Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Colorado Springs Eternal

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come. - Alexander Pope
I am now in Colorado Springs, as you may have guessed by the title of this installment. While it has only been a few days, it does feel like it's been longer (though not actually eternal. That is exaggeration). I would like, very much, to be done here and get back to my girlfriend, and/or see my family, but I can't do either yet. There is still work to be done. However... instead of boring you with information about work (since I basically do the same thing every day... except that I got to do some painting today), I will devote this particular blog entry to my experience at the bar tonight.
Across the street from the hotel we are staying in here, is a grill and bar called Buffalo Wild Wings, which my roommate (we'll call him Jared, for legal reasons) said was "a pretty chill bar. They've got a decent beer selection, and basic bar food"... which is really all that I need. Raymondo decided to stay back at the hotel for the most part (he stopped by the bar for about 30 seconds, and miraculously vanished.), so it was me, Jared, and Rick (which, I imagine, is short for Ricardo) whose beer horizons I am intent on broadening. I was confident I could convert him from Bud Light and Corona until the other day when I ordered a Fat Tire with my lunch and he cringed. CRINGED! literally winced, and pulled back, as if the thought of Fat Tire was so repulsive that his body could not stand to be near the words. After that, my confidence in his likelihood to change has waned, and I am less determined, though I will still, whenever possible, show him how much I am enjoying my delicious beer for it's taste first, and it's inebriating properties second.
Today, after work, we stopped by Wal*Mart. I bought a six pack of Shock Top to bring back to the hotel. Perhaps my fan in Maryland will understand my aggravation here... and perhaps have even felt it to a stronger degree... though most others may not. I got back to the van and looked at the label, and found that this particular variety (though otherwise marked the same as any other) was only 3.2% abv. I was told at this point, since the rest of the crew has been here before, about a difference between Colorado and California. Whereas California Grocery Stores and Liquor Stores sell the same alcohol (though not always the same brands or varieties necessarily), Colorado Grocery Stores and Gas Stations cannot sell beer that is higher than around 3.5% abv. For those of you who don't know what that means, in California, an average beer will be around 5.5% abv (alcohol by volume), wine tends to hover around 14%, though both can often be found in higher percentages. This means that Colorado Grocery Store beer is less potent than cough syrup, which is often around 4-5%.
Knowing that we would be going out, I wasn't too upset about the beer. Besides, it would be a good experiment. Does changing the alcohol percentage in a beer effect the flavor of the beer in any noticeable way? They don't water it down (I'm guessing) to change the alcohol percent, so the recipe should be about the same... yet, and I can't exactly place what it was, the flavor was different. It was, somehow, less interesting, less flavorful. Fortunately, as I finished the bottle, I was on my way out.
The bar section of Buffalo Wild Wings wasn't exceptionally large (though it had an inordinate number of tv screens, all of which were showing sports of some kind), and didn't have an unusually vast beer selection, but it did have a surprising number of beers I had never heard of, let alone tasted. I ordered a plate of ribs and popcorn shrimp, and a 16 ounce glass of Agave Wheat beer. I chose 16 ounces instead of 20, because I wanted to make sure I had room for everything I wanted to try. Agave Wheat is made by Breckenridge Brewery, here in Colorado, and is an American Hefeweizen. It was cloudy all the way through, and about the color of good honey. Rick, who was drinking a bud light, said, "what is that?! Look, you can see through my beer all the way, but I can't even see through any of yours." That, Rick, is because your beer is crap, and mine is delicious.... though there's probably a more scientific reason for it. Honestly though, if I ever went to a bar that only had three beers to choose from, and those three were Widmer Hefeweizen, Franziskaner weisbier (the two great beers of which it most reminded me) and Agave Wheat... I would choose Agave Wheat all night. The only thing that kept me from revisiting it was the number of beers I'd never tried.
