Category Archives: Beer Review

The Colorado Craft Beer Round Up

After I moved to Frederick, Colorado I started to become disillusioned with beer. I just couldn’t find the same passion and joy in the art of fermentation as I once had.. Logging onto Facebook, which I have to do for work, would just make me agitated seeing all the awesome beer tappings and events my friends attended but I was too far to join. It even got to the point where I would go a couple weeks without sipping a 20140816_180654sud, despite the overflow of beer from our fridge and working at a brewery. Was I subconsciously hoarding my small cellar of beer in case of another flood and I wouldn’t be able to get out of town to get more? Was I losing my taste for it? Could I actually- in a land of 10,000 beers- be BORED? What is going on!?!?

And then I saw it. A poster for the Colorado Craft Beer Round Up. A small festival put on by the Carbon Valley Chamber of Commerce, and walking distance from my house. A beer event that I didn’t have to drive 40 minutes to Denver, Boulder or Fort Collins to attend. Now, I don’t want you to think that I am totally deprived of beer out on the plains. I have found a hang out at Echo Brewing Company and thank whatever god you pray too that Georgia Boys Smoke House has 20 taps of beer other than bud light, but 2 places won’t give you that awesome of a bike tour.

The 20140816_155907night before the festival I perused the list of breweries serving. A few new breweries who I haven’t had a chance to make it to would be pouring, but the rest of the bunch were the usual suspects; City Star Brewing, Pateros Creek, Grimm Brothers Brewhouse and others. Live music was supposed to play all day, and knowing the lay out of the park I was excited for some dancing barefoot in a skirt possibilities.

Despite the advertisements that promised a taster glass with your ticket purchase, everyone was handed a clear plastic cup at arrival. As a collector I was disappointed they didn’t at least spring for a $.75 per person tiny plastic beer mug. However, I was surprised to see so many unusual beers to fill my cup with. So often small festivals just showcase a breweries standard beers, but I was able to sip on barrel aged, fruit & floral infused, double hopped 20140816_153844and more. Walking up to the Grimm Brothers tent, owner Aaron Heaton pulled a growler out of the cooler and poured me a serving of their new Gose. It was amazing. It is hard for me to find a Gose that doesn’t illicit salted vegetables on my palette, but this one had a malt sweetness to balance the perfect salty bite.

There was even a Grist style ale! This is a style I search out with little results. It is such a historic style, yet it is incredibly diverse in its execution. Very Nice Brewing out of Netherland brought theirs out and I am glad they did. The cloudy golden amber ale had a such complex taste, from sweet malt and spicy rye to an earthy finish. Lauren and Heather from Disposabowls kept going back for more. The “beer” I kept going back for more was the Pumpkin Cider from Wild Cider. A local cidery here in Frederick, I was all about their spicy sweet concoction available in a 16 oz. can.

Drinking beer was about it as terms as things to do at the festival. While they didn’t follow through on their advertising for the festival glass, they did follow through on it being family friendly. A family friendly beer festival is good in theory, but having half the festival grounds dedicated to the entertainment of the maybe 20 children in attendance was a bit over kill. The paying grown-ups 20140816_165725would like entertainment, too. And the lone guitarist who nearly ruined my favorite Tom Petty song with the worst cover I have ever heard didn’t count.

Towards the end of the festival Echo Brewing Company was presented with an award for “VIP Choice Beer”. There was no earlier mention of a voting or judging, or even a formal ceremony to present the award. Even the brewery reps who won the award didn’t know how the contest was won or why they won. “Some dude just gave us this”, was how they described their hard earned win.

The festival offered most of what it promised, lots of family friendly activities with an20140816_163016 unlimited amount of beer. Without the Brewers Association and the help from brewers (an owner of Echo Brewing paid $100 out of his own pocket to fill in a contract disagreement between the musician and the chamber), I don’t think the chamber could have pulled this off.

