As you may have heard, revered longtime beer scribes Stephen Beaumont and Jay Brooks launched the very cool Flagship February campaign earlier this year. I had the honor of being invited to pen an essay for it and wrote about my go-to beer, Denver Pale Ale. Here’s the piece.
Denver Pale Ale
My grandfather was true to Iron City beer for his entire adult life. My 90-something uncle remains a High Life Man. And some of my college buds still faithfully sip the Bud they slammed in college. (They also continue to subject themselves to Hotel California, but that’s another story.) While I don’t share their taste in beers, I am jealous of the longtime loyalty of these gents. Because I was once in a loving, long-term relationship with a beer — until Great Divide Brewing ruined it all.
Thankfully, I don’t need Shakespeare or Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes to console me with their bittersweet takes on loving and losing. Because when it comes to my old flame, I’ve loved, lost, and loved again.
I discovered Denver Pale Ale after moving to Denver in the Nineties. A delicious and deftly balanced English-style pale ale, it had the graceful UK attributes that led me to get started in homebrewing. It soon became a reason why I stopped. I couldn’t make anything as good and a fresh supply was right down the street.
The beer earned Great American Beer Festival medals and other praise, and a place in my beery efforts. Some of my first beer stories were fueled or finished with a Denver Pale Ale, and my leap from beer journalist to beer publicist/idea man began with my freelancing for Great Divide. My first brewery slogan project was penning Great Divide’s “Great Minds Drink Alike.”
In need of a band rehearsal space, I convinced brewery founder Brian Dunn to convert some of his building to what it was before he took it over: a band rehearsal space. My group shot a CD cover at the brewery and played parties there. Me and Mrs. Jones renewed our wedding vows at the GABF with a special magnum of Denver Pale Ale for the toast. The years and love rolled on. But in 2016 my marriage to the beer came to an end — Great Divide changed the beer’s recipe.
What?! Like a taking-things-too-far punker I knew back in the day, Denver Pale Ale got older and dropped its British accent. It switched its Union Jack allegiance to the Stars & Stripes to become a crisper, paler pale ale more in line with the changing tastes of craft beer nuts. So much for faithful fermented love. And thank you very much!
Because DPA 2.0 pulled off the tricky feat of becoming an updated version of its old self. A confidently cool quartet of hops, malt, yeast, and brewer’s art, Denver Pale Ale’s specialty is its simplicity. Its citrus candy-meets-flowers aroma leads into a turbinado-like sweetness and a kiss of pale grains, matched with woodsy pine and grapefruit flavors and an ample, almost-herbal hop bite that preps the palate for the next sip. These charms and a congenial 5% ABV make it a wonderful pairing with just about any occasion, dish, person, setting or season.
Do I miss DPA’s bygone British ways? A little. Is part of its current personal appeal the history I have with its predecessor, and a name that honors the city that’s been very good to my bride and me? Definitely.
But it’s a staple in my fridge for its elegant-but-assertive pleasures and its other gifts. For starters, the beer simplifies my shopping. It gives me an exit strategy when facing a stuffed beer cooler in these days of “What’s new?” and “What can we squeeze into a beer to get somebody to buy it?” When I’m ready for a short vacation from hazy/hoppy/sticky IPAs and other forms of liquid art, DPA is a nice day off. And if I’ve gambled and lost on another newcomer without a freshness date, or jostled my way through a beer with a marching band of ingredients and processes that trample each other’s parts and my tongue, Denver Pale Ale resets my palate and restores my faith.
No, it’s not “The Hustler” or “Born to Run” or Flannery O’Connor’s “The Complete Stories.” It might be “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the new one by Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, or Patrick deWitt’s “The Sisters Brothers.” Like an old classic or a new fave, Denver Pale Ale is darn good every time. It’s professional and solid. It doesn’t make promises it won’t keep. Best of all, it gets the right answers to the key questions a trustworthy go-to beer must ask after you’ve shaken the last drops from the can and tilted them from the glass. “Did you enjoy that?” I sure did. “Wanna do it again?” Heck yeah.