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Friday, August 20,2010

Student Guide 2010: Enroll in Local Brewing 101

By Elizabeth Miller

Welcome to Colorado, microbrew capital of the world. Well, that might be debatable, but with 114 craft brewers in the state, it certainly feels that way. In and around Boulder, there’s something for any palate.

Avery Brewing Company

The Avery Brewing Company is kind of in hiding. The taproom is barely marked from the street, and if you call for directions, they boil down to taking a service road west of a car wash. But if you find it, you’ll have landed in one of those precious havens for invested beer drinkers — the kind who take a sample in pint glasses. Which is exactly the kind of sampling you’ll begin doing when you get to the taproom, which has roughly 20 Avery beers.

Their daily beer menu includes an assortment of India Pale Ales, like the Maharaja Imperial IPA, a hoppy — but not bitterly so — ale, and a collection of stouts that includes the Out of Sight and Out of Bounds. Other menu highlights include cask-conditioned beers, or even the Bourbon Barrel- Aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout, which drinks like a bourbon-laced oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. It takes nerve to order some of these beers, and that’s part of the fun.

The taproom menu lists pizza, and tacos are sometimes available from a stand outside. Otherwise, a longer menu, which includes remarkable sweet-potato tots and pork-andblack-bean dumplings, is available if you cross the parking lot (or call for delivery) to Savory.

Mountain Sun

The folks who run the Mountain Sun and Southern Sun brewpubs seem to know what they’re doing, and they do it well. The surest sign of that here is, as it is with any restaurant, the line out the door. They’ve cultivated a thoroughly enjoyable beer list with the regular range, plus a few interesting blends. They plate up a dinner menu punctuated with vegetarian enticements like a vegan reuben.

The only possible problem with the Sun brewpubs is that if you go during prime drinking and dining times, you might have to wait. If you go early enough to hang out at the bar for the time it takes to seat a party of four, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the kind of atmosphere that encapsulates Boulder’s hippie-ish charm. Elbow in at the bar, and you may even have a beverage to whet your appetite.

But show up starving, and you might be too annoyed to enjoy the board games available by the time you get seated. Still, the beer and vittles are worth the wait.

Walnut Brewery and Restaurant

The Walnut is like the medical marijuana dispensary you’d take your parents to when they visit from out of state and are doubtful about your medical use of their former recreational abuse. You know, the dispensary that also offers massage and aromatherapy, boasts an “organics” sticker on their products, and dresses their staff in hospital scrubs. It’s like the introductory course for your parents to the idea of you, their precious offspring, as a beer drinker.

For that matter, it’s a bit of a beginner course for the beginning beer drinker. The menu offers the standard range of amber, IPA, stout and bitter beers to order by the pint, and they’re pleasant enough. The food menu of burgers, steaks, sandwiches and a few odd pasta dishes is plenty palatable, if a little pricey. But basically there are no surprises here, and none of the daring adventures in taste to be found at some of the other area brewpubs, which makes it a safe starting point, but not a place to visit habitually. Unless, of course, standard issue is your style.

For your GPS:

Boulder Beer Company: Also a bit tricky to find, it’s south of Valmont between Foothills and 30th on a road called Wilderness Place. Touted as Colorado’s first microbrewery.

Twisted Pine Brewing Company, Boulder: Still a bit raw in setting (like Avery, it’s also in a business park, at 3201 Walnut St.), but it has some interesting beers and a promising patio.

Wynkoop Brewery, Denver: Founded by Denver’s own mayor, John Hickenlooper, the Wynkoop pours delicious ales, often appropriately themed for the railyard it neighbors. Watch for the milk stout or, for adventurous tongues, Patty’s Chile Beer. It’s located at 1634 18th St.

Oskar Blues Brewery and pubs, Longmont and Lyons: These were the first guys to put good beer in cans. Thank them by stopping to drink Dale’s Pale Ale fresh from the tap. Their original pub is in Lyons, and now they have a brewery, tasting room and pub in Longmont. Hint: Drive northeast on Foothills (which becomes Hwy. 119) and just as you get to Longmont, look for the big-ass beer can on the right.

Left Hand Brewing Company, Longmont: If you’re new to Boulder and you can find this one, you deserve a medal. But like the X on the treasure map, it’s worth the journey. It’s at 1265 Boston Ave.

New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins: It’s the home of Fat Tire, and if you visit, they give you samples for free. Do you need to know more than that? It’s located at 500 Linden St.

For your calendar:

The Great American Beer Festival packs the Colorado Convention Center in Denver with brewers pouring samples of thousands of beers. It’s Sept. 16–18, but good luck getting tickets, it’s sold out.

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