Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Brews, Blues and Laughter

Fran and I have lived in Colorado for almost 6 years now and it still amazes us how often we find new experiences. Those of you who know us, or run with us in the "Professional Drinker's Tour," know we like to travel the width and breadth of this great state (affectionately and appropriately entitled "Beerstate, USA" by my buddy, John "The Beer Hermit" Morrissey) looking for great beer (and soon wine and spirits), blues, food and bars.

We found all of that this past weekend down in Canon City, Colorado, a mere hour southwest of Colorado Springs. Anyone who has visited the Royal Gorge (or has a fetish for jails) has likely gone through Canon City because Highway 50 runs smack through town. Well, now they have two more claims to fame. One seriously kick ass fun brewfest and one seriously kick ass fun brew pub. First the brewfest... the 4th annual Brew Ha-Ha.

In my previous post I listed the 20 breweries that would be in attendance, and they were all there dolling out some of the finest brews available. A couple really popped out. I'm a Hefe fan, and while I like nearly all the hefe's made in the region, the one that continues to stand out is the Hefe Suave from San Luis Valley Brewing Company. It's the frakin' bomb! Sadly, while they are finally bottling this fine elixir, it's still not available in Colorado Springs. Sometime soon Fran and I are gonna have to truck out to San Luis Valley and stock up!

The great thing about hefes, and all craft beers really, is the diversity they bring. Everyone likes something different, and with all the craft brews available you're sure to find one you like. It also gives credence to the notion that there simply can't be too many breweries. The industry is exploding, and as more people learn that they don't have to stand for Macro-Crap-Beer, the demand for craft beer is only going to grow.

Case in point, two smaller breweries in the southern end of Colorado. First, McClellan's Grill & Brewing Company in Canon City. This brew pub is owned and operated by Joe and Dana McClellan, who have created an absolutely amazing beer oasis in the heart of a small (but growing) town. The after-party for the Brew Ha-Ha was held here, complete with a helluva fine reggae playing band (with their own killer twist) who's name escapes me at the moment (sorry guys and gals!). Joe and Dana pride themselves on quality "Americelt" eats, ales and atmosphere and they have all three in spades! The food was fantastic, the ales (the Blonde in particular) are awesome, and the atmosphere, well... you need to check it out for yourself. Fran and I are already planning our next trip down there just to hang out with Joe and Dana and all the fine folks at McClellan's on a night that isn't quite so... crazy. ;)

While at the Brew Ha-Ha (as well as the after-party) I was fortuitous enough to meet and hang out with Jeff Aragon, the owner and head brewer of Trinidad Brewing Company. Trinidad is about as far south on I-25 as you can get before running into New Mexico. They had a few offerings at the fest (of their many that they serve up at their brew pub) that absolutely knocked my taste buds in the dirt -- in a good way! Their Bon Carbo Stout weighs in at a robust 8.9% ABV. It's black in color, which is good since "bon carbo" means good coal. Don't worry, it tastes better than coal! Fran and I already have plans to head down Trinidad way later this summer and live the experience that is TBC.

I also met the man who has the single greatest job (other than Zane Lamprey that is) in the history of humanity. Scott Kerkmans is the Chief Beer Officer for Four Points by Sheraton, the third largest hotel chain in the world. He decides what beers go into each of them, which requires him to scour the globe and drinking beer. (sigh) What I didn't know was that he got his start at Alaskan Brewing Company (which just started distributing their brews here in Colorado). He was a guest server at their booth and we got to chatting. Recently Scott held an open call for an apprentice; they received over 1,000 applicants and finally narrowed it down to 10 people. They planned on picking the finalist this week. Good luck whoever you are... ya lucky bastich!

OK, I've rambled enough, but that's alright because Fran and I are heading to Northern California for a few days. While there we'll (for sure) be hitting the famed Toronado Pub and 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco. Our sojourn will also take us to the Napa Valley, where we'll be stopping by the August Briggs Winery, Sterling Vineyards, and staying at the Calistoga Inn for a night. With any luck we'll be able to swing by the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa to toast the opening of their brand new brewery.

Needless to say I'll have a lot to talk about when we get back! Until then... Zivjeli!

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