Welcome to Denver, Colorado – where the air and the beer make you feel like a fish!
The start of 2010 sees us searching the highways and byways of Denver and nearby regions for better beer. We know we’re in the right place – beer is so ubiquitous that we have a sneaking suspicion even the fire hydrants may be primed to pump the amber fluid.
As the tourism guides tell you, Denver is 5,280 feet (one mile) above sea level and known as the Mile High City. When you first get here, the slightest exertion in the thin air leaves you gasping like a fish out of water. The locals tell us this passes quickly; however, the desire to drink like a fish stays with you as long as you’re here.
Denver ranks first in the United States in beer production per capita and second in the number of breweries. In a nod to the range and quality of its brews, the greater Denver region is actually known colloquially as the Napa Valley of Beer. There are more than 90 breweries in Colorado and the abundance of choice and support for craft brewing in the state is evident everywhere you turn.
Take downtown Denver watering hole Falling Rock Tap House, our first stop before commencing our state wide beer hunt. The sign above the bar said it all: “No crap on tap!” We very quickly wanted to add a second sign: “BeerMasons will be happy here!”
However, we couldn’t ask Bryan the barman where the joint’s name came from as we were three deep and jostling with eager locals to sample some of the sensational 69 local and international beers on tap.
We did have a friendly argument with some fellow beer enthusiasts over American craft beer lovers’ obsession with huge, highly-hopped beers.
It became a discussion of nature versus nurture. On one hand you could argue it is a result of Americans’ general predilection for all things BIG – massive cars, loud music and the surprisingly large pickles they serve with everything here. We are talking about the habit of magnifying or nurturing European and English creations and modifying them to take on a truly American style.
Then there is the nature argument, whose proponents believe that the hops flourishing in this country create a market of beer lovers with strong thresholds for bitterness and hop aromas. Since the early 1800s, American farmers have been developing and commercially harvesting a mix of European, Wild North American and hybridised hops, the most famous being Cascade hops.
This position received a serious boost when a man walked through our group, motioned to Bryan the barman and said: “Give me your hoppiest beer.” No questions asked, just blind faith that Bryan would hand him a beer that tasted like licking a hop pellet. When we asked Bryan what that was about, he just smiled, shrugged his shoulders and replied: “Hop head.”
Whether the answer is nature or nurture, Colorado is getting it right for brewers and beer lovers. There’s a good yarn about why this is so, but we will save that for another time.
If you are ever in downtown Denver (and if you are heavily into craft beer, at some point in time you will be) make sure you check out Falling Rock Tap House
We’ll also be posting a full report on our Colorado tour of duty to help you plan your own tour.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Beermasons Colorado trip update
I don't think the excellent, Melbourne-based Beermasons beer merchants will mind me posting this update from their current trip to Colorado. I thought it made for a great read.