Sentinel Blogs

Aaron Cole

Managing Editor for the Aurora Sentinel, An Opinion on Everything

Odd timing for Colorado’s newest Senate minority party to protect Second Amendment rights.

In a statement this morning, Colorado Senate Democrats spurned Senate Republicans for voting against an amendment that would “make the concealed carry background check process quicker.”

In an email titled “BREAKING: Republicans vote to make your wait longer to get a concealed carry permit,” Denver Democrat Mike Johnston blasted the GOP for treading all over the Constitution, man.

“As a gun owner, I find this offensive,” he writes. “Taxpayers are paying fees to get a public service. These are funds that have already been collected and sitting in a bank. … We shouldn’t make people wait to get a concealed carry permit because of political games.”

I’d argue differently. The state would argue differently. And Johnston — the Dems’ eloquent oratory ringer in the Senate — shouldn’t argue at all.

None of Johnston’s campaign materials mention he’s a gun owner — the word “gun” appears three times in his “On the Issues” page and none of them make mention that he owns one — and his signature speech last year concerning the magazine limit ban was not focused on responsible gun ownership. It’s safe to say Johnston did not run on a platform of being a “gun owner.”

The state’s law requires the Department of Safety to approve or deny applications for concealed carry permits within 90 days. In 2013-2014, the wait was 45 days. This year the wait is expected to reach 54 days, according to the department’s own accounting. Adequate time to complete thorough and adequate background checks. After all, we’re not Utah for godsake.

(The application bump could easily be attributed to “political games” too, namely the GOP’s incessant cry that the gummamint is coming for everyone’s guns and bullets and names, despite data showing the exact opposite.)

But the “gun-friendly” amendment that was voted down was instead an appropriation for 8 full-time employees to the department of safety’s staff, something that had a snowball’s chance in a GOP-held Senate this year. Johnston knew that, the Dems knew it, and to bang the drum with obfuscation of what happened — they didn’t vote for longer waits, they voted against a supplemental appropriation — isn’t legislating.

That’s political gaming.


Sports and real life are not the same. Every day that passes is another reminder that sports people are real people with interesting jobs that we pay to watch. This is nothing new.

Therefore, drawing a line between what happens on the field and what happens off the field seldom works. Indianapolis Star Columnist Gregg Doyel ignored all that and wrote a pre-playoff column wondering aloud if accused murderer James Holmes could hear the Broncos practice. Because that makes sense.

He’s in there, and I’m wondering if he can hear the music.

Doyel starts down the winding road to gibberish.

It’s not a silly question.

Yes, it is. If it weren’t you wouldn’t have written that sentence to talk yourself into the rest of the column.

I’m standing outside the Arapahoe County jail, and I can hear the music. It’s coming from the Denver Broncos’ practice facility next door, and that’s a literal description.

Literally, he writes words here that are literally annoying literally all the time. If he literally didn’t mean the other stuff he wrote, then I wonder why he doesn’t use literal more often. But he’s painted a scene, so let’s wade further into the abyss.

The practice field is next to the jail, so close that I can read the Broncos’ jersey numbers – there’s Peyton – as I’m touching the chain-link fence that surrounds the jail. There’s razor wire at the top of the fence. I’m not touching that.

Get that? He’s talking to you, the reader. Look over there, there’s Peyton. Those are mountains. There’s the apology he should probably write tomorrow.

And so on.

Media commenting on media is very navel gazing, but Doyel’s column goes beyond typical print journalist trolling — it trivializes what people in Aurora and their families have gone through over the past three years.

In the years since the tragic shooting at the Century 16, approximately no readers have asked, “I wonder what James Holmes thinks about the Broncos?” No death penalty proponent has mentioned in their argument that James Holmes should never be able to watch a Broncos playoff game. Similarly, no death penalty opponent has ever mentioned that Holmes should spend the rest of his life knowing that the Broncos are out there, and that he can never get to watch them. Because that’s just dumb.

Like a ship without a direction or a point to the rest of his story, Doyel descends into über-homer troll mode.

 So it is with a handful of Broncos over the years, getting arrested in Arapahoe County and being admitted as an inmate at the jail right next to their football facility.

Football players being arrested! The irony of the jail and the facility right next to each other! Did OJ drive past the Coliseum too?

Imagine being Broncos executive Matt Russell, sentenced in May 2014 to six months of work release at the Arapahoe County jail, waking up every morning behind bars and then walking a quarter mile to the Broncos facility, then walking back to spend another night in jail.

