Colorado's Best Beer Festival is One You're Probably Missing 

While Great American Beer Festival may be the crown jewel of the brewing world, if we had to choose only one beer festival to attend in Colorado — Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines in Breckenridge would most likely be our choice. Why? Well, Big Beers is sort of like if GABF was shrunk down into a super potent collection of the top brewers in the US and put in a much more scenic (and education driven) atmosphere. Brewers at Big Beers agree.

“The collection of brewers [at Big Beers] is one of the best in the world,” said Jeffrey Stuffings, founder of Jester King Brewery. His Austin brewery, which forewent GABF this year, would normally have a line 50 people deep. But, at Big Beers, Stuffings was pouring (like most brewers and owners) and readily available to chat. He admitted the location is one reason why so many big names attend.

“Perhaps the uniqueness of the location tends to bring out the owners and head brewers. It almost becomes a bit of a family reunion ski trip party,” said Stuffings.

However, that doesn’t mean the brewers are just here to vacation. They bring their A-game. Which means it’s not a mad dash to get your hands on some of the rare stuff since it’s nearly at every turn. Fremont Brewing’s Tyler Busey agreed that Big Beers motivates brewers to bring their best.

“[The] focus on the deeper side of the craft is incredible. At breweries, we are running a business and so we need to support our core beers IPAs and pales and etc. [At Big Beers], this is all pure art. Brewing splits and art science but most of this is pure art,” said Busey.

At this year’s festival — which returned to Breckenridge once again after many previous years at Vail Resort — the turn out was even more exciting than usual. Denver’s Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales was a prime example, which resurrected one of its more legendary beers just for the festival. Cat Sabbath is a 23 percent “super stout” which is slowly fermented in a bourbon barrel and has to be continuously fed malt in order to keep the yeast alive.

“The idea was to make port-like stout to do an imperial style stout but take it all the way to the extreme,” said owner and head brewer James Howat. “It’s purposely flat and purposely extra sweet to cover up the alcohol.”

Black Project even brought a vanilla redefinition of Cat Sabbath for a super smooth and sweet sip that nails the similarities to a port.

Amalgam Brewing, another Colorado brewery, also brought some rare goodies for the festival. The offshoot of Niwot’s Powder Keg is quickly gaining recognition for their superior sours. Without a tap room, Amalgam’s stuff can be really tricky to track down, making its showing at Big Beers especially exciting. This year, the team brought their hand-picked series, which is a beer that very few people have tried. This included their Handpicked: Danube Cherry and the Freeform solera golden sour with muscat grapes. For the cherry beer, brewer Philip hand-picked the cherries from the western slope whereas for the freeform, the grapes were pulled from the backyard of Small Batch Liquors off Tennyson.

“We only have 60 bottles of that beer,” said co-owner Eric Schmidt of Freeform.

The list of big beers (both in ABV and status) goes on. Among the top was Jester King’s three-year blend of SPON which combined a blend of “three different vintages  —2014, 2015, and 2016 — for a 100 percent spontaneously fermented beer inspired by authentic Belgian Lambic.” Fremont lived up to its claim that breweries bring the best to Big Beers. Among the list was a huge showing of Bourbon barrel-aged beers including Coffee Cinnamon B-Bomb (and a regular B-Bomb), Brew 2000 Barleywine, Barrel-Aged Unicorn Tears, and its iconic The Rusty Nail. From the west coast, Modern Times impressed with its solid line up of barrel aged sours like the Batch 1500 with black currants which still has a great funk although it is delicately curbed by a hint of caramel from the barrel.

Candy-themed beers or “pastry stouts” continues to be a big trend with many brewers. Fortunately, at Big Beers, most of them pulled it off. No one had the buzz around sweet-tooth beers quiet like Weldwerks Brewing which showed up with three renditions of its cult-favorite Medianoche including single barrel s’mores, cherry truffle and rum double barrel. Overall, the Greely brewery brought 11 different beers for a really enthusiastic pouring. However, when it came to candy-themed beers, Perrin may have brought the best with its malted milk ball imperial porter. Instead of dumping a ton of Whoppers in the beer, the Minnesota brewery deconstructed the candy by brewing with lactose, vanilla and cocoa nibs which is then aged in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrel for nine months. The result was distinctly nostalgic but lacked any hints of artificial sweetness the actual candy may have produced.

This year’s festival, now in its 18th year, proved it’s only getting better with age too. The pour list grew by over 100 beers this year ( it was 540 beers) and nearly every addition was something worth trying. However, if you really want to know why Big Beers is special, you don’t have to look much further than its founder, Laura Lodge. Lodge along with her brother Bill, first started the festival as a way to educate.

“The festival was created in response to the consumer education void about specialty beers in 2000,” she said. But over the years, the passion and dedication Lodge has given to the festival is felt in every inch of it.

