Category Archives: Beer and Breweries

Fearless Critic Beverage Guides

New books reveal 150 affordable wines and 250 popular beers reviewed in blind tastings

Fearless Critic, launched in 2006, prides itself on publishing restaurant guides that are “brutally honest reviews by undercover chefs and food nerds — no restaurant sponsors.” Current guides are available to Austin, Houston, New Haven, Portland and the Washington D.C., area, with titles coming up for Seattle, San Antonio and Western Massachusetts. No Denver or Denver/Boulder, alas.

Two volumes that are not geographic but of great interest to anyone who drinks popular adult beverages are The Wine Trials 2010, now in a new edition, that evaluates 150 wines under $15, and new The Beer Trials that rates 250 popular beers. The format for both of these inexpensive ($14.95) trade paperbacks is the same: The books are simply designed, with black, white and pumpkin-colored covers with a bottle in a bag to illustrate the blind tasting and simply formatted black-and-white inside pages. Each page is devoted to one wine or beer: a photo of the bottle (or in some beers, can).  The authors called upon an editorial and blind tasting board, plus scores of experimental wine and beer tasters.

At the top of each wine page is information about style, country of origin, grape(s) and “drink with suggestions.” Then, evaluations include a general description, “Nose” and “Mouth.” Prices, all under $15, are given with an occasional “Bargain” designation to denote a special value. An easy reference chart lists the 2010 Wine Trials winners and also references each wine by style. Wine book includes comments about the design of the beverage container, logical for the neuro-economics position that prestigious brands and/or beautiful labels can influence people’s opinion about a wine.

For beer, “Flavors and Aromas” are described together, and the authors crunched tasters’ numbers to come up with numerical ratings.Each page also includes production, packaging and alcohol content information.

A Newsweek article about the wine book quotes Fearless Critic founder Robin Goldstein, still co-author of both beverage books, as saying that it helps people “”get past the jargon and pomposity of wine writing. People shouldn’t have to apologize for serving cheap wine.” It takes Judgment in Paris one step farther that the movie and, in a sense, justifies it intellectually as well as empirically.

Goldstein pretty much embodies fearlessness in the wine world. Back in 2008, he submitted an application for a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for an imaginary restaurant in Milan. He called it Osteria L’Intrepido, which translates to  “Fearless Restaurant” and should have given Wine Spectator a clue. Still, they cashed the check that accompanied the application for this non-existent restaurant and gave it an award. Media and bloggers jumped on this story (my post is here), batting opinions back and forth like shuttlecocks across a badminton net, with some hail Goldstein as a hero and others reviling him as a traitor.

But as Dave Barry is wont to write, I digress. The extensive introductory material in both books is informative. “The Blind Tasting Manifesto” is a Fearless Critic take on marketing, customer expectations and neuroeconomics, which seems to be a melding of behavioral economics and neuroscience. According to the same Newsweek article, “Paul Glimcher, director of New York University’s Center for Neuroeconomics, if the price is different, the brain’s perception of the experience will be, too. The lesson? Don’t overthink it.” And Steven Leavitt who writes about “Freakonmonics” for the New York Times and is an admitted skeptic about neuro-economics wrote an enlightening column about all this.

I’m an enthusiastic wine drinker and an occasional and reluctant beer drinker, so the wine book resonates more with me. And given the credentials of Goldstein and Company, I am inclined to trust the reviews.

Colorado Beverages and Mixologists Honored

Not the Olympics, but five golds for Oskar Blues and world title Team USA in mixology

We won’t know for more than a month how Colorado finalists will fare in the James Beard Awards that I recently wrote about, but Colorado is holding up very nicely in other contests — competitions that involve liquid.

World Beer Championships

Longmont’s Oskar Blues, which is known in beer circles for kicking off the craft-beer-in-a-can revolution, earned five gold medals for each of their five core brands at the World Beer Championships. which are evaluated over a five-month period. The winners: Mama’s Little Yella Pils, TenFIDY Imperial Stout, Old Chub Scottish Style Ale, Dale’s Pale Ale (shown below rolling along the canning line) and Gordon Imperial Red Ale. Way to go, Oskar B.!

