Women only beer clubs provide a “safe space” for tasting and questioning beer. We can gather, meet like-minded women, and enjoy some of the best brew Colorado and other states have to offer. As a member of the Highlands-based Crafty Ladies beer club I’ve found a great group of women who enjoy craft beer as much as I do. On this page, I’ll discuss events, reviews of tastings, and other important notes from women in the craft beer scene.
From the Tasting Adventures of Lady Lupulin
Crafty Ladies Brewery Tasting and Tales # 4: Upslope Brewing (April 10th, 2012)
Matt Cutter, owner and founder of Upslope Brewing in Boulder, Colorado started the evening by saying that he had never seen anything like this before, “a sea of women drinking craft beer!” And he was right. The room was filled, yet another sold out night of beer lovin’ women all sipping on cans of the evenings first offering, the Craft Lager. Instead of food accompanying the Craft Lager, Cutter shared the tale of how Upslope came to be exactly four years ago . . .
Cutter had the dream of opening a brewery for many years, tried once, but life got in the way. In 2008, he revisited his dream, put a business plan together and started shopping for brewers. Through six degrees of separation, and a little serendipity, Cutter met his brewer, Danny, an Argentinean citizen formerly of Beagle Brewing in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Long story short, Danny had fallen in love with a woman from Aurora shortly before he and Cutter crossed paths and ended up in Colorado at exactly the right moment.
In April 2008, a lease was signed onUpslope’s current location and five months later the equipment arrived for brewing. Danny had returned to Colorado, this time for good, and started test batches. Matt and Danny had the lofty goal of producing the first round of beer for liquor stores by Thanksgiving of 2008. Using the delicious Pale Ale as their first beer (the IPA was only a few weeks behind) they received the empty cans from the manufacturer on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and delivered the beer to the shelves two days later . . . a true success.
Now for the tasting:
The Craft Lager took Danny 14 months to develop. It’s accurately described as “bright-fresh-easy.” This is a great porch-pounder at only 4.8% ABV, using Czech Saaz hops. And 1% of sales from this beer support Colorado rivers through Colorado Trout Unlimited.
Next, we sampled their flagship Pale Ale paired with homemade Pale Ale bread and honey butter, a recipe created by Cutter’s wife. We learned that both the Pale Ale and the IPA use Patagonian Cascade hops, a new varietal for me and others in the room. Cutter explained their interest in these hops arose during the hop crisis of 2007. During that fall, no one could get hops because farmers were converting hop fields to corn for ethanol, and over $4 million in hops perished in a Yakima Valley barn fire that same year.
With that, Cutter asked Danny where he got his hops from at his former brewery in Argentina and if they could secure hops from those same growers. Danny reached out to the “hippie operation” in the Tierra del Fuego region. After five months and countless conversations, the hops arrived from way down south. The Patagonia grown Cascades were described as spicier and earthier compared to the Northwest Cascades that are generally more piney and citrusy.
The third beer of the night was the malty and roasted Brown Ale, paired with a cheese plate. At 6.7% ABV this is a really nice dark beer with English hops and brown sugar. Cutter described this beer as an “English style that has been Americanized.” Call me an American, but I certainly enjoyed this course.
The IPA accompanied with an ancho chile steak followed, and by now the room was buzzing. I may not have mentioned it before, but the very generous Upslope crew provided each of us with a full can of every beer we tasted. You might imagine that at this point the decibel level in a crowd of roughly 50 women was pretty high. In any case, I overcame the noise and savored my favorite style. The Upslope IPA is a 65 IBU-7.2% ABV bold and slightly malty IPA that’s a little darker than most IPAs you come across.
Rounding out the evening was the Foreign Style Stout paired with a deliciously decadent chocolate bread pudding that had been doused in the Stout. I have been hearing great things about this beer through the grapevine over the past few months, but had yet to try it. I was excited that Upslope was offering it to the Crafty Ladies.
And again, Cutter shared some great history with us, explaining that foreign stouts were originally made by the Irish for export to tropical regions because of their low ABV drinkability. Admittedly, I had put a few beers away by this point in the evening, but my palette stayed strong. I really liked this final beer selection. It was very easy to drink and provided a nice roasted barley flavor, using five different malts and Irish Ale yeast.
As always, thank you to Highland Tap and Burger for hosting this event, and thank you to Matt Cutter and the crew from Upslope for sharing delicious beer and great stories.
