I hate Denver International Airport. It's much worse than Stapleton, the old Denver airport: far from town, with high landing fees and a host of useless fripperies such as trendy dinosaur shapes set into the granite and terrazzo floors of its terminal. It's a hub for United now, and little else -- people in Denver try to fly out of Colorado Springs instead. One can get a good beer there for around four dollars, at least: ales by the Breckenridge Brewery, Fat Tire from Fort Collins, and several other microbrews.
I sat in a little bar next to a sub-sandwich shop on the B concourse, with three hours to kill until my flight. I noticed the unfamiliar logo of Denver Pale Ale, and at length got the woman behind the bar to serve me one. It arrived icy cold, probably because it shared a tapper with such horrid brews as Budweiser and Coors Light (they must be served cold to approach potability). I took out an itinerary card and a ballpoint pen, and began to take notes. My neighbor at the bar began to stare, and I explained what I was doing and why. As I drank and wrote, the poor man, a Boston Irishman, got an earful of my opinions about beer, and graciously told me the best place in Boston to get a Guinness. I had the bartender give me a small empty glass to make tasting easier.
When cold, this beer smells only of ale-yeast esters -- fruity -- and of malt: no hops, no alcohol. With a bit of warming, those get stronger, but the aroma hops don't. The warm brown suggests some darker-roasted malts, but I can't smell them. The esters and the malt give a powerful flavor; that and the extreme stickiness remind me of candy. The sweetness is never quite balanced by the combination of dark malt bitterness, bittering hops, flavor hops, and alcohol. The fruity sweetness overwhelms at the start of a sip, the other flavors try to overwhelm it but fail, and as it starts to die the bittering hops try a parting shot. I'm reminded of double bocks, which traditionally are "under-hopped," except that there's too much estery taste and not enough alcohol bite here. The flavor hops taste like a European variety, but I'm not sure, and I can't swear that there are any aroma hops at all.
Denver Pale Ale is a bit dark, perhaps, for a pale ale, and certainly not in the hoppy India Pale Ale (IPA) style. People who like a sweet beer -- rather like a bock but with less alcohol and more of an ale flavor -- should enjoy it: I prefer a better balance between malt sweetness and the other flavors of a beer. For all the shortcomings of Denver International, at least people who must use it can get several styles of palatable beer there, for a price.