Beer Man

For IPA Day: Ten Young Breweries Changing Colorado's IPA Game

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Cannonball Creek Brewing
393 Washington Avenue, Golden

Like every brewery, Cannonball Creek's goal on a daily basis is just to keep the lights on. At least that's what the humble owners will tell you. In reality, this Golden hot spot is making hoppy beers that attract beer lovers from all over the metro area. While the Featherweight Pale has won numerous awards, the brewery gets more local love for its Project Alpha series of experimental IPAs that are "dedicated to the never-ending pursuit of the perfect IPA." The tenth version is set to tap next month. Oh, and last April, the brewery hosted an event called Possible Worlds, in which five different breweries all made the same IPA using the same hops varieties and then brought them in so attendees could discover how and why breweries make decisions that result in processes that create different flavors.
Comrade Brewing
7667 East Iliff Avenue

Comrade Brewing toys with hops the way that Tony Stark toys with Iron Man's enemies, laughingly producing winning beers and saving the world on a regular basis — and making it look easy. Not only do Comrade and brewery-operations director Marks Lanham regularly experiment with a wide variety of hops, both in concert and by themselves, but the brewery makes an IPA, called Superpower, that many, including Men's Journal, consider to be among the best in Colorado — and the entire western United States. I'd argue that the GABF award-winning fresh-hopped version, sometimes known as Super Dank, is even better, though, not to mention Comrade's double IPA, Hop Chops.
Odd 13 Brewing
301 East Simpson Street, Lafayette

The story goes something like this: Odd 13's head brewer and a new brewer who had just been hired both had spent time in New England, and both had a penchant for a mostly regional style of IPA there that looks hazy — like orange juice, in some cases — and tastes fruitier and juicier than the classic piney, bitter West Coast IPAs. So they teamed up with Odd 13 co-owner Ryan Scott. The result was that Odd 13 paved the way for this year's biggest Colorado trend — hazy, juicy New England-style IPAs — which stirred up the state like a turbid nor'easter. Since then, Odd 13 has cast aside clear IPAs almost entirely and begun producing a variety of one-off or special-release cans, all in this style. The flagship is Codename: Superfan, brewed with Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo and Equinox hops. But Odd 13 has also done a series of Hop Troll IPAs: N00B, Fairy Hopmother, Robot Librarian and others. Its surge in popularity came just at the right time, too: Odd 13 just opened a new, sixty-barrel production facility in Lafayette.

Station 26 Brewing
7045 East 38th Avenue

Station 26 has been turning out stellar beer, both hoppy and otherwise, since the day it opened its doors in December 2013, thanks to the leadership of owner Justin Baccary and head brewer Wayne Waananen. But the brewery really came into its own in 2015, with the release of Juicy Banger, a tap-room-only hop bomb made with Apollo, Centennial, Mosaic and Citra, as well as its series of canned Single Hop IPAs, each brewed with just a single hop variety in order to show off the flavor profile. The first (and best so far, in my opinion) was Citra, followed by Chinook, Mosaic and, just last week, Simcoe. Juicy Banger and the Single Hop series have stood out in Colorado's crowded beer market as being some of the best, most consistent, most flavorful IPAs of the bunch. And if that isn't enough, the brewery also make a killer double IPA and a popular pale ale, also available in cans.

Black Shirt Brewing
3719 Walnut Street

Black Shirt Brewing takes its work very seriously, and the resulting pieces of quaffable artwork reflect that fact. Some of the most nuanced beers in Denver, nearly every Black Shirt beer is both delicate and forthright. Some of the brewery's strongest works, though, are on the hoppy side: two double IPAs. The first is Red Evelyn, which will be showcased at its annual release on August 20. The beer, a 10 percent ABV Imperial Red Rye, is a beautiful example of the style. The other is Blood Orange Double IPA, a sublime beer brewed with Centennial and Cascade hops, conditioned on blood oranges and double dry-hopped on Mosaic, a hop variety known for its powerful citrus and tropical fruit flavors and aromas. 
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes