18: My Birthday And The Local Flavor of Denver, Colorado

Photo Album of Denver, Colorado / Álbum de Fotos de Denver, Colorado

    The afternoon of the 5th, Dawn, Gabe, and I find ourselves at the Great Divide Brewery. We arrive shortly after 3pm to discover they're running late on their hourly tour. I have just enough time to grab a glass of their Oak Aged Chocolate Yeti Imperial Stout, taste, and share before being led into the brewing chambers. It's a short tour, but more informative than most. There are a few things that I note that I haven't heard about or seen on other brewery tours. We taste grains, learn about barrel conditioning, and are walked throughout the brewery in the process.

Aging in Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey Barrels (Great Divide Brewery, Denver, Colorado 12/5/2010)

The mashing chamber, used to steep the grains and hops to extract and catalyze the production of sugars, flavors, and aromas (Great Divide Brewery, Denver, Colorado 12/5/2010)

Left to right: Gabriel, Dawn, and Kyle (Great Divide Brewery, Denver, Colorado 12/5/2010)

    Our next destination is the highly famed Casa Bonita Restaurant. You may remember this from South Park. Also, like in the show, they visit on Kyle's birthday. Our expectation of food quality was not high, and we were going more for the entertainment and experience. Indeed, the food was nothing notable, and in fact was far below Mexican quality standards. We enjoy a few hours of performances, including mariachi bands, cliff diving, puppet shows, Chiquita the angry gorilla, Black Bart's cavern, caves, and gold & silver mines. It was definitely worth the $10 for the meal and entertainment.

Cliff Diving (Casa Bonita, Lakewood, Colorado 12/5/2010)

Mine seating (Casa Bonita, Lakewood, Colorado 12/5/2010)

Cavern seating (Casa Bonita, Lakewood, Colorado 12/5/2010)

    Our last stop for the evening is the Denver Botanic Garden, where a special lighted holiday exhibit is in swing. It's a busy night with it being the first weekend open, but we have tickets that let us bypass any lines. Although a lot of the plants are in their Winter dormant state, the lights add a nice accent that lead you to believe otherwise.

Main path (Botanic Garden, Denver, Colorado 12/5/2010)

Semi-frozen pond (Botanic Garden, Denver, Colorado 12/5/2010)

    It's great to have friends who have the time to go out and experience the town with me on my birthday. While some have not been so, this was a fun and memorable birthday (although the horrible sickness a couple years ago was memorable). I'm proud to have made it a 1/4 century. I only hope to have such good friends around when I raise my glass and cheers to the next.
    Monday, the 6th, I meet Dawn at City O' City on bicycle. We enjoy some delicious food before venturing into downtown Denver, where the afternoon turns into a bicycle, bus, and walking tour.

Museum (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

Walking (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

Park, with plots ready for crops to be planted (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

Colorful street; painted, not chalked (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

Government Mint... with nativity scenes, reindeer, and a fat man on the roof? Separation of church and state? Pfft! (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

Walking (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

B-cycle bicycle rent/share program (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

16th Street Mall where we ride a free bus (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

Construction zone art (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

Downtown Construction (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

Railway Cars (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

The follies of urban planning (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

MEAT (Denver, Colorado 12/6/2010)

THEY'RE MADE OUT OF MEAT, Written by Terry Bisson; Director: Stephen O'Regan, Director of Photography: Paul Niccolls, Music: Bob Reynolds, Cast: Tom Noonan, Ben Bailey, Gbenga Akinnagbe (2010)

    Wednesday, the 8th, I let my pent up energy loose into a new take on the pub crawl, and cycle off onto a brewery roll. With a bicycle, my GPS, and a camelbak filled with water, I start my solo Brew Tour at the closest brewery, Breckenridge. I order a salmon, red beans, and rice lunch with a 471 Double IPA. I ask the bartender, Stuart, about a tour, but am told their walk-in tours don't start until 3. However, after I finish my meal, Stuart approaches to tell me he found someone to cover the bar and invites me on a private tour. I grab my beer and follow him into the back.

My sweet ride (Denver, Colorado 12/8/2010)

Breckenridge Brewery (Denver, Colorado 12/8/2010)

Breckenridge Brewery (Denver, Colorado 12/8/2010)

    Of all the breweries I've had the pleasure to explore, I've never had the opportunity to see the bottling take place, until today. This, unfortunately, is a liability issue, but Stuart knew I was serious about beer when the first thing I asked when I came in was about a tour. If I owned or operated a brewery, I also wouldn't want a potentially volatile bottling line to interact with potentially drunken tourgoers. The workers generally operate this line early and stop before the mid-day tours begin. Technically (and legally?), goggles must be worn in this area. I've heard many stories of the bottle line quickly turning a small backup into a large pile of broken glass, once one bottle decides to shatter on the conveyor belt. My tour guide and bartender, Stuart, even pulls an Avalanche Ale, freshly bottled and still foamed up to the cap, off the production line and hands me it as a souvenir.

