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Take Home Brew Fest

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big bear brew fest

In November, Big Bear Wine and Liquor hosted the first (possibly to become annual) Brew Fest in the Pueblo Convention Center. The Brew Fest featured over 100 breweries, many of them located along the Front Range, and provided a unique opportunity to sample a large selection of the state’s seasonal beers as well as see what’s trending among Colorado’s craft brews.

Colorado’s Front Range has been called the Napa Valley of beer because of the number of micro-distilleries and craft breweries in the region, and for the quality of beer produced. On the whole, Colorado craft brewers are known for experimenting with infused flavors in lagers and pushing the boundaries of hoppiness in ales. This may be a reaction to the light lagers of the huge international chains like Coors and Miller, or it may simply be a regional style that has grown out of local food culture. Either way, the most successful breweries manage to balance out the hops and create smooth, accessible beers that still have a unique flavor.

bristol brewing company beehive honey wheatLagers and Ales

One of the best examples of that balance is Bristol Brewing‘s Beehive Honey Wheat Light, a sweet and refreshing, full-bodied beer that’s easy to drink but still has intriguing taste of local Black Forest honey, along with a balance of aggressive malt and soft wheat.

Dodgeton Creek Brewing in Trinidad brews a Miner Extra Pale Ale that’s light and bright, with a crisp finish. Dodgeton Creek also has a very accessible IPA–India Pale Ale–that will appeal to people who generally find IPAs too bitter or spicy for their palate.

On the other hand, if you DO enjoy the bite of a traditional IPA, try Three Barrel Brewing‘s Hop Trash. It’s very hoppy, but also complex and completely enjoyable, with just right amount of honey and citrus flavors to give the beer balance. A dry finish leaves you craving one more sip.

Finally, there’s Walter’s Brewing Company, Pueblo’s original brewery. It first opened in the 19th century and has recently been revived as a microbrewery. Walter’s lagers are very light and easy drinking. The dark lager will appeal to those who enjoy European-style lagers.

upslope christmas aleSeasonal Brews

Colorado breweries also took the Brew Fest as an opportunity to introduce their seasonal fall and winter beers.

One of the most unique examples is Upslope‘s Christmas Ale, which has a distinct dry fruit flavor along with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. The sweet malt imparts a red tone to the beer that makes it perfect for when you’re sitting around a fire roasting chestnuts or beasties.

Other notable seasonal beers include Fort Collins Brewery‘s Big Shot, a seasonal brown ale that’s very mellow and smooth, perfect after a long day on the slopes. And Colorado Native‘s Winterfest seasonal beer is smooth, with a bitter bite at the finish. Colorado Native Brewery is unusual because all elements of their beers are made in Colorado, from the hops and wheat, to the bottles and labels that make up their final product.

left hand brewery's milk stoutDark Beers

Winter is also the perfect time of year to enjoy darker beers like stouts and porters, and this is where the craft breweries of the Beer Fest really hit it out of the park with delicious, creative brews.

Oskar Blues‘ Ten FIDY (so called because the alcohol content is 10.5 percent) is a Russian imperial stout that’s intimidatingly dark, but don’t let that put you off. The texture is thick, almost syrupy, and the flavors are reminiscent of everything good in life: French roasted coffee, molasses, and dark chocolate. The hops are earthy and complex, and the finish is smooth smooth smooth, like the world’s most interesting man.

Another outstanding stout is Left Hand Brewing‘s milk stout. Yes, it contains milk, and yes, it works. Left Hand Brewery only brought a selection of their dark beers to the Brew Fest, most of which are very aggressive and bitter. But the milk stout is a revelation: light and slightly sweet, exactly the type of stout to win over people who claim they don’t like stout, and capture the hearts of people who do.

San Luis Valley Brewing Company continues to demonstrate excellence with their Saddle Up Strong Scotch Ale, a seasonal ale that’s dark, thick, smooth, well-balanced, and completely amazing. It’s compulsively drinkable, which may be a bad thing since it tends to sneak up on a person.

