Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Denver Pour Tour

Oof! 18 days since my last post?!? How's that possible? Well, I'll tell you how...because I was away for 10 of those 18 days in Denver, CO for a conference and in Ocean City, MD for a few days of R&R. My mom went with me to Denver from Sunday, July 15th through Friday, July 20th. While I was in the conference sessions, she was off touring botanical gardens and the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave. Thursday evening, after the conference and my meetings were over, Mom and I embarked on our favorite adventure of the trip...

...a beer tour!

As I type, folks are probably standing around Breckenridge Brewery enjoying a pint...much like Mom and I did last Thursday night at the same time. 

You see, last Thursday night, Mom and I went on the Banjo Billy's Beer Tour in Denver; we visited four breweries and had an absolute blast!!! 

The tour began at Wynkoop Brewery at 5:15 PM. Head brewer Andy Brown met us at the entrance to the brew pub - Colorado's first - and took us behind the scenes at Denver's first craft brewery. 

Head Brewer Andy and Brewer Bess explain what's in the tanks.

Empty cans waiting to be filled in front of bags of hops on the shelves.
Andy explains the canning process - two cans at a time!

Enjoying my can of Rail Yard Ale!

Given my brother's penchant for trains, it was natural that my mom chose a Rail Yard Ale shirt for his souvenir!
Once the tour was over, we all filtered outside to meet our bus.

Banjo Billy's bus is no ordinary bus!

Mom's ready to board the bus! In front of her is a newlywed couple who hiked by day and toured breweries by night. By the time they went on this tour, they'd already tasted 120 beers!

This bus is tough!

The interior of the bus - some of the seats were barcaloungers and one was even a saddle!

Mom grabbed a regular bench seat.

The bus is named after the owner's (now deceased) dog, Daisy.
The group on the bus was rather subdued as we started out but - as predicted by our driver, Linda - we loosened up and started chatting with each other after our first stop on the bus tour, Strange Brewing Company

Passing Sports Authority Field

Lots of trains in and around Denver!

Strange Brewing Company was just that - strange. It was in a strip of shops and looked more like a storage unit that had been converted into a brewery than anything else.

Despite the strange appearance, the beer was quite delicious. This is the Strange Wit Summer Belgian Wheat.

In the foreground, four teachers from Phoenix, AZ from relax with their beers. In the background, our soon-to-be-friend, Paul (white striped polo), and his brother (yellow polo) enjoy their beers.

We were not able to "tour" the operation since they were actively brewing, but we could sneak a peek.

The list of available beers.

Denver seemed to be a very dog-friendly city!

This dog was enjoying her time chewing on a rawhide and drinking from the small pail while her owner enjoyed a beer with a friend.
Our next stop on the tour was Breckenridge Brewery, which was quite crowded! In addition to being a brewery, it's also a BBQ restaurant. And if the smells coming from the kitchen are any indication as to the quality and taste of the food, I'd say Breckenridge Brewery is the perfect place to go in pursuit of 'que and brew. I need to tell the guys over at the Beer and Pig Hogcast (podcast). 

My Breckenridge brew - Agave Wheat.

A keg pig!

The bottling line at Breckenridge.

Mother/daughter brewery touring = good fun!!!

The Agave Wheat beer was delicious, and I love the tap handle!

The 'cue menu.

That's a whole plate of YUM!!!

Tramps & Thieves was playing while we were there, but the best I could tell they weren't so much tramps & thieves as much as they were middle-aged white guys. They were still pretty good.
While we were enjoying our beers at Breckenridge Brewery, we struck up a conversation with Paul and his brother who were in town to celebrate their dad's 70th birthday. Their wives had headed out shopping, so they were spending their evening on the tour. Paul said something about being bummed that Breckenridge was our last stop on the tour. Mom and I both told him there was another stop to go yet. He didn't believe us, so I told him if we were right, he needed to ride the saddle on the bus from Breckenridge to the next stop. He agreed.

Our next stop was Denver Beer Company.

And here's Paul on the saddle on the bus! 

Hi, Paul! LOOK, you made the blog!!!
Paul was a good sport. Not only did he ride the saddle TO Denver Beer Co., he also rode it back to Wynkoop when the tour was over. But I'm getting ahead of myself! 

As I said, our last stop on the tour was Denver Beer Co., which used to be an automotive service station. The service bay doors are now glass and the hydraulic lifts in each service bay now serve to support the bar. Denver Beer Co. was also SUPER dog-friendly. There were no less than four dogs IN the beer garden and indoor seating areas. How cool!!! Of the four breweries we visited - and of the three where we got some kind of tour - this one was my favorite. Our tour guide, Woody, was personable, charismatic, and very knowledgeable

This lab was just chillin' at the foot of his owner's bar stool.

