March 7, 2013

De Steeg Brewing

DeSteeg2

North Denver’s newest brewery may also be one of the hardest to find. Its address, 4342 Tennyson Street, would seem to indicate a spot right next to Swing Thai at the intersection of 44th Ave. But go ahead and walk the entire 43rd block, and you won’t find a single shred of evidence of the place. Nope, to find De Steeg Brewing, you’ll have to stroll down the alley behind the action on Tennyson and even then the place is only marked by a small wooden sign with a beer goblet carved in it. Dutch-speakers might already have been clued-in (De Steeg translates to “the alley”), but the rest of us have to rely on word-of-mouth to track it down.

So is De Steeg a beer speakeasy? Not really, just brewer/owner Craig Rothgery’s spin on the best way to utilize a unique piece of real estate. After all, coming across an available space in one of Denver’s hottest commercial areas sometimes demands some improvisation. Once the idea was born he decided to run with it. “At this point, I don’t plan to add another sign.” he said, “People seem to find us.” And he would be right. On each visit to the tap room, the place was nearing occupancy, with hardly a place to sit.

Once inside, any illusion of a beer speakeasy is quickly dispelled. No passwords required. No dim lights or nook booths. You’ll instead find a simple, bright, and airy tap room with yet-to-be-adorned white walls, a bar with plenty of room for multiple customers, and a smattering of high tops. On the other side of the bar, the brewery’s collection of fermenters stand bubbling away; promising more beer to come. Beverages can be supplemented with serve-yourself popcorn, otherwise food can be ordered from the many surrounding restaurants.

While around eight tap handles sit at the bar, high demand has so far limited De Steeg to only three or four in use at any given time. The most recent choices have been an English Mild, a French Saison, and a Pomegranate Acai Wheat. Served on nitrogen rather than CO2 (think Guinness), the English Mild especially stands out. The nitrogenation allows subtle notes of coffee and chocolate to truly shine and hold their own with the malty nuttiness. Using nitrogen yields something more like “real ale”; the beer’s bubbles aren’t so harsh, allowing some of the more delicate flavors to come through. Nitrogen taps are relatively rare and De Steeg’s commitment to installing one so early on could be a good sign of things to come.

In regards to Rothgery’s other beers, the Pomegranate Acai Wheat was solid, even if the fruit notes were a bit mild. Those looking for a super fruity beer may wish it was a bit more intense, but restraint can sometimes be a good thing.  The French Saison had a strong yeastiness with wafting notes of bread dough, black pepper and pears atop a honey-like malt body. It was pleasant, but had a bit of a young taste, hinting that it may have arrived at the tap a little early; not too surprising for a brewery scrambling to keep up with an already large demand.

De Steeg looks to implement a “one and done” brewing philosophy of continuously creating new concoctions, rather than producing the same beers; and approach that does have it perks.  Never knowing what will be on tap can be fun, though there is certainly something to be said of perfecting a recipe. However, Rothgery’s beer has been enjoyable enough as to not worry this beer drinker much. Head over and check them out; they’re worth the hunt.

 

De Steeg Brewing

4342 Tennyson St

(303) 484-9698

Only Open Fridays and Saturdays

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August 1, 2012

Hogshead Brewery

I’ve never much liked the metric system. While maybe more logical than the Imperial system, units like slugs and furlongs are so much more fun than boring ol’ grams and meters. I think Bart’s grandpa, Abe Simpson said it best, “The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it!” So hearing that a new Highland’s brewery would be named Hogshead, the Imperial unit for a 250 liter wooden cask, I was quite pleased. Call me crazy, but 250 Liter Brewery doesn’t have quite the same appeal.

With so many new breweries popping up every month it’s a good idea to have your niche and Hogshead surely does, by promising to regularly offer up cask-conditioned “real” ales. Readers may remember real ales from May’s article on Great Divide. Real ales, as the Brits have somewhat confusingly coined them, are unfiltered, unpasteurized beers that contain active yeast. This yeast allows them to naturally carbonate resulting in a brew with a gentler carbonation and a more integrated, brighter malt and hop presence. Real ales are traditionally served via a hand-pulled “beer engine” (versus a standard CO2 system), and Hogshead is no exception.

Located just a few blocks north of Sloan’s Lake, construction on the 50s era gas station was surprisingly quick and they began slinging back suds in June.  They’re still in the process of getting all their fermenters on line and have consequently struggled to keep up with high demand. Until they catch up, they are operating in a “soft start” mode and only open Thursday – Sunday.

When things settles down, their plan is to keep five beers on tap, two of which will be cask-conditioned, hand-drawn versions. In the few visits I’ve been able to make, there have only been two beers on tap at any given time, one of which being a real, or “cask”, ale. The current tap list includes Chin Wag (ESB), Gilpin Black Gold (stout), and Lake Lightening (pale ale). The other choices will be a rotating selection of seasonal/specialty brews.

Right now, seating is limited to an 8-seat bar, picnic tables, and high tops. The atmosphere is bright and airy with high ceilings and large glass windows that allow sunlight to pour in. It’s not a large room by any means, but there’s always been a place for us to take a seat. Their planned patio has run into zoning issues, so when you stop by the brewery, chat them up and if interested, sign their petition.

But what about the beers? Head brewer, Stephan Kirby, started brewing in England when he was a teenager and has mastered the UK’s unique styles.  The overwhelming theme here is drinkability and they do it very well. The beers are well-balanced, flavorful, and with a “sessionable” ABV (typically under 5%), your glass is empty all too quickly. This approach is keeping with the general way of British-style beers, which are often designed to enable pub patrons to enjoy a few throughout the night and still hold a conversation (or “chin wag” as they call it).

Beers are available in a variety of sizes, which is a welcome change from your average brewery. Prices range from $3/10oz, $5/16oz, and $6/20oz. Any beer on cask costs $1 extra. Food is limited to $3 pretzels from Baker Street Pretzels. On one visit, DipStik, a fondue food truck, served up tasty dipping snacks in the parking lot.

Thus far, the relatively small tap selection has made my beer choice painless. Chin Wag’s spot-on balance of nutty caramel and pears, along with an earthy hop bite, is an easy favorite. However, I’d recommend whichever beer is on cask to experience it in its truest, natural state. If you’re there with a friend, order a “real” and CO2 version of the same beer. Tasting the two side-by-side truly showcases what cask beers are all about.

I have to say, Hogshead is a great addition to the burgeoning Denver beer scene and the fact that it’s in my own backyard makes it all the better. Having authentic English cask ales in the hood is a real treat. Swing on in and check it out; you won’t leave disappointed.

I’ll close this month with a reminder that tickets to the Great American Beer Festival go on sale August 2nd. It sells out quicker and quicker each year – last year in barely over a week. As you probably know, this is one of the premier craft beer events in the world and not to be missed. It’s like having the Olympics in your hometown every year. Hope to see you all there. Prost!

 

Hogshead Brewery

4460 W. 29th Ave

(303) 495-3105

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