New York and LoDo

Nathan Gismot, June 13, 2013

I've spent some time -- recently -- living in and around New York City. Man, what a place. I used to be fond of saying, “If there were an intergalactic federation of planets, New York City would be the capital of planet Earth.” I stand by that statement.

I could never summarize my years there in the space of a few paragraphs, but I can say they were essential years. I can say for certain that NYC is my adopted hometown, and that it left an indelible impression on me. So many of the important “grown up” events of my life happened in there, you know, and it’s impossible – undesirable – to separate them from their metropolitan context.

Given the weight of those reflections, I was a little nervous about moving to Denver. I had visited before, but, well, I had visited lots of cities. Moving, on the other hand, denotes permanency. I wondered about my expectations, and whether I’d unfairly compare Denver to the City which so defined me. I feared, most of all, that I’d miss out on enjoying what Denver has to offer in view of a snobbish “been there, done that in New York” attitude.

Fortunately, my parents, along with a few other family members, helped ease the transition by coming to visit my girlfriend and me shortly after we moved into our apartment.

On one of their last nights in town, we all went out to eat at the Cheesecake Factory on the edge of the “LoDo” neighborhood in Denver. If you’ve ever eaten food at a Cheesecake Factory, you’ll understand that we needed to take a walk afterward – partly to aid digestion, yes, but mostly to facilitate a good hard think about the gastronomical carnage in which we had partaken.

It was with a shuffling waddle leisurely gait, then, that we proceeded back to the light rail station. It was early evening, but in the fading light, I noticed a woman about a half-block away who was staggering toward us in a sine-curve pattern. I assumed she was inebriated beyond the pale, and possibly dealing with some mental health problems based on her apparent shouting. It was a bummer, but nothing especially unique, if you will, to my seasoned City Life Self.

Well, it got unique. As in, “Whoa, this never happened to me in New York” unique.

My family and I, having digested a bit by now, were walking on the straight and narrow, so we arrived in the woman’s vicinity rather quickly. I was able to see her more clearly: she was about 50 years old, and she looked malnourished, haunted, and completely strung out. She was indeed shouting, but it was at things I couldn’t see. I, a freshly minted Master of Social Work, thought, “This person is in crisis, and she isn’t safe. She needs emergency intervention; I’m calling the cops.”

As if on cue, the woman snapped to attention and glared at me. There was a sudden clarity in her eyes, and I knew in that moment that shit was about to get real. She let loose a terrible scream, and, as if leading the charge of a desperate army, sprinted straight at me, fists raised. Before I could even hope to react, she crashed full speed into my solar plexus.

What could I say but, “Oooofffff”?

“Gaaahhhh!!!” she raged in reply, and, having bounced off me, continued her parabolic trek down 15th street, shoulder-slamming my girlfriend along the way for good measure.

Welcome to Denver, noob. Respect.

From that moment onward, whatever doubts I had about Denver were vanquished: this was an entirely new experience. I’ve come to view the incident in hindsight as a sort of challenge from Mile High: “You up for this, bro?” Or maybe it was a bitter missive from New York.

Metaphysical considerations aside, I enjoy LoDo wholeheartedly – and no single establishment as much, perhaps, as Wynkoop Brewing Company. I’m a sucker for a brick factory brewpub, and Wynkoop is among the best I’ve ever visited. Helping set the industrial scene is Denver’s old Union Station, located across the street (and currently being converted to commercial space) that you see above.

To me, Wynkoop is a microcosm of LoDo: interesting, fun, historical, and aesthetically solid. They have a legit restaurant menu (read: not “just” bar food); I’ve never eaten anything there I didn’t like. As is proper for a brewpub, the beers on tap are their own – and they are plentiful enough, and diverse enough, to suit any palate.

My first-ever Wynkoop beer was their St. Charles ESB, and it was very good; under different circumstances, I’d proceed now into an enthusiastic write-up of it. As it is, though, Good St. Charles is edged by another of Wynkoop’s offerings – one which has become one of my favorite beers anywhere.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I speak now of the B3K Black Lager. I’ll write a more specific review in the sidebar, but suffice to say it’s everything I want in a beer: delicious, versatile, and drinkable. I’d share a photo with you, but it seems I have a one-track mind when I get a B3K in front of me.

And I guess that’s the thing: sometimes you’ve got to just enjoy it. (A touch of vigilance never hurt, though.)

Wynkoop B3K Review

Appearance: 5

Smell: 4

Taste: 5

Feel: 5

Overall: 5

As its name suggests, Wynkoop’s B3K Black Lager, in terms of color, is about as dark as it gets. It pours with a thin, coffee-colored head. I wanted to rate its smell higher than 4 out of 5, but in fairness, it’s probably the beer’s least-excellent quality. Don’t get me wrong, though – it has a moderate roasted-grain aroma that is very pleasant, if not a huge overall factor in the experience. What it lacks in olfactory wallop, though, it delivers in taste and mouthfeel. It’s apparent from the moment it hits your palate. It has just the right balance of hops for its kind: enough to snap crackle and pop, but not so much as to raise your eyebrows. It has an excellent, enlivening aftertaste that complements food or additional beers equally well. It’s highly drinkable, extremely delicious, and satisfying to boot.