Compare or contrast, Colorado beers stand tall
Looking for some new Colorado beers to quaff at your next tailgate, barbecue or neighborhood game night? Wilson Seawright, beer specialist at Davidsons Beer, Wine, & Spirits in Highlands Ranch, has a few ideas for you. Among his favorite trends in 2018 are the growing number of craft lagers and pilsners (“People are looking to come down from the big double IPAs and big barrel-aged beers”), the relocation of sour beers from hard-to-find bombers to readily accessible six-packs, and of course, the continued popularity of IPAs. Here, Seawright compares takes on the three styles from six Colorado breweries.
IPA is short for India Pale Ale, a style invented in Britain when sailors loaded up their beer with extra hops to act as a preservative. Today’s IPAs are defined by their hoppiness, which can be bitter, fruity, tropical, grassy or piney. For our taste test, Seawright chose beers from Vail Brewing Co.—a 4-year-old brewery owned by longtime Vail area locals—and Station 26, which opened in 2013 in a 1960’s fire station building in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood.
Vail Brewing Co.’s Gore Creek IPA (Vail, 7.0%)
· Gore Creek, described by Vail Brewing as “unreservedly traditional,” won a 2018 World Beer Cup bronze medal in the “American Style Strong Pale Ale” category.
· Seawright says the beer has more of a malt backbone, is slightly sweeter, and has more traditional, grapefruit-forward hop notes than its competitor in the category.
· Gore Creek, Seawright says, is well-balanced between malt and hops and tastes like a more traditional West Coast IPA.
Station 26’s Juicy Banger IPA (Denver, 7.4%)
· The flagship IPA was an early hit for Station 26, Seawright says, but demand for the hoppy brew was so high that it took the brewery a while to get it into cans.
· Juicy Banger is more on the tropical side of the IPA spectrum, Seawright says: mango and papaya notes with some pine notes and just a touch of honey.
· Seawright says the beer is not as malty, nor as sweet, as Vail’s Gore Creek.
What once were for-the-adventurous oddities lurking in liquor stores’ back coolers have gone mainstream. Now found in six-pack cans from a variety of breweries, sours—concocted through an alchemy involving wild yeast, bacteria and special methods of fermentation—have exploded in popularity over the past few years. Seawright says they are the perfect jumping-off point for wine lovers looking to get into beer. One of Denver’s primary purveyors of the style is Crooked Stave, located in the Source marketplace in RiNo. Here they face off against Odd13, which opened in 2013 in downtown Lafayette.
Odd13’s Duraznodor (Lafayette, 4.5%)
· Odd13’s kettle sour with peach and apricot tastes like an unoaked white wine, Seawright says, with loads of stone fruit flavor.
· Duraznodor is not as juicy as the Sour Rosé, and it pours clear, almost like a pilsner.
· A little more sour than the Crooked Stave sour, Duraznodor has a nice head that doesn’t last too long.
Crooked Stave’s Sour Rosé (Denver, 4.5%)
· Unlike a lot of sours, Sour Rosé is fermented in oak, giving it a more mature, wine-like flavor, Seawright says.
· It looks like a beautiful pink rosé when poured into a glass.
· More juicy and acidic than the Duraznodor, Seawright says, Sour Rosé is the perfect balance of tart and sour.
The classic beer style with origins in Germany and Czechoslovakia is technically a lager, known for its pale yellow color, floral hoppiness, high carbonation and crisp, bitter finish. Among the Colorado breweries offering their take on the style are River North Brewery, which opened in 2012 in the then-nascent RiNo area, and Storm Peak Brewing Co., the 4-year-old Steamboat Springs brewery owned by brothers Wyatt and Tyler Patterson.
River North Pils (Denver, 5.3%)
· The pilsner from the recently relocated downtown Denver brewery is a favorite of staff and customers, Seawright says.
· “It’s one of my favorite pilsners because of its effervescence,” he says. “It’s got a lasting head on it for five minutes easily.”
· Seawright describes the River North Pils as very light, crisp and easy drinking, with a creamier mouthfeel and a hop flavor reminiscent of fresh-cut grass.
Storm Peak Gaper Pils (Steamboat, 4.9%)
· This American take on the pilsner style is dry-hopped with Falconer’s Flight, a very lemony, aromatic hop.
· It is a little darker in style and not quite as effervescent as the River North Pilsner, Seawright says.
· Seawright describes Gaper as “an incredibly easy-drinking pilsner built on a light cracker malt note, balanced with a hint of citrus.”