Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bike Shorts on a Denver Barstool

There is something inherently wrong about a man sitting at a bar in bike shorts.

The attire itself highlights anatomy most pub patrons would find unappetizing, at best. And unless I missed a tweet, lager is not the new Gatorade and bar food hasn't trended the latest carbo-loading craze.

Yet I watched with confusion and awe as a toned, athletic specimen strutted into Denver's Wynkoop Brewery, doffed his bike helmet, slid his be-spandexed self onto a barstool and inhaled a cheeseburger, fries and two beers.

I don't know where it all went. He obviously wasn't hiding it on his person - bike shorts don't have pockets. The only explanation was that he had just finished a long ride, hadn't eaten all day and needed to refuel and relax.

Crotch-hugging shorts aside, I could understand that. From a few hours of observation I noticed a similar athletic build among most Denver folk. The men were tall and muscular. The women were lean (and maybe it was the mountain air but the majority of women had certain female parts that seemed a bit, how do I put this delicately? Inflated). This guy fit in with that outdoorsy crowd and looked as though he'd just completed a triathlon.

I looked down at my plate piled with a tender, juicy buffalo meat burger and crispy fries and concluded that he deserved it. I'd flown from Boston and now I was enjoying the local tastes. He finished his own journey, albeit on two wheels and self-propelled, so he deserved to sit back and enjoy it even more.

But he didn't. In under thirty minutes his plate was empty, pint glass drained (twice), tab paid and spokes spinning as he pedaled away from Denver's oldest brew pub.

"He's a local," the bartender said. He must have caught me staring out the Wynkoop window.

No shit, I wanted to say. The last time I saw a Bostonian bike up a mountain, slam back a 40oz and a Whopper extra value meal and then finish the trek up the mountain was never.

I laughed. "Don't think I'd fit in with that crowd."

"Where ya from?"




"Try this."

He poured me a pint of something I'd been eyeing when the mad biker walked in. Chile pepper beer. Patty's Chile Beer, to be exact, a Wynkoop house specialty. The award-winning brew comes infused with Anaheim chiles and smoked Ancho peppers.

In a region where micro-brews are giant, I took the first sip timidly. I figured my first unique local beer would be like riding a bike for the first time - a little shaky at first but thrilling once those training wheels come off. It wasn't long before I was rolling through my first chile pepper beer. It was light, with a golden color and a slightly reddish hue. The pepper aroma hits you before the smoky flavor on first sip. The chile bite is there but not overpowering and it goes down surprisingly smooth. There's a savory heat that builds up the palette from a traditional German-type beer to something totally unique and flavorful.

As I drained the glass I heard, "You want another beer?" The bartender had asked, breaking away from his own conversation with a colleague about their weekend kayaking plans.

I wasn't planning to bike into the foothills or hike across a ridge that evening. But I figured I'd take my own journey as a temporary local in the best way I knew how.

"Right now, another one of those," I said. "And what else you got on tap?"

It's definitely better than whatever that guy in the bike shorts has in his water bottle. 

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