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Monday, November 26, 2012

Guest Blog - CB and Potts Colorado

 This is a guest blog that came in today.  Awesome because it's true.  I suppose it depends on where you live, but in Colorado, places like CB & Potts just don't cut it.  So, thanks for writing in.  And thanks for not settling for mediocrity!

Years ago, I went on my first trip to Manhattan with a man who, as a merchandise manager for the old Neustedter company in Denver, was an old veteran of the New York scene. He couldn’t decide which restaurant to take me to for my first Manhattan dining experience, but remarked, “They’re all good here. A mediocre restaurant in New York won’t last twenty minutes.”

I found this to be pretty much true in San Francisco and other cities. In Oregon, I developed a fondness for microwbrews, and in trying to sample every establishment in Portland, I can pretty well conclude there aren’t any bad ones. Nor are there any mediocre ones, which is more to the point. Who needs it?

The Colorado microbrew scene seems to me to be as vibrant as Oregon’s—ever moreso, in its own way, reflecting a population that tends to be more competitive than Oregon’s. But as in Oregon, the beer in Colorado is simply outstanding.

Imagine my surprise at finding a place that challenged the definition of mediocrity! Needing a quick meal close by our temporary apartment home last night, my wife and I stopped at CB & Potts. While looking forward to a homefoody kind of meal after a long day of moving, a good, hearty stout or holiday brew was definitely the order of the moment.

To call the beer list unimaginative is an understatement.  It contained some of the usual suspects.  Nothing wrong with this, I guess. Not everyplace can sport an Oskar Blues list. But at least you didn’t have to spend a lot of time on it, with so few choices.

My wife ordered the Total Disorder Porter, while I sent for the holiday release, S’no Angel weizenbock. Billed as chocolate in color with a creamy, complex body. It was really the color of a sunbleached cardboard box with a body about as complex as Hawaiian Punch. The porter, tasted more like chocolate/coffee-flavored club soda. These weren’t bad, mind you. Just boring and uninteresting.

The menu rotates around a very creative list of hamburgers. They all looked pretty good, including my wife’s Reuben hamburger. The salad list could have come from Anywhere USA. Steak and backribs also made an appearance, along with typical pub fare. While acceptable—not great or memorable—the food items struck me as being a dollar or two overpriced.

The point being, why go to CB & Potts? The locals apparently had cottoned onto that conclusion already, since at 7 p.m. on a Sunday night, the help almost outnumbered the customers. And while it took an inordinately long time to get our food, I have to say the waitstaff was really good.

Friday, October 19, 2012

GABF, Update and A Special Thanks to Draft Magazine and the Kerchers

God I love the Great American Beer Festival.  I love the people, I love the volunteer staff, and damn do I love the beer, but this year, I have a couple other people to give thanks to.

First, Trevor, et al  over at Draft Magazine, thanks for helping us out with some last minute tickets.  I can't tell you how much I (we) appreciate it :)  The advice you've lent and communication level with us as we have embarked on this project has been tremendously helpful, and anything we can do for you from now into perpetuity, we will.

Second, to Joey, Shawn and Kelly Kercher - what do I even say.  Some last minute help allowed us to tighten up the website and there is no way that would've happened without you.  So thanks.  We'll chat.  Sooner rather than later I hope.

Enough of the sappy crap.  On with the beer.

For those of you who haven't been to the GABF, it really is incredible.  Yeah, it becomes somewhat of a shitshow as Friday and Saturday progress, but in all the years I've been there, I've never seen a fight.  This is strange to me.  When you combine alcohol and crowds something always seems to go down - but not here.

I waiver on the coolest part.  Whether it's revisiting tried and true favorites, finding a shiny new brewery you've never encountered or just the general vibe, GABF is fun every year.  It's like visiting the Louvre if you love art, Jerusalem if you love religion or Gilroy, California if you love garlic - OK maybe Gilroy is a stretch, but it is the Garlic capital of the US and home the best Garlic Festival ever.  Maybe Corvallis, Oregon if you love Ryegrass.  Ahem...better stop with the analogies.


The good news is that we're days away from being essentially done with site for now.  Feel free to sign up as a user here:

Right now we have every brewery mapped in the country (some newer ones not included - but email us and we'll get it done), and we are trying to correct some errors with a few addresses in our database (looking at you Loveland Aleworks).  If you want to see what a brewery's page will look like, click the blue BETA button on the site, then on a location placemarker and you can see what we're integrating as I'm writing this.  We're working on the map rendering speed as well.

Some other tidbits are happening soon with our beer-finder application (launching in Colorado first) but we have some major bugs to work out, which of course costs time and money, but it should be pretty cool.

Also - We're in the beginning stages of putting on a 5-part Brewery and Spirit Festival next Summer in Colorado, each 3 hour Festival being followed by a free concert.  Should be freaking awesome, and we hope to see some of you there!