“I think the celebrational-feel of the event by everyone involved makes it special,” she said. “There are a few select events around the country that have this energy going with all of the attendees and the brewers, and I think that makes them really stand out as an exceptional experience.”

And while the festival is clearly gaining popularity (it was packed wall-to-wall on two floors), it still feels as special as ever. Next year, if you’re only planning on attending one beer festival, Big Beers should be on top of your list.

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What You'll Be Drinking in 2018 According to GABF Trends

The final beers have been poured, the last pretzels have been consumed and most importantly all of the hardware for the 2017 Great American Beer Festival has been handed out. Colorado took home 37 medals including 13 Gold, 13 Silver and 9 Bronze – the state also swept the Pro-Am Competition.

Now it’s time to look forward – GABF is the indicator of what to expect in the upcoming year for beer when it comes to style trends, ABVs and or even ingredient sourcing. This year’s festival had no shortage of unique beers and noticeable trends— but while some were expected others were definitely not. After visiting as many booths as possible, we have broken down what we believe you can expect in beer over this next year.

Sour and Barrel Aged Beers Will Continue to Dominate

This year there were two distinct styles. And while they aren’t new, they showed the growth they are experiencing within the beer world. Not so long ago wild and sour beers were few and far between at GABF – just a few select breweries showcasing their ability to manipulate the style. Breweries such as New Belgium, The Rare Barrel and Russian River had long dabbled in this style.

In the beginning, to the average beer drinker nationwide, this particular style could be intimidating but that is no longer the case. The sour movement has grown – other breweries such as Black Project Wild and Spontaneous Ales, Crooked Stave, Odd Side Ales and Forager Brewing Company to just to name a few have made the prevalent in every aisle of GABF. The beer is not just more approachable because of its newfound mass availability but because the beers themselves have become more approachable. Balanced by fruit and experience some of the sours have become more less pucker-worthy, inviting in new people to the style. For example, the Rhubarb Vanilla Incipient from Speciation Artisan Ales was sour in how it played off the rhubarb flavor but light with the vanilla backend making it downright sessionable.  Avance from Allagash Brewing Company started out with a medium strawberry bite but as it moved across your tongue the hints of the oak it was aged in became more pronounced.  Instead of finishing with a sour bite, it finished dry and easy. Avery Brewing Company’s Apricot and Ginger Sours were also poured in mass next to its beloved stouts such as Tweak – further illustrating how these fruited sour beers are going from niche to mainstream.

The other style that continues to build momentum and in turn foster expansion is barrel-aged beers. While its existence and dominance on the beer scene isn’t anything new – it’s the focus on adjunct flavors at this year’s GABF that deserves our attention. It’s no longer about being the best imperial stout in a Bourbon barrel for today’s craft beer drinker – they want to know, what are you adding to that barrel? The longest lines at GABF were for the beer special adjunct flavors – Toppling Goliath with Morning Delight added espresso, vanilla and maple to its beer. And then, if you were lucky enough (it wasn’t listed) a few people at GABF did get to try the elusive Medianoche Reserve from WeldWerks Brewing Company – an imperial stout with cacao nibs, vanilla beans and toasted coconut. While these sort of adjunct flavors were expected, other breweries have added even more to those barrels. Fremont’s Rusty Nail features licorice and cinnamon — giving the beer a slightly spicy complex. And while it wasn’t a stout – Short’s Brewing Company’s barrel-aged Bourbon Black Cherry Porter was fermented with sweet black cherries to enhance the complexity of the Bourbon flavor. These beers are showing it’s more than just coffee, vanilla and cacao nibs coming in big beers.

New England IPAs Aren’t Going Anywhere

The search for the haziest New England style IPA continues – or it might be fair to say the haze craze has officially enveloped the entire country. But still, there is no official category for the beer style at GABF. It is hard to make sense of it all — how can a beer be so popular and have so many breweries dedicated to mastering it and still not get the chance for recognition? There are many theories on why — Westword‘s Jonathan Shikes offers his opinion here — but in the end, the lines were long and those breweries are prospering.

Some of the haziest beers this year didn’t even come out of the East Coast. Great Notion Brewing pushed the limits with its Juice Box – it legitimately looked like juice but burst with citrusy hoppy goodness. Tucked away at the Michigan Brewers Guild table was M-43 from Old Nation Brewing (who didn’t have a table at GABF) – letting everyone know that Michigan can produce dank, hazy IPAs juice bombs as well. The East Coast did have representation in first-time attendee Lord Hobo with its Boomsauce – a beer molded in the tradition of what you can expect from those New England Style IPAs.

Noticeably absent from GABF were some of the biggest hitters in this style of IPA — would a new category change that? If the category arrived in 2018 surely breweries suchs as Monkish, Tree House, Trillium and Other Half would have to contemplate making the trip to Denver. 

