Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Jess Fierro's Doña Neta taste test with Focus on the Beer

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 2:01 PM

On June 2, local homebrewer Jessica Fierro was announced as the winner of Beerland, a homebrewing documentary/competition TV show aired by Viceland. Her winning recipe, a tamarind biere de garde called Doña Neta, was chosen over brews from across the country, and was brewed for mass consumption by Golden Road Brewing of Los Angeles, the Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned brewery that sponsored the show.

While Doña Neta has yet to hit shelves in Colorado, the show's promoters set us a few cans to sample. So we tapped Indy food reviewer Griffin Swartzell and production director Ryan Hannigan, who also runs the blog Focus on the Beer, to give it a try. Check out their reactions below.
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Whirlyball to bring recreation, craft beer to central Springs

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 1:56 PM

Comfortable seating and lane-side food and drink delivery are just a few nods to craft culture that make Whirlyball interesting. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Comfortable seating and lane-side food and drink delivery are just a few nods to craft culture that make Whirlyball interesting.
Adam Elias has been playing Whirlyball since age 3. It's a sport of sorts, a cross between lacrosse, basketball and bumper cars, playable up to five-on-five. It's also a Chicago-based restaurant and entertainment chain, owned by the Elias family, and Adam is the Vice President of strategic planning. He's helping to open the first Whirlyball location outside of Chi-town, located at 3971 Palmer Park Blvd., in the Rustic Hills shopping center. It's set to open on Saturday, June 24.

Elias says the Springs made sense as Whirlyball's first expansion outside of Chicago for a few reasons, not least of which are the city's emphases on active entertainment and craft beer. While the neighborhood he chose for the 30,000-square-foot, $2.5 million renovation isn't the most happening part of town — the only other business in the shopping center is a Gold's Gym at the moment — he hopes Whirlyball can help revitalize the neighborhood.

Whirlyball stands out from similar venues like Dave & Buster's with plush service nuances and an emphasis on adults and corporate events. The venue at large fits around 600, and the dividable private event suite in back can host up to 160. Posh details include couches and big tables at the 12-lane bowling alley, plus lane-side food and drink delivery.

Speaking of food and drink, we saw some promise when we stopped by for a preview. Corporate executive chef John Cosnotti, formerly executive chef at Google's Chicago office, helped build the menu, which adds a few local items to a list of company wide standards. Day to day, the kitchen will be run by executive chef Charlie Roberts.

For drinks, Whirlyball has 24 taps and another 30 bottles, mostly featuring Colorado craft beers, including brews from Bristol Brewing Company, Denver's Great Divide Brewing Company, Boulder's Avery Brewing Company, and Dillon, Colorado's Pug Ryan's Brewing Company. Every menu item was designed to pair with a particular style, according to Elias. There will be a short house cocktail list. The company won't be featuring any locally distilled spirits at opening, but Elias says they're open to the idea.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sakura Speakeasy holds grand opening in Rooster's

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 10:55 AM

This signature martini uses a delicate infused gin with yuzu, Indian peppercorn and pomegranate. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • This signature martini uses a delicate infused gin with yuzu, Indian peppercorn and pomegranate.
Sakura Speakeasy, located behind a door inside of Rooster's House of Ramen, will hold its grand opening tonight at 5 p.m. The sorta-secret bar, owned by Sean and Inez Fitgerald of The Wobbly Olive and The Collective, will seat up to 24 patrons. Dylan Currier, formerly of Cowboy Star and Brooklyn's on Boulder, will take the role of bartender, having helped design the cocktail program.

"We intend to provide the level of service and experience that will create a continued desire to come not just once or twice, but for every guest to become regular patrons, while setting service standards city-wide," says Sean.

For more info on the bar's offerings, check out this article from one of our recent Side Dish columns.
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Friday, June 2, 2017

Sakura bar offers a taste of some bigger news

Posted By on Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 5:22 PM

  • Griffin Swartzell
We've been hearing about a new bar from a major player in the Springs' cocktail scene for a while now. Its name: Sakura. We're going to keep the details on this bar quiet for a few days longer, but check out the June 7th issue of the Independent for a full and proper run down.