So for now, Cheers!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Paradise for Sour Beers - Cascade Brewing, Honey Ginger Lime

I don't even know what to say about sour beers - if you haven't had one.  For first-timers, it's an experience unto itself. Prepare yourself not for a light acidic taste in the back of your throat, but for a full frontal assault on the senses.  Something like this if you're not expecting it:

I tried for like two seconds to find real adults drinking sour beer for the first and failed - stupid short attention span and all - but this captures it just as well.

I happen to like sour beers.  A lot, in fact.  They're like a petty addiction.  One of the first I had was at a dinner at Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, CO.  It was a pairing in cohoots with The Bruery, and the beer they chose to bring was one I had wanted to try for awhile - Sans Pagaie.  Great frickin beer. It got me hooked.  But once again, if your trying it for your first time - just give it a few sips.  The first might knock you on your *ss, and make you never want to go near one again, but be patient.  By your third sip into it, you begin to get it, and a whole new world of complex flavor opens up. I promise.  Or maybe I'm just trying to trick you - either way there's only one way to find out.

So, upon a trip to Portland, Or., I simply had to run by Cascade Brewing - specifically the Barrel House.  They are known for their sours, but produce other fantastic beers as well.  Take a look at their collection here:

The Cascade Brewing Barrel House is pretty cool.  Nice and open.  Staff knows their stuff, and I hear the food's great too, but I can't vouch for that because I didn't eat any.  A big plus is that they list beer pairings with their dishes, which I am into big time.  Maybe next time...

Honey Ginger Lime - Cascade Brewing

We tasted a number of beers here, all of which were excellent.  Saison de la Maison, Sang Noir (wow, excellent), and a few others, but the last was such a pleasant surprise I just feel like writing about it.  Honey Ginger Lime.  Cascade calls it a "sour honey rye ale was barrel aged for 8 months before aging additionally on ginger and lime zest".  7.5% ABV

This beer pours very hazy, with deep gold color with some orange to it.  Nice head - over an inch or so (forgot the damned tape measure) - with great retention.

On the nose, pretty much lives up to it's name - strong ginger and citrus, with a limeade feel to it - Almost more like a cocktail than a beer.

Taste damn near borders on refreshing and thirst quenching.  Strong sour notes hit the back of the palate immediately, but give way to spicy ginger characteristics, and a mild sweetness to counter the harsh sour.  Seriously bright and refreshing -

Wow - Don't have anything to compare it to, but REALLY good.  Great Spring/Summer beer, and just plain drinkable.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Coaliton Brewing - King Kitty Red Ale

So a few weeks ago, I took a trip to Portland, Oregon.  Having lived there from about 1993 – 2003, I am pretty familiar with it, and know damn well not to be fooled by the weather during the summer.  Beautiful green trees.  Blooming flowers.  Fresh vegetables.  It’s really a paradise for about 2 months out of the year.  Then the rain and endless cloud cover hits for the next 10 months, and you wonder why you live there.


Still, it was absolutely beautiful, and I missed it in a weird way.

Being so heavily involved in the craft beer industry, I have been dying to return to the area – to check out Beervana in all its glory.  So many breweries, so little time…  Still, there were a couple I had been meaning to try out, and just never been able to get around to it.

Hair of the Dog Brewing, Lompoc Brewing, Cascade Brewing, Vertigo Brewing – all were visited, and each deserves a TON of respect.  I’ll definitely be reviewing each of them.   It’s just that I love being blown away by something when I least expect it.

Enter Coalition Brewing, 2724 SE Ankeny 97214.

Not even sure where to start.  It was kind of a last minute decision to go by, as I hadn’t heard much about them out here in Colorado.  Gave them a ring, and was greeted by Elan (who, as it turns out, went to University of Colorado).  Nice guy, and he agreed to show us around that afternoon.

Want to know what do with a vacant call center facility?  Besides torching it?  Turn it into a 10bbl brewery, like Coalition did.  Kudos for taking the Avery Brewing route and occupying empty warehouse space – having the foresight to acknowledge the possibility of expanding into surrounding spaces as need requires.

The Brewpub itself is exactly like I prefer my brewpubs to be - small, open to the street and with people who are actually smiling.  What a tremendous neighborhood feel to the place, and a staff that was extremely welcoming.  Just perfect.

Nice, right? Don't you wish you were here?

No surprise that the beer was perfect too.

We tasted everything on tap – Wheat, Cream Ale, Pale, ESB, IPA, King Kitty Red, Maple Porter, Apollo Creed CDA, Hanso Stout and Hanso Stout aged in Bulleit Barrels.
Let me tell you – every beer was beyond fantastic.  I can’t recommend them enough.  If you live in Portland, and enjoy craft beer, you should actually be ashamed of yourself for not already stopping in if you haven’t already (tell them we said hi if you do).  However, if there were a gun to my head, and I had to pick a favorite, I say the King Kitty Red Ale was out of this world good.  And Red’s aren’t even my thing.

