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Pub Visit - USA/Canada

Denver (West Highland), Colorado:
Hogshead Brewery

Visited on: Saturday 9th June 2018

Bob Thompson

Hogshead1I’d looked forward to visiting the Hogshead Brewery ever since I started the planning our sojourn in Denver. It is to be found in the suburban heartlands of West Highland, a district on the north-eastern border of the city.

Its unique selling point is cask ale, our British staple beer. There are a few pubs in the USA that have a hand pump or two, often dispensing the cask on a certain night of the week, yet Hogshead specialises in it.

The Rock Bottom chain is to be commended as their branches normally have one or two cask beers on sale, all of the time. However, Hogshead is very different; their main output is the real stuff. Their story is part dream, part determination and part ambition to offer something in Denver that had never been done before.

Hogshead2It begins when Stephen Kirby from the U.K., a brick mason, finds himself in Denver during the 1980s. A lover of good beer he frequented the Highland Tavern; which served beers imported from the Czech Republic. Here he met Mike Manczur, a fellow beer aficionado.

Over many pints they planned to open a brewery that produced English-style real ale that was unfiltered, unpasteurised with a secondary fermentation in the cask.

Mike was involved in the construction industry and they mad the first step of instigating a one barrel (bbls) capacity brewery. It was installed on a chicken farm which also happened to be where Mike’s office was located. It was installed by Jeff Kipp, who became their engineer. After a year perfecting a number of recipes they were ready to take the next step.

Hogshead3In 2011 they purchased a 1950s-built gas station on 29th Avenue. After a lot of rebuilding they installed a ten barrel (bbls) brewery and a tap room. It opened on 10th July 2012 and proved very popular. They sensibly have some beers on keg as this is the norm in the USA. It can be a quantum leap changing from keg to cask for some. The cask beers are served at 55°F and retain their natural conditioning.

The brewery is ultra modern being almost totally automated. It can brew batches from 1 to 10 barrels (bbls) at a time.

A Hogshead is measure of quantity in old England and it equates to 54 gallons. That’s why the official name of the brewery is Hogshead 54. Hogsheads are long longer in use in the UK under Health and Safety legislation.

Hogshead4However, I can remember seeing them in use at Holt’s of Manchester and Sam Smith’s of Tadcaster, but that was almost forty years ago. Large pubs in seaside resorts such as Blackpool and Scarborough took them in the summer months because of the sheer volume of beer dispensed, a demand that is no longer there.

It was a fine day when Linda and I visited and it was quite a relief to see that the pub had water mist sprays over the patio.

Just what was needed after our three-block walk from the bus stop. Inside we found a small tap room with the brewing equipment prominent on the left side. The bar counter with its varnished wood top was directly in front of us. The rest of the furniture is a mixture of wooden fitted and loose table and chairs. There is a display of old English hand pump clips on the right wall. Behind the bar counter there is a huge stuffed hog’s head mounted on the wall.

Hogshead5Outside there were hop bines growing up the window, their growth no doubt assisted by the water spraying over them.

There were six hand-pumped beers and four keg offerings. They do not do samplers or flights of beer so we had no choice but to settle for six half pints of the cask beers. They were: AK (3.9%), an ordinary bitter; Barge’s (4.2%), a mild; Hogshead Extra (5.4%), a stout; Hog Wild (5.9%), an IPA; Cook Lane (4.7%), a pale ale and Chin Wag (5.9%), an extra special bitter.

The keg beers were: Harvest Chin (5.8%), a wet-hopped (?) extra special bitter; Roaring Mild (4.2%), a 1920s style mild; Double Chin (6.9%), an extra special bitter and Dr Bakken’s (6.2%), an oatmeal stout. As said above we tried all of the cask beers but none of the kegs, so can’t give an opinion on them.

Hogshead6Here is what we thought about the cask beers: Chinwag E.S.B. is a quite complex beer with a bit of malt in the main taste, very good; Hogshead Extra Stout was very full flavoured with a dry finish and well liked.

Cook Lane Pale Ale good well-balanced premium bitter with a strong taste and a slightly salty after taste; Hog Wild IPA was very bitter and was more of the US type than the UK. Barge’s Mild was a nice mild in the north-western style, with just a hint of bitterness.

AK is an ordinary bitter with a beautifully floral main taste, very full bodied for a lower alcohol beer. This bitter is so good I wish it were available in the UK, the spiritual home of bitter. What a pity it isn’t available in England. One of the best bitters I have ever tasted, and I’ve been around the block a bit with them.

There is no food available from the pub, but there is often a food truck outside. Also, it is possible to order in from local restaurants. The beer here is fabulous and this is a not-to-be-missed destination if you are in Denver.

Important Information:

Hogshead Brewery, 4460 W 29th Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80212. Tel: 303 495 3105

Hours: Sunday-Monday/Thursday 12.00-22.00; Tuesday-Wednesday 14.00-22.00;
Friday-Saturday 12.00-23.00

The pub is about ten minutes walk from the bus stops of Route 28.
This runs every 30 minutes on weekdays. On Saturday and Sunday it is hourly.
The route is from Applewood Village in the west to Central Park station in the east.
It operates through the city centre southbound on 17th Street and north up 15th Street.

Central Park station is on the RTD A line from Union Station to Denver International Airport.
The closest stop to the pub is West 26th Avenue/Tennyson Street.
The stops are opposite Tennyson Street. With Sloan’s Lake Park behind you walk up Tennyson Street.
After three blocks you will arrive at West 29th Avenue. Turn left and the pub is to be found on the left.