Dead Bird Brewing, Brewer’s Hill, Milwaukee, WI

Bee boop bee. I promised this post almost three weeks ago and never wrote it. Boop beep beep boop. But honestly, after the posting schedule I was cranking out in January, did you really expect that shit to last indefinitely? I have already lived a whole lifetime this year. From the time I saw Uncut Gems until I saw CATS for the last time, which was an intervening period of 19 days, I was a person that I did not recognize and I started to refer to as potentially manic. I was always in a good mood and I wasn’t sleeping much and I was doing really fucking stupid shit without concern for the consequences. And then I saw CATS for the last time and my whole world changed? I don’t know.

BUT before I saw CATS for the last time, that very same day, on Saturday, January 18th I went to a brewery in Milwaukee that had opened in the intervening six months since I had moved to Denver. I went to Dead Bird Brewing with Nicole in the Brewer’s Hill neighborhood and Imma tell you about it.

I was in Milwaukee for both a million reasons about also seemingly no reason at all. The weekend was this wildly magical and surreal experience, where it highlighted all the things about the city that I love and miss but also showed me that the city isn’t changing. There is no reason to rush back there (except for the fact that it is incredibly cheap to live there) because nothing is happening. And, if anything, I don’t want to be there this summer for the DNC because traffic. But whatever whatever. I was in Milwaukee, so I had to do what you do when you’re in Milwaukee. I had to eat sausage and cheese and beer.

And that’s what this bitch did. My whole fam, and Nicole, went to Vanguard for lunch. Then Nicole and I went up to Stone Creek for some coffee and I was reminded that I love their coffee so. fucking. much. It’s honestly offensive and unfair that they are allowed to have such good coffee and I was so. so. so. unhappy working there. And then after a posse of burly Milwaukeeans pushed Nicole’s car out of a snow bank, we went to Dead Bird.

I’m going to start at the end. I loved it. Walking in was exactly where I want to spend my Saturday afternoon. I didn’t know much about the brewery going in because my friends don’t go up to that neighborhood (or anywhere lately it sounds like?) and again, they opened after I moved, but I walked in to find something so delightful. This is what Denver needs, my dudes! Lowkey taprooms! Breweries that don’t rely on gimmick! There were old arcade games. A small bar. A friendly staff. What. A fucking. Concept. Beertenders who are personable and friendly? Christ. Every brewery I’ve been to in Denver (not that you would know, because I don’t write about those!) the beertenders are a wild mix of disinterested and pretentious? I don’t know. I’ve been to many lovely breweries in Colorado where this is not the case (posts coming soon maybe). But there is something about Denver?

IMG_5785 copy

I assume this will say “Cheers Milwaukee” eventually.

Anyways, we drank.

Nicole and I rocked out a flight. I would love to tell you which beers on this flight we drank, but I did not make any notes (as usual) and I also did not check into any of these beers on Untappd. So it’s a mystery. But I do know that there was a clear divide between her beer tastes and mine.

IMG_5789 copy

I do know that the one on the end was a hard seltzer? Maybe? I don’t remember. You guys can’t count on me for much these days. It’s just a miracle that I am even drinking beer and writing about how I am drinking those beers.

We also each had a pint. I might’ve had two? And then we played Tetris! Anyways, I loved this place. I don’t know what else I have to say about it. There beer was good. Their bartenders were amazing. And they had pinball and other old arcade cabinets. So like, if you’re up near MLK, check them out. They have a parking lot.

SomePlace Else Brewing, Arvada, CO

Yah girl got old man. I don’t know how this happened or when it happened but fuck man, I. Got. Old. And to celebrate the dawning of my 28th trip around this celestial monolith we call the Sun, I took a nap! I also drank beer. So, don’t worry about turning 27 changing me to my core. I’m still the same girl. A girl who likes to take naps and also drink beer. And who forgets to eat dinner, which is also what happened to me on this particular night. I did come home, have another beer and eat a block of bleu cheese as a “nightcap” so… Okay, I think this is just who I am at this point.

Anyways, I went to SomePlace Else Brewing in Arvada. A suburb of the city I had never been before. My first note on the entire city of Arvada is that man it was dark. There were no streetlights. I could see stars? It was wild. It was also very hard to find this brewery because it’s in a 1970s looking office park that is not lit. At all. Off a weird rural access road that is also… not lit. It was so very dark. I was on the phone with Nicole the whole time just letting her know how dark it was. So dark. The darkness, it was consuming.

But I found the brewery! I’m persistent, as we all know. I stroll in, there’s like two people playing skeeball and then through a small corridor was the actual bar situation where the bartender (owner?) was sitting and chitchatting at the table with someone about whatever whatever. I don’t think it matters to the story. But when he saw me, he hopped into action and became the nicest man possible to lead me on my journey of beer.

Now, here’s the plot twist of this entire endeavor, but one that I can assure you did not set any kind of new precedent. I took notes? I mean, I took notes! Like the good old days when I thought there might be a chance of me being a Good Blogger™.

