Casey Brewing Company in Glenwood Springs Colorado is one of the sour breweries that is so well regarded that people make the nearly three hour drive, on windy mountain roads, from Denver to get the beer. Though I had just been in Denver 2 months ago, I wanted to make a special trip where I planned enough time to drive out to Casey Brewing. Since I was staying in Longmont area, my strive was slightly over 3 hours each Direction. On the way exiting Denver, we had quite a bit of traffic as people were heading to Breckenridge.
When we got to the brewery, we drove right past it because it is in a fairly nondescript building. It was only because we turned around and saw the signs indicating where to park that we confirmed the correct building. The brewery itself is down the hill from the parking area in a slightly Underground building where they store all the barrels aging beer. Traditionally you had to book a tour of the brewery in order to try any of their beers, mostly due to limited Supply. Now they have opened a Tap Room in downtown Glenwood Springs but if you want bottles of the best stuff, you still should consider doing a tour. You will also meet the most die-hard fans sharing their favorite bottles with people around them.
During my visit at the brewery, the two favorite beers that I had were an apricot sour, called Apricot Diversion, made with 4 lb of apricots per gallon of beer and a BlackBerry raspberry Cherry sour. All the beers are poured from a bottle because they are bottle conditioned, carbonating in the bottle as opposed to forcing CO2 into the beer. Apricot Diversion had a tart finish but was also very juicy and bursting with soft apricot flavor with a lovely silky mouth feel reminiscent of a East Coast style hazy IPA. The Blackberry raspberry Cherry beer was loaded with berry flavors and mildly tart.
The tour is basically 3 pours of beer and a short explanation of how they make their beer and how fermenting in barrels it’s different from using a traditional stainless steel fermenter. They also now make some of their beers by putting them in a koelship. By fermenting in an open container like this, the yeast is collected from the air as opposed to being intentionally added. It gives the beer a unique flavor reminiscent of the Lambic style in Belgium. They do add some yeast later in fermentation to keep certain unwanted flavors from developing. If you can’t make it out to the brewery itself, you can occasionally find bottles of one or two beers around town in Denver either at bottle shops or at bars that cellar a few bottles.
Once you have had the beer though, it is worth the long drive to pick up a case or two of beer. Nearby is bonfire brewery, the place that originally supplied wort to Casey for the first few years. Casey is a small operation and by keeping small they have kept the quality consistent over the years. While some Beers may not be as fruit forward as others, all the beers are well made and high-quality. Their barrel aged saison has set the standard by which I judge the style for American breweries.
Come to Casey for their barrel aged sour and funky beers. Many are Spontaneously fermented.
Modern Times has put on the Festival of Dankness, an IPA focused beer festival for five years now. With each year the number of hazy IPAs has increased quite a bit. I didn’t make it to the previous two years due to scheduling conflicts but I finally came back for the 2019 festival in part because Other Half, Great Notion, Monkish, Moksa, Tired Hands, and a few other big name breweries were present.
In the years since Modern Times first put on the festivals, they have improved their system of scanning tickets so that for the festivals in 2019 I attended, including Carnival of Caffeination in February, they scan everyone’s tickets and check IDs before it is time to let people in to the festival. They have a waiting area ready for people to chill until it is time to open the doors or in this case let people break past the ribbon.
It happened that some of the bigger names were right next to each other, leading to tons of lines mostly in the back section of the festival. Monkish, Moksa, and Other Half were all clustered together meaning those who braved the lines got to enjoy those beers. This is the one benefit of having VIP – VIP got to access these breweries with shorter lines. In my case, I didn’t bother with the lines and didn’t get to drink beer from either of those.
Despite sticking to General Admission tickets this year, I wasn’t short on beer and I had plenty of excellent breweries to choose from without waiting very long for any particular beer. The longest line I waited in was for Green Cheek, which was usually no more than 5 minutes at a time. Standouts beer wise were Green Cheek with their double and triple hazy IPAs plus Boneyard with their always excellent double and triple IPAs that were not hazy. And Wayfinder from Portland Oregon brought an incredible Oktoberfest beer that was as excellent as I remembered.
Plenty of local breweries were on hand serving their always excellent IPAs including Burning Beard, Pizza Port, Burgeon, Societe, and of course Modern Times with their ever large spot serving many different beers including the always-present massive imperial stouts. Two of those stouts were reserved for members as usual so it helps to know people.
With so many breweries bringing double and triple IPAs as they have from the first year, it doesn’t take much to get quite intoxicated. Thankfully this year the festival started at 3PM, meaning the sun was less intense. They also had shade tents put up in the center between brewery tents so people could avoid getting too much sun. Of course, all the money from the festival goes to charity so it is always a good cause. I like to think that the various Modern Times festivals were instrumental in the addition of new bike lanes that have shown up or are in the works in San Diego.
Ratio was recommended to us by a friend saying that they have good clean traditional beers. They are smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood that resembles many different beer hipster neighborhoods around the country. Immediately on arrival we saw 15 electric scooters out front and at least 5 bicycles. They have a nice spacious taproom with a large outdoor seating area with plenty of shade and seating.
I started with a pint of their saison because I was craving the style after not having any similar options at previous breweries over the past couple of days. The saison had notes of banana and hay with mild orange peel and a crisp dry finish. While described as a French style saison, it seemed to have similarities to a Belgian style wit as came through with the banana character. I enjoyed the outdoor seating and the other beers my friends had were also solid.
Ratio is close to Epic Brewing’s taphouse and also super close to Our Mutual Friend and Bierstadt Lagerhaus. So if you are ubering around the city, this would be a great way to visit multiple spots. I wanted to visit Our Mutual Friend during my visit as well but with limited time I went next to Black Project instead.
Odd 13 is located in Lafayette Colorado, Northwest of Denver. I previously visited Odd 13 a few years back and enjoyed their beers. The tasting room is largely the same and they still focus on hazy IPAs with a few sour options. I was glad to see the addition of lower ABV beers as well. During this particular trip I was trying to focus on lower ABV beers so I ordered their session ale and hazy pale ale.
Intergalactic Jimmy, the session ale was crisp and dry with notes of pineapple. The hop notes were mild enough that someone who is trying to avoid heavy hops would still enjoy it if they otherwise like the flavor. Coach was only slightly more hoppy with notes of tropical fruit, citrus, and gooseberry. The beer presented a lovely example of Nelson hops. If I come out again during the Summer I would gladly enjoy either of these beers at the Summer BBQ.
Primitive was also recommended by a list of exciting Colorado breweries. Primitive is located in Longmont, even further Northwest of Denver. They have a good sized tasting room though most of the space is taken up by the many barrels aging beer. Primitive brews in their American version of the Belgian lambic tradition. Their beers are spontaneously fermented; they are not force carbonated so most of them are served on casks. In a move I haven’t seen anywhere in the US you can buy to-go beers in a box typically used for boxed wine. They appeared to have some bottles conditioning (carbonating) and based on their web site many of these bottles currently go to their members.
Since I am already fairly familiar with base spontaneous beer I focused on the two fruity options. They had one with cherry and one with peach, both common flavors in lambic inspired beer. The cherry had a lovely base funk with mild cherry notes and a good dry finish. On cask the beers had a lovely soft body to them and were easy-drinking. The peach beer was similarly dry with nice prominent peach notes and mild acidity. While it is too early to say if the bottled beers coming out of Primitive are fantastic, the two beers I tried were impressive and suggest their house bugs are on point.
I was close to buying a few boxes to-go after my visit but decided to save room in my bags for other things. If you are a fan of Belgian lambic-inspired beers, you should make a point of visiting Primitive to taste for yourself how well they nail the style. I hope to visit them again in a year or two as more beer is available to non-members. I’ve visited a lot of new American breweries making Belgian lambic-inspired beers and Primitive is one of the most promising.
We went to New Image based on their inclusion in a recent list of standout Colorado breweries. After verifying on their instagram that they had a number of cans available, we chose to stop by and try for ourselves. They have a full food menu and most people around us were ordering food with their beer. The tasting room is fairly standard size and I could see it getting packed during peak times. Thankfully we visited early on a holiday Friday and it was nice and chill.
Though they had a number of IPAs on tap, I immediately ordered a blackberry, raspberry, and plum sour. The beer had a nice dark red color and tons of berry acidity. It is on the tart side of a fruity kettle sour but balanced nicely with prominent berry notes. Thankfully one of my friends wanted to share a four pack because I preferred to have one or two cans instead of 4.
Because I brew kombucha at home I had to try their kombucha inspired ale. They blend kombucha with beer for an interesting take on a kettle sour. I tried the base version of this beer and found it fairly similar to a base gose without fruit. The beer was lightly tart and salty. I didn’t taste any obvious kombucha notes in the beer though.
Before leaving, I tried a few tastes of my friend’s beers. One had their “Vermont Style IPA” and it nicely nailed the creamy mouthfeel and juicy hop flavors that I would expect from the style. Another friend had their single hopped mosaic pale. It was excellently done. The beer was crisp and easy drinking while presenting subtle fruity notes from the mosaic hops.
I would recommend stopping by New Image to try some of their beer and also going nearby to New Terrain either before or after. The two breweries make a great side-by-side experience contrasting the standard indoor brewery with air conditioning of New Image with the rustic open tasting room at New Terrain.
New Terrain is immediately impressive when you get close to the parking lot. Their small lot fills up quickly but there is plenty of street parking in the area. There aren’t many other businesses or buildings nearby. This is a perfect start if you want to go hiking before a few pints because there are numerous hiking and biking trails that start from the brewery. According to my friend who brought us there, half of the people in the parking lot are there for hiking. It is quite the gorgeous spot with a spacious seating area mixed between indoor and outdoor. The indoor area is so open that the transition is almost seamless except for the difference in volume.
New Terrain has a lovely unique way of serving flights; their holders hold beers vertically instead of the typical side-to-side arrangement. This makes it easier to move around glasses without breaking them. I ordered a half pour of the two beers that interested me most, the kolsch and blackcurrant sour. The kolsch was crisp and light with notes of hay. My only complaint is that the beer could be under 5% to be more true to style but it was still quite good.
I was also quite satisfied by the blackcurrent sour. It was much less tart than the New Image beer I had earlier, but delicious in its own way. The beer was dry with prominent jam notes and a light tart finish. While the line to order can sometimes get a little long, it is lovely to hang out on the patio of New Terrain. I have not been to many breweries that as beautifully blend nature and brewery. Be prepared that you will encounter dogs and children while sitting out in nature as well.