When it comes to the game of craft beer, Colorado has its fair share of players.
With over 150 breweries in the state (and that number rapidly growing) there’s a reason Denver is often called “the Napa Valley of beer.” One brewery, however, stands apart from the rest with one of the most unique lineups found this side of the Atlantic. Hogshead Brewery, located at 4460 West 29th Ave. in Denver’s booming Sloan’s Lake neighborhood has been serving up both keg and cask conditioned English style ales since it’s inception in 2012.
Cask ales, Hogshead’s forte, are ales conditioned (or matured) in casks without the need for extraneous ingredients, CO2 or nitrous. The ale is most often unfiltered and unpasteurized, and its flavors continue to grow and develop while it sits in it’s cask. Unlike it’s frosty and super carbonated American brethren, English style ales are served a bit warmer, right around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and develop only slight carbonation while conditioning, contributing to their “creamy” mouth feel.
Stephen Kirby, Hogshead’s head brewer and co-owner, has been in love with cask ale since his first encounter when he was 8 years old. “It’s fucking delicious,” says Kirby. Kirby, who’s been brewing since 1989, waxes poetic about cask conditioned ale, the English brewing condition, and the kind of ales that he likes to make, and drink. “No one’s reinventing the wheel here. We don’t put blueberries in the porter…we have a lot of fun creating new recipes while still keeping 5 or 6 staples on,” says Kirby.
Hogshead’s staples include a variety of traditional flavors and styles, such as Gilpin Black Gold, a London Porter with hints of chocolate and a roasted, yet clean finish; Chin Wag ESB, an “extra special bitter,” with a nice malty backbone, often dry hopped; and Lake Lightening, cloudy and golden-yellow in color, crisp and citrusy with a hoppy dry finish.
While some breweries claim (cough cough) “freshness” by their drink by date on the bottles, you can rest assured that the ale served at Hogshead is among the freshest you’ll ever drink. Because of the unique living properties of their ales, both casks and kegs are consumed in 1-3 days time. There are no dates, no specially shaped bottles, and no transporting across country in ice cold trains. The only thing you’ll get is beautifully crafted, extremely partakable, damn near perfect beer.
As for what lies ahead for the brewery, Michael Manczur, another of Hogshead’s owners says that although they’re happy with what they’ve got, expansion and growth are always a future possibility. “We definitely want to expand and create custom crafted breweries that integrate with their neighborhoods and people. There’s something that we wanted to create, and it’s a mystique. It’s important that we do that. We’re a boutique brewery, we’re not going for the masses.”
No brewery would be complete without a master bartender running the taproom and quenching the thirst of its patrons, and Rick Harvell, Hogshead’s front of house guru and “Ambassador of Awesomeness” is just that man. A teacher by trade, Rick is the friendly face you’ll often find pouring Hogshead’s luscious libations. He’ll also remember your name and will undoubtedly make you feel like part of the Hogshead family.
In a market that’s filled with faux “crafty” beer, macro giants such as Coors, and hop-heavy IPAs, it’s nice to find a brewery that’s doing something a bit different. Denver is home to many drinking jewels, and Hogshead Brewery is a diamond.