The beer battles

Internal strife hits at Longmont’s Pumphouse Brewery

The bar in the Red Zone

There’s a lot of sharing on our beer tour. When I describe six of a brewery’s beers in this column, I didn’t order six beers. I just brought five people. We pass everything around, and even trade or give away beers we don’t care for.

But there’s still an unwritten rule at play, a line between sharing and stealing. It’s the same basic ground rules as when you’re out at a brewery with your friends, or back in elementary school: If you’re the only one who loves a beer or toy, have at it; if everyone likes it, you have to share.

But after three months I think we’re fraying at the edges. Sure, we politely offer tastes. Nobody’s slamming down someone else’s amber. But there are some signs that we’re on the way to all-out Beer of the Flies soon enough.

The trouble started on our previous trip. At Oskar Blues Grill & Brew in Lyons, two taster trays somehow weren’t enough for all of us to share — at least, when it came to the Ten Fidy stout. Elizabeth and I were debating how best to divide up all 10 tasters in front of us when I noticed one was already drained.

It’s fine, really. A tiny sip was all I needed, I swear.

Anyway, I got mine. Last week, when we finished our Longmont stretch with an evening at the Pumphouse Brewery’s Red Zone, Elizabeth made the mistake of ordering the best beer on the menu, the addictive cherry imperial stout.

The cherry stout was the winner among a batch of very good beers. Pumphouse, for those too wrapped up in Boulder’s beer scene to notice, is Longmont’s version of Mountain Sun in that it doesn’t package and sell its beer, but it draws massive crowds every night. The Red Alert amber, heavier and maltier than most, is the best amber we’ve come across and holds up well next to my favorite, Breckenridge’s Avalanche. Pumphouse’s Shockwave fed my newest obsession, Scottish ales, with a strong malt flavor. And the Spotted Dog milk stout is basically dark chocolate in a glass.

Lest I scare the public away: We go easy on newcomers, like KGNU’s Sam Fuqua, who stopped in for an IPA and a chat about news and media. Nobody stole Sam’s beer.

Now, I didn’t drain Elizabeth’s cherry stout like she did the Ten Fidy, but then again, this wasn’t a 4-ounce taster. I did discover a couple new ground rules for the brave new selfish world we’re living in — or maybe I invented the rules and accelerated our selfishness. Either way, it’s a deadly combo: Ask for a taste early, and convince your mark to order food, preferably something you eat with your hands. Step three is simple: Start the stealing.

Respond: Next stops: Redstone Meadery, 4700 Pearl St. #2A, Boulder, 4 p.m. April 4; Shine, 2027 13th St., Boulder, 4 p.m. April 11. Members of the public are welcome.