Much is made of Boulder County, and particularly the city, being different from the rest of the country. I can’t speak to that as a whole, but I can say it’s pretty different from my hometown in Northeast Ohio. And nowhere was that more apparent than Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place.
Back in gravy country, if your menu has three sections, that third one had better be dessert. Actually, scratch that — that third one is going to be dessert. At Shine, the third section after Food and Wine, Beer & Martinis is the distinctly Boulder-ish Potions & Elixirs.
Shine’s potions — described on the menu as containing “a magical tincture” — span various flavors, contain piles of ingredients and, according to the menu, provide many benefits, including increased focus, greater libido and stress relief.
I try not to be a judgmental person. But I confess my first thought is, this is a cross between that free-range chicken sketch in Portlandia and Harry Potter.
So naturally the staff ordered a couple. I can’t say we felt any different, but we passed the small “Permission Sips” around, so maybe the effects were diffused. The menu does note, “Perhaps the success of our Shine Potions will ultimately boil down to the one drinking them and whether or not they actually believe in magic.”
Taste-wise, the Upside Down Fu was actually pretty good: cinnamon, spice and eggnog. One of the elixirs, with a name unfortunately lost to history and a taste a little like root beer, wasn’t as appealing to most of us.
Offering potions and elixirs isn’t the only way Shine is a very Boulder spot. Colored-glass insets in a wall represent the seven chakras. Shine’s near-nightly events, like poetry readings and community outreach mixers, lean toward the holistic, highbrow and otherwise hippie — a term we don’t consider an insult.
But even in Boulder, Shine is a bit of an outlier. Breweries here, and especially brewpubs, typically style themselves after German beer halls or sports bars, and bacon cheeseburgers are a lot more common than the “probiotic, fermented slaw plate” on Shine’s happy hour menu.
Shine’s beer menu, meanwhile, is heavy on hoppy selections. Trilogy IPA, named after the former 13th Street restaurant previously owned by Shine’s owners, is joined by an IPA collaboration with FATE. Then there’s the Shine Pale Ale, one of the hoppiest pales we’ve had, and an imperial red that’s full-bodied and sharp. Even the stout, Sanitas, is imperial, making it relatively hoppy and surprisingly light.
One of Shine’s strongest offerings is the strong ale, a malty beer with banana and citrus notes. And Shine’s got people with celiac disease covered, too, with its Liberation gluten-free ale. It’s missing a certain something — well, a certain protein, first of all — but it’s drinkable and compares well with gluten-free specialists New Planet, Elizabeth’s friend Ben says.
It’s not likely that many patrons are heading to Shine for the beer experience. They’re there for the food and, as the name says, for the community. Grabbing a few hopped-up brews is just an added benefit — and, in its own right, a very Boulder thing to do.
Next stops: Twisted Pine, 3201 Walnut St., Boulder, 4 p.m. April 18; Upslope, 1501 Lee Hill Road, Boulder, 4 p.m. April 25. Members of the public are welcome.