Colorado – Day 2
We woke up in Denver and headed toward Colorado Springs for some morning beers. I don’t often find myself in awe of my surroundings, but the drive to our first brewery was unlike any other drive. The sun was shining bright as those mammoth mountains stood with snow-capped peaks, far better than any postcard could do justice. You couldn’t help but be in awe and be thankful for beauty like that.
It’s really no wonder that a place like that inspires such great beers.
#16. Pikes Peak, Monument, CO – Mar. 13
What a great place for our first beer of the day. Again, the scenery is ever-present surrounding this brewery, and it’s pretty perfect for a brewery named after a mountain. It was a great little place with a bar and some tables. It was 4 days before Saint Patty’s Day, so the bar was decked out in typical holiday décor.
The bartender told us about their annual Saint Patty’s Day leprechaun contest. Apparently, lots of people get dressed up as leprechauns, and they pick the best one to be their leprechaun for the ENTIRE YEAR. The bartender told us that this person ends up being an honorary employee for the year. The catch is, every time this person has an event or has to work at the brewery, they have to wear their leprechaun gear! (Or so the bartender told us… But I’m pretty sure this is the full truth!)
Oh, and last year’s leprechaun has to get the new leprechaun a gift. One of the years, the old leprechaun got the winner a 50 pound bag of potatoes. The bartender told us that the potatoes were being passed out to people as they left. Fifty pounds is a LOT of potatoes!
Anyway, onto the beers! I tried 4. One, I didn’t rate. Oops! And the others were a 3.5, 4, and 4.5. Winners! My favorite was a seasonal they brewed just for Saint Patty’s Day – Pike O’ The Peak 2014. It was an Irish Red. And I’m pretty sure that’s the highest I’ve ever rated an Irish Red. Well done!
Not a Brewery, But Absolutely Noteworthy!:
After we left the brewery, we needed some caffeine. We had a long day ahead of us and we needed our morning jolt. We walked into Wesley Owens Coffee Shop, and I walked out a changed person. Changed. Person. I just wanted a great cup of coffee. I told the woman working that I had never been there and asked for the best thing on the menu. She told me to go for the Red Tea Latte. Tea? “Wah,” I thought. I needed more of a buzz to wake me up from my other buzz! I like tea. But I wanted coffee. But the barista confidently insisted that I NEEDED to try it if I tried one thing. So I ordered it, ignoring the literally freshly roasted beans that were calling my name.
So I see her making this drink, and I’m confused… (Let’s be honest… It doesn’t always take much to confuse me.) She was using an espresso machine. And there was no tamping. “Whaaaaat?!” Of course, being a coffee geek (who is still ALWAYS learning), I’m asking questions. It turns out, this drink is actually made using rooibos tea leaves that are finely ground to an “espresso” grind. (Roobios tea that is finely ground is sometimes called “red espresso”.) The finer grind allows for more surface area for the water to become more saturated with the flavors, just like it would with espresso ground coffee. There is no need to tamp, as tea leaves are intended to be steeped. Channeling or under-extraction aren’t factors here, as they would be in not tamping espresso.
After the barista pulled the shot of tea, she put it into a cup where she added some honey and some cinnamon, and then added steamed milk topped with foam and a final dash of cinnamon.
This was probably one of the best handcrafted beverages I have ever experienced! And part of my job is creating handcrafted beverages for a living! Mind. Blown. (Check out their Red Tea Latte!)
Because rooibos tea is herbal, there was actually no caffeine in my drink. But the honey helped give me the little boost I needed. True tea that comes from tea leaves is naturally caffeinated. Herbal teas are the only true non-caffeinated teas, as these “teas” don’t actually come from tea leaves, but rather from the flowers of other plants. (Decaffeinated teas are natural teas where most, but not all, of the caffeine has been removed.)
From here, we left to hit our 17th brewery of the year.
#17. Bristol Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, CO – Mar. 13
The beer here was nothing spectacular – all 3’s and 3.5’s on my list. I tried six different beers, and the Laughing Lab Scottish Ale and the Winter Warlock Oatmeal Stout were my two favorites. One impressive and unique feature was the homemade spent grain chips they served, free of charge. I honestly didn’t expect them to be good, but after the first one, I couldn’t stop eating them! They were served in a silver dog food bowl with a sticker of the “Laughing Lab” dog on it.
The location of the brewery is what really stood out to me. This brewery resides inside an old elementary schoolhouse. It was a really neat place to check out.
The schoolhouse is called Ivywild School, and it houses a community marketplace. We ordered sandwiches from The Meat Locker Deli inside the school, which were delivered to us at the brewery’s bar. (It was excellent food, by the way.) The bread used on our sandwiches came from The Old School Bakery, also residing in the schoolhouse. (Again – excellent.) There was an espresso bar/whiskey bar called The Principal’s Office where I got my post-beer caffeine fix via an outstanding $4 2 ounce iced Sumatra espresso shot. Well worth it! And there was a tiny market area called Hunt or Gather, where I bought some local honey.
#18. Red Leg, Colorado Springs, CO – Mar. 13
Red Leg Brewing is a veteran owned and operated brewery that opened a little less than a year ago on the 4th of July. My husband is a Marine and was excited to check it out. I think I tried everything they had to offer, because my Untappd account tells me I had eight beers there! 3.5-4.5 stars on Untappd. The favorite at 4.5 was the Devil Dog Stout – pretty fitting for having a Marine for a husband!
They had a decent variety – a pils, wit, IPA, two brown ales, two stouts, and an amber. The décor was pretty fitting also. There was a wall on the side that had different colored wood blocks to form a digital camouflage effect and there were framed photos of their beers in tasting glasses in front of an American flag and with little green Army men.
We left the brewery to go meet up with Ben’s friend at his home in Colorado Springs. Seth had the pleasure of being Ben’s roomie in California and Afghanistan. (Sorry, Seth!) We spent a good chunk of the evening at Seth’s house and met his wife and adorable kids! Then, we ventured out with them to our last brewery of the night.
#19. Phantom Canyon, Colorado Springs, CO – Mar. 13
This was a pretty decent sized brewpub with some really tasty food. I only had two beers here – the Baron Saturday (Belgian Brown), which I didn’t rate, and the Fat And Lazy, a sour that I rated an uncommon 4.5. Although I enjoy all types of beer, you’ll sometimes find that I stray away from rating some Belgians.
Belgian yeasts can often produce banana esters. And I shit you not, I have this banana-sensitivity super-sense. (This is a legitimate thing. But I do get the occasional weird look when I tell people about it.) I’ll occasionally drink beers where no one else can detect banana, and I’ll find banana in it. Some BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) judges actually bow out of judging certain beer categories because of this hyper-sensitivity. This is why I prefer not to rate anything I sense with this flavor.
(Also noteworthy is that banana flavors or esters can sometimes be unwanted off-flavors produced by ale yeast. These unintended flavors can come about when beer has been fermented at too high of a temperature.)
Additional fun “Janee and banana” facts: Number one – I don’t even like banana flavor. Number two – I still eat several bananas a week because of the health and nutritional benefits. And number three – The most popular beverage I created for work is banana puree based. Go figure.
Blog Fuel: Amstel Light (for off-flavor taste testing!) and Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout.