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Denver Breweries – Crooked Stave, TRVE, and Strange

I recently made a short weekend trip to Denver and during that time I visited some breweries I missed out on the last time. I heard a lot of great things about Crooked Stave and to a lesser extent TRVE, and visited Strange because someone I was visiting recommended them.

Crooked Stave

Crooked Stave has been brewing farmhouse ales and sours as their main focus for a while. Sometime more recently, they started experimenting with IPAs and have come up with some fantastic cloudy/juicy IPAs. While the taster price for their sours initially seems ridiculous (some are $4 or $5 for a 5oz taster) keep in mind that those same beers are $14 for a 375ml bottle, so the price on tap is not much worse per ounce than a bottle.

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Crooked Stave is located in the back of a small shopping complex that was converted from an old abandoned brick building. When you first pull into the dirt parking lot in front, which is almost always full, you may question whether you should be there at all. It looks quite sketchy. Once inside, you will see a number of small shops and restaurants and Crooked Stave’s tasting room is at the far back area. They don’t have an outward sign telling you where to go either, but once you are inside you will feel right at home in their tasting room setting. Tasters range from $2 to $5 depending on the style and I broke up my tasting into two sets of 3 and came home with a few bottles as well.

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I started with the Damn IPA which was cloudy and nicely carbonated with tons of citrus and ginger notes. The Sourless IPA was also quite tasty with lots of citrus and some mild herbal note and a bitter finish. Both were solid examples of the juicy IPA style. I got a taster of the porter for my husband before he went off to do other things but he didn’t care for it. I found it to be very delicious with lots of cherry notes that balance with bitter chocolate and some herbal hop notes. The beer was quite smooth and medium body.

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For sours I started with Origins, a Flanders Red style of sorts. It had a strong tart kick with some mild jam notes and hints of caramel and mild balsamic vinegar. I went next to the two L’bretta beers one with raspberry and one with blueberry. I found the raspberry the clear winner with tons of jam character, strong fruit notes, and a nice tart acidic finish. The blueberry was a bit more subtle and less acidic. Flavors are so subtle that if you drink it right after the raspberry you might miss parts of it.

Known for:
Fantastic sours and now great juicy IPAs.

TRVE

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TRVE is a younger entry on the scene and has a heavy metal theme at their brewery with leanings towards satanic imagery. Thankfully the music isn’t blasting as loud as a typical metal head might prefer so you can still order beers and have a conversation without going deaf. I had a total of four tasters because while they were good I wasn’t craving more and my friends wanted something a bit more hoppy.

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The first beer I had was a hoppy saison called Caeruleus. It was nice and fruity with a good mix of spice and some mild hop kick. The aged saison was lightly tart with lots of lemon notes and a crisp finish. The IPA was smooth and balanced, mostly herbal hops, fairly average. The gose was a darker version of the style which added a nice caramel note to the typical lightly tart and lightly salty gose. I brought home a bottle of a currant sour from them so hopefully that is more impressive. While I enjoyed the beers I had, I don’t feel an urge to return to the brewery based on the beers available on tap.

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Known For:
Visit for Belgian style beers and a collection that plays with different styles.

Strange Brewing

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Based on a recommendation from my friend we stopped for a flight at Strange Brewing, which consisted of six beers mostly stouts and IPAs. Stout was very true to style 5% stout. The cherry bomb stout added a little kick with cherry and peppers but nothing outstanding. The different IPAs were all fairly average with the exception of the grapefruit IPA which had a lot of great citrus character even though it didn’t taste like it had any added zest or juice.

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Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Select Breweries in the Twin Cities

I visited Minneapolis Minnesota on the weekend of May 20, 2016 and I got to visit a few local breweries. My experience was slightly different than usual because of an art festival that was going on, which actually made Surly not as busy as usual and made it a madhouse at Indeed Brewing, really busy at Dangerous Man, and made Fair State not so fun to visit, since they chose to use plastic cups for the weekend. This led me to visit two other breweries I wasn’t planning on visiting, thanks to a recommendation from a friend, Sisyphus and Boom Island.

