Brews in the Mile High

With legalized marijuana in Colorado giving new meaning to the Mile-High City, Denver is seeing a massive influx of tourists and new residents. But it was a plant of a different kind that I was after on my recent trip there to attend a good friend’s wedding.

While Humulus lupulus (hops) and Cannabis sativa (marijuana) look alike and seem alike, they’re not necessarily related. For a full investigation into the relationship between these two buds, I refer you to Popular Science’s BeerSci column.

After landing in Denver around noon, we headed straight to the Vine Street Pub & Brewery, which was within walking distance to our Airbnb. Part of the Mountain Sun restaurant group, which has locations in Boulder and Longmont, it’s located in the Uptown neighborhood of Denver and is where most of the brewing takes place. It’s a friendly place. We were immediately warned that they only accept cash, but an on-premises ATM only charges a small fee. Alternatively, one could take advantage of the Karma system, in which your server provides you with a self-addressed stamped envelope, and you mail your payment and tip later. We opted for cash.

Because we live at sea level and the air felt thin, we took it slow; well most of us did. One friend ordered a flight, which included generous pours of six brews—he needed a bit of help with that. I was in the mood for some IPAs, so I started with the piney FYIPA (A bit out of it, I kept calling it DYIPA—a bit more interactive, I suppose.) I also had a taste of the Illusion Dweller IPA, which was a little less intense. Then I had a tasty junk burger (bacon, cheese, sautéed mushrooms and onions, roasted garlic mayo) followed by the Tank Top IPA, which is a delicious new brew that will be featured at the upcoming Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Were it not for my altitude concerns, I might have had a second.

The wedding, which took place at City Park Pavilion, was a beautiful evening, starting with a beautiful and heartfelt ceremony, followed by food and dancing, and paired with some tasty local beer in cans from Upslope.

Saturday and Sunday night were devoted to Phish, who were in town playing at Dick’s Sporting Goods Arena; Cannabis, hops, and glow sticks were in high supply.

On our last day there, we stopped in at Denver Beer Company (pictured) to get one final taste of the mile high. The dog-friendly spot has a big patio with misters for the hot days. We sidled up to the bar as is our fashion. There, I kicked myself for not trying the Princess Yum Yum (a raspberry Kolsch) at Avenue Grill, where we had dinner our first night in town. It’s a summer seasonal, and they were out of it at the brewery. Oh well, next year. Instead, I tasted the Anniversary V (they’re celebrating their 5th anniversary this year), which is a dark chocolate coconut take on their Graham Cracker Porter, of which I had a pint. The name may sound like it would be sweet and syrupy, but it really wasn’t; it had a touch of bitterness. I didn’t quite get graham cracker out of it, though husband Phil tasted it. The Incredible Pedal IPA was tasty as an IPA should be, as was the King Ink black IPA and the Simcoe Smash that Phil imbibed.

Sadly, we didn’t have time to make it to Wynkoop, a brewery I first visited with my oldest brother (who lives in Vail) in the mid-nineties or some of the newer players like Our Mutual Friend and Ratio Beerworks.

A Taste of Brooklyn in Philadelphia

So, my friend Heather won a trip to the Brooklyn Brewery Mash 2016 tour in Philadelphia and brought me along as her plus-one. (Thanks, Heather and Brooklyn Based!) The annual event drops in on several U.S. and European cities and features a dinner with beer pairings, a concert, a beer festival, and what they call a “neighborhood immersion.” The prize included round-trip Amtrak tickets, a hotel for three nights, a free dinner, and admission to all of the events.

We stayed at the Hotel Monaco, just steps away from the Liberty Bell. After a fiasco with the Philly subway involving a complicated mission to get exact change, a stolen swipe, and a hot car, we checked in. Our room greeted us with a bucket of Yards Pale Ales (local brew) and some snacks. Yum!

The first evening kicked off with dinner and beer at Bing Bing Dim Sum. On the menu was “Chinese classics with a Jewish twist” and several Brooklyn beer pairings. Seating was family style and we became fast friends with a local couple who sat next to us. It was a delicious evening of gluttony. Highlights included shrimp dumplings with fresh horseradish and poppy seeds, a cucumber salad with sesame chili oil, Sichuan pepper pork dumplings with black vinegar and shishito peppers, and dry-fried green beans.

On tap was one of my faves, the Black Chocolate Stout, which was served with dessert. It’s hard to find, so I savored every sip. We also got pitchers of two sours: Bel Air Sour and Lacto Futura. I’ve been tasting all the sours I can get, and Brooklyn’s didn’t disappoint—I love the sea-salty flavors.  They also served bottles of Sorachi Ace (named after a Japanese hop that’s now grown in Washington), K is for Kriek (Ale Brewed w/ Honey, Dark Candi Syrup & Orange Peel, Aged in Bourbon Barrels on Whole Cherries) and The Discreet Charm of the Framboisie. (That’s a Framboise with their proprietary Lactobacillus strain and fresh raspberries). I’ve had Sorachi Ace at the Brewery and enjoyed it—it’s lemony with a bit of wine and champagne. The fruity beers were new to me—I’m not a fan of cherry-flavored things, so while I liked the Kriek, I won’t go out of my way to find it. What I enjoyed about the Framboise is that it’s not as sweet as the style often is; it’s a lot more subtle.

On Friday, after the free concert at the Union Transfer, which featured time traveling crowd surfers from the 90s, we went over to The Abbaye for post-show brews and snacks with some local friends. This is definitely a place I’d hang out regularly if I were a local. I had a Yards ale, which was on cask, and a couple IPAs, of course. For food, I tried their vegan wings with a perfectly chewy texture (seitan) and a spicy and tasty Buffalo sauce.