Boulder Beer, Colorado’s very first craft brewery, also showed off a very interesting porter called Shake. Rich, thick, and strongly infused with chocolate, it really does taste like a semi-bitter, dark chocolate shake–a perfect accompaniment to a classic American burger and fries.

big sky powder hound winter aleOther Notable Beers and Liquors

Crazy Mountain, located in Edwards, has beers that are very unique and experimental–definitely not the type of stuff that would appeal to everyone, but perfect if you’re seeking something off the beaten path to whet your whistle. Their Lava Lake lager stands out as the most idiosyncratic of all the beers at the Brew Fest. It has a strong citrus flavor, and is infused with coriander, orange peel, and camomile. Their Snowcat coffee stout is extremely aggressive and bitter, with a coffee taste that hits you in the face full-on and leaves you slightly reeling. Pikes Peak Brewing, meanwhile, offers a green chile lager with a more delicate and subtle infusion than SLVB’s green chile lager, which should have a greater everyday appeal for those who love spice with their beer.

As for the non-Colorado breweries, Big Sky Brewing Company was a favorite with their Winter Ale, which has a refreshing bite without the bitter aftertaste common in many of the Colorado ales sampled.

There was also a handful of distilleries represented at the Brew Fest including Breckenridge Distillery and Spirits of the Rockies, Pueblo’s very first distillery. Spirits produces high-quality moonshine made from corn mash, as well as infused flavors like apple pie. The apple pie moonshine isn’t overly sweet, and both the regular and infused moonshine have a clean mouthfeel.

 

Overall the Brew Fest was successful, empirically demonstrating the variety and quality of Colorado brews. It’s never been more obvious that if you’re a beer lover, this is the place to be! Next year we hope to see more craft and microbreweries in the area, inspiring one another to push the traditional styles of beer and create new brews with exciting and intriguing flavor profiles.

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Arts & Culture

Art is Hard with Pueblo illustrator Riki Takaoka

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Takoka, Riki (web)

“I’ve almost quit doing art so many times.”

I’m at a coffee place downtown talking shop with Pueblo artist and illustrator Riki Takaoka. With works currently on display at the Q Pop gallery in Los Angeles, and a recent addition for possible contribution to nationally syndicated contemporary arts magazine Hi-Fructose, (not to mention freelance nominations from Paramount Animation Studios), I figured he and I were in for a quick convo about brushes or pen techniques. I wasn’t expecting that one of the quickest and most accurate caricature artists I’ve ever seen in my life would say he is quitting something he’s clearly great at.

But I was shocked to hear that come from his lips.

Shocked, but sadly not at all surprised. Talk to almost anyone in the so-called creative class, and they’ll tell you a similarly dismal story that usually goes as such;

1) Find something creative you love to do.

2) Take years and years honing and perfecting your craft.

3) Get good enough to be recognized for your art.

4) Ask for compensation for your art.

5) Get chided for daring to ask for said compensation.

image by Riki Takaoka

 

The worst part about hearing that from him is that the illustration work of Takaoka is flat out phenomenal. Blending playfully bold caricatures with a jagged surrealistic quality, Takaoka has developed a signature style and skill set that stands on its own. A style that he points out he has been brewing since childhood.

“When i was a kid, I would draw and redraw the same cover of PSM (PlayStation Magazine) over and over. I was just obsessed with it. I’ve stayed in my room for days sometimes, just trying to push myselfto do better,” Takaoka said.

But all the talent and hard work in the word can’t guarantee financial success in the art world.

When the topic shifts to art as a means of income comes up, Takaoka offers, “Art is hard. Not hard for me to make. It’s easy to make and I love it. Just hard for me to deal with. Or, I guess live off. Deal with trying to live off it. And it’s frustrating to spend hours making a commission piece for someone and then have to beg them to pay for it.”

Unfair doesn’t seem to do it justice. In no other profession other than the creative field will you hear of such a thing. I’ve never once heard of my food service friends offered to be paid by a future profit share, or my wife the hairdresser and stylist proposed exposure for their work as an alternative to actual money. But every day in creative lines of work, artists are at odds with clientele who want assets for nothing or damn near.

“I get that almost every time, everywhere. It doesn’t matter where I’ve been. I’ve lived in Hawaii, in Texas, here in Colorado.” he said. “Unless you’re a well known artist, people constantly try to get out of paying you for your work.”

“There’s been times where I haven’t drawn for three months straight,” he added, sounding a bit dejected. “Because sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it. But it’s one of the only things I know how to do well.”

I asked him about his experience living and working out of Pueblo.

“It’s a nice place to live. It’s affordable. I can walk around and not feel stressed out about having to have two jobs to survive,” Takaoka said. “But the problem is no one wants to work with each other. Not everybody, but too many.”

Even though the art scene here is by no means perfect, he was quick to add, “but it is getting better I guess. And bigger. People doing more. Taking chances.”

