By Bobby Bush
Still in the southern suburbs of Denver and still cruising for brew, I found Big Horn/C.B.
& Potts near a massive sprawl of shopping center. This big, well-appointed four-year-old
brewpub is part of the Ram International chain. The brewery portion of each of the
company facilities is always called Big Horn. But the restaurant side varies depending on
locale. Other restaurant names include C.I. Shenanigans, Humperdink’s and The Ram.
Except for Shenanigans, which specializes in seafood, these brewpubs are family
steakhouse style with sports galore in the bar. Big and friendly with a large bar - in fact
they hold the Guinness Book of World Records title for having the tallest bar, a thirty foot
high monstrosity that is standard for most of their facilities - unfortunately their beer
seems almost an afterthought. Hefty, frozen 18 ounce mugs are regular equipment.
House beers are served along with Budweiser, MGD and Coors Light. And they’re not
bad. Not great either, but every beer can’t be a prize winner.
The Big Horn tasting line-up started with Colorado Blonde, Big Horn Hefeweizen
and Pilsener. Blewsberry represented the fruit beer quotient, while Big Red Ale and Butt
Face Amber worked middle ground. The latter was reddish gold and very malty,
embellished by a hoppy ending. On the dark side were Total Disorder Porter and Santa’s
Beer Sled Ale, a heavy Oatmeal Stout.
I rubbed my eyes in disbelief when I saw what appeared to be a hand pump behind
the bar. Sure enough, Tommy’s 2K Barley Wine was available on cask. This room
temperature seasonal, though thin for style, was full of flavor. Starting with amaretto
nose, a slow sip revealed maple and apple tones which departed with a sweet aftertaste.
Very drinkable. For more on the Big Horn line, see www.bighornbrewing.com.
From there my trail led west, but not very far, to Columbine. This brewpub,
founded as Columbine Mill, was a rustic, comfortable place with interesting beers when I
visited in 1998. For reasons unknown, the Mill closed in January 1999. New owners took
over, re-modeled and re-organized, 5280 Roadhouse appeared three months later. Same
brewer, nicer restaurant.
I was a bit confused when I entered. The bar had been transported to a bigger
room with a more central location. Eight beers appeared in my sampler tray and I set to
work while wiling away rush hour traffic. A leftover seasonal, Christmas Lite was fizzy
and water-like. Long’s Peak Lager was a pleasant straw colored traditional Pilsner. A
good session drink, Rocky Mountain Red was caramel malty, while Ghost Town Brown
began sweet evolving into malty, grainy flavor. Pioneer Pale Ale offered floral hops
(Cascade) taste but needed more bitterness. Seasonal Indian Peaks Ale was medium
bodied with strong but not deadly hops effect. Another special brew, Millenniator
presented a thin though syrupy mouthfeel, sweet with quick finish in the doppelbock style.
The finale, Roadhouse Stout was nitro-smooth and grainy from dry oatmeal in the boil.
Its color was uncharacteristically reddish black.
All in all, 5280 Roadhouse’s beers were very drinkable. My steamed mussels
appetizer wasn’t shabby either. The crowd at the bar was friendly. Conversation was
lively. In fact, the manager even bought a round for the bar.
The state of Colorado has more than 60 microbreweries. This extended beer
journey has three more stops before it comes to rest. Hang on to your hats.
(Next installment: Falling Rock)
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush