A Beer-Soaked Sun-Drenched Golden Colorado Weekend

My Golden Colorado Weekend

For Labor Day Weekend, I flew out to Denver for the first time in nine years (still can’t believe it’s been that long) to see Roger – my best friend from high school and early college years – get married. He is a fellow beer lover and he and his friends do some serious brewing. Not long ago around the time of the wildfires that struck Colorado Springs, he lost a 25 gallon batch that he was working on. His friend Tim (who served as Best Man at the wedding) works at one of the local brew shops and they lost a 50 gallon batch. Heartbreaking indeed. I felt terrible when I heard the news. All I’m doing is little 5 gallon batches and anything that goes awry or out of order with anything I do is a serious problem. And I mean that wholeheartedly. I really felt bad when I heard that news. I mean, my troubles seemingly pale in comparison. Anyway, enough empathy and back to the gist of my story.

I took my lady Sonia with me because I wanted her to meet Roger and family as well as experience Colorado. We landed in Denver, picked up a rental car and headed to Golden, about 15-20 minutes outside of the city. Before I go any further, I have to address something I heard on the tram as we headed from the terminal to the rental car place. Over the PA came one of those PSAs that plugs the local area for all would-be tourists. What I heard was “Did you know? Colorado has over 180 different breweries.” Stop the presses! You had me at 180. Sonia’s eyes rolled and she said under her breath “oh god” knowing full well the chaos that I was about to venture into. Looking at me she could see my eyes light up like a kid in a candy store. If the state has that many breweries, by God I’m gonna try and hit every one of them. Yeah, good luck. We checked into the Table Mountain Inn, a great hotel with a rustic side to it, located on Washington Avenue just down the street from the world-famous “Welcome to Golden” arch that stands over the street in the middle of town. As soon as we got checked in, I made my way to the curb and started walking around town.

Ace-Hi Tavern

Just down the street from the hotel (and not far from that arched sign) was the Ace-Hi Tavern, I walked in and sat down at the bar. Roger had mentioned this place before, told me it was a good spot to hit. He was right. The bartender greeted me and I ordered a beer from her. She seemed quite personable, as most of the places I’ve been to in recent past they just take your order and then your money before you get your drink. There were a couple old school bikers seated down the bar from me, and after a few glances we spoke. The vibe I immediately got from the place was that of a classic dive bar, right in the middle of a nice little town that brings in plenty of guests. Ace-Hi had just celebrated its 50th anniversary back in Sept of 2010. With that kind of longevity you have to imagine they have a successful business model. And with operating hours from 7am-2am, it’s also hard not imagine a steady stream of business all day long. Many a beer drinker scoff at the rule of waiting until noon to imbibe (it’s always 12:00 somewhere). And it doesn’t hurt having the Coors Brewery being practically right across the street. It’s not hard to imagine plenty of people stopping in before or after a brewery tour there.

Colorado Native Lager

On that note, I got to sample one of their beers. I was a little apprehensive, because I know what Coors beer tastes like, but this was a special limited release. This beer is brewed and only available in Colorado, and was appropriately called “Colorado Native Lager.” It was an amber/red lager and was 5.5% ABV. Official disclaimer – This isn’t officially a Coors beer, it is brewed by the AC Golden Brewery, but it is a subsidiary of Coors. Minor technicality I suppose. The beer was actually quite nice, I grabbed a pint right off the tap and got a clear amber/light brown lager that didn’t pour much head, but retained a nice white ring throughout consumption. The aroma was a bit grassy and slightly hoppy, but the flavor that came was rooted in caramel. Toasted malt grains began the flavor profile, but soon after a slight hop presence began to linger in the back of my mouth. This is pretty good. And at 5.5% it is fairly strong but not overly boozy. I only had a couple of these while waiting for my lady to catch up. We were about to tour around. I made myself a promise to revisit the Ace-Hi later in my stay. For a quick lunch, we stopped into the Table Mountain Grill & Cantina, the restaurant/bar connected to the hotel. I got my hands on a pint of Mojo Nitro IPA from Boulder Beer Co. (review coming soon) and we split a massive grilled chicken taco salad.

