AC Golden, the tiny MillerCoors-owned brewery located deep inside the hidden corridors of the mega-brewer's Golden plant, will put three unusual beers on tap tonight only at Star Bar, the tiny Larimer Street watering hole known for its craft beer selections.
The beers are all ales, which marks a major chance for AC Golden, which makes lagers almost exclusively. Those include its most popular brand, Colorado Native, along with Herman Joseph's Private Reserve and Winterfest and a couple of dozen experimental beers that have rarely made it outside the brewhouse.
The Star Bar ales are: American Wild Ale, a sour beer aged for a year in French oak wine barrels and then pressed with merlot grapes; Barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout, aged nine months in a whiskey barrel and weighing in at 13 percent ABV; and Belgian-style Saison, which was brewed with oats and wheat and fermented with three different Belgian yeast strains.
"If most people knew what was lurking inside this behemoth, they would be shocked," Star Bar owner Justin Lloyd says about AC Golden. "I think their goal is to take craft beer seriously. The difference between what they are doing and what other industrial brewers are doing is that AC Golden isn't just taking something and knocking it off or chopping off the rough edges to make it more palatable to the masses."
The beers are being sold tonight in part because they will likely be entered into the Great American Beer Festival, September 29 to October 1, which has a rule stating that all entries must have been sold commercially at some point.
Last year, AC Golden, which serves as a small-batch incubator for MillerCoors, won three medals, all for beers that only saw the light of a commercial tap once or twice.
"Lagers really are our specialty, but we don't want to put ourselves in a corner where there are popular styles out there and we aren't working on them," says AC Golden president Glenn Knippenberg, adding that brewery plans to make more ales in the future. "We shouldn't paint ourselves into a lager corner.
"We are an incubator," he adds about the rarity of AC Golden beers making it into bars. "We try a lot of stuff. And sometimes it's nice to see what Joe Beer is thinking."
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Knippenberg says the brewery plans to enter eight beers at the Great American Beer Festival, including three new ones, but he didn't want to say which ones. AC Golden has recently made a variety of styles, including a Baltic porter, a bock, a dunkelweiss, a German-style pilsner, a schwarzbier, a brown and a hopped pale lager.
"I think there will be a good reaction to these beers," says Star Bar's Lloyd, adding that he's only heard a few negative comments about AC Golden's association with Coors. "I think a lot of people have their minds open and realize that if it tastes great, it tastes great. I think people will be amazed that this came from Coors."
The brews, along with Colorado Native, go on tap at 5 p.m.