Red, White and Brew: Sake is more of a beer than anything
Boone's Wine and Spirits
This week’s Red, White and Brew is going to be a little different as it is not a wine at all. Sake is more of a beer than anything else, even though it is often called rice wine. The process is closer to brewing a beer but since I’m the wine buyer at Boone’s Wine and Spirits and buying the sake is my job, here we go.
The Colorado Sake Co. was co-founded in 2016 by William Stuart and Heather Dennis but not launched until 2018. The laws at the time did not allow for sake production and after a two-year battle they got the go ahead from the governor.
They are the only sake brewery in Colorado and one of only a handful in the U.S. The taproom and brewery on Larimer Street in Denver was just 850 square feet to start but has since grown to over 14,000 square feet including an offsite brewing and bottling facility.
American Standard is their signature sake and classified as Junmai Ginjo. Only four ingredients go into the making of this traditionally made sake, California sake rice polished to 60%, hand crafted Koji, yeast and Colorado water. The result is a clean, medium-bodied, undiluted sake with notes of grapefruit and bananas. From this base the infusions are made.
The Blueberry Hibiscus made with fresh blueberries and hibiscus flowers; Lychee Nigori which combines the powerful lychee fruit; and unfiltered creamy Nigori style sake and Horchata Nigori made with fresh vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks. All are gluten free, vegan and low in sugar. I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked the infusions.
All the flavors are fresh, fruity but not sugary sweet and quite refreshing. Just recently Colorado Sake added a new line of sake-based seltzers that come in a mixed 12-pack with Yuzu Ginger, Mixed Berry, Blood Orange and Lime. Again, I was pleasantly surprised how delicious and fresh the flavors are.
The bubbles are light, so they go down easy and the sake base gives a little richer mouth feel than most seltzers, and they come in at 6% alcohol by volume. Also, there are no sulfites or tannins.
If you get the chance stop by the brewery where they have many more infusions on tap, a sushi restaurant and a comedy club, it’s definitely on my list of stops next time I’m in Denver. In the meantime, stop by Boone’s Wine and Spirits and grab some Colorado Sake.
Westfax Brewing, located right next door to Denver landmark Casa Bonita, is the brewery I have chosen to highlight this week. On a western stretch of Colfax Avenue, part of the longest continuous commercial street in the U.S., in a part of Denver still not “touched up” or gentrified if you will, we find these two neighbors anchoring a weathered strip mall.
Casa Bonita, you may be aware, has undergone an ownership change and the new proprietors are arguably Colorado’s most powerful duo, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of the legendary “South Park” animated series. While they apparently plan to leave all of the classic lore of the place intact, they have recently hired a James Beard awarded chef to improve the food offerings, which from what I hear should disappoint no one. All the new excitement and all the new tweaks should partner well with their new beer-making neighbors.
WestFax opened its doors in March 2016, and Lakewood’s fourth brewery was born (and the first on West Colfax Avenue). Founder and owner Anthony Martuscello’s passion and concepts for opening a brewery date back to 2010, when he and his wife, Jackie, moved to Colorado from Pennsylvania. Opening a local brewery on West Colfax Avenue began to transform from the makings of a dream into a reality.
“It’s difficult to say when my ‘aha moment’ was for WestFax. I had been working on the business model and business plan for a long time,” Martuscello said. “I think it was more of a slow build for me, but once I knew the moment was right, I was all-in. This was confirmation for me to go after my dream of starting a brewery; I knew I wanted it to be on West Colfax and part of the community in this area of Colorado.”
Head Brewer Colby Brandt joined in May 2021 after working for Melvin and plans to expand the offerings and foundation of the brand. Brewing to him is a confluence of passion, art and the scientific process. He believes this can only be accomplished through diligence and hard work.
I have chosen two of their finest offerings to feature this week. Foggy Goggles is a hazy India pale ale brewed with Cashmere, Zythos, and Cascade hops with notes of melon, passion fruit and grapefruit. Urban Lumberjack is another densely hopped New England style IPA that has six hop varieties, primary flavors from Citra, Azacca and Eldorado hops, with Amarillo, Simcoe and Mandarina adding additional subtle flavors. It is massively juicy and tropical with notes of orange, nectarine, and mango. You can find both hazy four-packs on the shelf now at Boone’s.