42BELOW Cocktail World Cup

At the 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup in Wellington, New Zealand, Team USA took top honors last week. This is quite amazing, because the team — one Coloradan, one Washingtonian and one New Yorker — were selected just two weeks before the competition. From Boulder’s Happy (formerly Happy Noodle House) and its late-night alter eg, the Bitter Bar, came Mark Stoddard. His teammates were Todd Thrasher, partner/mixologist at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia, and Sean Hoard of New York. I’ve unsuccessfully tried to find out where he “mixolizes,” so if anyone knows, please post a comment.

The eight teams undertook five challenges (Modern Mocktails, 21st Century Punch, Ready Steady Shake, Modern Martini and Signature Cocktail). The final event, the “signature cocktail,” was judged out of 100 points that contributed 80 percent of the total marks. Each team had just 10 minutes to prepare backstage for the competition and seven minutes for what was described as “their routine.” I suppose that means tat some showmanship was taken into account along with creativity and innovation. Runnerup to Team USA was France with host country New Zealand placing third. Team USA’s sort-of recipe is below, but I have no idea in what order the ingredients were mixed, how the thyme was compressed or what kind of glass it was poured into.

42Below Cocktail World Cup Winning Recipe


30 mls (1 oz) 42BELOW vodka
15 mls (1/2 oz) artichoke aperitif
45 mls (1 1/2 oz) lime thyme syrup
Liberal dash of apple bitters
Compressed apple thyme balls to garnish

Way to go, Team USA!

Denver’s Taste of the Nation This Weekend

Two Colorado food festivals raise money to combat childhood hunger

One of the ironies of modern times is that, according to those who monitor such things, the term “foodie” entered the American lexicon in 1984, the same year that an anti-poverty organization called Share Our Strength was established in Washington, D.C.

Four years later, in 1988, SOS pioneered what the Taste of the Nation, a one-day during which top restaurants in 25 cities hosted food and wine tastings to raise funds for Share Our Strength grants. Corporate sponsorship from American Express ensured that SOS could – and still does – grant 100 percent of the ticket sales from the events. Those 25 tastings raised nearly $250,000. Since then, Taste of the Nation has spread to 55 cities, involved 10,000 chefs and raised more than $70 million.

Denver, July 19

Denver’s Taste of the Nation has flitted around from venue to venue over the years. The 2009 fundraiser will take place Sunday, July 19 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Mile High Station (2027 West Lower Colfax Avenue, 720-946-7721). Bring your appetite to sample fare at tasting stations from 30 leading restaurants. Event chair is Matt Selby, so Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben’s will be well represented among them. Addition to nine local breweries and distilleries that have signed on, wines will be poured and a mixologist contest will add an entertainment bonus.

You can purchase tickets on-line: $75 for a regular ticket and $100 for a VIP ticket that allows access beginning at 3:00 p.m., one hour earlier, and includes special mezzanine seating. Remember that all the revenues will be funneled to local organizations, and that, in fact, is what it’s all about.Since 1988, Taste of the Nation has granted more than $2.4 million in Colorado to the Colorado Anti-Hunger Network, the Food Bank of the Rockies, Operation Front-Line Colorado, the Weld Food Bank and Volunteers of America.

Vail, August 27

Another Colorado Taste of the Nation will take place in Vail on Thursday, August 27, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Westin Riverfront,126 Riverfront Lane, Avon. Tickets are $125 in advance and $150 at the door. Featured chefs there include Paul Ferzacca, La Tour Restaurant & Bar; Jeremy Kittleson, Restaurant Avondale; Armando Navarro, Larkspur; Kelly Liken, Restaurant Kelly Liken and Kevin Nelson, Terra Bistro.

It is a tribute to the generosity of chefs, restaurateurs, food purveyors, wineries, breweries and others who find the time and resources to help fight childhood hunger.

Colorado Chefs to Present Beer-Pairing Dinner in New York

Culinary School of the Rockies chefs to prepare James Beard House feast with paired Colorado beer

On March 6, three chefs (Adam Dulye and pasty chef Amy DeWitt from Boulder’s Culinary School of the Rockies and Kyle Mendenhall of The Kitchen) will prepare the Colorado first beer-pairing event at the James Beard House. The beer will be from Durango’s Steamworks Brewing Co., and the ingredients will be Colorado-sourced as well, another first.

