Five craft brew­eries weigh in on the year in beer in Colorado

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By John Frank

To pick Colorado’s top craft beers and brew­eries in 2016, The Den­ver Post has sur­veyed more than two dozen brew­ers and ex­perts to re­flect on the year in beer and look for­ward to 2017.

Here’s what five of those brew­ers had to say about 2016 as a year in beer:

Ryan Scott, founder of Odd13 Brew­ing in Lafayette

Odd13 Brew­ing cel­e­brated its third an­niver­sary in 2016 and is es­tab­lish­ing it­self as a must-visit on the Colorado beer map for its hoppy, hazy won­ders and fruity sour cre­ations — not to men­tion the awe­some graphic art on the brew­ery’s cans.

Here are Scott’s picks for 2016:

Fa­vorite Colorado beer of the year: The Colorado beer I bought the most in 2016 was ’Bout Damn Time IPA

from 4 Noses Brew­ing. De­spite Odd13’s re­cent fo­cus on New Eng­land-style IPAs, I still love a good ex­am­ple of IPA re­gard­less of re­gional des­ig­na­tion. ‘Bout Damn Time has a def­i­nite lean to­ward the West Coast but is su­per bal­anced with a hop char­ac­ter per­fectly ex­e­cuted for what I’m look­ing for in this in­ter­pre­ta­tion of IPA. It’s bright and fruity with a firm bit­ter­ness that isn’t ex­ces­sive. Fa­vorite Colorado

brew­ery of the year: I have to go with Cere­bral Brew­ing here. All of the beers I’ve had from them were fan­tas­tic, and they’re great peo­ple. Chris and Sean have a re­ally good thing go­ing down there off Col­fax. If they were more avail­able to me, ei­ther Rare Trait or chardon­nay bar­rel-aged Dreamy Thing would prob­a­bly have been my beer of the year. Rare Trait is a fan­tas­tic ex­pres­sion of hops and malt in per­fect bal­ance. Like­wise, the chardon­nay bar­rel char­ac­ter in Dreamy Thing is an ex­cel­lent coun­ter­bal­ance to the brett funk and mod­er­ate hop pres­ence. Cere­bral dou­bled their fer­men­ta­tion ca­pac­ity near the end of the year, so hope­fully that means I will be able to get their beer some­where closer to Lafayette in 2017.

Fa­vorite new Colorado brew­ery:

While I didn’t have the op­por­tu­nity to visit a ton of new brew­eries this year, it was clear that New Im­age in Ar­vada would have been a solid open­ing in any year. They ex­e­cute re­ally well on the styles they pro­duce, and they hap­pen to brew styles that I like. Do your­self a fa­vor and go grab a taster flight. The East Coast Trans­plant dou­ble IPA and the Dyad Sai­son with Brett and Kom­bucha are two stand­outs. I think New Im­age tech­ni­cally started brew­ing at Funkw­erks in late 2015, but they just got their tap­room open and started brew­ing on their own sys­tem some­time around spring of this year.

Colorado brew­ery to watch in 2017:

Weld­w­erks did some great stuff in 2016, and they were my other choice for brew­ery of the year. As much as Weld­w­erks ex­ploded this year, I think next year is go­ing to be as huge for them. They’re con­stantly adding ca­pac­ity, and with Sleep­ing Gi­ant tak­ing some of the pres­sure off of the tap­room brew­ery, Colorado is go­ing to start see­ing a lot more of their beer in 2017. All of the “Bits” beers and their im­pe­rial stouts are amaz­ing — plus more beer should be com­ing out of their sour pro­gram next year. To top it all off, Neil is one of the nicest peo­ple in the in­dus­try, so it’s cool to see such a great dude hav­ing so much suc­cess.

Most no­table craft beer trend in 2016:

Licht­en­hainer. Def­i­nitely Licht­en­hainer. OK, just kid­ding. I’d be ly­ing if I said any­thing other than the pro­lif­er­a­tion of New Eng­land-style (AKA “juicy”) IPAs. When we started brew­ing the style in 2015, no one else was do­ing much of it in the state. It’s gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity in other ar­eas out­side of New Eng­land as well. In 2016, Colorado went from some­thing like three brew­ers mak­ing the style to at least a dozen. It has been re­ally in­ter­est­ing to see how abruptly the style has gained adop­tion among the gen­eral beer drink­ing pop­u­la­tion. When we first started brew­ing the style, I was con­cerned that the ap­pear­ance would be a turn-off to any­one out­side the beer-geek com­mu­nity. The amount of Co­de­name:

