The Larimer County Fair is a fantastic event every year, and more than anyone, beer lovers will find endless delight at the Gnarly Barley Brew Fest, happening alongside the Fair. We couldn’t wait to get to breathtaking Loveland, Colorado to take in our first beer festival as Mile High Brew. We’ve got our full experience after the break!
In plain sight of the majestic Rocky Mountains, under a (mostly) clear blue sky, we arrived at the Gnarly Barley Brew Fest, eager to start strolling, sampling, and loving beer on such a wonderful Saturday. With sample tokens in hand, we made our way towards the beer tents.
With so many amazing brewers in town for one event, it was tempting to try and hit each and every one. But despite our mighty fortitude, such an act of over-sampling would have left us far removed from our wits. But despite our overactive sense of responsibility, we managed to have a great time sampling some stand-out ales. Rather than wax poetic about every brewer in attendance, we instead did our best to pick our 4 favorites and focus our affections thusly.
Rocky Mountain Brewing, Colorado Springs
We were so wonderfully surprised by the quality of beer and people we found at the Rocky Mountain Brewery tent. Brewed just south of Denver in the shadow of Pike’s Peak, Rocky Mountain Brewery offered little in the way of pomp and circumstance. But what we drank under that tent showed us where the efforts of Rocky Mountain’s brewers are concentrated: brewing great beer.
We sampled both of Rocky Mountain’s sample offerings, the Mountain IPA and the Lady Lemongrass. Mountain IPA was everything we love in IPAs: piney, citrusy, bitter, and refreshing. But Lady Lemongrass was a knockout. She had the smell of fresh wheat, mountain air, and – you guessed it – lemongrass. The smell was no lie, either. Lady Lemongrass was as delicious as she was lovely, with a light, refreshing finish that quenched our terrible thirst. The blonde taste was welcomed under the hot sun, but the notes of fresh lemongrass added a depth and sweetness to Lady Lemongrass that left us wishing we had a few pints to drink instead of a small sampler.
Rocky Mountain Brewery was a surprise and delight at Gnarly Barley, and we can’t wait for an excuse to jet down to Colorado Springs to drink some more Lady Lemongrass and spend more time around the great folks from Rocky Mountain Brewery.
New Belgium Brewing, Ft. Collins
We at MHB are no strangers to New Belgium. In fact, we can’t think of anyone in Colorado who is. With many of the most popular beers in the state, and a nationwide reach approaching Sam Adams’ proportion, New Belgium is easy to find but hard to be disappointed by. Their showing at Gnarly Barley was no different. With their impossible-to-miss red tent, New Belgium was one of the most-visited tents of the entire festival. One sip of their offerings and it wasn’t hard to understand why.
Ranger IPA, one of our favorite IPAs at Mile High Brew, was welcome and refreshing. However, New Belgium had one stellar ace-in-the-hole: Super Cru. A 20th anniversary ale described as a “double Fat Tire with lots of alcohol,” Super Cru was an instant favorite. While the elevated ABV made us a bit light in the britches, we took our sweet time polishing off our samples of Super Cru. Sweet, tart, tangy, malty, delectable. Super Cru was among the most unique beers we tasted at Gnarly Barley, and we were eager to pickup a bomber ASAP once we got back home to Denver. Do yourself a huge favor and find Super Cru as quick as you can. Like most beer from New Belgium, you won’t be disappointed.
The People’s Choice: Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Loveland
The night before Gnarly Barley, we were fortunate enough to be presented a growler filled with Grimm Brothers’ “Little Red Cap” altbier. After picking our jaws off the floor, we poured ourselves a second (and third) pint. For a small, unassuming operation in Loveland, Grimm Brothers are producing some serious beer. Every attendee of Gnarly Barley received a special “voting token,” to be dropped in the bucket of your favorite sampled beer. With so much great beer, it seems hard to believe that any one brewery could have a serious chance of being chosen as #1. But the attendees of Gnarly Barley felt otherwise, and voted the Grimm Brothers Brewhouse “People’s Choice” by a landslide. And after visiting the brewhouse and tasting the beer, it came as no surprise.
Grimm Brothers are hardly an “old” brewery, but they brew with a mastery and passion that sets them far apart many breweries in Colorado. We can’t wait to see what next year at Gnarly Barley holds, and are even more eager to drink more from Grimm Brothers!
Were you at this years Gnarly Barley? What were the highlights? Did your favorite beer win?
We had a blast at Gnarly Barley, and couldn’t have had a better choice for Mile High Brew’s first ever beer fest. We can’t wait to see some of you again at GABF this year!
We’ll be back soon with more news, reviews, and tales of the beer we love. Love your beer. Thanks for reading!