In the mean time, we can share a few details about what the spot's going to be serving. Recently, we sat down with some of the bar's staff to sample an early version of the cocktail program — we don't see a lot of craft cocktail programs that incorporate Asian ingredients in the Springs, so this promises to be a unique spot.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Nano 108 announces American Craft Beer Week plans

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 12:10 PM

Nano 108 presents a high-altitude bristlecone pine bar top, barrel stave bar chairs and growler light fixtures. - COURTESY KEITH ALTEMOSE
  • Courtesy Keith Altemose
  • Nano 108 presents a high-altitude bristlecone pine bar top, barrel stave bar chairs and growler light fixtures.
Monday, May 15, marks the start of American Craft Beer Week, and in Colorado Springs, that means pairings and special releases aplenty. Downtown denizens may find this year's Pints & Plates pairing event thoroughly exciting, drawing brew talent from all across the city.

There's also big stuff a-brewing on the Powers corridor, too. Nano 108 Brewing Company (2402 Waynoka Road) has announced a week full of special tappings and pairings, partnered with seven local food trucks. Each will have a special menu item that uses a Nano 108 beer. Further, the brewery will have specials every night that week as well, from promo pint glasses to brewery tours to growler specials.

Check out the full schedule below. Special menu items will be announced on the Nano 108 Facebook page:
Monday - 15th
Roll Up Food Truck
Flight Night
Blueberry Cream Ale beer tapping

Tuesday - 16th
Pickled Pit Stop Food Truck
Take tour with the brewer night
German Dopplebock beer tapping

Wednesday - 17th
Awaken Cambodian Food Truck
Keep the glass night
German Hefeweizen beer tapping

Thursday - 18th
Johnny G's Delicioso Mexican Soul Food Truck
Special barrel aged beer release
Jim Beam barrel aged American Blonde Ale beer tapping

Friday - 18th
Pig Latin Food Truck
Patio Party & beer to go specials
Smoked Porter beer tapping

Saturday - 20th
Witty Pork's Woodfired Pizza Food Truck
Nano 108 Game Day
Sight Challenged Hog IPA beer tapping

Sunday - 21st
Bison Brothers Food Truck
Keep the glass day
German Dunkelweizen beer tapping

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Story Coffee barista/roaster Eliza Lovett recovering after roasting accident

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 11:46 AM

Story Coffee Company - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Story Coffee Company

Patrons at Story Coffee may have noticed a few different faces behind the bar lately — people like Bevan Cammell, Eric Nicol and Tyler Hill from Loyal Coffee. They and other local baristas are volunteering at Story to help support barista/roaster Eliza Lovett.

In April, Lovett was injured while roasting her competition beans in preparation for the US Barista Championship held in Seattle, Washington. The roaster caught a bangle on her left arm and pulled her in, severely injuring her.

“Kind of everything was ripped to shreds except for the things I needed to keep the arm," says Lovett. "Doctors have said I won’t make a full recovery, but I promise you I will prove them wrong.”

At this point, she's already regaining mobility in her fingers, and she says she can't wait to start doing physical therapy.

After the accident, fellow Story barista Elizabeth Shelby suggested that other baristas from around town cover Lovett's shifts, allowing her to get paid per the usual while recovering.

“It took her only a couple hours to fill up two months of shifts for me, which is absolutely insane,” says Lovett. “The outpouring of love and support is incredibly overwhelming.”

She's making not only her hourly pay, but all tips from her covered shifts as well. Currently, local roasters have covered her through June, but if she's not ready to come back to work, she says there's a waitlist of baristas offering to cover her July hours.

While Lovett was ultimately unable to compete at USBC, she flew to Seattle anyway in order to cheer on her fellow Springs competitor, Loyal coffee co-owner/barista Tyler Hill. While Hill was eliminated in the first round of competition, he was proud of his performance.

