One of my favourite US breweries is Great Divide and one of the great things about that is that I can get a lot of their beers in Ireland. I was looking forward to visiting and trying not only the stuff I can't get, but also having some I can fresh from the source.
I took the free tour which is pretty informal and consists of a tour guide shouting in the bar to follow her if you want to go. They are pretty regular at weekends and informative.
One of the interesting facts is that when Flying Dog moved from Colorado to Maryland, most of the staff stayed behind and Great Divide hired them. They have room in their yard for a few more big fermenters which should happen soon but they will never leave Colorado, though they are likely going to have to open a second brewery in Colorado some time.
If I remember correctly, it currently takes 4 brews to fill one large fermenter. They have a 50 barrel plant. They also have a smaller pilot brewery for experimenting which is about the size some of the Irish microbreweries use.
Of the beers I had that I can't get at home, they were interesting and I did not get to try everything. Time was against me but also the ability to order a beer. The problem is that the bar is small and only two people work it but there could be 20 or more people at one time looking to order.
Hades Belgian ale was pretty nice, it tasted like an actual grapefruit, one of the pink breakfast types. Lots of fruity esters going on here. I had Wolfgang dopplebock which is superb. It's pretty heavy but packed full of raisins and other dried fruit. Rumble oak aged IPA is beautiful though the oakiness might be a little overpowering to some.
One very important thing to note is that samples are essentially $1 each which makes them pretty cheap to be honest. Also the proceeds from samples go to charity which is nice. A full beer is $4 which is also excellent value. The only sad thing is that they don't do food but then, perhaps it's a good thing?
For dinner we went to a brewpub started by the Governor of Colorado called the Wynkoop (wine-coop). It's named after James Wynkoop who was he first sheriff and what is now Denver and apparently suggested the name Denver after James Denver, the then Governor of what was then Arapahoe County, Kansas Territory.
The sample tray was pretty impressive and I actually bothered taking some basic notes as follows:
Weisse - watery but normal for an American wheat.
2 guns pils - boring pils. Lemon citrus, not great.
Light rail ale - Ammonia aroma. Pretty bland though.
CPatty's chili beer - tastes like green chili but without the spice meaning there is no burn. Very nice actually.
Rail yard ale - nice if a little bland
London calling - lovely British ipa. Malt driven but lots of English hops. Cask
Mile high ipa - Lovely citrus IPA.
St Charles esb - Very big standard esb. Little watery but perfect tasting. cask. Described as session beer but 5.5%?
B3k black lager - very refreshing black lager. Very strong roast malt character. Beautiful beer but at 5.1 is a little too strong for sessions.
Milk stout - Nitro. Pretty much a milky stout. Nice but somewhat lacking in body despite the nitro.
Mystery 1 (brewjolais neuveau - french like ale) fruity sour. Blackberry like sour. I ordered a full one of these. Lovely beer and highly recommended.
Mystery 2 (red something) like previous but less sour and more watery. Sorry I never got the name of it.
One thing to note, the food was nice enough but I thought it was a little on the bland side, at least my Pork chop was.
Next we went to Falling Rock tap house. My eyes were immediately drawn to Pliny the Elder among the huge range of taps. Unfortunately the bar was manned by some troll, a complete moron. He said let's get the ID's out of the way first, I handed him my drivers license and he said he can't accept a foreign drivers license? To make matters worse, the excause he used was utter bollox. He said that since September 11th, they can only accept passports* as ID, as if this is a national requirement and the hundred or so other bars in the US I have been to since 2004 have obviously been breaking the law. Of course, makes sense, Suicide drinkers might explode in a reign of terror. Apparently this has happened to a lot of tourists in the same place, perhaps even at the hands of the same snivelling little troll. My advice has to be to avoid Falling Rock tap house if you are a tourist. Denver has plenty of great places to drink without having to deal with muppets behind the bar. If you do want to go and sample some of the 75 or so beers on tap then bring a passport if you don't have a US drivers license. There is at least one place that has more beers on tap anyway.
By turning me away, he turned away 7 of us (my family) and well over $100 in drinks sales not to mention a kind word on my blog. Well done bar muppet.
So next we went to the Denver chophouse which is a sort of upmarket brewpub, part of a small chain. Most people in here are business people or cultured. It was a nice place with some decent enough beer. Worth a mention is the dry stout which is actually dry. It almost felt like home. A must have is the bourbon barrel stout. I have had better oak aged stouts in my time but this was a lovely drop. I suspect the chophouse has excellent food judging from the clientele and ambience. It's expensive though, expect Irish prices. A great place for a quiet drink.
This is one of those places that serve beer directly from the tank as opposed to kegging.
A few days later, we went downtown again and visited the Denver mint. It's very informative and free but you need to pre-book and go through a lot of security as you can imagine. It being a hot day, we got out at beer o'clock so went to the nearby Pints pub and brewery, I was looking forward to this because I read some reviews and it looked like I could not go wrong.
I went wrong it seems....
On the face of it, we should have an excellent time here. There is a lot of whiskey/whisky and plenty of house brewed beer including a number on cask. The decor is pretty cool, apart from an English phone booth outside, there is also a phonebooth inside containing an ATM. The kids (nephew/niece) had a great time in the one outside.
The first problem is that they don't do samples. They follow the British model of having a pint or a half pint. So I had half pints to try and picked the ones I figured I would like the best. I took no notes and sampled everyone else's beer. They were universally rubbish. OK that might be harsh but it's the truth. The red ale was ok, Lance IPA was plain weird as was the wheat beer.
And then there is the food. All the reviews on places like tripadvisor indicate the food should be excellent but it was not excellent at all. I had a chicken sandwich which was very generous but here is my gripe. There are a lot of British style restaurants in the US and most of them know what fish and chips are. They know that to the British (and Irish) chips are fries, but not French Fries (we call them that also), rather big chunky steak fries. What Americans call potato chips, we call crisps. Got it?
So I ordered hand cut chips with my chicken and got a basket of hand made crisps. Now these were crunchy and pretty tasty but not what I was expecting.
Also, they do actually have fish and chips on the menu. It's not fried cod or haddock. Instead it's grilled salmon and French fries? What the hell is that all about? They even say in the menu that they know it's not traditional British fare... hang on... It's a British style pub... you either do it right or don't bother!
They had bangers and mash and I was tempted for a second until I read that it's beer boiled sausage? Sounds an awful lot like coddle to me. Don't get me wrong, I love that Dublin delicacy but it has no place in a British pub and it has even less place something called bangers and mash. Certainly add some beer while cooking and it may involve boiling the sausages in beer for a bit but this is after they have been cooked in a pan.
Sorry I know I sound like I'm moaning but I was so disappointed as was everyone else in our party. We went in search of better beer.
Pictured above is the Denver Yard House. I did not go in here and I regret that. I was talked out of it by the locals in our group who said it's way overpriced. Still, worlds largest selection of beers.. 150 or so taps... Damn... I was denied. I was with family though so I followed the general consensus and we went to Hard Rock instead. There was less beer on tap of course but enough to keep me happy and the kids had a great time which is all that matters on a family day out.
One day though, I will have to go in. I might never come out though.
* One thing is universal when travelling. The advice is usually to leave your passport in a hotel safe and don't bring it with you.