Trinity Tweet Tweaks Town, Though True Tale Takes Time To Tell
March, 2008. Jason Yester's vision of Trinity Brewing Company is still a dirt floor in an empty strip mall. Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Dave Philipps chases local cops, six years away from winning his Pulitzer. It's basketball season. Craft beers are gaining a BIG following. We still can't sell our first edition of The Beer Drinker's Guide to Colorado in liquor stores.
It's time for something wacky.
Malt Madness we called it. Together with the Gazette newspaper, we helped organize a taste-off of 32 local craft beers, bracketed in pairs like the spring ritual of the NCAA basketball tourney. Dave demoed his prize-worthy journalism skills by getting the newspaper to cough up a couple hundred dollars to buy growlers at all the local brewers. We planned to pair up 64 Colorado Springs beers, but could only round up 34.
The quest was to anoint One Champion Brew. March Madness, Malt Madness. Clever, huh? The real madness was in what we were planning to do: compare a wheat beer with a stout, and say that one was better. On top of that none of us are professional tasters. Sure, we all like and know a lot about beer. But hey - Dave was on a deadline, we were beer people, and since he was buying the beer - it was time for some Malt Madness!!!
We pondered the weight of what we were doing - declaring one single beer in town the Best Beer of Them All on a totally subjective, almost random basis. It was silly.We'd piss people off, no matter which beer bubbled to the top. Enter Jason, a local brewer with ten years of award-winning beer under his belt and a new brewpub in planning. We reached out to him for advice on how to do a tasting like this, and he became curious. "Who's doing the judging? How are you making sure it's a blind tasting? What are your style guidelines? How will you deal with palette fatigue?" Huh?
Thus Jason became the fifth judge of our wholly unscientific taste-off of local beers. Our story gained a bit of respectability, and Jason would get a few promo words in print for the Future Trinity. The final story in the three-part Gazette series, "Milk Stout's victory ends Malt Madness" was a real cliff-hanger. We couldn't have said it all any better - nice job, Dave:
"The Malt Madness" final four was made up of very different beers.
Il Vicino's dark, malty Barbershop Brown Ale went up against Bristol Brewing's bright, hoppy Edge City IPA. Arctic's Milk Stout battled an esoteric, barrelaged, small-batch sour ale from Bristol, the Skull and Bones Cuvee.
It was neck and neck for the Barbershop Brown and the Edge City IPA.
"This is like comparing a hurdler and a long jumper . . . but I wouldn't throw either of these beers out of bed," said judge and metaphor mixer Mike Laur. Judge Jason Yester agreed. "There's nothing wrong with the brown, but I'm a hop head. I'm going with the IPA."
Edge City IPA beat Barbershop Brown three to two and advanced to the final match.
The other side of the contest was just as close. The complex, sour Skull and Bones Cuvee entranced some judges and made others wince. Yester said, "There's no contest, this is the best beer in town." But judge Zenia Brink said, "I just can't get into the flavor. It's too weird. And dark beers have always been my favorite. I'm going with the stout."
The stout won three to two and moved to the final slug fest against the Edge City IPA. The judges swirled and sniffed, sipped and surmised. It came down to loyalties. Two IPA drinkers voted for the lighter beer. Two devotees of darks voted for the stout.
It was tied. Award-winning brewer Yester said the fair thing to do was evaluate the beers on how well they embodied their styles. The IPA wasn't as hoppy as it should be, he said. "So I'm going for the stout." The milk stout is available at Arctic's tasting room, 2506 Platte Place, 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 477-1340.
Today you can't get milk stout at Arctic's tasting room. It was shuttered in 2010, replaced by an auto repair shop. Il Vicino stopped brewing in town the same year. Bristol Brewing is wildly successful - they still serve Edge City IPA; Skull and Bones is a seasonal. And since opening Trinity brewing in Colorado Springs, Jason Yester's been named one of the top 25 brewers in the world, with rave reviews and dozens of awards for his unique brews.
We'd like to think that our Malt Madness taste-off had a big impact on anything, but it was at heart a fluffy feature story. We drank some beers, and Dave learned the true value of expense receipts. We all learned a few things from Jason, who was eager to explain the weedier parts of judging beers. And we each came away our own totally different list of Best and Worst Beers In Town.
The story series generated a few spirited comments from readers who generally regarded us as morons, complained that they weren't invited to the tastings, and weighed in with their own likes and dislikes. Nobody got hostile, and ultimately our effort was well-received for what it was - a silly newsfeature.
Which is one reason why it's odd that Jason Yester went bonkers in the Twitter-verse lately about another wholly unscientific taste-off: a bit from the blogosphere, a Focus on the Beer online reader poll of favorite local beers. In a pure popularity contest driven by social media, local brewers encouraged friends and followers to "vote for us". When it was all tallied, Trinity Brewing was not the most popular kid in class.
You can read more about it here. Stephanie Earls in the Gazette followed the twittery trail of tears as it started - with Jason tweeting his displeasure about his third place poll showing. He tweeted again with a lashing to Colorado Springs customers who apparently were not educated enough to judge or rate his beers. To twist the knife a bit more, Jason tweeted that C-Spigs would look good in his rearview mirror on his way to a new Denver location.
Yikes! Jason is famously tempestuous, but it all seemed overwrought even for him. Social media circles closed ranks against Trinity's tweets, and raised a middle-finger salute to Saison Man. It still hasn't stopped, and in the world of online everything, it never will. For the record, participants in the vote early, vote often blog poll chose Paradox and Nano108 beers over Trinity in the Barrel Aged category.
Jason has been on damage control since his initial comments. Trinity Brewing makes some excellent beers and some very unusual beers, but not everyone likes them. So what? They've looked to expand into another location for the last two years, with Denver a big blip on the radar. That's not news, either. It didn't help that Mr. Yester went so weird over something so silly, but people will still come and buy his beer. It's unfortunate that nobody seems to be patting #1 Paradox or #2 Nano108 on the back, just kicking Trinity in the ass.
There is a moral to this story. We don't do many reviews, taste-offs, or judging events here at The Drinker's Guide to Colorado. Other than our "Malt Madness" affair, "The Ten Best Golf Courses in Colorado" story was about as close as we got. We know, as you do, that opinions are like assholes: everybody has one. And we're all biased. Why send me to Crooked Stave to review their beers when sours make me hurl? Why send vegan Rick to review barbecue pork? We prefer to stick with facts, and understand the reality that you might love a tart sour beer with pork ribs. Cheers, and to each his own!
The moral is: Beware the Review, Taste-off, Panel Judging, or Poll. The world has way too many opinions masquerading as facts, and your tastes may not necessarily be shared by someone else. Trust your own tastes. You may prefer Paradox or Nano108 over Trinity. Or not. The most important thing is to get out, try stuff, and Support Your Local Brewer. You too, Jason - Paradox and Nano108 make some very nice beers…
What the hell is up with the Santa Photo? We said we don't do many reviews or polls, but today the time is right and we need your pissy opinion. Santa needs your help finding his way to the best restrooms in Colorado. Click here and take our "Favorite Facillities" Poll. Five voters randomly chosen by us will each receive a new Beer, Wine, & Spirit Drinker's Guide. Holy Crap! We will report back with poll results after New Years Day, and hope not to piss anyone off
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