I was one of the fortunate foodies invited for a trial run at the school. I took oodles of notes and photos, but I’m about to leave for the airport for a ver-r-r-r-ry early flight and can’t post all right now. Consider this to be a teaser or better, a promise:

A Warm Pub on a Cool Evening

Warm and cozy Conor O’Neill’s puts on a good happy hour

The frequent chilliness that blankets the British Isles is no secret, so it stands to reason that pubs — whether English, Scottish or Irish compensate. The best old pubs are warm and woody and creaky and filled with an oddball assortment of decorations — and an odd assortment of regular customers as well. Recreating that ambiance in this country is tricky, and truth be told (and I did tell it here), new pubs over there are sometimes too bright and clean to be warm and inviting as well.

With that disclaimer, Conor O’Neill’s in downtown Boulder does a reasonably good job of presenting itself like a place on the Old Sod. We went there yesterday evening for happy hour, which is a straightforward arrangement generously offered from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m.. All happy hour appetizers are $3.99, all drinks are $1 off and there are drink and beer/ale specials as well, particularly during football season.

The Broncos were on the verge of victory when my husband and I left the house, so we picked a television-free room in the pub, sat down in a small booth and ordered two appetizers and two beverages. The fish and chips (below left) came as four chunks of strong-flavored cod that had been battered and crisp-fried. The waiter said that they were out of their house “chips.” The kitchen, he added, would be substituting regular fries. The regular fries were very ordinary, Fryolatored frozen potatoes, but he did warn us! Also to his credit is that in addition to a ramekin of tartar sauce, he brought bottles of ketchup and malt vinegar. All very publike, including the uninspired spuds. The pesto quesadilla (right), a concept that probably exists nowhere in Great Britain, was a tortilla folded around cheese, pico de gallo and pesto and heated until the cheese melted. It came with a slightly smoky salsa — chipotle, probably — and sour cream for dipping.

Price check: Happy hour appetizers, $3.99 each. Chicken, pork or beef added to the quesadilla would have been $1 more. For additional prices, see my earlier post on Conor O’Neill’s.

Conor O’Neill’s is located at 1922 13th Street, Boulder; 303-449-1922.

Conor O'Neill's Traditional Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

Hearty Fare at Walnut Brewery

Microbrews are the draw, with the food a satisfying bonus

Friends from Europe are visiting, having flown into Calgary and rented a car to explore national parks and other attractions en route under the big skies of Alberta, Montana and Wyoming — and avoiding the unpleasant welcome that too often greets foreign tourists at major hub airports. By the time they reached Boulder, they had seen wonderful sights and had wonderful experiences, but they hadn’t had much in the way of wonderful food.

They enjoy good beer and had heard about America’s microbreweries, so when they insisted on taking us out to dinner last night, we suggested one of Boulder’s brewpubs. We chose the Walnut Brewery for its classic brewpub look and ambiance — high ceiling, exposed beams, beer labels and other beer art on the walls, thick wooden tables, friendly young waitstaff and generous portions of casual pub fare.

It is possible to taste any of the seven or eight beers before committing to a pint, but when the commitment is made, it’s a good deal on Tuesdays, when the Walnut Brewery gives each beer drinker a souvenir glass to take home and draws additional glasses for $2.95 each.

The Stout Onion Soup is rich and flavorful and served in a proper onion soup bowl. The burgers (beef, buffalo) and hot sandwiches (portabello, below left, but from this angle, the burgers looked just like that too) are served on big, crusty, flavorful rolls with lettuce, tomato and a choice of two sides. And the chicken-fried chicken (below right) is about the size of the large plate on which it is served, is topped by an ocean of parsley-flecked country gravy and buries the mound of mashed potatoes that come on the side.

Price check: Starters, $5.69-$9.29; salads, $3.29 (side salad added to any entree) – $10.99; burgers, $8.59-$9.29 (including a choice of two sides); sandwiches (also with choice of two sides), $8.29-$10.29; Pub Favorites (entrees), $8.99-$11.59; pastas, $11.29-$12.49.

