My early memories of beers are bad ones.
I came of age in Colorado during the era of bell-bottoms and three-two beer drown nights. A bad mix.
Before I could develop much of an affinity for coffee, I was trying to make myself tolerate pale, carbonated “brewskies” in the form of Little Kings, Oly and Coors.
People from the rest of the world were mystified by what locals have long called three-two beer. It’s beer with no more than 3.2 percent alcohol. The stuff you can only buy in grocery stores that big brewers like Coors and Bud say doesn’t really taste any different than the real deal, which is somewhere closer to 6 percent alcohol. Big lie. In the day, you had only to be 18 to buy “soft suds.”
What this all meant is that, as kids, we went to sweaty discos like The Gold Rush in Lakewood and drank pitchers of Coors in an attempt to get some kind of a buzz. What you’d get was long lines into the bathrooms and the worst kind of hangover the next day, if you were actually able to gag down enough of the stuff to get drunk.
No doubt all beer is an acquired taste. It’s rotten hops and grain water that’s gone hard. Having to force it down may seem odd to adults who love a cold, bitter brew, but the memory is still fresh and unpleasant for me. Once I got a decent fake ID, I moved straight to real-man drinks: piña coladas, kamikazis on the rocks, and white Russians. From there, it was all about martinis, wine and more wine, please.
On the rare occasion, like on a beach in Mexico, I’d drink a cold beer before I moved on to a colder margarita. It was rare.
Then came Colorado craft beers. I didn’t know. Suddenly, beer had flavor and character. I remember my first sip of Fat Tire when my hair was still brown and long. I suddenly knew what complexity meant. On increasingly frequent occasions, I started ordering amber stuff at John Hickenlooper’s Wynkoop brewpub. As craft brews got even better and more prolific, I sought out some of these places.
By the time Dry Dock Brewery opened in Aurora, I was hooked. The area has become a Mecca of incredible stouts, porters, ales and more. I can’t imagine a ski day ending without a pint of something dark, local and nasty. I’m fortunate to be able to travel to amazing places on the planet, places like Belgium, England and Denmark, where beer is, well, world famous. I recently was in Copenhagen, thinking that the beer is good, but not as good as Left Hand’s nitro milk stout, or Dry Dock’s vanilla porter, or even some of the fledgling stuff coming out of Mu and Coda, also in Aurora. Suddenly, Colorado is the center of the beer universe, and Aurora is the big dipper. Find out how that happened by reading Brandon Johansson’s story inside. And if you don’t know what you don’t know about Colorado craft brews, you’ve got nothing but good memories in the making ahead of you.