Content by Greg Schroeder 20 Years of Craft Brewing in Colorful Colorado Two decades have passed since two great men set out on a remarkable journey. They ventured across the country in their 1984 Ford Sheepdog destined for Aspen, “A place where the beer flows like wine.” These brave souls may have been dubbed Dumb and Dumber, but they were on to something; Colorado’s craft brewing scene was blossoming. Beginning in the late eighties and carrying through the mid-nineties, many of Colorado’s most successful microbreweries were born. Fort Collins Brewery, Boulder Beer Company, New Belgium Brewing, Odells Brewing Company, Avery Brewing Company, Great Divide Brewing Company, SKA Brewing and Left Hand Brewing Company all burst forth and began providing the public with quality craft libations over the course of a half dozen years. They were the first major players that comprised Colorado’s contribution to America’s burgeoning craft beer scene. How Left Hand Got it Right Left Hand Brewing Company’s beer began quenching Colorado’s thirst in 1994, the same year Harry and LLoyd drove a Sheepdog into our hearts. From the get-go Left Hand has been dedicated to brewing quality beer. Their first offering to the public was Sawtooth Ale, which immediately garnered praise and a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival. More recently, their Nitro Milk Stout has received immense praise from the beer loving community. According to the company’s website, “Left Hand is both the first American and the first craft brewery to master the science of bottling a Nitrogen beer without a widget.” Encouraged by the success of their bottled Nitro Milk Stout, Left Hand has elected to offer nitro versions of two other brews: Sawtooth Ale and Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout. These two concoctions have been circulating in Colorado since late 2013 and are now spreading east and west to other markets. American Style ESB with a Twist: Nitro Sawtooth Ale Nitro Sawtooth Ale has been well-received since its inception and for good reason; fifteen years before Pale Ales and IPAs took the US by storm, Left Hand introduced an ESB that’s more refined and well-balanced than many of its ultra-hoppy competitors. ESB (Extra Special Bitter) is a beer style of English origin in the same family as the immensely trendy Pale Ale and IPA. Like its more popular brethren, it’s produced with pale malt and plenty of hops. Unlike many popular American IPAs and Pale Ales, this beer’s 27 IBUs won’t bowl you over with bitterness. The toasted grain flavor of this ESB’s pale malt is allowed to come through much more clearly than in many IPAs and Pale Ales. Additionally, fruity and floral flavors burst forth and provide a balance to the subtle bitterness. This beer offers plenty of flavor and character without overwhelming the palate. Combining two of their great successes, Left Hand created a niche beer by infusing their Sawtooth Ale ESB with nitro (sans widget, of course). Most nitrogen infused beers are as dark as coffee and as hearty as a three course meal. Nitro Sawtooth Ale, however, is a transparent amber brew with a flavor that can refresh a sweaty cyclist on a hot summer day.  After Nitro Sawtooth Ale is poured hard (per Left Hand’s instructions), its smooth and frothy head builds. The creamy character of this foam gives this refreshing, floral brew an interesting character during the first few sips. Initially, it delivers an exciting mouth-feel and flavor, then leaves behind a beer that’s flat and reminiscent of an original Sawtooth that’s been sitting in a glass a little too long. Though it’s an interesting experience for the palate, the creamy character of the nitrogen head doesn’t pair as well with this ESB as well as it does with rich, hearty stouts and porters. Left Hand should be commended for exploring the great unknown by bottling a lighter beer with nitrogen, though this offering isn’t a true improvement on the original product. ABV: 5.3% Value: $9.99 Look: 4.5               Smell: 4.25                      Taste: 4.5               Feel: 3.5 Verdict: A unique concoction worth exploring. Though this reviewer’s palate prefers carbonated Sawtooth Ale, many beer lovers may prefer Left Hand’s new velvety variety.  


  1. I just ordered a glass of this Sawtooth Nitro ESB in a local pub. You are right about one thing: the beer is completely flat, nary a bubble in it. My impression was — this is downright awful. Honestly, I think beer like this should come with a warning on the label or on the menu. The normal expectation when ordering beer is that it will be carbonated.

  2. David A Sisneros

    I had the sawtooth ale and absolutely loved it a nice creamy fome great rich taste, but I then asked for the left hand stout omg did I fall in love awesome beer great stout with just the right kick..Mmmm.

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