Walnut Brewery is at 1123 Walnut Street, Boulder; 303-447-1345.

More August News Notes

Newest Proto’s Opens in Broomfield

Proto’s Pizzeria Napoletana has opened at the Arista development, becoming the first retail tenant there. Arista is a mixed-use development just off US 36 whose centerpiece is the Broomfield Events Center. Now fans of cage fighting, ice hockey, live concerts and assorted other entertainment will have a nearby place to get good, thin-crust pizza. This sixth Proto’s is at 8001 Arista Place, Broomfield; 303-466-2112.

Vietnamese Restaurant Adds Western-Style Brunch

Denver’s Parallel 17, a stylish Vietnamese restaurant, is adding Sunday brunch service from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. beginning this weekend. Menu inspirirations include such decidedly non-Asian dishes as Hickory Smoked + Braised Fresh Bacon with poached egg, lemongrass demi-glace, mesclun green salad and home fries ($13),. Steak Stuffed Chili Relleno + Eggs, which is a lemongrass steak-stuffed poblano pepper, cilantro pesto, yuzu crème fraiche, poached egg and home fries ($14) and Blueberry Stuffed French Toast cornflake-crusted French toast stuffed with blueberries, walnuts and ricotta served with, maple syrup and a choice of sausage, bacon or ham ($10). P17, as it’s nicknamed, is at 1600 Seventeenth Avenue, Denver; 303-399-0988.

SoBo Prices Go Low(er)

Since it opened, Boulder SoBo American Bistro has been praised for its food but taken to task for what locals perceived of as high prices. When diners talk, SoBo seems to have listened. The Boulder Daily Camera’s restaurant critic Meg Tilton reported, “Entrées used to cost between $19 and $33; now, they run $10-$23. Vegetarian dishes are also now available on the regular menu, including a vegan coconut Thai curry. A daily happy hour has been added that features discounted drinks and shared-plate items at half price.” She also reported that SoBo’s new executive chef is Sakima Isaac, previously at Laudisio. SoBo is at 657 South Broadway, which is in the Table Mesa Shopping Center; 303-494-7626.

Juicy Lucy #2 Now in Denver

I know people from Aspen and Snowmass who drive to Glenwood Springs just to eat at Juicy Lucy’s Steakhouse. A second opened in Denver last month at 250 Josephine Street in Cherry Creek North. The phone number is 303-393-6700. The original is at 308 Seventh Street, Glenwood Springs; 970-945-4619.

Rustica Opens Longmont Retail Bakery

Rustica Bakery, a small-scale wholesale bakery and favorite at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, now has a retail store in Longmont. Partners Elizabeth Perreault and Alison Reder, who had been baking in rented kitchen space, now have their own space at 950 Elgin Avenue (one block north of Ken Pratt Boulevard); 303-684-6480.

Boulder Savors Savory Spice Shop

The Savory Spice Shop has opened its third and northnmost retail location in dowtown Boulder, just off the Pearl Street Mall. It specializes in fresh-ground spices and herbs, including blends, rubs, sauces, extracts, salts and more to make food more flavorful. The new store is at 2041 Broadway (between Spruce and Pearl), Boulder; 303-444-0668. Other locations are in Denver’s Platt River Valley and in Littleton.

Snaps! Snapped Shut

Snaps! Hot Dog, a cute little vendor on 13th between Pearl and Walnut that I wrote about less than three months ago has now closed. Selling nothing but meat and veggie hot dogs, chips and beverages out of a small window on a side street, it seemed like the kind of fast, inexpensive street food that (except for a few food carts on the Mall) downtown Boulder has been lacking.

Two Peach Festivals This Weekend

Most of our peaches come from Palisade, with truckloads arriving for the annual Lafayette Peach Festival this Saturday, August 16, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. South Public Road is blocked off for the event, which focuses on peaches but also includes all manner of items for sale, non-peacj foods to eat and entertainment to enjoy. If you want to meet peaches on their own turf, visit the 40th annual Palisade Peach Festival, starting Thursday, August 14, and running through the weekend.

