Unique Colorado breweries: 4 beer styles you can’t drink at home

With the depth and breadth of Colorado’s craft brewing scene, there is a plethora of unusual experiences that beer drinkers can have at breweries, whether it’s trying a special concoction poured from a firkin, enjoying nitro styles, diving into a slush beer during the hot summer or joining a special event that allows you to try wood-aged beers straight from the barrel.

But some of the unususal experiences you can find are also based on drinking traditions that date back for generations, or even centuries. Although a few could theoretically be replicated at home, it’s much better to revel in the fun and the community of beer culture at the taproom.

Here are four styles of beer you can — and should — only drink at the brewery.

Czech-style mliko

Where to find it: Cohesion Brewing (Denver), Wild Provisions Beer Project (Boulder), Hello Brew Co. (Ft. Collins)

In the Czech Republic, pouring beer is an art — a tradition so valued that there are contests to see who can do it best. One of the top skills, believe it or not, is the ability to pour foam. But not just any foam: Czech bars use side-pouring faucet taps (often made by a company called Lukr) that have a screen and a variable opening to create a rich, almost latte-like foam that is fun to drink. In fact, there are names for the three ways to pour beers: “hladinka” is a normal pour; “šnyt” is about half foam; and “mlíko” is a glass nearly full of the sweet, creamy head that you are supposed to drink quickly.

When Cohesion Brewing opened in Denver in 2021, it was the first to bring this kind of Czech culture to Colorado, and its well-trained staff offers all three pours from Lukr faucets.

Don’t want to try an entire stein full of foam? Cohesion also sells foam shots that are great for Instagram photos and might even give your friends a little FOMO — or should we say Foam-o.

German fasser beer

Where to find it: Bierstadt Lagerhaus (Denver)

Bierstadt Lagerhaus is one of the premier producers of German-style lagers in the United States, and the owners already have a special thing going with their Slow Pour Pils, which are served in a tall, thin glass and topped, like a cupcake, with a tower of froth. But on one Saturday each month, the brewery invites anyone who orders a half liter of beer back into the brewhouse where one of Bierstadt’s owners or leaders will pour it directly off the tank or fasser (barrel), and before it has been carbonated or filtered. The specific beer depends on what the brewers think is tasting good during that weekend — and trying one with the brewer is a great way to understand how flavors in beer change during the brewing and packaging process.

Hot poker beer

Where to find it: Primitive Beer (Longmont), Ursula Brewery (Aurora), Burns Family Artisan Ales (Denver)

The words “hot” and “beer” aren’t a favorite combination for most people, but that wasn’t always the case. In the cold winters of 18th-century England and colonial America, drinkers would sometimes heat the liquid in their mugs with hot pokers from a fire as a way to stay warm. And although it sounds weird, the process is quite dramatic. If the poker is stirred, it caramelizes the beer, creating an aromatic, frothy head and adding a sweetness. Technically, you could do this in your own backyard, but why risk burning a hole through your flannel shirt or your Melly? Let the experts do it for you: Ursula and Burns each host special winter events, while Primitive held a monthly Hot Bierfest last winter — and probably will again this year — during which hot pokers are used to caramelize several different styles of guest beers.

English-style cask ale

Where to find it: Hogshead Brewery (Denver), Wynkoop Brewing (Denver), Bull & Bush Brewery (Glendale), Pints Pub (Denver), Coopersmith’s Pub & Brewing (Ft. Collins), Phantom Canyon Brewing, (Colorado Springs)

Few things evoke the U.K. for me more than a group of friends standing on the street outside a pub drinking heady, cask-poured, extra-special bitters from full-sized imperial pint glasses. So, what makes a cask ale? Well, it’s an unfiltered beer that has been transferred to a small steel or wooden barrel and then served by pumping it through a beer engine using a hand pull. No CO2 is added, resulting in a thick head of foam and a unique smoothness that can make it easy (too easy) to drink an entire pint in three big gulps. Cask ales are also served at warmer temperatures than other beers, sometimes lending them a richer flavor.

Cask ales aren’t that easy to find in Denver, but Hogshead Brewery specializes in them, with a few on tap at any given time, including porters, bitters, old ales, pales and browns.

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