Lagers sometimes get a bad rap from craft-beer drinkers. They're often lighter and less flavorful than ales, and since America's big three commercial beers are all lagers, beer geeks often lump them in with the macrobrews at the bottom of the tap list.
Chris Phelps, the co-owner and brewer at Saint Patrick's Brewing in Englewood, doesn't want to make those kinds of lagers. "We do big flavors, not light stuff, and that way, we get to educate people about what a lager can be," he says. "We wanted to take a different path and create a nice little niche for ourselves, one that wasn't being filled."
The nanobrewery, which opened to the public in August with limited hours on Thursdays and Fridays, just begun distributing two of its beers last week to local liquor stores.
Other Colorado breweries that specialize in lagers -- and there are only a handful of them -- brew mostly traditional styles with traditional malts and hops, he says. Phelps leans more toward complicated recipes that use a huge number of specialized malts and fresh hops, as well as spices like peppermint and ginger and fruits like coconut and cranberry.
Some of the beers he currently has on tap include Czech Chai Ginger, Chocolate Pumpkin, and Luminosity Lager, which is made with fresh lemon zest.
Phelps started Saint Patrick's last year in his garage in Centennial before moving it to a taproom at 4750 South Santa Fe Circle, last July. But the operation is still tiny: Phelps brews on a thirty-gallon glorified homebrewing system (less than a barrel).
And he only serves them in 22-ounce bomber bottles, even at the taproom, although there are plenty of choices available on the menu.
"We ferment everything 25 gallons at a time, and since we lager everything, each beer takes two or three months to make," Phelps explains. Lagers are made using different kinds of yeasts than ales and are made at colder temperatures. They also take longer to ferment than ales, which is another reason small breweries don't make them.
"We're not trying to make a ton of money to start. We want to take it slow and focus on the quality of our beer and building a solid audience," Phelps says.
A home chef and a former fine artist (painting), Phelps approaches his recipes a little differently, using more expensive, ingredients. He also compares some of his beers, all of which are unfiltered and bottle-conditioned, to other alcoholic beverages. Two of them are almost sparkling, he says, like champagne.
He has also brewed something called El Draque, which will be released on November 20, which is his beery take on spiced rum. Made with nine different rum spices and fermented on French oak, it was dry hopped and dry spiced. After that, he plans to brew a lager based on Italy's famed Limoncello liquer.
Eventually, Phelps would like to add some fermenters that would allow him to make more beer and stay open at least one more day per week.
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