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I am steeping in beer ingredients. I am drinking beer. I am one with the beer.

Sounds like a mantra, but really it’s just my Tuesday morning in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood at The Beer Spa. I’ve come to find out if this odd self-care experience is just a bunch of wet, craft enthusiast hipster nonsense or actually a healthful thing worth paying $119 per couple to soak in a bath of hops, barley and fennel for an hour. Oh, and that’s before the optional $20, 200 mg CBD bath bomb, because cannabidiol clearly belongs at such a relaxing party.

Let me back up to the beginning though. My editor asked for a Summer Guide pitch, so I valiantly — heroically, really — offered to go soak in and drink beer. I’d seen something about The Beer Spa flash across my social media a few months back. I didn’t actually say to him, “This is a job I was born for and am trained to tackle,” but it was what I tried to convey when I sought the green light. I told him I wanted to approach this with skepticism, a little snark and probably write it up as a somewhat sudsy commentary on boutique beer and health-and-wellness culture in the crazy ass, post/present-pandemic year of 2021.

But here I am, breaking my verbal contract and conceding that The Beer Spa is actually really freakin’ cool. I can’t even be a smart ass, much as I want to. It’s forcing me to take a hard look in the mirror and ask what this says about me and maybe the world at large. Maybe I am yuppie scum, too easily amused or merely manipulated by an array of botanicals that seeped into my skin and are forcing my fingers at the keyboard, bending them to their benevolent will. 

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But at least I know I’m not alone. The Beer Spa’s online calendar is booked out steady into the future. And though this is a first-of-its-kind operation in these parts, it’s actually inspired by a place in Poland that founders Jessica French and Damien Zouaoui discovered on their travels through 25 countries, as they sought inspiration for an “innovative” business to launch together. It’s worth reading the story on their web page that details this adventure and what they learned about the long history of bathing culture dating to the Romans, Egyptians and beyond. Anyway, their journey took them from New York to trendy, beer-friendly Denver, where they personalized their beer spa concept with a self-serve taproom and other cool touches they borrowed from places of travel inspiration, including Hungary and South Korea.

 Each month, a different Colorado brewery does a six-handle tap takeover. (June hosts Arvada’s Spice Trade Brewing.) The other four in the 10-tap system are devoted to a rotating gluten-free beer, a cider, and one red and one white Infinite Monkey Theorem wine. (Our visit had Golden’s Holidaily Brewing’s GF Favorite Blonde Ale; Denver’s Stem Cider, a pear flavor; and a rosé wine and Blind Watchmaker red blend.) But Golden’s New Terrain Brewing held court in the lobby tasting room during May, with their Suntrip Belgian Wit, Rambler American Amber, Mirage Dry-hopped Sour, Rise & Climb German Kolsch, Hoppatropica Citra Ale and Up & About Mocha Stout.

Getting started is easy, as the ”beer therapists” check you in and guide you into a swank lounge, past a display of retail products that includes cool, beer-infused soap bars from Firestone’s Flatirons Soap Works; beer can candles from Denver’s Craft Beer Babe; the CBD bath bombs from Boulder’s Vital You, and the same house-label beer shampoo, conditioner and lotions guests utilize in their private spa rooms. These, by the way, smell absolutely heavenly, the conditioner in particular smelling like some hybrid of oatmeal, chocolate chip and ginger snap cookies. My nose tells me it’s something that should be eaten, but since I’m not a toddler I use my adult brain to make better choices and simply rub it in my beard while I do the recommended 20-minute far infrared sauna sweat ahead of the 30-minute soak, with a little time extra for a pre-soak cold rinse and post-soak shower off.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back in the lounge/taproom, our awesomely friendly beer therapist (see how I’m using that term without quotes here, legitimizing and dignifying the title just one paragraph later) pours us a small sample of each of the beers so we can enjoy a mini flight before we commit to using our included $10 beverage credit to fill the double-wall mugs that we’ll take into the soaking room.

I don’t think she does this for all guests, but she’s overheard us talking about sampling everything — including non-alcoholic selections ($4-$5) from a separate cooler that include Denver’s Grüvi N/A beers, Happy Leaf kombuchas from Lakewood, and Hoplark HopTeas out of Boulder. So she’s helped us along while we begin picking at a small charcuterie board we’ve pre-ordered to help soak up some of the suds. (There’s also complimentary glass jars of dehydrated banana chips plus snack mix with salty sesame sticks, pretzels and peanuts that make fine beer companions.)