Su­per­fan we are sell­ing would sug­gest to me that less in­doc­tri­nated craft beer drinkers are dig­ging these beers as well. The style is cer­tainly not with­out con­tro­versy, but peo­ple seem to be re­ally thirsty for that type of hoppy of­fer­ing right now. Craft beer trend to

watch in 2017: This is go­ing to sound repet­i­tive, but I think we are go­ing to see even more brew­ers em­brace the haze with New Eng­land-style IPAs. The dif­fer­ence for 2017 will be that I ex­pect to see a bunch more of them in bot­tles and cans. Frankly, I’m sur­prised we man­aged to run for as long as we did as the only Colorado brew­ing pack­ag­ing the style. To­ward the end of the year, Liq­uid Me­chan­ics started canning Hop Nec­tar and New Im­age started canning East Coast Trans­plant. I would be sur­prised if there aren’t four or five more Colorado brew­eries with six packs of juicy IPA for sale by the end of 2017. I would be re­miss if I didn’t also men­tion merg­ers, ac­qui­si­tions and clos­ings. But I pre­fer to fo­cus on the happy as­pects of the in­dus­try.

Sarah Howat, of Black Project Spon­ta­neous and Wild Ales in Den­ver

Once Den­ver’s se­cret brew­ery, Black Project made its for­mal de­but in Au­gust, re­plac­ing Former Fu­ture Brew­ing on South Broad­way. The new it­er­a­tion — which re­cently ex­panded its space to make room for more bar­rel-ag­ing beers — fo­cuses on wild and sour cre­ations but also of­fers a de­li­cious hazy IPA and in­tri­cate saisons. The brew­ery also re­cently did a col­lab­o­ra­tion with North Carolina’s Wicked Weed Brew­ing. Here are Howat’s picks for 2016:

Fa­vorite Colorado beer of the year:

This ques­tion is al­ways tough be­cause it’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to re­mem­ber what stood out over the whole year. How­ever, Wi­ley Roots Key Lime Ex­press did stand out. The rose water took me by sur­prise in the very best way. I love brew­ers that take a fla­vor — fa­mil­iar or not — and use it in a way that works uniquely.

Fa­vorite Colorado brew­ery of the year:

Cere­bral. They con­tinue to of­fer a place to en­joy a pint as a neigh­bor­hood tap­room with stan­dard of­fer­ings, as well as of­fer some­thing in­no­va­tive and dis­tinct. To do both, and do them well, is an ac­com­plish­ment.

Fa­vorite new Colorado brew­ery:

Bier­stadt Lager­haus. I could drink their beer ev­ery day.

Colorado brew­ery to watch in 2017:

Weld­w­erks is go­ing to con­tinue to do great things. I’m ex­cited to see how their sour of­fer­ings evolve.

Most no­table craft beer trend in 2016:

For­aged in­gre­di­ents — both phys­i­cal flora and mi­croflora. Both hold the power to bring a sense of place to the beer. I love that more and more brew­eries are seek­ing ways to be truly unique and show­case their do­main. It keeps things in­ter­est­ing and keeps drinkers en­gaged.

Craft beer trend to watch in 2017:

I think more and more small brew­eries will start to spe­cial­ize in one area, rather than con­tin­u­ing to be a “catch-all” for any and ev­ery style.

Tommy Bi­b­liow­icz, owner of Four Noses Brew­ing in Broom­field

Four Noses is just a lit­tle more than two years old but mak­ing beers that are get­ting no­ticed — both from oth­ers in the Beer in Re­view se­ries and top judges. The brew­ery won a gold medal at the 2016 Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val for its Pump Ac­tion Im­pe­rial Pump­kin Ale. Four Noses also de­buted a new tap­room-only can se­ries this sum­mer. Here are Bi­b­liow­icz’s picks for 2016:

Fa­vorite Colorado beer of the year:

Slow Pour Pils from Bier­stadt. In­cred­i­ble bal­ance, ex­tremely re­fresh­ing and just per­fect for a Ger­man style pils.

Fa­vorite Colorado brew­ery of the year:

Avery. They are just true pro­fes­sion­als. I am al­ways im­pressed by their cre­ativ­ity, at­ten­tion to de­tail and im­pec­ca­ble prod­uct.

Fa­vorite new Colorado brew­ery:

New Im­age Brew­ing Co. in Ar­vada. They have man­aged to pump out amaz­ing beer, great food and great cock­tails right out of the gate. They ap­proach sel­dom­seen styles of beer and ex­e­cute them all very well.

Colorado brew­ery to watch in 2017:

Wibby Brew­ing in Longmont. I think the lager scene is min­i­mal in Colorado and these guys are re­ally push­ing the bound­aries. Their beer is con­sis­tent and ex­cel­lent. Nitro Dou­ble Dun­kle was ab­so­lutely one of the most unique and de­li­cious beers I had this year. I ex­pect to see a lot more of their cans around town in the com­ing months.

