Blurry, at best: That's how I remember my one-night stagger through the Great American Beer Festival, the 21st incarnation of this beer-sodden extravaganza. But it was my first encounter with the GABF, and being the responsible young reporter that I am, I felt it my duty to taste and record for posterity my opinions on as many brews as I could get my hands on.
With 301 breweries on the floor, over 1,300 beers on tap, and me with tasting glass in hand, I was like a kid in a candy store. No, worse. I was like a food writer at a beer festival, getting drunk one ounce at a time. Looking back now over the notes scrawled in the margin of my program, I can see that I started out very earnestly. "Drakes IPA, good flavor, light and fresh-tasting," for example. Or "Wynkoop Artillery. They gave it that name for a reason." But things went downhill fast. "Irish Red, from Hub City Brewery, Lubbock. This is why the Irish don't move to Texas," and "Raspberry Tart, Wisconsin. Tastes a little like raspberry, a lot like vomit."
After that, it's mostly illegible chickenscratch and a complicated series of hieroglyphics that I invented some time after spending a half-hour with the guys at the Rainier Brewery booth, then promptly forgot how to translate. I do remember that I liked the Rainier beer, though. Probably a little too much...
Not about a Restaurant
Fifty-eight categories were judged during the October 3-5 GABF, by palates certainly more qualified than mine. All of the details are available at www.beertown.org. In the meantime, here's a sampling: Denver's Great Divide Brewing Company picked up yet another award -- this time a bronze in classic English-style pale ale -- for its already heavily decorated Denver Pale Ale. BJ's Restaurant and Brewery in Boulder snagged a gold in the fruit-and-vegetable-beer category with its Magnolia's Peach. Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs brought home a bronze with its Maplenut Brown Ale, and the Redfish New Orleans Brewhouse in Boulder and the Sandlot Brewery at Coors Field both collected multiple medals. And on a personal note, Genesee Cream Ale, from High Falls Brewing in Rochester, New York, which happens to be the first beer I ever got drunk on (I stole two cans from my dad when I was a kid, then threw up in the bushes out in front of the house for an hour), took home a bronze in the American lager category. Ah, memories.
Hey, didn't I see that in a movie once? Owners Giles and Kami Kolakowski of the Ice Palace Inn Bed and Breakfast are sponsoring an essay contest where -- for a mere 150 words and 230 bucks -- you can win their Leadville B&B for your very own self. Yes, just like in that movie...
Eight years ago, the Kolakowskis bought the turn-of-the-century Victorian that had been built on the site of -- and with some of the original timbers from -- the legendary Leadville Ice Palace. After remodeling, they opened it up as a five-room bed-and-breakfast. But now, eight years and a pair of twin girls later, the Kolakowskis are looking to return to Seattle to open another B&B, so the Inn is up for grabs.
Curious as to why the Kolakowskis chose to pass on their historic property this way, I called the Ice Palace for some details. "I think this is an opportunity for us to do something wonderful for another family," Kami said. "It's a chance to give someone their dream." She's not exaggerating, either: a functioning Colorado bed-and-breakfast with reservation system in place, no mortgage and a national reputation -- all for $230? There are burnt-out yuppies sitting in their million-dollar lofts in Manhattan right now muttering darkly to themselves about how they'd give anything to chuck it all -- the high-powered executive position, the Beemer, the trophy wife and her yappy dog, the park view, everything -- for a shot at something like this.
Although other essay-contest giveaways have melted faster than an Ice Palace in a spring thaw, the Kolakowskis are sure that they're going to hit that magic 2,500-entry limit that will make it a win-win situation for both them and the lucky essayist. And if those numbers don't materialize? "Then we'll refund $200 of the $230 to everyone who entered," promised Kami. "But I don't think that's going to happen. I think we'll have more than we need."
Interested? Pen a 150-word essay telling the Kolakowskis why you want to own the Ice Palace Inn and scrape together that $230 entry fee. The contest, which will run through December 31 (with an option to extend through April), has been going for a month now, and they've already received more than a hundred entries. For information, entry forms, some history on the place and all the legal mumbo-jumbo, go to www.icepalaceinn.com or visit the Kolakowskis at 813 Spruce Street in Leadville.
