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Colorado Trip Day 2: Is this Oktoberfest?

So after a very fun filled first day in Colorado we awoke bright and early at 5 am.  Our bodies were not adjusted to the time difference and it found us awake way earlier than we probably would have like.  I tried to fall back asleep the best I could but the sound of Ed typing away on his laptop pretty much put a damper on that idea.  I conceded defeat and showered up.

Our first stop of the day was a beer store at the lovely hour of 8 am.  Yes they were open.  Yes we did look like drunkards.  I have to say I have honestly never bought beer this early in the morning.  But after making our purchases we had still a bit of time to kill before our next scheduled event.

We found ourselves hungry and driving through Longmont.  We followed the signs to the downtown and historic district of Longmont and drove down Main Street.  As we drove one sign in particular caught our eye.  It said Winchell’s Donut House.

It was really cool to see a small, independently owned donut shop like this one over one of the bigger corporate stores.  It shows mom and pop shops can still survive.  The selection was impressive and they all looked delicious.  So we got some goodies and scarfed down before heading to the first brewery of the day.

Right around now is when I realized that I had left my camera at our hotel room and I was quite bummed.  Sure I still had my phone but everyone knows that the iPhone sucks at taking pictures.

We pulled up to Left Hand Brewing’s tasting room a little after 10 am.  As soon as we walked in we saw a band setting up and were greeted very nicely by one of the bartenders.  He introduced himself and his female counterpart that would be manning (or wo-manning) the bar today.  And like absolute idiots none of us can remember there names.  This proved to be a recurring theme over the weekend.

We started things off with some samples of Warrior IPA Wet Hopped in a cask as well as Starsky & Scotch.  The later of the two is their own brewer’s contest winner that gets entered into the GABF competition.  Both were very good especially the brightness of the hops in the Warrior cask.

But that wasn’t it as we were treated to samples of 2008 Widdershins, Black Jack Porter on nitro, Oxymoron (their newest collaboration with Terrapin) as well as a side by side tasting of regular Milk Stout off tap and Milk Stout off nitro.  And you know who wins that battle every single time.

They also had a layout of breakfast burritos that were provided by a local establishment as well as a gentleman from a local cigar shop.  I couldn’t resist the urge for a burrito while Phil opted for a cigar to enjoy later on.

We ended our time at Left Hand by buying a few t-shirts and saying goodbye to the awesome people that served us our beer and answered some questions we had about the brewery.

Next up was the Tasty Weasel tasting room at Oskar Blues.  The tasting room reminded me a lot like the original Cigar City tasting room in that it was just some walls set up inside the actually brewery.  It was really cool looking.

We started with a flight of beers that included all their normal line and one goodie, Bourbon Barrel Aged Ten Fidy.  This was a very nice treat.

As we finished up our flight we were greeted by Adam, Ray and Chris from Fresh Beer.  After chit chatting for a little bit they got us someone that worked at the brewery to give us a tour of the operations.

We saw the brand new 100 barrel fermenters at work on Ten Fidy as well as the giant hole in the wall that they had to make to get them in.  The hole has been patched up with what looked like some plywood and a door.  Hopefully that works for when winter hits.

We had an opportunity to talk with their head brewmaster (again forgetting his name) and he showed us how everything in the actual brewing process is still manual with them.  There were no computers adding the ingredients.  He called it a very big home brew system.

Next we were taken over to canning line and this is what I was excited to see.  The day we were there they were canning Gubna and we watched as completely empty cans were sanitized, filled and topped all with in a few seconds.  Then at the end was a mechanism that is used for quality assurance.  It looked like it was an x-ray of sorts that looks through the can to ensure it is filled to a proper level.  If not it kicks the can off the line and into a recycling bin.

Now what ever do they do with those cans?  The beer is still good right?  Well I can say that a can ended up in each of our hands for a fact.  We cracked open the 1 minute old Gubna and enjoyed.  How many of you can say you have had that fresh of Gubna?

After our tour we headed off to Oskar Blues local restaurant, Home Made Liquids and Solids.  This was an awesome looking place with a big Dale’s Pale Ale style can as the water tower outside.  Really cool to see from the road.

Their draft selection was 42 taps with around 20 OB brews going and the rest as other great beers.  We got a couple flights that including special OB brews like ODB Barelywine, Some High Grade Smoke and Sour Cherry Barrel Aged Old Chub.  All of which were insanely good.

We also enjoyed some fried pickles and hot wings.  And those suckers were hot.  They used a Cayenne Old Chub sauce on them.  But once you got past the heat there was a really nice smokey flavor to the wings.  If you have a chance you have to try them.

So again it was time to leave as we heading back down south to Boulder and visited the Boulder Beer Company.  We were treated to some beers out on their patio before meeting a gentleman from the brewery (can you guess his name?) that offered to take us on a tour.

He showed us what he said were the original brew kettle and mash ton that the brewery used.  Imagine the bottle of Sam Adams Utopias just at full size.  There were even holes seemingly rusted in them which prompted my question if they still use them.  My question was seemingly mocked by our guide saying that wasn’t even a question.  I didn’t quite know how to take this response.

