I’ve never slept well at other people’s houses. I think it’s my inability to fully relax, always concerned about some dumb social norm. Or it’s the fact that I need some ambient noise to sleep. I’m sure if I had a box fan with me at all times, I’d sleep so much better. Apparently, I’m an odd ball when it comes to needed this ambient noise. It’s what makes sleeping in hotels so damn tough. It’s too quiet.
So I woke up early with maybe 5 hours of sleep. Dan’s apartment backs up to a National Wilderness area, so I decided to go for a short morning walk. Once again, this was my first Rocky Mountain experience of the trip. Before yesterday, I hadn’t seen any “real’ mountains – the young, dramatic type. Almost as soon as I went outside, I spotted a kit fox. It was hunting the open scrub land behind the house and didn’t seem to care that I was following it. I was all too ecstatic to experience what I fondly refer to as a “National Geographic Moment”: those moments that seem made for TV and magazines. This was one, at least for me.
Eventually the rest of the house woke up. We packed up the car and headed back to Denver. All three of us discussed taking a day off from drinking. Brandon and I had done a solid three day bender; he was worse off than me. It would be smart to take a day off, I thought. Then a second thought came to me: you’re in Denver on the ultimate beer tour. There can be no days off. I had to break through and keep going.
Enter Todd, my sister’s good friend. He called and was free all afternoon. Did I want to go grab some beers and visit some spots around town? Dumb question, of course. So after a solid 12 hours of not drinking (during which I hydrated heavily and ate), we were at it again.
So many places to stop in Denver. We started at Strange Brewing. I knew this place from a legal name battle with Strangeways Brewing located in Richmond, VA. It ended friendly but that’s how I knew them. Their beers were outstanding, with the cherry Belgian being very similar to New Glarus’s but slightly less sweet.
Then to Stranahan’s, Colorado’s whiskey distillery. They produce one product, an idea I greatly appreciate. If my memory serves me correctly, their whiskey is aged four years although various vintages are mingled together to achieve the correct flavor profile. And for such a young whiskey, it is quiet nice and smooth. It’s easily consumed neat, and I’m sure would make a fine Manhattan. But I like it neat with a splash of water. It’s no true Kentucky bourbon, but I enjoyed it all the same. It’s hard to have such a rigorous metric, but when you’re from the land of American whiskey, it serves you well.
The next stop was a happenstance one. A brewery had just opened that was on our path of destruction. And it sucked. Seriously, the beers were terrible. Totally off-flavored, textbook even. Worse yet, they marketed themselves as a heavy metal brewery. This isn’t a new thing, and I’m not into metal. What got me was the singer-songwriter playing acoustic at the brewery. That’s not metal at all. Neither were the beers, except for the metallic after taste (also not really “metal”).
Great Divide was next. I love this place. I don’t go crazy over all of their beers, but I respect the hell out of what the brew, and how they have grown. Their beers are always on point; not necessarily mind blowing, but well constructed and of the highest quality. I did my requisite tasting and reminisced about how much they had grown since I last visited four years ago. Four years is a long time in the burgeoning craft beer world And yet they weren’t grossly huge, just super big. Slight difference.
Then to River North Brewery. My taste buds were pretty wrecked at this point so I abandoned flights and started getting pints. The few beers I tried here were great; largely Belgian inspired with American twists. I’ll be returning when I have full tasting potential.
We made a quick stop at Epic’s second brewery. It turns out that a state that limits the level of alcohol legally allowed in a beer is not a great place to open up a brewery that wants to make high alcohol beers. Thus, they have a second brewery located in Denver and not Utah. There exists a flight here called the Gauntlet – it’s 36 of their beers. I wasn’t ready for that today, but knew I would have to do it before I left town. Instead, we split a couple of pints and moved on to the next spot, a cider house.
I haven’t been consuming much cider this trip. I’m not opposed to it, but prefer beer. And with so much beer to try, I’ve never been willing to dedicate my liver and kidneys to cider. One day. We stopped at Stem Ciders for a quick drink. The ciders were great, as far as I could tell. Not too sweet, but nicely sharp and sour, like a granny smith apple with less astringency.
Our last stop was Crooked Stave, a brewery I am exceedingly fond of. The owner and brewmaster is a student of wild yeast, to the point that he possess a PhD in microbiology with a focus on Brettanomyces. His beers are artfully crafted and utterly delicious. Unfortunately we hit it at the end of a long day of drinking, and I wasn’t able to fully embrace the beers an brewery. Aka, I was fairly intoxicated. As were my drinking companions. I was only able to have two beers here, which was probably more than I needed. I vowed to return later in the week, when I would presumably be less drunk. For now, it was back to Brandon’s and the promise of food.