Leftovers: If you're jonesing for the flavors of Spain, and Boulder's Triana (see review, page 67) is too far away, you can always try Sevilla, which just marked its eighth month in a new home on the third floor of the Denver Pavilions. In order to drum up lunch business, the self-described Spanish steakhouse and nightclub is rolling out a truckload of deals to get you through the door. Stop in for the new cafe menu, and not only are you guaranteed to get lunch within thirty minutes, but you'll walk out with a full stomach as well as VIP passes for Friday or Saturday night at the club; a lunch card (one of those buy-ten-lunches-get-one-free deals); and another card good for free tapas at your next dinner. And at happy hour, which runs from 5 to 6 p.m., you can wash down those tapas with bottomless refills of sangría.
Back up in Boulder, Sherpa's Restaurant and Traveler's Lounge (825 Walnut Street) is now open and will host a grand-opening party sometime later this month. The restaurant, owned by Pemba Sherpa (himself a Himalayan mountain guide and frequent visitor to places in excess of 20,000 feet above sea level), will feature authentic Nepali, Indian and Thai food served either as "sample portions" (for one) or "family style" (for many). The Traveler's Lounge will also feature maps, books and artifacts of Sherpa culture, and while Pemba plans to someday open a Sherpa museum in the area, for now he promises to donate 10 percent of his profits to the Himalayan Explorers Club, a nonprofit group based in Boulder.
Russian Palace debuted earlier this month in the lower level of 1800 Glenarm Place, in the former digs of Vartan's Jazz Club. Empty since Vartan Tonoian closed the doors in May, the space has been reinvented (and remodeled) as an upscale, traditional Russian restaurant with a full bar, live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays, a dress code after 6 p.m., and chef Sali Nasimov serving the spicy, Eastern Russian cuisine he grew up with in addition to your classic beet-and-potatoes Iron Curtain comfort food. The Palace is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, with weekend hours until 2 a.m., and while jazz fans still miss Vartan's, at least it wasn't replaced by another contemporary Latin/Asian/French fusion sushi bar and fish taco stand. Or a Starbucks.
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Tommy's Thai (3410 East Colfax Avenue) -- a longtime favorite with Capitol Hill residents, as well as Thai-food lovers who live much farther afield -- has reopened after a remodel that should have been done in August but somehow stretched on until the beginning of October. I called to see how things were going, and if the roar of the crowds in the background were any indication, things are going just fine. When I started asking questions, whoever I'd gotten on the phone actually apologized, said he was very busy, requested that I call back in a few hours and then hung up on me. Frankly, this was totally understandable behavior for a man with a full house on his hands -- and not rude at all considering that I was just being nosy. What surprised me was that the place was rocking so hard at two on a Friday afternoon.
Roy's (3000 East First Avenue), which keeps drawing crowds to the Cherry Creek Shopping Center with its unique Hawaiian-fusion menu of Pacific rim and Asian flavors, has added Yamaguchi sushi to the lineup. Chef Amy Yamaguchi (owner Roy Yamaguchi's cousin and former sushi chef at Sushi Zanmai in Boulder) offers new twists and tastes to classic sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls, adding ingredients from around the globe, including avocado and truffle. Throw in Yamaguchi's formal training in both the fine arts and classical sushi presentation, and you get an eclectic eating experience that goes to show that when I start bitching about how the word "fusion" is overused these days, I should really just shut up and eat more.
The Irish Hound is set to open any day now in the old Fu Lin Cafe space at 575 St. Paul Street (don't let all that plywood over the windows fool you). Chris and Lisa Carley (a former bartender at the Cherry Cricket) have purchased the second Cherry Tomato (at 5575 East Third Avenue; the original East 23rd Avenue location remains unchanged) and plan to convert it into the Hillcrest Grill, your basic all-American neighborhood spot. The menu will feature burgers, steaks and pasta -- the three basic food groups of American dining, the fourth being chocolate -- and have hired Dave Gombar (recently of Piatti's) to manage the kitchen. Look for Hillcrest to open sometime around the end of the month.
Farther from home, Chap's Grill and Chophouse -- Vail's only four-diamond place for steak -- has a new menu to go along with its new executive chef, Michael Beck, who came on board in May. It's a big menu, and I'm not going to try to squeeze it all in here, but how's this for a sampler? Portobello fries; plateau de fruits de mer with ahi sashimi, crab legs, chilled oysters and shrimp, lemon, wasabe and ponzu; onion gratinée; harissa-glazed ahi tuna with roasted jalapeño-lime vinaigrette; grilled venison chops with chanterelle risotto; pepper overload with a pepper-crusted hanger steak in peppercorn-brandy sauce; a 35-day dry-aged, bone-in ribeye; and Key lime pie served with coconut sorbet. Damn, that makes me hungry...