Triple S Brewing owner Steve Stowell, ex-Special Forces, is an eminently likable guy. His energy is palpable, and when he shares the knowledge he's built up from his beer-judge certification and five years' brewing experience, it makes the info all the more engaging.
On the tasting room chalkboard, he provides basic stats for each brew, including hop bills, beer color and IBUs, with remedial style descriptions on the menu. Clearly, Triple S functions as the passion project of a dyed-in-the-wool beer geek. Boasting five flagship beers, three seasonals and a business license allowing him to bring in guest taps, Stowell is off to a good start — with a few reservations.
Take, for instance, the All Colorado Beer Festival gold-medal-winning porter. Persistent coffee marches to the forefront of both the nose and the taste of this slightly thin brown-black pour, the product of a grain bill dominated by dark-roasted malts. Without food, the coffee overwhelms any chocolate notes — a little more body might even things out. That said, at 5.6 percent alcohol, it's a highly sessionable beer, especially with cold weather's arrival.
Right now, Stowell offers two IPAs on tap. Due to brewer error, his first batch got a much darker crystal malt and a lighter dose of hops; the result, dubbed OG IPA, has nice depth. Its darker malt emphasizes the earthy elements of his hops. It remains on the menu as a seasonal due to customer demand — and frankly, I prefer it to the alternative. That one looks golden-pale and sips thin, though it blends citrus and grassy hop notes to an interesting end.
As for the lightest beers, the seasonal blonde shouldn't be trusted — it drinks like a session beer at 6 percent, with a clean and mild flavor. Stick with that over the Berliner weisse, which tastes more of flint than expected citrus without aid from the accompanying shot of raspberry syrup.
Whatever you drink, you're almost sure to find a solid, affordable bite, with nothing crossing the $10 line. The pork sandwich stands out, sporting pork braised in house porter and coffee from Denver's Sweet Bloom roasters. It's salted perfectly, and the roasty flavors from the coffee and porter make up for a weak house pickle, keeping things balanced despite the lack of acid. Also noteworthy, the chicken Sriracha and lamb sausages present on both the sampler plate appetizer and sandwich entrées are made to recipe at Sara's Sausage in Palmer Lake.
For lighter fare, the Triple S Salad sees stupid-fresh spinach and seasonal fruit meeting pumpkin and sunflower seeds under cucumber and red onions, though it's a tad overdressed with candy-sweet strawberry balsamic. The Michelada Shrimp acts as a deconstructed shrimp cocktail, sporting a house pale ale in the namesake beer cocktail, a little skimpy for the price. For a better build-your-own-bite, try the Apples, Brie and Figs plate, which includes spice-glazed nuts, balsamic fig glaze and flatbread — not the advertized naan, but still good.
Whatever criticisms may be leveled at Triple S come down to near misses rather than wide errors. Stowell's relative greenness gets overshadowed by passion and good allies — Red Leg brewer Todd Baldwin mentors him, and the menu was designed by former Blue Sage Catering chef Greg Soukup. While Triple S hasn't shot to the front of our fair city's 26-brewery pack, it's certainly keeping up.