Despite the numerous signs at the festival declaring “for children 12 and under only” restricting me from most of the area, attending this festival helped renew my passion for beer. It helped me discover why I was becoming so disillusioned with beer. It reminded me that the thing I love most about beer is the social aspect and camaraderie. Drinking an amazing, barrel aged, bottle conditioned, rare hopped whale isn’t as fun by yourself as it is with others who also appreciate the craft. It was great to catch up with Aaron from Grimm Brothers and Paul from Pateros Creek and meet so many new people.I learned that there is indeed life outside the brewery mecca that is Fort Collins.




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Sunday Brunch at The Mainline

When The Mainline opened in 2013, it wasn’t with too much excitement from the beer community,  despite the huge marketing attempt made by the Breck-Wynkoop group.  They gave us huge promises of a unique space with upscale food with a southern comfort flair. A list of those involved with menu creation from the Denver Westword lists a half dozen people, none of which I could point out enjoying a pint at another local bar. It was a faceless, corporate business, giving the typical reaction of “meh” from local residents about their experiences.

I went a few times in the first couple months. The massive space was indeed unique. Reused piping creates a “tree- house” effect throughout the building that really brings character to the space. The upstairs bar is filled with all kinds of random things encased in resin that help start some great conversations. A rooftop patio is a not to miss feature of The Mainline. Just try to count the number of unique light fixtures here, just try. But that was where the awe stopped for me.

From sub par food like a shrimp po’ boy containing only 3 pieces of shrimp on an 8″ bun, to poor service from a waitstaff who preferred to chat with each other than work, the first few months at The Mainline was rough for everyone. While I 20140615_102310never all out avoided the place after the first couple negative experiences, I never strive to go there either. I would accompany a friend now and then for drinks on the rooftop, occasionally indulging in the Angry Mac n Cheese as that was all I trusted from the menu.

But I wanted to like them, I really did! So when I received an email from a company handling their marketing, asking me to come try out their brunch menu, for free, at first I ignored it. I typically don’t do reviews on this blog anyways, and something about offering me free stuff reeks of desperation. But he was persistent. Even though this person worked for a marketing group, he was excited about the restaurant and the menu. He kept emailing me, which put a face to a business I had considered faceless for so long. Then, a friend posted a photo on Facebook of her drinks at The Mainline stating “I am giving them one more shot, but only because of the Fort Collins Passport“. This opened a whole conversation about The Mainline and why people choose to go there or not. I figured I should give them another chance, too.

We finally found a time that would work and headed out for an early brunch at The Mainline. We were the first one’s in that day. The boyfriend was worried about getting seated and out the door in time for his job that afternoon. He didn’t realize how large of a space The Mainline is and that finding a seat is not going to be a problem. We snagged 20140615_101724a seat overlooking College Ave on the rooftop. It really is gorgeous up there, plus you get a good view of some ghost signs you can’t see from street level.

I went in looking for one thing that day, person-ability. I wanted to feel a connection to the people who worked here. I wanted to continue attaching faces to The Mainline and distance it farther from the corporate world of Breck-Wynkoop. I had barely even sat down yet before I got what I asked for. One of the bartenders from the first floor saw me walk in, and made the journey all the way to the rooftop to greet me, “I saw you come in, and had a quick break so wanted to come say hi!”. He had served me previously before a couple times, and remembered me, and going out of his way to say hi is exactly the personable experience I was looking for.

Our server was amazing as well, chatting with us about the different menu items she liked. Our service was quick and the food was original. I ordered the Buttermilk Chicken and Waffles, that came with a giant pile of maple bacon to go with the spiced rum infused syrup. I loved the melted slices of brie on top of the perfectly cooked waffles, the cream helped to blend all of the flavors together. The dish also featured watercress and orange marmalade. If I wasn’t still working on my bloody mary (maybe the service was too quick), my plan was to order a coffee stout to go with this rich dish.


The boyfriend ordered the Pulled Pork Hash that came with their homemade tater tots. The dish looks like a colorless mass, but was actually damn tasty. Some of the color was lost, as it normally comes with eggs and he took them off. It was a mix of pulled pork, sweet potatoes and red peppers that had a kick to it. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the texture of the potatoes, as they were a bit mushy.