The rehearsal dinner was prefaced by a gathering at Roger’s parent’s house, a beautiful home in the giant hills of Evergreen. There, we enjoyed a plethora of hors d’oeuvres and a few coolers loaded with beers that Roger and Tim have brewed. Looking into each cooler, I noticed bottle caps that were labeled with the brew’s initials in permanent marker. Editor’s Note – Irv and I do the same thing when we brew. Well, I guess great brewing minds think alike. My first jaunt was a Strawberry Blonde. The color was a golden amber and the aroma was malty sweet and hinted at some faint strawberry. This beer was so well-concocted and easy going down that it could have been brewed by one of the breweries in the area. The flavor was smooth and delicious, it was light and crisp, but offered some sweetness and a nice lingering strawberry undertone. Even the ladies were rushing like mad to get this one, even those that were drinking wine. Next up was the Imperial Pilsner, a high gravity brew that was more amber and brown than golden. It was delicious though. I kept wanting to go back and try the Chocolate Stout, but every time I was distracted by another variety looking up at me. “Soon enough,” I told myself. After finishing my IP (as the bottle cap displayed) it was time for the Oktoberfest. The time is just about right for it. This was a good dark amber color and the taste was rife with caramel goodness. Very indicative of a good Oktoberfest beer.

After another round of beer and finger food on the edge of the patio overlooking a beautifully scenic mountainous backdrop, I went back to the cooler for the vaunted chocolate stout that everyone was thus far raving about. And just my luck, I kept putting it off and was left out in the cold when I discovered there were no more to be found. Curses! So due to my procrastination, I had no choice but to go back to the other varieties I had already enjoyed. After the rehearsal dinner moved to the Creekside Cellars Winery, also in Golden, the group enjoyed a delightful dinner and selection of wine. After that had finished, we all returned to the Table Mountain Inn where we were staying. Roger said we needed to have a nightcap so I ventured to his room and we caught up on old times and talked over beers. It was there that I was finally able to get my hands on that elusive chocolate stout. The wait was worth it. Delicious!

Alaskan Amber –  Alaskan Brewing Co

The wedding went off in fine fashion at the Mount Vernon Event Center, hosting a beautiful lawn area adorned with chairs and another mountainous backdrop. This place is spectacular. During the reception, we had a nice selection of beer and wine. I went for the Alaskan Amber first. This is an altbier from the Alaska Brewing Co. that checks in at 5.3% and has a strong malty body with a very subtle hop finish. Bread, caramel and toffee were the primary forces on this one. Crisp at the end, but the relative hop presence just wasn’t there. Tasty though. Also on tap was Blue Moon and Coors Light. After the reception ended and the crowds had cleared out, another nightcap was proposed. You only live once right? We returned to the Table Mountain for a short stay before they closed. I was finally able to try Batch 19 by Coors – a beer rumored to be so limited that you can only get it in the area. This was an impressive brew for this particular label. I wasn’t expecting something like this. Batch 19 is a pre-Prohibition style American lager that has a bold taste, especially when compared to their other offerings. Grains and malty sweetness drive this one, but the hops don’t sit quietly in the backseat like obedient children. The rare combination of Hersbrucker and Strisslespalt hops give this a much different palate than anything I would expect from Coors. It is light on the tongue and offers a tingly carbonation on top of a medium mouthfeel.

When the place closed early, we decided to finish the nightcap back at the Ace-Hi. All it took was a can or two of Oscar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale and my turn to get on the pool table before we wound up closing the place. The night was over, as was my vacation. the following morning, we it the airport and flew back to Jersey. I had a blast and made a promise to myself and Sonia that we wouldn’t wait another 9 years before going back out there. I have yet to even scratch the surface when it comes to all those breweries. Soon enough, right?

About Jason M

Texas Style - Having grown up down south, I've grown an appreciation for the "bigger is better" mantra. Bigger and bolder flavor is something I crave in my beers. Some people are hop-heads, all they drink are IPA's and other hoppy beers. Others are big on wheat beers. Some like it dark. Me? I'm an all-the-above kind of guy. I've had a love for all varieties since I was young and that has not changed. Good beer is good beer.

