April 10, 2014

The School in the Heart of the Napa Valley of Beer

By: Ryan Hodros, Pastry and Culinary Arts Student

The School in the Heart of the Napa Valley of Beer3People outside of the Boulder area are probably wondering what there is for Escoffier students to do outside of class.  Before moving to this area, I was told about amazing hiking, camping, and outdoors activities, a thriving night scene at Pearl Street, and a public transportation system that links you to everything Denver has to offer.  But, if you’re like me, you want to know where you can go to try new and exciting beers and meet interesting people.

As the beer writer for 303 Magazine (a job I got through the Escoffier externship program), I’ve been taking a week-by-week tour of this area’s smallest microbrews and I thought it would be interesting to share some of my experience with prospective, 21 year old students.  (I’ll be completely honest, this article was inspired by a blog entry shared about the Austin Campus, but a good idea is a good idea.)

J Wells Brewery

The School in the Heart of the Napa Valley of Beer4Located on 49th St. just off Pearl, J Wells is the smallest brewery in Boulder, if not all of Colorado.  Jamie Wells, the owner, in addition to having some of the most impressive mutton chops of anyone I’ve ever met, brings 20+ years of brewing experience into his independently founded nanobrewery.  Specializing in authentic English style beers, J Wells is about as close as you can get to a London Pub without updating your passport.  With a cozy 38 seat tap room, food trucks offering a variety of grub, and frequent live music, J Wells is a great place for an evening, or for an after class pint of bitters.

Bootstrap Brewing

The School in the Heart of the Napa Valley of Beer2With eclectic décor, personable staff, and a variety of events that include dessert pairings and euchre night, Bootstrap is one of my regular haunts.  Not to brag or anything (this whole journalism thing is still new to me), but I’ve met the owners Steve and Leslie and they are amazing people.  If they have a few minutes to talk, ask them what inspired them to open a microbrew—it’s an inspiring story.  But make sure you don’t leave without trying their Backfire Chili beer.  They take their golden ale (great on its own) and keg it with Fresno chilies in a way that has a golden beer foretaste but a BBQ chip finish.  It’s the best chili beer I’ve ever tasted.  It’s located off Foothills in Niwot, but it’s definitely worth the trip.

Gravity Brewing

This one is a fifteen minute drive from campus, out in Louisville, but it’s definitely worth the trip.  Co-founder John Frazee and master brewer Julius Hummer have put together some amazing Belgian style beers to rival anything we can bring from overseas.  Do yourself a favor and order a 12 ouncer of their Coolship Belgian Wit—it’s my new favorite beer.  They have live music on most Thursdays and Saturdays, as well as a variety of other events.  They’re going to be adding a food menu by World Wide Vittles founder Chris Nearing.  Definitely check them out if you’re a fan of Belgian beer.

Southern Sun

The School in the Heart of the Napa Valley of Beer5If you’re a public transportation junkie and don’t have a car after class, Southern Sun is just around the corner from Escoffier’s main campus.  I haven’t visited them as a beer writer, but I’ve been there a number of times as a patron.  They make an amazing burger, a massive plate of nachos, and some of the best beers you can find.  They also have a fun, eclectic atmosphere that is quiet enough to unwind after a stressful test day.  I whole-heartedly support responsible drinking, so be careful at Southern Sun—it’s incredibly easy to over-indulge.

This is just a sample of the microbrews available in area surrounding Auguste Escoffier.  Again, it’s important to be responsible while in school.  But as future chefs in the belly of what USA Today called “the Napa Valley of Beer,” I would argue that it’s important to supplement the knowledge given in school with some extra-curricular sampling.  So make sure you stay out of the “work-school-home” rut and head out for a pint every now again while you’re here.  It’s an opportunity you shouldn’t pass up (if you’re of age.