First I will start with some general thoughts on the area. I really liked that the breweries were all in an area that is pretty small so that the breweries are not too far apart and none are too far out of town. Also a lot of the larger breweries don’t serve tasters, thus I didn’t try as many beers at the breweries listed as I normally would. While I might taste a lager of a pale ale and end up liking it enough to do a pint, I rarely will just order one I haven’t tasted before. Also if you happen to come visit wanting to bring bottles home, the liquor stores are all closed on Sundays so plan accordingly.

Surly

This photo somewhat gives you an idea of how massive Surly's brewery location is.
This photo somewhat gives you an idea of how massive Surly’s brewery location is, thanks to the person sitting in front.

Surly is probably the most popular of the breweries around the area and certainly one of the larger more widely distributed breweries. Their cans are a mainstay in the general area extending to neighboring states. During my visit to Surly I tasted the Pentagram dark sour, Furious IPA, Four Imperial Stout, and Todd the Axe Man. Pentagram was a very tasty nicely balanced dark sour with plenty of jammy wine notes, and a light sour finish. I mainly tried a small pour on tap so I could make sure I wanted bottles for myself. Furious is Surly’s first IPA and while it was I’m sure groundbreaking when it first came out I didn’t really get into it. It is super dry and quite bitter with a mix of citrus and pine flavors. While it is not overly malty, the malts do give it a solid balance. I found it to be a bit too bitter personally such that it lacked prominent aromas from the hops.

The delicious Pentagram sour.
The delicious Pentagram sour.
Four imperial stout.
Four imperial stout.
Todd the Axe Man, delicious IPA.
Todd the Axe Man, delicious IPA.

Four Imperial Stout was originally their fourth anniversary beer and it was the one beer my husband enjoyed during our visit. It is a double milk stout made with espresso. It was super smooth and creamy with powerful coffee flavors, very reminiscent of some recent San Diego espresso beers. Surly also has lighter coffee beers but when trying one back home I wasn’t too big on them and found them to taste a bit thin. Todd the Axe Man, while also quite bitter, is much more balanced than Furious and it is exploding with fruit flavors including lots of tangerine and melon. I really enjoyed this one and ended up coming home with a four pack to share with my friends back home. I recommend skipping Furious and going straight for Todd if you are into IPAs.

The brewery had a huge beer hall feel to it inside.
The brewery had a huge beer hall feel to it inside.

Top 2:
Four Imperial Stout
Todd the Axe Man

Fair State

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I only briefly visited Fair State because they had run out of most of the specialty beers they had earlier in the week and they were serving beers in plastic cups and were not allowing tasters. While I only tried one beer at the brewery, I did pick up two bottles of their specialty offerings to bring home with me for later, that I am excited to try. I tried the Lactobac 12, a ginger and lemon grass sour. It was tasty and balanced with a solid ginger taste and a good light tart kick. The alcohol is so low you might confuse this beer for Kombucha. I would have loved to have tried more but I don’t like drinking from plastic cups. Perhaps on another visit I will try more. Fair State is known for their sours and wild ales. I was quite impressed by the dark sour I brought home with me after visiting.

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Dangerous Man

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I also only tried two beers at Dangerous Man. This was mostly because I didn’t really get into the two stouts I tried and they were quite crowded at the time. They are often praised for their chocolate milk stout and the peanut butter porter so I started with those. The chocolate milk stout was super smooth but also fairly light body and didn’t have a ton of chocolate flavor to it. While it wasn’t dry either, I didn’t get much flavor overall. The peanut butter porter is a good example in the style that has gotten popular at a number of breweries and has a nice smooth light body and a solid nutty finish. If you have enjoyed other popular peanut butter porters then you will also enjoy this one.

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I would have tried more beers at Dangerous Man but they didn’t offer tasters and I wasn’t excited to try any of the other beers on tap at the time.

Sisyphus Brewing

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This is the only brewery where I got to do a flight of tasters. The brewery is fairly new and brews on a really small system but came highly recommended by a friend. They have a nice relaxed tasting room that was even more relaxed since they were not close to the festival going on. I tasted the amber ale, apple ale, apogee IPA, Feast of Littlefoot IPA, and India Brown Ale. The amber ale was really smooth and fruity with hints of peach and a mild caramel malt finish. This is one of the best ambers I have had and really says a lot about the talents of the brewer. The apple ale was tasty and very crisp with a light body and mild apple flavors. It is a mix between a cider and a beer but not fully a cider.

