At 6am on the 15th October last year, I left my sisters flat in Lewisham and made my way across London to Heathrow. I thought I’d given myself plenty of time to get to the airport in time for my 11:15 flight, but I hadn’t factored in that anything would go wrong public transport-wise. Rookie error.
Things weren’t off to a great start for my first solo trip overseas, but I made it to the airport and through security just in time for my flight to Denver. Eleven hours later, I’d collected my luggage in the Colorado capital and was on the train to Union Station, marvelling at the Rockies in the distance. Living in the English Midlands, I don’t get to see too many mountains.
Six stops later, I was stepping off the train and lugging my suitcase through town on foot. For once my phone and Google maps managed to get along, so I had an easy walk to my Air BnB in the Lincoln Park area of town. I was pretty tired, but couldn’t help but feel great walking through Mile High City, under a ridiculously blue sky.
Once I’d got to my room and freshened up after the long day of travel, I came up with the plan to head to Great Divide Brewery’s Ballpark District Taproom for a couple of beers before grabbing a bite to eat and a couple more beers at Falling Rock Tap House around the corner. I thought I’d take it fairly easy for my first night, since my body-clock was working seven hours ahead and I had the altitude to get used to (not that I’d given the latter too much thought).
After a 30-minute walk into the city, I spotted the vividly coloured exterior of Great Divide Brewery. I made my way round the building, went inside and found myself a stool at the end of the bar. I decided to go for a flight of three tasters and asked the bartender to choose for me. I liked the look of everything on the tap list, so I asked her to pick her favourites. A minute later I was presented with small pours of Hazy IPA, a New England style IPA, and two big hitters in Hercules Double IPA and Hibernation, an English style old ale. A sip of each and I felt revived.
“Maybe I’ll stick around a while”, I thought to myself.
After finishing off the Hibernation Ale, a perfect exhibition of big malt flavours and complex hop profile, I was brimming with Dutch courage and decided to tackle some more beers, starting with the Workers Fate ESB, another English style. At this point, the tasters turned into 10oz pours. I chatted a little with the bar staff and one or two of the other patrons, but mostly I sat and took in the atmosphere. It was clear that I was going to love Colorado.
Some time later, I decided it was probably time that I moved on, so I settled my tab and stepped outside. The sky was now a considerably darker shade of blue.
I opened up Google maps to get my bearings and started to make my way to Falling Rock Tap House, only to stumble across Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery. I figured a short detour wouldn’t hurt.
I didn’t end up making it to Falling Rock that night.
As is usually the case when I go to a bar on my own, I took a seat at the bar. There’s always more opportunity for conversation at the bar, especially when you’re in a different country and have a strange accent that the locals can’t quite put their finger on.
The Grouse Mountain blood orange gose caught my eye, so I ordered myself a glass whilst I took a cursory look at the rest of the tap list.
“Hey man, where are you from?” said a voice a metre or so to my right.
“England”, I replied, not getting too specific.
The guys name was Harry. Nice guy. He thought I sounded like the Beatles (I really don’t, but I guess a lot of Americans don’t expect English people to have regional accents). I’m not sure how the conversation got there, but Harry asked me about my thoughts on polyamory and told me he was in an open relationship.
“Whatever works for you man.”
We talked about our lives, bought each other beers, and finished the night off with a seriously heavyweight imperial stout.
As last orders were called, we exchanged phone numbers and Harry said he’d text me about going to a dive bar the next night, or possibly the night after, I don’t remember.
As I left Jagged Mountain and started to wind my way back to my Air BnB, it was clear to me that I was the upper extreme of tipsy. My tipsiness considered, I found my way to my accommodation, downed a bottle of water and went to bed. Having been awake for more than 24 hours, I was pooped and dropped straight off to sleep.
The next thing I knew, I banged my head and realised I was in complete darkness, part way down a staircase. In my jet lagged, beer-addled head, I had no idea where I was. My logic was to get down on to my knees and try to crawl down the stairs to find out where I was. The stairs were a spiral that I couldn’t quite work out in the darkness. I realised that it might be a better idea to try crawling back up the stairs.
I found a door handle. Opening it, I recognised the familiar site of the kitchen. I hadn’t been abducted; I’d been sleepwalking. Feeling relieved that I was safe and hadn’t woken my hosts, I got myself a glass of water and tip-toed back to my room. I managed to stay put on this attempt.
Waking up with grazes on my head, knee and elbow, I learned an important lesson that a large volume of beer, high altitude, an empty stomach and jet lag aren’t the best combination for a first night in Denver. Take it easy kids.
By the way, Harry and I never did meet up. I still have his number in my phone, so maybe I’ll hit him up when I’m next in Denver.