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On the Road
With Chris Mueller

I just came back from one of the best one-day symposiums I have ever attended – the fifth-annual Rocky Mountain Microbrewing Symposium in Colorado Springs, Co., hosted by the CU-Biotechnology Center.

For such a small conference it was full. The stuff was challenging – the topics were in-depth, technical and meaty. Some of the things were outside of the box for the normal brewers. For instance, one presentation was on clarifying agents for beer. Most of these people do not package, but they always think about it.

This is a critical time for Colorado brewing because it is changing. Breweries in Colorado have always been known for their ales, and they were some of the first to go big. They are some of the originators. Now, they are going a step further by experimenting with styles. Lagers, which were never a part of the Colorado tradition, are being discussed and created throughout the region.

But the changes go deeper than styles. More and more breweries are doing in-house testing, focusing on quality control, and using a variety of yeast strains. They are saying, "Let’s figure out how we can do things better."

Brian Lutz of Redfish in Boulder is trying any yeast he can get his hands on and as Derrick Osbourne (B.J.’s Chicago Pizza and Brewery), says, "He’s got the Mojo." He always has some nice Belgian beers going, and he is interested in experimenting.

Alan Styles of The Warehouse (formerly Palmer Lakes) had a multitude of beer styles and yeast strains but was free to discuss any aspect of his beer or receive suggestions. By the way, he had a great Belgian ale and a Rauchbier, or smoked beer. While a lot of brewers are saying, "I have to make a light beer to sell it," he is saying, "I have to make a good beer."

Rick Bristol and Chandler Bruining of Bristol Brewing Company are always trying to improve an already successful brewery. Their place is comfortable, and they were offering interesting beers – including their "winter warlock" and barley wine.

Abe Long of Phantom Canyon Brewing Company is creating some amazing beers and is constantly talking with the brewers from Durango to get ideas.

Besides experimenting and using better ingredients, many Colorado breweries are also expanding. They are no longer just selling in their own towns, they are going for the whole state and the region. It is more competitive than ever, so the brewers are focusing on cost control and cleanliness.

This was evident in the seminars. Topics such as Beer Flavor Stability by Greg Casey of Coors, Statistical Process Control, and Off Flavors Workshop by Isle Shelton of Seibel Institute were well received.

The best part of the Colorado scene, though, is the brotherhood of brewing. Even though market share is tough to come by, the brewers are taking care of each other. They have not forgotten what it is all about.

I am looking forward to attending the conference next year – but not just for the beer. I am looking to reunite with some new friends.

Chris Mueller is vice president of White Labs Inc. He can be reached at (858) 693-3441 ext. 222.