“I think, all things considered, I left probably prouder of my routine this year than my routine last year,” says Hill, calling this year's competition “significantly more stacked as far as how good the competitors were.”

“I’m super, super proud of him,” says Lovett. “I can’t wait for both of us to be back and competing next year.”
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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Rooster's House of Ramen holds soft opening

Posted By on Thu, May 4, 2017 at 11:40 AM

Chef Mark Henry's rippin' rooster bowl, one of five ramen options. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Chef Mark Henry's rippin' rooster bowl, one of five ramen options.
Locals know Chef Mark Henry for his time at the Ivywild School's Meat Locker as well as Brother Luck's Street Eats. The world at large knows him for last year's Chopped win. But how good is his noodle game?

Announced earlier this year, Henry's north Tejon venture, Rooster's House of Ramen (323 N. Tejon St.), held a reservation-only, friends-and-family soft opening on Wednesday, May 3.

While we traditionally wait a while after a restaurant opens to review — even the best need a little time to dial everything in — but we will share that we were quite delighted by the savory broth in the char siu brisket bowl. That vinegary tang took it to the next level.

Henry confirms that the restaurant will hold its grand opening on Monday, May 8. As you wait to #makeamericaslurpagain, enjoy the below slideshow.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Four by Brother Luck hosts stylish sneak peek

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 10:05 AM

Chef Brother Luck in the spotlight, after high-profile wins on popular television food shows. Four by Brother Luck opens for dinner service on Monday, May 1. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Chef Brother Luck in the spotlight, after high-profile wins on popular television food shows. Four by Brother Luck opens for dinner service on Monday, May 1.

By now you know he beat Bobby Flay.

Chef Brother Luck's enjoyed a great run lately, to include his victories and many award wins.

And now he's set to open the much anticipated Four by Brother Luck. Dinner service begins Monday, May 1, followed by full service launching Thursday, May 4.

In next week's Side Dish column, Griffin Swartzell shares more details about the Southwestern-themed menu and its four historical focus components.

You'll also meet chef Aaron Rivera, another big player in the kitchen, as well as lauded local bartender Luis Rodriguez, who's designed the sharp cocktail menu.

For now, please enjoy the above sneak peek slideshow.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tyler Hill is building community by way of coffee

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 11:31 AM


Before meeting Loyal Coffee's Tyler Hill, I had no idea what we were going to talk about — well, besides coffee. The only thing I knew about him at the time was his part ownership of Loyal, alongside Eric Nicol, Seth Fuller, Bevin Cammell, Abigail Baum, and Christopher Mueller, and that I wanted to create a video based around a local creator like him.

Once we met, it was clear that I was talking to a character I can only describe as the type that inspires everyone around them. The type of person who speaks with so much confidence and charisma that they leave you feeling like you were just inducted into a secret society of leaders, ground shakers and game changers. After the meeting, I knew that there wasn’t one single video sequence I could plan for that would encompass Tyler, someone so driven and whose words carry so much momentum that you’ll quickly be flattened by them if you aren’t ready.

I decided against a set of premeditated questions for the shoot, I didn't really even know where to begin. But what followed was a candid conversation about his childhood in Salida, Colorado, baseball career and why he chose to give it up, his tattoos and “punk” style, and the role of Christianity in his life.

Hill’s journey has always been about the people surrounding him and the communities he admires. From a small-town upbringing — where he witnessed the truest definition of community — to the punk rock and alternative music scene and the people that welcomed him, to Christianity and his love for Jesus, Hill learned early on what his true passion is — welcoming all walks of life into his beloved community.

At one point I asked him, “What does this all have to do with coffee?” Hill went on to explain how coffee requires a thriving community in order for it to be made, distributed, and enjoyed. He believes good coffee is a perfect catalyst to bring good people together, and that’s all he really wants to do. Though he's steadily adding to his credentials as a premier barista — competing for the second straight year at the US Barista Championship later this year — Loyal is his day-to-day playground, and all people are welcome to stop in.

