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Among Boulder’s quirks was a Prohibition ordinance not repealed until 1967.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.)
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 According to a recent article in 5280 Denver Magazine, “…..3.2 beer still made sense when 18 year-olds could buy it (repealed in 1987), and when it was the only beer you could buy on Sundays (forgone in 2008).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.
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.
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 Sink – This 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??”
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.
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.”
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.
And 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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Matt gave us a history and a thorough explanation of beer options including multiple tastes to help hone our preferences (Karma Belgian, Joe’s Pilsner, Gored – a great pumpkin seasonal and White Rascal Belgium).
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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…..
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.