I'm constantly seeking out the latest and greatest new variety, because despite having an old-time favorite beer, drinking the same old flavors over and over gets old. That being said, I've got to try something new, explore my boundaries. After all, variety is the spice of life, no?

Favorite Beers - Unibroue La Fin du Monde, Founders Backwoods Bastard, Schlafly Oak Aged Barleywine

Find me on Untappd.com

Comments

  1. Tim Williams says:

    Jason,
    I’m glad you had a great trip out this way. It was great to meet you. Thanks for the kind words about our beers. We thoroughly enjoy our brew days and have been talking about doing a brew day, with you, where we make the same beer on different halves of the country, then swap a 6er through the mail with you. Yesterday, we made a Vanilla Porter and a Pumpkin Pie Porter. I read your partner’s review of pumpkin beers. We used the same base for both beers, Gleneagle Maris Otter and Munich Malz with specialty grains, then added 4 lbs of pupmkin + spices to a 5 gal batch. So delicious before the ferment. Hope you’re well.
    -Tim

  2. Tim Williams says:

    P.S. If you guys want me to research any of Colorado’s great breweries or beers that you can’t get on the east coast, let me know. All for the sake of research, right?

  3. Tim,
    No problem man. I love brewing beer almost as much as I love drinking it. Judging by what I tasted over that weekend, the bar is already set pretty high if we’re going to talk home brewed beer trades. I’ll make sure that me and my guys are up to doing some good brews together. I’ve been mentioning another team brewing for a while know and I think we have something in the works for wintertime. But that “brew and trade” idea is a good one.

    Regarding acquisition of local brews, I’m all for it. I just got back from Dallas Monday where I spent four days for yet another wedding – that makes 4 weddings in a span of 6 weeks. Came back with 6 bombers tightly packed in my suitcase. A couple of them you can find around town if you knew where to look, but most were local to Texas and hard (if not impossible) to find up here. We will also return the favor if you want something from up here. There are a number of great breweries in the Tri-State area (NY, NJ, PA) that we have enjoyed. Cheers!

    • Tim Williams says:

      Hey Jason. Are you ok after the hurricane? Hope you are well stocked. I’m doing research on when is the best time to harvest spruce tips for an all Colorado, semi-foraged beer and I just thought of you and yours on the east coast. Haven’t found much yet on the spruce. If you know any good tips, let me know. I read that there’s really only a 7-10 day window that you should pick them, but can’t figure when those ten are. If I can find out, I’ll pick some for yall to use and send them out to ya. It’ll probably have to be in the spring, but that just gives me time to figure things out and compare recipes. Since I saw you last, I’ve made my Chocolate-Cherry Imperial Stout, a Coffee Brown ale, a Christmas Spiced barley wine, a Dale’s Pale Ale clone, a Lager out of the hops from Roger’s cake, a Saison, Vanilla Porter, Pumpkin-Pie Porter, a Schwartzbier and a Smoked American Black Ale. It didn’t seem like much, until I typed it out. Ahhh, I love beer!

  4. That’s awesome bro! That chocolate cherry stout sounds phenomenal. My bro Jay (the other drinker named Jason on this site) was wanting to brew something very similar to that. I’ll have to do some research and see what I can find out about the spruce tips. As a side note, how did I miss the hops from Roger’s wedding cake? I don’t remember anyone mentioning that while we were eating it. Then again, we were all pretty toasty by that point. Keep in touch about the possible beer trade idea you floated out there. I’m gonna try and get the guys together and brew some more goodness. Cheers!

  5. Forgot to mention the storm. We’re holding up ok. Got no power, haven’t had it since Monday at 9pm. I took proactive measures and stowed several beers in the freezer. As of right now, they’re refrigerator cold. Been getting plenty of use out of my hand-crank flashlight. It’s relatively new, got it a couple years ago and it’s brighter than most of the battery powered ones. Still, I can’t wait for power to be restored. Saw that list of goodness you posted before. That fired me up. Time to kick it up a notch. Looks I’ve got some brewing to do!