“Coffee is an anchor [around] which people gather,” he says. “Coffee people care about other people a lot.”

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

503w's Emillio Ortiz wins cocktail competition at Brooklyn's on Boulder

Posted By on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 10:10 AM

The Springs' cocktail scene has a stunning amount of talent and creative diversity. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • The Springs' cocktail scene has a stunning amount of talent and creative diversity.

On March 27, eight of the best bartenders in the area came together to throw down with cocktails at Brooklyn's on Boulder Street (110 E. Boulder St.), all made from Lee Spirits Gins. Already, that's a recipe for success. But host Erika Mullett secured a panel of local and international talent acting as judges, raising the stakes.

In addition to lauded local chef/restaurateur Brother Luck and Brooklyn's head bartender Nate Windham, the competitors were judged by spirits writer and 86 Company co-founder Simon Ford, as well as 86 Company co-founder and founder of Employees Only, routinely rated as one of the best bars on Earth, Jason Kosmas. They were joined by local realtor Nate Banet, who won a raffle for the fifth judging seat.

Ford and Kosmas heaped praise upon the Springs' cocktail artisans, with Kosmas putting the talent present on par with anything he'd had in Austin, Texas, where he himself helped launch the craft cocktail scene. Ford's adulation was similar, noting that in other competitions, he's seen competitors turn in many somewhat similar cocktails. The talent on display that night had no such problem: there were no two drinks alike. So to paraphrase competitor Stephen Winchell, while some bartenders were beaten that night, there were no losers.

The judges' favorite was Emillio Ortiz and bar-back Ashlee Choi from 503w (503 W. Colorado Ave.). Ortiz's drink, Novara en fuego, was a take on the classic Italian drink, using Lee Spirits' Ginfuego pepper gin, Campari, Framboise reduction, fresh yuzu (a citrus fruit), and orange bitters. The judges complimented the drink's ambitiousness and complexity, as well as how well Ortiz presented the Campari.

Second went to Jason Sweeney and bar-back Courtney Caldwell, representing The Principal's Office (1604 S. Cascade Ave.) with Mr. Banana Grabber. Third went to Stephen Winchell and bar-back Noel Carlson, representing The Warehouse (25 W. Cimarron St.) with "Nate needs a pony."

Based on pre-mixed samples of each cocktail, the audience got to vote for their favorite as well. They picked Dylan Currier of Cowboy Star (5198 N. Nevada Ave. #150), assisted by bar-back Alejandro Sanchez of Axe & the Oak Whiskey House (1604 S. Cascade Ave.), and his cocktail, the Colorado Columbine. Currier used a blueberry-white tea infused gin, a thyme-blueberry simple syrup, lemon juice, and angostura bitters to craft something simple and clean.

Read below for photos of the event and details on every drink and competitor. (Please excuse the blur from the low lighting)

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Black Bear Distillery moonshine on shelves

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 11:27 AM

Black Bear craft moonshine sips smooth and a little sweet. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Black Bear craft moonshine sips smooth and a little sweet.
Victor Matthews’ hard liquor effort, Black Bear Distillery, has been in the works since 2015, and his promised Irish-style whiskey is still in the works. But Matthews has two varieties of moonshine out in bars and liquor stores.
  • Griffin Swartzell

The base shine is brewed with brown sugar and heritage yellow and white corn. He gets his corn from Bow & Arrow Foods, a Towaoc, Colorado-based company owned and operated by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

The resulting alcohol is distilled once, low and slow, to preserve the flavor of the grains, Matthews says. Right now, he’s released a clear variety and an oak-aged “reserve” shine, both available. That said, fans of the label design should pick up their bottles as soon as possible. Due to a possible copyright collision, Matthews will redesign the labels to remove the "exile" logo.
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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Bristol changes format for 13th annual Firkin Rendezvous

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 3:00 PM

Bristol Brewing Company's 13th Annual Firkin Rendezvous has been announced for Saturday, Feb. 18th, and it's going to be bigger than ever. Over 40 breweries have already signed on to bring beer, compared to 37 in 2016. Attendants of the last few years' may also note that the Bristol brewery floor gets, in a word, mighty crowded for the event.

