AURORA | These are not only beers dear to your heart, they’re near to your house, too.
The 11th Annual Hops for Habitat event benefiting Aurora’s Plains Conservation Center has become not just a place to get a taste of great craft brews, but the sole event in Aurora that brings just about every craft brewer in the southeast metro area to one place.
The selection of brews from all over Colorado continues to push the state to the front of the line for quality, quantity, originality and innovation. And Aurora-area brews? They not only hold their own, they stand out in a crowded field. Even if the field is dotted with teepees, plains critters, a hot dusty breeze and an occasional warning sign about snakes.
The tasting showcased dozens of brews from about 19 Colorado brewers Aug. 1, raising cash for the conservation center’s work to protect grasslands locally and around the world.
Among the prairie dog holes and some stellar bands, tasters were treated to old favorites and new ideas from Colorado and Aurora icons such as Dry Dock, Oskar Blues and New Belgium breweries.
Dry Dock can’t pour enough Apricot Blonde ale on a hot summer day, but their subtly grassy nutty Hefeweizen stole their show. Bright and friendly.
Oskar Blues? The brewery has moved so far beyond its popular Dale’s Ale. The Gubna imperial IPA has a hi-test, standout finish peppered with rye rich malt.
New Belgium, the dean, just sits back and pours favorites like their Sunshine wheat beer. Lip smacking.
But the rim shots of the day were reserved for the smaller local geniuses. Here are some highlights:
Dad and Dudes Breweria — Ryeot Red Rye Ale. Stunning ale brimming with coffee, toffee and nearly cider-like finish. Not for people who prefer Bud Light.
Strange Craft Beer Company — Cherry Kriek. A dry and crisp wheat ale with a strong cherry kick. Goes bang in your mouth. Not kid’s stuff.
Hall Brewing Co. — The pride of Parker) had a jammy Peach Blonde that was light on peach flavor but had all the mouth feel of the best Palisade has to offer ever year. Their thirst-quencher, though, was a Red Ale that could have shined at a malt shop. Glass full of grown-up toffee.
Drum roll for Aurora’s Mu Brewery, please. And the rim shot of the show definitely goes to the A-Town Brown Ale. Smooooooth. Creamy and like licking a little hot fudge off your finger when you splurge on a sundae. Solid satisfaction.
Another winning brown in town comes from Two22 Brew. While their session beer begs for easy refills of the taster glass, their simple brown ale tastes like buttery toast from way outside of London.
Grist Brewing Company from Highlands Ranch — yup, the land of beige homes — has some pretty fiery brews. Their Relegation extra bitter will wipe the smirk off any snobby puss. Killer bitter without making you feel like, hey, I couldn’t drink another. Fill ‘er up.
It was no doubt a day for Bristol’s famous Laughing Lab, probably the state’s most-honored beer. Flawless on even a hot day. Their winning wheat entry this time was Beehive. Sweet finish on a hair-raising mouthful of flavor.
The day’s unexpected pleasure? Something kinda homemade from Factotum. They invite you in as an amateur to work with pros to make cool stuff like the nutty brown pouring freely last weekend. Like your grammy’s burnt sugar cake for ale-hounds. Never got the name. All gone now.
Finally, a shout out to Firestone’s Wild Cider. Everyone was talking up the Pineapple Cider for good reason. A little sweet without the syrup. But the Berry killed it. Powerful flavor and punch.
The event was a great day for the center, the prairie dogs who watched the people show, and the growing number of brewers who have put Colorado on the world stage of what can come of water, hops and whatever else we have around here.