Colorado’s craft beer industry was blessed by prior governors’ sweet spots for barely soda, and by the carveouts in the latest governor’s recent quarantine orders.
Nevertheless, the last eight weeks of forced social pause left space for thirsts to grow, minds to search and our priorities to drift. For some, anxiety rushed to fill the wake of our communal exhale. For others, new ideas, fresh perspectives and insight emerged. Opportunities abound now though, as the governor’s orders recede, and we begin driving out of the darkness.
Not all of March and April were dire, though. The focus on contagions and symptoms led me to a good laugh and a heightened sensory awareness. On a Wednesday in late March, I set down my tulip glass in a start; it was the second beer that week I could not taste — a symptom of contracting COVID-19, according researchers at the University of California-San Diego. I had just poured a DayTime and earlier a FlyJack — both near-clear “session” IPAs from once-independent West Coast breweries. After taking a head temperature and a quick breath, I opened a Narrow Universe IPA, contract-brewed by New Belgium Brewing for Haight-Ashbury’s Magnolia Brewing. The faintly resinous hop character and soft mouthfeel of a true craft beer quickly ended my hypochondria: It was just weak beer!
At our 8 p.m. medical provider tribute howl that night, I retold a neighbor my experience (staying 6 feet away, of course). She extolled the virtues of “sessionable” brews. “After all,” she said, “some people need a 9 a.m. beer these days.” I was not there yet, but at least I was not sick. The incident reminded me though, of why we reach for craft beer: flavor and character.
Throughout April’s “corona-cation,” I listed beers that embodied quintessential flavors, from floral and juicy to malty, ones that highlight craft beer’s clean sense of purpose. The following defined my brief canon of craft beer philosophy during the recently ordered social distancing:
Ruby Bliss (Odell); a spicy, fruited wheat ale imparting grapefruit and coriander tang along the sides of the tongue and a teasing cranberry nose that distinguishes it from Colorado’s benchmark witbier: Avery’s White Rascal.
Social Hour (Santa Fe); a wit-inspired, gold-faceted barley clone of a Zombie cocktail with tropical hints of pineapple, pink guava, coriander and mint, finishing with resinous hoppiness, creatively blending two worlds.
Rocky Mountain Kölsch (Upslope); a lightly gold, style-fusion of traditional Kölsch yeast with aromatic Colorado honey and sage, and quixotic Mosaic and Lemondrop hops, creating a bright, lemon character cut by a dry hop finish.
Citra Pale Ale (Upslope); a deep gold, medium bodied, pungent hop-forward ale, ripe with tropical fruit aromas, paired with light caramel malt notes and a semi-dry finish — a “go-to” bicoastal pale ale.
Wolf Picker (Odell); a balanced IPA expressing experimental HBC 586 hops (green hop flavors and aromas of mango, pineapple and orange) with a mellow maltiness that showcases emerging hop varietals without losing perspective.
Lush Puppy (Bootstrap); an approachable “juicy” IPA, pouring hazy amber-yellow in hue with mild hop nose and cascading sweet tropical citrus fruit and resinous hop flavors; gluten reduced, yet full bodied.
Voodoo Ranger 1985 (New Belgium); a “back-to-the-future”-inspired fruit-forward hazy yellow IPA with a tropical nose, a la Citra, Simcoe and Cascade hops, which also express in slightly sweet juicy pineapple, guava and mango flavors, buoying a medium body arising from pale malt, oats and wheat.
Hop Bullet DIPA (Sierra Nevada); a complex, layered IPA, blending two-row pale, caramelized and “acidulated” (lactic acid-fermented prekilning) malts, oats and wheat, with a double-infused hopping technique shocking beer post-boil with Magnum hops and lupulin dust — pure, concentrated hop flavor — yielding intense palpable pine and citrus West Coast Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Crystal, Magnum and Idaho 7 hop flavors.
Maharaja (Avery); a caramel toffee imperial IPA bomb with seductive tangy, vibrant and intense citrus hop aromas, sultry dark amber glow and velvety malt essence — the holy grail for any homebrewer in the 1990s and at 10% ABV, one to savor.
The beers above, brewed and packaged before March, offered me a bridge though the uncertainty of the last eight-plus weeks. Their true spirit spoke loudly of the unsinkable artistry that defines craft beer. Please send me your lists too, so this summer I can report on trends and local “go-to” favorites during this time. When the taps fully reopen, choose well; and until then, keep the spirit kindled by reaching for taste and depth.
Cyril Vidergar is a homebrewing attorney in Northern Colorado and can be reached at email@example.com.