“We kinda realized we’re getting bigger and more people want to participate," says general manager Derik Gentz. To make more space, he says they'll be setting up a heated tent outside, attached to the brewery, to make room for the additional brewers. They can now accommodate up to 50. But, Gentz notes, they're not going to let in more attendants than last year — it's still an event for around 375.

“It’s going to have a nice flow to it throughout the brewery so we’re not disrupting everything else at the same time,” he says.

Gentz has done us the kindness of releasing details on some of the beers visitors can expect. Bristol will be pouring a sour IPA with Cuties mandarin oranges. Boulder Beer Company will have a take on its Mojo Risin' double IPA. Three Barrel Brewing Company of Del Norte will bring a pecan sour ale. Denver's 4 Noses Brewing Company has brewed a rye ESB. And Idaho Springs-based Tommyknocker Brewery will offer a citrus IPA.

Read the full text of the press release below:
Bristol Brewing Co., known for brewing distinctive, award-winning beers for the people of Colorado, will host the 13th Annual Firkin Rendezvous on Saturday, Feb. 18. The event will feature an eclectic selection of cask-conditioned ales from more than 40 Colorado craft breweries, and one hundred percent of the profits will benefit the Colorado Brewers Guild.

The Firkin Rendezvous will be held in front of Bristol Brewing Co. from 1 pm to 5 pm. For the first time ever, the event will be held in heated tents located in front of the Ivywild School. Tickets can be found on Ticketfly and at Bristol’s Dry Goods Store: $45 for General Admission (2 pm to 5 pm), $15 for a Designated Driver ticket and $65 for a VIP ticket (1 pm to 5 pm).

“Firkin Rendezvous allows us to come together to celebrate and support our industry,” said Mike Bristol, owner of Bristol Brewing Co. “We enjoy introducing craft beer lovers to unique beers, and our guests get to access brewers and beer crews from across Colorado. Plus, it benefits the Colorado Brewers Guild. It’s a great event all around.”

Participating breweries include:
4 Noses Brewing Co.
Fieldhouse Brewing Co.
Ska Brewing
Backcountry Brewery
Florence Brewing Co.
Smiling Toad Brewery
Blue Spruce Brewing Co.
Fossil Craft Beer Co.
Strange Craft Beer Co.
Boulder Beer Co.
Great Divide Brewing Co.
Telluride Brewing Co.
Bristol Brewing Co.
Iron Bird Brewing
The Brew on Broadway (The BoB)
Carver Brewing Co.
Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery
The Post Brewing Co.
Cerberus Brewing Co
Kannah Creek Brewing Co.
Three Barrel Brewing Co.
Chain Reaction Brewing Co.
Left Hand Brewing Company
Tommyknocker Brewery
Crooked Stave
Locavore Beer Works
Upslope Brewing Co.
Dad & Dude's Breweria
Mockery Brewing
Ute Pass Brewing Co.
Dry Dock Brewing Co.
Odell Brewing Co.
Triple S Brewing Co.
Elevation Beer Co.
Pagosa Brewing & Grill
Ska Brewing
Epic Brewing Co.
Palisade Brewing Co.
Smiling Toad Brewery
FATE Brewing Co.
Rockslide Brewpub

Cask conditioning is a traditional British style of brewing that originated centuries ago when publicans lived above their pubs and made a life’s work out of tending their beers. Cask ales are fermented, dry-hopped, conditioned and served in a single cask, the ‘firkin’ being the British cask size most commonly used.

For more information on the Colorado Brewers Guild visit For more information on Bristol Brewing’s Firkin Rendezvous, including ticket information, visit Use #GoFirkinCrazy on social media.

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