  6. Tim Williams says:

    The hops were around the cake and on top of the bottom layer. I don’t know what kind they were, but the beer has turned out good. Bottling that tonight and our Vanilla Porter. I found quite a bit on the spruce tips on a old-school brewing site. Now I’m working on more local things to forage for a beer. I’m thinking wild mushroom and rose hips or sumac in a wheat. Maybe a pine nut brown. Free ingredients means I can pay for more grain, right? Also, pre-ordering hop rhizomes for the spring melt. Making an Alt tomorrow and making 5 gal “special” So glad to hear you’re ok. Roger mentioned that you had flooding. Come on power! I’m down to trade. Sitting on a bunch of cases of beer and as I already mentioned, ten gal to bottle tonight. Just got another Corny keg today. Ain’t life grand?

  7. I’ve got a corny keg, it’s part of my kegerator project that I’m working on. In it is the Whiskey Barrel Porter that we brewed a while back. It’s tasty, although I need to recharge the CO2 tank. I should get a bigger one to be honest, all I have is a 5 pounder. Thinking about upgrading to 10 or 20. Once I buy that fridge I can take the keg, buy a couple more and be ready to assemble my kegerator. I’ve already got the shanks, faucets and other hardware. Hopefully soon. That’s where I’ll be putting some of my brew that doesn’t get bottled.

    The flooding was bad in certain areas, but luckily we escaped it by a few blocks. Still no power after a week. No heat either and it’s getting chilly outside. That nor’easter is wreaking havoc on us already. We’ll tough it out though. Hope I can back online soon. I’ve got more brewing and such to do…

  8. I have full sized kegerator that holds two 5 gal carboys for lagering and 4 cornies, but only have two cornies . I’m not sure, but looking at the box that already came from my parents for Christmas sure looks like a third. Gotta love parents who buy you cool stuff for your favorite hobby. My only problem is that when I brew with Roger, he doesn’t have one. I end up splitting batches with him and there’s not enough to put into a 5 gal if he takes half, so we bottle a bunch still. Not to correct you, but when I told you of my 50 gal going south this summer, it actually was 7 batches, some 5 some 10 gal that got contaminated. The first one that got bottled before we caught it, has a pellicle ring around the top of the bottles as well as the fluid level dropped a bit. I’m sure it is a brettanomyces contamination. It’s taken on a cider+barnyard funk taste that isn’t half bad. I’m kinda pissed I poured out the rest instead of trying to save it. I quit working at the lhbs because my old boss is a douche and, amazingly so, there hasn’t been an issue since.(at least 40 gal, all good!) I hope your power comes back soon so you can combat the cold. It’s been down in the 20’s up here with snow forecast for this weekend. We’re making ten gal of what I call Tim’s Stoned Brown Ale. It’s a northern english brown ale, with a little extra base malt and the hop schedule from Stone Pale Ale(Columbus and Ahtanum). I figured that’s what Stone would do to a brown. I made two Altbier recipes this past weekend for the kegs. Hopefuly they’ll be ready for Thanksgiving, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m glad we’ve been able to keep in touch. It’s nice to have another beer nerd to talk brewing with. Take care. -Tim

  9. P.S. You’ve gotta come out next year for the GABF. It’s awesome!

  10. Sweet. Sounds like I’ve got some work to do back east. I’ve been wanting to bridge the gap between partial mash and all-grain. Now seems like a good time to get started. We’re supposed to have a group brewing supposed to go down soon, but I’d also like to do some on my own, sort of hone my craft. Practice makes perfect, right? Besides, the end result is always worth it. I love to savor the fruits of my labor.