We finished out the meal with a Pateros Creek Mainline, made exclusively for the restaurant, and a Pimm’s Cup. We may have enjoyed the Pimm’s Cup a bit, as we fought over the last few sips of its very short existence. I had planned to pair the brown ale aged on bourbon barrel staves with the Chocolate Beignets, but unfortunately there was an issue with the fryer and they weren’t able to cook them properly.  I am going to assume the fryer wasn’t hot enough yet. At a year old, this is kind of a silly issue for a restaurant to have. I was disappointed I didn’t get to try either of my anticipated beer pairings choices, but still satisfied in my meal.20140615_105048

All in all, I think The Mainline has gotten a bad rap from their rough get go. Aside from this brunch visit, I also scheduled a meeting with Kim from Grouse Malting and Brewing here. We both enjoyed our experience that day, with delicious shrimp tacos on special and a couple beers over industry chatter. The food is more innovative than what is offered at most places around Old Town. Their mixed drinks are delicious, but expect to have most of your beer choices be Breckenridge and Wynkoop. Plus, their rooftop patio is my favorite in town.20140615_105639

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A New Taste in Beer: New Planet’s take on GF Beer

This Tuesday Contributor Series post is written by Irene Nissen, a regular contributor of Napa of Beer. Find her other articles here. 

I had the opportunity to visit with Peter Archer, the Marketing Manager for New Planet Beer, at their headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. Peter contacted me after seeing my post on where to find Gluten Free beers in Fort Collins.

In 2003 New Planet’s founder, Pedro Gonzales, was diagnosed with Photo #1celiac disease. Consuming gluten at even 5 parts per million (ppm) will knock him out. He couldn’t stand any other GF beers that were on the market, so that was his inspiration to start New Planet. New Planet has been distributed statewide in Colorado since 2010, and is currently in 40 core states, with 66 distributors. Their operations are based in Boulder, CO with 5 employees and their beer is brewed and bottled in Fort Collins at the Fort Collins Brewery.

Currently New Planet distributes 5 distinctly different ale sets. Their Blonde Ale was their original beer, and previously was known as Tread Lightly Ale. In August New Planet started labeling all their beers by style versus a name. This decision was made to make the process of choosing a beer simpler for the consumer. When it comes to craft brews people like to know what they are drinking, and especially when someone is trying to choose a gluten free beer, they want to know how it directly compares.

One of the most difficult parts of brewing gluten free beer is how to make beer out of ingredients that don’t taste like beer. Sorghum has a very distinctive flavor that can be hard to disguise. One of the expressions that Peter likes to use when talking about New Planet’s brewing style is that they are “using non-traditional beer ingredients to create a beer experience.”

Up until about 4 years ago all gluten-free beers were lagers. Budweiser was the most popular beer and Photo #2therefore gluten-free brewers decided to make the Budweiser for the sorghum world. This is often times why you hear that GF beers suck; you can’t make a good GF lager using sorghum.

The biggest knock on GF beers is that they are not flavorful, so New Planet strives to offer the entire flavor progression in their beers.

Their Blonde Ale is a super light, easy drinking ale brewed with sorghum.  Corn is added for more texture and mouth feel without adding more fermentable sugar and helps to keep the stability of the flavor profiles. A little orange peel is also added for a citrus pop on the finish and to clear out the sorghum taste.

Their Raspberry Ale is made more like a light drinking wine or cider. It is brewed with sorghum, corn, orange peel and raspberry puree from organic, sustainably grown raspberries in Oregon.

Their Belgium Ale is the only America made Belgian that is 100% GF. It is brewed with traditional Belgium Ale Yeast, Madhava organic wildflower honey from Longmont and spiced with Cinnamon and Vanilla to give a cinnamon and peppery finish.

Their Amber Ale is meant to be similar to a standard American amber ale. It is made with a little brown rice extract and molasses to help change the texture and format of the beer. It doesn’t have quite the hop load as a lot of Colorado amber ales, and not as much of the malt back, but there is a nice texture across the middle, and Cascade is used for the finishing hop to give you a nice crisp bite.

