My craft beer story is a lot like my other stories: “I was being a total dork and …”
My wife and I were in Madison, shortly after our wedding in the fall of 2011. Leinenkugel’s and Guinness were big-time to us back in those days. We’d act all hoity-toity about Bud Light while we sipped our swank Honey Weisses, and we’d hypnotize the masses by merely pouring a Guinness. Ah, those were the days.
Guinness and Weiss were everywhere, they’re still nearly everywhere, so you could imagine my consternation when a waitress at this Mad-Town corner bar broke me the news: they were out of Guinness.
I went blank. How does that even happen? It’s frickin’ Guinness.
“We have something a lot like it, though,” she said. “Have you ever had Left Hand Milk Stout?”
There’s a brewery called Left Hand?! I’m left-handed! Yeah, give me a Left Hand for my left hand! Their logo is even a left hand. On the bottle’s label is a cow, with a spot shaped like a left hand. I was being so meta right now.
Let’s get serious, though. Since having this Left Hand beer at this corner bar with my left hand, I’ve drank maybe five pints of Guinness in the four-and-a-half years thereafter.
January, 1994: Left Hand Brewing opens for business. Later that year, they won the first of their 27 Great American Beer Festival medals. In 2011, Left Hand became the first American brewery (and first craft brewery) to release a Nitrogen beer without the use of a widget. According to the Brewers’ Association, Left Hand is the 40th-largest craft brewery in the U.S. Last year, they began an employee stock ownership program. Suck it, Budweiser!
January, 2016: Some dork and his wife land in Denver, en route to the Stanley Hotel. First stop: Longmont, Colo.
On our first Friday night in the Rockies, Left Hand’s taproom was active but livable. If you want to check out the band, they have a room for that; if you want to peruse merchandise, there’s a corner just past the crowd; and if you’re there for the good stuff, the bar is long and the staff keeps everything moving.
My wife and I settled into a counter space by the windows and enjoyed the Darker Side Flight: Black Jack Porter, which I’d love to have by a fire some night; Milk Stout and Milk Stout Nitro, The Usurpers; and Wake Up Dead, a Russian imperial stout my wife and I disagreed on. She wasn’t a big fan, said it tasted too much like licorice, so I drank it solo. I was okay with that, and she was okay being the sober cab (it’s 10.2% ABV).
An added bonus showed up in the form of Minnesota’s regional sales rep, who introduced me to one of the founders. I’d love to recap the conversation, but I don’t think there was one. I think I just gasped “You’re the FOUNDER!” and fainted. If you know someone at Left Hand, or even if you don’t, they take great care of you. I don’t think I was more than two people deep in a line the whole night.
Great time, great beer. I’m glad I was a dork that day back in Madison.