This dog was begging for a taste of Bavarian pretzel.

Mom's beer, our Bavarian pretzel, and my beer. I had the Apricot Ale.

"Mood lighting" in the production area before they turned the lights on to do our tour.

Woody conducts the tour, beer-in-hand.

The best part of the night? Heading into the cooler room!

The taps at the bar are on the other side of this wall.

Cold storage for Denver Beer Co.'s hops.
On our way back to Wynkoop, Linda played Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and everyone on the bus sang along. (She also played Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" between Breckenridge and Denver Beer - we all sang along to that, too. "So good! So good! So good!") We were having a grand time singing and waving to pedestrians and alfresco diners. 

The interior of the bus once it was dark - plenty of party lights!

The blurriness in this photo is appropriate after four beers and no dinner!

There's Paul - still riding the saddle and checking out the on-the-street action.
Mom and I had a great time!!! We were so glad we found the tour and saved it for our last night. It was a great way to end our Denver adventure. Our Beer Tour was the fifth one offered by Banjo Billy. Our driver, Linda, told us that the tour is slowly but surely picking up steam. Speaking of Linda, she was a delight - very personable and a lot of fun! She made an effort to talk to each party within the tour group to find out where we were all from, why we were in Denver, etc. I would definitely recommend taking this tour if you're ever in Denver on a Thursday night!

We did a few other things while we were in Denver, but that's fodder for another post!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Garden check-up, some flames, and a snack.

On Wednesday, July 4th, we hit the two-week mark since we planted our vegetable garden using the square-foot gardening method in raised beds. It was also time to plant another box of corn. So Chris and I trekked up to the garden to take a peek at the garden's progress (we're up there pretty much every day, but this time I took the camera) and to plant four more corn seeds.

Four healthy corn plants!

Lots of healthy bush beans plants - nine per square!

Grape tomato plant.

Chris points out sprouts in the carrot square.

Sprouts in the radish square.

Zucchini plant.

Five healthy pepper plants (l to r: Serrano, jalapeno, yellow bell, orange bell, and red bell peppers).

Roma tomatoes - I can't wait for them to come in...I have an AWESOME salsa recipe!!!

Park's Whopper tomatoes for sandwiches and burgers!

Cilantro and cantaloupe plants.

Butternut squash sprouts (left) and cucumber plants (right).
Everything is looking great; Chris and I are very excited and pleased with the garden's progress so far. As usual, the garden really perks up after we get rain. It's so funny...we can water every day and the garden does well. But the minute it rains, I swear the plants grow by several inches!

Closer to the house, the Jackmanii Clematis Chris bought in 2008 and planted next to the deck (along the lattice work) looks spectacular!!! 

Between the ivy and the clematis, all of the lattice work has been filled in creating privacy on the deck. The Clematis is growing into the tree near the pond, so Chris has some pruning to do.
My hummingbird/butterfly garden has been doing its job! Both Great-spangled Fritillary and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies have been visiting the garden and enjoying the plethora of purple coneflowers.

Great-spangled Fritillary butterfly.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.

This Easter Tiger Swallowtail visited no less than eight different coneflowers while I watched it!
Bees have been enjoying the bee balm in the hummingbird/butterfly garden, and we've spotted a male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird flitting about the garden, visiting both the bee balm and the hummingbird feeder.

Bees on bee balm...shocking, I know!

Bee mid-flight on the left!
For the Fourth of July, Chris and I celebrated with the inaugural fire in the new fire ring that Oscar and I got for Chris for his birthday. We lit a few small "magic fountain" fireworks and enjoyed a few fireworks set off by some neighbors.

Chris' birthday present - a concrete fire ring! I foresee lots of mountain pies will be made in this new fire ring!

Chris and Oscar enjoying time around the fire.

Magic Fountain!
Finally, today I made one of my favorite summertime snacks - basil-tomato-fresh mozzarella skewers!!! Since the grape tomatoes haven't come in yet, I used store-bought grape tomatoes (and fresh mozzarella), but I used fresh basil that I'm growing on the deck! Simply slice up the fresh mozzarella and skewer up a basil leaf, a piece of cheese, and a grape tomato. An optional twist is to drizzle some EVOO over the skewers and then top with some fresh ground pepper. Either way, the skewers are easy and refreshing! They're a delicious way to use fresh basil and grape tomatoes (or halved cherry tomatoes). Give it a whirl and let me know what you think!

A plateful of YUM!
How is your garden doing? What have you harvested so far? What are some of your favorite summertime recipes? Let me know in the comments below!