Botanical Beers are What’s Next

While it was clearly a year of perfecting at GABF, that doesn’t mean there aren’t people pushing the boundaries of beer. This particular distinction goes to botanical beers and breweries that are using a wide variety of plants beyond hops. In particular, Scratch Brewing from Illinois has been at the forefront of this movement for several years and is undoubtedly a leader of this pack when it came to the 2017 GABF participants. The brewery, located in the Shawnee National Forest, is known for its foraged brews that are made using a wide variety of plants. A couple years ago they made a splash with the single tree series when they brewed a beer using tree sap instead of water. This year, they returned to the tree concept by making beers from different elements of the tree including seeds, bark, roots, flowers and leaves. But the brewery was not alone with its botanical driven beers.

Forbidden Root, also from Illinois (but this time Chicago) brought the botanical beers from the forest to the city with an entire line of botanical beers. This included the Fernetic, a beer made with ingredients pulled from the secret recipe of Fernet — the most famous botanic drink of them all. According to Randy Mosher, senior alchemist at Forbidden Root, the beer came about after the grandson of the owner of Fernet enjoyed their amaro beer in the taproom and was intrigued. Mosher expressed great excitement for Fernetic and botanic beers – which is a big indicator for the trend since Mosher literally wrote the book on tasting beer.

There were more roots that tied botanical beers to established entities during GABF week including Beers Made By Walking, an entire festival dedicated to the idea of brewing beers using ingredients found in your natural surroundings. We found Eric Steen, founder of Beers Made By Walking, pouring one of his own at Hopworks Urban Brewery. The brewery, in partnership with retailer Patagonia, created a Long Root Ale that used Kernza, a perennial grain, as its main ingredient. Steen has long been an advocate for botanical beers, not just for their delicious, boundary-breaking qualities, but their environmental benefits. The Long Root Ale, which is made with a plant with a really long root, helps restores soil biodiversity, soak up carbon and grows crops without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. In many cases, the breweries utilize these methods for ethical sourcing purposes and are akin to the farm-to-table movement in the culinary world. Some have dubbed it the farm-to-glass movement, which in itself is a growing trend in the beer industry and took many shapes and forms in a lot of other beers poured at GABF. But nowhere is it as clear and focused as it can be found in the botanic beer movement. Noticeably, two big breweries that also do botanic beers, Jester King and Fonta Flora, were absent at this year’s GABF. If they return for 2018, expect even more from this growing trend.

With over 3,000 beers poured at this year’s GABF, there were of brews plenty that went un-tasted. But for now, it’s undeniable that sours, barrel aged beers and hazy IPAs continue to infatuate drinkers and brewers alike. Looking ahead, botanic beers are going to push your boundaries and the industry as a whole in the next great adventure in beer-dom. Now get to drinking.

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Opening Night of Great American Beer Festival 2017

The Great American Beer Festival kicked off last night for the 36th time. Thousands of people flooded into the Colorado Convention Center to imbibe on more than 3,900 beers from 800 breweries from across the US. Hailed as the largest festival of its kind, GABF sold out quickly — proving the event continues to maintain its popularity (even if ticket sales were slower). Last night’s highlights included the usual march of the bagpipes around the convention center, the creative costumes and general drunken debauchery.

But aside from the typical scenes, there were more than a few special tappings. This included a whopping 18 percent ABV beer from Black Project called Covert #1 that went almost immediately and a collaboration beer from Avery and Odell that was blended on site during a ceremonious pulling of the taps from Adam Avery and Doug Odell. Other highlights included a delicious Fernet Branca beer from Forbidden Roots made in partnership with Fernet Branca using 17 ingredients from its secret recipe. If there was one snafu last night, it happened at the very end when the restrooms were reportedly blocked off, leaving thousands of people without a place to relieve themselves. But according to the organizers of the event, the incident won’t occur moving forward.

Many beers and two nights remain for the popular festival, including the announcements of who will win the coveted medals during this year’s competition. Make sure to check back with 303 Magazine for updated coverage and follow us on Instagram to see more live from the festival.

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Beers Worth Chasing At The Great American Beer Festival

It’s finally here – the week of The Great American Beer Festival and all of the beer debauchery that comes along with it. People and beer from around the country are making their annual pilgrimage and the list of what’s being poured at the main event is slowly leaking out.

And while the official list is not out yet, we used PorchDrinking’s preview pour list to guide us in our hunt for the best brews. Last week, we gave all of our best tips for festival survival last week so now it’s time to get down to beer business.

Every beer drinker is different – each has their taste preferences and unique palates which makes it hard to select the must-try beers. So instead of giving a definitive list, we are breaking it down into three categories that will give you a sampling of styles from around the country. Here are our suggestions for the best beers to help you live your best GABF.

