Guys Most Likely To Change Your Mind About Big Brewery Beer – The SandLot Profile

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The heart of Denver’s popular LoDo District plays host to an unlikely brewery whose brewers are quietly challenging beer conventions in unlikely ways. Tucked away deep in the right field corner of Coors Field, the Sandlot Brewery has won almost as many Great American Beer Festival medals, including the Small Brewery of the Year Award, as any other craft brewer. At the brewery’s helm, co-brewmasters John Legnard and Tom Hail find themselves in an interesting position. The Sandlot is famously known as the birthplace of the juggernaut Blue Moon brand. Coors’ brewmaster Keith Villa developed Blue Moon Belgian White at the Sandlot in 1995. When it proved with the public, Coors took the brand national where it exploded onto the better beer scene. The brand’s success has led parent company MillerCoors to rebrand the brewpub as the Blue Moon Brewing Company at the Sandlot.

Sandlot’s story would be impressive if it ended with Blue Moon, but that is just the beginning. While appreciating Blue Moon and its success—the brewery continues to brew the brand, its seasonals, and test batches—Legnard and Hail have struck their own brewing path. The brewery, which is operated separately from the adjacent pub, “flies below the radar,? according to Legnard. Or as Hail, a master of entertaining analogies, once described the corporate relationship to me, Sandlot is the “Puerto Rico of Coors,? owned by the brewing giant but in some manner distinct from it.

“The higher ups know who we are and appreciate what we do and leave us to create and brew what we wish,? says Legnard. This independence allows the guys to brew some of the nation’s best small batch lagers in an impressive range of styles, including the sharp Barmen Pilsner, named after Adolph Coors’ hometown. Many of the lagers fall under the Brewmaster’s Special series. In contrast to trendy barrel aged alcohol bombs, Sandlot is a place to find well-executed traditional styles. In a timely Olympic comparison, Hail suggests that “[w]e don’t invent the moves, we just try to perfect them.? In addition to its outstanding lagers (the appreciation for which Hail compares to “pretty girls who don’t need makeup?), Sandlot also produces a flavorful Scottish-style ale, an ESB, and a stout, among others.

Despite their success, the Sandlot brewers have failed to receive the public acclaim accorded to other award-winning brewers. In fact, they’ve occasionally been subjected to the derision of beer geeks, including journalists, who summarily dismiss their beers due to the big brewery affiliation. After firing back with beers named “Clueless Beer Writer? and “Most Beer Judges Are Bone Heads? and occasional chiding on Internet websites, Legnard is ready to let the beer speak for itself. “We always tell people, ‘judge us by the beers we brew not who owns the place.’? Cheers to that.

–Article appeared in Volume II, Issue VIII of BeerAdvocate Magazine.

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