The Know: The East and West Coasts have their own IPAs. Could this be the one that defines Colorado beer?
“GOLDEN — Colorado wants to stake its own claim when it comes to the most popular craft beer style in America: the India pale ale.
The IPAs from the West Coast are known for their hoppy bitterness. The East Coast versions showcase fruit flavors extracted from the hops — especially the juice-like New England IPAs bursting onto the scene.
The “Colorado IPA,” said Josh Robbins, the co-founder and brewmaster at New Terrain Brewing in Golden, is an amalgamation: golden in color with a fruity aroma and flavor paired with a bit of bitterness to balance the medium body and dry finish.
“To me, this is sort of in the middle,” he said of his IPA, dubbed “Lost.” “It is a balance of fruit and a bit of dank to come up with a great IPA.”
The description, as Robbins acknowledged, applies to plenty of IPAs from brewers seeking to balance the flavor and bitterness derived from hops with cereal and sweetness qualities from the grain. “I don’t think we were thinking it’s a new style that’s outrageously different than anything else,” he said.
But his wife and co-founder, Kaylee Robbins, is more bold: “I think we are trying to make it a style,” she said.
Whether New Terrain’s beer represents a new style, a marketing trick or merely state pride, the urge to make a Colorado-centric style is part of the larger trend to identify beers by their location to separate them from the growing craft beer herd.
And it’s about time Colorado planted a flag. The state ranks No. 2 in the nation in the number of craft breweries, serves as home to the Great American Beer Festival, and holds a name that is generally synonymous with beer.
Instead, Colorado is appreciated for its quality and variety of beer, with niche breweries that lead their class and generalists that spread the state’s brand nationwide. Most brewers see this as a strength, not a weakness.
“What I admire about Colorado craft beer in general is the outstanding quality and willingness of independent craft brewers in the state to make a wide variety of beers exceptionally well with a local twist,” said Dave Cole, the co-founder of Epic Brewing.
When it comes to IPAs, it’s a similar story. “I am not sure if there really is a singular Colorado-style IPA,” Cole said. “So many great IPAs are brewed here now.”
Epic Brewing’s Escape to Colorado IPA is one of a handful of beers that bear the state’s name or invoke a location-specific quality. The name represents a story of the brewery’s move from Utah to Denver.
Breckenridge Brewery launched a new IPA in 2015, before being bought by beer giant Anheuser-Busch, that it dubbed a “Colorado-style IPA” — which the brewery described as “delightfully hoppy with satisfying body.”
The beer that claims the name “Colorado IPA” is made by Denver’s River North Brewery.
Patrick Annesty at River North said the team spent six months making test batches to try to find “a more unique flavor profile, something really expressive.”
“We knew we wanted something West Coast-ish with a nouveau floral aspect,” he said.
Still, he doesn’t see it as a unique IPA style. “I don’t think we can boast that we created something monumental for the state here,” Amnesty said. “Colorado makes many different great IPAs.”
This is what makes Colorado beer difficult to categorize. The brewers are recognized for forging their own paths, rather than building an identity from one type of beer.
Even as he puts the state seal on one beer style, Josh Robbins appreciates the variety.
Less than a year old, New Terrain offers plenty of different hop-centric beers, including a New England-style IPA next to its Colorado version — the most popular of an ever-changing list of taps at the bar.
Robbins, who previously worked at Mountain Toad Brewing in Golden, raises his hands to his ears and shrugs his shoulders when asked what defines Colorado’s beer scene.
If anything, he said, it’s the brewing all-stars that call the state home, such as New Belgium, Avery and Great Divide.
“The traditional breweries had a wide variety of beers that didn’t match. They weren’t all doing the same thing,” he said.
And, come to think of it, he said, “Maybe that’s part of the success, too.”
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