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The two beers I list as IPAs might have been listed as pale ales on the board but they are both strong enough at 6.5 to be an IPA to me. The Apogee was really balanced fruity/juicy IPA with a dry finish of citrus and pine. I enjoyed this one the most of the two IPAs and was glad that it was fairly low on the bitterness. Feast of Littlefoot was also quite fruity and citrusy but a lot more dry and bitter on the finish. I went back and forth between the two IPAs and enjoyed how they both developed over time. The India Brown Ale is a really hoppy brown ale that is dark enough to be a stout. It was super bitter and hoppy with a bit of a smoky finish. To me it was simultaneously too bitter and too smoky and I didn’t really like it at all. For a new brewery, Sisyphus was quite impressive and I was glad I visited. I’m sure they will become a mainstay in the community over time.

Nice inside space at the brewery.
Nice inside space at the brewery.

Top 2:
Amber
Apogee IPA

Boom Island Brewing

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Boom Island is known for Belgian beers and they were my last stop for this trip. I tried the triple brett wild ale and the Belgian chocolate stout. The triple brett was very smooth and malty and tasted like a dubel style beer with added brett. The malts give it delicious flavors of dark fruit and the brett balances things out with some nice funk. Neither my husband nor I really cared for the Belgian chocolate stout. It was super dry and mildly hoppy, which combined with the Belgian yeast for something I didn’t enjoy. It didn’t seem to have much flavor of chocolate or roast to me either. Still, I got the sense from the triple brett that the brewery knows how to do Belgian styles right and I would have ordered a flight if they hadn’t had the triple brett available.

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In general I found the beer scene to be vibrant and worth visiting during my visit to the Twin Cities. Cans of Surly’s Todd the Axe Man are easily obtainable outside the area but their more limited Pentagram not so much. Also Fair State’s sours are fantastic and worth stopping by to check out if you are into the style. They seem to have a great tasting room spot so it is a shame that I visited in the middle of a festival. As far as visiting a brewery directly, Sisyphus is a great place to hang out while you are in town. I really wish I had gotten to visit Indeed brewing but it was way too crowded for me.

There are tons of breweries I missed so if you think I missed a key one that I didn’t even mention, tell me in the comments.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Sante Adarius Rustic Ales and New Bohemia – San Jose California

The San Francisco Bay Area is a large place and visitors often travel as far north as Santa Rosa to visit Russian River or as far south as Santa Cruz to visit Sante Adarius Rustic Ales or SARA for short. I chose to fly into San Jose for this brewery visit so that I had a fairly short drive down to Santa Cruz, or the neighborhood of Capitola where SARA is located. I also visited a newer brewery known as New Bohemia Brewing a short distance away. Both breweries complement each other nicely.

Sante Adarius

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SARA is a cult favorite for their sours and farmhouse ales, many of which are bottled and released exclusively from the taproom. I happened to visit when they were releasing bottles of Lady in Grey and they also had bottles available of their Farmhouse Noir, a dark sour. I tried a number of different beers over two separate visits including the Chavez porter, Lady in Grey, Anais saison, Vanilla Joe, and 831 IPA. The Chavez porter is a very smooth and delicious beer with hints of vanilla and chocolate with a mild roast at the finish. This is the base beer for many of their adjunct versions including Vanilla Joe, made with vanilla and coffee. The Vanilla Joe was a delicious mix of coffee and vanilla and so popular that it was no longer available when I returned for my second visit. This was also my husband’s favorite beer.

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The Lady in Grey is a delicious complex oaked blonde with a dry finish and bright fruit notes. I enjoyed this one and picked up a few bottles for myself and a few friends back home. The Anais is a super fruity saison with mild funk and an earthy finish. The 831 IPA is quite fruity with darnk pine at the finish. I found the IPA to be overly bitter at the finish, not from hops but from something else. This is an issue they have identified and should be fixing for future batches. I also got to try the Farmhouse Noir thanks to a kind regular who bought a bottle for us to share. I had already purchased some to bring home but it was not available on tap. Famhouse Noir was a delicious dark sour with just the right amount of tart finish and lots of fruit and mild vinegar. I look forward to exploring the flavors of this beer more when I open the bottle I brought back with me.