IMG_5740 copy

So, the first beer I had was the Hazy 2020 NEIPA.

Oh my fucking God y’all. While I was looking at my notes, my hand slipped because I was holding my phone weird because it’s charging and I accidentally deleted the whole note. I cannot make this dumb shit up. Oh. My. God. I’m going to try to just remember what I’ve read before the deletion.

I also had the Spock’s Brain, which I remember really liking. I also think I got told that that is their most popular IPA on tap. Maybe?

I also had an apricot kolsch, maybe? Maybe I liked it? I don’t know because I deleted the whole fckn note.

But, there is something important and special about this brewery and the reason why I schlepped all tf way up to Arvada just to drink beer although it’s on the Northwest side of the city and I live in Southeast Denver and it’s because. They have. Pinball machines! And we all now that yah girl. Loves her. Some pinball!

IMG_5735 copy

The downside, though, is that I forgot my five dollars in cash I had set aside for some pinballin’ and only had one singular dollar I could use to play. But I still got some good ‘balls in. The most notable thing about their pinball machines is that they’re all classic cabinets. Old timey games that still make you work for it. Also, and this was the biggest deal to me, they had a machine that I was extremely familiar with because it was the same machine my grandpa used to have in his basement growing up.  I had never seen that machine in the wild, and now, here I was, reliving my youth! On my 27th birthday! Drinking beer! Playing with balls*! Could it get any better?

I mean, probably. I could’ve spent my birthday with friends or family. Someone else could’ve bought me my beer. I could’ve met Tommy of the musical Tommy. Someone could’ve called me the pinball wizard. But alas, none of that happened. But I still had a good birthday and a good time at this brewery.

*Pinballs

Danielmark’s Brewing, Cheyenne, WY

Alright, friends. I’m going to open this blog post with a simple apology. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever I say and whatever comes from this post because I do not know how to make this sound any less condescending than it probably does. I have deleted this entire post several times because I just sound like the biggest asshole whenever talking about this brewery. Not that I’m shitting on it. I just sound like I’m talking about it like I am better than it, which I am not. So, let’s jump into it and know that I am not trying to sound like a big time “beerfluencer” (pay me pls) because we all know that’s not who I am. I have humble roots. I’m from Wisconsin. I’m kind and polite. But whatever. We’ll see how this goes.

The events I am about to recount take place on the final day of the previous decade. I believe that some of my most recently posted posts may have mentioned that I was in Cheyenne, and that’s because I wrote them at a cafe in Cheyenne. I was in Cheyenne because I found out, as one does, that it’s less than two hours from Denver! And I had never even been to Wyoming! So why. Not. Go?!!! My plans for the day were simple(ish). I decided to head up to Boulder to get coffee at Boxcar Coffee Roasters because they were named by Mental Floss as the best coffee roaster in Colorado. Then I was going to go to Everyday Joe’s in Fort Collins because Mental Floss also named them the best coffee shop in Colorado. From there I was going to grab a beer in Cheyenne, then go to the grocery store, buy myself a steak, and be home by 8pm to make myself a steak and then I would celebrate 2020 at 10pm when the new year would dawn on the east coast and then immediately go to bed because I worked all day on the first.

Next to none of this happened, however. Instead I skipped all the coffee shops on my list and went deadass right to Cheyenne without much of a plan. I bummed around town, trying to get a feel for it. What I was not prepared to encounter in the biggest town in Wyoming is it being so fucking small. But they do have a Toppers. I drove by it and did a literal U-turn to head back to get some Topperstix to find out that it’s not open yet. But soon. Of course, at this moment I thought to myself hm, I guess I’ll have to come back to Cheyenne for some Topperstix. But whatever, fine. Break my heart why don’t cha. But from there, I found a coffee shop to fuel up in and work on the blog for a little bit. I did the thing that I do a lot. I rolled into a town with no plan and coffee shops are a great place to formulate a plan. I had to figure out where I wanted to drink and what I wanted to do.

But I guess I was not prepared for there to be next to no choices for me. Remember when I was like “Baltimore is the only place that does nothave a boom craft beer scene” ?? Well, that was in 2017, a lifetime ago, and now I discovered that the place that actually does not have a “booming” craft beer scene is apparently the entire fucking state of Wyoming. Which is fair, I supposed. When you look at how the state is, they virtually don’t matter. They have the minimum number of votes in the electoral college. I don’t exactly know what their major exports are? The entire state’s population is smaller than the city of Milwaukee. But fuck, get these people some more craft beer! But then again, I ended up going to a brewery and I really enjoyed their beer, so… 🤷🏽‍♀️

Anyways, the brewery I went to was Danielmark’s Brewing Company. The reason why I chose that place was 1) The internet said it was in an old house and I thought that was interesting and 2) The other brewery, Accomplice, said something about being a self serve brewery and the thought of having to learn a system at a brewery involving pouring my own beer stressed me out. It’s the same reason why I never drank wine at Black Sheep. I don’t have the level of ability to learn systems. That’s where I draw the line.

