For years I worked a tasting counter at a winery in Los Angeles. It was a fairly sizable operation with a strong output, and I was the man with the corkscrew who poured it all for you. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Petit Verdot, ports, sweet sparkling wine imported from Italy, you want it, I got it.
But as the days rolled into weeks, the weeks into months and months into years, I grew tired of pouring the same old same old. I wasn’t the only one, many of us behind the counter wanted something usual, and the house blend was created. A dash of Cab in your Merlot, a drop of Malbec in your Petit Verdot — experimentation wasn’t just encouraged, it was marketed. When we stumbled upon the “Chocolate Covered Cherry” — a half-and-half blend of chocolate port and sparkling Brachetto — it spread across the counter like wildfire. Not only was it delicious, it was an opportunity to place two bottles of wine in the customer’s hand where there was once one.
From where I stood behind the counter, I watched as delight and surprise flooded the faces of those trying the Chocolate Covered Cherry for the first time. I bet I had a similar look on my face when my bartender at the 300 Suns Brewery in Longmont turned to me and asked, “You wanna try something different?”
I instinctually knew that he didn’t mean a funky sour or a wet-hopped ale, but a concoction of his own. And that is exactly what I got: the Salted Toffee Imperial Brown (9% ABV) with a dash of Old Burlington Stout (5.6%) floated on top. The results were heavenly. The brown ale derives its flavor from roasted malts, vanilla and a touch of sea salt — all of which are unmistakable in the glass — and could do fine on its own, but the addition of the stout gives the ale weight, body and roundness. As I sipped the tasty blend, my eyes lit up in a way that dissipated any cool I was trying to pull off.
“You can’t brew that taste,” my bartender said with a grin.
Indeed you can’t, but you have to have solid building blocks to work with, and that is precisely what 300 Suns offers. Whether it is their Colorado Sunday SMASH 3.0 (5%) — a single malt and single hops brew that is as easy drinking as Lionel Ritchie is on a Sunday morning — or Trail Maker Imperial IPA (8.5%), which is a heck of a lot lighter than your usual imperial IPA. Their infused Juniper-Hibiscus Dry-Hopped Pale Ale has the unmistakable taste of tea, while the Aunt Sonny’s Hard Root Beer (7%) is exactly what you expect. The nose distinctly smells like a summer time root beer, but the body is a mash-up of sarsaparilla and the malty booze of an imperial porter. As 300 Suns describes it: “Like our other craft ales but with a dash of childhood memories and a sprinkle of adulthood denial.”
Aunt Sonny’s, the Salted Toffee Imperial Brow/Old Burlington Stout and the Chocolate Covered Cherry aren’t just delicious, they’re fun. Life’s tough, embrace the remix.
On tap: 300 Suns Brewing. 335 First Ave., Unit C, Longmont,