Do you remember the beer that made you fall in love? Was it the Coors Light you snuck out of your Dad’s beer cooler? Was it Pabst Blue Ribbon from a keg cup at a graduation party? Or was it the first beer that made you sit back and think about what you were actually drinking? If you were anything like me, you didn’t know a damn thing about hops, malt and yeast. You just knew that this was different. This was delicious.
Some call them “gateway beers,” others “crossovers,” as they hold the drinker’s hand and escort them to funkier, heavier things. For a lot of people, golden ales unlocked that door. These straw colored pints look an awful lot like the common American lager but they contain just a little bit more malt, a touch more citrus and a faint hint of fruit. They say to the drinker, “See, I can be more. Come take a look. Don’t worry, I won’t bite.”
That moment can come at any time to drinkers of any (legal) age and on a recent trip to Niwot’s Bootstrap Brewing, it was the gateway beers that stuck: 1956 Golden Ale and Chillax Pineapple Gold (both 4.5% ABV). The 1956 Golden Ale — the name is a nod to owner Steven Kaczeus’s dad who was one of the students occupying the University of Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution — is exactly what you would expect, crisp and light with some mild malt; just the sort of beer that my grandmother from Mitchell, South Dakota found enjoyable.
Hot hops and strong stouts aren’t exactly Grandma Mary’s thing but delicious beer is, and she found it in the second golden ale Bootstrap brews: Chillax Pineapple Gold. Chillax is essentially 1956 plus pineapple, but the sum is greater than its parts. As Grandma delicately and respectably set the glass of Chillax back down, there was a distinct twinkle in her eye and warmness in its color. After a moment of quiet contemplation, she leaned over to me and said, “That one’s going to be dangerous for females.”
There were nine other Bootstrap offerings to try, but I don’t think we topped the Chillax. The NutStrap Imperial Coffee Stout (7.6%), served on nitro, has a beautiful nose with a smooth and balanced body; the Schwarzbier (5.5%), a German black lager, has a light and toasted quality for those who need a little more kick than the 1956; and the Backfire Chili (4.5%) is for those who demand that their beer pepper the back of their throat with punishment.
For Grams and me, Chillax is where it’s at. Especially since we can toast to the unseasonably warm weather and bright sunny days on Bootstrap’s Niwot patio. And with a Longmont outpost in the works, Bootstrap should have plenty of that sweet golden on tap for Boulder County during the summer months as well. Grandma might end up being a regular.
On TAP: Bootstrap Brewing. 6778 N. 79th St., Niwot, 303-652-4186, bootstrapbrewing.com.