2013 - A Beer Odyssey

By Mike Bren on Friday, May 17, 2013

“The journey is the thing.” ~Homer~

Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide... Many breweries did he visit! Unlike many classic Greek heroes, I made it safely home and there was no such folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion or having to endure divine punishment. No doubt there was folly of a different sort, as in a fair bit of drinking of great local beer! The research needed for putting together this brewery guide has taken me and the rest of the brewery guide team on many journeys, and although far short of an epic tale, the last several months have been very much an odyssey indeed.

We have been expanding our scope, increasing the coverage of the Fort Collins Brewery Guide to include Loveland, Windsor, Greeley and Berthoud. Along with Fort Collins, these cities of Northern Colorado have a common identity, with beer culture a common thread in addition to geography, infrastructure and personal ties. We want to be sure to promote all craft beer fairly across Northern Colorado.

We have also been working on brewery guides for Denver and Boulder, traveling southward to many locations in the Denver metro area. Most of the research is done, and we are waiting for the opportune time to take on-location photos. Late-season snow storms and cold temperatures have been a delaying factor, hindering the grasses from growing and buds on the trees from leafing out. Here are some of our recent discoveries along with notable beers tasted along the way.

While some distance out from the clusters of the Loveland and Fort Collins breweries, Crabtree Brewing Company of Greeley and City Star Brewing of Berthoud both brew excellent beer and are worth the drive. Crabtree has been around for about ten years and has won numerous awards. They recently moved to a spacious location just off of Highway 34 with a great patio. City Star, new on the scene is right in the middle of downtown Berthoud and has a warm, rustic atmosphere reminiscent of an Old West saloon. They brew small batch American style ales.

By chance one afternoon at Odell Brewing Company, Rowland and I caught a firkin tapping of a Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout. Tasted just like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in liquid form. Amazing.

Sex Panther American Strong Ale by Black Bottle Brewery, registering 21.5% ABV! Damn! Admittedly more like brandy than beer, it was seductive, syrupy and delicious.

Orabelle Belgian-Style Trippel by Great Divide Brewing Company. This beer is made with barley, wheat, oats and rye, two kinds of yeast, orange peel and coriander to spice it up a bit. Loved it, but only could enjoy a few pints on two separate occasions and then this flavorful beer was gone. I searched far and wide for any establishment that had any left, but could find no trace. Maybe she’ll be back next year.

A trip to Hops & Pie Pizza and Craft Brews with our Denver liaison, Aaron Burns, yielded some treasures: Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale Ale by Elysian Brewing: Exotic, refreshing and addictive. Dark Prophet Belgian Strong Dark Ale by Funkwerks: Earthy and balanced. Deliverance American Strong Ale by Lost Abbey: This classic beer description from their website: “A blend of bourbon barrel-aged Serpent’s Stout and brandy barrel-aged Angels Share, Deliverance is the epic battle being waged between heaven and hell for the souls of mortal men… and your enjoyment in a glass.”

Tap takeovers have been a recent trend. For example, a 53-tap takeover by Sierra Nevada at the Tap & Handle yielded such delights as an Imperial Pilsner and the Ovarid Abbey Quad with Plum. Not surprisingly, there are still some Sierra Nevada handles left as of mid-May. On a related note, there has been a noticeable influx of California breweries showcasing their beers around Fort Collins, such as Lagunitas, Green Flash, and Firestone Walker to name a few. All of these have done recent tap takeovers.

Beers inspired by wildflowers. Spiranthes Extra Pale Ale by Pateros Creek. Bouquet Array IPA by Lauren Hoff of Napa of Beer and Odell Brewing Company, who teamed up to make a special beer for her beer blog’s one year anniversary. Ingredients included rose, lavender and hibiscus, cascade, Chinook and centennial hops. A very nice IPA with subtle floral notes.

Finally, I have to mention the FoCoMX music festival weekend in Downtown Fort Collins. There were over 240 bands across 24 venues over two days, including all of the downtown breweries and tap houses. A fun blend of craft beer and music surrounded by a city-wide festive atmosphere.

These are just some highlights, yet many more beers could be noted and stories could be told. In closing (my sincere apologies to Homer), a beer odyssey indeed.

“It is the [beer] that leads me on,
the wild [beer]
that sets the wisest man to sing
at the top of his lungs,
laugh like a fool – it drives the
man to dancing... it even
tempts him to blurt out stories
better never told.”
~Homer, The Odyssey~