The Beer Spa recommends arriving half an hour early for this procession and you’re welcome to linger after and drink more before departing. Our soppressata and salami pair best with the wines, while the cheeses play best with New Terrain’s clean, almost honeyed kölsch, the sweet cider (accurately described with a caramel-pear aroma) and Holidaily’s easy-drinking blonde, whose grain bill doesn’t betray its lack of gluten. The olives, crackers and fruit better contrasted Grüvi’s hugely hoppy IPA and the velvety textured (pleasantly not-too) sour and bitter citra ale, big with apricot and island flowers in its nose, particularly passion fruit.

That left the wit, an obvious pairing to the banana chips (because the Belgian yeast), and the amber, friendliest to the salty snacks. We saved the deeply roasty but beautifully light-bodied mocha stout for post-soak dessert, particularly enjoying the maple and coffee nose that preceded sips with a promise of very good things to come. And took a vibrant orange-basil kombucha out the door for sobering along with two splendid HopTeas: the Citra Bomb One, white tea with Citra hops and 30 mg of caffeine (about one-third cup of coffee), as well as the Green Tea One, green tea steeped with Mosaic hops to the tune of 60mg caffeine and big, pretty piney notes — I absolutely fell in love with these teas, thinking they’d be great to satisfy hop cravings and trick the mind/body during a cleanse period when you don’t want to drink, like after New Year’s or the last time you binged and threw up and made empty promises to yourself.

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Golly are we ever gonna get to the soaking? Yes. They announce our room is ready and we take full mugs of beers into a dimly lit chamber complete with a tiled shower (rainwater head style), the large far infrared sauna (with several bodily benefits listed on an info sheet inside, including the ironic weight loss and detoxification as you sit there sipping beer) and a wooden, stepped platform surrounding the soaking tub, in which an oversized mesh tea bag bubbles around releasing its equivalent of beer-making wort — us soon to be co-ingredients. I don’t think I need to detail to anyone what it feels like to perspire, cold-shower-shock the skin and then sit in a tub of water (set just above body temperature). But it’s worth describing the predominant smell of wet barley, familiar from being around breweries during mash time. You’ve probably smelled it even on the sidewalk walking by Phantom Canyon or Bristol breweries at the right time; it’s got a dank (not in a marijuana way), wet earth vibe that’s not exactly aromatherapy stimulating but it’s not unpleasant. 

We smell some hop aromas that are faint, like in a low-IBU beer versus a big, bitter IPA, and the fennel is scantly detectable but there. Our bath bomb may be muting something, but it’s not some overly fragrant floral bomb you might expect on the commercial market from a mall; it’s mellow, and by the end of our soak we’re confident our bodies have absorbed it.

How? Because we’re absolutely chill AF. Dopey, super relaxed, feeling far away from any stress or anxiousness in the mind or body (despite knowing we’ll have to deal with Denver and I-25 traffic on the way home). I use CBD oil regularly, so I’m familiar with its effects. Here, I’m perhaps having the hot tub equivalent of getting cross-faded, unsure which part of the euphoria is the cannabidiol and which comes gifted from the bath’s beery grain bill. But I don’t really care, because hey, I’m that damn chill. What I can’t speak to is what it’s like to leave a common day spa after some skin work and a mani-pedi and maybe a massage. (The Beer Spa does also host a room of zero gravity massage chairs with 15- or 30-minute sessions, $20 or $30, which we skip this trip.) I presume there’s a similar feel-good and maybe light, heady bliss buzz. So, in the end, mission accomplished.

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Except, no, the mission wasn’t to go achieve internal peace and harmony, if only for a short duration inside this unique beauty brewery. I’d conceived of it as a place in which I could be impertinent and poke fun and slander the odd periphery of craft beer culture, rife with its big beards and hop obsessions and overpriced cans with cool label art that ensnare us from refrigerated shelves inside walk-in coolers dubbed “beer caves” because drinking is apparently like spelunking (minus the guano and soul-piercing darkness) and we’re supposed to pat ourselves on the backs for feeling like adventurous explorers when simply shopping in strip malls.

See? I have found my snark in the end. I’ve still got it! I guess The Beer Spa has failed to fully disarm my wit (no, not the beer style, but my clever wordsmithing). Or, maybe, long-since sobered up from the soak as I write this, it’s actually just time to call it a day, crack another cold one and reflect on that time I role-played a happy little hop bubbling blissfully in a barley bath as if I were destined to become a crushable session beer to be enjoyed by an elitist craft beer snob like myself. How awkwardly meta.

Food & Drink Editor

Matthew Schniper is the Food and Drink Editor at the Colorado Springs Indy. He began freelancing with the Indy in mid-2004 and joined full-time in early 2006, contributing arts, food, environmental and feature writing.