The Brown Palace Hotel has been holding down its pie-shaped piece of Denver for 125 years. But when it came time to brew a beer to commemorate that anniversary, the historic hotel only gave itself, and Strange Craft Beer Company, five months to prepare. Time has a funny way of sneaking up on you like that.
"I like to pour at trade events to make connections — never know who I might meet," says Strange Craft owner Tim Myers, who connected with the Brown Palace's sales and marketing director, Mark Shine, while pouring at a tourism conference reception at the hotel last winter. "Mark was so impressed with [Strange Craft's] Cherry Kriek, we started talking about possibly making a beer for his 125th anniversary coming up in August."
Together with Rob Dietrich, the head distiller at Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, they decided to brew a brown ale made with sixty pounds of honey from the Brown's rooftop beehives and water from its artesian well — and then age it in three rare Diamond Peak whiskey barrels from Stranahan’s. The result, Golden Age Imperial Honey Brown, will be on tap in the hotel's Ship Tavern starting on August 1; it will also be given away in bomber bottles as part of a Brown Palace anniversary promotion.
Stranahan's head distiller Rob Dietrich (left), Strange Craft owner Tim Myers and Stranahan's marketing manager Keegan Giannoni taste beer out of barrels.
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"Though I was quite nervous about attempting a 12.5 percent ABV beer in such a short time, I’m also just crazy enough to brew it," Myers says in an email. "Most 12.5 percent beers need many months of conditioning to reduce that boozy fusel alcohol burn. Add a honey component and the burn risk goes up. We only had five months total from the brew day to kegs and bombers.
"In the end, I think it turned out pretty amazing for such a young beer," he adds. "While there is still some heat to it, the aroma of honey and whiskey barrel and the huge roasty and dark chocolate flavors really stand out. I am hoping we can set some aside and taste it in August of 2018. Should be amazing."
Opened by Henry Cordes Brown in August 1892, the Brown Palace was Denver's marquee hotel for decades, attracting celebrities, bigwigs and even presidents. Although it has been renovated and updated at various points, it still retains much of its old charm. In 2010, the hotel added two bee colonies on its rooftop, ten stories above street level, that produce honey used by the hotel chef. In the past, the Brown has teamed up with other breweries, including Wynkoop Brewing, to make specialty beers with the honey.