Crafty Ladies Brewery Tasting and Tales # 3: Renegade Brewing (March 27, 2012)
With another great Crafty Ladies event under my belt, I’m feeling even more at home with this great group of women beer aficionados. Renegade Brewing was our guest for this gathering and the nearly one year-old brewery didn’t disappoint. One of the many benefits of Crafty Ladies is getting to hear first-hand stories about a brewery’s beginning, and being privy to a more intimate look (and tasting) of their beer.
Co-owner Khara O’Connell led us through a nice variety of some of the best that Renegade has to offer, and shared with us that she and her husband, much like my husband and I, have spent the past few years traveling around tasting beer in their spare time. Khara and Brian decided that after visiting breweries around the country, they should open their own space.
The adventurous couple wanted to brew the beer they like to drink, as well as experiment and go a little “renegade” with their brews. They are definitely living up to their name. I like that they’ve begun the brewery as a couple, and their labor of love has helped them gain huge success in a short period of time.
Their location is in a perfect Denver neighborhood, located in the Santa Fe Arts Districton 9th Avenue between Santa Fe and Kalamath. And the laid back atmosphere is an ideal place to chill out for the afternoon. Check out our Denver page here at Colorado Brewery Days, to connect Renegade with other breweries in the area . . . and don’t miss their 1stAnniversary party on June 30th.
Una Mas, a Mexican-style Amber, gave us the first kick at the March 27th Crafty Ladies event. Like dry-hopping a beer, roasted poblano chilies are added at the end of the Una Mas brewing process, something Renegade describes as “dry-chile-ing” their beer. Paired nicely with chips and salsa verde by Highland Tap and Burger, this beer screams of a summer day sitting on the patio. And can anyone say Cinco de Mayo? Throw out those old Coronas and pick up a growler of Una Mas.
Next up, my go-to choice when I visit Renegade, the Ryeteous Rye IPA—currently on tap at Highland Tap and Burger. They served this selection with a cheese, cracker, grilled apple and candied almond platter. The sweetness and slight spice from the almonds paired nicely with the bitterness of the hops. And the creaminess of the cheese balanced the entire course.
If anyone was wanting more hops after the Ryeteous, (oh, I always want more hops), they got it with the Elevation Triple IPA, voted the second best beer in Colorado for 2011by Denver Off the Wagon. Weighing in at 11.2% ABV with over 100 IBUs, this beer packs a punch, but Renegade manages it with finesse. The Elevation is a balanced and smooth hop-forward beer that would satisfy the most devout hopheads.
Rounding out the evening was the Jean Bel Jean Belgian Strong Ale paired simply with a piece of dark chocolate. Admittedly, I’m not much of a Belgian beer fan, but the intensity of the chocolate in this beer was really nice. It was certainly a dessert beer, and I really enjoyed finishing the evening with the not-so-subtle sweetness of this beer’s malts.
Once again, a big thank you to Katie O’Shea and Highland Tap and Burger for their efforts in putting on another incredible evening. And thank you to Khara and everyone at Renegade for sharing great stories and beer with us. Looking forward to Upslope in April!
Crafty Ladies Brewery Tasting and Tales # 2: Breckenridge Brewery (February 20, 2012)
Breckenridge Brewery made an appearance in front of the Crafty Ladies during two February gatherings, the only brewery to return for a second annual visit so far. I attended the session on Monday, February 20th, with a significantly smaller group than the packed room during the Firestone Walker tasting last month. But it was still a very successful evening. I met some great beer aficionados and managed to taste some new beers paired perfectly with food from Highland Tap & Burgers’ exquisite kitchen.
Starting the evening off right, we had the Spring Seasonal: Pandora’s Bock, paired with perfectly fried tortilla chips like you get in Mexico (hard to find in Denver) and a salsa verde. Pandora’s Bock will be distributed in 6-packs exclusively this spring. It’s a malt-driven German-style bock with lager yeast that sits in the fermenters for an impressive 8 weeks. This is an extremely long time for a brewery that’s distributing to 33 states with a growing need to push its brewing capacity to the limits.
Up next was the Oatmeal Stout paired with a triple cream cheese on a rice cracker. The Oatmeal Stout was the first beer ever made by Breckenridge over 25 years ago. It’s a straight forward oatmeal stout that’s even better on nitro, (which my husband and I previously enjoyed at Breckenridge’s Kalamath location).
