Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
My head is splitting and my tongue has swollen up in such a fashion that I sound a little like a more northern Jamie Oliver when I try to speak, it’s ultimately a futile activity so I just try to remain still until the worst of the nausea passes. Yesterday I went quite hard at it and today a quiet one is not an option as yesterday we bought a keg of Odell IPA for the party my Dad’s girlfriend Terri would be hosting this evening, oh dear.
It's important to start the day right
I’m only in the wonderful Fort Collins, Colorado for a week and I want to try and fit as much beer related activity in as possible whilst here. I’ve decided that my body can deal with the consequences once I’ve touched down in Heathrow and that the best plan of action is to just go with it. Good job too as my Dad has some friends from out of town visiting who want to meet for a beer in the Odell tap room at Lunchtime. Before we head to Odell’s we first call in at one of Fort Collins’ ‘hidden gems’ as I like to call them, small breweries that make great beer and only supply the local area.
Pateros Creek Brewing go against the grain of North American brewing in that they specialise in ‘session beers’ however the American definition of ‘session strength’ differs slightly to our own. You won’t find any 3.0% dark milds here but you will find an incredibly drinkable array of beverages that hover around the 4.5-5.5% ABV mark.
I was hankering for some of the signature Pateros Creek brew, Cache la Porter which takes it’s name from the local Cache la Poudre river which was formerly known as Pateros Creek until back in frontier times some French dudes forgot where they buried their gunpowder, hence ‘Hide the Powder.’ Sadly the Cache la Porter was out so I opted for a pint of their Stimulator Rye Pale Ale. At this point it could’ve gone either way but it must’ve been the healing powers of the Rocky Mountain spring water used in the brew because that slightly sweet caramel malt and some lemony, peachy hops revived me and I once again felt ready for action and so we headed off to Odell’s.
Luckily, Odell make a couple of session beers of their own and considering I had a keg of IPA to work my way through later I opted for Levity, a light pale ale that is one of the few Odell beers that doesn’t filter through to the UK market. It’s a pleasant enough beer but it tastes pretty tame to my palate, I was more concerned with pacing myself than pleasing my taste buds at this moment. After we had finished our pints we headed to one of my favourite places to eat in Old Town, Choice City Butcher and Deli. As well as making some of the best burgers and sandwiches I have ever tasted Choice City offers a stunning array of hard to find beers as well as pilot brews from the local breweries that no one else stocks.
I admit I had planned to take it easy but I fancied something dark and rich so when I spied that they had a keg of aged Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper which had been stashed in the cellar for over a year the beer geek both inside and outside of me could not resist. Weighing in at 10.5% ABV Santa’s Little Helper, which as the name suggests is a limited batch beer released only in winter was perhaps not the wisest of choices for a lunchtime beverage but I thought what the hell, I’m on holiday. Served in a 12oz wine glass I could already smell the chocolate, coffee and heavy liquorice aromas leaping out the glass like so many presents spilt from Santa’s laden sack. Those aromas, laced heavily with booze translated beautifully on to the palate with notes of stewed fruits and brandy coming into the fold, the beer laced my mouth and slipped down like a rich port that would normally follow a hearty Christmas dinner but on this occasion it mingled with the rich flavours of my Buffalo meat Rueben.
In the early afternoon I did manage to have a little lie down and the party in the evening was thankfully a relatively civilised affair and despite the large amount of Odell IPA imbibed there was still plenty left the morning after. My Dad, who holds Odell IPA above all other beers, developed a strong relationship with the keg, treating it with the care and affection you would treat a small child. The next morning I awoke to find him attempting to fit it into his fridge which after some struggling he proved successful.
Today there was a music and beer festival in Fort Collins simply called Fortoberfest so Dad and I planned to have a bit of a Father and Son session on the ale. After a regular breakfast we decided to tuck into a breakfast beer, before I arrived in Colorado I had tasked my Dad with sourcing some Founders Breakfast Stout which had been highly recommended to me. Sadly he was unable to locate any but the assistant in the store had sold him a suitable alternative, Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast.
Tasters at Equinox Brewing, Fort Collins, CO
I feel a little strange drinking beers from Europe when I’m in the United States, I feel that I should be using my time there to sample as much American craft beer as possible and despite the local bars often having some super rare European brews on tap I try to stick to the brews from the left hand side of the Atlantic. I’ve drank this beer and a few of its variants before as I’m sure many of you reading this have, it’s a benchmark beverage loaded with enough coffee to give even those with the strongest resolve the jitters. Even my Dad who is not a big stout drinker appreciated Beer Geek Breakfast but about halfway through the bottle he decided to pour some of it into his glass of Odell IPA to create a breakfast black and tan. The zingy mango and grapefruit character of the IPA mingled perfectly with the rich coffee and chocolate notes of the stout, it was a beautiful combination so I used the remaining half of the bottle to make a black and tan of my own, what a way to start the day.
We cycled into town and chained our bikes near to the main stage, the two roads just behind old town square had been closed off and a stage set up at the end of each one. The event was being sponsored by Budweiser, Samuel Adams and the only local brewery sponsoring the event was Odell. The bars were selling Bud Light, Shock Top (Budweiser’s version of Blue Moon only available in the States) Samuel Adams Octoberfest and Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale. For the most part of the day we stuck to 5 Barrel, a very pleasant and reliable beer indeed but I started out by trying a pint of the Sam Adams seasonal brew. For me, Märzen is not a style of beer I’m that keen on and I don’t drink it very often and this brew from Americas largest craft brewery reminded me why, it was a malt bomb, far too sweet with near zero bitterness to tame the chewy biscuit and caramel flavours.
Away from the two stages and street food stands was another beer tent that wasn’t selling the same four brews as the others. Instead it was selling beer brewed by eight of the towns prestigious craft breweries each in collaboration with a different local home brewer and they were all to be entered into the forthcoming Great American Beer Festival. The eight beers ranged from being superb to almost downright undrinkable but it’s impossible and arguably unnecessary to name and shame as I took no notes but thought it to be a really cool concept. If my memory serves me correctly a strong Belgian style golden ale not dissimilar to Duvel which was brewed in collaboration with New Belgium was our unanimous favourite.
After watching some bands and chomping down on some steak tacos we decided to wander away from the festival and into town, I had a pint of Fat Tire to remind me what it tasted like (not much sadly) in Lucky Joes Sidewalk Saloon. We then headed to the tap room at Equinox Brewing, another local hidden gem that brews some stunning examples of European style beers. We worked our way through the tray which held samples of Hefeweizens, pale ales and the like but it was when we got to the last two beers on the tray that our socks were well and truly blown off. Pangaea was an immensely resinous double IPA that was loaded with stacks of pine, grapefruit and lychee backed up with a chewy, toffee like malt profile. This was then bettered by a deep, rich Belgian style quad which was loaded with boozy fig and date flavours, my Dad liked it so much that after his first sip he was almost reluctant to share. Sadly the name of this beer eludes me because my Dad and I were both pretty loaded by this point but still we decided to lurch on to another bar.
The Town Pump is Fort Collins’ oldest and smallest bar, they have a sign outside that proudly states they poured the first ever pint of New Belgium Fat Tire and they are famous for their toxic cherries and oranges which they soak in Everclear, a 90% ABV grain spirit. The pump comfortably fits about twenty people but on a busy evening it often uncomfortably fits 30 (people who’ve been to the Euston Tap on a Friday night will know how this feels) but today it’s relatively empty so my Dad and I take a seat at the bar. He orders himself another five barrel but I spot one of New Belgium’s limited release ‘lips of faith’ beers on tap so opt for that instead. I later find out that Peach Porch Lounger, a sour beer which has peaches, lemon peel and molasses added to the brew, has an ABV of 9.4% so any glimmer there was of me remaining sensible and grounded just floated off up over the front range. It was a delicious beer, all those fruity, sweet flavours being rounded off by an immensely tart, dry finish. New Belgium are masters of the sour beer which is probably why they’ve recently expanded their barrel ageing facilities so that they can produce even more of this wonderful stuff.
We must stop here, this is beer country!
After a slow, relaxing drink in the Town Pump we headed out to the Rio Grande, a fantastic Mexican restaurant that serves margaritas so potent they will only serve three per person. After some fantastic tequila shrimp tacos and one of the best damn margs I’ve ever consumed we headed back towards the festival to catch some of the headlining acts and got back on the Odell five barrel although at this point we probably didn’t need to.
Around the time we decided to leave we were laughing at these two drunk British guys that had lost their bikes and decided to report them stolen to the organisers of the festival. It was hilarious watching them complain for almost half an hour only for them to walk down the street and find their bikes chained up exactly where they had left them. Oh, those poor guys… which were of course my Dad and I. After finding our ‘stolen’ bicycles we sensibly decided to get a cab home, after all when you’ve got a keg of IPA in the fridge there was little point spending too much time drunkenly roaming around, spilling pints of five barrel and telling people how awesome Britain is, right? To be honest when we got home, we were predictably done for but what a day it had been, once again I had been outdone by my Dads immense drinking muscle but I felt as if I held my own pretty well but there was still more beer and loathing (not actually that much loathing) to come…