With their Pale Ale, they set out to the make the hoppiest 100% GF Pale Ale in the industry. Sorghum is not a great stable base, so it’s hard to balance out. They couldn’t just throw a bunch of hops at it, as it would have resulted in an unbalanced beer with a very bitter flavor. The result is a GF beer with a much bigger mouth feel and more flavor than most GF beers; they describe it as a very assertive beer and it is their #1 seller across the country.

They are also working on a Brown Ale, although it is not commercially available yet. The difficult part of brewing a GF Brown Ale is that sorghum cannot be roasted. So how do you create the experience of a big brown ale without any of the traditional ingredients? Their head brewer had the idea of using Brazilian Coffee and Cocoa to add texture, give mouth feel and add a roasted flavor. The result was a delicious brown ale that you would never guess is a GF beer.Photo #3

The choice to brew 100% GF from start to finish, versus traditionally brewing beer that is “gluten-removed” is something that Pedro feels very passionately about. In gluten-removed beer, the protein chain gets chopped up so small that it becomes difficult for tests to detect. Individuals with Celiac have a limit of what they can take; so “gluten-removed” beer can be dangerous.  The only way to ensure that a product is gluten free is to brew it from start to finish gluten free. New Planet wants their customers to not even have to think about it when they choose their beer. They are extremely passionate about transparency and believe that people need to know what they are ingesting.

Recently the FDA ruled that a product made either from gluten-free grains or from gluten-containing grains, that has undergone a process to reduce the amount of gluten, could be called gluten free if it has less than 20 ppm of gluten. Pedro believes “there is a lot of miscommunication going on, so anything you can do to help the consumer decide is ideal.” New Planet includes the full nutrition and ingredient information on all their bottles. This is not required in the U.S. for alcohol products.

The FDA believes that in order for consumers with Celiac to have an array of foods to choose from they cannot lower the 20 ppm rule, otherwise food and beverage manufacturers may shy away from making GF foods. However if down the road they can find information showing that they can test lower than 20 ppm and people are being affected by less than 20 ppm they may lower this standard. The government is always working to find the middle ground and the important thing is to educate the consumer so they can make the best decision for them. As it stands right now if a GF beer is labeled gluten-free, is it “gluten-free.” While New Planet is comPhoto #4pletely GF, they cannot label it as such since the tests do not go that low.

New Planet caters to three different consumers. There are the 50+ late diagnoses Celiac consumers who gave up beer a long time ago, the young consumer Celiac who wants to drink craft beers and wants choices on styles, and the Gluten Free by Choice (GFBC) consumer who is trying to decide if they should drink a traditionally brewed craft beer and cheat, or drink a gluten free beer. By offering 5 district styles and flavor profiles for consumer to choose from New Planet offers a safe, gluten-free alternative for a wide range of consumers.

If you would like to taste New Planet’s beers and learn more about their passion for brewing GF, their newly opened tasting room is located at 6560 Odell Place, Unit D, in Boulder CO and is open every other Friday trough the end of October from 4:00-6:00 pm.

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Feisty Spirits Brings New Innovation to Fort Collins Craft

At a recent luncheon hosted by the United Way of Larimer County at The Rio I sat sipping a margarita, on the rocks with salt. An acquaintance came over to say hi and the first thing out of his mouth was, “you’re the beer girl, why are you drinking a marg?”. While beer is my adult beverage of choice, it doesn’t mean that is all I have to drink. It is nice to switch it up every now and then. When I go to Fish I usually drink wine. I don’t even have to order an apple whiskey old fashioned at Ace Gillett’s, the bartender already knows that is what I want. Everyone cross drinks. Fort Collins is about to get another option for cross drinking as a new distillery, Feisty Spirits, is getting ready to bring this beer town some whiskey.

I was recently invited to a tasting at Feisty Spirits, so my Brunch ‘n’ Brew group decided to make a day of it. When we walked into the space in a tiny strip mall on Lincoln Ave you wouldn’t have known it was a distillery. A couch sat against one wall and two offices were along the other. fesityspiritslogoEventually, this space will become the tasting room as soon as the city grants them the proper permits for construction. I am sure it will look much better without the carpeting that looks as if it should be in an elementary school classroom.

