By Jeffrey V. Smith
Embrace the winter with an award-winning stout from Central City’s Dostal Alley Brewpub & Casino. The brewery’s Shaft House Stout—served at their bar from a nitrogen tap with optional animal crackers or pie—has been awarded three medals at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival, including a silver at the most recent event last October in Denver.
“Two silvers and a bronze GABF medal. It’s pretty exciting. I’m not sure how many beers can say that,” Brewer and Owner Buddy Schmalz said. “Every year I think it’s going to win because we always go out and test all the stouts. A couple of years ago we were watching a bunch of brewers try ours. We are in that group that gets a medal every couple of years and they are all like, ‘I wonder how that’s going to match up with mine this year.’” Shaft House Stout also won the silver medal in the Classic Dry Irish Stout category in 2008 and a bronze medal in 2011.
Shaft House Stout is one of the few beers the brewery has kept on tap since it opened in 1997. “We’ve made small adjustments over the years, but for the most part, we try to keep the same basic grain bill and… hop profile,” Schmalz said. The brew began as a sweet stout, but when Schmalz took over brewing about six months in, it transitioned into a dry Irish stout, and has stayed that way.
“I thought we should go with a Guiness-style,” the brewer explained, “mostly because you can tell people that and they understand what it means. You tell people it’s a sweet stout… or Oatmeal stout, and they say, ‘I don’t know what that is,’ but if you say its a dry Irish stout like Guinness, they are like, ‘now I know.’ There isn’t a huge spectrum of difference between them, but when you’re trying to explain it to customers, sometimes it’s a challenge.”
The beer is black in color, has 4.4 percent alcohol and a bitterness ratio of 26. Malts added include two-row pale malt, black, Carapils, roasted barley, flaked barley and chocolate malt. Hop types include Target, Nugget, Kent Goldings and Fuggels.
Schmalz explained that Dostal Alley’s stout has a “pretty strong” cult following. “It’s not our number one seller,” he said, “but when we run out of it, I hear about it.” Those that drink it, “really drink it and are really vocal when you’re not there with it. It’s been kind of a staple for us.”
Dostal Alley Brewer Dave Thomas—a retired brewmaster from Coors—said he helped “beef it up a little” a few years ago with more malt and a higher alcohol profile. According to Thomas, Charlie Papazian, founder and chairman of the Brewers Association that presents the GABF, thinks their stout tastes like the original Guinness, which changed its brewing process, and flavor, to save money several years ago. “Next time we are going for the gold,” Thomas said.
The best way to experience the world-class stout is to enjoy one at the bar from the nitro tap—which gives the beer a tight, creamy, tan head that clings to your glass as you sip it—but occasionally the beer is also hand-bottled to enjoy at home. Just ask a bartender what’s available (including SnowLine, a nine-percent beer with wild rose hips and a unique apple and cinnamon flavor). According to Schmalz, draft sales are pretty consistent and don’t fluctuate much, but after this year’s third win at the GABF, bottle sales “went out the roof.”
The brewery has been bottling for about a year. It’s inconsistent and in small batches, but appreciated by fans. It’s all done by hand. “We can do about 20-25 cases a day. That’s about it,” Schmalz said. “As long as we want to stand back there and turn little teeny valves and move it all around. We typically do about 15 cases at a time and we do that once every couple of weeks. We don’t sell much more than that, although recently we have been selling out, which is a good sign.”
Dostal Alley is the only brewery in Gilpin County. It also serves Jacob Mack, an American style mild ale; Gilpin Gold IPA, a well-balanced, hop-forward India pale ale; and Pub Ale, an English-style best bitter which won a GABF silver medal in 2001. They also make their own root beer and cream soda and serve “the best pizza in the county.”
Dostal Alley Brewery and Casino is located at 116 Main Street in Central City and is open 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Visit dostalalley.net or find them on Facebook for more information about the brewery and its other craft beers.
Originally published in the February 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly