Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Colorado 6 pack

Not too long ago, I got a tweet and then a subsequent email from one of my virtual blogging / brewing buddies, @BryanDRoth at This Is Why I'm Drunk. He had this crazy idea for a blogging collaboration. He wanted to get 6 different bloggers from six different states to each come up with a 6-pack of beers that "best represent your state and/or state's beer culture".

It is actually very similar to Denver's 5280 Magazine's 6 packs that they put out from time to time. Check out Billy Brew's article "What's Your State's Dream Team Six Pack" and you can also read more about the 5280 six packs on my blog.

@BryanDRoth had some rules:
  • Must pick a six-pack of beers that you feel best represent your state and/or state's beer culture
  • Beer must be made in your state, but "gypsy" brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state
  • Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include
  • Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred. (ideally that could be another post)

Not thinking it through, I agreed to participate in the project. How hard could it be?

Well, as it turns out, it was actually very difficult to narrow down all the beers in Colorado to my 6 favorite. Somehow* I figured it out and narrowed it down to 6. 

But without further ado ... here is my list (for this moment) ...

TommyKnocker's Hop Strike Black IPA

TommyKnocker Brewery is located in a little brew-pub in Idaho Springs, Colorado. For some reason, my family finds ourselves there quite a bit when traveling back along I70 from the mountains. All their beer is good, but the Hop Strike is by far my favorite. When I first tasted it, they told me it was a limited release. I complained, telling them it was their best beer and that they should always have it on tap. Eventually they agreed with me and decided to make it a regular. Not too long after that, I started seeing it in liquor stores.

Hop Strike is a dry hopped black rye IPA. It has a 6.5% ABV and they report 78 IBU. The malt bill is exceptionally smooth and rich with a nice depth of complexity. The color comes from roasted rye, which adds a nice little spiciness. It has wonderful American hops in flavor and aroma. I never get tired of this beer, and that says a lot from someone who is always trying to try new beers. I love this beer. It is the Black IPA to which I compare all other Black IPAs.

Hop Strike Black IPA

Odell Brewing Company's IPA

Odell Brewing Company is one of the big boys in Fort Collins, Colorado. On any given decent weather weekend in town, you will find hundreds of people walking and/or biking to or from Odell Brewing company from or two any of the several other breweries. For a small college town, Fort Collins has a ton of craft breweries.

"IPA" is not an overly original sounding name, but I don't care. Odell's India Pale Ale is exactly what a hoppy American India Pale Ale should be. It is a 7% ABV, 60 IBU hop bomb. Lots of grapefruit. Lots of pine. Heavy with aroma. Somewhat light bodied, and not harshly bitter. In my opinion, this IPA stands out in Colorado, and I think stands toe to toe with any west-coast IPA I have ever had.

Odell's IPA

New Belgium's 1554 Enlightened Black Ale

Everybody knows of New Belgium Brewing Company from Fort Collins, Colorado. They are by far Colorado's biggest craft brewery. The Brewer's Association ranks them 3rd in size among craft breweries and number 8 out of all breweries in the United States. They also have hands-down the best brewery tour I have ever been on.

My favorite year-round beer that New Belgium makes is their 1554. I think it is a really unique beer. The story is that the NB brewer had to dig through old texts in Belgium to come up with the recipe for this beer. According to the website, it uses a lager yeast fermented at ale temperatures. Whatever the process, it turns out wonderful. It is a medium bodied, 5.6 ABV smooth black beer. It is chocolaty and rich, but finishes dry. It has some dark fruit flavors with well balanced spiciness and perhaps even a bit of pepper. It has some sweetness, but does have enough hop bitterness to balance it out perfectly. This beer is a treat to drink.

1554 Enlightened Black Ale

Boulder Beer Company's Flashback India Brown Ale

Boulder Beer Company was Colorado's first microbrewery, starting serving beer in 1979. It is located in Boulder, Colorado (duh ... right?) along with lots and lots of other craft breweries. They have grown quite a bit since 1979 and are no longer a microbrewery, but I get the feeling people tend to forget about Boulder Beer. I do really like quite a few of their beers.

At the moment, though, their Flashback India Brown Ale is my favorite of their entire beer lineup. It was originally brewed to commemorate the brewery's 30 anniversary, but quickly become a year-round beer. It has all the toasty and toffee flavors of a traditional brown ale with a bit of roast, but is hopped like an IPA, citrusy and piney. Sort of the best of both worlds. I love this beer.

Flashback India-Style Brown Ale

Oskar Blues Deviant Dale's India Pale Ale

When Dale Katechis of Oskar Blues Brewery famously started canning Dale's Pale Ale over 10 years ago, just about everyone thought he was completely crazy. Only recently have other craft brewers started seeing the light and following suit. Now, it seems that your brewery is behind the times if you don't package at least some of your beer in a can. Apparently, this was not too bad an idea, because Oskar Blues has been experiencing crazy growth over the past few years. They opened a second brewery in North Carolina, but to me this will always be a Colorado Brewery.

