#2 in Golden
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