Most no­table craft beer trend in 2016:

Buy-outs and sell-outs, un­for­tu­nately. We saw sev­eral great brands fold un­der the iron cur­tain. The im­pact this had on the craft beer in­dus­try still has not fully re­vealed it­self, but it does change the way brew­eries will do busi­ness in the fu­ture.

Craft beer trend to watch in 2017:

Col­lab­o­ra­tion and strength in num­bers. I be­lieve this in­dus­try is full of pas­sion­ate peo­ple who truly love beer. There is noth­ing bet­ter than com­bin­ing forces to push a brewer’s com­fort zone. As the land­scape of the mar­ket changes, I ex­pect craft brew­ers to work more to­gether and cre­ate in­cred­i­ble new prod­ucts.

Ash­leigh Carter, of Bier­stadt Lager­haus

To­gether with Bill Eye, Ash­leigh Carter is mak­ing a mark with Ger­man-style lagers — emerg­ing as a fa­vorite to take new Colorado brew­ery of the year. The two brew­ers cer­tainly know the style af­ter their ten­ure at Prost Brew­ing. Bier­stadt Lager­haus opened in Au­gust in the River North district. Here are Carter’s picks for 2016:

Fa­vorite Colorado beer of the year:

I’ve got to be a lit­tle bit of a homer here and say our Slow Pour Pils. We fi­nally got to make and drink it af­ter more than 2.5 years of work­ing and wait­ing. Not only was it as clean and re­fresh­ing as I re­mem­ber, it was also the cul­mi­na­tion of a lot of work, a lit­tle bit of weight lifted off our shoul­ders.

Fa­vorite Colorado brew­ery of the year:

This is a toughy. Com­rade and Hogshead are al­ways in the game with con­sis­tent, high-quality drink­able beer. But it has been a lot of fun hang­ing out at Zwei, Span­galang, Call to Arms and Lit­tle Ma­chine and see­ing what these new brewer/own­ers are com­ing out with now that they just an­swer to them­selves and make what they want to.

Fa­vorite new Colorado brew­ery:

Be­ing a crea­ture of habit and open­ing a brew­ery, I am ashamed to say I didn’t ven­ture out much and barely got caught up on all the brew­eries that opened last year. West­bound and Down has been do­ing some re­ally good things. A solid list of well made-to-style beers. You can pretty much pick any­thing off the list and be happy with your choice.

Colorado brew­ery to watch in 2017:

I’m most ex­cited about Brew­ery Liberati and the Grate­ful Gnome. Alex Liberati is a smart guy with an in­ter­est­ing beer style, so I can’t wait to drink what he has planned. I’ve been say­ing Bess Dougherty (for­merly of Wynkoop) should get out there and do her own thing for a while, so it is awe­some to see her get the op­por­tu­nity (at The Grate­ful Gnome) to use all of her awe­some skills and pas­sion to make some­thing that is uniquely hers.

Most no­table craft beer trend in 2016:

Lo­cal, lo­cal, lo­cal. I don’t think the rise in the num­ber of small brew­eries is just due to the fact that peo­ple are now re­al­iz­ing that they pre­fer “full-fla­vored” beer. It’s about sup­port­ing what’s in your neigh­bor­hood and what’s close to you. Stone Brew­ing, for ex­am­ple, just laid off a num­ber of peo­ple

par­tially due to “hyper-lo­cal­ity.” Their beer is still ex­cel­lent and the quality hasn’t changed, but here in Colorado, why would I buy a six-pack of Stone when I can go pick up a cou­ple of fresh growlers at Com­rade? Peo­ple want to know who is mak­ing their beer and want to sup­port their com­mu­nity. Craft beer trend to

watch in 2017: Pale Lager. We are al­ready see­ing the in­crease of brew­eries try­ing their hand at it (both re­gional-sized and small). I think these brew­eries are re­al­iz­ing how many more con­sumers they can reach at the other end of the spec­trum that isn’t sour, bar­rel-aged, ridicu­lously hoppy or 10% al­co­hol. Those styles aren’t go­ing away any time soon — it’s just that there is a wide range of beer con­sumers out there and a lot of them still drink macro lager.

Jon Cross, Chris Bell and Jesse Brook­stein of Call to Arms Brew­ing

Call to Arms landed on the 2015 list as the best new brew­ery and con­tin­ues to build a large fol­low­ing from its lo­ca­tion on Ten­nyson Street in north­west Den­ver. The three each named their fa­vorite beer of the year and com­bined their an­swers in the other cat­e­gories.