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On the two different days I visited SARA had quite a few people even as early as 12PM. The first day I visited was a Saturday which also happened to be a bottle release day so people were lining up for bottles and hanging around for beers. When I stopped by the next day there were no lines and the crowd was a little smaller but still respectable. There is plenty of seating available for people to hang around for a while. Flights are not available but they serve everything in half pours or full pours and the servers do a great job of explaining the beer styles prior to ordering something.

Top 2:
Vanilla Joe
Anais

New Bohemia

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As SARA attempts to re-create the Farmhouse styles from Belgium, New Bohemia puts a lot of effort into creating German style pilsner, heffeweizen, and Vienna lager. I tried the pilsner, IPA, Mole Stout, Double Duchess coffee porter, and black IPA on nitro. The pilsner is super clean and delicious with a medium body and light German hop kick to balance out the bready pilsner malt. I passed on the heffeweizen because it is the Bavarian style which I don’t particularly like (tending to taste of banana and cloves).

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The IPA was super smooth and juicy with notes of tangerine and melon, with a nice amber color. This is in line with the modern style of IPAs with lower bitterness and more hop aromas and was very impressive. The mole stout was deliciously balanced with the coffee, chocolate, and chilies all blending together perfectly. The chocolate and chilies trade off at the finish and the beer is smooth all the way through. The Double Duchess coffee porter is thick and delicious with tons of coffee flavor and a mildly sweet finish. The black IPA is served on nitro and it does a great job of mellowing the hops further while offering a super smooth finish. The hops are given a chance to shine and like the IPA it isn’t overly bitter.

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Delicious pilsner.
Delicious pilsner.

For a new brewery I was quite impressed by the delicious beers offered at New Bohemia, though the brewer has a ton of experience at other places prior to opening up his own brewery. There is a little something for everyone here and the large number of stouts available was quite nice to see. We originally stopped by for a flight of four tasters but returned later for more because they ran out of the Vanilla Joe at SARA so we had to have more Double Duchess instead. That is how delicious it was.

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Top 2:
Double Duchess
IPA

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Austin Texas Beer – Hops and Grain Brewing and Jester King

In my short trip to Austin I visited only two breweries, in part because I was currently on a break from alcohol (or about to start one) and also because some of the local breweries don’t offer tasters. But the two breweries I did visit were the most highly recommended and they were both delicious in their own way.

Hops and Grain

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Hops and Grain is closer to downtown austin while Jester King is far out from the city. It is certainly much easier to visit Hops and Grain. Rather than a taster flight, they sell you a glass and you can fill that glass four different times for $10. It isn’t a bad deal per ounce but for someone who was wanting to cut back, wasn’t the best either. I was glad that they used a 10 ounce glass instead of a pint glass like I encountered at some other breweries. I stuck to some of the lower alcohol options and found most of them to be quite tasty. I tried the Zoe lager, the Alt altbier, the mosaic pale and the baltic style porter.

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Pilsner
Pilsner

The lager was super smooth and had notes of peach and light floral hops with a bready malt finish. It was one of the better lagers that I have had. The Altbier was super smooth and flavorful with a nice German malt flavor. I don’t have much familiarity with the style so I can’t say if it was a good example of it. The Mosaic Pale was a very well done pale in the modern style with lots of fruity hops and low on the malt bill. It stands up to some of the best San Diego pale ales. The porter was roasty and very tasty with notes of rasin and dark chocolate.

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The brewery is a great place to hang out when it is quiet but it can also get quite noisy during the middle of a busy Saturday. They do have some outdoor seating out front but because it is in the sun I didn’t go out there. Not only am I quite sensitive to the sun’s rays, so are beers. I was quite impressed by the beers that I tasted and wish I could have tasted more in a more traditional taster size. They are also walking distance from Mueller’s Meats, a great local BBQ joint that has lines but nothing ridiculous.