Owners Jamie Gulden and David Monahan took us to the backroom, which was indicative of what the distillery will look like when complete. The first thing you noticed was a big, shiny 60 gallon still. Unable to use this still yet until the proper approval, a small copper still sat on a table with clear liquid dripping into a mason jar. Hundreds of mason jars covered almost every surface. They were all different sizes, filled with liquids of all kinds of colors and amounts. It was reminiscent of a mad scientist lab.

We began the day by learning about distillation. Being beer nerds, we only knew the basics of the process. We went around smelling mashes, and checking out the small still as David explained to us the process of creating whiskey. Feisty Spirits typically uses grain flours, but not all the time, to create their mash. Adding amylase to the hot wort mixture of grain and water, it starts the process of turning the flour into fermentable sugars for the yeast to eat. After the yeast has done it’s job in the mash for about a week, the wort is added to the still pot. Here, condensation and evaporation separate the alcohol from the water. Alcohol evaporates at 80 degrees, while water at 100. Regulating the temperature allows for what will become whiskey to be taken out of the water and concentrated.

The small still at Feisty Spirits

The small still at Feisty Spirits

The large still at Feisty Spirits contains 4 “thumpers”, or chambers in the column that are responsible for condensing the alcohol. This is a typical amount for a whiskey still, but vodka stills can have up to 20. Before their small still, they were making alcohol from a small heated water purifier. The first bit of whiskey they comes out of a still usually has a strong acid aldyehyde, or green apple taste. This is caused by the yeast and often thrown out or sent through the distillation process again. We got to taste some of the first runnings, or kamut, from the small still that was going, and tart apple was very apparent, even being an off flavor I am not sensitive too.


Now that we understood how it was made, it was time to taste it! There was a table set up in the middle of the room, covered in a handful of mason jars and shot glasses. Knowing our love for beer, we started with whiskeys that had been distilled from beer. We tried a Cutthroat Porter from Odells that was 130 proof, a homebrewed porter and a beer from Pateros Creek Brewing Co. Distilling beer into alcohol is a great way to use batches that have gone wrong, and Feisty Spirits plans to utilize this resource from the many breweries in town.

From here, David lined up a great order for us to learn how the different grains, and other additives, changed the outcome of the whiskey. They are in the process of fine tuning their recipes, which is why there were so many different jars everywhere.  We ended up being a sort of tasting panel for Jamie and David to see what people would enjoy.

We started with a 100% oat, unaged oat whiskey. It was followed by a half oat, half rye and then a 100% rye. Next we tried millet, spelt, barley and wheat. All of the grains produced different flavors. The spelt produced a more earthy flavor while the oats provided a thicker mouth feel. The blend of these two grains was my favorite. We also tried 100% sorgum syrup, the common ingredient used to make gluten free beers. I wasn’t a fan of this one.


Bourbons, or whiskey made with over 51% corn, was the next batch we tasted. These were bolder in flavor, and tickled my nose when I tried to do the beer-tasting retro nasal. To age bourbons and whiskeys, distillers must use new American oak barrels, and for test batches they used oak chips. Many of the infused and aged ones we tasted after the basics were bourbons and not whiskeys.

Next we moved onto distilled mead. A blackberry mead that was aged with rose hips was floral and sweet, perfect to mix into a summer cocktail. The mead that was aged with anise was a hit or miss, you either loved it, or hated it. Black licorice is one of the worst inventions ever, so I did not enjoy it. A distilled cider was very close to tasting just like a normal fermented cider, but you got a little alcoholic bite at the end.

As we went along into the infused and aged alcohols, David would pour us a taste, and have us guess what flavors where in it. This was a great way to test our pallets. Some were easy to pick out, such as lavender, cinnamon, peach and coconut. Ones that were a bit harder to detect were pumpkin, rhubarb, and blackberry. The favorite of the group was the vanilla bean and orange peel infused bourbon, it really was a phenomenal flavor.