All the while Phil, who thought he saw a spider web in one of the kettles, put his hand in only to find water.  This got another sarcastic reply out of our guide saying that they would now have to re-sanitize.  Um if they still are in use you are going to boil the water.

Anyway we were shown around the rest of the facilities including their canning line which consisted of a person manually grabbing two sanitized cans and filling them by hand.  Then using a capper to top them.  Not as efficient as Oskar Blues but Boulder only cans one beer and it’s only distributed locally.

We chatted a bit with our guide and an interested “fact” he told us was that Florida is Boulder’s number two market.  We were kind of shocked to hear that and can’t really confirm it other than from him.  Even Fresh Beer guys didn’t know this.

Well we wrapped up things and Boulder and headed back to Denver.  The guys dropped me off at the hotel so I could take a nap while they went and picked up up Tony from the airport.

That night we all headed over to Great Divide Brewing company and met our friend Amie for some brews.  We were told there was going to be a little event going on and I love me some Great Divide beers so I was excited.

When we arrived I was disappointed to find that the beer list wasn’t all that impressive.  Yes it had all the GD beers I have come to love like Hercules, Yeti and Titan but there was nothing out of this world or any crazy treatments.  None of the barrel aged versions of Yeti were available and the only thing sort of cool was Rumble on cask.

You were allowed to self tour the brewery yourself and that was pretty cool and chalk markings on the ground guided you in the direction of the patio out back.  They obviously don’t have much space in this downtown brewery so it is pretty awesome that they make all this beer to distribute.

Once outside there really wasn’t much going on.  There were more taps and some people hanging out but that was about it.  Tony bought an over priced braut and we decided to take a walk to Falling Rock Tap House.

After walking right by Coors Field we arrived at Falling Rock.  It looks like a loading dock for shipments to be dropped off but the dock is full of tables.  This place was an absolutely mob scene.  The bar is the (un)official after party of the GABF sessions and it was about the time of the night session on Friday letting out.

We met Stevie and Lee from Ladies of Craft Beer and Hoptopia respectively but we by this point were so hungry that we made a bee line to inside and see if any tables were available.  I apologize for our behavior.

No tables were to be found so we order beers.  I had the Monk’s Cafe Flemish Red and very much enjoyed it.  But the crowd was getting bigger and louder and we were still hungry.  So our time at Falling Rock was very short.  Next time we go back it will have to be during the day so we can enjoy it more.

While walking and looking for food we walked into what seemed like a block party going on.  And then it became clear what was going on.  It was Oktoberfest, Denver style.  While we are use to going to the German American Club and paying to get into the festival this was open to the public and you just bought things as you went.

So we made our way through the human see and had dinner at a less than stellar high scale pizza place.  I won’t go into it too much because it was absolutely forgettable.

After eating we went right next door to Star Bar that was suppose to be having a sour beer tasting.  But it was really more of any other Friday night at a bar with a couple sour beers on tap.

We did meet a couple of guys who work for New Belgium while there and we shot the shit with them for a little while.  They were even nice enough to get us a couple of rounds.  Pretty good guys and again we didn’t remember their names.

So at that point we decided to call it a night.  Saturday was the AHA session we had tickets to and we wanted to be fresh.  So we got everyone together and headed out.

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  • Reply Jen

    “… a side by side tasting of regular Milk Stout off tap and Milk Stout off nitro. And you know who wins that battle every single time.”

    Dumb question time! Who wins the battle? Why?

    (I’m relatively new to the beer-geekery thang)

    Found you via Mug of Saint Arnold! Cheers!

    September 23, 2010 at 2:24 pm
    • Reply Mike

      @Jen – It’s absolutely cool. The nitro tap makes the beer have a very creamy consistency to it. And with this beer it is just beautiful. It’s really how it should be served in my opinion.

      If you aren’t familiar with what a nitro tap is you may recognize one when you see Guinness on tap. Guinness is always poured from a nitrogen tap. That is what gives it that creamy body.

      And by the way, thanks for stopping by and I hope you do more often.

      September 23, 2010 at 2:30 pm
  • Reply Joel

    Dude, Winchell’s is a large chain of donut shops LOL. I’m jealous you got
    to try it, though. That’s one of those west coast things like Jack in the Box that I’m dying to check out. Did any of the brewery tours cost anything? I’ve noticed a lot of brewery websites don’t say whether or not the tours are free.

    September 23, 2010 at 3:05 pm
  • Reply Mike

    @Joel – Oh wow I totally didn’t know that. The store looked so old and I’d never heard of them before. They were much better than DD.

    Not one brewery we went to charged for the tours.

    September 23, 2010 at 3:17 pm
  • Reply Amie

    That day was so much fun! 🙂 Glad I got to hang with all of you that night… and that you rescued me. 🙂

    September 23, 2010 at 5:58 pm
  • Reply Amie

    Also.. @Jen, Stubbies has LH Milk Stout on Nitro frequently.

    September 23, 2010 at 5:58 pm
  • Reply Jen

    Sweet, thanks @Amie! I’ve tried LH Milk Stout bottled before (Dorn’s, natch) and liked it, so I imagine it’d be even better on nitro…

    September 24, 2010 at 12:16 pm
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