Brewery and bartender collaborations hit Denver taplines in time for GABF

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While we're stoked to sample what seems like millions of beers at the Great American Beer Festival, it's possible that we're actually more excited to see what Denver area restaurants and bars trot out on taplines next week. This event brings in beer geeks from all over the world, and since most spots with a beer list that's worth your attention are seizing the opportunity to impress these visiting aficionados, there's no question there'll be some cool suds flowing from drafts.

A lot of those will be one-offs and collaboration beers, and some of those will come from Denver's own bartenders and brewers, working together to make some really unique beer.

Colt & Gray, for instance, will be pouring two beers that head barman Kevin Burke collaborated on. One was a project between him and Avery, which grew from a seminar Burke conducted with the brewery's barrel wranglers. Looking for inspiration, they gathered around Burke's bar for cocktails.Two ideas from beer came from the session -- one of which will be tapped during the festival.

"It was inspired by a New York-style whiskey sour," Burke explains, "so it's a play on the flavors of a whiskey sour with a red wine float." The brewery took a blend of fermented barley and cabernet sauvignon grapes and blended it with the Reverend -- a rich, Belgian-style Quadrupel -- and then aged it in fresh whiskey barrels.

"The souring didn't take, but the barrels," he says, "restored some of the natural malic acid from the wine grapes." The result, he notes, isn't sour, but definitely has an underlying tartness.

That beer is yet unnamed, but Burke says he's pulling for "Friar Tuckman, after the drunk rabbi from Robin Hood Men in Tights."

Burke also worked on a group effort with Euclid Hall's Ryan Conklin -- (who Burke credits as the "head cat-herder" of the project); Stranahan's brewer and distiller Josh Rapp; Star Bar's Justin Lloyd; and Rackhouse Pub's Chris Rippe, who represent the alcohol industry professionals writing for booze blog Denver Off The Wagon.

"We decided to put our boots where our mouths are and actually try to make something," Burke explains. So the group headed over to Denver Beer Co., which helped them write a recipe, and crafted a wet-hopped saison with Palisade peaches, capturing fruitiness and some sour notes from the wild yeast present on the peach skin.

The beer, which is called The Fifth Horseman, will be tapped at Colt & Gray, Euclid Hall, Star Bar and Rackhouse Pub sometime during the festival.

Rackhouse's Rippe also worked on a second beer for the festival, teaming up with Dry Dock head brewer Bill Eye to craft a special Belgian Quad. An employee at Rackhouse tells us both the saison and the quad will be tapped on Monday, though interested drinkers will want to check Facebook and Twitter to find out what time.

Up in the Highland neighborhood, Highland Tap & Burger has also been hard at work on a collaboration.

"We're tentatively calling it Fall Harvest Pumpkin Ale," owner Juan Padro says. "A couple of weeks ago, I took a couple of regulars and went up to Odell and brewed it."

The restaurant will tap that beer -- along with one of the brewery's GABF submissions, Bourbon Bell Stout -- next Friday at a patio party that runs from noon until 3 p.m., where $10 will get you a burger and beer.

If you miss that event, though, Padro promises he'll have extra bottles on hand to uncap after the festival.

Know of other collaborations going on draft around town? Tell us about them below.

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