I finally ventured into month-old Green Man Taproom & Beer Garden
last night, thankfully just in time to sip some of the quickly dwindling, amazing and rare, collaborative Oskar Blues
and Shamrock Brewing Company Death By Coconut
Or "Death By Cocomut" as the Green Man menu indicated — a typo worth a snicker, but actually a pretty cool name for a beer if you added an extra "t" at the end, considering how the dark chocolate and coconut inputs created somewhat of a mixed breed brew. (I think owners Scott
and Petra Simmons
are on to something ...)
I mention this ultimately insignificant foible up front here — let's be honest, we're here for the beer, not the menu spelling — because it's actually one of several small faults we found that didn't really undermine our experience, but served to show that Green Man remains in the early-days growing pains phase. Allow me to unpack:
Firstly, the place looks awesome, though not yet fully realized, like a Shakespearean set piece that's around 80-percent through build-out. Gold curtains hang from the curvy, ornate old church rafters and the giant, central, square bar's copper accents glisten regally in the late day light. But a sight-line down the bar's interior shows unfinished wooden framing with some dark scrim tacked up, feeling a bit unfinished and undermining — kind of like when you can see into the wait station at a fine dining restaurant from its dining room.
Seating yourself at the bar, you'll find long, daily-printed menus detailing the current array of 44 beer taps, which let's recognize, is a commendable coup fit for such a royal setting.
Simply put, it's damn exciting to scroll down the list and find wholly unfamiliar beers, rare and exclusive ones, abundant variety and the emphasized option for sampling widely on half pints (only $2 on Thursdays, excluding the high ABV brews).
In addition to the Death by Coconut, friends and I sampled the following last night: on the awesomely hoppy front, San Diego, Calif.'s Port Brewing Wipeout IPA
and Denver's Epic Escape to Colorado IPA
In more of the amber and interesting realm: Louisville, Colo.'s Gravity Brewing Ebb & Flow - Double Red Rye
(potent at 9-percent ABV!) and Colorado Springs own and newly opened Lofty Brewing
And in the dark and stormy arena, again, in addition to the coconut porter, we tried Durango's Ska Brewing Vernal Minthe Stout
, concocted with vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, spearmint and peppermint for a surprisingly non-cloying and perfectly balanced, dessert-like treat. (A scoop of vanilla ice cream in this for a beer float would be genius.)
A little more on the home team: I reached out to Lofty's owners, Matt
and Nicole Tussey
— who are hosting a tap takeover
at the Austin Bluffs Old Chicago tonight, by the way — for more info on the Red Velvet, which sported a noticeably sweet aroma and finish, almost fruity but quite elusive. Here's what they said:
We came up with that idea while contemplating how we can play around with the seasonality of beer. We do like to use seasonal ingredients when we can but also seasonal ideas. Coincidentally, it was around Valentine's day and we wanted to make something that was indulgent, rich ... chocolatey. But not something as heavy as a porter or stout. I love Red Velvet cake and that dessert is synonymous with Valentine's Day so we loaded it with the victory and chocolate malts and that was the result. Based on the reception from Green Man and FRBBQ so far, we hope to offer it every year in late January through February.
So, as you can see, there's not only no shortage in the beer selection, but there's a lot to love on display, with constantly rotating selections so that no single night's visit should look like any other.
Scott informed me this morning that the Epic keg blew last night after I left, along with a couple other kegs, meaning I could expect a few newbies tonight should I venture in.
Our only problem last night with the beer was getting it into our hands in a timely manner. For our final round, for example, we sat next to empty half-pint glasses for 10 minutes until we could hail Scott politely, as he was busy running from task to task.
You don't have to do years of service industry work, as many of us (including myself) have, to know that empty glasses are the enemy and will lose you an audience quickly.
Scott acknowledged this morning that he'll likely add a body to the Thursday night shift, based on last night's crowd of 35 or so around the 7 to 8 p.m. hour that I witnessed. Like all upstarts, he's having to scale up as business necessitates without overstaffing early and eating up critical finances.
The hustle lead to some other errors, including me discovering on my emailed Square receipt this morning that the Thursday discount had not applied to the applicable beers on my bill, equalling a $5.25 over-charge. And on one of our sandwiches which had been ordered with beef, it arrived instead with chicken — a first-world problem to be sure, but still an error that most diners won't welcome.
Our Blazing Buffalo Chicken Sandwich
and Mostly Organic Grass & Graze Sandwich
(each $9) were both good, plated with a basic pickle and handful of blue corn chips.
Both come on panini-pressed Udi's Italian Wheat
bread. The Blazing Buffalo takes thick-cut Boar's Head
buffalo chicken and pairs it with Muenster cheese, cucumber, Paul Newman's ranch dressing and Frank's RedHot. I could have gone for more of the latter ingredient as it remained pretty tame, though quite beer-friendly.
The Grass & Graze fared more superior, with Cajun roast chicken subbing in for Italian beef in this case. horseradish adds bite along with yellow mustard while tomatoes, basil, cilantro and arugula bring the garden inside the bread for excellent herb notes that particularly pair well with the IPAs. This one's as proficient as the Turkey Spiedie from the Meat Locker.
The current menu also includes a Reuben for $8, a "cup o' nuts" for $5.99, a cheese plate for $17.99 and meat and cheese plate for $23.99, which includes a 19-ounce Pilsner Urquell
Regarding some scuttlebutt I'd heard from those who attended the opening weekend (and felt the place was barely ready) or visited over the last few weeks and commented on the unfinished feeling — like, how in lieu of an actual tip jar/cash box, a wrinkled paper bag sits at the center island's edge next to the iPad which seemingly handles most transactions — I asked Scott how the first month's been and the timeline for finishing touches, including the envisioned outdoor beer garden.
"That's the nature of a soft opening," he says, "it's more of an opportunity for a business owner to turn everything on and make sure it works."
Unfortunately, he explains, some beer lines weren't working on that opening night and it took him about an hour to reconfigure them. Because of some convoluted aspects of liquor licensing requirements — one of which was just resolved this morning with a transfer that came through, he says — he had to host that evening as an event instead of an opening, with only eight beers available on a conditional-use permit.
So a desired grand entrance with all 44 brews on display simply couldn't be, but "it's going really well [now]" he says, noting how "each day our numbers get bigger and bigger."
And that's good for him and those of us who love beer variety and sudsy spectacle, as he's admittedly had to "tighten up finances," re-budget and and organize his ambitious effort into more of a phase one and phase two endeavor — the garden element obviously falling in the latter phase.
One aspect which also may
come in future is the handy option (pretty much universally available elsewhere) for taster samples and beer flights — currently unavailable — which is somewhat of a disconnect for a place built around encouraging people to "try something outside of their comfort range."
"We're looking into it," says Scott, noting how the service component of that pinches time with meticulous pouring as well as extra glass cleaning. "We may do it at specific times when we're not slammed, when it's practical," such as a slower Monday night.
What is a guarantee at this point is the addition of four nitrogen taps within the next couple of weeks, ideally before Colorado Springs Craft Week,
This Sunday, April 6, at 5 p.m., catch a very exclusive (as in the only place in the Springs to get this) tapping of Rockyard Brewing Company
's bourbon barrel-aged oatmeal stout, a 10-percent ABV beast aged for 12 months in a Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon barrel.