So the first thing I should note about Danielmark’s is that it’s actually, literally an old house. And walking into it felt like walking into someone’s living room. And everyone that was in there turned and looked at me like I was a weirdo stranger just walking into a football party that I was not invited to in someone’s living room . It didn’t help that when I got carded, my ID loud and proud says “this bitch is from some bullshit city” and then I became very aware that I was dressed like an asshole. I mean, it was comfy clothes to me. Leggings, Phish tank top, flannel over top. But between that outfit, my dumbass hipster asshole glasses, my hair that is currently varying shades of blue, black, and faded gray on the bleached ends, I looked like someone who got lost on their way to a Bon Iver concert. Or a Dead and Co concert where Justin Vernon joins on stage to close out the first set with the band. (If this sounds like a very specific example, it’s because this is quite literally what happened when we saw Dead and Co last year). 

IMG_5717

And I know this is a beer blog and not a fashion blog, but there is something I’ve become very aware of in the last six months since I moved and it’s a lot about how I dress. I don’t think about what I wear, I just kinda wear what is comfy. Like, full disclosure. That Phish tank top I was wearing? I was only wearing it because I wore it to bed the night before and didn’t wholly change out of my pajamas. I was wearing leggings because I didn’t feel like wearing jeans. I was wearing a flannel because I left my coat in Milwaukee and my hoodie hasn’t been washed in an obscenely long time and cannot, in good faith, be worn in public until it goes through the wash. But even me in my lazy clothes put me at a different fashion stance than everyone else. Everyone was in jeans, t-shirts, flannels but worn with a more authentic and functional flare than I was wearing. Their hoodies were thick and warm. We all dressed with the same intention, comfort over looks, but even with the same intention, I very much looked differently than them. I don’t know what this is supposed to mean, but I need everyone to know that I was immediately an “other” among this group of regulars.

 

The first beer I ordered was the Bluesitra, recommended to me by the bartender/owner of the establishment. It’s their house IPA and I did really enjoy it. Thanks for the rec, ma’am. The beer was good.

The second beer I had was the pale ale. Also very good.

I should also mention that the University of Wyoming was playing in a Bowl game while I was there, which I was not prepared for. But they ended up crushing the other team, which created a jovial environment. So by the time I was on my second beer, I was now no longer the weirdo girl who just stumbled into this brewery that they were not prepared to see, but now the weirdo girl who was loudly talking about how charming and quaint she found Cheyenne with the people she was sitting by. Yes guys. I was only two beers in and I was sitting there making it well-fucking-known that small town life wasn’t for me but that’s because I don’t know what has happened to me in the last twenty six years of life, or the last six months of me living in Denver, or two years in Bay View, or all my time in the Orlando/Kissimmee area or just my general demeanor and personality as a pretentious asshole hipster but fuck man. Yah girl was not quiet about how small town living would not be for me.

But no one seemed to give a shit. They still were nice to me. And honestly, I’ve missed that in Denver. Back home in Milwaukee, we talked to each other. We made friends at the bar. I once gave a stranger a list of local resources for adaptive equipment in the Milwaukee area when she was in town from Cleveland trying to help her uncle who had a stroke. We hugged at the end of the night. I befriend bartenders and old traveling salesmen just passing through. I like to talk to them about whatever they want, use my vast pub trivia knowledge to be able to make one intellectual comment about something I know nothing about to keep strangers engaged. It works! This is what we do in Milwaukee. We talk to each other!

The people of Denver don’t do that.

The people of Cheyenne, Wyoming do. And I missed that. I miss people being friendly. I know I’m an asshole but I’m personable but the people of Denver aren’t. They’re suspicious and maybe that’s what real cities are like and I’m not from a real city. I’m from Milwaukee. It might be about the same size as Denver but is it a real city? Or is it an illusion? A figment of a misremembered time? A time that never existed? Does any of this matter? Has any of this ever mattered?

Anyways, I had a third beer. I popped back to the Bluesitra. Then I opted for the Corson, for my fourth, which was a lager. When I ordered this Corson is when everyone was suddenly like “Girl, should you really be having another beer? You have to drive back to Denver?” And I was like “lol y’all have no idea.” It wasn’t like I was throwing these back in an hour. Time had elapsed. I was at hour three of my visit ordering a fourth beer. And I am a beerfluencer (apart of my 2020 is just calling myself what I want to be. I want to be a beerfluencer so now I’m calling myself a beerfluencer so fuck you guys). I can drink four beers in three hours. I am fine!

I also had a four ounce of another beer that I do not remember the name of. The problem with that beer and thank CHRIST I got a four ounce of it was because man. The tap list listed it at 9.8% and the bartender was like “this batch came out 11%” and I was like 😮😮😮. I’m gonna say this last 4 ounce pour of the 11% beer is what is responsible for enabling the rest of my night in Cheyenne but that is not a story for here. That is a story for my memoir Maelstrom which is only hypothetical but I picked that title out like six years and now I just embrace it.

