If you love good beer and live here, you may already know Jason Yester and Todd Walton. During five-plus years as head brewer (and more than 10 years total) at Bristol Brewing Co., Yester experimented with creative beers, netted awards and suckled a large, loyal following. Walton, for his part, brought hard-to-acquire beers to Manitou Springs' Kinfolks as its former owner.
Now the ambitious men have partnered to open Trinity Brewing Co., a unique venture in a cleverly chosen location off Garden of the Gods Road. Sure, brewpubs abound, but how many espouse Slow Food principles, serve seitan (wheat gluten) vegetarian buffalo wings and offer grains of paradise (an exotic West African spice) in place of black pepper? And how many incorporate recycled materials like reclaimed barn wood for decor, or serve compostable cups of tea and water? (Trinity's also aiming to offer electronic menus next spring to save paper.)
Yester and Walton are trying to achieve something different, hinted at by the company's slogan: "Artisanal beer, slow food, conscious people."
The question is, two months into the game, are they succeeding?
Pumpkin and spice
Due to heavy demand and limited brew capacity, Trinity is brewing as fast as possible to stay supplied with its own beers. (It does offer roughly 25 other unique beers.)
According to Yester, all Trinity's food has been designed with beer pairings in mind. By spring, he anticipates special beer dinners on par with more common wine dinners.
At lunch, the term "Slow Food" took on a second meaning. So while waiting, we surveyed beautiful, carved-wood tap handles and a staff-made recycled-glass bar top, among other neat fixtures. My guest nursed the Farmhouse Saison, a lively French-style ale (similar to a Belgian) with strong nose and mild fruitiness that hints to the pumpkin, squash and coriander with which it was brewed. (Yester will alter the recipe through the year to match regional harvests, with a promise to never repeat a recipe. Nov. 12 brings a Noel-fashioned beer with white sage, lavender and garam masala spices.) I sipped the Soul Horkey, a slightly nutty, malty brownish ale, which, though delightful, left me jealous of the Farmhouse. Beers range between $4 and $5.
Eventually, a yummy bread bowl of Horkey Beer Cheese Soup arrived, paired with a fine organic spinach salad ($7.50 for the pair) adorned with a few black olives, grated jicama and a couple tomatoes in a creamy balsamic dressing. Though rich and flavorful, the cheddar soup couldn't top Phantom Canyon's famous Queen's Blond Ale and Smoked Gouda.
Next we broke into the Beef Stuffer ($7), served, like many of Trinity's snacks, in a chic, conical wire basket. The stuffer is a mini bread loaf partially filled with sauted onion, mushroom and bell peppers, mozzarella cheese and thin Colorado beef tips a bastardized Philly cheese steak. Tasty, but given its size, I'd suggest dropping the price by a buck. And the accompanying fries could use some crisp.
Lastly, we each nibbled a few almond-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates ($6), which arrived a little over-toasted, but still pleasing.
Take it slow
On a follow-up visit, three friends and I picked off a cheese plate, chicken tenders, a spinach avocado salad (all $7), the veggie wings ($6), a bowl of rice and black beans ($5) and more of the dates, this time perfectly heated. (Disclosure: I ran into a former co-worker who now bartends for Trinity and Yester, who also knows me.)
The salad, this time dressed in candied walnuts (always a nice touch) and red onion in place of tomatoes and jicama, equaled the lunch salad. The nicely breaded and moist tenders paired excellently with their accompanying barbecue dip. Everyone agreed that the cube-shaped vegan wings bested our expectations, with a soft center, crisp edges and a great bleu cheese dip. The rice and beans were unremarkable.
As for the cheese plate, cubes of Gouda, white cheddar and bleu accompanied two small, caraway seed-rolled goat cheese rounds (my favorite) and a thin-sliced La Baguette roll. All high-quality cheeses at a fair price. Rounding out that day's available beers, we sampled a satisfying, nitrogen-charged Flo IPA and the creamy and delicious Awaken Stout, which boasted an impressive, smooth coffee flavor with scant bitterness.
All thoroughly pleased with our food, we agreed that Trinity succeeds as a restaurant model similar to Nosh, where small plates of creative food get paired with fine drink. It feels like a friendly tapas bar, with a distinct Boulder vibe.
As for the Slow Food claim, derived from the international movement to eat tasty and sustainably produced food: Trinity taps in with a few organic and local food options, and with mindfulness in design and presentation. Most of the gourmet offerings surpass generic pub eats. But the term "Slow Food" wouldn't have necessarily jumped to mind. Remove the loaded culinary idiom, and Trinity stands on its own merits just fine.