Denver's Del Norte Brewing debuted a new beer, El Guapo, last night at all 25 Old Chicago locations in Colorado. The 5.6 percent ABV beer is a hoppier answer to Bohemia, the Czech-style Mexican pilsner, says Del Norte co-owner Joe Fox. "We were looking through our portfolio and we didn't have a hoppy beer," he says. "So Bohemia is a little bit more of a hoppy version of a pilsner. But ours is more crafty and we upped the hopping rate. It's a lager, so it's not overwhelmingly hoppy -- the bitterness doesn't hang around for a long time -- but it's hoppier than our other beers."
Del Norte is a small brewery that specializes in Mexican-style lagers, but until recently it didn't have the capacity to handle an order from a big chain like Old Chicago. That has changed now that the brewery is making 4,800 barrels of beer per year.
For the past two years, Old Chicago has been showcasing and special-ordering onetime or small-batch beers made by Colorado brewers at all of its in-state locations. These have included Deviant Dale's from Oskar Blues (before it was canned), Big Shikes from Ska Brewing, Tommyknocker's Colorado Nouveau and AC Golden's India Pale Lager.
Each order is for sixty to seventy barrels, or roughly 100 to 120 kegs, which the beer-centric restaurant chain puts on tap for about three weeks during one of its various mini tours. The Del Norte beer is on tap for the Cinco de Mayo Mini Tour.
"I give them a lot of credit for going after a unique niche," Old Chicago beverage director Mark Newman says about Del Norte. "This will give them a jump start and it's a fun way to support a local craft microbrewery doing something neat and new."
Old Chicago will also introduce one of Del Norte's other beers, Manana, at its restaurants in Idaho and Nebraska, where Del Norte will soon begin distribution.
"This is an awesome way to get a brand kicked off," Fox says. The brewery plans to begin bottling El Guapo in the late summer or early fall. Originally intended as a seasonal, Fox says reaction has been so good that he might make it a year-round beer.
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The Cinco de Mayo Mini tour runs through May 6 and includes El Guapo, Corona Extra, Tecate, Pacifico, Dos Equis and Negra Modela.