We always try to visit some of Colorado’s most valuable natural resources every time we’re there: the breweries. Jess and I are both beer nerds, and Colorado to us is what Paradise must have been like before Adam and Eve decided to get advice from a talking snake. Jess had previously visited the Coors Brewery in Golden, and last year we went to New Belgium and Odell Brewing in Fort Collins – but this year Jess’ brother took us into the mountains to Tommyknocker Brewing in Idaho Springs. The day was bright and clear, and although we never thought we’d see November temps in the 70s, we were certainly happy to take advantage of them.
Tommyknocker Brewing serves as an homage to Idaho Springs’ gold rush past, named for the elves said to inhabit mines. The beers have a mining theme, and as we had previously tried a beer made by Tommyknocker at Baker St. Pub and Grill, we were excited to sample their other brews. The pub itself was large and divided into a sit-down restaurant and a spacious bar area; the staff was very friendly. I can’t speak to how good the food is, however, because we visited just a short while after our feast at Brasserie Ten Ten in Boulder and were strictly looking to sample some suds. The Tommyknocker bar did not disappoint, as they served up a tasting tray of ten 5-oz. beers. Jess and I decided to split one.
We started with two of the lighter beers, the Pick Axe Pale Ale and the Ornery Amber, and were pleased with both. The Pick Axe was a sweet, hoppy brew with just enough maltiness backing it up to give it a well-balanced flavor. I enjoy hoppy beers when the hops shine through more as a flowery sweetness rather than just being bitter and astringent, and the Pick Axe was a perfect beer for that. The Ornery Amber tasted basically like the Pick Axe minus the hop profile; it was a good, biscuity beer with just a bit of caramel flavor on the back end. We were certainly off to a good start.
One of my favorite beers in the sampler was the Black Powder Stout, a rich, creamy stout that went down very smooth with a good flavor of raisins and chocolate. This was a basic, pure stout: smooth, almost milky texture with very low carbonation – and although it wasn’t a complex beer, I liked the straightforward flavor. I don’t know if this was served off a nitro tap or not, but it had that very silky texture one finds with beers like Murphy’s served from nitro taps. It was enjoyable – and the best part was that I got to drink our sampler and Jess’ dad and brother’s as well (as I’m the only drinker of stouts in the group).
The other beers we enjoyed were the Jack Whacker Wheat, a crisp wheat beer with that banana-clove-coriander flavor I love in wheat beers and the Imperial Nut Brown Ale, a strong, malty brew that would make a perfect pub beer. Some of Tommyknocker’s other selections weren’t nearly as popular with the group, including their Maple Nut Brown Ale (think drinking pancakes with syrup beer) and their Cocoa Porter Winter Warmer that tasted like somebody mixed a spoonful of NesQuik up with a dark beer. Still, we’ve tried enough beers to know that not every beer in every style will be for us, and both of those beers have their audience, I’m sure. We picked up a six-pack of Pick Axe from the gift shop up front and a bottle of what was our best discovery: the Golden Saison, a fresh tasting farmhouse ale that was everything we like in the style – dry tartness up front with a bit of maltiness on the back of the tongue. I wish I had tried one of these straight off the tap, or at least picked up more than one bottle – it’s really a very good beer.
Warm with beer, we ventured back out into the clear mountain day, possessed by that state of perfect cheer one always hopes to achieve. I’ve got to thank Jess’ brother Andrew again for planning the afternoon – he took us on a beautiful drive into a part of Colorado we had never had the privilege yet to see, and the good beer we got to sample during the journey made the trip that much more memorable. There are certain days we all have that stand out in our memories as perfect; this one is the most recent example I can think of for myself.
If you’d like to see more pictures from our trip to Idaho Springs, you can do so on our Facebook page.