Out of all the great beers Oskar Blues makes, my favorite is Deviant Dale's IPA. It is essentially Dale's Pale Ale, only more. More hops. More malt. More ABV. More Body. More deliciousness. It is an 8% ABV, 85 IBU double IPA with lots of citrus, grapefruit rind and piney resins in the aroma and flavor. Currently, I call this my favorite camping beer. I love drinking the "tall boy" cans right by the campfire. In fact, this past weekend, I had a few in the wilderness.

Oskar Blues Deviant Dales

Left Hand Milk Stout (Nitro)

Left Hand Brewing Company is located in beautiful Longmont, Colorado. For some reason I sort of tend to forget about Left Hand, or maybe it would be more accurate to say I just sort of take them for-granted. I have enjoyed every beer I've tried from their brewery. They seem to be on tap and on the shelves everywhere I go in the state.

To me, their stand-out is their Milk Stout. Personally, I like it both on and off nitro, and in fact usually prefer the carbonated version. However, I think most Colorado Beer-Geeks like it on Nitro better. The Milk Stout is a beautifully black, full bodied, creamy 6% ABV stout with the typical chocolate and coffee flavors along with brown sugar and vanilla cream. The nitro pour adds the classic cascades affect building to a tight, thick, creamy head. It is a wonderful drinking experience.

Left Hand's Milk Stout

If I counted correctly, that is 6.

* Notes on How I Narrowed it Down

As I mentioned above, it was an intimidating prospect to narrow down the literally hundreds of great Colorado craft beers to the 6 I thought most worthy of this 6-pack.

The fact that @BryanDRoth's rules specified the beer had to be packaged in a bottle or can actually narrowed down my population of beers a great deal. Lots (most?) of the Colorado commercial beers I drink are from tiny little breweries, many of which only serve from their tap-rooms. So the fact that it had to be in a bottle or can helped narrow down the beers to choose from.

I decided to completely ignore the "gypsy" brewers that @BryanDRoth allowed. That helped narrow down the beers a little.

I decided to reject seasonal beers completely. Again, the beer population went down.

In addition, I decided to only consider beers that I knew were distributed to several states so that at least some of my out-of-state readers would have some chance to pick these up.

So, just by applying a set of rules, I eliminated a very large number of beers. Still, I had hundreds of great beer to choose from. Eventually, I just decided to just "bite the bullet", make my decisions and stick to them. I will neither confirm nor deny that there was a bit of "Eenie-meenie-miney-mo" involved.

I am quite certain if I were to do this again in a couple months .... or maybe even next week, my list would be radically different. The list would also be completely different if I included seasonal beers, limited releases, beers that are only available on tap, or beers that are not widely available in other states.

The Other Bloggers

Here are the links to the other five blogs which are participating in this inaugural round of the Six-Pack Project:

What do you Think?

Several beers were consumed in preparation for and the writing of this blog post. It is a difficult job, but someone had to do it. Thank you @BryanDRoth for picking me to help out.

I know there is no one in Colorado who agrees with my list. Heck, like I mentioned above, this is probably the only time my list agrees with this list. I would love to know what your ultimate 6 pack would be. Leave a comment ... or several .. below.


  1. Great collection. I believe I've had TommyKnocker before, but can't remember a damned thing about their brews. Some good Colorado mainstays!

  2. You did a great job choosing beers that would be widely available in places besides CO. I think I could easily get my hands on all of them (except for maybe the O'Dell's, not sure of the distribution on that one). On the list, I've only actually had the Nitro Stout, which was phenomenal. Time for me to fill up on some more CO beers!

  3. Thanks for the comments guys. Yes, I did sort of pick some of the obvious bigger breweries in an attempt to increase the likely-hood that out-of-state drinkers might have an easier time finding the beers.

    Ryan, I don't think Odell distributes out as far as you, but as you say, the rest are probably somewhat available.

    Of course, I do suggest visiting the state and visiting the breweries. All of these beers are better fresh from the taps at the tasting rooms. (as is the case with your beers as well, I bet).

  4. Nice post. Trouble narrowing down a local top six is a good problem to have. I think you did an admirable job. I'll have to try the Flashback. I'm pretty sure we get that here. And I think we get TommyKnocker here, but I don't think I have seen that one. As for Odell, I'll have to wait till next time I'm a little further west of here.

  5. According to their website, TommyKnocker does distribute to Virginia. I assume that includes their Hop Strike, but I don't know for sure. Boulder beer is all over the East Coast.

  6. A terrific list! Just had a Deviant Dale's a couple days ago, and to be honest 1554 was one of my first craft "loves". Well thought out. I just posted Montana's six-pack. Check it out and let me know what you think.

  7. Good to see the list continues to grow,Ryan, and I like your list. Like I commented on your blog post, Moose Drool is the only beer I've had on your list, but if I am ever in Montana, I will certainly be looking for the others. Thanks for leaving a comment.