puppy bowl, it is time to venture onto the next beercation stop to visit Ursula Brewery. I will definitely be back to Launch Pad Brewery next time I am in town. They check all the boxes for me in a place to camp out and have some beers.
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
Back on my 2015 beercation to Denver, I met David Olson. David was the assistant brewer at Coda Brewing when it was located in Denver. Shortly thereafter, the person who started Coda decided to move on and continue the Coda Brewing concept in Golden, Co. Dave took over as head brewer and started Ursula Brewery in the same location.
I have been excited to visit the place since then. After bumping into Dave briefly at GABF in the fall of 2017, I assured him I would be back to visit the brewery before too long. Well, the time has come for me to enjoy a beer chat with one of my favorite people.
I park the car and it cross the street to enter Ursula Brewery. It is Friday afternoon and so the place is quite busy outside on the patio. Luckily, there is a seat at the bar and I grab it. Dave is there and greets me with a smile and a handshake. He proceeds to pour me some beers and we get to chatting.
I start off with the cream ale and it is crisp with a nice hint of corn sweetness. The Mercury Rising Czech Pilsner has a light cereal flavor from the malt that is akin to Crispix. I love the finish on this beer. From there, it is onto the Criterion English Porter. Another beer for the lovers of malt everywhere. Each taste is more satisfying than the last thanks to the robust nature of the malt used in the beer.
The Lazy Brewer Imperial NEIPA is nicely balanced and a better example of the style than most. It has juicy notes of navel orange flesh and apricot. There is a nice bite of hop bitterness and dryness for a bit of balance at the end. It is definitely not boozy, which is probably the most common misstep when it comes to Imperial NEIPAs. The Ursicle is a kettle sour meant to mimic the bomb pop. It does the trick with cherry sweetness, raspberry tartness, and a little lime pith for finish.
The Angel of the Odd is a dark farmhouse saison that really does a number on my mind. Because Dave is a master yeast manipulator, he has infused the flavors of a chocolate covered raspberry in this beer. It is akin to a Duchess De Bourgogne and has a pleasing vinous nature.
Dave is brewer but really prides himself of being a fermenter. He loves all things fermented and not just beer. While hee is a purist when it comes to brewing, he is quite fascinated with Kviek yeast-a phenomenon that has a lot of brewers giddy and curious. Kviek yeast is a Norwegian strain of yeast that goes back hundreds of years. Brewers have probably been playing with it for about 5 years, but you have started to see it advertised in beers more recently. Dave turned me onto a few sources to learn more about this Kviek yeast: Bootleg Biology and Larsblog if you want to learn more about it.
For every brewer that brews solely trendy pastry stouts, has 4 hazy IPAs on tap, and loves to kick out mediocre kettle sours, I wish we had 50 Dave Olsons. Dave is tirelessly trying to brew beers of high quality and consistency. He is one of the more creative brewers I have had the pleasure of meeting on my many beercations, and I am happy that I got a chance to talk beer with him.
In a way, this being my last Denver article is a little melancholy. I learn so much in this amazing craft beer mecca every time I visit. I still have more to see and learn in Denver, but time is never infinite on my beercations. There are always more places to go and somewhat strict timelines that I need to adhere to. However, I am not headed back to MN but rather onto more beercation fun in Fort Collins. Prost!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .