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Breckenridge Brewery, Denver

by Markian Gooley

It was 1993 and I had an audience with the Pope -- in the cozy little place where the Denver Nuggets play basketball -- along with ten thousand other people. I took a bus into Denver rather than fight the traffic downtown, stared at the World Youth Day people with the huge I. D. tags hanging from their necks, and considered buying a foam-rubber papal mitre from a street vendor. I went to lunch at the Breckenridge Brewery in a patched up industrial building almost opposite the inchoate Coors Field. The beers were good and the food palatable, and perhaps overindulgence blurred my judgment: I took what I thought was a shortcut to the basketball arena, jumped a chain-link fence, and found myself stumbling then rolling down an embankment, watched closely by four security men with pistols and more. I had to climb up the steep slope myself with guns trained on me, take the long way around, and get questioned and patted down. At least the security men let me in to see His Holiness, who arrived late anyway.

I can't recall if the India Pale Ale (IPA) was one of the beers that led to my downfall. Traditionally an IPA is especially strong and hoppy; it's supposed to be in the style of the beers brewed in Britain for troops in India, with the alcohol and hops meant to keep the beer from spoiling on the long sea voyage. A couple pints of such a beer could certainly make me more likely to act so foolishly.

Breckenridge's version of IPA is a pale orange-brown, and very cloudy when cold: chill haze, probably, from residual proteins. It's a defect or, as I think, extra nutrition. There is some smell of malt, but hops prevail, I'd guess some German variety but I'm unsure. The head dies fairly soon. Solid hop bitterness and a heavy malt sweetness hit at the start of every sip. The hops are first dominating, then balanced, they take over again in a bitter but pleasant aftertaste, with only the malt's stickiness lingering. There may be some hop flavor somewhere, but the sheer bitterness and maltiness hide most of that. The malt is enough to tack one's lips together, yet it doesn't cloy.

It's been a while since I had other IPAs regularly, but to me this one from Breckenridge Brewery -- is there or was there originally one in the ski town of Breckenridge? -- seems exactly right for the style. It's not like those Californian beers that test how much hoppiness one can stand. It's well-balanced and tasty, though not for people who dislike a hoppy beer. If you drink too much of it, don't behave intemperately.

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