Worth The Wait

With 800 breweries pouring it might feel like a waste of time to wait in any of the long lines you will see.There is a reason behind those lines, and it’s not just hype— they are delicious, hard to get brews.Let’s start with the dark beers, those that are tucked away and left to mature in special barrels that only come around once a year.

Fremont Brewing Company out of Washington is bringing its Bourbon Barrel-Aged Dark Star an oatmeal stout that’s a blend of beer aged eight, 12 and 18 months in 12-year-old Kentucky bourbon barrels.  From Michigan, Founders Brewing Company is bringing KBS its imperial stout brewed with large amounts of coffee and chocolate before being tucked away for cave-aging in oak bourbon barrels.

Colorado is also well respected on the list of beers sure to be worth the wait. Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales can easily be the first booth out of beer so if they are on your list (and they should be), go there first. You can’t go wrong with any of its beers but Covert – a spontaneous super braggot with cherries, raspberries and black currants coming in at an ABV of 18 percent is a nice way to get the party started. While Black Project is new on the scene – there is on OG beer that is sure to have a line and never disappoints, and that is the original double IPA from Russian River Brewing Company out of California. Get your hop fix with Pliny the Elder – any beer drinker should have it from the tap at least once.

Collaborative beers also foster attention since often this is the only time they are available. Last year, Odell Brewing Company and Avery Brewing Company both out of Colorado found themselves sharing festival space. This year – they did it on purpose and have created a special beer that mixes as it pours from the tap. Odell’s stout is a white coconut-aged in rye whiskey barrels with Avery bringing a vanilla and coffee stout aged in bourbon barrels. When the tap pulls forward the two beers will mix and land in your glass.

Beers From Around The Country

This is it. This is the moment to see what the rest of the country is doing – where the trends are leading and to see how these beers stack up to our local brews.

If you are feeling extra adventurous, check out Scratch Brewing Company out of Illinois. All of its beers are brewed with foraged ingredients – go for LeavesLeaves is a specialty saison brewed with leaves from 34 different plants and trees including oak, sage, laurel, mint, thistle and blackberry to name a few. Keep the exploration going by visiting the booth for Speciation Artisan Ales out of Michigan which focuses on what wild microbes can do in a beer. Its Rhubarb Vanilla Incipient features two pounds of Michigan grown Rhubarb with Mexican vanilla beans.

Moving to the Pacific Northwest, you can try Great Notion Brewing if you are in search of something to appease your hop needs. Great Notion is making noise by jumping into the haze craze. Its hazy imperial IPA Juice Box is made with all mosaic hops and is straight juice. Toppling Goliath Brewing Company may be across the convention center since it’s based in Iowa but it will keep the hop party going with its Pseudo Sue. This American style pale ale is a single hop beer focusing on Citra making the citrus and mango pop.

Not everyone can get to Portland, Maine, but GABF brings Maine – more specifically Allagash Brewing Companyto Denver. Allagash White is the flagship and a nice easy drinking beer but we would recommend Avance – a strong, sour ale with strawberry preserves that’s aged in oak barrels.

Normally we would suggest that you stay away from beers you can get locally because you can get them anytime, but at GABF there are exceptions. A lot of local breweries are bringing the fire to the festival – beers that we locals will have trouble snagging.

New Belgium Brewing Company who has revamped its sour program and will be pouring Oscar Aged in Blackberry Whiskey Barrels. This is a foeder-aged dark sour put into fresh blackberry whiskey barrels from Leopold Bros. Distillery in Denver.

Equally scarce and only being poured with limited bottles per session is Royal Oil from Bull & Bush. It’s is an English strong ale that is bourbon barrel-aged for two years to get the perfect flavor profile. While it didn’t take Comrade Brewing Company two years to finish Fresh Hop Superpower IPA – it does only come once a year. The use of fresh hops takes an already award-winning IPA to another level.

Fiction Beer Company is taking one of its classic beers to the next level with Barrel-Aged Feely Effects. It starts with the classic green tea milk chocolate stout and then it’s aged for 18 months in a bourbon barrel. It’s not often you see green tea – much less barrel-aged green tea. And then there is Medianoche from WeldWerks Brewing Company – the bottles for this beer are released this week and tickets for the opportunity to purchase them sold out in minutes. This could be one of the only chances (for now) you get to try this imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels for 17 months.

Each session at GABF lasts for just about four hours which means you could conceivably have 48 different beers if you drink one pour every five minutes. If you are super competitive and have liver of steel, that might the route for you. For everyone else, start with this list and then build on it when the final list goes live. Go for what you might never be able to have but more importantly go for what you want – GABF is your own personal beer paradise.

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Black Project's Latest Beer Release Brings Lambic-Inspired Beer to Denver

From its inception and through its transformation from Former Future Brewing Company to what it is today, there has been something distinctly unique about Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales. There has been a personality, a belief and an uncompromising dedication to the craft of beer. Its next release, project ROSWELL, this weekend is the next step in the evolution of its beer and brewery.

