B eer is typically considered crisp and refreshing. Usually, a happy hour steal or a pick your own six-pack and take home kind of deal. But to some, beer is an art. To these local brewers, beer is more than just the meaning behind “let’s crack a cold one.”
These brewmasters have a favorite beer; one that they would consider the best. Alongside them stands their four-legged supporters and who they would consider the top dog. It’s with passion and curiosity that we dig a little deeper into what make these brewers and their companions truly ‘best in show.’
Dan Garfinkel from Finkel & Garf – Owner
Best in Show | Dry Hopped Amber
Q: So tell me about Finkel & Garf.
A: Finkel & Garf Brewing Company is a collaboration between Eric and Dan Garfinkel, a father aka Finkel and a son aka Garf. We both share a love of well-crafted beer and an appreciation of the many life experiences we have enjoyed with a beer in hand. Finkel and Garf are the nicknames we had growing up, which remind us to have fun and always to stay young.
Q: And what about your pup. Tell me about her.
A: Joey is a three-year-old Australian Shepherd who loves to play fetch with tennis balls or frisbees. When she’s not playing, she’s usually just hanging out and watching everything that’s happening around her. She also loves frozen carrots, ice, peanut butter and naps.
Q: If you had to choose one beer to drink for the rest of your life, which would it be?
A: Finkel & Garf Dry Hopped Amber because it has the perfect balance of malt and hop character. Plus it’s only 5.2% ABV.
Q: What brewery do you admire? Local or out of state, you choose.
A: There are lots of them but Yuengling for sure. Everyone I know from the East Coast looks for Yuengling when they go back.
Q: What do you and Joey usually do on the weekends?
A: She’s usually with me all of the time, so anywhere I go, she goes. But some activities include coffee in the morning, maybe a hike, a game of fetch, lunch outside somewhere, and while I’m working she’s usually laying on my feet.
Q: What is your favorite beer trend right this very moment?
A: Lower alcohol. Makes it easier to have another!
Tim from Oskar Blues – Brewer
Best in Show | Dale’s Pale Ale
Q: Tell me about yourself.
A: I’ve been brewing professionally since late 2006 and came onboard at Oskar Blues in 2008. I live in Longmont with my wife, Michelle, and four-year- old son, Rhys. I’m thoroughly into beer — the culture, the history, the science and the art. Beyond that, we love getting to the mountains for skiing in the cold months and hiking and mountain biking in the warmer months. Cooking and music are a part of everyday life in the house; we make a point to prepare meals together as a family.
Q: Tell me a little more about Oskar Blues.
A: Oskar Blues started as a restaurant in Lyons, Colorado in 1997 and it began brewing in 1999. Since then it has been a wild ride, especially after we were the first brewery to put our Dales Pale Ale in a can back in 2002. Today Oskar Blues is brewing at four facilities, including the original brewpub plus production facilities in Longmont and Brevard, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas.
Q: Tell me about your pup.
A: Oscar, (not named after the brewery, just an odd coincidence in names), is an Australian Shepard/Swiss Mountain Dog mix and is about twelve-years-old. My wife adopted him just over ten years ago down in Colorado Springs. He loves water, but not so much swimming, and keeping tabs on the toddler. He is a mama’s boy, and his main mission in life is to stay right next to my wife at all times possible.
Q: So the bar or pub you’re at doesn’t serve beer, (shame on them), what would you order?
A: A sherried Scotch like Glendronach or an aromatic white wine like a Moscato, Riesling, or Gewurztraminer.
Q: To anyone who doesn’t like beer, what would you say?
A: It has a broader range of style than they think. To give “beer” a fair shot, one should definitely try something from multiple categories.
Q: What kind of beer would you be and why?
A: I love history, especially Russian history, and I also love malt so I would say, Imperial Stout.
Jon Howland from 12Degree – Owner and Head Brewer
Best in Show | The Walter White
Q: What is your beer making process?
A: 12Degree is a small, artisanal Belgian-inspired brewpub. Each process depends on the beer but what is consistent with us is that the brewing process is very hands on. Our brewery has zero automation, so we’re very in touch with how each batch is doing at every stage. We’re also in a small space, and the brewery is on two floors, so we’ve had to be creative with our processes. We brew and ferment upstairs and condition, age, and serve the beer from the lower level.
Q: Tell me about your best friend.
A: Well, I feel like I should mention two pups. Walter was a big, mellow goofball of a Golden Retriever. He was with me for nine years and was my brewing companion when I home-brewed our pilot batches. After we had opened, he was 12Degree’s official greeter and mascot for over three years. Walter passed away late last summer at nearly thirteen but left an indelible paw print on 12Degree and of course on me. I just recently got a new pup named Max. He doesn’t know too much about brewing or being a greeter yet, but we’re working on it.
Q: If you only had one beer to drink for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: That’s a tough question, but for one of ours, I’d go with Treachery, our Golden Strong Ale. For one we don’t brew I think I’d have to go with Orval which is a Belgian Trappist Ale that’s so unique it’s practically in it’s own category.
Q: How did you come up with the name 12Degree?
A: 12Degree is a bit of a beer-geeky name. It’s a reference to the Belgian Scale which was used in the old days of Belgian brewing to measure fermentable sugars — essentially a measurement of how strong the beer will be when it’s ready to drink. Trappist monks in Belgium would often simply name their beers according to where each one fell on the Belgian Scale. So their smallest beer might be called the “5” and their biggest, the “10.” Many of my early beers were, to put it lightly, just a bit on the strong side, so 12Degree seemed representative.
Q: Have any of your dogs ever accidentally tasted your beer?
A: Never the beer, but Walter used to love to eat spent grains. He knew the time of the brew day when I’d be removing grains from the mash tun and would make sure he was strategically positioned to get some. *Tip for other dog owners just in case they don’t know: hops are poisonous to dogs so be careful!*
Jason zumBrunnen from Ratio Beerworks – CoFounder
Best in Show | New Wave
Q: Let’s get to know you.
A: I was TIME’s 2006 Person of the Year, I’m a Sagittarius, but I don’t believe in astrology and I generally like punk and rock and also not-so-secretly like Taylor Swift.
Q: How did Ratio Beerworks become the name?
A: I was reading a cool article about the newest movement in the coffee industry, which I also love. It was an entire article about the ratio of coffee to the water for different brews. It really struck that we have so many different important ratios in beer brewing too, like our ratio of water to grain is usually 2.61:1. I also loved the image of the ratio of all the connecting parts of the community that come together to create our brewery.
Q: Tell me about Mr. Levi Honky Tonk.
A: He’s a two-year-old Miniature Schnauzer. He is unusually colored as chocolate parti. His favorite activities are: pooping in our bedroom, wrestling, licking, licking, licking and cuddling. Main quirk: spinning in circles. I would say his personality is categorized as “spunky turd.”
Q: What is your favorite beer to brew and why?
A: I love brewing our huge Imperial Stout called Genius Wizard. It’s such a massive beer that takes two full mashes of grain just to fill up the kettle once. It’s filled with tons of chocolaty and caramel malts as well as molasses. We only brew this at one time of the year to come out in December. If we had to brew it year round, it would probably be my least favorite to brew as it’s actually the biggest pain in the ass!
Q: What do you and Levi Honky Tonk usually do on the weekends?
A: Schnauzers are supposed to be great rat and mouse hunters, but Levi will literally just stare at mice, so we’ve taken that job off of his list. Levi is quite a great hiker. He has hiked Mt. Sanitas in Boulder, and we just did the approach hike on Mt. Bierstadt. I think he’ll make his first 14er peak this summer.