In any other line of work, the odds of failure facing people would break most people. But not Riki.  At the end of our conversation, I asked if he considered quitting forever, which got a sly grin. “I can’t quit, I guess. Maybe I’ll just stop for a while. But not completely. At this point it’s like handwriting to me. Period. It’s almost subconscious. It’s the way I see the world. And deal with it.”

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Arts & Culture

Land Lines : PULP Artist of the Month

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Denver’s Land Lines occupy a truly unique headspace upon listening, which can only be described as “Fresh off the boat from Chilligan’s Island”. The Mile High trio, comprised of Martina Grbac (cello/vocals), Ross Harada (drums) and James Han (electric piano/organ), seamlessly meld vintage-modern baroque music with pop shimmer and gloss, like having a dance party at the symphony. Musically, Land Lines is at times is sparse and introspective, with clever and brooding lyricism, only to then turn that right on its’ ear as with bursts and blooms of  thundering pop force, (which contains equally clever and brooding lyricism). On their newest album “Natural World”, dark and moody synthesizer tones playfully buzz and pulsate to and fro over drums that are the audio equivalent of a saunter and sashay. But the lively pluck and eerie hum of the cello (compliments of Martina Grbac) is what sets this band apart from the pack, providing an melodic orchestral punch that cuts through the dense sonic layers like a Hattori Hanzo sword.

 

for fans of /// Portishead • Lady Lamb the Beekeeper • Beach Fossils

hellolandlines.bandcamp.com

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Music

The Local : BRIDGES

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BRIDGES may easily (and quite erroneously) get lumped in with every other current metal/hardcore band playing out today, but this does them no justice. Shifting between the audible snarl and massive attack of hardcore and metal to delicate and downright pretty alternative minded exalt on a dime, BRIDGES, in a very big sense, play simply heavy music. Not heavy in the classic metal distorted-and-detuned-riffs kind of way, but heavy in perhaps an emotive sense. There are elements of hardcore and modern metal, yes, but the real strength behind this band is that their music largely defies any easy categorization, instead using the 60+ years of combined innovation to bring about one of the most well versed and original bands currently in Colorado.   

On a whim, I asked them to quickly list the bands that they had played in or currently part of. They easily listed over a dozen, with some being short tenures in young acts fresh out of high school with others spanning for multiple years, tours, and record label heat.

But what really amazes me about BRIDGES is their reverence for each other. In all my time spent hanging out with bands (both my own and other), I have never encountered a band which seems to enjoy the presence of each other more. They bring the act of playing music back to a core that often falls by the wayside; Simply enjoying it.

I spoke with BRIDGES on a dimly lit porch, beers flowing, on a windy night Tuesday, November 10th 2015.

PULP/ Your previous bands all kind of sound like a lineage tree of Pueblo metal and hardcore. After hearing all that, how does it feel?

 

Matt (Herrera/guitar) / I think it’s really cool. I’ve always been fortunate that with all of the bands I’ve been in were with friends. Just playing together, getting along outside of music. And now, we’ve all been in other bands when we were younger. I met Joe and Adam when they were both probably like 14 o4 15, and now I’m playing in a band with them? I never would of thought.

 

Tyler (Boyce/Vocals) / But I can say that out of all the bands I’ve been in, this has been the most fun to be a part of. On a writing level and on a friendship level. It’s just always good.

 

In some of your previous bands, there was some label heat and contracts and business stuff. Are you dealing with any of that stuff now?

 

Tyler/ It’s definitely a lot easier with BRIDGES. With my old band, some of the guys got so sucked into wanting to “make it” that we were writing too fast and putting out stuff that wasn’t ready, and wasn’t as good as it should have been.

 

Matt /  Well with (previous band) Son of Man, it ended the way it did because by the end of it, it wasn’t any fun. It was all business. I want to try and take a more organic approach with this band. I want to still be busy, but not push anything that isn’t ready or right. Instead of worrying about obligations and the business of it, I want to focus on writing the best music we possibly can. Everything is so saturated right now in our genre. I don’t know exactly what our genre is, but it’s hard to stick out. I’d like to push our own thing, and not falling into a mold. My favorite bands have always been ones that are heavy, bot not in the usual way, you know?

 

How do you feel like BRIDGES differentiates from other acts out now?

 

Matt/ Well. Bands have started to, and I even hate saying this, but using dance moves and choreography.  It’s so stupid.

 

What does that mean? Like dancing with guitars?

