During the first week of May, Andrew De Haan took a trip to Laramie, Wyoming to visit his friend Jeremy. What follows is a log of beer and adventure with drinking in Laramie and Denver.
In his essay “The Moon Under Water,” George Orwell lays out ten key features for his ideal London Pub. If you care to read them, you may find them here. While many of his stipulations are outdated, the general point is apparent: the perfect pub is a home, a place that takes its food and beer seriously, that serves as a meeting place, preferring conversation over everything else. Of course, the pub that George Orwell is describing does not exist, but in the spirit of Orwell, I have come up with my own list of criteria for my ideal bar:
- The furniture and bar must be of a dark, stained wood, and there’s a brass footrest that runs beneath the bar.
- There is large windows in the front so that during the daytime it is only lit by natural light.
- There are no televisions and no loud music. You should not have to contend with these things for anyone’s attention.
- The decorations are spare, but memorable, with little neon involved.
- The bartenders remember you by name.
- The food is kept simple, comprised of snacks such as pretzels and nuts, as well as a daily bowl of soup served with a roll.
- The beer that’s on tap is delicious and affordable, with no more than ten taps, each being excellent, interesting, and drinkable, with no style duplicated, and with at least two rotating taps. The bottle list consists of rare and/or aged beers, kept for special occasions.
- All pints are Imperial and alcohol percentages are always posted.
- There is outdoor seating in the form of picnic tables in the warmer months.
While I’ve yet to come across a bar perfect enough to include all of these things, while in Laramie I managed to discover a place I wish I could call my local: The Front Street Tavern.
I walk in on a dusty late afternoon seeking a few pints to quench my thirst. Plus, I heard their happy hour is half-off everything, including cocktails. They’ve just opened up and I’m the only soul in here, so I head up to the bar and order a pint of O’Dell’s Easy Street Wheat, their summer seasonal.
The Easy Street Wheat, served with a lemon slice, is a cloudy American Wheat not unlike Bell’s Oberon. The wheat is apparent, tangy and doughy, with a light body and tingling carbonation. Thirst-quenching, but it is nothing memorable. Before I know it, my glass is empty.
Next I order up a pint of Snake River’s Lager. Snake River is a small brewery out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and their Lager is their flagship beer, made in the style of a Vienna Lager. While I do not know this at the time, Snake River’s Lager has won several medals at GABF, as well as other global competitions. It pours a clear amber with a sweet malt aroma. A sip brings a smile to my face as the beer sits on my tongue—the beer is deep, toasty, with flavors of figs and prunes coming through, yet it is smooth and goes down easy. Nothing cloying or overly chewy, but instead it invites taste after taste. At 4.8% ABV., I could revel in it without it kicking me over. To me, this the quintessential drinking beer, and I am saddened to think I won’t be able to get it at home.
Since it’s still happy hour, I order another pint. O’Dell’s St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale, straw blonde in color, falls somewhere stylistically between an American Pale Ale and IPA. However, if this were even four or five years ago, this would have been an IPA. At 6.5% ABV and 46 IBUs, the ale has a huge, dank, grassy hop aroma. On a drink, a subtle honey-like note comes through, backed up by breadiness and a ton of nectarine-and-pine hop flavor. There is little bitterness on the tongue. I am guessing that this tremendous hop flavor with little bitterness was achieved by adding little-to-no bittering hops, and then overloading on the late additions and dry-hops. The perfect beer to convert those who don’t like “hoppy” beers.
At this point the bar starts to fill with people of all varieties. It’s nearing the end of happy hour, so I order another pint just to round out my time here, as well as by a t-shirt. The bartenders cop me a beer, and I feel right at home. My head is buzzing with romantic ideals (and alcohol too), and the whole world turns rosy. This is a place I could stay for a long time.