February 16, 2012

Strange Brewing

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“Hey, uhh, we found a dead mouse in our beer, eh. That means you owe us a free case.” Doug McKenzie’s classic quote from the 1983 comedy, Strange Brew, kept running through my head as the 31 RTD bus rattled along to the Strange Brewing tasting room. The quintessential beer flick, Strange Brew begins with the McKenzie brothers and their ill-fated attempts to hustle free beer from Elsinore Brewery. I wondered how many times this line, or some hazy variance of it, had been jokingly delivered to the tap room bartenders.

Since opening in 2010, Strange Brewing, which sits in the industrial area immediately south of Sports Authority Field, has steadily gained a local following. And for good reason. Focusing on both quaffable and complex beers, the folks at Strange Brewing are becoming known for having something on tap to please just about any beer drinker.

Hankering for a nice, sipping barleywine during the big snow storm earlier this month I headed down to see if they still had theirs on tap. Their small, yet cozy, tap room is connected to the brewery and holds an eight seat bar and a few picnic tables. Both the bar and tables are made from antique, reclaimed, pine wood and when paired with the dim, warm lighting made for a pleasant, snug place to weather the snow storm. During the summer, the tasting room has a garage door which opens to accommodate a makeshift patio of plastic chairs in the parking lot.

The barleywine I was after was absent from the tap list. And unable to make up my mind after surveying the other ten beers they had on offer, I opted for the taster flight. The flight included a 4 oz pour of each of their ten beers and was a $1 a pour. Coming in at $10, this seemed a pretty good deal to me. Customers wanting beer by the full glass will pay $5 a pint except for the Cherry Kriek which was $8 due to the large quantity of cherries required. Food was limited to ballpark style pretzels for $3 apiece.

The flight’s color spectrum ranged from the golden India Pale Ale to the aptly named Paint It Black Stout, and ended with the vibrant red Cherry Kriek. Working through the beers I did not find any that really catered to the “lite beer” crowd. Even their pale ale, Strange Pale, which is typically a brewery’s pushover brew, had an enjoyable biting hop bitterness typical of a traditional English Pale Ale. However, business was jumping my entire visit, with groups of friends enjoying a pint as well as a stream of regulars bringing in growlers to be filled, so I imagine the owners likely see no reason to change what they are doing; and I could not agree more.

Tasting the array of beers, the Cherry Bomb Stout especially jumped out with notes of rich pie cherries and an intense roasted malt character that blended to create a dark chocolate-esqe flavor. It wasn’t overly sweet and at only 5.2% ABV this could easily be a delicious winter session beer.

Their Farmhouse Ale equally impressed as it was pleasantly dry, fruity, and ever-so-slightly spicy with a refreshing acidity; everything a farmhouse style ale should be.

Another notable beer was the Cherry Kriek. Espying it, my blood pressure rose with excitement, but I ended up being fairly disappointed. While the Cherry Bomb Stout was complex and intriguing, the Cherry Kriek came across as a one-dimensional, sweet, cherry drink reminiscent of a (albeit very good) cherry soda. A far cry from the earthy, dry, and sour, Belgian masterpieces that proudly carry the kriek name. Though overhearing a group of tourists commenting on how it was their favorite beer, I had to remind myself that not everyone is looking for complexity in their beer.

Considering the gamut of beers that they offer, there are bound to be ups and downs but overall the beers were quite enjoyable. I found that most made me stop and contemplate them, demanding consideration; which really, what more can you ask for of a beer?

Chatting with the bartender, who was busily pouring beer, I asked if indeed the brewery was named after the McKenzie brother’s classic movie. She nodded yes, going on to say, “ …well, that and the song, Strange Brew, from Cream”. My mind drifted back to Eric Clapton’s classic band and I have to admit I was pretty impressed. How a brewery name that combines both the genius of Clapton and Rick Moranis took until 2010 to be realized, I will never know. I am just glad it is in my neighborhood. Prost!

Strange Brewing Company
1330 Zuni, Unit M, 80204

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