Imagine that. Or don’t. Because it’s basically irrelevant to the point of Doyel’s story. Which continues.

Or imagine being Broncos star linebacker Von Miller and being arrested in August 2013 for missing a court appearance at that courthouse next to the practice facility. And being Miller and almost missing another court appearance in October 2013, before showing up two hours late. Less than two minutes from the locker room.

I forgot. What part about the theater massacre does this pertain to?

James Holmes in the jail now.

Oh, that’s right.

Music playing. A man laughing.

Don’t ask me who’s laughing. Or why. At this moment, I can’t imagine finding anything funny at all.

Scene goes to black. And fin.

A million monkeys with a million typewriters couldn’t have pounded out drivel like this.

Don’t ask me why. Or what. At this moment, Gregg Doyel should have found something better to waste perfectly good ink on.

Reach Managing Editor Aaron Cole at 303-750-7555 or

COLE: Beer of the Week, Dec. 5


Ladies and gentlemen, I propose that a good amber ale is harder to find than the Easter bunny winning the Powerball and being struck by lightning at the same time. By their definition, amber ales have a tough hill to climb. The amber color naturally comes from highly caramelized malts, which creates more sugar in the wort and a beer with less character than Bill Murray nowadays. (He’s playing himself in every movie now, people.)

If you’re having a hard time following, consider this: the most popular amber in Colorado (probably) is Fat Tire. Fat Tire is the chicken of beer because it really tastes like everything, and I’m fully blitzed on Fat Tire. (Sorry New Belgium, I like a lot of your stuff, just not Fat Tire anymore.)

So we come to O’Dell’s Isolation Ale because we’re told that it’s a seasonal ale, and we should drink seasonal beer sourced from seasonal elves because this makes sense somehow. In all reality, Isolation Ale is less of a seasonal and more of a better, bitter amber.

The rich color and low carbonation make Isolation incredibly pleasing, and wonderfully surprising. No, it won’t blitz your buds. Yes, it is bitter for an amber, and it’s even hoppy.

WHAT: O’Dell Brewing Co.’s Isolation Ale.

WHERE: Pretty much anywhere should have it by now. If you don’t see it, seriously reconsider your choice of bottle shops.

WHY: It’s better than just another amber ale. In fact, it’s just balanced enough between rich malt and sharp hops that it should qualify as just a good ale.

WHAT IT REMINDS ME OF: George Killian’s Irish Red — just kidding. Laguinitas Brewing (Calif.) is a master of ales and Isolation approaches one of the best: Censored. And that’s high praise, indeed.

Photo courtesy Great Divide Brewing co.

“Winter beer” is a lousy category. That presupposes there’s a “summer beer” category and that’s really not a thing either. There’s good beer and bad beer, and most “winter beer” is bad beer. It’s the season that bludgeons you with over-malted, potpourri-smelling, banana-bread beer, because for some reason you’re looking to dull your mind, body and tastebuds for 4 months until winter lifts and you can shave your hibernation beard.

Meete best winter beers around right now simply because it’s still a beer first.

Yes, it’s a little maltier. It’s also a little stiffer at 8.7 percent ABV. But it’s still a beer, and the hops still fight their way from the bottom of the rich amber beer all the way to your nose. It’s tasty and doesn’t reek of cranberry-pine-wreath-gross like other winter beers. (I swear, some brewers look at winter beer like Sandra Lee looked at Kwanzaa Cake.)

Pro-tip: Great Divide’s tasting room in Downtown Denver is seriously small considering the size of their operation. It’s still a great place to taste all their beers, but their growlers are the best/worst deal in the world. For beers below 9% ABV, a growler fill is $11 — a seriously good deal for 64 oz. of fresh beer like Hibernation. For beers above 9% that cost doubles to $22. Not awesome. (I’m almost positive the threshold is 9% and if it is, you should just go right now. I’ll wait for you to get back.)

WHAT: Great Divide’s Hibernation Ale

WHERE: Although Great Divide’s beers can be found just about anywhere, Hibernation Ale is a bit tougher to spot. Any bigger liquor store should be carrying it by now and beer specialty stores should have it. Of course, you could always go Downtown and get a growler.