Upcoming Winemaker Dinners

Usually, I don’t post these, because there are just too many. But the variety of upcoming ones struck me as worth mentioning due to the range of prices and different offerings:

  • One restaurant company has bravely scheduled two wine events at two Denver locations on the same evening, Thursday, August 14. A wine pairing dinner ($55) in conjunction with Deerfield Ranch Winery begins at 6:00 p.m. in The Broker Restaurant’s wine cellar, and a blush wine tasting ($35) including selected appetizers begins at 7:00 p.m. at The Cork House. For reservations, call Sarah at 303-292-5065. The Broker is downtown at 821 17th Street, and The Cork House is at 4900 East Colfax.
  • In Vail, Larkspur‘s new executive chef Armando Navarro and sommelier Kevin Furtado are hosting the Colorado Harvest dinner with Canyon Wind Cellars winemaker Jay Christianson on Saturday, August 16. The cost is $175 per person. Additionally, Larkspur has three upcoming Thursday wine tasting classes: Colorado’s Master Sommeliers on August 14; The Royal Italians on August 21, and The Bubblies on August 28. The clases are $50. For reservations for any of these events, call 970-754-8050.
  • Eight California wines will be poured at Randolph’s Restaurant & Bar on Tuesday, August 19, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The wine tasting costs $27 per person and includes appetizers made to complement the featured wines. Randolph’s is in the Warwick Denver at 1775 Grant Street, Denver. To reserve, call 303-318-7272.
  • Colterra Food & Wine has planned a wine-pairing dinnering dinner featuring the foods of Trentino in northern Italy on Thursday, August 21 at 6:30 p.m. Sommelier Jonathan Deering has selection Gewürtztraminer, a spicy grape originating Tramin, Italy, and a Cabernet Franc as two of the four wines. The cost is $65. For reservations, call 303-652-3753. Colterra is located in downtown Niwot at 210 Franklin Street.
  • Alba Ristorante’s August wine dinner celebrates an Italian feast called Ferragosto, whose origins reach back to Roman times in honor of the goddess Diana and to celebrate the harvest, and which was adopted to celebrate the alleged ascension of the Virgin Mary to heaven. On Wednesday August, 27, Alba wraps it into a three-course dinner with paired wines for $55. Call 303-938-8800 for reservations. Alba 2480 Canyon Boulevard (the parking lot is on the north side of McGuckin’s), Boulder.

Fawn Brook at 30

The enduring Fawn Brook Inn in Allenspark, celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer, remains a European fine-dining restaurant specializing in fine Continental cuisine (largely Austro-German classics). For all these years, owners Hermann and Mieke Groicher have kept it a haven of warm, knotty-pine, lace-curtain charm and hospitality and stayed true to their culinary traditions. The Fawn Brook Inn is at 357 Business Highway 7, Allenspark; 303-757-2556.

Upscale Burger Chain Lands in Park Meadows Area

The Counter, a California-based build-your-own burger “concept,” hits the Denver area with a grand opening on Saturday, August 16. The look is industrial, and the gimmick is that customers are handed a clipboard with a long list of ingredients that can be assembled in a mind-boggling variety of combinations, giving new meaning to the old commercial tagline, “Have it your way.” The Counter claims that “312,120+ different burger combinations make every burger as unique as each customer.” Customers start with humanely raised beef, turkey, veggie or chicken on a bun or in a bowl and then choose a size, cheese, sauce, toppings and extras, sides, starters and beverages. The Counter is at Vistas at Park Meadows, 8439 Park Meadows Center Drive, which is in Centennial or Littleton or someplace in the south metro area. The phone number is 303-790-9630.

Food and Wine Fundraiser in Westminster

The second annual Corks & Forks, a fundraiser for the pioneering National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, takes place on Saturday, August 23 from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., at the Westin Westminster with four hours of fine food, fine wines and fine beers. The newspaper ad for the event says that tickets ($50 per person) are available from the website, but I can’t find that page. If you are interested, calll 303-293-5315.

