Go West, Young Man

Recently yours truly took a little vacation road trip out to the great city of Denver, Colorado. While this wasn't strictly a "beer vacation," I did try and take a few notes on some of the beers we enjoyed along the way. I realized two things on this trip, the first was mixing vacation mentality with beer and expecting to get any decent writing out of it is ludicrous. The second was that, if you look hard enough and have more than a little luck on your side, you can find good food and craft beer almost anywhere.

Our first stop was certainly not a beer destination, but it was an oasis in the desert for us weary travelers. Leaving from Connecticut, we marched across the vast and corn-ridden state that is Pennsylvania. After many hours we were tired, hungry, and thirsty for something other than rest-stop Gatorade and what I dubbed the "road taco."

We pulled off into the first sizable town we saw and lo and behold, Puirseil's Pub in Lewisburg was there to meet us. Hot food, a jazz quartet, and fresh cold Yuengling on tap was exactly what we needed. Yuengling is one of those beers that most beer snobs would turn their nose up at. It's an American light lager, a little too close in style to Bud Miller or Coors. However due to nostalgia, and the fact that it's not available in many states, many people clamor for it. We ordered ours topped with some Guinness.

Our travels took us farther west, hooking around the Gateway Arch to St Louis, Missouri. We again stopped for the night, exhausted from our travels. A quick Google search produced Cicero's, a beer bar with an admittedly confusing Italian food theme. I'm not sure what the Italian food had to do with the 200+ beers available, but it was in a fun part of town and had a great night life, so we decided to go for it. The food was unfortunately pretty mediocre, but the taplist was extraordinary. I finally had my first Moose Drool by Big Sky Brewing, and was not disappointed. It was exciting to see more and more different beers becoming available as we moved farther west.

Eventually we reached our destination, Denver. However, in keeping with the theme of the trip, we didn't arrive in the city until just before midnight. Starving and desperate, we made a bee-line for the Falling Rock, one of the legendary Denver beer bars. We arrived five minutes before the menu changed to the late night offerings (mostly fried stuff that didn't look appealing). Our waiter was absolutely outstanding. He got our orders in right under the wire, and had beers to our table before we even got settled. Being that it was late, and we were exhausted, I don't have notes on the beers we had. I just know they were good.

The next day we took a hike in the Rockies, and on the way back we passed a little mountain town called Idaho Springs. We decided to stop in and see what the town was about, and was surprised to find this was the home of Tommyknocker Brewing! Amazed at our luck, we stopped in and picked up a six pack of their Pick Axe pale ale, a nicely crisp and hoppy brew. This particular beer isn't available on our coast, and I'm not a fan of the Tommyknocker beers that are. It's nice to see that this brewery can do the hoppy pale ales, not just the sweet and overly viscous Maple Nut brown ale that we get back home.

Eventually we visited a brewpub that I'd only heard of once or twice, but we decided to try it anyway. Wynkoop Brewing Company is a stones throw away from the Falling Rock in downtown Denver, and is home to a very large, completely house-made taplist. Once I saw that list, I knew we were in for a good time. The chile pale ale, with Ancho and Anaheim peppers was a standout. I've had chile beers before, and this one had just enough tingle with a great fruity/bell pepper taste that was refreshing and unique. They had both an ESB and an IPA on cask, as well as a great selection of other styles. The food was fantastic, my shepherds pie actually had lamb in it!

Downstairs the brewery keeps it's barrels, with all different kinds of sour beers aging away. It was a homebrewer's dream. Notice the commercial strains that each barrel has been inoculated with.