WHY: It’s a winter beer that doesn’t get all stupid with the flavors of Christmas/Kwanzaa/Thanksgiving/Chanukah. Pure and simple, it’s a malty, hoppy ale that works well. It’s still balanced, completely drinkable (although not really sessionable, too much alcohol) and doesn’t assault your mouth for hours afterward.

WHAT IT REMINDS ME OF: Hard to say really, but if you can follow me here through my ACT comparison, Hibernation Ale is to winter beer as Dale’s Pale Ale is to American Pale Ale. It’s amplified and potent, but still balanced and enjoyable.

PAIR IT WITH: Beef and barley soup. Seriously hearty, but it’s still a soup and you won’t need to take a nap afterward. The Hibernation Ale stands up and holds its own too.


Literally once someone asked what beer they should try over the weekend. After the initial surprise of being tabbed as a functional alcoholic friend with one particular benefit, I was honored to tap my encyclopedic (my word, not theirs) of beers and spew something that vaguely resembled a recommendation.

Since then, I’ve picked up the banner of telling people — whether they ask or not — what beers they should try.

Consequently, I’m pleased to announce to you what beer you’d like to have this weekend. Because I’m solid like that.

Without further adieu:

WHAT: Upslope Brewing Co.’s Thai Style White IPA

WHERE: Initially, I found the can in a brewer’s pick 12-pack, but it has since been replaced. I’ve seen it available as a six-pack, but availability is limited. Plenty of stores still have the IPA, but it may be worth calling ahead instead of just showing up. P.S. They’re mostly gone because people like me are drinking all of them.

WHY: Because it’s not really an IPA. The Thai flavors and bright citrus punch harder than the hops and it’s not being a jerk about it. I love hops, I really do, but anyone can dry hop a Coors these days and call it craft — and a lot do. The Thai Style is floral without being hoppy, bright without being a summer seasonal and spicy without being dorky. (Chili beers are just dorky, sorry.)

WHAT IT REMINDS ME OF: Any citrusy IPA. Deschutes Fresh Squeezed was on my list not too long ago ago, and like the Thai Style, I’m sure it’s going away as the colder months progress.

PAIR IT WITH: Asian food (not too spicy) consumed on your couch. You don’t even have to wear pants if you don’t want to.


For one reason or another, Utah has come up a lot in the last few days. Whether it’s Colorado gubernatorial candidates comparing the states to curious congressional races in the Beehive State, Utah’s hot. Clickbait real estate sites have even gotten on the bandwagon (albeit, with poor efforts.)

As a former resident and overall Utah fan, I felt the need to set a few things straight. Here’s A’s to all your FAQ’s about the state where avoiding bad words is a statewide sport. (Bonus points if you said, “What the eff?” or “Fudge that.”)

So is everyone Mormon?

No. In fact, Salt Lake City has more non-Mormons than Mormons. But no one acknowledges that because it would totally wreck the narrative that the church runs everything. People would also stop reading City Weekly immediately.

But there are a lot Mormons?

Oh yeah, drive 20 minutes in either direction of downtown and everyone is a member of the lodge. Well, except for Park City — but that’s a different story.

Why are they asking if my name is “El Dias”?

That’s “LDS” and it’s because the word “Mormon” doesn’t get used a lot. (Example: “Do people still cruise State?” Response: “Is Donny Osmond LDS?”) It’s short for Latter-day Saint and don’t capitalize the D.

Why not?

Because the uppercase D is a traditionalist movement in the church (read: polygamist.)

Oh yeah, where are those guys. Is it like “Big Love”?

Not really. It’s in Southern Utah and on reality shows only. The fundamentalists are easy to spot, they look straight out of “Little House on the Prairie” and look nothing like Jeanne Tripplehorn.

Why do you keep trying to sell me juice/phone service/pre-paid legal service?

Besides the Osmonds, multi-level marketing (read: pyramid scams) are Utah’s most prolific export to the rest of the world.

And emergency preparedness kits?

Utahns believe a massive earthquake will hit tomorrow. Or that the feds will turn on them for some reason. Anyway, they stock a lot of powdered milk in their basements. It’s a thing there for some reason.

And green Jell-O?

Yeah, green Jell-O. We don’t get it either.

I didn’t know fries had their own sauce?

They don’t. Fry sauce is just ketchup and mayo and it’s Utah’s second-favorite condiment behind ranch dressing on everything.

And you have your own In-and-Out Burger, too?

Yeah, but if you wait in that line you’re a sucker. Crown Burger (or Apollo Burger) owns because pastrami was made for burgers.

