The allure of Alpenglow
Steamboat Springs — What is a ski town without a microbrewery? It’s a question that Steamboat Springs locals are going to have to ask themselves when the Steamboat Brewery and Tavern closes for business on Saturday.
But maybe a more urgent question to ask this week is: What will Steamboat Springs do without having its favorite microbrew Alpenglow Strong Ale to pour?
Alpenglow has gained legendary status in Steamboat since it was first introduced as a winter beer in 1993. For the past three years, more Alpenglow was poured from bar taps than any other beer in the city, around 1,500 kegs a year. That beats out big competitors such as Budweiser and Fat Tire, brewer Charlie Noble said.
“It has had a huge following,” he said.
And like any great following, the beer has even managed to obtain its own myth, revolving around the brew’s alcohol content.
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The common belief is that it has a 12 percent alcohol content, double the amount of most domestic beers. Others believe the alcohol percentage is the highest that Colorado state law allows. Most people in town probably don’t even know there is a myth, accepting the information as fact.
Now that the Tavern is closing its doors, Noble agreed to put the rumors to rest.
“It has 6 percent, by volume,” Noble said while standing at the end of the bar Tuesday afternoon. That’s the same amount that most beers have.”
On top of that, he said there is no state law that dictates how much alcohol beer can have.
The veteran brewer smiled and then added, “Rumors in this town go around so fast.”
The rumors started immediately after the beer was introduced as a specialty winter beer in the tavern.
“It just got such a following, we couldn’t stopped brewing it,” Noble said.
The beer is a mix of two types of English malts, three types of Belgium malts and German and Czech hops. Now at 499 batches made, the demand for Alpenglow has never dwindled. Liquor stores have urged to have the beer bottled, while Noble said the Tavern is at full capacity with how much it can brew of Alpenglow.
“We have more demand for the beer than we can keep up with,” he said.
The demand is not just from the Yampa Valley, as many beer-loving visitors seek to get the beer at their homes.
Noble sells kegs to a guy from Denver who would drive up just to get the beer for his ultimate Frisbee team.
Another story he likes to tell is that of a woman who was stuck in Steamboat Springs on Sept. 11 and called her business acquaintances in Texas from the Tavern to explain her situation. They demanded her to bring some Alpenglow back with her.
The beer has been praised by judges at the Great American Beer Festival and always is a big hit at public brew festivals.
The greatest satisfaction is seeing people taste it for the first time.
“It’s always cool when a tourist tastes it for the first time and say it’s really good,” Noble said.
And you know it’s gained popularity through word of mouth when people ask for it by other interesting names. Bartender Todd Mathias explained that in his years of pouring the beer, tourists have stumbled over the name when trying to order it.
He’s heard orders for Aspen Grove, Aspen Glow, “and my favorite, Apple Grove,” Mathias said.
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