Mass-market American hard cider lives next to alcopops like Four Loko and Mike's Hard Lemonade. As with beer, it pays to go local. Colorado Common founder Matthew Bonno's east-side cidery distributes his two brews to a growing number of liquor stores around town (both $7.29/22 oz. bomber). Bonno says he's working on kegging, though he and his small team have yet to set a date.
The Summit House Cider, 6.5 percent ABV, pours gin-clear and a pale greenish-gold, sipping with a full mouthfeel. The wild yeast adds a funk that, with the remaining sugars, tastes a bit like an over-ripe red delicious, almost mealy in character. I prefer the 5 percent Original Cider, that finishes wine-dry and clean, leaving only faint green apple lingering at the back of the mouth. A blend of Cascade, Hallertau and Tettnang hops contributes mild piney, citrusy notes. These ciders may not mark a sea change in how we perceive cider, but they're a good start. — GS
El Rey Del Taco 2
3878 Maizeland Road, 418-2708, tinyurl.com/elraydeltaco2
We wrote about Erika and Cesar Gonzales' seafood triumphs at newly opened Los Faroles earlier this year (see "Flickering light," Nov. 11), but while we were there, Erika talked up the cochinita at her other North Academy restaurant. Believe the hype — Mayan barbecue is the new hotness.
Available in tacos ($8.99 for four) or as a plate ($10.99), the porky goodness gets a rich spicing and a reserved pepper heat, somewhere in the mild-to-medium range. On the plate, for which I opted, meaty chunks meet house-pickled red onions, refried beans and rice. But when my tortilla chips were unceremoniously dropped off sans salsa, I was confused. It turns out my server neglected to tell me that there was a well-stocked salsa bar tucked into the restaurant's rear. That hiccup aside, service was good. (And if you fall for cochinita, broaden your horizon at Quijote's Mexican Grill with its achiote-marinated-pork cochinita torta.) — GS
O'Malley's Steak Pub
104 Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake, 488-0321, omalleys.biz
O'Malley's celebrates 30 years in 2016, priding itself on opening daily year-round, with a full from-scratch menu from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Dropping in for my first time, after a deep-snow hike nearby, I accidentally catch a Broncos game (free popcorn!), which amps the atmosphere notably. The awesome staff handles the crowd well, with frequent check-ins and friendly instructions on where to cook my own meat — the outfit's other schtick besides being a kick-ass community hub.
I disappear to a back room with a huge grill set up like a hibachi table, with necessary tongs and spatulas plus seasoning salts. I sear a half-pound buffalo burger ($8.99) med-rare and a Red Bird chicken breast ($9.99 includes the salad bar and house-cut fries) to temp; at the table we pour from a commendable cup of thick, spicy green chile ($2.99) to garnish both proteins. We're over the moon with $3.50 New Belgium 1554s in hand and snow still falling. — MS