Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wynkoop Brewery and Restaurant

Firkin Around...Denver, Colorado.

Wynkoop. Is it pronounced WIN-koop or is it WINE-koop? No matter, even the locals disagree. One thing everyone agrees about is it's a fine place to grab brewery fresh beer and great pub dishes in the Denver LODO area.  It's right around the corner from historic Union Station.


Fresh Beer. Good Food.

We arrived around six on the final night of The Great American Beer FestivalThe Wynkoop's beer selection covers the spectrum of what craft beer drinker's seek out.  The placemat doubles as your beer guide, letting you know what's in store on tap. Our starters included Mile HIPA which had a big bump of hops.  It was delicious.  Also sampled was the B&K Schwarzbier, a dark-as-night German-style black lager, that has gently roasted flavors balanced by an understated hoppiness. It garnered them a 2008 Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal in the German Schwarzbier category.

Our food order included Smoked Chicken Salad; large slices of smoked chicken over greens. Greek olives, tomatoes and carrots rounded out this bowl full of good things from the garden.  A tuna melt was also chosen along with a grilled chicken club. Each in their own right had significant portion size. Though the restaurant was busy, not full, it did take a while for our orders to arrive.  The beers kept us entertained for a while.

Bits of history, old and new.

Named after Denver settler-turned-native Ned Wynkoop from the 19th century, the pub and brewery has been in operation since 1988, located on the corner of 18th Street and Wynkoop Street in the lower downtown (LODO) part of Denver. As previously mentioned, the historic Union Station is just around the corner.  If you find yourself waiting for a table, have your camera ready for a quick photo.

Also notable, the Wynkoop is the home of the annual selection for the Beer Drinker of the Year.  This is not someone who can consume quantities of beer as the name might imply, but rather a test of knowledge.  Each year the final handful of contestants arrive at Wynkoop.  They are whittled down from across the land  and are grilled by a panel of beer savvy judges about their knowledge and prowess in the topic of all things beer. I had the honor of meeting with this year's winner, Bill Howell, from Alaska.  You can read more about Bill and his adventures with beer in his blog, Drinking on The Last Frontier. I highly recommend it.

Firkin LODO Denver!

Wynkoop Brewery and Restaurant - Denver
1634 18th Street
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: 303-297-2700 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              303-297-2700

Wynkoop Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 17, 2010

The 2010 Great American Beer Festival

Firkin Around...Denver, Colorado.

 And now, The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) !  This marks my second year in a row, in attendance.  I once commented about last year's event,"... it was like walking into a room of 15,000 strangers that really were friends."  That was never more evident than this year. Going in again, there was a moment of uncertainty that it would not meet the expectations of the previous year.  Last year had been so interesting and so much fun. I came to find out that because of my expanded use of Twitter and blogging, these people were truly friends that I just had not yet met.

The two days spent at the event seem like a blur now, but the memories, the friends made and the beer sampled was phenomenal.  The place was full of some favorite breweries and some new.  Lots of different beer was here to sample; one thing the GABF never lacks, is variety. 

Superstars of beer.  Up close and personal.

So, what would be the attraction this year?  Surely all that new beer the breweries were issuing was an important part.  But, I found that the real "rock stars" of the business were in attendance and even more accessible than last year.  Note the pix here on this page of just a couple of the luminaries at large in the Denver Convention Center.  Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head was pouring libations for the crowd at the Dogfish tent. We stood in line for about 15 minutes and wouldn't you know it, just before we got to the table it was time for him to move on. Having already invested ourselves waiting on line, we toughed it out and got our beer.  Sam and his entourage hadn't gone too far and one of them spotted me with my camera and had Sam pose for the pic. A very friendly and approachable group from Dogfish Head put a smile on our faces and and exclamation point on the night.

In another part of the convention hall, a dapper gentleman was pouring out samples for the audience.  You guessed it! It was none other than Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Beer. Suprisingly, the line was incredibly short.  We must have just missed the throng walking away.  After pouring us a couple of ounces, he graciously posed for this picture. Shaking hands, Garrett went off in the crowd to his book signing. A busy man of great talents.

A friend made at last year's GABF was Zak Davis, the west coast rep for Shmaltz.  They have two awesome lineups in HeBrew and Coney Island, featuring some high ABV ales and crazy craft lagers respectively. Zak is always the host with the most and this year was no different.  I was fortunate to catch up with him at a couple of the events in Denver.

In the closer-to-home star power, Tampa beer makers, Cigar City had brewmaster Wayne Wambles  and Joe Redner pouring out some specialty beers.  We had the fortune to catch up with them after the flight home to Tampa on Sunday and we chatted a bit at the baggage area.

To those are fans of good beer, I have to ask, "If you haven't gone to The Great American Beer Festival yet, what are you waiting for?"  It simply defies words and has to be experienced.

Firkin Biggest Beerfest in the USA!

