Beerchasing in Colorado Part II – The Boulder Area

The Beavs beat the Buffaloes in Boulder - note the orange contingent on the right

The Beavs beat the Buffaloes in Boulder – note the orange contingent on the right

Our trip to Colorado both started and ended in Boulder – a delightful college town in which we visited five interesting establishments and also saw the Oregon State Beavers capture one of their few football wins in 2014 – and what an impressive stadium!

  As the University of Colorado’s Dr. Thomas Noel wrote in his book, A Liquid History of the Highest State:

Boulder has insulated itself from the rest of Colorado with miles of open space and some peculiar laws.  These have ranged from a ban on alchohol to a pacifist foreign policy that bans nuclear weapons within the city limits. (Probably not a bad idea for any college town….)

Among Boulder’s quirks was a Prohibition ordinance not repealed until 1967.  Initially, this was a wet town. ‘I have never seen a city of this size, with so many saloons and so few drunks,’ (marveled one reporter in 1880.)

Near Beer -  The beer drinker's equivalent to Mitt Romney (public domain)

Near Beer – The beer drinker’s equivalent to Mitt Romney (public domain)

 And beware if you buy beer in any retail outlet in Colorado.   All they can sell is 3.2  or “Near Beer” – a questionable euphemism.   According to a recent article in 5280 Denver Magazine, …..3.2 beer still made sense when 18 year-olds could buy it (repealed in 1987), and when it was the only beer you could buy on Sundays (forgone in 2008). So, why has the 3.2 portion of remained unchanged?”

While many Oregonians think the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) is an unnecessary bureaucracy, we have found on recent trips to Utah and Colorado that their beer codes are worse.  3.2 beer is tantamount to being a Republican and having Mitt Romney as the Presidential nominee.  It’s like being told you are going to the Tofu Trattoria for Thanksgiving Dinner.  It’s like……(well, you get the idea!)

Crystal Springs Brewing Co. – Our hosts, the Sengers, are personal friends of Tom and Kristy Horst, the co-owners of this brewery.  Tom is a gifted high-school music teacher who turned his love for home brewing – he and his son started in 1988 – into a thriving business – initially in their garage in 2010 as a home occupation until they expanded in 2013 to a site that could have a taproom in the small municipality of Louisville about ten miles southeast of Boulder.   P1020873

The Sengers with co-owner, Kristy Holtz and ___ in the back

The Sengers with co-owner, Kristy Holtz and staff member, Marilyn Marineeli  in the back

Their mantra is “We only serve beer on special occasions – when it’s snowing and when it’s not snowing….”    

The name has historical ties with the original Crystal Springs founded in 1875 – transitioning to Boulder City Brewery in 1889, which became Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company in 1898.  A friend who is an historical buff suggested the current name which was available. They registered the name and obtained the domain rights for Crystal Springs Brewing Co. when they moved in 2013.

An outstanding family brewery with historic ties

An outstanding family brewery with historic ties

They brew in small batches and are thus creative in their offerings –  now about 30 with 13 always available on tap and their website explains the names behind each one.   One of my favorite beers during the entire Colorado trip was their Solano Chili Beer.

They started canning in 2013 and in March, six of their beers will be available by the aluminum route.  Their growth is evidenced by their plan to increase from the current 30 bbls per month to 100 by the end of 2013.  (A barrel is 31 gallons and a standard keg holds one-half of a barrel – a statistic that will give you a more accurate understanding/appreciation of your college consumption…)

The Crystal Springs Taproom

The Crystal Springs Taproom

 

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The SinkThis historic bar – founded in 1923 on the hill near the UC campus, has outstanding character and internal idiosyncrasies that make it a must visit.  It boasts that Robert Redford worked there as a janitor in the ’60’s, which led patrons to inquire, “Who is that guy, anyway??”

As Dr. Noel describes it: P1020891

During the 1960’s and 1970’s when I was at CU, students sat around here in puddles of beer, smoked pot, and watched Batman and Star Trek…..Mobs of students consumed oceans of beer by the quart.  After a 1995 restoration, the reincarnated Sink still lives in this two-story house with a tacked-on storefront.