Project ROSWELL is the first time the Black Project team can share the fruits of their labor from the exploration of spontaneous fermentation (yeast captured from the air) after nearly a year of work. The project focused on pushing the limits of a traditional beer style and fruiting process. The beers from ROSWELL are Lambic-inspired, spontaneously fermented, barrel aged and then super fruited causing yet another refermentation. What does this mean to you? It means you’re going to taste some damn good, extremely limited beers that could become their own distinct style.

Black Project took the traditional Belgian process and then literally— from the airborne yeast of spontaneous fermentation—injected it with flavors that can only be found in the fresh air of Colorado. There are six variants of the beer – each came from the same base beer, so the true characters of each super fruiting shines through. Each variant you try will lead you down a different path while having in common a nice acidity, great mouthfeel and a pleasant tartness. These are not going to be beers that make you pucker— they’re dry instead, begging you to try another lusciously fruity sip.

The release for bottles to-go starts Saturday, July 22 at 2 p.m. and includes variants of Apricot (MOGUL), Raspberry (GRUDGE), Blackberry (MAJESTIC 12), Cranberry (HIGH DIVE) and Guava (BLUEBOOK). Each variant is named after different theories surrounding the ROSWELL mystery.

The limits have been announced at three per person and could drop to two per person depending on the number of people at the release. That’s right, you cannot purchase the entire set, but this was done with altruistic intentions. By limiting the number of bottles, it will maximize the number of people who will get these precious bottles. More importantly, it will encourage people to share and share alike at bottle shares and other events. Make friends so you have a chance to complete the set.

The Blueberry (SIGN) variant will not be available to go, but it will be available for on-site consumption starting on Sunday, July 23 at 2 p.m. 

There’s only one way to take the Blueberry home. Black Project is giving a bottle of Blueberry (SIGN) to the three people who post the most creative photos of the bottles on social media. So think outside the box and use #ShareRoswell on social media or post it to Black Project’s Facebook Page to enter — winners announced at the end of August.

The blueberry was special— all of them were— but two of them stood out to us. The raspberry is incredibly layered and jammy while staying dry – a rare combination. And then there is the guava – undoubtedly guava beers have been done before but in our experience, no beer has been able to capture the true essence of the fruit. The tropical notes captured your nose and when you dove in you experience a burst of guava with a hint of something closer to almost a light ginger.

The excitement and anticipation surrounding ROSWELL is well-deserved. If you have never gone to a release or are a regular on the release rotation, this is one you will not want to miss. The beer community is going to come together this weekend on Broadway, and trust us when we say that Black Project knows how to host a release party.

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Colorado Sour Beers Steal the Spotlight at Avery SourFest

Each June Avery Brewing Company closes its doors to the public in the name of all things tart, sour, funky and even horsey. This year Avery celebrated the seventh anniversary of SourFest  where the brewery asked 600 willing beer drinkers to see just how far they can push their palates. All of the beers feature wild yeast, sour bacteria or general experimentation with a final pucker-worthy form.

Tickets were $80 and included unlimited pours, a commemorative glass and unlimited access to Tums to keep your stomach happy as you drink all the sour you can handle. Each ticket included two special tickets that allowed each festival goer to call timeout and enjoy a stomach-soothing beer such as Avery’s White Rascal.

As with the majority of its events, Avery also had a special cause for SourFest. This year all of the proceeds from the event are going to Attention Homes, a non-profit that works with at-risk youth to provide a safe shelter and access to critical services.

The best part about a sour beer festival is that you can always expect the unexpected. Below is our breakdown of some of the trends that stood out and the beers that defined them.

The Dark Side

When people discuss sour beers, rarely do they discuss it in terms of dark beers. Dark sour beers are on the periphery right now but they are coming and were on display. Oskar Blues brought its Judas Sour Porter, a porter aged in an Oloroso Sherry Barrel for 20 months giving it a distinctly woody and tangy flavor that played with the smoke hints from the barrel.

DESTIHL Brewing company added to this mix with its Saint Dekkera Brown— a nut brown ale aged in oak barrels for eight months. It was robust like you might expect from a brown but still tart. This beer could make people change their expectations when it comes to a brown style.

However, 4 Noses Brewing Company’s dark beer stole the show. Its Barrel-Aged Sour Stout was everything you hope a sour stout could be — it was acidic on the first sip as you expect from a sour beer, but it was also extremely creamy, smooth and toasty like a stout should be. It’s a great marriage of these two very distinct styles and its profiles.

