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.
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.
Stave and Nail has been in the works for a while. It is an offshoot of Rip Current headed by the same person who runs the sour program at Rip Current. The two spots are so close that you can easily visit both in the same visit. Though today’s visit suggests most people coming for Stave and Nail are not interested in going to Rip Current in the same trip. Most of them have likely already been there many times and so it no longer interests them.
I visited mostly to try various sour beers they had available. The beers were fairly standard for a new brewery starting out a sour program, indicating they are on the right track and should develop further given time. I started with a pink guava and raspberry beer that had a prominent guava flavor with a funky bitter finish. The peach sour was strongly tart with mild notes of white cake behind it. A second guava sour, the one released in bottles on the day of my visit, was funky and nicely balanced with a dry finish though overall quite subtle.
During my visit I also tried a few sips of their double IPA and imperial milk stout. I got the IPA for my mom to try and found it overly sweet with lots of vanilla notes and grassy hop character. The milk stout was strongly bitter with notes of molasses and lingered on the tongue in the finish. It blended nicely with the coconut flavors. I was surprised to see so many people grabbing four packs of these beers without even trying them. After tasting them, I wasn’t excited to leave with either of them. I certainly recommend you visit them for sours over IPAs or stouts.
Stave and Nail is a solid new operation and a welcome addition to San Marcos now that Toolbox has left. Given the lack of breweries in the area offering sours except Belching Beaver and a few sours at Rip Current next door it should be well received. I didn’t find the beer to be so exciting that I would suggest you take a special trip to visit them if you are in another area of San Diego. This is especially true as it seems the number of sours showing up in liquor stores from around California and surrounding states continues to increase regularly.
Known for: Come if you are interested in trying a variety of small batch barrel aged sour beers. Some of them are spontaneously fermented using locally harvested yeast. All of the sour beers had fruit added when I first visited.
Note: Stave and Nail is a small operation and as such will be only open one weekend a month initially. They are planning on releasing new beers in bottles each month.
Grimm is one of the more hyped Brooklyn area breweries, almost to the level of Other Half. They are also the one brewery I visited that we get in distribution in San Diego, often for their pop series of beers, fruited kettle sours made with lactose for sweetness. The tasting room was a moderate walk from KCBC and while busy was not excessively so. Knowing now how busy Threes can get, I would have preferred to have stayed a bit longer before moving on.
I wasn’t in the mood for hazy IPAs at the time so I skipped the hazy double IPAs and went straight for some barrel aged sours. I had previously had only their kettle sours. I started with William of Okham, a nice oak aged golden ale that had notes of lemon and white cake with nice restrained acidity. I finished with a taster of Spooky Action, a beer inspired by the Belgian Oud Buin style, a sour red ale often brewed with cherries. It was much more mellow than most versions, lacking the intense acidity or strong vinegar taste that it often exhibits. The beer was a lovely blend of caramel malts and mild cherry notes.
I left Grimm with a bottle of one of their pastry stouts, a beer inspired by pecan pancakes. I am excited to share this beer with my Husband. Like Other Half, Grimm appeared to have a variety of beers left over from prior releases so there was a wide selection of beers available to go.
Known for: Come for fruited kettle sours, big pastry stouts, and hazy double IPAs.
Threes was the closest brewery to my Airbnb. What I didn’t expect was just how slammed it would be on a warm sunny day. Because they have an outdoor seating area, they get especially crowded on a warm sunny day. Perhaps this time was more so because rain was forecasted for the next few days. This was one of the most crowded brewery experiences I’ve had. It was standing room only and even more crowded in their outdoor area. A few lucky groups with tables were also those who had ordered food.
I ordered a pint of the table beer, a delicious session saison with mild citrus notes. I quickly finished the beer and bought two four packs to go, one of the pilsner, and one of the foeder fermented pilsners. I was eager to get out and sit somewhere. I had a can of each of the two pilsners back in my room and enjoyed both of them, especially the foeder fermented one.
Given you can find cans from Threes at grocery stores around the city, I may not visit the brewery directly again. It gets quite crowded, even more than Other Half.