Summit Suds: Celebrating Stout Month with Steep Brewing & Coffee Co.
Belgian beers usually have hints of banana, porters can be reminiscent of chocolate, and Pilsners can have a bready quality. Stouts, meanwhile, are akin to coffee with their dark and roasty flavors, so it makes sense that a coffee roaster that happens to also brew beer would have a passion for the style. Steep Brewing & Coffee Co. has four stouts on tap — the perfect amount for a nice flight.
Aside from a to-go coffee, I properly visited the brewery for the first time recently to celebrate February’s Stout Month. Dedicating a whole wintry month to the warming beer started in 1993 with Boulder’s Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery and has since grown to breweries all over honoring the period with a stout.
Mountain Sun postponed its event until the fall due to the pandemic, but we’re lucky to have Steep in Keystone. Its standard offering is the J Sleazy Oatmeal Stout brewed with the grain to give the beer a full consistency. Named after the brewery’s owner, it’s a dry and smooth stout that clocks in at 6.1% alcohol by volume.
Fans of the oatmeal stout style should next reach for the Hot Air Balloon, which is the J Sleazy served on nitrogen. It has the same flavors, but I consider it a definite improvement with the creamier body due to the nitro tap. Though lighter in alcohol at 5.8% ABV, it feels heavier since there is less carbonation.
Coffee lovers, however, would do best to heed the siren call of Decaf is Lame. The infusion of in-house coffee beans only increases the coffee characteristics commonly found in dark beers from the roasted malt. This is also served on nitro at 5.8% ABV, but I found in this case that smoothness muted the flavors a tad, and I didn’t taste as much as I would have thought.
This also could be the fact that the medium roast beans from Chiapas, Mexico, were from a bourbon barrel, which could have mellowed the acidic coffee notes. Yet the longer it sat and warmed, it did become more like drinking a black cold brew.
My favorite of the four stouts is for the tea aficionados. Steep’s Dirtay Chai Stout instantly sets itself apart with its dark, muddy brown color that looks like milk chocolate. I could just as quickly smell the spiced chai scent emanating from the glass. I tasted cardamom, star anise and a hint of orange on the finish, all of which are found in Steep’s propriety chai blend that also includes brown sugar and black tea.
Another 5.8% stout, it’s a great wintry beer perfect for Christmas or any other cold day when you want to cozy up next to a fire. A dirty chai — that is, a chai tea latte served with a shot or two of espresso — is my usual coffee order at any shop, so it’s no surprise I wanted another glass.
When you’re done with the stouts, try the newly released The Red Vested Hound ESB. A collaboration with Angry James Brewing Co., the 5.6% red beer honors Tikka, an avalanche rescue dog at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.
ESB means “extra special bitter,” but don’t let the name fool you — the beer is a lush amber bursting with flavor. I got a whiff of whiskey on the nose and tasted spices such as clove and cinnamon.
The “bitter” part simply comes from a time when beer vocabulary was young and more limited, so the British called the style bitter to set it apart from the English milds. Patrons of the Dillon Dam Brewery might recall seeing an East Wall ESB, but it has since been rebranded to an East Wall Amber to help clear up confusion.
Even though Stout Month is over, nothing is stopping you from heading to Steep to enjoy a smooth brew.
Jefferson Geiger is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News and managing editor for Explore Summit. Have a question about beer? Send him an email at email@example.com.
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