The Salty Side

Sour and salt – a combination that can take good beers and make them great. Avery’s Fortuna — a sour ale aged in tequila barrels — is completed with lime zest and salt. Much like a margarita, this takes off the bite and makes it a smooth sipping beer. This same idea is continued with Wiley Roots Brewing Company and its Dia De Las Margaritas Oscuras — a dark sour ale aged in tequila barrels. Wiley Roots’ adds the lime but take it to a different place with sea salt and cacao nibs. It becomes a bit darker but doesn’t get heavy and takes the funk to another level.

Skully #39 – Salty Lemons by Paradox Beer Company was also on the citrus and salt train. This beer was one of the more pucker-inducing beers, as a mixture of a sour golden ale and preserved Meyer lemons. The salt keeps it from going too far and keeps you going back for more.

The most unique salty beer was produced from local Colorado brewery, Loveland Aleworks. Its BAMF Gose was on the tongues of many people for more than just its great name. This gose was almost indescribable because of the variety of flavor — it was light but powerful, funky without being overpowering and finished with a salty backend. The BAMF Gose was a BAMF.

The Fruity Side

Fruit and sour beers are the expected combination, but that doesn’t make the addition selections any less powerful. Local Colorado fruit was on display with WeldWerks Brewing Company featuring Palisade peaches (at a rate of four pounds per gallon) on its sour blend called Peach Climacteric. Unlike in festivals past, this beer was available for most of the event despite the permanent, well-deserved line. Odd13 Brewing Company poured Plum Bartleby — a dark sour made even darker and gushier by aging on Palisade plums.

Avery’s Raspberry Sour was a go-to for most because the lactic-forward beer is tangy and immensely sippable — a nice break in between the more intense beers. Fiction Beer Company changed up the fruit game a bit by being the only brewery at the festival to offer a sour with passionfruit in its Antiquarian No. 5. The passionfruit cut right through the sourness making it a different experience for the sour beer fan. Black Project poured its Peacemaker, a wild wheat aged in Red Fox Bourbon cherry wine barrels. The sweet cherry finish was just right as the sun came out but it was gone quickly as was the secret beer that wasn’t on the menu.

Across all of the themes and trends that were found at this year’s SourFest, there is one that perhaps stood out the most. Local Colorado breweries have found sour footing and are showing out against some of the best the country has to offer. It’s no surprise then that Amalgam based out of Northern Colorado made its much-anticipated debut with Ascension (golden sour ale) and Composition No. 1 (Oak fermented American Saison) at this festival. Colorado is becoming a sour stronghold — if you couldn’t make SourFest but are a sour fan, then you know what breweries should be on your list to visit.

Good Acid – Goed Zuur Infiltrates Five Points with Wild and Sour Beers

Five Points’ newest beer bar isn’t something you would expect in the neighborhood— or maybe even in Denver at all. It is the first of its kind — a bold move in one of the few places it has the potential to work. Goed Zuur which means “good acid” is the first taproom anywhere — not just in the state of Colorado— to focus on sour and wild beers only, and we bet this city will fully embrace it.

It would, however, be a disservice to talk about only the beer when it comes to Goed Zuur. The beer might be the headline but the food allows the beer to shine brightly. The charcuterie, the freshly baked bread and — most important of all — the cheese take this unique beer concept to the next level.

To understand how all of this comes together in a beautiful union, it’s important to understand what it means to be a wild or sour beer. When asked how he describes it to a casual, walk-in customer, bar manager Trip Heaverly broke it down like this:

“I give everyone a three-sentence microbiology lesson — what makes the beer sour? On its simplest level, it’s the same bacteria that makes yogurt tart added to the beer.”

Most people are likely to buy in at that point, but not everyone. The beer staff – no matter who you speak with — will be able to dive into this beer style with you. Do you want to know the difference between wild (collecting yeast from the air) or kettle sour (harvested bacteria) and how it affects the taste? They walk you through the details and do it with passion.

“There is a beer at Goed Zuur for the Miller Hi-Life drinker,” Heaverly said.” And the spectrum then ranges to the most obsessed sour beer connoisseur – just ask.”

Hiring a knowledgeable staff was non-negotiable for this often-misunderstood beer style. The beer menu will also have a local flare showcasing favorites such as Casey Brewing and Blending, to Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales.

Sour lover or sour novice, the full experience comes into view once you sit down at the bar or chef’s table. Sour beers — which can range from light and tart to super pucker-worthy — are not really meant to be enjoyed by themselves over an extended period of time. It’s not something your stomach would likely enjoy long-term, and the same can be said for the food — it’s too rich and complex to be enjoyed in bulk. But together this rich food and sour beer make the ideal pairing.

“There is harmony in the pairing of the two,” said general manager Cody Boll.

C0-owner and executive chef Anthony Lopiccolo added, “There are a lot of great charcuteries places in Denver, but we want to be known for the cheese.”

