I was in the thick of it now. Delicious new craft beer at every turn. With the weekend coming and the realization that on 4th of July, many breweries would be closed, I felt a self-imposed pressure to up the number of places I was going to try over the next couple of days. I do not want to downplay the fact that I was making significant progress in crossing off places on my list and feeling like I was making at least a good-sized dent in the Denver craft beer landscape. Perhaps more importantly, I was having an incredible time. The trip, so far, has surpassed every hope that I had for a tremendous experience. With each new taproom, a unique drinking experience. So, without further ado, here are some new places I discovered on my beer odyssey.
Fermaentra Brewery and Taproom is located a bit south of Denver. As it was my first stop of the day, I was one of two customers there. As I walked in, several of my senses were immediately dazzled by the unmistakable sweet smell of malt in the air. The brewer was hard at work brewing up some delicious beer. There was also a wild array of amazing artwork on the walls. It makes a lot of sense to have cool stuff on the walls of a place to enjoy a beer. So many times, if I am at a bar, the decor is beer signage and neon lights. That is all well and good, but being able to be drinking craft beer that makes you think and combining that with awesome art that is exciting is truly a match made in beer and art heaven. Of the six beers I tried at Fermaentra, the Mosaic IPA and Belgian Quad were my favorites. They were stark contrasts in style and ABV, but distinct in their flavors and styles. The Systemic, a Mosaic IPA had a refreshing and crisp nature that could have easily tempted me to order another one. The Quixotic, Belgian Quad, had a nice sweetness to it to balance out the alcohol. The dark fruit flavors along with the aromas of spices made this a very memorable brew. For only being open for seven months, Fermaentra has good things going on and feels like it will be around for a long time.
The next stop is a smaller brewery in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver that has a similar feel to Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Lots of cool shops and restaurants surrounded De Steeg Brewing Company, which is tucked in the back of a building opening up to a small patio in the alley. I remember thinking how awesome it would be to live across the alley from a brewery as I approached the place. De Steeg is not a huge place, but I could tell it was a popular place. I grabbed a seat at the bar and got a menu and a glass of water. This was going to be the meeting location for my second beer trade and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try some of the offerings while I waited for my trading partner. On the smaller side of things, De Steeg brews around 150 barrels a year on a very small system. Their beers are only available at the taproom, which has a cozy feel to it. Their beer offerings consist of quality representations of several styles. I ordered 6 tasters and soon found out that De Steeg balances out the smaller brewing capacity and taproom space with big flavors in the beer. I was really blown away by the quality of everything that I tasted. I know that you are probably thinking that I have said that a lot in Denver, but it is true; the beer in this city is amazing. The French Saison had a refreshing and clean white wine quality to it, but was balanced out by a defined alcohol presence that evoked almost a comparison to a Belgian Tripel. The Gewurztraminer Ale was impeccably crafted to maintain the delicate nature of Gewurztraminer wine while having the crisp and effervescent mouthfeel of an ale. The prize winner for me was the Belgian Special. A 10.5% ABV beer that is aged for six months and is malty and smooth. In chatting with one of the owners, Craig Rothgery, I understood that the passion for quality beer and a great experience is the driving force behind De Steeg’s success. This is absolutely a must if you are coming to Denver. You will want to hang out and chat with people from the area while you savor every sip of their high-quality craft beer offerings. The whole time I was there, people were trickling in and by the time I left, the inside was pretty full.
My next stop brought me to Wits End, a brewery tucked in away in an industrial small warehouse building. Open since fall of 2011, Wits End has some very decent beers. The taproom is festooned with malted barley bags and it has a nice area for people to sit outside as well as ample space inside. I had heard good things about Wits End, but did not know that they were boasting a 2014 GABF Gold Medal Winning beer in their Jean-Claude Van Blond, a Belgian Style Blond Ale. That is not the only great beer in their lineup, however. I also really enjoyed their Miami Berliner Vice, a citrusy, tangy and refreshing beer that really danced on my tongue much like the Miami Vice theme song dances on your eardrums. Not that I would revel in another person’s misfortune, but I am glad that the owner, Scott Witsoe, was laid off from his former job because he has started something pretty great in Wits End.
In somewhat of an ironic last stop, I drove through quite the rainstorm to get to Dry Dock Brewing Company. This was the last stop of my beer trip back in 2014 and in all fairness to Dry Dock, I was kind of beered out so I had to reacquaint myself with their beer. I am sure glad I did because they brew great beer. Our server, who was incredibly helpful in giving us some history of the brewery, is also a blogger for Brewtally Insane, a beer blog that focuses on the Denver beer scene. I ordered a six beer tasting flight and can honestly say that I like all of them. I can see why Dry Dock has enjoyed success for just under a decade. I was lucky enough to try their Hefeweizen, which won a Gold Medal at the 2011 GABF. My other favorites were the Die Ziege Helles and Vanilla Porter. The Helles had a great aroma with a touch of honey. The Vanilla Porter was smooth and balanced and something that I would definitely put among my favorite porters of all time. We enjoyed popcorn, I bought an awesome tin sign and survived being in the auditory range of a woman who possibly had the most annoying cackle/laugh ever. The perfect ending to a busy but memorable day. Stay tuned for Part 5 of my Denver journey. Prost!