Anyways, welcome to 2020. 2019 started with a whimper and ended with a bang. Here’s to a new year with new beer. Who knows where it’s gonna take us but does it even fucking matter anymore? Let’s get stupid.

Estes Park Brewing, Estes Park, CO

It’s legitimately comical isn’t it? Like, these posts keep rolling out in an unprecedented frequency and with every new post there seems to be no sign I’ve ever even been to Denver? Like, I think maybe the closest I’ve “been” according to this blog at this point is like, Aurora? I swear I live in Denver. But I’m just not ~vibin~ with Denver. Although, if you’re curious as to where I am the “should I stay or should I go?” front, I’m on the stay. I’m developing that dangerous kind of freedom around here. And, as much as I love you guys (my friends back in Milwaukee), being home for Christmas (and again in a few weeks for Doughboys) has reminded me how absolutely soul-sucking that environment can be. It’s a city that demands we settle and I might be giving up but I’m not settling yet.

But anyways, back to the blog. It’s gotta be unhealthy for me to open every single one of these with a weird lament about what life is and how life became as it is. Whatever. My sister’s visited the first weekend of November and we went up to Estes for the day and had lunch at the Estes Park Brewery!

We ate at a weird time of the day, which would probably partially account for the fact that there was only one large family with a million kids running around in there and no one else. But I don’t know how to adequetely describe the weird Wisconsin Northwoods vibe of this place. Like, it felt like the back hall of a VFW and not a brewpub or anywhere fit for people to actually visit? Too harsh?

Anyways, I had two beers and my sisters and I had an app sampler because we decided that maybe we wanted to eat somewhere else. (Somewhere else ended up just being Freddy’s in Longmont like hours and hours later). The first beer I had was a Renegade IPA which I gave 2/5 on untappd. Which, ooft. Brutal. I don’t have any notes (of course) so I don’t know why I didn’t like it. I just know that I didn’t. And then the second beer I had was The Shining APA which I gave an even crueler 1.75 on Untappd.

IMG_5479

This is so uncharacteristically mean of me, but I also know that the whole experience at the brewpub was also just kind of unwelcoming. The apps felt like microwaved fare. The server was weirdly perturbed that we were there? I don’t know. Whatever. If you’re ever in Estes, do whatever the fuck you want. But I would recommend dressing in period attire and getting a drink at the Stanley Hotel instead.

(My sisters and I did the nighttime Stanley Hotel tour and 10/10, would recommend).

Bristol Brewing Company, Colorado Springs, CO

Long story short, I’m in Fort Collins right now. And I’m about to write about a brewery in Colorado Springs. Although my last post was about a brewery in Fort Collins, which I wrote in Cheyenne. Now, you might be wondering why I’m just never in fucking Denver and the answer I have for that is… Denver is so boring. And you guys know that because I’ve railed about it before. But yeah, I’m bored of Denver and that didn’t take long. I know. But I also should mention that I’m warming up to the sun. January is still fresh at the time of this writing, but it feels like the winter might be more bearable here because it’s never bitterly cold and the sun comes out everyday. I mean, not that the sun coming out every day is necessarily a good thing. It kinda drives me crazy. But it makes the winter seem manageable to an extent.

But you guys didn’t come here for a weather report. You came here for a beer report. So let me tell you about Bristol Brewing Company in Colorado Springs!

So, I went there back in October because I’m still that far behind. I don’t know why I decided to check out Colorado Springs that day. I just know that I was in an adventuring mood, so I took off south on I-25 and set out to get beer somewhere. And the place that I landed to get beer was this old elementary school that has been converted into a small public market that had a coffee shop, a little couple little vendor stands, and a brewery/brewpub.

IMG_5441

I still didn’t make notes for this place, I should mention. But I did check into beers on Untappd, so that’s something. The first beer I had was the Fresh Hop Hazy Pale Ale, which I gave a 3.5. So I guess I thought it was fine. The second beer I had was the Ivywild School Tropical Pale Ale, which I gave a 2.25, so I’m going to assume that I didn’t like it.

But pause here for history! Brief history. Mostly just a side comment about whatever whatever. The old school was called Ivywild School, so it’s nice that they were out here paying homage to the building they were desecrating with their hipster beer culture. (I kid, the whole environment was quite lovely).

The last beer that I had there was the IPA Twenty-Five which I gave a 3.75, so I’m assuming that this meant I liked it.

IMG_5443

While at the brewery, I met a nice guy from Eau Claire who had never been to Milwaukee, which was appalling to me. But I guess when you live an hour from the Twin Cities, why bother driving four hours south to the shithole that is the city of Milwaukee when you’ve got these shining gems of cities like, right there. Although, like, c’mon. Milwaukee is class and culture although the first homicide of 2020 was of a 13 month of baby and I’m constantly surviving being a victim of crime.

I also met a nice man from southwest Colorado who chatted me up about other breweries in the state that I’ve got to check out. It was nice. I like chatting people up at bars. It’s how I get approximately forty percent of all my social interactions, strangers in bars.

After I closed out, I wandered down the hall to order a coffee and sandwich just to put some carbs in my belly to soak up the alcohol before I chose to drive. That’s where I sat and emotionally whipped up that Enlightened post, which, until recently was the last post I wrote for months and months and months.

Anyways, I had a good time there even if I found the beers middle of the road. The environment is more of a family friend brew-pub than a tap room with a light sandwich and app menu, but it was still cool. I love weird old buildings (which Denver is sorely lacking), so repurposing an old school and getting to drink in it while the bathrooms are still covered in murals done by children or for children or about children is nice. Check it out if you’re ever in Colorado Springs, I supposed.

Equinox Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO

Where are we? Well, currently I’m physically in Cheyenne, Wyoming drinking a london fog at a coffee shop because this town only has three breweries and none of them open until 2pm. Emotionally I’m wondering if I’m prepared for a new year to start tomorrow, wondering how 2020 is going to manage to further destroy a life I always pictured for myself. But three months ago I was in Fort Collins getting drunk alone at a brewery in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, just as one would expect from me at this point.

I went to Equinox Brewing Company and I’ll tell you all about what I remember about it!

The vibe was chill, but I also found that most of Fort Collins, or FoCo as the more insufferable transplants among us call it, quite chill. I remember driving around on that warm fall day, trying to figure out what to do, and discovering that Fort Collins has this beautiful quaintness to it. Tree-lined streets, a historical trolley track that runs through town that I think doesn’t actually run anymore? Old buildings. Old homes. People looking happy. It was radically different than the Denver vibes. Denver is people who don’t want to assimilate to a culture and rather inflict their own on the surroundings. That’s why when you ask people where’s a good place to get Italian, they think recommending Maggianos as an acceptable suggestion.

But I digress.

Fort Collins. I went to grab some beers and found myself longingly wishing I wasn’t alone there. I was sitting alone just messing around on my phone, but I couldn’t help but notice that there was a group of people on the opposite side of the bar having a great time playing cribbage. I love cribbage. I love sitting at a bar playing cribbage with my friends and calling them a “dipshit” for getting skunked (actually I’m usually the one getting skunked) and gleefully pointing out that someone had knobs and then taking the point. It was exactly what I needed. Friends.

But I was alone so I just sat there drinking and dicking around on my phone like the loser without any friends that I was. But I did have some beer and, as we all know, only cool kids drink beer. The first beer I had was the Space Ghost IPA. I gave it a middling review on Untappd but I don’t have any actual notes from the brewery. It’s actually becoming a true wonder if I even give a shit anymore. Like, why did I stop taking notes? Why am I no longer drinking beer with any kind of regularity and why don’t I post more than once every six months? What’s wrong with me? I still love this blog. I still love beer. But goddamn, this has gotten so much harder than it used to be. I would say that maybe at this point, in late September, it would be excusable. I was a full-time grad student working almost full-time as well. But now? With classes having been done for almost a whole month? What’s the excuse now?

Sorry, back to the beer. The second one I had was a Liquid Fuel which was a NEIPA. I gave it a little higher rating on Untappd. My third beer was a Lawn Boy Cream Ale, which I gave a 4.5, which is extremely high for me. I, again, don’t remember anything about it but I guess I thought it was good. The last beer I rated was an Event Horizon Imperial IPA which I gave a 4/5. Again, very good rating for me. I’m going to guess/assume/hope(?) that  I only got a four ounce pour of this last beer because it was a 9.4% and for me being in Fort Collins and having to book it to Westminster to see JUDY, I really want to believe I did not drink a full pour of such a high ABV beer for a fourth. But I am going to guess I didn’t because I’m very aware of what my limits are and I don’t want to fuck with them. Especially not in a state I don’t know that well so far from where I live.

Anyways, that’s Equinox. Check it out. It was a time.

Launch Pad Brewing, Aurora, CO

It has come to my attention that I have not been writing these posts in any particular or succinct manner. Apparently I went to this brewery and never wrote about it, which is very similar to what happened with Enlightened, except I definitely got emotional while writing the Enlightened post (for obvious reasons) whereas there will be no emotion here. Here is the cold, hard, mean facts about a brewery in Aurora that I went to the first week of September (yes, it is currently New Year’s Eve and the sun is setting on this decade).

But I really did not have too great of a time at this brewery so I never felt a strong compulsion to get into it. The thing that I’ve discovered about myself in recent weeks/months/lifetimes is that I feel bad shit talking breweries now. Not that this place is worthy of shit taking. It wasn’t that bad. It was just a bummer. But I should note that everything that happens in Aurora is a bummer. This was before I figured out that I do not vibe with the city of Aurora. I am going to wholly blame Aurora for this. It is a sprawling, personality-less wasteland just east of Denver that went from being a suburb to a whole ass, all consuming city of it’s own. The population of Aurora is angling it to be the St. Paul to Denver’s Minneapolis. The Twin Cities of the West. And must like how people scoff and whisper warnings about St. Paul, that’s how people treat Aurora. This dingy and less glamorous version of their neighbors to the west. Slightly cheaper housing, endless anonymous houses and rundown apartment complexes. Disillusioned faces of one time hopeful Denverites who wanted to own property and found themselves stuck in Aurora. There is a reason that I don’t live in Aurora although my campus is in Aurora. It’s because Aurora is a huge. Fucking. Bummer.

But I didn’t know that when I went to this brewery. I had been in Colorado scarcely three weeks at this point. And that night was going to see IT at a theatre in Aurora (that I still occasionally go to and is one of the few things in Aurora I actually visit). Anyways, I should just say that I went to Launch Pad Brewery for beer because I saw on some list somewhere that it was one of the best breweries in Aurora. Which, I mean, I guess is an accomplishment because Denver’s brewery scene is so bumpin’ that it’s now bleeding into Colorado’s largest city by land area now.

I should note that the beertender (I still hate that word) told me I could not have the first beer I ordered because the keg kicked and she “didn’t feel like” changing it. Actually what she told me. It was weird. I could understand if there just wasn’t more of that kind of beer? And maybe that is what she meant to say? But she legitimately told me she just didn’t feel like changing the keg. But whatever fine.

As is now becoming a habit, I do not have notes on this brewery. But I did document everything I drank on Untappd. (Also, if we’re not friends on Untappd you can friend me @upside-) The first beer that it appears I drank was the Project Highwater which was a altbier. I gave it a middling rating of a 3.0 on Untappd, but since it’s a German style beer, that makes sense. I’m really become that asshole who likes to push off the more traditional beer flavors in favor of dumb shit like kumquat or whatever the fuck American craft brewers are doing with their IPAs and shit these days. The second peer I had was a Project Apollo and lo and behold, it appears I liked it. Wanna know why? It was an APA and I’m insufferable. The last beer I had noted was the Ariane 6 which I gave another 3 to although it was an IPA.

IMG_5202 copy

I do think I had more to drink than this because I remember feeling pretty ~good~ when I was done drinking, and this was way back in the days when I had a tolerance for alcohol. But that is the point in which I stopped checking in beers on Untappd. The brewery was fine, honestly. The beers were fine. The vibe was weird but I was also there in the middle of the day on a Thursday in September. But, whatever. I just had to purge this one from the memory banks and continue on with this journey. See y’all in 2020. Maybe things will get better although I’m pretty sure they’re going to get worse.

Enlightened Brewing, Bay View

Wow. I bet you guys were not expecting another Milwaukee brewery so soon with this whole “me moving to Denver” and all. And let me just say, you’re right. You probably should not be getting blessed with a post about the Good Land this soon, but apparently I am such a bad blogger that I went to Enlightened and just deadass forgot to write about it. So today, while I was scrolling through my notes on my phone, I realized my grave error and decided that I should write about. Partially because I strive for total transparency with my audience (Nicole and Jake Smith and Wesson) and also in part because I miss Milwaukee, and specifically Bay View, in a way I never thought possible. I miss the changing of the leaves and the smell of fall and my neighbors being the most extra motherfuckers imaginable in their Halloween decorations. I miss Vanguard and Stone Creek Coffee and the Avalon Theatre. I miss a sense of community and people on the street passing you with a hesitant smile because they don’t want to get mugged but they also don’t want to be rude. I miss all of it.

And today, while sitting at a brewery in Colorado Springs, of all fuck places, I scrolled through my phone notes and saw the time I went to Enlightened and I fell into a hole of memory and loss. So travel back in time with me to this night, on a warm summer day in July, while I waited for Nicole to arrive from Michigan. I will do my best to fill this story as accurately and truly as it deserves, but portions have been lost to time and I do not know if I will be able to truly capture the feeling of the humid night in July, the eve before I saw Phish in concert for the first (and only) time.

I was antsy, that I remember for sure. And I know that Ashely was not home, but I do not know where she might have been. That is a memory I’ve lost. A fact I failed to retain. I was alone and desperate to take on the world, somewhere. Something. Anything. At this point, I already knew my days in Bay View were number. My time in Milwaukee was coming to a close. I wanted to take as much of this city, the city that shaped me, in before I was destined to leave again. I thought about going to Component again, a great love of mine, but I also knew that it was time for me to branch out. To experience something new in this city that raised me. I thought long and hard about it. How far I wanted to travel. What I wanted to see.

Then I remembered the steady stream of kind and daily regulars that graced us at the cafe every day. The staff of Enlightened Brewing right in Bay View. I hadn’t had a chance to visit to their old tap room before they moved into the more spacious one just down the road from the cafe I worked. And that is what I set my sights on. I drove, though I know that I could’ve walked. But in Bay View, it was a dicey. I headed up there after ten pm, and in a city like Milwaukee, anything could happen. I could’ve been fine to walk, or I could’ve been mugged. Anything. That kind of city. No matter how dismissive and belittling the people pf Denver want to be about my hometown, Milwaukee is not some small Midwestern town where everyone smiles and says “How’ya doin’ der?” It’s a city. A city with problems and crime and concerns. A real, goddamn American city.

And so I went.

The night was warm and I was not prepared for the lack of air conditioning, though I do not know why. At that point, after all that time in Bay View, I should’ve known better. Air conditioning was the exception rather than the rule. But it wasn’t terrible. They had the windows (garage doors) wide open and occasionally we would catch a cooling breeze that weaved from the lake, past the houses and down the long and winding roads to this brewery on Allis Street.

The humidity caught in the wood and fill the place with the familiar and comforting scent of “basement bar.” It felt like home. That’s what Milwaukee always felt like to me. Home. A bitter and contentious home. A place that I could never wait to leave but could never picture living without. A place that accepted me for who I was, but still felt it their responsibility to point out my flaws. Milwaukee.

The three beers I had were Barbe Rougue, Te Ipsum, and Sentient Twig. I made absolutely no notes on these beers nor did I even rate them on Untappd. But I don’t know if it mattered. I have such fond memories of this night, of me alone at this brewery, of the moments of comfort being invaded by the realization that these days were numbered. My time in Bay View was numbered. My time at Stone Creek was coming to an end. These places, built by people so firmly rooted in Wisconsin culture, emanating such a visceral feeling of Home, would not exist outside of Milwaukee, or Wisconsin, for me. Even in Denver, a bar that smelled like a basement bar would still be different. Soon… Everything would be different.

But that night, at that brewery, in that part of time. Everything felt right. Me alone at a a bar. Me happy to be where I was. Drinking good beer in the Good Land. Genuinely embracing the culture that made me, raised me, honed me.  Check out Enlightened Brewing. Feel the warm embrace of a bar that smells like fresh wood and beer. Live in the culture we were meant to, and know that I’m still struggling to find that here in Denver. A city that everyone says has a great beer culture.

Coors Brewery – Golden, CO

I’m living my best life right now, is something I tell myself every single day when it becomes more and more apparent that I am, in fact, not living my best life. Denver is so boring for me, my dudes. I can never find something truly worth doing, most of my time is spent fighting with people about couches, making coffee for business people in LoDo, and avoiding school work. When I’m depressed and broken to my core, I see a movie now that I’m an official AMC A-List member, which is just their version of MoviePass. (Not to brag, because this is wholly not a brag, but I’ve legitimately seen every movie being shown at AMC right now.)

But last Thursday I had some free time and was, once again, suffering a wholly crushing couch-related defeat, so I was looking for something to do and decided to do part two to the MillerCoors tour that I started way back in 2017. If you want me to lament about the passage of time, I can, but as we speak, I’m texting Smittsburger about where we were at 24 versus where we are now at 26 and I’m too sad to really get into it. But you can check out that post on your own if you so choose.

Anyways, I went up to Golden just to discover that this tour is $5 for Colorado residents and $10 for everyone else. It’s self guided. And you get three beers at the end and a pint glass. Is it worth it? Fuck no. Here’s the thing. I don’t give a shit about listening to recording of a guy in a recording booth in California, wondering why he went to Julliard if all he’s going to do is audio tours, reciting a script about fucking trash beer. I don’t care. Coors is the same story as literally everyone else. He was like “oh, I am a German immigrant and I know not what to do other than to brew the golden ale of the gods.” And then he was like “but alas, where?” And found some crisp af water in the mountains and was like “ahoy, here I shall stake my claim.” And boom. Fucking beer. I love Halloween.

Of course there was like, scandal and intrigue and shit, but man. There’s beer. And the tour is boring. And the line to get beer at the end was so long that I only had one and slammed it, because I’m 26 fucking years old. I do not need to wait literally twenty minutes to drink a goddamn Banquet Beer. That’s the kind of shit you do when you have a fake id that only works at a trash heap bar on Water Street. I can literally walk in anywhere in this whole nation and just buy a good beer. Not something only suitable for flip cup and your grandpa’s garage. Not even my grandpa’s garage. My grandfather only drank Miller Lite. Like an American.

Also, it’s total horseshit that this tour costs ten dollars and you get, arguably, less than the free Miller tour in Milwaukee. Because on the Miller tour, you also get pretzels! Here you had to buy pub pretzels out of a vending machine! Like a monster! And there’s no caves. In Milwaukee, they have CAVES and caves make the tour. And they don’t even have to “make” the tour because the tour. Is. Free.

The buildings weren’t interesting to look at. They were historically appealing. They were just… buildings. Factories. The Miller Valley is a rich and bustling little area that preserved the interesting history that Miller brought to Milwaukee. What the fuck does the Coors Brewery have? NOTHING. There is nothing redeeming. Just like most of what I’ve seen of the immediate Denver area. No goddamn culture.

4/10, would not recommend.

*I took pictures but my phone won’t let me get any of them off the phone and onto my laptop but that’s fine. The pictures weren’t interesting anyways.

Vision Quest Brewing Company, Boulder, CO

Let’s get nostalgic. A lifetime ago, back in 2017, I was asked by my boss of the time what my plan for the summer was. She wanted something big, lofty. A self betterment of sorts. At the time, all I could come up with was that I was going to Utah in June. I remember saying that and her telling me that it wasn’t good enough. I pondered a moment longer and said, “I don’t know. I need something else… A… I don’t know… a vision quest.” I was in one of my millennial sads. It was March. I felt stuck in my job that I hated, in a city that I hated, in a life that I hated. Does this sound familiar? Well, it should. Because this was the running theme of this blog. Me drinking beer as a way to outrun my millennial sads.

It’s wild that moment was over two years ago. Two years ago, before Daze of Beer, before the ComBITment 2018, before Phish and even that one time (which turned into two times) I saw Umphrey’s McGee. That was when I was 24 and hadn’t embraced just the absolute absurd bullshit that life can be. In 2017, my millennial sads peaked. In 2017, I bottomed out. In 2017… I never thought I would ever actually get that Vision Quest. And maybe I won’t. But here’s something I haven’t talked about here yet, and it’s important. It’s something big. This is me taking an active role in my life instead of just letting my life happen around me. I am starting my new life at a brewery I’ve never been to before… In a town I’ve never been to before.

Today I might not be on that vision quest I dreamed of. But I am at Vision Quest Brewing Company in Boulder, Colorado. 

Y’all know a lot about me. A lot about what my life is. Everything on this blog is never new information for anyone because the only people that read it are people who know me personally. But sometimes I like to pretend that y’all don’t know this. You don’t know why I’m in Boulder (actually I bet no one knows why I’m in Boulder in particular, which is simply because I just didn’t know what to do with my day today). But thinking about 2017 me, the idea that I could be sitting in a Boulder brewery drinking beer is unheard of because when you’re Millennial Sads peak, you can’t picture yourself outside of your millennial sads.

I’m in Boulder because I have no furniture in my apartment and my air mattress deflates in an hour. My apartment is within driving distance of Boulder because I don’t live in Bay View anymore. I don’t live in Bay View anymore because I moved to Denver. I moved to Denver to try to make the most of my life. I’m going to grad school. I’m trying to fix the stuckness that 2017 Me felt sitting at her desk every day dreading the phone ringing. And that 2018 Me tried to drown in beer and weird bits and excessive travel. And early 2019 Me was crushed under while working at a coffee shop in Oconomowoc. I’m trying to better myself.

And now, here I am, not quite achieving that vision quest I always assumed I would probably venture on with my former officemate for some reason. But I did find this brewery that is going to have to be Good Enough. And I didn’t even go looking for it. I didn’t drive to Boulder to go to a brewery called “Vision Quest.” I drove to Boulder because I was bored. And while sitting in the parking lot of the busiest Target I’ve ever seen (before figuring out this town is 90% college campus and it’s move in weekend), I looked up breweries and this is the first one that popped up. And it felt like a calling.

I didn’t need to try mushrooms in the forest or drop acid at a concert for a jam band I don’t give a shit about. This is my kind of vision quest. Just a brewery serving standard issue beer.

What did I drink? Well, I had an apricot sour that was actually pretty good. I think it maybe could’ve “soured” a little longer as I was getting a little bit of yeasty flavors in it, but I still enjoyed it. This is a rather small operation going on here and the fact that they endeavored to devote space to aging a sour is inspiring. I know that the sour trend can be tough on smaller breweries that do not have the space or time to just let beer sit around for a few months while it gets weird.  I also had a “That’s Really Cute” which is a double IPA and ho-leee-fuck is it good. Startlingly good. Insultingly good. It is so good I find it unfair that not only are humans allowed to fucking brew and serve this shit, but they are serving it 40 minutes in moderate traffic from my apartment at the bottom of a Big Ass Hill my car had to go over, and my car did not like going over it. Un-fucking-fair.

My grand exit from Milwaukee was turbulent. My life was filled with a lot of crying and yelling and downs this summer. So many different people disappointed me in such wild and weird and unexpected ways. But so many other people, people who had no reason to step up, showed up and were there for me and helped me get here. To Colorado. To a place where I could sit here and drink a fucking beer at a place called “Vision Quest Brewing.” A place that found me.

I can promise you that I’m not done crying. I can promise you that things are going to probably get a lot weirder and more stressful before they level out. But for today, for right now, I am sitting at a brewery drinking a fucking beer like a goddamn American. And that’s all I can ask for.