The weather is by far one of Colorado’s greatest assets. With roughly 300 days of sunshine a year, Coloradans have plenty of opportunities to soak up the sun hiking on the trail, biking on the path and, my personal favorite, drinking on the patio. And with more than 200 breweries operating in the Centennial state, there are plenty of patios to explore.
That’s why I recently headed over to the Echo Brewing Co. in Erie; I heard they had a pretty fantastic patio to lounge on. I also heard they had beer, which is maybe why I went in the first place.
Echo Brewing began in the nearby town of Frederick in 2012 when the Richards family — Erie residents Melissa, twin brothers Daniel and Dennis, sister Katy Dukes and her hubby Shannon — opened up a seven-barrel brewing operation. Two years later, they decided to open a second location closer to home and converted an old Erie firehouse into a pizzeria and brewpub with 2,500 square feet of indoor drinking and eating, plus a 1,200 square foot wraparound porch for those seeking vitamin D.
While the indoor atmosphere is a fine place to imbibe and watch TV, the majority of us were here for that patio. My server recommended two of their darker offerings — Molasses Porter and Nocturnal Double IPA — but I waved her off. The sun was hot that day and that tends to change my approach to brew. Lager I craved and Echo’s Munich Helles was what I wanted.
Weighing in at a nice and light 4.9% ABV, Echo’s Helles is a perfect German pale lager, full-bodied and slightly sweet. It’s gold in the glass and it’s gold in the mouth. Hell, it even won a couple of gold medals at the Colorado State Fair (2012 and 2013). Just the sort of Sunday afternoon sipper I was after.
With my thirst quenched, I was ready to move on to more adventurous, but still light fare. Razz (5.3%), American Wheat with raspberry puree, is not as cloudy as you might expect but is refreshing. As was the Balefire Irish Red (4.9%). Balefire announced itself with loads of toffee and caramel off the nose that disappear slightly in the mouth. That’s when the malt took over.
After a few on the lighter side, I relented to my server’s suggestions to dabble in the dark (the sun’s gotta go down sometime), and took back the Molasses Porter (7.6%) and the Nocturnal. The Porter’s molasses flavor is pleasant but not overwhelming, a mild beer with plenty of toasted malt on the back.
But all of that was just a warm-up for the powerfully assertive Nocturnal (9.5%). This black double IPA looks as dark as a stout, with a brownish head to boot, and the flavor of anise and hops all over. It’s a heck of a lot brighter than it looks and packs one hell of a punch.
Here I’d come searching for lagers and wheats and left with the blistering flavor of zythos hops on my tongue. What pleasure discovery can be; I’ll have to return when the patio is buried under two feet of snow and warmth is needed.
On tap: Echo Brewing Co. 600 Briggs St., Erie, 720-361-2332, echobrewing.com.