Fun fact: The mountain on your can of Coors Light was modeled after a real mountain.Wilson Peak: A 14er (barely, at 14,017 feet) that stands out from Umcompaghre National Forest in southwest Colorado.
That’s one of the many things I learned Thursday while replanting in the burn area of Waldo Canyon northwest of Colorado Springs. It’s also the only beer-related fact I learned while I was there.
Let me explain. As many times as I can manage during the year, I sign up for day or weekend treks with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, or VOC. They provide opportunities for people – generally a mix of 20-something nature lovers and overly fit retirees – to build trails or restore habitat around the state. They’re great for me because they get me working in the outdoors in places I wouldn’t think to go on my own. Plus, as a rule, the overnight trips always supply free beer.
So Thursday morning I drove two hours on a mix of highways and dirt roads to a remote spot, where I spent about five hours clipping willow bush branches (not trees, like the headline suggests) on the low end of a creek, trekking them to a bare patch higher up on the creek and sticking them in the ground.
From what we were told the sticks will take root, which will prevent the runoff caused by rain hitting the fire-scorched earth, which will prevent it from contaminating water supplies downstream.
As I headed home, I stopped by a brewery that was just five minutes or so out of the way: Trinity Brewing. I’d heard of them a few weeks ago after trying their Seven Day Sour, which had suddenly popped up at every bar from Denver to Fort Collins.
It’s not that impressive on the outside, other than having Pikes Peak as a backdrop. But you’re greeted inside by a wall of oak barrels, a sea of friendly (albeit, mostly male) faces and a thick cloud of wet malt.
When you order a flight, you get this: A whole wheel of malty, hoppy flavor with a doorknob in the center. I had it all to myself… for better or worse. The best thing was it became the talking point of the bar at 3:30 in the afternoon. All these couples and groups, and the only one with this eight-sample masterpiece is the muddy, disheveled mess sitting by himself. Great way to make friends. By the last beer I’d become best friends with a high school chorus teacher and a part-time brewer who collects all the movies as a hobby.
I won’t go through all of the beers I tried; that would take forever. But I’ll say all of them were exceptional, and there wasn’t one I wouldn’t get again. All had incredible mouthfeels and were made of like a dozen different hops and malts. I’ll highlight three: two summer brews and one beast.
Sunna Wit Bier
Sight and smell: Fluorescent yellow and opaque, like the inside of a lemon head, with a nice white head. The most distinctive looking of the bunch. It smells like coriander-laced orange juice.
Taste: Creamy mouthfeel from the flaked oats and wheat, with a citrus bit that sticks to the tongue. In the midde was a mix of orange creamsicle, some earthiness and a little cinnamon.
Grade: A-. This 4.8% beer is perfect for the summer and would make a great choice for anyone who says they don’t like beer.
Three Flowers, Saison Vielle
Sight and smell: A pale 7% brew with a little white head. It has a very potpourri-like smell, with coriander, lilacs (?) and other spices.
Taste: More spice in a thicker beer than you’d think. At some point I got tastes of wheat, cinnamon, ginger and summer. Lots of flavors, and all of it balanced. It finished light with all the right aftertastes.
Grade: A-. The flavors are there. The feel is there. The smell is there. Even the look of it. Everything reeks of summertime with this one.
Slap Yer Mammy Double IPA
Sight and smell: A hazy gold with a solid head. It smells like wet grass, toasted crackers, earth and a little bit of pine. It has nine hop styles in it, so there’s a lot there.
Taste: There’s a huge malt backbone to this one that totally cuts its 125 (!) IBUs. On the forefront is toasted rye bread with a creamy feel, along with piney, earthy hops. The 10.5% ABV hits a bit at the end, but the bitter sits there without completely overwhelming your taste buds.
Grade: A+. One of the best double IPA’s I’ve had. It has a unique flavor and an incredible balance. If you find it, drink it.