Denver, Colorado, holds a special place in the shriveled, black hearts of the ghosts and ghouls that inhabit the Masters of Brewtality crypt. In 2018, it came in second for the most craft breweries in any American city, right behind Chicago and just in front of Seattle, with a liver-punishing 158 spots to get our beloved suds. Every style is represented somewhere and each one seems to have a dedicated crew of regulars. Earlier this month, the MOB crew hijacked an Alpine Pedaler and took four terrified tourists from Scottsdale on the longest, slowest ride of their lives all the way up to The Mile High City for three days of serious drinking at the annual Craft Brewers Conference. All required organ transplants.
When gearing up for a Denver beer event, be it the legendary Great American Beer Festival, the Denver Beer Week or any number of others that seem to occur almost daily, it’s best to take a day or two before to sample the town. The freaks and geeks of MOB hit the Bierstadt Lagerhouse in the River Art North district first. Affectionately abbreviated to the RiNO, the sheer volume of public art here is utterly inspiring. It also really takes the piss out of our last local foray into street art when you think about the “mural” painted on the intersection of Aspen and Leroux that looked great for exactly five minutes after its unveiling before cars started driving on it. Bierstadt brews up straight, traditional German-style lagers using only the four approved ingredients of the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516: water, yeast, hops and barley. In addition to epic liter pours, Bierstadt has also put what’s going to undoubtedly be The Next Big Thing in craft brewing at its forefront: the slow pour pilsner. Sure, it takes 10 minutes to get the thing into a glass, but at every spot we tried one, it was worth the wait. Perfect gold coloration, a lively stream of happy little bubbles cruising up the center, just enough head and a rich, crisp, sweet flavor profile. And if the wait is ever too much, grab an appetizer beer for the meantime. It also featured an oversized cornhole set, vintage arcade games and courtesy tampons in the ladies’ room. Local businesses, take note!
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Just around the corner was Ratio Brewing which featured a spot-on Mexican Lager and Hazy IPA. The standout, however, was their Curse of Lono Sour Saison. Barrel-aged, smooth and not too sour, this was hands down one of the best sours we’ve had all year. Plus, any Hunter S. Thompson reference on a beer makes it that much more endearing. From there, the award-winning Our Mutual Friend was on deck. The brewery has received medals at both Great American Beer Fest and World Beer Cup, making it an essential destination for any Denver trip. We sampled quite a few there and honestly couldn’t make any specific recommendation beyond try anything. With 30 beers on tap, you can’t go wrong. Just a 10-minute walk down the block was CHUBurger, a fine little burger joint started by Colorado icons Oskar Blues. The full line-up was on tap and they were previewing their new Black Cherry soda. Always our favorite philanthropic brewery, the proceeds from the sales went to local college scholarships.
Honestly, the conference wasn’t the highlight of the trip. The three-ounce samples hardly did the job, but we did make off with a mountain of swag and got to hang with our buddies at Picobrew who were unveiling their new pilot distillation unit. Maybe it speaks to the latent criminal in us, but the idea of making your own hooch gets us talking like a 1920s bootlegger stereotype every time. Naturally, no trip to Denver is complete for the Masters of Brewtality crew without a stop at our personal Mecca, TRVE Brewing. This quaint little black metal-themed brewery not only has some of the best decor and tunes in town, they also make right decent brews. In keeping with our beer-flavored-beer kick, we went with the Cold, a Czech Pilsner style that went down way too easy. Their Cosmic Crypt Belgian Pale is still the stuff of legends and their brand new dry-hopped Scorn made in collaboration with doom metal icons Primitive Man was incredible. And, of course, we got koozies with pentagrams on them.
This month, we’re finishing out the column on a somber note and dedicating a round to our dear friend Brandon Scott Lemon. Brandon was a beloved fixture of the Flagstaff punk and metal scene for years and tragically passed away early this month. If you or anyone you know is struggling with opiates or if you’d like to keep Narcan available for yourself or your business, contact the Flagstaff Needle Exchange or Hope Cottage. It saves lives. Cheers to those of us left behind in the wake of this epidemic, and may we all get through.