King Kitty Red Ale

No joking with the “red” part.  Pours a fairly dark red/amber color, with just a touch of haziness.

Smell was rather soft, with a pleasant mix of caramel, some malt and something else I couldn’t put my finger on.  Kind of an earthy/herbally smell.  Not really grassy per se – I’ll have to try it again I guess. Some fruitiness in there too.

Taste-wise – just a really interesting beer.  Best as I can describe it, is as having very strong central core of malt presence, with a variety of different hop notes emanating out from that, creating a very well layered beer.  Very little alcohol taste.   Really pleasant, full mouthfeel, and a surprising crisp finish.

Coalition, thanks for having us – I’ll be back next time I'm in the area.  And if you’re a homebrewer, and live in Portland, check out their Coalator program…really cool stuff!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Good Beer - Fuck Yeah! -

This is a guest blog from sister, who writes an award winning blog over at Istanbul’s Stranger.  Yes, she lives in Turkey, so if you want to know a little about life in Istanbul, or just want a fantastic read, follow her here:
Anyhow, we had the opportunity to go on a short Mini-Brewery tour in Portland, which was awesome. Turns out they have some incredible options for some of the best craft beer I've come across.  


This is what good beer should look like.

Before I moved to Turkey, I liked beer a lot. I liked drinking beer, and I liked drinking a lot of it.

For awhile when I first arrived, I drank a lot of beer. It was hard to kill the beer habit.

Might as well have done it like this

But there's a problem with beer in Turkey. It's all Efes and it all sucks. Carbonated beer-flavored rice water that tastes a bit like pee when it's warm.

No excuse for this beer.

Okay, there's also Tuborg, which also sucks. And there's Heineken, which is pretty bad. For years, the most tolerable beer to be found in Turkey has been Miller. Enough said with that one.

Recently, a beer called Leffe has appeared in major markets. Everyone is really happy about that. Leffe is all right. It has a sweet aftertaste I don't love, and I still can't bring myself to shell out 6 lira for a small bottle. But it's all right.
The Efes factory.

I'll still tolerate Efes when it's the only think around to drink, but just barely. It's hardly even worth the extra trips to the toilet to drink that shit. And sometimes it's nice on a really hot summer day, but only on tap.

All this just background to why yesterday was such a cool day. My dad, brothers, and I ditched the boy with my mom and loaded up in the car for a wee brewery tour. It was the best idea ever.

Not just because the company was good. Or the meat and cheese plate we had at one place. Or that we got to check out one of the micro-breweries and then the guy comped us the beer because my brothers' new job is going to be beer and they're wanting to do business with this guy.

No. It was the best idea ever because I drank 18 kinds of beer in one day and all of them were fabulous, even the ones I didn't like so much. You know why?

Dear Efes - You Suck.

Also, two of the places we went to were in converted warehouses. I love converted warehouses because they have exposed industrial pipes and ventilation tubes and old wooden beams. The brewing operation we saw was in a space that used to be a call center, making it the best possible use of a call center.

All of the beers came with lengthy, detailed descriptions that I pretty much lost the plot on halfway through. But I'm sure they were very interesting. I'll just never be the sort of person who goes on at length about an alcoholic beverage, except to talk about how it's great. Or how drunk it got me. Or the fact that it isn't Efes.

The first place, Hair of the Dog, had the best beer. There was also a meat plate with four kinds of cured salami-like meats and some cheese, plus dried fruit and giant capers.

We tried 4 beers there, plus my brother had a sour beer. It was weird and I didn't love it, but at least it wasn't Efes.

Very Good Beer
More Very Good Beer

The other beers were like 10 million billion times better than Efes.

Pretty Good Beer (sour)

We made short work of that beer

Interesting Beer, but not my thing.

The next place was Cascade Brewing. Apparently sour beers are their specialty. One of them was made with ginger and lemon and my brother rightfully pointed out that it would have been better with vodka in it. The other one was kind of yucky but it was still way better than Efes.

12 Very good beers.

The last brewery we went to was Coalition Brewing. That's the place where we got to see the beer tanks doing weird bubbly things and making interesting smells. Then the guy brought us a tray of 12 beers, cunningly arranged from lightest to darkest. The wheat beer was the lightest and I don't even like wheat beer but this one was great. So was the red beer. And one other one I forgot. The rest were good too, like 9.8 million billion times better than Efes, except for the porter because I don't like porter as much as other beer. But the porter was still 9.5 million billion times better than Efes.

