Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse and Pub
21 S. Tejon St., 385-0766, jackquinnspub.com
Honduras native and 13-year Quinn's veteran Yanira Chavarria became head chef a few months back, having inspirationally worked her way up from dishwashing. She's a "phenomenal baker," in GM Les Bridger's words, and it's evidenced by the authentic Irish soda bread that accompanies the Grand Ole Irish Stew ($10.75). The bread's intentionally dense and crumbly, sweetened by a touch of molasses, and the highlight of the characteristically "basic" dish. "Most traditional Irish dishes are very simple peasant food," says Bridger. "We want to be true to our roots as a pub. Pub fare should stick to your ribs."
The lamb hunks are outnumbered by potato wedges, seasoned lightly in beef stock with thyme and garlic; salt and pepper assist greatly at the table. The Guinness Stout Cheese Soup ($6 bowl), by contrast, delivers the sharp depth of Irish and American white cheddar laced with toasty hints of the reduced beer plus liquid smoke, easily mistaken for smoked gouda. — Matthew Schniper
Shamrock Brewing Company
108 W. Third St., Pueblo, 719/542-9974, shamrockbrewing.com
Shamrock is like Jack Quinn's blended with Phantom Canyon: a strong Irish brewpub with solid food. Plus there's assistant brewer Dustin Wertz's mesmerizing handlebar mustache presiding over our beer sampler ($7).
On it, the creamy, super-hopped Oat IPA and awesomely aromatic Pueblo American Pale Ale reign supreme. The Porter hits high roasted coffee notes, the Irish Red big, nutty, toastedness. And while the Scotch Strong is clearly a large ABV, it's balanced by a 5 percent Steel City Gold that's perfectly light and nondescript for the masses, as well as a Pumpkin Ale bearing heavy vanilla flavor. All could use a touch more mouthfeel, unlike the ridiculously good Jameson Meat Loaf ($9.95) and Chicken Green Chili Mac ($11.95). The former benefits from a great whiskey barbecue sauce and noticeably quality beef and pork from a local ranch that grabs Shamrock's spent grain. The latter's got Pueblo chili heat, bacon backbone and a rich Irish Alfredo sauce. — Matthew Schniper
Boulder Beer Company
2880 Wilderness Place, Boulder, 303/444-8448, boulderbeer.com
Boulder Beer's newly released Shake Chocolate Porter (around $9/six-pack) indeed delivers strong chocolate flavors all the way across the palate, with a smooth, rich texture and a malty, dark-chocolate-bitter finish balanced by a mild sweetness. Brewmaster David Zuckerman says he concocts it with a "big blend of roasted barleys" that includes chocolate wheat and malt, plus toffee-flavor-imparting Crystal 50/60 malt. Then, in contrast to the hoppy tendencies of Colorado's oldest craft brewery, a restrained amount of nugget and Tettnang hops meet an undisclosed bit of cacao, plus lactose, in the brew kettle.
The almost synthetic tinge I taste on the far back end might be due to a small touch of chocolate extract (listed as "natural flavors" on the bottle), though Zuckerman aims to avoid "cloying sweetness." Still, 5.9 ABV Shake's easily in line with Young's Double Chocolate Stout for enjoyability, even if both must bow to Odell's superior Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout. — Matthew Schniper