Mike Bristol and his Colorado Springs crew recently celebrated their 10th anniversary and 3,000th batch of beer, and have released select brews that literally have been years in the making. Head brewer Jason Yester released his much-anticipated Harvest Ale this month, a 99.9 percent-Colorado-grown brew that's the first of its kind.
Harvest Ale uses local malt, wild and homegrown hops (some harvested from Cheyenne Caon), hand-harvested rose hips, barley from Walsenburg, caramelized Granny Smith apples from Palisade and yeast cultured from wild Colorado raspberries.
"It's the most challenging beer I've yet accomplished in my career," says Yester. "Everyone in the beer world said I was insane to try it."
Bristol often has blazed trails, even in a continually evolving industry. Recently, Yester had to appeal to the nation's Brewers Association to create new categories in competition to accommodate Bristol's unique brews. Bristol's Belgian-style wood-aged beer series, known as Skull & Bones, boasts such complexities that wine terminology serves to describe it where beer vernacular falls short. (Who's ever been to a brewery before and heard terms like terroir aptly kicked around?)
Key to the brewery's success is that Mike Bristol, a former brewer, knows beer and is not afraid to let his team experiment. With Yester working alongside Joe Hull and Tucker Mitchell, the former head brewers at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company and Il Vicino, respectively, Bristol has created a juggernaut.
On the heels of the groundbreaking Harvest Ale's success, Bristol is looking to ally with Venetucci Farms to grow ingredients for a new Farmhouse series. The successful brewery really exists in two spheres: a precision, front-house commercial microbrewery and a creative, back-house playground.
"Back there, we let the beers decide what they want to become," says Yester. "We trust the natural process.
"Quality. Purity. Sanity."
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