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Posted: January 15, 2010

Colorado beer has gone to the dogs

But in a good way

Jay Dedrick

If the Colorado craft brewing community were to adopt a mascot, there's no question which animal would rise to the top:

Dog.

The canine influence on local beers is apparent even on a surface level. New Belgium's Mighty Arrow Pale Ale was named for Arrow, CEO Kim Jordan's Aussie/Border Collie mix. Ellie's Brown Ale from Avery Brewing honors founder Adam Avery's Chocolate Lab - her portrait graces the label. Pooches obviously had a profound effect on the folks at Maryland's Flying Dog Brewing, which of course got its start in Denver.

Walk inside a Colorado brewery, and chances are you'll come across a dog or two keeping the brew crew company. Brian and Becky Bennett of Colorado Springs took notice and decided to celebrate those relationships in "The BrewDogs of Colorado," a photo-dominated book that went on sale earlier this month. They compiled the images and words during a summer project that included their daughters Lauren and Kristen. The result of their work sells for $29.95 at brewdogsbook.com.

Worth the purchase price alone: a photo of a young John Hickenlooper in T-shirt and jeans, posing in front of the yet-to-open Wynkoop Brewing with his partners -
including the future Denver mayor's dog, Holiday.

SPEAKING OF DOGS, it was a three-dog night earlier this month when Oskar Blues celebrated its seventh "canniversary." In 2002, the Lyons-based craft brewer began canning Dale's Pale Ale, the first craft brew in the country to be sold in cans. Today, dozens of craft brewers across the country are selling their beers in cans, with more to follow.

On one of the coldest evenings of the year, droves of Oskar fans were bundled up inside the barn where it all started, pulling the scarves away from their chins just long enough to savor a sip of Dale's, Gordon, Ten Fidy and other brews. Some special suds were unveiled, too, including an impressive Imperial IPA that the brewery plans to launch in March as a seasonal product.

AND SPEAKING OF CANS, Wynkoop Brewing's Rail Yard Ale has returned to store shelves in cans. The Denver brewpub hadn't packaged its beers since 2001, when Rail Yard was last offered in bottles. It's now on shelves and behind bars at about 50 stores and taverns.

Not only is Rail Yard now in cans, it's also in jars of hot sauce and cakes of beer soap on sale at the Wynkoop, which may soon need to open a gift shop. Kegs of Wynkoop brews also are finding their way into a wider variety of bars and restaurants - I was pleasantly surprised to find B3K Schwarzbier on tap at Racine's recently. Click here for a list of Denver establishments carrying Wynkoop beers.

Beer idea man

Marty Jones has been talking up all those developments in his new role at the Wynkoop. He also is touting SOCIAL Drinker, a program recently launched by the Colorado Brewers Guild, a nonprofit trade group. Inspired by the Oregon Brewers Guild's SNOB (Supporters of Native Oregon Beer), SOCIAL stands for Supporters of Colorado's Indigenous Ales and Lagers. The idea is to foster a consumer community by promoting special events and offering discounts.

The $25 annual membership fee gets you a T-shirt, invitations to SOCIAL events and discounts. For details, go to www.coloradobeer.org

NEW ON STORE SHELVES this month is Blue Moon Grand Cru, a fancy, high-octane version of Blue Moon Belgian-style wheat ale. The Coors offshoot offers the beer in a 750 ml bottle as a seasonal release timed to celebrate a rare lunar blue moon taking place on New Year's Eve. A blue moon - second occurrence of a full moon during a calendar month - only falls on New Year's Eve about once every 20 years. But if the beer sells, I'm guessing Blue Moon won't make consumers wait that long for another taste.

Another rarity worth asking about at your favorite establishment: Odell's Mountain Standard Reserve '09. Packaged in a cork-topped bomber bottle, the deep mahogany ale offers citrus aroma in a smooth, balanced liquid that lands in theglass with a thick, creamy head. The latest in a long line of fine seasonal releases from the Fort Collins brewer.

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