Away from the thirsty hordes gathered at the Colorado Convention Center for the Great American Beer Festival, AmericanCraftBeer.com joined others for an afternoon bus tour of Denver. The trip was led by Katie Converse and Debroah Park of the “Visit Denver” Tourism Bureau along with our emcee Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewers Guild. The Guild, founded in 1995, seeks “to promote the quality and diversity of the growing Colorado craft brewing industry”. Steve led a great discussion of the continuing development of the Denver craft beer market while we drove to our first destination, Renegade Brewing.
Due to the sheer number of breweries in Denver proper (now at more than 20) Steve advised us to pay attention to the unique niche that each of the newer breweries are taking up in order to stand out in an ever growing market.
Founded last year in the Santa Fe Arts District, Renegade was started in a space that used to be a milk factory.Founded last year in the Santa Fe Arts District, Renegade was started in a space that used to be a milk factory by Brian and Khara O’Connell who decided to share their homemade recipes with all of Denver. During a tour of the brewing facilities and friendly taproom we tourists got to taste their flagship ale, Ryeteous Rye IPA, canned for distribution for the first time this summer. Next was Hammer and Sickle Russian Imperial Stout, with a dark roast coffee and full body this beer left you with hints of chocolate and nice hoppy finish. Finally, we had samples of Renegade’s supercharged Elevation Triple IPA made with Summit hops. This guy weighs in at 11.2% ABV and 100 IBU’s! Why can’t we just stay here a bit longer? But we were off!
“English Steve” describes bringing this style to American palates: “You can make a beer that has presence, body, (and) mouthful but at the same point you don’t have to make a 9% beer.” Moving West, we headed to the residential Slo-Hi neighborhood to meet Jeff Kipp and Steve Kirby, two of the owners of Hogshead Brewing. Just opened the week before our visit, Hogshead is set up in a renovated 1950’s gas station and that’s not all that makes them unique. Head Brewer Steve Kirby is a native of the United Kingdom and decided that what Denver needs is a brewery that serves Real Ale. Yes, British beer has landed in Denver in the form of naturally carbonated cask ale. “English Steve” describes bringing this style to American palates: “You can make a beer that has presence, body, (and) mouthful but at the same point you don’t have to make a 9% beer.” Indeed all of Hogshead’s beers are sessionable with their biggest beer, the Chin Wag, weighing in at 5.4%. Samples included a porter, Gilpin Black Gold, and naturally an English Bitter, Lake Lightning.
Prost Brewing uses enormous 72.5 barrel copper kettles that were made in Germany in 1963. Our last stop was to the LoHi neighborhood and another newly opened establishment, Prost Brewery. Prost brews only, you guessed it, traditional German beers, served in proper glassware in their two-story brewery and tap room. Almost as soon as we arrived, we were whisked into the back and up the stairs to the brewdeck to behold Head Brewer Bill Eye’s baby. Prost Brewing uses enormous 72.5 barrel copper kettles that were made in Germany in 1963. After the seller, a German brewery that had been in business for 350 years, decided to finally call it quits Bill and the Prost crew jumped at the chance to buy and ship the whole works to Denver and give the brewhouse a new life in the Rockies! Here the equipment has been reborn, creating German beers for a curious American palate while allowing Prost to perform some contract brewing also. Bill notes his enthusiasm for German beers is based on a belief that as craft beer grows generally, fans are going to be willing to try craft lager specifically. We tasted their Marzen and Pils and really wanted to stay but the bus ride back to downtown was calling!
The main takeaway of the tour, aside from the great beer and pleasant fall weather, was that Denver is really creating a craft beer scene for everyone. Its brewers are challenging craft beer fans to “drink outside the norm” and try new styles and varieties to keep their experience fresh and enjoyable. While we wished the tour was longer, there is no doubt a return trip is planned for next year’s GABF (or sooner!).