The crown jewel of Longmont is tucked against the banks of the St. Vrain River, just off Boston Ave. on the southwest side of town.
You’ll know it when you see it: the parking lot is usually bustling, the patio is often full of jubilant customers sipping artesian beer, playing cornhole and hanging out and the brewery tanks that rise up over the wood paneled building are emblazoned with an unmistakable logo: a red left hand.
Left Hand Brewing Company has been brewing fine craft beer since 1993. Over those 26 years they have refined their scientific craft into an artform. Authenticity and quality are the name of the game at Left Hand, you can taste it in any one of their infamous beers.
Image courtesy of Left Hand Brewing Company.
Which was why I was excited at the opportunity to drop in. Left Hand Brewing is like a unicorn in these parts: a brewery that has kept the bar high, even as they gained national recognition. They have grown big for a craft brewery and yet have maintained that small brewery feel. It’s a local place, with a national name.
The bar at Left Hand’s tasting room was full even at 2:30 on a Wednesday. There wasn’t a seat to be sat in. So, I bellied up to the far end and grabbed a beer menu. There is no shortage of variety here: Left Hand has 10 staple, “perennial” beers listed, 4 “pilot beers” and then 15 “limited list” beers (at the moment). There are kolches, stouts, lagers, ale’s, IPA’s , porters, radlers, saisons, goses and pilsners to pick from.
I looked up and the bartender was watching me, smiling. “What’s up?” She asked.
“You guys have a good list right now.”
“Always,” she said. On her shoulder I noticed she had a New Mexican sun tattoo, wreathed in hop vines, with Left Hand’s signature red left hand at the center. Her name was Sarah, I’d seen her in here before.
I asked her which beer was the freshest on tap and she pointed to the White Russian Nitro stout.
“We just tapped this one. It’s nine percent, though.”
I shrugged. “ABV’s haven’t stopped me before, let’s do it.”
Sarah poured the beer and I took a seat in the front, at a table by myself near Left Hand’s gift store area, where they have a ton of cool stuff: Left Hand baseball caps and trucker hats, Left Hand flannel shirts, Left Hand pint glasses, belt buckles, coffee mugs, tanks, polos, knitted frisbee’s and even fanny packs.
They’ve got their finger on Colorado’s pulse. They know what The People want when it comes to branded schwag.Photos courtesy of Left Hand Brewing Company.
Looking at the White Russian Nitro, you can tell it’s an unconventional beer before you even taste it. It is a blonde stout, brewed with coffee, creme and vanilla, and with the smooth nitro twist, it’s kind of like drinking a vanilla-coffee milkshake. But boozier. Way boozier. The nose is heavy on coffee, and the creamy coffee flavor of the beer is undercut with a nice whisper of vanilla. It isn’t a patio pounder by any means, but if you like coffee, stouts and nitro beer, there probably isn’t a better brew for you, this side of the Rocky Mountains.
This is the kind of quality you can rely on from Left Hand. Even with an unconventional, not-so-run-of-the-mill beer like the White Russian Nitro, they knock it out of the park. Even if it’s not your favorite kind of beer, it’s hard to deny the caliber of craftsmanship that has gone into it.
That’s why Left Hand has become a token of craft beer excellence in this state. That’s why their popularity has grown and spilled over the borders of Colorado, into 41 (and half) other states. People love their beer and for good reason.
Left Hand incorporated in 1993 and by 1995 they’d already won their first gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival, for their Sawtooth Ale (which is still to this day one of the brewery’s flagship beers). In 2002 they moved into the current brewery/tasting room, and they’ve been hard at work brewing awesome beer there, at 1265 Boston Ave., ever since.
“As we move forwards towards the future, our philosophy remains the same since day one,” their website’s history of Left Hand page reads. “Left Hand will continue to be a brewery driven by quality, integrity, and the customer experience, one pint at a time.”
That’s a promise they’ve kept for 26 years, and one you can count on them keeping into the future.
Photo courtesy of Left Hand Brewing Company.
It took longer than I had expected, but when at last I was finished with the White Russian Nitro I decided to try something a little more traditional (and a little lighter on the ABV, since it wasn’t even 3:30 yet and I was feeling pretty fresh). I landed on a classic: Left Hand’s American lager.
I was not disappointed. It’s a light, punchy, really refreshing lager. Slightly hoppy, mildly sweet, light and crisp: it’s the perfect summer beer to slam outside in the sunshine.
It also drinks fast.
By 3:45 I was finshed and the place was already filling up with the late-afternoon crowd. The empty tables around me were crowding with people, who had slipped out of work early or for a long lunch, full of locals with the day off, full of visitors from nearby towns: beer-pilgrims come to partake in the holy water. The holy brew. The hoppy spirit. Amen.
Photo courtesy of Left Hand Brewing Company.
If there’s one place you stop when you’re passing through, visiting or even just nearby Longmont, Colorado, it’s gotta’ be Left Hand Brewing. You can schedule a brewery tour on their website, which is highly recommended. There’s a lot to learn about this Colorado brewery gem, and catching a glimpse behind the curtain is a cool experience.