Front Range Beer Trip Day 02: Longmont to Loveland and Back

Our Front Range beer trip continues. We had an epic first day, and on the second day we didn't slow down any. This day we drove from Boulder to Loveland and back down to Longmont where we spent the night. Keep track of the journey here. For some reason folks keep asking what the purpose of the trip was. There doesn't need to be any purpose for a beer journey, except to enjoy beer! Well, we also wanted to check out new spots, meet up with people we've been in contact with via email and twitter, and talk to breweries about some of the events we're putting on. We'll start this post with what was Colorado's newest brewery (at the time we visited).

City Star Brewing / Berthoud, CO

We had heard some really good things about City Star Brewing, and they'd only been open for 11 days when we visited. The brewery turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. They are a small brewery in the downtown area of a little town called Berthoud, in between Longmont and Loveland. During the first few days, they sold out of three of their six beers. By the time we got there, they were back up to four. We showed up before they opened though, so we didn't get to see it in full swing but the team of Whitney Taylor and brewer John Way showed us around and let us hang out.

City Star's location is in a small, pretty rural farm town that you can drive through in a minutes timing. It's a pretty town and it would be very easy to make City Star your local stop if you lived there. They've played with the aesthetics of the town and created an identity for the brewery using old horseshoes, old wood, and a general rustic feel.

When not making beer, John does some carpentry work for the bar. He built all the tables, giving them an old character with a few updates. He also made this gorgeous chandelier out a beer barrel, which works nicely with the entire feel of the place. He's currently putting together a very long community table for the center of the room. I could spend every day in this bar because it has a hominess to it, and the handcrafted nature of the furniture give it a true sense of unity. It just feels good to be in there.

They're brewing on a 3.5 barrel system, one that looks like a gigantic homebrew setup. They have a couple fermenters and can make seven barrels a week at this point. There's room for more fermenters, and they already have a third one in the works. We got to try a few beers, the Bandit Brown, Raspberry Brown, 6 Shooter IPA, and Night Watchmen Smooth Stout. All the beers were spot on and solid offerings. Given a little time, this will become either a destination brewery, or it will be a hidden gem (the town will keep them plenty busy anyway). I would highly recommend putting this on your list of places to visit soon.

Grimm Brothers / Loveland, CO

We drove north to Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, a two-year old brewery that recently expanded the size of their taproom and they seem to be growing at a healthy rate. They specialize in German lagers named and crafted after folk tales. Somehow I had never tried their beers, although Isaac has had them many times and rightly claimed that they were doing a fantastic job.

We ordered the whole line up. I was very impressed with their mainline beers. On top of the sample tray I ordered a whole pint of The Griffin, a lovely lemony wheat beer. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Little Red Cap Altbier. Alts are style that I enjoy a lot, due to their lower alcohol level, and slightly nutty and toasty notes, and the easy drinkabililty. The Little Red Cap is one that I'd be happy to drink regularly. The Snow Drop was also a treat, a beer that has oats, molasses, and honey yet still in the German tradition. The specialty beers were fun as well, although the tray was mostly darker lager beers that are of styles that I normally wouldn't order. A fun place. We only had a little time to stay though so we had to head out, grab some food, and get back down to Longmont.

Pumphouse Brewery / Longmont, CO

The Pumphouse Brewery was a fun little spot in downtown Longmont. It's a brewpub with a big outdoor patio, and a cozy interior. They had about 10-12 beers on tap, about 5 of which were specialty, which is pretty good. I can tell just by looking at the patio that they get pretty busy at night. The beers ranged from an English ESB to a Sour whiskey barrel aged beer. I thought the place was fun, some of the beers were better than others but definitely a place worth checking out if you haven't been there. We didn't get any food so I don't know how that compares to places like Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids and Solids down the street. We just ordered a quick sample tray and headed out to our next stop.

Left Hand Brewing / Longmont, CO

Our last brewery stop of the day (but not the last beer stop) was at Left Hand Brewing. We met up with Ro Guenzel, head brewer, and he gave us a pretty thorough tour of the place. I didn't realize how large Left Hand is. The brewery has a couple very large buildings that house different operations, storage, brewing, and packaging. The place was massive, it felt like a city, but perhaps this was because you literally have to cross a street to get to parts of it.

Cases of the very popular Milk Stout are just about ready for loading.
60 barrel brewhouse

Because trucks picking up and dropping off Left Hand supplies have to cross the street many times a day, the brewery is building a giant cooler that will make things quite a bit easier and more efficient. 

I was a bit excited to see this at Left Hand. From what I could tell it's a KeyKeg, a disposable lightweight keg that is beginning to make some headway. Ro told us that they began using these for some accounts that are further away because it just makes sense. I had just emailed back and forth with KeyKeg because they've made claims of being an environmentally conscious company, yet the keg is disposable. Normally I wouldn't associate 'disposable' with 'environmental' so I wanted to check into it, biases aside. It turns out it is pretty cool. The keg is super lightweight so the weight is significantly decreased when compared to stainless steel kegs, this aids in reducing the amount of gas used in transportation. Since the keg is disposable, you don't need a truck driving a bunch of empty kegs back to the brewery either, so it's a one-way keg, and that cuts a lot of heavy transportation as well. But, it's disposable right? Actually they've worked to fulfill all the European mandates for essential environmental criteria, so the thing is actually recyclable, not that they always get recycled, but they can be. I might talk more about this another time.

Left Hand has a handful of barrels. Ro was pretty stoked to show us this one in particular. See the NBB pH1...That's a New Belgium barrel and is one of the original barrels where La Folie was developed, and this particular barrel was the first barrel out of the set. Ro has a wild beer sitting in it now.

We ended the tour in the Left Hand Taproom where we enjoyed a couple beers and talked about the number of new breweries and the number of expansions happening across Colorado. We convinced Ro to come with us to our next stop, the Oskar Blues restaurant and bar Home Made Liquids and Solids, which you hopefully saw in a recent photo recap we did. Actually it didn't take him much convincing, so we all headed there for dinner.

Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids and Solids / Longmont, CO

Our last stop of the evening, OB Home Made Liquids and Solids. We stayed here quite a while. We showed up and it just so happened that the crew from Strange Brewing was there for a special tapping, so we got to try a few of their beers. We ordered food, which comes locally from the OB farm, and we met up with our twitter pal Chandra Ruiz, who runs Funk'n Wild, an event series that focuses on Sours, Wild beers, and Funky stuff. We also met up with our pals Dana and Nate and sat at the bar all night talking beer.

At the end of the night...

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BeerEric Steen