The cheese, some of which is cave-aged (try it), melts in your mouth with its rich and lush texture. The best way to indulge in such flavors is to pair it with a nice tart beer which cuts right through the fat. Lopiccolo said that the chef’s table is the best place to sit for learning about these things because it’s, “A place of education, learning and is meant to make these otherwise out of reach cheeses, meats and beers accessible to everyone.”

Elegant beer and cheese bring us back to the question of why the group picked a more casual location like Five Points as their home. But there was no other place in Lopiccolo’s eyes. To him, this concept couldn’t happen in anywhere else. 

“I want to be a part of rebuilding Five Points the right way,” he explained.

Originally from Detroit, he’s seen how that city rebuilt and wants the same thing to happen in this historic neighborhood with a checkered past. It’s the reason so much time, money and effort were put into preserving the old building they opened in. Even before the historical society got involved, there was no way they weren’t going to keep the Coke mural on the side of their building. It belongs to the building, and the building belongs to the neighborhood.

Goed Zuur is about the experience, and it’s just the next step in the renewal of Five Points. The food and beer pair perfectly — both are on the higher end, but they are not out of reach. Instead, it’s the first step towards extending this food and beer culture to a new set of people who are migrating to the neighborhood. Cave-aged cheese and butter — bottled sour beers from their birthplace in Belgium are not something you expect to be accessible, but that is exactly the point. Go for the beer, stay for the food. Or go for the food, stay for the beer. Either way, just go, enjoy the vibe and let the atmosphere and experience of Goed Zuur take over all of your senses.

Goed Zuur is located at 2801 Welton St., Denver. It is open Monday through Wednesday 3 p.m. to 12 a.m., Thursday 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 12 a.m.

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30+ Colorado Beer Releases You Should Know About This Summer

Good beer is everywhere in Colorado. Great beer can be found without much effort too. But special or limited beer — that is the type of thing that gets the beer drinkers of Colorado excited. These limited or special release beers are worth the excitement.

If you find a beer being released that you just can’t resist from a favorite brewery, do a little bit of research. Visit the events page on their Facebook to check out both past and future events along with Instagram posts from similar releases to find information. How limited is the beer? Is there a certain number of cans or bottles available? Using those numbers and the comments of people who have previously attended will help you create a plan of attack.

Here is a breakdown of the three main types of releases and how you can best prepare for them.

Level One: The Accessible Release

This release is more about trying something new and trying something first. This beer is generally being made one time but they are making enough to ensure plenty of their fans get a taste. You can arrive anytime on release day and enjoy a sip or if it’s being bottled pick up one before everyone else. There might be lines, but they will be minimal and will move fast. Often there are taproom party events to celebrate the distribution of this special beer.

Level Two: The Competitive Release

This release will require some planning. Whether on tap, in bottles or in a can, there may not be enough for everyone. The brewery will often share the quantity of the beer produced, even if the figure seems high, it’s being released for a reason. You will want to arrive on time to make sure you get what you are after. You will need to decide if waiting in line for beer is for you.

Level Three: The Extremely Limited Release

This is a challenge. The quantity of beer being released more than likely will not meet the demand of the number of people in attendance. There will be a line and people will begin to line up extremely early. This doesn’t mean you have to be there at the crack of dawn, reach out to the brewery and ask what time has been the best to show up in advance. Come ready to have fun, it’s limited and people will be people but if you are lucky enough to snag the sought-after beer it will be awesome. If you happen to miss out, you can still enjoy the other beers on tap and meet new members of your beer community.

Below is a list of upcoming releases in and around Denver for this summer and we have included the type of release we expect them to be. The list is broken down by month and the breweries are in alphabetical order. Save this list because we will be updating it throughout the summer as more dates become firm and other releases are announced. 

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales

Location: 1290 S. Broadway, A51, Denver
Beer: UNKNOWN. The information around this beer and this particular event is strictly confidential but what we can share is that it is going something you cannot miss. Follow their AFFAIRS page here.
Release Type: Level 3
Release Date: To be determined in July

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17 Beers to Try During Colorado Craft Beer Week 2017

Elsewhere

What: Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales
Where: 1290 S. Broadway, Denver
Style: Sour Red Ale

The Lowdown: There are a lot of sours around town and a lot of reds but rarely do you catch the two styles together. This beer is sour but the malt takes off the edge. There are also hints of rye among other things, each sip has another subtle flavor that pops. The beer builds off of the atmosphere creating a unique drinking experience.

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50+ Woman Owned and Operated Food & Beverage Businesses in Colorado

On March 8, women and men across the world have joined to celebrate International Women’s Day. On a day meant to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, we’re participating by sharing a list of woman-owned or led food businesses in Denver and beyond.