The Great American Beer Festival
September 16, 17 & 18, 2010
The Denver Convention Center
700 14th Street
Denver, Colorado 80202
(303) 228-8000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (303) 228-8000      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

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The Tilted Kilt - Denver

Firkin Around...Denver, Colorado.
What is a Tilted Kilt?  Think that other national sports bar chain with orange satin pants, but add a kilt instead...or is that subtract a little. The atmosphere has an American version of the UK\Irish\Scottish vibe.  Your entire waitstaff wears plaid kilts. The inside is reminiscent of what you've seen in travelogues and brochures of pubs from over there, but as we are Americans, everything is over the top in scale.

The place was packed this afternoon with GABF attendees. The beer selection is pretty much complete with English and Irish favorite beers and pretty much void of American craft beers.  I guess that's okay if you are jonesing a Euro brew.  After all, you can get an American craft beer in a million other places in this city, so it fills a niche.

As we entered the pub, a knight's suit of armor was in the entryway announcing that it was St Practice Day.  That's not a typo; every 17th of the month, (except in March), they hold a day of practice!  We hit the jackpot because it was exactly halfway to/from St. Patrick's Day.  Guinness and Jameson were the daily drink special offerings.  Our hotel had complimentary drink coupons and so we ordered some 'green beer' in honor of the day. I spied some Tullamore Dew behind the bar. In my estimation, any bar that carries the stuff is a good bar!

Food, beer, spirits and great service.

Our waitress Kristen, was helpful with the menu selections and daily drink specials. As crowded as it was, we didn't wait long for a drink or our food.  Our selections included a turkey with oven roasted veggies, Buffalo chicken fingers (medium, as recommended by Kristen), and a chicken wrap sandwich. All were enjoyable and the side orders of fries were hot and not greasy.  Just a note: the chicken fingers are normally served with cayenne pepper, but you can ask them to use mild, medium or hot Buffalo sauce.  I second the waitress' recommendation.  For dessert, we had some Guinness. Now that's a proper dessert!

Firkin Plaid!

The Tilted Kilt - Denver
1201 16th Street, Denver
Colorado 80202 
(303) 893-5458 ()

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Falling Rock Tap House

Firkin Around...Denver, Colorado.
Ah, Denver! Ah The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) !  Ah Falling Rock Tap House!  Just into town, I dropped my luggage at the hotel room, then grabbed an RTD bus ride up 16th Street.  A quick dash up Blake brought us to Falling Rock.  It's just about a block from Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies.

The Falling Rock has been a beer Mecca for over a decade, or as they like to exclaim, "...nearly 1/8th of a century".  Folks come here for a very good reason, as they have 75+ beers on tap and 130+ bottles at any given time.  The beer selections on the wall are mind boggling. The unused tap handles and empty bottle collection wraps its way around the upper part of the wall. Walking inside for the first time, you'll look like a tourist in New York staring up at skyscrapers.

I met a veritable who's-who of bloggers, brewers, assistant brewers, bookwriters and Twitter tweeps as I wound through the throngs of craft beer lovers.  We ordered a couple of Shmaltz Luna Lagers from the Coney Island lineup and promptly headed downstairs to see Jeremy Cowen of Shmaltz. He was signing copies of his new book: Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah: How it took 13 years, Extreme Jewish Brewing, and Circus Sideshow Freaks to make Shmaltz Brewing Company an International Success.  Zak Davis, the West Coast regional representative and friend of the blog, was behind a bar pouring out samples of the Hebrew and Coney Island brews for the crowd.

Also in the house, we spotted Erik, Eli, Brandon and Romey and the rest of the boys at .  They had a portable video unit linked to the internet, streaming live signal to their Ustream channel.  After an impromptu interview with yours truly, they introduced me to Robin Goldstein, co-author of The Beer Trials. LA Craft Beer Examiner Chris Spradley, fellow Tweeter and recently of Master Chef fame was also in attendance.  Enough with the name dropping, the fun was underway!

Beer and good times, upstairs and downstairs.

The atmosphere was upbeat and "chill" all at the same time. When it was time for a refill, we sauntered back upstairs.  Making our way up to the bar, we must have looked like piglets to a mother pig; leaning through patrons seated at the crowded bar trying to get a bartender's attention.

Reloaded with fresh Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale, I turned around for the most pleasant surprise of the evening. The 'shock' of blonde hair was the first was indeed Ashley Routson, aka The Beer Wench !  Introducing myself, she immediately greeted me with a bear hug. Along with Erik Boles, the three of us shared great discussions about beer and blogs.  Throughout the evening, Ashley introduced me to many of her craft beer loving acquaintances.

The night went along as we toasted one another.  Finally, fatigued from travel, I wandered back through LODO (Lower Downtown) and slunk into the hotel around 2 AM.  The bed caught my body like a  knuckle-ball in a catcher's mitt. Just as the sandman arrived, I realized this was going to be a special trip. A special trip, indeed.

Firkin Happening Joint!

Falling Rock Tap House
1919 Blake St.
Denver, Colorado
(303) 293 – 8338 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (303) 293 – 8338      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Hours of Operation
11am-2am Monday-Friday
11am-2am Saturday & Sunday

Falling Rock Tap House on Urbanspoon