Taste of Keystone Scheduled for the End of August

The 20th annual Taste of Keystone takes place at the resort’s Lakeside Village (i.e., near the Keystone Lodge, not River Run Village) on Saturday August 30 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.. Admission is free, and tickets are just $1 each for tastes prepared by the chefs of such Keystone restaurants including as the Alpenglow Stube, Ski Tip Lodge, Keystone Ranch and The Bighorn Steakhouse — plus sweet treats made by Keystone’s gifted pastry chef, Ned Archibald. In addition to great food, there are kids’ activities, live bluegrass and the obligatory silent auction. The event supports Summit County’s Mountain Mentors. For more information, call 970-496-4FUN.

Kelly Liken Opens Second Vail Valley Eatery

Kelly Liken, whose eponymous Restaurant Kelly Liken is one of Vail’s mostly highly regarded fine dining restaurants, has opened a second place downvalley. Half named after her and half after her husband and partner, Rick Colomitz, Rick & Kelly’s American Bistro is a more casual eatery cranking out favorite comfort foods, designer pizza and, like The Counter (above), build-your-own burgers. Rick & Kelly’s is located at 27 Main Street (at Riverwalk, with an Eagle River view from the patio), Edwards; 970-926-3423.

OOMPAH! at Breckenridge’s Oktoberfest

Colorado’s Oktoberfests traditionally are scheduled for September — perhaps because there is less likelihood of snow, and where there is considerable appeal to visiting when the aspens can be expected to be golden. Breckenridge’s 14th annual Oktoberfest, September 12-14, 2008, includes great parties, authentic German beer and food. The Brewmaster’s Dinner on Friday evening at the Salt Creek Steakhouse & Club features a six-course gourmet German dinner with paired German beers. The reception starts at at 6:00 p.m. with dinner at 7:00 Tickets are $65 each or $120 per couple. The restaurant is at 110 East Lincoln, Breckenridge; 970-453-4949. For special overnight packages, go to the Breckenridge Resort Chamber’s website or call 877-593-5260.

Colorado Springs News

Palapa’s Surfside, which had been located at 5710 South Carefree Circle, abruptly closed. The original hope was to franchise it….King’s Chef Diner has now opened at a second location at 131 East Bijou Street that will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m….The Loop, a Mexican restaurant (965 Manitou Avenue, Manitou; 719-685-9344) has expanded with a new bar and 50 more seats.

Tony’s Market Plans Downtown Denver Store

Tony’s Market, until most convenient for foodies on the southern end of the metro area, plans to open Tony’s Downtown Market at 950 Broadway in downtown Denver early in 2009. The 15,000-square-foot store will be the largest in the group and will inlcude an 80-seat restaurant and have up to 90 parking spaces. The store also will have an 80-seat restaurant.

In 1978, Tony Rosacci opened the first Tony’s Market, mainly a butcher shop, in a former 7-Eleven on East Dry Creek Road in what is now Centennial in 1978. Current locations are 4991 E. Dry Creek Road between South Colorado and Holly; 7421 West Bowles Avenue in Littleton (just east of Wadsworth), and 874 West Happy Canyon Road, Castle Rock. Special note: If you need your knives sharpened, a knife sharpener visits all Tony’s stores on Mondays.

Culinary Component to Snowmass Wellness Event

While mostly focusing seriously on the mind-body-spirit connection, the Snowmass Wellness Experience’s Harvest and Humor evening at The Artisan in the Stonebridge Inn on Friday evening, August 15, nurtures the palate and tickles the funny bone too. Artisan’s chef David Von Holton has put together a a menu of 20 kinds of interesting appetizers from regional farmers and producers, plus organic spirits, will be followed by a “wellness comedy show” starring humorist Swami Beyondananda. Harvest & Humor tickets cost $30 and are available by calling Alix Knipe at 970-923-7064.

Crystal Palace Grille Open in Legendary Aspen Space

The Crystal Palace Grille, an upscale steakhouse that cuts its meats in-house, opened last month in space vacated by the legendary Crystal Palace dinner theater. It features high-quality Akaushi Kobe beef and a less well-known Piemontese beef from northern Italy, as well as organic Western Slope produce. The restaurant is at 300 East Hyman Street, Aspen; 970-925-1455.