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Top 2:
Mosaic Pale
Pilsner

Jester King

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I also visited Jester King despite the long drive. It is probably a good 30 minutes outside Downtown Austin, which means driving along some windy roads to get there, many of them only two lanes. It is one of the biggest outdoor brewery locations I have visited. They do offer individual tasters of each of the beers but I was disappointed that they gave you full size glasses with each one, which meant it was a bit difficult for you to carry around a large number of tasters. Still, because they serve tasters I tried seven beers at Jester King.

The fantastic designs on the tap handles at Jester King.
The fantastic designs on the tap handles at Jester King.

I wasn’t too excited by the two smaller beers I tasted, the Petit Prince or the Audio Palette. They are both mainstays but seemed to be a little lacking in flavor for my tastes. Still it is worth trying them if you go so you can decide if you like them and want to buy bottles to take home rather than blindly buying bottles. Noble King was a solid farmhouse ale with light citrus and lemon notes and hints of spices. The Multifarious smoked stout was very smoky, and ultimately the only one we didn’t finish drinking. The smoke was a bit too much for us.

My first set of tasters.
My first set of tasters.
My second set of tasters.
My second set of tasters.

The Ol Oi sour brown was really smooth and not too sour with a really smooth oaky finish. I left with a few bottles of this because it was one of the more impressive dark sours I have tasted. The 2015 Autumnal Dichotomous was really smooth and slightly sweet, a very delicious farmhouse ale that hits my saison spot. I left with a few bottles of this one as well and look forward to seeing how they age. The last beer I tried was the Bufords Roadside Wares, a colaboration with Arizona Wilderness brewing. It was mildly tart with some dark fruit flavor and some acidic finish. It was a solid beer but I didn’t like it enough to buy any bottles especially because it cost a few dollars more than the others.

A view of some of the open space around Jester King.
A view of some of the open space around Jester King.

For a highly hyped brewery a long distance from the town I was glad I went out and visited Jester King. If I went out again I would skip some of the lighter alcohol beers in favor of the more complex sours and farmhouse ales. The ones I liked though were absolutely delicious, which is where I think the hype comes from. If you do happen to like their lighter beers you can find them in the local Whole Foods stores as well, though I didn’t compare the pricing.

Top 2:
Ol Oi Dark sour
2015 Autumnal Dichotomous farmhouse ale

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Pacific Brewing Celebrates One Year of Serving Beer

A year ago I was at Pacific Brewing Company when they had their grand opening party. Now they are still around and pouring their core beers. For the anniversary party they put on an anniversary double IPA, a barrel aged version of their stout, and a double dry hopped version of the Bombora IPA. Unlike other anniversary parties around they didn’t have a price at the door so you could come by and have a few tasters or a pint without any of the other stuff if you want.

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I had a taster flight that included the barrel aged stout, anniversary double IPA, double dry hopped Bombora IPA and the Sticky Icky. To me the barrel aged stout was a bit more heavy on the vanilla and didn’t have much of the bourbon flavors I was expecting. They seem to have decided to showcase the flavors of the base beer. I could have done with more bourbon flavors because the vanilla gave it a little syrupy sweet flavor that didn’t work for me.

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Then came the anniversary double IPA, a nice lightly herbal beer with a solid bitter bite and mild amount of sticky sweetness. This was great and would go nicely as a pint. Then I had the double dry hopped Bombora, a sticky dank citrus beer with plenty of extra kick thanks to the extra hops. It stood up to the anniversary even though I had it after the anniversary double.

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I ended with the Sticky Icky to see how it held up since the opening. It seemed a little less sweet than I remember it being but it was a bit more balanced, which gave it a very pleasant taste. The beer had a nice light roasty flavor and mild hop bite, making it a proper stronger amber without going overboard like many try to do.

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It was good to see Pacific sticking to their core beers they started with. Since opening they added the televisions so they have some of the games on as well. I’m glad they managed to keep similar hop flavors going in their anniversary beer despite the difficulty of getting many of the hops they likely used to start with. I look forward to what Pacific will come up with over the next year.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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