I’m the first to admit that most breweries aren’t the magical places you’d expect them to be. Most of them don’t have televisions and very few offer anything more than popcorn — and even that’s barely edible. Breweries are fairly quiet, open spaces where one should consume and contemplate beer, pay for it and make way for someone else. Imagine the Lego factory if it only allowed library whispers.
Unintentionally, they’re intimidating places too. Most have long lines of taps with no discernible markings and a chalkboard with beers drawn on for the day that nowhere near match the number of taps. The guy or gal pouring your beer likely helped make it, and they presuppose you’re way past understanding the difference between cascade and centennial hops and are chatting on how wet-hop beers are “played.” Mass on a Tuesday has the same kind of vibe.
And yet, breweries are to beer what local theater is to Hollywood: a place to see a rising star once, and legitimately bitter, old, over-worked performances often. It’s the only place to get the raw and uncut, and for beer fans they’re totally inescapable. One must go to the source.
We arrive at Comrade Brewing’s Red Dawn. An American Red Ale with more character than summer stock. Admittedly, I like what Comrade is brewing. Superdank, a fresh-hopped IPA, won silver at the GABF (and is really hard to find). Superpower, a regular ol’ IPA in the rotation, is very, very good (although best in state may be a stretch), and their jalapeño beer (I can’t remember the name UPDATE: It’s Yellow Fever) is good for a whole pint. (Spicy beer is nerdy and good once a year, if that.)
Red ales stand on their malts. Too much and the beer is too toasty, not enough and it’s a wash of bitter and hoppy. Balanced red ales wash into the background like artwork in a hotel room so brewers walk a very fine line.
Red Dawn trades on its hops and citrus and it’s better because of it. It’s fresher and more floral than most red ales, and plenty sessionable despite hovering right around 7 percent ABV. Its malts are there, but they’re a supporting character at best — a lovable Paul Giamatti.
Pro-tip: If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for yourself, I highly suggest a Comrade special edition growler ($55). The 64 oz. tank is matte black with the brewery’s yellow barley and hop faux pick and sickle logo. The whole thing looks like a Soviet bullet train and it’s awesome. The fill isn’t free with your $55, but a pint is. Growler fills go from $12-$16 (there are some that break the $20 range, but just, why.)
And Red Dawn, like all of Comrade’s beers right now, is only available in the brewery. Go now.
WHAT: Comrade Brewing Company’s Red Dawn. (Most of their beer names play on the communist thing and I think that’s just the tops. Seriously.)
WHERE: Only in the tasting room right now, 7667 E. Iliff Ave., Denver. The space is great and only eight months old, but even the best brewery doesn’t hold a candle to a mediocre living room. Get a growler to go.
WHY: It’s a solid red thanks to its hops and citrus. Its low carbonation at the brewery keeps a lot of flavors at the front of your tongue, but it doesn’t last long in a growler. Best in pints at a party.
WHAT IT REMINDS ME OF: Breckenridge’s Avalanche Ale — maybe. Less malty, more fruity.