Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
I awoke on the morning of my second full day in Fort Collins (you can read about the first day here) with all of the symptoms that remind you that you’ve been drinking heavily at an elevation of 5000 feet; mountainous headache, dry mouth and swollen sinuses. I’m pretty used to it by now but one word of warning is that when in Colorado drink lots of water as that high altitude hangover can really knock you for six. I’m not normally one for spoilers but my hangover the day after this one is going to be MUCH WORSE.
My Stuft creation
It was 5am and I was up at the crack of dawn to go hot air ballooning which I can tell you was a pretty incredible experience even for a coward such as myself who prefers to be on solid ground. There was no beer involved though so I won’t go into too much detail but in summary I initially feared for my life but in the end enjoyed the whole thing immensely. I was with my Dads friends Laura, Helen and Alex who were staying with my Dad and were at the end of a fantastic three week long trip, the balloon ride being a surprise birthday present for Laura.
After ballooning we headed into Old Town for some lunch and settled in at the excellent Stuft Burger bar which encourages you to build your own burger by providing a checklist instead of a menu and you literally tick what you want in between your buns. I took this opportunity to order myself a pint of Red Hoptober, the new autumn seasonal from Colorado’s largest craft brewer New Belgium. Long time readers will remember that the last time I visited Fort Collins I really loved the Dig Spring Seasonal and Shift lager but sadly my love affair didn’t continue with Red Hoptober. This beer has replaced the previous autumn seasonal simply known as Hoptober which was a superb extra pale ale bursting with bitter, resinous hops however in Red Hoptober the hops have been dialled down and the malts have been maxed out making it entirely too sweet for my palate. New Belgium make some pretty stunning beers (and later in the week they knock my socks off with a limited release sour ale, more spoilers) but sadly this isn’t one of them despite it being pleasant enough. Dear New Belgium, if you do happen upon this blog please bring back regular Hoptober, it rocks, don’t let me down.
It was then while wandering around Old Town that I quite randomly bumped into my Dad who was out doing some shopping of his own. Fate had conspired us to meet so we did the only sensible thing and went for a pint at the Odell Tap Room, well you would wouldn’t you. I had more IPA and took home a snarler (that’s half a growler) of Wild Raven which is a barrel aged double black IPA fermented with wild yeast, yowser. We cracked open the snarler when we got back home and a dark tan liquid slid into our glasses and formed a loosely packed mocha hued head of foam. This beer was almost impossible to define as although the Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus had certainly given this brew a sour rum and raisin profile there were still notes of coffee and liquorice coming from the malt and the pithy grapefruit hops of mountain standard, the beer this was originally before its wild fermentation, still came through the mix. It was a massive combination of flavours and arguably at 10% not the best thing to drink two pints of after lunch when you’ve had two pints already but don’t judge me, I WAS ON HOLIDAY.
I was flagging and this was a bad thing, I didn’t want Jetlag to ruin my evening of ROCK MUSIC at Red Rocks Amphitheatre so I threw myself in the shower and then went to brew myself some strong coffee. Halfway through prepping Mr. Coffee I had a revelation, my Dad possessed in his fridge a can of Four Loko, a vile 12% ABV malt beverage that could strip the metallic paint right off your Ford Focus but a vile beverage that contains Caffeine, Taurine, Ginseng, Guarana and possibly Wormwood… What could possibly go wrong!
Can't think why they called it 'Red Rocks'
We headed to Red Rocks in a Limo, as you do, my Dad having decided to hire some luxurious transport for the Birthday Girls as there were now two in our party of nine. As it happens it’s not much more expensive to hire a limo than it is to hire a minibus these days and a minibus doesn’t have a mirrored ceiling so is clearly an inferior mode of transportation. We loaded the Limo with booze and after the obligatory Champagne I got started on more beers my first choice being a can of the excellent Modus Hoperandi from Ska Brewing.
Don’t ask me to describe how anything tastes at this point, I’m half cut and in a limo so taking tasting notes had gone out the window all you need to know is that it was very good, arguably drinking craft beer in a Limo makes it taste even better. The limo even had glasses so I didn’t have to drink the excellent Modus Hoperandi from it’s aluminium container, the only thing better than that was the Firestone Walker Double Jack that followed it, what a stunning beer and with Firestone Walker beers now appearing in the UK at Brewdog bars you’ve got very few reasons not to go and try some if you haven’t already.
We were at Red Rocks to see the Airborne Toxic Event, a guilty indie pleasure of mine made even better by the fact they were playing with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra MADE EVEN BETTER by the fact that they sell cans of Dales Pale Ale at Red Rocks. Sure they’ve got a raft of Bud, Coors and Miller but if you really want to push the boat out they’ve got Killians Irish Red which is arguably Miller with a bit of red food colouring added to the mash but Colorado being Colorado there is Craft Beer. Some may turn their noses up at paying $8 (about a fiver) a can but by my reckoning if it was available in the UK that’s how much I’d blindly pay for it anyway and besides the macro brews were a mere dollar cheaper. Dales Pale Ale is a stunning brew, I’ve mused about it before and I’ve a can I stashed away so I can finally give it a proper review at some point in the future so I won’t bore you with the details right this moment.
The headliners were a band local to Denver that I was unfamiliar with called Devotchka, I can tell you that after several cans of Dales (and the rest) at 6500 feet that their heady orchestral sound was quite mesmerising. I remember very little of the journey back home other than I woke up with the car pulling up towards my dads and a half full bottle of Odell IPA was resting warmly in my hand. The night descended into the kind of anarchy that you only get to see in my Dad’s kitchen, whiskey sours, a very sweet Breckenridge imperial stout, tequila and finally a delightful glass of Macallan 12 just to see me off to bed.
The hangover that I began my next day with suddenly made todays bad head look like the Cotswolds in the Shadow of the Rocky Mountains…