The Sink's version of the Recreation of Man.  The Pope would probably not be impressed....

The Sink’s ceiling version of the Creation of Man. The Pope would probably not be impressed….

 Among gobs of graffiti, the place’s crowning achievement is a re-creation of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Man, with God holding down a Sinkburger to Sink Rats in the “Sink-stine Chapel.”  

Some of the tons of graffiti-art created by San Francisco beatnik artist, Lloyd Kavich

Some of the tons of graffiti-art created by San Francisco beatnik artist, Lloyd Kavich

The bar is a maze-like configuration with many rooms – all with distinctive wall-art and thousands of autographs from students.  Each room has tables crammed with people eating and drinking – it kind of reminded me of an old fraternity house.

P1020889And speaking of The Sinkburger, which was outstanding at $8.50, we laughed at the menu option to upgrade to “Natural Grass-fed Beef” for an additional $2.50.  Given Colorado’s legalization of pot, we wondered how laid-back and happy cattle would taste.  Would their hunger transfer to us?

The onion rings were outstanding too and they also have an expansive menu of sandwiches and pizzas besides eighteen draft beers.

The unannounced visit to The Sink by President Obama on a 2012 campaign trip resulted in a new pizza – The POTUS Pie (pepperoni, Italian sausage, green pepper, black olive, red onion, and mozzarella.)  Evidently, Michelle was not on that trip…..

Waiting for Sink Burgers, onion rings and Rocky Mountain Red Ale from Grand Lake Brewing

Waiting for Sink Burgers, onion rings and Rocky Mountain Red Ale from Grand Lake Brewing

Avery Brewing Company This brewery was recommended by our good West Linn friend, Nancy Martin, and it is an impressive success story.  It was started in 1993 – another father-son home operation – this one by Adam Avery – the first President and Brewmaster and brewed just three flagship beers.

50,000 barrel capacity will double with the new brewery

50,000 barrel capacity will double with the new brewery

The pictures will show they now have a thriving operating, one that has shown continued expansion in facilities to capacity of 50,000 barrels or 1.5 million gallons annually and a national reputation for quality craft beer. It demonstrates the vitality of the craft brewing industry – seen in both Oregon and Colorado.   P1020894

They broke ground in January last year on what the Boulder Daily Camera reports will be “a nearly 96,000-square-foot brewery and restaurant…. a more than $27 million project,” which will double its capacity when it opened a few days ago.  Avery is also known for its sustainability programs and even has a cooperative arrangement with the University of Colorado labeled the Yeast Genome Program.  This is genetic sequencing of yeast strains for quality control in brewing – something that the folks at Anheuser Busch probably don’t worry too much about when producing Bud Light.

Matt - Certified Cicerone and nice guy with the Sengers and Thebeerchaser logo

Matt – Certified Cicerone and nice guy with the Sengers and Thebeerchaser logo

 We visited their Tap Room – now in a new location serving 30 beers on tap  – and their staff was very friendly – most notably, Matt Lambuth, their Certified Cicerone – the second of three levels of certification requiring passing a written exam and “a deep and well-rounded knowledge of beer and beer service as well as competence in assessing beer quality and identity by taste.”  

P1020893Matt gave us a history and a thorough explanation of beer options including multiple tastes to help hone our preferences (Karma BelgianJoe’s Pilsner, Gored – a great pumpkin seasonal and White Rascal Belgium).

Eighteen different Avery beers at their Tap Room
Eighteen different Avery beers at their Tap Room

 

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Gravity Brewing –  While this small brewery and pub started in the fall of 2012 – the first in the Louisville suburb of Boulder does not have the gravitas and ambiance of the first two in this post, it definitely has the coolest logo.

An outstanding logo!

An outstanding logo!

They only produce about 20 barrels per week of their twenty different brews – most with high 8% to 10% ABV or alcohol content – and distribute growlers, kegs and bottled beers.  Both the founder and managing partner are UC engineers and the brewer graduated with a degree in chemistry from Portland’s own Lewis and Clark College.

