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Behind The Brew: Hogshead Brewery

This is part of a monthly series that introduces you to Colorado breweries.

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The Brewery: Hogshead Brewery

Opened: June 2012

The People: Head brewer and co-owner Steve Kirby and head of operations Jake Gardner. After immigrating from London to Colorado, Kirby decided the one thing the Denver beer scene was missing was an English-style brewery. After getting his hands on a few beer engines, he decided to open one himself. Hogshead was born.

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The Space: The handsome Slo-Hi taproom and brewery (for those who don’t know, that’s the newly dubbed area on the cusp of Sloan Lake and West Highland) was a body shop before Hogshead opened. The building’s well-windowed facade floods the taproom in natural light and is a lovely departure from what you might expect from an English pub. The bay doors are also paneled with glass, opening to the brew room’s mash tun and four fermenting tanks. If you visit on one of Colorado’s 300 days of sunshine, take your beer to the patio for some good, old-fashioned people watching.

The Brews: Hogshead primarily makes “bitters”, or what Americans would liken to a pale ale. From the hoppy Chin Wag ESB, or extra special bitter, to the Ella, a clean session English pale ale, Hogshead offers beers for any palette, not to mention tolerance. Thanks to the lower alcohol content of English-style ales—most are south of five percent—you can have a few without feeling like you’ve been in a scrum the next day. The brewery is also known for its cask-conditioned ales, and is equipped with five beer engines to dispense these temperamental brews as soon as they’re ready.

Buzzed Trivia: The brewery is named after a British unit of measurement for beer and other liquids. A “hogshead” of ale is equal to about 54 imperial gallons (and, if you must know, 64.8513 American gallons).

Sample This: Try the Chinwag ESB on cask if it’s available. At 38 IBUs, it’s on the hoppy side for an English ale, but smoother than the mildest IPAs. In the glass, it’s deep reddish orange, with a fruity flavor profile that hints at toffee and cooked apples. The cask-conditioned version will be more nuanced and unpredictable due to the still-present yeast in the vessel. The beer is named after a Briticism for chatting, typically with good friends. But at 5.8 ABV—among the brewery’s most potent potables—a few of these will have you chin-wagging with whoever’s on the next stool over.

Take Home: Grab a growler of Hogwild IPA on your way out. It’s a hybrid, with the hoppy aroma and bitterness of an American-style IPA, and the yeast and malty backbone of a typical English ale. These cultures marry well, and like any good hybrid, it’s bigger than the sum of its parts.

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