Thursday, December 19, 2013

Great Divide Brewing Company

Take the Highway...

Or, if you're in Denver, take the trolley, then take the sidewalk.  It's worth the trip.

While Tabitha and I were in Denver, we had the chance to walk to the Great Divide Brewing Company.   Tabitha and I have been to quite a few breweries over the last few years.  (Read about one of our favorites from earlier this summer).  Great Divide, however, was one of the most interesting and satisfying visits we've had, and here's why.

The tapwall at Great Divide.  Too many good beers, too little time.

First, the beers. From what I know, Great Divide doesn't specifically bill itself as a "high gravity" beer place, but it definitely has one of the largest spreads of big beers I've seen. From classics like the big brown Yeti and the delicious Titan IPA, to more obscure (at least here in TN) brews like the Old Ruffian Barleywine and Peach Grand Cru (which I tasted last and loved - wish I'd tasted it first), I could have spent all day in their taproom.

I Believe... this was an awesome beer.  Peach Grand Cru (I believe).
Unfortunately, their taproom's hours are limited, closing around 8 on weekdays, if I recall correctly. Also, no food served, but there was a food truck camped outside on a Tuesday evening, so I imagine you could easily make an evening of it.

Grabbed a couple brews and joined the tour.  Safety glasses required.
Brewery tours run a couple times daily. The last one of the day for us was at 4, and we got there just in time to grab a couple brews (no free samples on the free tour) and get in line.

The brew room at Great Divide

Brew room - Lauter tank

Some smaller batch fermenters
The tour was very interesting for a few reasons.  We usually visit breweries on weekends, so we usually don't see much going on.  This being a weekday, and/or the Great Divide folks being very industrious, we saw quite a few things going on.

Cleaning some sixth barrels

Bottling in progress!


The source of all bottles.
Inside, we got to see several things in motion. There was someone working what looked like a sixth barrel cleaning and prep setup shown above. I also saw my first bottling line in use, and took some pictures as they forklifted a pallet full of cases by us. Very cool.

For scale, look at the 1/6 barrels on the left.  This tank was HUGE.

Outside, the scale of their operation was apparent.  From a giant liquid CO2 storage tank, to the rows of massive fermenters, it's clear that GD means business.  In fact, from what the tour guide said, they are currently under capacity at their brewery, pushing hard to reach capacity, and already planning their next facility.  Given the quality of their beers, I was pleased to hear this.

Mile-high fermenters.

One of the most interesting things to me was the fact that all of this was outside.  Yes, these tanks are temp-regulated, but still, you couldn't do this in the south.  All of these fermenters breathing the mile-high air.

Yeast have no problem with the thinner air, I guess.  Now that's a blowoff.

I really needed more time than we had to experience their full menu.  When next we return to Denver, visiting Great Divide will definitely be on my list. That, and I'll be sure to better prepare a method for getting some of their more obscure delicious brews back with us. Maybe we'll drive...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Photos: A Snowy Trip to the Smokies

For Thanksgiving this year, we rented a cabin in the Smokies with family.  The day before, the area was blanketed with an early snow.  Here are some pictures from that trip.

Snow on the cabin.

Snow by the river.

Snowy banks.

One lane, wood-planked bridge.

Snowy road.  AWD got us out of some parking spots when we stopped.
Snowy path.

The Sinks

Cades Cove

That many cars backed up...

...for this deer.

Towards the end, no one was stopping for these guys!

I like the light in this photo.

Our trusty steed.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Pint of the Old and the New: Microbreweries in Dunedin, FL

A couple weekends ago we took a trip to Florida to visit family.  While we were there, we visited two microbreweries: one, and old favorite, and another, a new find.

The Old Favorite: Dunedin Brewery

Dunedin Brewery is the oldest microbrewery in Florida.  Located just off of 580 near Alt-19, this oldest brewery is one of our old favorites.  We've been going there for years, every time we're in the area, and have enjoyed seeing them, and their beers, evolve.

Built in an old firehouse, Dunedin Brewery is Florida's oldest microbrewery.

Dunedin Brewery's shop is in an old firehouse.  The big doors are now glass, but they must be useful for getting large equipment in and out.  The inside is mostly one big room, where their brew and fermentation vessels live.  Several years ago they added a seating area and started serving out of their own taproom, so you can now drink within arm's reach of your favorite fermenter.

The shrine tap wall

Initially, they had very, very basic bar food.  I'm happy to say that this trip their food was the best yet, what I would call "quality" bar food.  Tasty.

Drink with your favorite vessel

I'm also pleased to say that their beer is still great as well.  They have several solid favorites, and usually a rotation of more adventuresome variants on tap.  This time the standout was an Imperial Porter, which I gave 4.5 stars on Untappd.  The one criticism I'd level at their beer is they don't do a good job naming their beers, so it's often hard to tell what you're drinking, especially if you are outside of their distribution area and visit infrequently.  I've been to Dunedin Brewery a dozen or more times, but if you asked me what beer you shouldn't miss, I couldn't tell you anything other than they're all pretty good.  To me that seems great for their reputation, but not too good for building a brand.

They also do a ton of events, both in the brewery and in the area.  They're active on social media, so that seems a great way to keep up with the happenings at Dunedin Brewery.

The New One: 7venth Sun

7venth Sun was a drive-by spotting for us.  Situated at the corner of a little strip mall at the intersection of 580 and Alt-19 (very near Dunedin Brewery), it does sport a good location, as anyone sitting at that intersection can spot it. Even though it was an on-the-spot find, we mentioned it to our friends and family in the area, and they had all either been to it or heard good things about it, so word is out on this new brewery.

Small and large pours

7venth Sun is quite new: the guy at the bar said they'd been open less than a year, from about January 2013. One taste of their beers, however, and you can tell that the brewmaster knows his (or her) trade.  We only had time to sample a few, and I didn't get the chance to chat up the staff, but next time we're there, we will try to find out more.  For most brews, they do three different pour sizes, which I haven't seen before but seems like a great idea to me.
A small shop, it's amazing what's coming out of it.

An unassuming place, the inside is divided between a small bar and seating area on one side, with what may be the smallest commercial brew space I've ever seen on the other side.  There is also plenty of outside seating, and an open window bar, where you sit on the inside and look outside.

Mangrove Double IPA.  Fantastic.
Now, maybe we just know what we like and happened to pick the best ones, but I had a full pour of their Mangrove Double IPA (going straight to the double IPA at a new place is my thing now, I've decided) and it was fantastic.  Coming in at 9.7%, it was exactly what I like in an imperial IPA - balanced, with the right amount of crisp IPA mouthfeel and a really good color.  Tabitha's thing is of course still getting a few small pours, which also were all excellent.

We were super pleased with 7venth Sun's beers, and we will be coming back when next we're in the area to perform a more in-depth analysis (i.e. taste more beers).  So keep an eye out for that article soon!  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Fall Jaunt in Ijams Nature Center

Or, Never Forget What's in Your Backyard

The trail begins
A few weeks ago, Tabitha and I took advantage of a beautiful weekend afternoon and made a trip to a great park in Knoxville called Ijams Nature Center.

Ijams is one of our go-to places in Knoxville for a nice walk in the woods.

It has a good variety of well-marked trails, water, and beautiful views.

Truth be told, this post is really just an excuse to share some of the photos I took with my new camera.

 It's also an excuse to remember beautiful fall weather on a cold night.

And hope that next year, autumn lasts considerably longer.

Good advice?
 Hope you enjoyed!