Bottling line (Breckenridge Brewery, Denver, Colorado 12/8/2010)

Inverting to empty the sanitizing fluid from the bottles (Breckenridge Brewery, Denver, Colorado 12/8/2010)

Ready for boxing (Breckenridge Brewery, Denver, Colorado 12/8/2010)

My souvenir (Breckenridge Brewery, (Denver, Colorado 12/8/2010)

    I stick around for a pint of Buddha's Hand Belgian Whit, while tasting samples of their Extra Special Bitter, Agave Wheat, Oatmeal Stout, and Lucky U IPA. Not wanting to run out of gusto before I really begin the tour, I pay my tab and continue my journey, soon finding myself at Pint's Pub, a traditional British brew pub. My first beer is an Alchemy Extra Special Bitter. My preferences don't lie in British beers. I'll usually grab for a stout or IPA before considering them. After giving them another chance, I begin to appreciate the subtle, balanced flavors within a bitter. I follow it with an order of crisps and, ironically, taste of their Lancer IPA and a Black Ajax Stout. The bartender, Scott, and I share some interesting conversations about brewing and motorcycling. I learn about the Beer Judging Certification Program, which among other things, defines every style of beer. I'm told that anyone that wants to really know about beer should read their literature. He hands me their copy of the BJCP Style Guidelines. I flip through and am wholly impressed with the amount of detailed information covering history, brewing, and tasting of beer, mead, and cider styles.

Pint's Pub (Denver, Colorado 12/8/2010)

    By now I realize I need something more than beer and potato crisps in my stomach to continue this bike ride. I leave Pint's Pub in search of another brewery that has a better food menu. I can't remember when SAME (So All May Eat) Café closes, so take the mile ride but find it's already closed. Cruising into downtown, I discover the next two breweries on my GPS no longer exist. I'm determined to find at least one more, and I do, at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery. I step from the chilly 16th Street Mall into their nearly empty restaurant and find a seat at the bar.

Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery (Denver, Colorado 12/8/2010)

    I order their Belgian Saison with fish (cod) and chips. After some conversations with the bartender about my motorcycle trip and beer preferences, he brings a small glass of a very dark beer. He tells me it's an Oatmeal Stout aged in Woodfin Reserve bourbon barrels for 1.5 years. It's big taste blows away all the other beers I've tried. It may not rank the best of the evening, but it does sit at the top somewhere. It has a strong barley flavor, with sharp bourbon hints that linger long after the swallow. I'm told the alcohol by volume is ~14%. After my meal, I call it an end to my brewery tour, and head home for the evening. The sun has set, and with the traffic and my intoxication level heightened, it's only getting more dangerous to be riding on the street. I roll onto the Cherry Creek Bike Path that leads most of the way home. I find a message from Woody's Wheel Works on my phone when I get home, requesting I call. It's past their working hours, so wait to hear about my bike tomorrow.
    Thursday morning I make the call to Woody's and am pleased to find my bike is ready to pick up, with a new rear rim and Pirelli Scorpion MT 90/AT rear tire. I catch the 0 Bus down Broadway, then walk the last mile to the shop. The bill for labor, new rim, and building materials totals over $550. Since these guys stand behind their product, and I had this set of wheels I'm riding on built less than a year ago by them, I'm only charged for the cost of the new tire, a mere $100. I hang around for a short time, talking with Zack about travel, rims, and the like. My camera is brought out to document where my rim had cracked as well as the gnarly spike I found in my spent tire, when I dropped my bike off last week.

A piece of paper tape designates where each crack was found (Woody's Wheel Works, Denver, Colorado 12/9/2010)

I got the most out of this baby! (Woody's Wheel Works, Denver, Colorado 12/9/2010)

Who knows when I picked this up, but it's a lucky placement (Woody's Wheel Works, Denver, Colorado 12/9/2010)

    It feels great to be back on my bike. Without the luggage, it's an amazingly quick and refreshing ride to Fay Myers Motorcycle World. I discovered tightening the neutral sensor didn't stop the oil leak I discovered in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, but merely slowed it to a few drops a day. I order an oil change to be performed with the sensor seal replacement. I'd normally do my own repairs and oil change, but the lack of a shop and the cold weather has softened my desire to save a few bucks. My oil choice this round is Motorex 10W-50, the oil KTM recommends for this bike. Until now, I've used Repsol 10W-50 with good results. As I admire their line of bikes, waiting for the bike service to be completed, I find my favorite sock, Fox's FRI Thin Sock, and pick up a pair to replace the ones I wore holes in the heels going through Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala.