Facilities in the brew pub

Facilities in the Gravity brew pub

Their brew pub is somewhat sparsely furnished and in a drab commercial building. (The location isn’t pretty.  Swing around the back of Mountain High Appliance, cross a rutty parking lot fronting the American Legion Post III, and walk through an unremarkable front door. Boulder Daily Camera – 8/22/.)

 Interestingly, their kitchen is shared with the local American Legion Post and you can simply walk through a door into another cool bar run by the Legion.  Gravity has live jazz several times each month on Thursday nights.

A shared kitchen....
A shared kitchen….

 

The Taproom - sparsely furnished except for the beers on tap

The Gravity Taproom – sparsely furnished except for the beers on tap

 

 

 

 

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Post Brewing Company – We had an excellent dinner at this brewery-restaurant in Lafayette – also near Boulder. Opened in the summer of 2012 in a former VFW hall and as described on their web-site: “A chicken and beer joint where hot chicken loves cold beer, all day long and twice on Sundays.” 

A chicken and beer joint...
A chicken and beer joint…

 

The Post patio
The Post’s expansive beer garden

 

 

They  brew eighteen beers and have a great comfort-food menu including good pizza, but go for the fried or rotisserie chicken. “We’ll have fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, a bunch of appetizers with chicken, drumsticks, a lot of stuff with eggs.”  

And by the way their Howdy Beer – a pilsner – won a Gold Medal at Denver’s 2014 Great American Beer Festival and goes really well with dark meat…..

Is this a Post Growler?

Is this a Post Brewery  Growler?

P1020921

And to close this post, Thebeerchaser can’t resist posting the video below from the Colorado University Stadium during the OSU vs. CU football game.  This provides new insight into the term “Beast Mode” and if Pete Carrol had this running back to carry the ball for the final plays in the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks would definitely have won.

Beerchasing in the Highest State – Part I

P1020965

Colorado – I have to admit that until last fall, my only knowledge of Colorado breweries harkened back to college years at Oregon State University.  You were a hero with SAE fraternity brothers and could be a babe magnet – at least temporarily –  if you came back from a road trip with a few cases of Coors – brewed in Golden, Colorado.

Coors - the Silver Bullet to popularity in the late '60's

Coors – the Silver Bullet to popularity in the late ’60’s

Coors was then not sold in Oregon because it wasn’t pasteurized.  As a result of its unavailability, it became a delicacy similar to Cuban cigars with the advantage that you were not supporting a communist dictator when you purchased the product.

A state rivaling Oregon in breweries and scenery

A state rivaling Oregon in breweries and scenery

 

 

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In September 2014, my wife and I spent twelve wonderful days in Colorado, six of which were in a Breckenridge condo.  While we both love Oregon, I was convinced that if we had to choose another home, it would be this state with its majestic mountains, lush forests, lakes, rivers and canyons – and oh yes – bountiful breweries, which although they are not natural wonders, can still make one’s pulse surge with anticipation.

New Belgium Brewery - one of Colorado's best

New Belgium Brewery –  the first in the US to purchase 100% of its electricity from wind generated power

Rocky Mountain National Park's amazing Trail Ridge Road

Rocky Mountain National Park’s amazing Trail Ridge Road

We saw spectacular and fascinating scenery ranging from the Trail Ridge Road, which bisects Rocky Mt. National Park – 48 miles long with eight of those above 11,000 feet (Mt. Hood’s summit is 11,249) – to Garden of the God’s and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

The Chapel at the US Air Force Academy

The Chapel at the US Air Force Academy

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Our visit concluded watching the Oregon State Beavers beat the Colorado Golden Buffaloes football team in Boulder on a beautiful day. (Please limit your comments re. the Beavers’ final Pac 12 record.)

The Beavs beat the Buffaloes in Boulder - note the orange contingent on the right

The Beavs beat the Buffaloes in Boulder – note the orange contingent on the right

My fondness for Colorado was heightened by the number of breweries and great bars we visited – 18 in twelve days.

Portland purportedly has more craft breweries per capita (76 in the metro area) than any city in the world, and the state of Oregon has a total of 181 – at 6.3 per 100,000 adults – first in the US.

This compares to 175 in Colorado – 4th in the US at 4.7 – where they range from Adolph Coors  Co. – the largest in the world and the formidable New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins to many micro-breweries – eight of which we were fortunate to visit and taste their product.

Don and Janet Williams with our tour guides - the Sengers

Don and Janet Williams with our tour guides – the Sengers

Our philosophy was that the 1.6 breweries per capita fewer in Colorado was the equivalent of being in a bar which had 75 different beers on tap rather than 100 and we would explore notwithstanding the #2 ranking.

We had a great time both at the beginning and end of our trip with good friends, Barb and John Senger – Barb is an OSU grad and both are retired school administrators and were accomplished tour guides.

Their extensive preparation for a Beerchaser tour was evidenced by the copy of an outstanding reference guide awaiting me on arrival – Colorado, a Liquid History & Tavern Guide of the Highest State by Dr. Thomas Noel, a professor at the University of Colorado.

An essential resource for Beerchasing in Colorado
An essential resource for Beerchasing in Colorado

 Dr.Noel states in his introduction that he began surveying bars early when he was  nineteen years old – forty-four years younger than when I commenced Thebeerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs.   His ultimate mission makes me consider returning to graduate school – a dissertation in history at UC as follows:

 

An historic example of the venues explored by Dr. Noel and Thebeerchaser
An historic example (in Breckenridge) of the venues explored by Dr. Noel and later by Thebeerchaser

 

 

 

 

For that research, I systematically visited every licensed and unlicensed after-hours club, bar, lounge, nightclub and tavern in Denver – some six hundred establishments…..Since completing the Denver bar survey of 1965 to 1978, I have not been idle.  I have expanded the study, hoping to visit every bar in Colorado.”   

What vision and perseverance!

The good professor promptly returned an e-mail I sent and in his response granted me permission to use excerpts from his book in my blog posts.  He also informed me in his reply that he also authored another book of interest to Beerchasers – Denver: The City and the Saloon. A pearl of wisdom from Dr. Noel:

The tavern as an institution, as well as a building type, is underappreciated.  This book gives a voice to people – and an institution – that usually escape dry history books.  Bars have made and shaped history.  They themselves have revealing histories and are great places to collect tall, short and winding tales.

A notable validation of Dr. Noel's premise from the historic Sink Bar

A notable validation of Dr. Noel’s premise from the historic Sink Bar

Based on my Beerchaser Tour over the last 3 + years, Dr. Noel’s quote hits the mark regardless of whether the venue is in Colorado, Oregon, Amsterdam, Anchorage, Prineville or Port Townsend.

So during our twelve-day trip, what were the eighteeen bars and breweries we visited  and which will be highlighted in three or four subsequent Beerchaser posts?

 

From the Avery Brewery in Boulder

From the Avery Brewery in Boulder

Boulder  Crystal Springs Brewery, The Sink, Avery Brewery, Gravity Brewery, Post Brewery

Fort Collins – The Town Pump, The Mayor of Old Town Bar, New Belgium Brewery

Breckenridge – Angels Hollow Bar, Apres Handcrafted Libations, Breckenridge Brewery, Broken Compass Brewery, The Gold Coin Saloon, Ollies Pub and Grub  P1030035

Colorado Springs – Phantom Canyon Brewery, The Ritz Bar

Dillon Lake –  The Dillon Dam Brewery

P1020937

From Choice City Butchers and Deli in Fort Collins

 

 

 

 

 

One acknowledgement before concluding this post which I would be remiss in omitting.  Our host, John Senger, in addition to having a great feel for selecting quality bars and breweries, also distinguished himself with the quality of his hand-crafted martinis – a libation for which Thebeerchaser is an enthusiastic advocate.

Complementary.  Gin - up with olives!

Complementary: Gin – up with olives!