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Apr 23, 2014

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#2 in Golden

January, 2000

By Bobby Bush

Before we called it a night, this tired beer threesome straggled into Breckenridge Brewery. With 90 miles and six brewpubs behind us this Sunday, we were not really in the mood for a crowd. That’s what we found in this ten-year-old ski town brewpub, a boisterous, aisle-jamming mass. We found a booth. Ordered beers - I’m not sure what we drank, but we each got a pint of Mountain Wheat, IPA, Avalanche, Oatmeal Stout, London Bitter or Raspberry Porter. Breckenridge’s beers are always fine, though I was yawning too much to enjoy it properly. Zzzzz.

Up bright and early the next morning in a rush to beat a heavy snowstorm, we headed back down the mountain. Gray skies behind and the pressure of driving on the icy white freeway at 60 mph, we decided to cool our heels in the famed beer city of Golden, Colorado, forever home of Coors Brewing. But it wasn’t this behemoth beer maker, whose presence overshadows this tiny town, that we sought. It was Golden’s second largest, Golden City Brewery, that was in our sights.

This simple operation defines the word microbrewery, emphasis on micro. To tour the brewery is as complicated as opening a garage door, which is exactly what sales manager Hilary Turner did to show us where brewer Chris Asher and brewmaster Charlie Sturdavant work. While sampling cloudy gold Pale Ale, we learned that Golden City opened in 1994 and recorded batch number 500 in their seven barrel brewhouse in January 2000. Centurion Barleywine scored a GABF silver medal in 1996, as did the seasonal Super Cherry Bomber, made with bing cherries, two years later. Golden City’s English Bitter was thin, slightly astringent and more Amber-like than English. Malty and medium bodied, Red Ale stopped short, with bitter finish. Black with a brown head, Stout was roasty, full bodied and very satisfying.

A neighborhood hangout, with a swingset and outdoor patio serving double duty as overflow bar; a stop at this tiny micro is like hanging out in someone’s garage. Just a three block walk from downtown Golden and maybe half mile from the omnipresent mega-brewery, this six-year-old micro is the antithesis of Coors. Quaint and personal, Golden City Brewery makes beer with character and flavor.

After dropping my two traveling companions off at the conveniently-located Denver airport, I turned south toward a brewpub that has been open since July 1997, though I just recently had learned of its existence. A young sibling of a similarly named, eleven-year-old establishment in Boulder, Walnut Brewery was slow on a Monday afternoon. But the bar, complete with serving vessels in the background, was busy with a variety of beer. So I placed my order for a Stout Barbeque Chicken pizza and started working on my taster tray.

Head brewer Josh Breckel and assistant Dan Boes stay busy juggling 200 recipes, seven of which were available at the time. Swiss Trail Light was light indeed, with mild flavor punctuated by tiny hops notes. Buffalo Gold Premium Ale was of the same ilk, but with more body, while Willow Creek Pale Ale took another step forward in mouthfeel. It left the tongue malty, followed by bitter finish and aftertaste. Made with English malt, Red Rocks Red was also malty, yet ending with a short dry effect. Old Elk Brown, served fizzy carbonated and cask conditioned, was deep copper in color with a malty chocolate profile. On cask, this beer showed more bitterness and drank much smoother in mouthfeel. A ‘98 GABF silver winner, Devil’s Black Stout was also available two ways. In its fizzy rendition, this black beer hid hints of chocolate and roasted barley within its cereal complexity. Unfortunately the cask version had gone bad or was the victim of dirty lines. Topping off the line-up, Abby, a seasonal which the friendly bartender brought up from the back bar, was sweet and sour. Medium-bodied, this Belgian-style ale was over-carbonated but strong and appealing.

I hated to leave this big, airy, wood and brick brewpub, whose two-story brewery beckoned for inspection, but more beer was calling.

(Next installment: 5280 Roadhouse)

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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