So, I reluctantly soldiered forth... and had an IPA from Compass. In my time as an amateur beer connoisseur (an expensive thing to be an amateur at, admittedly), I have tasted a fair number of great IPA's... but I may have found my favorite. Maybe it was the way it complimented the honey barbecue sauce on my ribs, or maybe it was the fact that it was powerful enough to distract from the burning sensation from the peppercorn and garlic on my popcorn shrimp... or maybe it was the fact that it could pair with the sweet tangy sauce, and be strong enough for the spicy shrimp... but this hoppy beer would prove a hard act to follow. It had a floral aroma, was roughly as intense as any California IPA I've had, and followed with a very distinct lemon and lime zest after-taste.
Moving down the line, and still snacking on french fries and popcorn shrimp (having sucked every bit of sauce and flesh off of the bones of the ribs), I ordered a Barrel 5 Pale Ale. Not as strong as an IPA (since IPA's originally had to be strong and bitter to last through the voyage from India to England), this was, certainly out of order. Had it gone between the hef and the IPA, I'm sure this would have been more than acceptable... but following the IPA left the flavor of the Pale Ale wanting desperately.
At Jared's suggestion, I tried the 1554 Black Ale from New Belgium, another Colorado company. This, at the risk of sounding like an alcoholic, is definitely a beer I would suggest you drink with breakfast. Or, breakfast-for-dinner. It was like Fat Tire, Guinness, and a little bit of coffee got mixed together. Very smooth, not thick or syrupy and it kept it's head.
Intrigued by the tap design (it had a picture of a dog on it), my next order was a glass of Laughing Lab. This Dark Scottish Ale is not only local in that it's brewed in Colorado, but it's local in that it's brewed by Bristol Brewing, here in Colorado Springs. It was not exceptional, but was an extremely fair representation of Scottish Ale. It is dark red in color, both bitter and sweet... but it lost it's head faster than any subject of the Queen of Hearts. At this point, I thought I'd order a glass of water, since I have work in the morning, and it is (apparently) a good idea to be hang-over free while doing construction.
At this point, a young black woman came in and sat up at the bar, and ordered take-out, and a Blue Moon. She and my co-workers made conversation which caused me to think about how little I envy single people. Granted, I'm not married, but I'm also not looking for love (or whatever people look for) in all the wrong places. She wanted to get home, because she had a bag of food, which her room-mate was waiting for her to bring back, but Rick said, "You don't have to rush home to bed.", "Well, my bed's pretty cold, so I'm not rushing." She said, looking at Jared. I can't even imagine how demoralizing, degrading, and depressing it must be to go out looking for a cheap hook-up, for someone to show you some kind of affection... and it makes me even more glad to have the meaningful, committed, and respectful love that I have with my girlfriend, even if I am far away from her.
Since I was still working on my water, and my Laughing Lab, but wanted to know more about the one remaining untested beer on tap, I asked the bartender, "What is that one with the Bison head?" Oh, that's Buffalo Sweat. "Which is?...." It''s made by Tall Grass Brewing Company, and is ridiculously dark. Like... if Guinness had a baby with Emperor Palpatine... and very smooth. Like a real ale. It had a very promising thick head, but that faded to a thin film within a minute. It reminded me of Mikkeler, and a Stone beer (the name of which I can't remember)... the one they serve with the ice cream on people's birthdays, only not as heavy and with a slight caramel flavor. It would make a fantastic beer float if you dropped some French Vanilla ice cream in it.
I've been reluctant to refer to myself as a "Craft Beer Enthusiast". Partly because I find the idea of enthusiasm somewhat laughable, and partly because it kind of sounds like a self aggrandizing way of saying I like to drink beer, and have instead just referred to myself as a beer drinker... But I have realized there is a difference. A craft beer enthusiast has a love and appreciation for the art, and science, and variety of beer. A beer drinker wants to get drunk, but doesn't like hard liquor. I spent a few hours drinking seven different beers, and never intended to get drunk. I didn't get drunk. By the time I paid my bill I wasn't even buzzed. I don't know whether to thank or curse my genetics and BMI. I am not a beer drinker. I.... am a craft beer enthusiast.

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