    Are you using anything like Beersmith when you brew, or are you just going by “feel” like so many cooks often do? I was looking into getting that, thought it would be a good asset. Then again, I’ve got a stack of medal winning all-grain recipes I was able to find online. One way to find out which avenue I want to travel – get to brewing! Speaking of which, I got my hands on a KBS clone recipe (Founders KBS – Nectar of the Gods) and already I’m excited about the idea of doing that. And speaking of gifts from parents, that’s how I got my current setup. They sent it to me as a xmas present. I called to thank them, got my mom and she had no idea what I was talking about. Pretty sure this was my father’s doing. He used to brew beer when we were stationed in England between ’81 & ’83. Chip off the ol’ block perhaps?

  11. Give me the dates and I’ll try to make it out there. Maybe bring some of the guys too. Is Roger going to be pouring again?

  12. I browse recipes if there’s something traditional that I want to brew, but brewing 67 batches since last October 27th and a summer at the hbs, I have a pretty good idea on how to write my own. Every award winner can be tweaked so you can win your own, right? Those guys started with some recipe, too. I will put the recipe in to the calculator on tastybrew.com but only to make sure that I hit my numbers and haven’t messed anything up. I’ve never tried KBS, but it sounds like I should look into it. The GABF is October 10-12, 2013 Roger, Christie, Lisa and I all went to it this year and we had a great time. I think I got my money’s worth, even at $65 a head. So, no. He’s going to be drinking, not pouring. That’s awesome that your father was a homebrewer. My dad told me about a horrible batch he made back in the late 70’s that made him quit drinking the stuff until I had him bring me some of Bell’s Cherry Stout. I also recall him wiping down the walls in the garage after a batch of wine blew up on him. He drinks what he likes and doesn’t try much else, unless he comes here and he has to! When you partial-mash, what’s the process? Is it like a kit, but with extra base grain and less malt extract? I went from a few kits to all-grain pretty quick. My first all-grain was a Belgian Strong Golden Ale and I was hooked after that. All we need is a 15 gal boil kettle and a few connectors to hook it up to the new counter-flow chiller I just picked up. My hobbies are taking over the house and the shed. We’re brewing a nice Brown ale tomorrow and bottling 15 or 20 gal, depending on time and energy.

  13. I just had Lagunitas Brown Suga Barley Wine. You need to try it.

  14. I had a period not long ago where I went through a lot of barley wines. I will have to give this one a shot. Thanks…

    • Tim Williams says:

      Howdy Jason! How’ve you been? I am trying to avoid F-book today and instead of finishing up my brew kettle cleaning, I came to see what you were up to. I’ve been out and about lately, with summer finally showing up out this way, and I found another Golden brewery that you need to try. Golden City Brewing is the second largest one in Golden. They are a rather small brewery, just off the creek and only six blocks from the Table Mountain Inn. Their selection is not very big, but they make up it in flavor. Their Unsinkable Molly Brown is a nice version of a northern English Brown Ale. Their Red is a Dusseldorf Altbier with a very malty taste and crisp hoppy finish, even though it’s more brown than red. The beer that impressed me the most was their IPA. It had hints of mango with a huge citrus nose. I’d say they use a bunch of Citra hops in it, but my friend and I headed for the hills to drink for free, instead of fighting the growing crowd, before I could ask the brewer. My friend has an Alaskan Malamute(sp?) and Big Frank wasn’t digging the heat. Back at my house, we delved into the cellar and went a little crazy. We went on a Belgian fest! We started with what was on tap, a Mosaic hopped Bavarian Hefewiezen and followed that up with a pitcher or so of my 9.2% IIPA. I gave the rep from New Belgium a taste and he that it was almost a dead ringer for their new IIPA, Rampant.(also delicious) We went from there to a run of 6 different Belgians that I’ve brewed and ended up the day with my, yet un-named Russian Imperial Rye Stout. An amazing end to a great day. It’s time to go now and bottle our 9.2% Blood Orange Saison and keg up a Strawberry-Orange Blonde ale. That one is the same recipe as last year’s Strawberry blonde, just adding orange to it as well as switching the yeast from dry Munton’s Premium Gold to San Diego Super yeast. I dislike the super low flocculation of the San Diego, but the stuff works fast! Time to invest in a filtration system, I guess. Happy drinking!
      -Tim

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