Tour de brew: Coda Brewing Co.

Beer worth leaving Boulder County for

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Your brother-in-law is back in town. You love him, sure, but the guy is a bonafide beer geek, and he’s always looking for something new, something different. That can get a little exhausting, especially since he comes out here every year, and he’s had everything. Even that brewery serving English milds out of a garage in the office park and that one up the mountains specializing in milkshake IPAs. Where in god’s name are you going to take him now?

You, dear reader, are headed to Golden, and Coda Brewing Co. is your destination.

Golden is no stranger to good beer. One of the most decorated breweries in the state resides here. And then there’s that one brewery that pretty much everyone and their dog knows about. Both are worth a visit, but not today. Today, you’re headed to South Golden—down an unpaved alley, past the auto repair shop, to a brewery so in love with the fermentation sciences that the shelves are stocked with apothecary paraphernalia, and the tables are adorned with microscopes.

Coda’s story began in Aurora, in 2014, as a music-themed brewery. Music and beer might sound pretty routine, but for University of Colorado medical researcher turned brewer Luke Smith, a music-themed brewery meant each beer was designed to be paired with a specific song. Say, Dog Catcher Red Ale and George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog.” Coda caught drinkers’ attention—and netted Smith a Great American Beer Festival medal—but after two years, Smith and Coda co-owner Scott Procop split. The Aurora brewery was renamed Ursula (after the street address) and kept the theming—the logo is a guitar pick. Smith headed out South Golden way and, in 2018, opened up Coda round two with his line-up of signature ales and lagers.

And Coda’s ales and lagers are some of the best around. Start your fermentation journey with Sleepyhead Passion Fruit Kölsch; it’s the brew Smith won silver with at GABF in 2014 in the American-style Fruit Beer category. Beautifully golden in the glass with a frothy head, Sleepyhead is crisp and tart in the mouth with a wonderfully dry finish. Fruit beers can sometimes get a little weighty, but not Sleepyhead. And at a quaffable 5.6 percent alcohol by volume, a couple will go down great on a sunny afternoon.

As will Angier’s Box, a Czech-style dark lager. Inspired by tmavé pivo—arguably one of the greatest beer styles on the planet—Angier’s sports a milk chocolate hue with a cream-colored head, a snappy nose of roast, plenty of toasty malts in the glass, and tangy Saaz hops. It’s lighter than it looks (4.4 percent ABV), crisper than you might expect, and finishes so clean the only thing that lingers is the memory.

For those wishing to remain in a Centennial state of mind, try Colorado Strong Hazy IPA. Brewed with Colorado-grown grain and hops—Chinook, Cashmere, Strata, Cryo Citra, and Cryo Mosaic—Colorado Strong is positively tropical: Creamy in the mouth, almost pillowy, with hints of pineapple, mango, and orange.

Looking for more yeast presence in your beer? Coda’s Rustic Saison is akin to sinking your teeth into crusty sourdough. The nose conjures up aromas of black pepper biscuits, but the mouth brings in those familiar funky farmyard flavors with a tingle of sugary sweetness. It’s slightly heavier in the alcohol department (6.1 percent), not that you would know it—nary a hint of fusel or skunk that sometimes follow saisons around and holds drinkers at arm’s length. If you’ve sworn off saison because of a bad experience or three, give Coda’s a chance. You might just become a convert.

And there’s more. A lot more. Coda typically pours between 12 and 15 brews at any time, and the range here is substantial. Just make sure you leave room for Calibrated Eye, Coda’s German-style Pilsner. It’s glorious: Crystal clear in the glass with a color reminiscent of a wheat field at harvest. There’s a tickle of Saaz on the nose with dollops of honey in the mouth and the slightly toasted chewiness of buttery Texas toast. Calibrated Eye alone is worth the drive. Good thing Coda sells cans of the stuff in the taproom so you can bring them home. Maybe your brother-in-law will even stuff a few in his suitcase and spread the Coda word at home. What a hero you’ll be when he recounts the tale.

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