By Liz Henry, guest writer
I enjoy good beer. Even more, I enjoy good company.
It’s only logical that Highland Tap and Burger’s Crafty Ladies Beer Club has become a regular event on my calendar. Owner Katie O’Shea opens her door to twice a month to groups of ladies ready to hear from local breweries and distributors and enjoy craft beer tastings. What started as a monthly gathering, an experiment in reaching out to the female demographic in a male-dominated industry, now has presenters repeat their sessions the first and third Tuesday of the month so that HTB can accommodate more participants.
I’ve been fascinated with the generosity of Highland Tap & Burger and the participating breweries and distributors. They close half the restaurant for each (free) session and presenters donate the beer for the tastings.
But when Oskar Blues offered to create a Crafty Ladies-inspired brew, they stepped up the bar in support of the now clearly successful “experiment.” After first meeting with a small group to get the creative juices flowing, they picked up 14 of us fortunate souls in their RV and hosted us for a day to work alongside master brewers Dave Chichura and Eric Huber at the Lyons brewery. From home brewers to novices like me (and my mom), we all found a role in the process, a new vocabulary list (sparging, anyone?), and a love of Deviant.
Those of us who are not home brewers had a crash-course in ingredient choice, processing, and fermenting during our day with Oskar Blues. They took us step-by-step through everything, from grain to fermenting wort. Tasting each ingredient and at every stage, we got to know our beer as it developed. As a special treat, we tasted Eric’s latest creation, Red Eye Rye, in its pre-carbonation stage. Dave also gave us a few ideas on the key to success – good sanitization, good yeast, and consistency throughout the process. I would add, “keeping it simple,” to that. Everyday items like shovels and oars become tools of the trade at the Lyons brewery. The process seemed equally mathematical and intuitive, but very approachable, even for the novice.
The chai-spiced stout that will be the result of this labor of love was inspired by our ideas and suggestions, tempered with Dave and Eric’s vast knowledge about what is actually feasible in the time frame we had and how to create something that is different, without being too experimental.
Our yet-to-be-named creation will be available exclusively in Denver at Highland Tap & Burger, beginning with a tapping party on Thursday, December 8 at 6:30 pm.
To get in on the Crafty Ladies Beer Club action, check the Facebook page for the dates and RSVP information. As for the other breweries out there, the bar has been set. Who will be the next one to raise it?