The smell of barley brewing is a smell that will always make me smile. Smells like good times. Smells like good beer. Smells like a craft brewery doing their thing: making people happy.

Smells like Wibby. It was the first thing I noticed when I stepped out of the car in the parking lot and took the place in: the biergarten-style patio out front, shaded by trees and big green awnings casting blue-green sunlight into the taphouse beyond.

I could tell I was going to like this place.

Photo courtesy of Wibby Brewing.

Wibby’s taphouse was scattered with casual day drinkers as I walked in; friends, coworkers and couples enjoying a nice 2PM brewery recess. Catching a break from the cloudless 85-degree day outside. I made way straight for the bar.

Normally, I’ll ask the bartender what’s freshest on tap, or which seasonal beer the they like best. But not this time. Not at Wibby. Because Wibby Brewing Company specializes in a very specific kind of beer: Old World beers: particularly, lagers. People rave about Wibby’s world-renowned lagers. And I wanted to taste one for myself.

So far, I hadn’t had the opportunity. I’d heard all this hype, read articles praising the mastery of the Wibby Lighshine lager; I’d even interviewed Ryan Wibby himself for Rooster’s Annual Brewer Survey. But I had not yet been to the brewery, or even, tried their beer.

Needless to say, I was excited. And I was not in the mood to take suggestions, I knew exactly which beer I was going to order.

“What’s up man?”

“Not much,” I told the bartender. His name was Ian. “Just looking for some beer.”

“We serve that here.”

“Perfect. How about one of those famous Lightshine helles lagers?”

“Good choice.”

He poured the beer, I took it and sat down at a nearby table and settled in. I took out my journal and started jotting down notes, checked my email, sent a text message and absentmindedly took a sip of the beer.

The sensation stopped me dead in motion. I actually froze in place, halfway through writing a sentence and stared at the beverage in my hand. I have never tasted a lager like this one: it’s got a soft mouthfeel, it’s lightly sweet off the front, has low bitterness and a subtle, rumbling lager flavor that builds up from the back and unfolds on your palette like a clap of thunder. It is not overpowering, but it is complex and leaves a wonderful barley flavor simmering on your tongue and in your nostrils for moments after each sip.

I’ve been to Germany, I’ve drank a lot of Bavarian lagers in Bavaria. And still, this Lightshine helles stands leagues above anything I’ve ever tasted.

This beer lives up to the hype. 

Photo courtesy of Wibby Brewing.

Ryan Wibby (the owner and founder of Wibby Brewing) got his brewer training at VLB, Berlin, a globally renowned institute for brewing education. And while he was there, Wibby had an epiphany: he realized that there was a very undeveloped niche in the USA for Old World beers brewed in an American-artesian-style.

This Lightshine Helles was the fruit of that light-bulb moment. And it is a magnum opus beer.

Not that I need to tell Ryan Wibby that. His Lightshine helles has won a ton of accolades and even took the Grand Gold medal at the Frankfurt International Beer Competition (one of the most prestigious awards in the world of craft beer). Wibby, this small Colorado craft brewery, off the beaten trail, tucked back in Longmont like a local secret, is out-brewing the Germans in their own arena.  

I looked down from my beverage, and my eyes met those of a big German shepherd, chilling out on the cool concrete floor beside me.

“Hell of a helles,” I told him.

He smiled, sticking his tongue out and panting. He knew. I didn’t have to tell him that, either.

Photo courtesy of Wibby Brewing.

I finished the helles fast, and went back to the bar for round two. This time, I did take a suggestion: the Volkshire Vienna (aka “the People’s Beer”). It’s an amber lager made with German hops and malt. A smooth, drinkable beer that’s malty from start to finish. Another really fine Old World brew, from Colorado’s Old World masters.

And, to my great surprise, when I paid my tab I realized that Wibby is also an affordable place to drink. In a state where beer drinkers have been conditioned to pay $7-14 a pint, it is extremely refreshing to find $4.50-5 pints of extremely high-quality beer.

Everything about Wibby is a breath of fresh air. These guys approach brewing like a master carpenter approaching a wood-working project. Their beer is way more than something to drink just to get turnt — their beer is something to be savored and enjoyed like a fine wine or spirit.

But, that’s not to say you can’t get turnt at Wibby, too. They host events throughout the week all month long, that can get pretty lively and rambunctious. They have food trucks that alternate every week, live music, bluegrass jam sessions and trivia nights.

So, next time you're in the mood for a lager that's going to blow your mind, you should probably check out Wibby. No matter where you're at, it's worth the trip to Longmont.