I don’t understand how pastrami burgers/funeral potatoes/ketchup and mayo/ranch dressing and everyone looks so good?

Yeah, Utah has seriously good-looking people. It’s bizarre. But spend enough time there and you’ll start to notice they all look the same. And somehow their last names are either Jensen/Young/Smith. Maybe the gene pool isn’t all that deep, yet.

That’s why everyone is so attractive?

Maybe. That and a lot of plastic surgery.

How do they pay for it?

No idea. But Utah’s “bootstrap conservative” economy is built on a lot of smoke and mirrors. Strictly speaking, a wealth of natural resources has boosted the economy way more than work ethic has. Want proof? Rush hour starts at like 3:30 p.m.

That sounds entirely pessimistic.

Yeah, it probably is. Actually, Utah has one of the smallest gaps in income equality because like the “Beehive State” lots of people are focused on family, church and work. In that order. There aren’t a lot of robber barons or people who want to be like one. Beehive = lots of workers, no one cares about being queen.

About Park City?

Oh yeah, Park City is basically a Colorado town. Very few people actually live there, and we’re not sure about liquor laws there.

How about those liquor laws?

Everyone is an expert, but it boils down to this: Getting drunk in Utah is about the same as getting drunk everywhere else. The beer’s not watered down; it’s actually pretty good if it’s local. But if you’re planning on getting a double Jack and Coke, keep driving away from the mountains to Nevada.

“Away from the mountains”?

Yeah, because Salt Lake is basically built into a mountain, driving west or “away from the mountains” is the only way we know where to go. That and the street grid system make it ridiculously easy. Yeah, and the Temple is the center because of course it is.

What’s the fascination with Sparta?

“Return with honor” is a Mormon missionary thing.

I heard you’re called Salt Lake Citians?

That’s the second-dumbest thing I’ve heard. It’s Salt Lakers.

What’s the dumbest thing you’ve heard?

That all the gay people from California moved to Salt Lake to get back at them for Prop 8.

So it’s OK to be gay in Salt Lake?

Yup. You don’t even have to live in the Marmalade neighborhood.

Why is it called Emigration Canyon if the Mormons traveled through it to settle the Salt Lake valley? Shouldn’t it be Immigration Canyon?

Utahns don’t like the word “immigration.”

So where should I eat?

Anywhere with funeral potatoes.

Funeral potatoes?

Yeah, potatoes, sour cream, cheese, chips, more cheese. What more do you need?

Anywhere else?

In the land of chains, the Cotton Bottom, Red Iguana, Copper Onion, Lamb’s and The Pie are all worth a look. Market Street is even OK, too.

Does everyone ski?

We’re 15 minutes from the mountain. Wouldn’t you?

So winter is the best time ever?

Inversion, so no.

What’s inversion?

A weather phenomenon created by everyone driving their own car to work and mountains, altitude, temperature and black magic. But really, it’s terrible.

Is it like smoking?

Yeah. And you can’t do that in Salt Lake until you’re 19 for some reason.

 Don’t pronounce T’s?

Brigh-en, Lay-en. Yup. Leave ’em out.

The World Cup Game crowd at Helga's in Aurora during the final match

Near the end of the second half, in the waning minutes of a tie game, a curious voice pipes up over the drone of chatter and forks colliding with knives collecting straggling bits of gravy.

“So what happens now?”

Three voices reflexively answer, albeit slight variants of each other.

“Overtime. Two, 15-minute halves. PK’s after that if no one scores.”

The World Cup Game crowd at Helga’s in Aurora during the final match

If conventional wisdom dictates that Americans have a limited appetite for soccer, someone forgot to tell everyone at Helga’s German restaurant in Aurora. Granted during a World Cup final, in the middle of a German restaurant, you’re likely to find a few scholars of the sport — probably akin to asking Home Depot shoppers how far apart wall studs should be spaced. But appetites are why most people are here anyway. Potatoes cover the bar. Gravy covers the potatoes and everything else, maybe except for the beer. If watching the World Cup requires nearly three hours of concentration, that easily spans one meal. Helga’s can serve you the caloric equivalent of three, on the same plate.

I don’t get the feeling that Milton Hunholz counts calories in the same way I do. Which is not to say the Aurora man (who is a dead-ringer for actor Bill Murray’s quasi-famous brother Brian) is a big man. The rancher, who lives in Aurora and raises cattle in Watkins on his family farm, says he eats Helga’s food 3-4 times a week and I get the feeling he doesn’t count leftovers.

