I've tried to make this tour as easy as possible. Which is why my flight is at the very reasonable hour of 11 am. Why make myself get up in the middle of the night if there's no need to?
Though I've already got my boarding card printed, I show up pretty early at the airport. Why? General paranoia - I had a bad experience checking in with United at O'Hare airport in Chicago - and I plan getting breakfast there. There's always somewhere serving breakfast in an airport.
Once past security, I check a map to see what my dining options are. There's something called a grill that looks my best bet. But that's at another set of gates which is a train ride away. I'd rather stay closer to where I'm going to board, so I check out the nearby options. None sound very promising. First one I get to has a sign outside saying "Breakfast being served". A glance at the tables confirms that they have the egg and bacon style stuff I crave.
It's called Africa Lounge. That's why I hadn't been very hopeful of finding a fry-up. The name seems to only refer to the décor, which is kitschily African. I don't give a toss as long as I get my bacon fix. What to drink with it? Coffee, obviously, to wake me up. Orange juice for some vitamins. A double Jack Daniels because, well, I can. And that's what I usually tuck into in US airports. I order a second when I'm half-way through my food.
The plane is packed. I'd already had emails offering me $250 if switch to a later flight. No chance. At the gate they asked again a few times. The flight is uneventful so I liven it up with a couple of whiskies. I realise now how far out of my way Denver is - it's a 3.5 hour flight.
I've been to Denver before, back in 1989 when I was still working in the airline industry. The airport doesn't look familiar. Then again, afer racking my brain for many minutes, all I can remember of the city is a steak house close to my hotel where I ate in a couple of times. It was much like the one where Homer Simpson attempts a steak-eating challenge. A 24 oz steak - did I really eat that? I was a strange person when younger.
As my taxi bumps along the freeway towards town I realise it's a different airport. This one is much further out of town. Not that I expect I would have recognised the old one. I've been through so many recently that they're all blurring into one.
The weather isn't bad. A pleasantly mild 15º C.
I'm stopping at what looks like a pretty nice hotel, the Magnolia. It's right downtown, in a former bank. Sadly, the city centre is as bland and dismal as I remember it.
After opening my room door I pause for a while, jaw scraping the carpet. I've got a suite. It's bigger than most of my friends' Amsterdam flats. The kitchen is double the size of the one I have at home. Unfortunately, I don't have much time to appreciate it. It's already 4 pm and today's event is at 6. I've just time to nip to the 7 Eleven to buy some water and to discover that ordinary shops don't sell beer in Colorado.
Hogshead is already pretty full when my taxi drops me off outside. So full, that there are punters seated on the patio. It's warm enough for that. They've brewed a couple of my recipes: 1865 Lovibond XX, some of it in a wooden firkin, and a cask-conditioned Stout based on Barclay Perkins 1928 OMS.
Jake Gardner and Englishman Steve Kirby greet me when I enter. How did they know it was me? When I see my handsome face smiling out from a poster advertising the event, I understand why.
I'm impressed by the number of handpulls - seven in total. Steve tells me that 60% of their beer is sold in cask form. Or is "proper beer" as he calls it. I'm not going to disagree with him. I love me some cask. So I get stuck into some straight away. Really good stuff - properly conditioned, served through a sparkler and not too cold. I could drink it all night. Sorry, I do drink it all night.
After a while Todd Alström turns up with a pile of BeerAdvocate magazines. It's good to see him again. We always have a good laugh. There's a decent crowd again - must be at least 50.
By the time it's showtime, I've had time for a few pints. I speak better with a properly wetted throat. We attempt to use a PA, but it's picking up a radio signal that annoyingly chatters away behind me, like an unappreciative audience. It's a small, if crowded, room, so I do it the old-fashioned way: shouting.
After my 20-minute spiel (or was it 30? I find it hard to estimate, I get so caught up in the sound of my own voice) about the beers and historic brewing in general, it's time to get down top the serious business of selling books. Pretty quickly they're all gone and my money box is overflowing with dosh.
They've a food truck and I tuck into a barbecue sandwich. Just what I needed. I've had nothing to eat since my whiskey-accompanied breakfast.
A few of us stay behind after closing, shooting the shit and supping the cask. It's all great fun.
Tomorrow I've a free day in Denver. Todd has offered to share a few beers. Can't say no to that
This is where I either beg or order you to buy my book. You can choose which you want to listen to. Please buy my book. Buy my book you tight bastard.
The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport,
17801 International Blvd.,
Seattle, WA 98158.
818 17th Street,
Denver, CO 80202.
4460 W 29th Ave,
Denver, CO 80212.
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