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Denver's [Only] Beer Festivus

On the other end of the spectrum were Banded Oak Brewery and Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, which brew barrel-aged and wild ales, respectively. Located just northeast of the Baker neighborhood, Banded Oak focuses on wine barrel-aged beers. And while the brewery is still in the startup phase, both of its cabernet-barrel offerings—an imperial rye saison and a Scotch ale—were bold and complex. Black Project, formerly branded Future Brewing Company, has developed quite the cult following for inventive sour and wild ales, including Festivus offering Magic Lantern, a technicolor, German-style gose with notes of tart passion fruit and saltiness.

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Black Project Brews Up Spontaneous and Wild Ales

Former Future recently rebranded as Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, Colorado’s first brewery to specialize in spontaneous and wild ales. “With 70 breweries in Denver alone, we wanted to do something unique and different,” said owner Sarah Howat when asked about the isolated brewing focus. Howat and her husband, James, dove into the world of spontaneous ales back in 2014 as a personal project — one that continued to manifest itself until a few weeks ago, when they unveiled a new menu entirely dedicated to their passionate creation process.

The Howats gained recognition for their signature sours long before they reopened under the title of Black Project, with their brewery ranking in the top 20 on the popular beer app Untappd. Sour beers certainly have aroused the wine and cider crowd lately, offering an audaciously distinct side of the hop and barley experience. Yet, Sarah and James elevate their sours to the next level with extreme DIY techniques. Rather than ordering yeast from a lab, Black Project capitalizes on mother nature’s bounty by collecting their own cultures. Sarah Howat paints a picture of the process.“With lab yeast it’s like cloning you a million times, but with wild yeast, we can clone the whole room, it becomes an entire ecosystem.” Up on the rooftop of the brewery, there is an open-air vessel called a koelship, or coolship, that collects yeast and microorganisms. This spontaneous fermentation inoculates the beer and sugars from the coolship in an entropic, natural process. Recently, the sour brewmaster couple even trekked into Buena Vista and Leadville, foraging berries for yeast designated to future batches.

When you arrive at the test site of these sours, order a flight at the bar which is made out of airplane wings, a nod to their insignia of a paper jet. Emblazoned on the door and menu, this watermark seems to certify the Howat’s ingenious beer engineering, launching their taplist sky-high while leaving the norm back on the plains. Try all of the beers — sours and wilds alike are multidimensional masterpieces. The Voodoo stands out as the most remarkable in its unique character and unapologetic behavior. It’s a dry-hopped version of their Elsewhere sour red ale which uses the spontaneous microflora yeast culture collected in the coolship. The Elsewhere fermented, changed and evolved in a barrel for 8 months. While the Elsewhere and Voodoo would appear similar, the Voodoo is fiercely sour, corroborated by the Chinook, Mosaic and Citra hops. Traveling along your palate’s roller coaster, you’ll pucker as if sucking a warhead at the white wine notes complemented by an earthy and rustic profile.

Quenched by Voodoo, you may want to settle into more familiar territory, but even their classics are brave and new. The Stiletto is a saison accessing yeast from a wild or spontaneous beer  and rinsing the culture of its souring bacteria. While your standard saison is quite sweet and simple, the Stiletto elevates with brave complexity, being organic on the nose and deliciously colorful to drink. They offered their Dreamland, a sour golden ale, in a small batch with sage. Black Project rotates micro specialties like the Dreamland Sage every few weeks. This brew was highlighted with woodsy and heady aromas reminiscent of a ceremonial house cleansing, yet the taste was very mellow for a sour. The sage seemed to cut into the acidity of the sour, making it more down to earth. Every beer was intriguing and courageous; Black Project’s merit is truly endless. Whether you’re a cider and wine savant or a beer fanatic, this little tap room on Broadway is quintessential to recognize on Denver’s flooded beer map.

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales is located at 1290 S. Broadway. Their hours are 4-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 2-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2-8 p.m. on Sundays. 

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A Taste of Colorado & 6 Other Events this Week

Citrus beer tasting at Black Project

Where: 1290 S Broadway

When: 6-11 p.m. 

Low Down:  When life gives you lemons, you drink beer. Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales is offering a public keg debut of their Starfighter brew, which includes intense flavors of lemon, lime and blood orange zest. The tasting is on a first come first serve basis, as they will only offer one sixtel keg.

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Microbes, Trees, and Ancient Ales - 3 Unique Beers to Try at GABF Today

Former Future’s owners Sarah and James Howat have been the talk of the town for their Black Project, which features wild and spontaneously fermented beers. James, who has a degree in microbiology from Colorado State University, is using his knowledge of microbes to produce beers that are fermented using yeast and particles in the air. The result is a hyper-unique beer that, due to this use of air found in Denver, has distilled the taste of an exact moment and place in time, bringing the whole concept of “local” to an entirely different plane. Try either the Lancer or the Wine Barrel Aged Blueberry Dreamland for deliciously tart beers. Even though this brewery is from Colorado, these brews are limited and marketed for out-of-state sale, therefore making it a must-do for even those that live in state.

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