Image courtesy of Feisty Spirits

Image courtesy of Feisty Spirits

Last, we tried some cocktail tricks to drastically change the flavors. An oat and barley whiskey was harsh alone, but a drop of Horsetooth Hotsauce balanced it out. Same with a a rye and oat, that alone was flavorless and burned, but with  a drop of bitters was tolerable.

When all was said and done we had tried 27 different whiskeys. The creativity and innovation of recipes in Feisty Spirits is something I never thought I would see outside of the brewing industry. The passion and knowledge they have for their craft is what has helped propel this city, and even though they are not making beer, they are going to fit right in. I cannot wait for their tasting room to open (hopefully) in early 2013.

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GABF Day One

Ok, so the official Great American Beer Festival is not until Thursday, but events go on all week. I consider Monday to be day one of a jam packed week of festivities. Just because I live an hour away from the location of the festival doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to kick the week off right.

I ended up at Choice City Butcher and Deli for lunch. I needed to pick up some pancetta for my pairing later in the night so I figured why not have a Colorado Reuben and a beer too. Russ, owner of Choice, was some

Epic Brainless on Cherries with Brett

how able to gain a keg of Epic Brewing Brainless on Cherries that had been infected with brettanomyces. Most of this batch was dumped when they found the flaw, but I am glad this one was spared.  The story goes that someone was actually fired because of the flaw in this beer.

While sitting at the counter eating my sandwich and chatting with Thad, the chef of Choice City’s infamous beer dinners, BeerAdvocate walked in. I got to meet Todd Alstrom for a few short seconds but for some reason was a bit shy in talking to them. Before I got my 75 slices of pancetta I ordered a Oskar Blues and Sun King collab beer, Chaka. I was also able to try D.O.R.I.S. the Destroyer from Hoppin’ Frog. This double oatmeal russian imperial stout was a chocolately meal in a class. It will be one of the beers featured in the pairing dinner tonight with Hoppin’ Frog out of Ohio.

Before I headed out I ran into Carlos, the local rep for Washington brewery No-Li Brewhouse. He dropped off some samples to Russ and we chatted about the brew styles and art work of this new brewery opened by John Bryans.

Later in the night I had my GABF Medal Winners pairing event with the Welsh Rabbit Cheese Shop went off without a hitch, unless you count how long it took to get the menus printed. I usually print my menus at the local FedEx Kinkos center and have always had great, and quick, service. Yesterday, I got the girl with the “in training” sticker on her name tag. While I longingly stared at the employee who usually helps me as the new girl was explaining printing two sided as trial and error (aka she didn’t know which way to feed the paper into the copier) I decided my time was better spent elsewhere while she learned her job. I told her I had an errand to run and would be back later to pick them up. By “errand” I meant I was going across the street to Tap and Handle for a beer instead of making a scene in the FedEx.  Luckily, there was a Great Divide Yeti Sighting going on. I sipped a half pint of Oak Aged Yeti and chatted with my friend Matt who reps for American Eagle and the Great Divide rep. Luckily, my menus were ready when I got back.

We had a packed house at the pairing and even had to turn people away as we didn’t have a place to seat them! The courses were delicious and the crowd was lively. We had representatives from all 4 breweries in attendance to talk to guests about their beer. The volunteer staff was fun and engaging and made sure everyone’s glass was always topped off. I intend to head back into The Welsh Rabbit Cheese shop soon to take home some of the cheeses that were served last night, especially the Smoked Farmhouse Cheddar, yum!

After all was said and done and the shop was cleaned up after the pairing, my partner in beer crime and I headed back to Tap and Handle to celebrate. They tapped a keg of Uncle Jacobs Stout from Avery Brewing Co. and I had been dreaming about it all day. Many may scoff at the $10 price tag for half a pint, but at nearly 18% you will understand why after your first sip. There was also supposed to be a tapping of 4 Grand Teton beers, but the driver hit a snag on the way to Colorado. However, I can’t wait to go back today and get some Dogfish Head Bitches Brew. Bring on Day 2!

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