Fuck you, Efes. Would it kill you to start making some good beer already?
Unless it's Efes

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Airports and Craft Beer - Singletrack Copper Ale

Airports are strange places.  Great for people watching and contracting diseases doctors thought only survived in Petri dishes, or maybe a lost virus re-discovered in some subterranean ice sheet.  Dirty, but overall quite entertaining.  The Denver Airport is one of my favorites.  Not because it runs well or is clean, but because of the many mysteries surrounding it.   Driving in, you’re greeted by this monstrosity:

I want your soul.
I am the ruler of this domain.

Nothing says “welcome visitors!” like a creepy-ass blue Bronco with red eyes.  Why? With the red eyes?  Totally unnecessary, and simultaneously disturbing.  Oh, and it fell on -and killed- the sculptor who created it.   There’s a whole litany of craziness and documented paranoia surrounding DIA.   A few enticing tidbits about some of the murals on the walls:

“An African woman in colorful native garb; a Native American woman who’s heritage the airport’s art supposedly celebrates; a blonde girl with cupid bow lips, a Star of David on her chest and a bible in her hands. Each lay dead in open coffins for your viewing pleasure.”

 “A burning city, children sleeping on piles of bricks, a line of mourning women in rags with dead babies, limp in their arms. A huge, looming military figure in a gas mask brandishes a sword and machine gun. Part of an actual note written by a child interred in a Nazi death camp. Strange words embedded in the floor with no explanation about what they mean.”

Not exactly the pick-me-ups one is looking for after a cramped flight.  (More here if you’re interested  

Beer, beer, beer.  Change the subject.  Airport bars are fabulous for atypical reasons.  From the White Zinfandel drinking Account Exec., to the Double Vodka Bloody Mary-drinking Kids Camp Counselor, these airport watering holes make travelling so much more enjoyable.  So, to Lefty’s Front Range Grille at DIA, thanks for the good times.  And for having craft beer on tap.

Singletrack Copper Ale – Boulder Beer Company

Boulder Beer is Colorado’s first microbrewery, and received the 43rd brewing license issued nationally, so massive props right there.  This brew arrived on draft, in a pint glass, and was just a little hazy and light coppery red in color.  Finger and a half of head which dissipated quickly. 

Smelled of light citrus and thick caramel.   Taste is very similar to the smell, with caramel and toffee notes mixed with just enough citrus.  Medium carbonation.

While I can’t say this beer stands out in any particular way, it’s certainly not terrible either.  I’d have it again, if I were stuck in the airport, but there are just too many similar beers out there.

Click here to check them out.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Murphy's North - Victory Brewing Co.'s Summer Love Ale

Truth be told, I’ve been going here for years.  I’ve lived in North Boulder off and on for awhile, but even now that I’ve moved 20 miles away, I still pop in when I can.  It’s one of the few places able to nail down excellent service, a high quality menu with great variety, an EXCELLENT happy hour and a craft beer selection carefully put together by GM and all-around-cool-guy Adam Perkins.  Best yet, is that it maintains a “neighborly” feel without the pretentiousness of most Boulder, Co. establishments.   Oh, and a sweet patio in the summer.  And if you prefer liquor, you can’t beat their $5 house margarita (fresh Lime, simple sugar, etc.) during Happy Hour.


The GM Adam is always there, and seems like he pretty much takes care of everything.  Alternately throughout the day, he’ll be doing office work, helping behind the bar, helping servers get food out, chatting it up with customers and jumping on the line if that’s what needs to happen – and often it does.  Sometimes he sits down I think, but maybe not.  This first photo is how customers see Adam:

Ok, Adam's younger, but you get the point.
This second is more how Adam must feel sometimes:

Hehe.  Anyway, craft beer.  With not too many handles to work with, they do a magnificent job of keeping things fresh by constantly rotating things in and out, so there is usually something new to try.  This time around it was hot enough outside to keep most people in a constant state of inelegance (paraphrased from Jane Austin, I think), so I wanted something light.  Of course they had exactly what I wanted on tap – Victory Brewing Co.’s Summer Love Ale, a really delightful brew for scorching hot days.

Victory Brewing Co’s Summer Love Ale:

I think it’s classified as a Blonde Ale, but has similar qualities to a Golden or even a Pilsner.  Poured into a standard pint glass, this beer had an incredibly clear, straw color to it.  Intense effervescence.  In terms of smell, very strong in the hops department, with some hints of grain and a light fruitiness.

Taste-wise, the hops are the first thing I noticed, with floral and grapefruity notes, but not overpowering by any stretch of the imagination.  A very light malt core is present, and the more you drink, the more complex it gets, with nice light grainy taste in the background as well.  It finishes up very clean and dry – as it should.  Extremely refreshing with a high level of carbonation, this beer really is a perfect beer for hot days.
Would definitely recommend it again and again.

So to everyone at Murphy’s North, and Victory Brewing – Cheers!