 

Matt /  Yeah, like head banging and spins and stuff. It used to be, when a band was getting into the music, it was just something that happened naturally. In Son of Man, really we were all just trying to keep up with (SOM bandmate) Mo. But I get it, when I was younger and in a band, we did tons of stupid shit. I mean, it was the late 90’s. We all loved Korn and Limp Bizkit, so use your imagination. (laughs) But it totally sucks when people and bands are more worried about a dance move or a look than what they are writing.

 

Josh (Ewing/bass) / Every time we jam, it’s all organic. (laughs) When you start choreographing it, it seems fake and more like going through the motions than having fun.

 

BRIDGES has always been a more sonically adventurous band to me. You’re heavy, but it’s more in layers rather than in riffs. Is that something you try to do on purpose?

 

Matt/ We’ve always made it a point to not write the same way twice.We all love different things; Clean parts, and having melodies and parts that go places, rather than just the same riff over and over. There’s no point in having two guitar players who are playing the exact same thing. We even talked about writing a pretty and clean (guitar tone) song at some point. It’s always better to try and work toward something new. It’s exciting.

 

Tyler/  And that’s one of the thing that initially interested me about trying out for the band. Like you said, there are layers to it. And it’s very intricate. You can dissect it, and you can find so many different types of music in it.

 

Joe (Johnson/Guitar)/ It’s just nice to have the people to do it. We’re all open minded.

 

Do you think Pueblo is hurting for an all ages place to play?

 

Matt/ Oh, totally. I think it has taken Phil’s (Radiator) being gone, and kind of ripped out without a choice, for people to realize that it is hurting. Sure, they’ve re-opened now, but they’re not all ages. It feels like there’s this big gap, but it’s slowly being filled back up. We played a show at the Daily Grind a while back, and we got to play for a bunch of kids who wouldn’t have otherwise got to see us. There’s an untapped youth market here in town, but there’s nowhere for them to go see bands play.

 

Tyler/ Another thing, is there are now finally young bands still in high school that are starting to pop up. But this scene isn’t what it used to be. Everyone we know now is older, and no one really kept going. Where are these new bands supposed to go?

 

Matt/ It’s a bummer because I’ve never even heard of these guys, and there’s nowhere to check them out. We’ve only played Pueblo twice in the last year.

 

Any reason for that?

 

Tyler/ It’s hard to find places where you can play. It’s hard when no one wants to invest in Pueblo. Everyone thinks that Pueblo is this s— hole, and it is a small town, but I love it here. I’ve seen and met a lot of cool people, and there’s a lot of cool things happening here. But nobody chooses to get up off the couch to see them. and yet everyone complains that there’s nothing to do. That’s the saddest part.

 

Josh/ There’s a lot of great stuff here that fails due to lack of support.

 

Matt/ There’s so much negative stuff being said and reported about our city, it’s just nice when people can get out there to other places and show them that we’re not all gang bangers and drug addicts. I mean, we all make jokes sometimes, but I want to share that there are good people and good things going on here. When bands come down here to play, they all say it’s great, you know?

 

With the band all coming from such different musical styles, is writing the way you do more difficult?

 

Tyler/  When we write stuff, we all kind of write with it too. Someone has an idea, and we all try to make it fit with how we see it, and still make it into something we’re all looking for. We all compensate for each others’ styles in that way. It’s a team effort.

 

Josh/ I think it helps that we all try to have an open mindset with writing. No one ever comes in and says “I have an idea and it has to go exactly like this.”

 

Do you feel like it makes it more unique that way?

 

Matt/ It makes it more real, and definitely gives it a more unique identity. It’s great. It makes it so that we can’t make anything cookie cutter. It’s good to be able to do that. More rewarding that way.

 

Tyler/ I also think it’s maybe why we all get along so well too. There’s never anyone jumping down someone’s throat about not playing something the “right” way. We just want to make something that we like a lot and can be proud to show people. We put a lot of time into it, and when we get any kind of good feedback about it, to say that it gave them some sort of feeling or emotion, that’s the coolest thing about making music. And makes us happy.

 

Josh/ And it’s totally applicable to anyone doing any kind of art. If you’re doing it the way you want, not under anyone else’s guidelines, and attain results that they’re proud of, especially if it’s someone telling you they love it, definitely makes it way more rewarding.

 

Is that part of the reason you guys play music to begin with? For that feeling?

 

Josh/ Oh, definitely. The core factor of it comes down to I love to do it for myself. I love playing music and playing it with my best friends.

 

Tyler/ Exactly. The best part, is you get to show up, hang out with your best friends, and make music that hopefully you can all enjoy and get behind. If not, why are you doing it?

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