I can't stand Family Guy, but they can get to the heart of the matter every now and then. Much like random baseball fields in Iowa, breweries are little slices of heaven on earth Since visiting Heaven, and all of it earthly slices, is much better than working, I took Monday off to tour some of Colorado's numerous breweries.
I came up with a grand unified theory of brewery tours. It is impossible to do more than 3 in a day. Simply, the force of time, distance, and drunkeness will keep you from getting too many in. Don't get me wrong; visiting 3 breweries instead of working on a Monday is fucking awesome, but in a perfect world, I would've slipped about 5 in. Damn physical laws of time and space.
I started my tour by trekking up to Fort Collins. Two of the more iconic breweries this state has to offer are located up in Ft Fun in the form of New Belgium and Odell's. I can't stand New Belgium, and they aren't even open on Monday's, so Odell's was my starting place. In retrospect, I don't think I could've done any better. As a hop freak, a hop-obsessed brewery like Odell's is right up my alley, and the tour was small, which allowed for an easy conversation style with the tour guide. He took us around the usual route, passing the cool hop back and the bottling line before entering their hop storage. Inside, the group was allowed to dive into a basket of whole hop leafs. I was damn near giddy at the mere sight of it all.
|That's a lot of hops.|
|Myrcenary: gotta try it at the brewery.|
Literally down the block from Odell's lies relative newcomer Fort Collins Brewery. I haven't been too exposed to this brewery, but the constraints of time and space, combined with the fact that I drove all the way up to FoCo, compelled me to stop by. This was a more traditional taphouse experience. The small scope of the brewery (under 20 employees) meant that tours were infrequently available, so dueling taster trays combined with a discussion with the bartender were the course of my time spent there.
By far the best brew I tasted there was their Maibock. Smooth, well crafted, and lightly hopped, the sweet maltiness of the Maibock was a pleasure to enjoy. The Maibock is indicative of the general Germanic oeuvre of FCB's offerings. Plenty of lagers dot their menu, which is slightly out of place in the American craft brewing community that is so dominated by ales. It was an interesting change of pace, and if I see that Maibock on shelves, I wouldn't hesitate to grab it.
Heading back down US 287, I passed up the opportunity to stop by Longmont's Left Hand (I'll swing back around sometime later, I swear) to close my tour at Boulder's own Avery. By far my favorite Colorado brewery (although my trip to Odell's ticked them up a couple of notches), Avery is haphazardly strewn about an industrial park in East Boulder. It's damn hard to find if you haven't been there before, but its worth the effort. As the day was inching closer to 5, the tap room was semi-full, and our tour was filled with people.
The Avery taproom is a great place to try some wild stuff; and I mean fucking wild. I tried two beers there that stretched the boundaries of my palate. The first, Fumator, is a smoked ale aged in Stranahan's whiskey barrels. It would go great with any number of smoked sausages and cheeses, and generally reminded me of smoked cheddar mixed with whiskey; really freaky, but, in its own way, very tasty. The other eye-opening flavor came from the Hand of Budda. It's a spiced Belgian ale, spiked with an interesting spice called Budda's Hand. I've never, in my entire life, tasted anything like this. I'm not sure I liked it (I'll have to try some more) but it certainly was unique.
|Fumator was a smoky treat|
The highlight of any trip to Avery is the barrel room where they keep all of their barrel-aged brews. Barrels are reused until they no longer have any quality flavor to impart, and the brewery does weekly taping of some wildly anticipated stuff. While there I listened to arguments over what type of barrels impart the best flavors, and which year of "the Beast" was best. A really awesome place to end my day.