Boulder Brew Tours: For information or to buy tickets, visit boulderbrewtours.com
Imperial IPA? Check.
Belgian strong ale? Check.
Gluten-free brew? Check.
Ashleigh Miller, a local photographer, drank them all down at Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place in downtown Boulder last week, savoring the subtly diverse flavors and characteristics of each sample put in front of her.
No sooner had the self-described beer aficionado placed her last empty glass on the table when she was whisked into a 15-passenger van for a 15-minute ride to Avery Brewing Company on the east side of town, where the tasting and testing of freshly brewed beer started anew.
And thus it goes at the recently launched Boulder Brew Tours, a suds-sampling start-up that takes customers to four Boulder brewpubs and breweries for tastings and even a little bit of beer school. Besides Shine and Avery, the three-hour tour stops off at Upslope Brewing and Asher Brewing companies.
"The microbrewery scene here in Boulder is so great -- you can't get bored," Miller said, as Boulder Brew Tours' van bounced along Arapahoe Road past the latest addition to the city's burgeoning brewpub scene -- Fate Brewing Company, which opens at the end of the month. "I can't pass up having someone drive me around to all the brewpubs."
Microbreweries 'blowing up'
Behind the wheel of Boulder Brew Tours' van is Lee Olliffe, a Colorado native who conceived of the operation last year and debuted the first tour in mid-December.
The tour costs $38 a person. Tours are scheduled to run Thursdays through Sundays, starting at 2 p.m.
Olliffe, who has experience brewing his own beer and worked for a spell at Dillon Dam Brewery in Dillon, plans to add a downtown Boulder brewery walking tour soon. It would hit Shine, West Flanders Brewing Co. and Walnut Brewery & Restaurant and cost $28.
Tickets can be purchased for either tour at boulderbrewtours.com.
"I've always had a passion for beer and Colorado has always been my home," he said. "My goal is for people to walk out and say, 'Wow, Boulder has a lot of great beer.'"
Kesse Buchanan, Olliffe's business partner, said the tours are a great way to show off the city and its brewing skills. Boulder has 18 breweries/brewpubs, with another eight in the planning stages.
"Microbreweries are just blowing up and I'm passionate about Boulder," she said, as a server at Avery brought another round of sample size suds to the five customers on the tour last week.
Beer's mechanics explored
Boulder Brew Tours isn't the only -- or the first -- service to take customers around to Boulder's plentiful craft breweries. Banjo Billy's Boulder Brew Bus has operated for the last three years and visits many of the same breweries Boulder Brew Tours does.
But Olliffe says his tour is meant for the slightly more curious beer drinker, the person who doesn't mind spending a few minutes at the back of Shine smelling bags of hops and watching the kettle boil. During last week's tour, Shine brewmaster Mike Kasian emerged from the walk-in fridge, pouring small glasses of a freshly brewed Imperial IPA he and a brewer from Fate had just concocted together.
The beer uses Amarillo hops to lend it a tangerine flavor and boasts a burly 10.5 percent alcohol content.
"This is the biggest beer I've ever made," Kasian said, warning the Boulder Brew Tours group gathered around a large mash tun to go easy with their serving.
Jill Emich, co-owner of Shine, said boldness and creativity is what makes for better beer in Boulder. And Boulder Brew Tours, she said, has brought in a clientele that seems more interested in the make-up of, and the process behind the beer, than in simply trying to get as loaded as possible.
"We're excited in having people in here who are really into beer," she said. "They were interested in learning about the beer and learning how it's made, where it's made."
Joe Heywood, who recently moved to Denver from St. Louis, said he enjoys the more esoteric approach to the industry Boulder Brew Tours takes without getting heavy handed about all the details. And, Heywood said, it exposed him to smaller players -- like Shine -- that he might not otherwise have ever set foot in.
"That was really cool to see a smaller brewery like that," he said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer John Aguilar at 303-473-1389 or firstname.lastname@example.org.