The Vanilla Porter came for our third course, and I have to admit I’ve tried this beer on other occasions and wasn’t too fond of it. But through the brilliance of our Breckenridge guide, we were served a cup of vanilla ice cream alongside . . . can anyone say Vanilla Porter Float?! The Vanilla Porter was originally made in Breckenridge about 6-7 years ago as a local seasonal beer. The brewers in Denver were adamant against brewing a beer with vanilla. Eventually they gave into the pressure. And it’s a good thing, because it’s now the number 1 seller for the brewery, (maybe much to the dismay of the brewers?).
I hadn’t heard of the next beer until about 10 minutes before it was served. Annie, a fellow Crafty Lady, was raving about the 72 Imperial as we were conversing about favorite beers and breweries. What we didn’t know was that this was the next beer on the tasting menu, cheekily paired with a grilled pb&j on none other than Wonder Bread.
The 72 Imperial is named for the 7.2 ABV. But it’s so much more than that: a double chocolate cream stout, brewed with 250 pounds of chocolate in each batch from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. They are bottling as we speak, so look for it at your local distributor in the next few weeks. The buzz word around the room for this beer as we were tasting was “crackalicious.” Indeed.
Rounding out the evening was one of my favorite hoppy delights that Denver has to offer, the 471 IPA. It was paired with a deconstructed blue cheese cake with pretzel crust and orange fig compote . . . in translation: a pretzel cracker with blue cheese and orange fig jam . . . in translation again: delicious.
The 471 is named after the 471 Kalamath Breckenridge location, where all Breckenridge beer is currently brewed. It’s a hop-forward beer brewed with west coast hops and dry-hopped with Chinook. I really like this beer and have been known to order more than a couple 471s, whether I’m at the Alehouse at Amato’s or getting a pulled pork sandwich at the Kalamath location. It is a really well-crafted beer with a great balance of hops and malts in the finish. Have I mentioned how much I like this beer? I’m really glad this was chosen as the dessert course.
Congratulations to Katie and all the staff at Highland Tap and Burger for another great Crafty Ladies event. Looking forward to Renegade Brewing in March!
Crafty Ladies Brewery Tasting and Tales # 1: Firestone Walker (January 17th, 2012)
At Highland Tap and Burger, Firestone Walker’s Colorado-based representative gave us a fun-filled evening with their great brews. We started with the DBA, (Double Barrel Ale), paired with Firestone Walker’s famous beer mustard and pretzels. This was a great start to the evening since the DBA is very unique: it’s the only craft beer in the U.S. fermented in oak barrels. As an English-style pale, DBA won gold at the 2011 GABF for Ordinary/Special Bitter. Personally, I really liked the DBA; it was a great blend of malts and oakiness. I usually order the hoppiest beer available, but during a recent visit to Euclid Hall I ordered not one, but two DBA’s.
Following the DBA was the Pale 31, another Gold medal winner at the 2011 GABF. Pale 31 is a dry-hopped pale, perfect on a sunny day sitting outside at one of Denver’s many great patio bars. Highland Tap and Burger’s chef prepared a salad with a Pale 31 vinaigrette to accompany the beer, an awesome match.
Up next was the Double Jack IPA with an impressive 100 IBUs. As a self-proclaimed “hop-head” I love the Double Jack. I’ve loved it for a while now and drinking it in the presence of such an impressive group of female beer geeks only made it better. Made with Cascade, Centennial, and Simco hops you can’t get much better than this. The Double Jack made an ideal date for the fire-roasted tomato soup which I’m still craving.
A comedic highlight to the evening came with the Velvet Merlin, a stellar Oatmeal Stout. As the Merlin presentation went on, we were let in on the little known fact that the Merlin used to be called the Velvet Merkin. A merkin is what one might call a toupee for the nether region. As it turned out, many of the ladies in the room were being educated about the meaning of a merkin for the first time, causing a room filled with giggles. In the same vein, we found out that Firestone Walker has not disbanded the Merkin name completely; they have a bourbon barrel aged Merlin that they call the Velvet Merkin. We were not privy to the sampling of this special beer, but we did enjoy some tasty Merlin brownie bites.
Finishing off the evening was the very rare and expensive 15th Anniversary Ale. At $120 a six-pack it was a no-brainer to try, especially when it’s offered alongside s’more’s from an open fire. The 15th Anniversary Ale is a blend of over a dozen Firestone Walker brews, melded together to create this incredibly strong but amazing beer.
Thank you to Firestone Walker and Highland Tap and Burger for a memorable evening of eating and drinking. Check out the Firestone Walker inspired recipes from the evening on the Colorado Brewery Day’s Beer and Food Pairing page.