I think it’s safe to say that Denver is going through a Golden Age in craft breweries. Plans by at least four new brewers within the city limits will add to the rich craft beer heritage the Mile High City has enjoyed since the original days of the Koop and GABF before that. Since the opening of Strange Brewing in early 2010 (and some would say Del Norte in 2007), breweries have been springing up like hop buds all over the Metro area. It’s three of those breweries, Wit’s End, Renegade, and Denver Beer Co, all opened in 2011, that I will highlight in the next three posts.
Wit’s End Brewing had a great plan to begin their operations; make very small batches of great beer, and as they say “make slow beer for fast times.” And it didn’t hurt that they opened the week of GABF, drawing in local, national, and even international drinkers to sample their beers. A true ‘nanobrewery,’ all batches are produced on a one barrel system.
I learned all of this and more when we finally got over to Wit’s End a few weeks ago and talked to Scott Witsoe, self-proclaimed Brewer, Owner, and Dreamer. Ever ready to start a conversation with all of his patrons, he discussed the many deckels adorning the walls of the brewery with us, most acquired when visiting some of his family in Germany. I had been to many of the same beer halls growing up and we quickly fell into relating our experiences.
Originally from Seattle, Scott moved here to be with his significant other, Heather, and took the plunge into becoming a full time brewer after being laid off early last year. He took a similar approach to Strange in deciding on where to locate the brewery, settling on a warehouse space for the low overhead and funky atmosphere it produces. Coming over after work one Friday, we made the mistake of coming down Federal Boulevard and immediately ran into congestion produced from the road work currently vexing anyone who needs to drive that stretch. I’d recommend coming over via Alameda if you plan on visiting anytime soon, it’ll save years off your life in frustration if you do.
As we sipped our initial beers, a Super FL IPA, and Mad King Weizenbock, we were surprised that Scott had only been brewing for six years before opening WE. The Super FL IPA was a familiar taste to me since I had brewed a similar dark IPA a couple of years ago. A slight hoppiness is balanced with the full and slightly bitter taste of the roasted malt used; overall a good cold weather IPA. The Mad King enthralled the wife with its sweet, yet yeasty dark flavor, topped by the barest hint of smokiness; definitely a sipper though at 8.3% ABV.
We enjoyed the first beers at one of the two tables in the space since the bar was packed when we first came in. The Brew Trek bar to table ratio was confirmed from the beginning; we were barely able to hoop on some empty stools at the bar as a couple of other patrons left. Luck would have it that as the night went on, Brent Scheiwe of Denver Brews Cruise sat down next to us. He had a rare night of not having a tour and so decided to actually sit down and enjoy some of the beers he is tempted by while driving others around to breweries. Discussing the bars that got us into craft beer, he told of fond memories of Rockslide Brewing in Grand Junction where he grew up.
We pestered Scott for a flight of tasters, and were quickly rewarded with the Kitchen Sink Porter, Green Man Ale, and Jean-Claude van Blond. All were very good, but the Green Man tempted my taste buds the most, with it’s just hoppy enough malty goodness.
As the night wore on I found to my chagrin that I had forgotten to replace the memory card for my camera. So, needless to say, I knew I’d be back soon, not only to enjoy the beers, but also to take some snapshots.
Luckily the next day’s agenda involved running around town taking care of errands, and so I made my way over shortly after WE opened. And what a beautiful day it turned out to be.
It was a typical January Thaw day, when temperatures get up in the 50s, and sometimes 60s, making it feel relatively like Summer. The impulse to sit and drink beer all afternoon only increased as Scott opened the garage door that fronts the building, allowing the sunlight to come streaming in like a sign from the Beer Gods that all is good, and it’s even better drinking delicious craft beer.
As I took some photos and grilled Scott about more details of his brewery, a steady stream of beer lovers filled the place. In addition to a tour from the Brews Cruise van, a couple sat down next to me and struck up a conversation. Greg and Heather had been out that day visiting Copper Kettle earlier, and stopping by to have some Wit’s End brews before heading home. Having recently moved from the East Coast, they talked about a trip to the Western Slope to further explore their new found home. We all agreed that Steamworks in Durango had some great beers; Greg also shares a love of their Colorado Kolsch with the wife. Greg creates websites, so if you’re in the market for one, it might do you good to check him out here.
After a pint and a ‘shorty’ of Green Man Ale, I bade farewell to Scott, Greg, and Heather, and made my way back home with an optimism bolstered by the great beers at Wit’s End.