Hunholz is friends of the family: Helga, her brother and their mother, who died a few years ago. He can remember going to Helga’s many years ago, when it was a Hoffman Heights restaurant that collected native German-speaking Aurorans in the tiny dining room with 12 tables. Back then, Helga’s was a place that German immigrants in Aurora could gather over bowls of goulash. Now, nearly 100 people crowd the restaurant near the Town Center at Aurora transfixed to the television broadcasting Germany vs. Argentina in the world’s most-watched sporting event. Swarm or not, Hunholz says the family atmosphere is the same now as it ever was, evidenced by the regulars that cycle in and come to shake his hand on the way to their seats.

“Doesn’t take long when everyone comes in, has good beer and good food. You get to know everybody,” he says.

For that reason, Hunholz is the best navigator for my three hours of fandom for Die Mannschaft, German beer, German food and the transmogrification of a potato into 12 different foodstuffs.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am personally a fan of Italian soccer. Long ago when I covered sports, I divorced myself for personally rooting for any team because I thought it mattered. Now, as I get older, I understand that my news judgment is neither clouded nor consequential if I “root” for a team in a bar for three hours in a game that has less consequence than a U.N. resolution. The short of the long: No one cares.)

Pointing to the empty hooks above the bar, Hunholz shows me where regulars hang their steins. Considering very few of them are up I’m guessing that it’s mostly a familiar crowd today.

“I know some of these people, not a lot though,” he says.

I stand corrected.

“There’s just a lot of people here,” he replies.

Oh, gotcha.

There’s no referendum on whether soccer can survive in America at Helga’s. Tim Andre, the manager, is equal parts host and cheerleader in a German soccer jersey. Donald Ellis, who lives in Aurora, waxes on whether Germany benefits from taking the game to penalty kicks — the most-fair and least-fair way of deciding a game in all of sports right now. Soccer is alive, it’s way beyond surviving.

Hunholz is more than a casual fan of the game, he knows the intricacies even if he doesn’t know some of the players’ names. When German striker Miroslav Klose, the most prolific goal scorer in World Cup history, exited the game for likely the final time in his career, Hunholz’s big, weathered hands clapped the loudest.

When Manuel Neuer, Germany’s outstanding goalkeeper, sent another goal kick into sub-orbit, Hunholz paid attention: “Maybe the Broncos could sign that guy.”

But as my guide, Hunholz navigated the game, his history and his lifelong connection to Helga’s for 117 minutes, paying close attention to details like what beer I should drink, throughout.

Then, as Germany scored the winning goal, in the 11th hour of the final game, Hunholz stopped being my lone guide and started hosting the group of people who had come to shake his hand earlier.

“So, what now?” I ask.

“We get another round. Want one?”

Next time.

Representative Mike Coffman, Republican:

None scheduled. Coffman will be appearing at a Veterans parade on Saturday, but it is not an official campaign event. The parade will be in Downtown Denver at Civic Center Park and begins at 11:30 a.m.

Andrew Romanoff, Democrat:

Romanoff is scheduled to speak at Eritrea’s 23rd Independence Day Anniversary, 7 p.m. May 24 at 4610 E. Alameda Ave., Denver.

Aurora Representative Mike Coffman has been hard on the campaign trail talking immigration, but one of the cornerstone positions — a path to citizenship through military service — may be on its last legs this session.

Last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor signaled that a similar measure, the ENLIST Act sponsored by California Rep. Jeff Dunham, wouldn’t be included on a routine defense bill.

That means Coffman’s act, the Military Enlistment Opportunity Act, will likely meet a similar fate in Congress this summer, unless a miracle happens. Coffman has been loud in his support of that bill, which offers legal status to children brought to the U.S. by their parents. The comprehensive Senate bill is languishing in the House at the moment even though Obama and the administration have said they’d be willing to compromise on some components of the proposal for weeks now.

Coffman said he believes that Congress can tackle immigration this summer piece by piece, but it appears that conservatives facing a primary challenge won’t have any of it.

It’s possible that Coffman and Dunham’s bill may come up on their own for a vote, but without leadership backing, it’s likely that they’ll fall if they come up.

Coffman, Dunham and Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez have planned a rally on the Capitol steps in D.C. tomorrow.