KTM 950 Super Enduro R (Fay Myers Motorcycle World, Denver, Colorado 12/9/2010)

Aprilia SXV 550 (Fay Myers Motorcycle World, Denver, Colorado 12/9/2010)

Old Honda (Fay Myers Motorcycle World, Denver, Colorado 12/9/2010)

Old Triumph (Fay Myers Motorcycle World, Denver, Colorado 12/9/2010)

Old Honda (Fay Myers Motorcycle World, Denver, Colorado 12/9/2010)

62 Honda 125 Benley (Fay Myers Motorcycle World, Denver, Colorado 12/9/2010)

73 Honda CR250M (Fay Myers Motorcycle World, Denver, Colorado 12/9/2010)

    With my bike leak-free and freshly lubricated, I take a short cruise to Lakewood to visit my aunt Mary. We set up dinner plans for Sunday, where I'll get to see my uncle and cousins for the first time in years, and in the case of some of my second cousins, the first time.
    Friday, the 10th, Dawn and I have lunch at SAME Café. Their business model is "pay us what you think the meal is worth." You can pay $10, nothing, or something in between. It has a small cafe feel, and there are both meat and vegetarian dishes to choose from. I have tea, a mixed vegetable salad with balsamic vinaigrette, spinach pizza, and tomato soup. We run into two of Dawn's friends, Kylie and Matt, who started the local Denver Handmade Homemade Market, which gives local craft and food makers the opportunity to sell and barter their goods and services. Coincidentally this is where we planed to visit, tomorrow. Leaving SAME Café, we spot and save a box of cupcakes and a box of cookies, made by Le Bakery Sensual, a delicious Denver bakery, from being wasted. What a score; clean, fresh, and tasty. On our way home, we stop at King Soopers for the remaining ingredients for tonight's dinner I'm making from La Iguana Perdida's famous Beet Burgers recipe.
    Upon returning home, I find my heated gear delivered. I excitedly break out my tools and strip the right side of my bike. I carefully run the power cable to the battery then bolt everything back together. Back inside the house, I feed the "Y" power cable down my jacket's sleeves and attach the heat troller to the waste strap with a belt clip. After testing both pairs of socks and gloves, I set off on a short trip around the neighborhood with my gloves connected. It's only ~50°F, and at a relatively slow speed, but my hands feel nice and warm. I mess with the power settings, and actually find it too warm to use full-power with it this warm outside. The real test will come Monday morning, when I set off for Texas in the early morning.

Jacket wiring (Denver, Colorado 12/11/2010)

    Returning home, I begin preparing the beet burgers. After much grating and blending of roots, mixing with potato and ground flax seeds, a bowl of patty material that has the surprising color and consistency of ground beef is yielded. It's all vegetables, though, and after breading and frying in saffron oil, then baking, results in deliciousness.

Pre-Beet burger (Denver, Colorado 12/10/2010)

    Saturday begins with Dawn, Gabriel and I visiting Denver's Urban Homesteading Indoor Farmer's Market. After devouring a delicious squash empanada and being unable to resist farm-fresh egg nog, we drive to Vine Street Pub and Brewery for lunch and some brews. There's a mountain of nachos for the three of us, Dawn with a Bloody Mary, and Gabriel and I splitting two beer samplers (totaling 12 different beers). The beers are a Nitro Korova Cram Stout, Nitro Old School Stout, Blackberry Wheat, Annapurna Amber, Isadore Java Porter, XXX Pale Ale, Colorado Kind Ale, Bombshell Blonde, Cleveland Brown, Illusion Dweller IPA, with two non-Vine Street-brewed beers, Russian River's Blind Pig IPA, and Bear Republic's Mach 10.

Beer (Vine Street Pub, Denver, Colorado 12/11/2010)

Beer (Vine Street Pub, Denver, Colorado 12/11/2010)

Beer (Vine Street Pub, Denver, Colorado 12/11/2010)

    Our last stop for the evening is the Denver Handmade Homemade Market. We enter to find hand crafts, soaps, busking musicians, and the aromas of various foods and drinks from the vendors, forming a maze of tables and booths throughout the warehouse. My delectable finds for the evening include "Irish" hot chocolate (meaning with alcohol), chocolate cake, and a loaf of sourdough bread, baked by Kylie.We step from the market into the near-freezing night air. I now have egg nog and sour dough for tomorrow's family dinner.
    With Sunday morning's arrival, I know my time in Denver is coming to an end, but I'm glad to be able to connect with family I haven't seen in years, all under one roof. Although it is only one afternoon, I'm thankful to have been able to have today's gathering and also glad to be parting Denver on such a positive step- reconnecting with family and leaving with full stomach for the Monday's early morning ride to Texas.

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