Here are their picks for 2016: Fa­vorite Colorado beer of the year:

Bell picked Mila Rouge from Beryl’s Beer Co. Brook­stein picked Dhu­ma­vati from TRVE Brew­ing Co. and Oak The­ory from Casey Brew­ing & Blend­ing. And Cross picked Slow Pour Pils from Bier­stadt Lager­haus.

Fa­vorite Colorado brew­ery of the year:

Can­non­ball Creek Brew­ing. Yes, we’re bi­ased, but the Can­non­ball team con­sis­tently knocks ev­ery sin­gle beer — hoppy or not — out of the park. They win a whole bunch of medals, they have hugely in­flated egos and they never share their home­made pizza — and that’s ex­actly why we love them.

Fa­vorite new Colorado brew­ery:

With­out ques­tion, Bier­stadt Lager­haus. There was so much ex­cite­ment sur­round­ing their open­ing, and their beers are in­cred­i­ble. When you first wake up in the morn­ing, you say to your­self: “I want to drink more Bier­stadt to­day.” And then you take your­self up on it.

From the Slow Pour Pils that Jon listed as his fa­vorite beer to their Ok­to­ber­fest and Baltic Porter, Ash­leigh and Bill are de­liv­er­ing some of the most authentic, de­li­cious lagers in the U.S.

Colorado brew­ery to watch in 2017: Beryl’s Beer Co. is the Den­ver beer scene’s hid­den gem, and their head brewer, Eric Ni­chols, is con­stantly blur­ring the lines be­tween tra­di­tional brew­ing prac­tices, Amer­i­can in­quis­i­tive­ness and the philoso­phies in­volved with brew­ing and blend­ing craft beer. Beryl’s of­fers their vis­i­tors a vast ar­ray of beer op­tions, from their core A-Line IPA to their ob­scure Dampf­bier. And then they throw about a half dozen bar­rel-aged beers your way on a reg­u­lar ba­sis — all of which have a cre­ativ­ity and unique­ness that’s dis­tinctly and boldly Beryl’s. Most no­table craft beer

trend in 2016: The piti­ful evo­lu­tion of beer geeks to beer snobs to beer bul­lies. It’s re­ally un­cool to buy up as much of a brew­ery’s one-off re­lease as pos­si­ble so one can not only ruin the day for those be­hind them in line, but then turn around and sell the rare beer for a marked-up price.

It’s even more un­cool, and some­what pa­thetic, to fol­low beer delivery trucks from one liquor store lo­ca­tion to an­other buy­ing up all the Can­til­lon to not only ruin any other fan’s chances at buy­ing these lim­ited bot­tles, but also re­sell each bot­tle for an ar­bi­trary, in­flated amount.

And it’s re­ally un­cool, and oddly creepy, to waste one’s time film­ing one­self pour­ing beers down the drain that you — the beer bully — have de­cided didn’t meet your in­cred­i­bly dis­cern­ing palate. The Al­strom Broth­ers got it right: Re­spect Beer.

Craft beer trend to watch in 2017:

Most folks dis­cuss beer quality as the rea­son we’ll see more and more Colorado brew­eries shut their doors in the com­ing years — as if it goes hand-in-hand. We don’t be­lieve that to be the case. Brew­eries that make beer of poor quality con­tinue to bus­tle while brew­eries that pro­duce world-class beer some­times sit empty. And strangely enough, one per­son’s opin­ion on a beer or brew­ery may vary wildly from an­other’s.

On the con­trary, the great­est threat to craft beer over the next five years may be the very suc­cess of Den­ver (and Colorado) it­self and its im­pact on busi­nesses who rent their space. When we started scout­ing lo­ca­tions for Call to Arms, we could find rental rates for $10 per square foot. Those ar­eas are sit­ting around $30 at this point, with no sign of slow­ing down. Not only will new star­tups deal with these rates, so too will the peo­ple who re­side in the once-cheaper $10 per­square-foot ar­eas. Their lease rates will likely grow each year with es­ca­la­tors, and many leases jump to cur­rent mar­ket rate at the end of each term — to a point where it may be hard for any small busi­ness, craft brew­ery or oth­er­wise, to op­er­ate with such over­whelm­ing over­head.

Pro­vided by Odd13 Brew­ing

Ryan Scott.

Tommy Bi­b­liow­icz, third from left, at 4 Noses Brew­ing with his fa­ther, Natan, mother, Jes­sica, and brother David. Pro­vided by 4 Noses Brew­ing Co.

Pro­vided by Call to Arms

Jesse Brook­stein, Chris Bell and Jon Cross.

Ash­leigh Carter. Pro­vided by Bier­stadt Lager­haus

Pro­vided by Black Project

Sarah Howat.

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