If you've been to BJ's Brewhouse or Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, you've been to C.B. & Potts. Which is to say that although it's thus far limited to seven locations in Colorado, you'll experience that same convergence of craft and kid-friendly corporate models. The first spot opened in Fort Collins in 1974, and brewing launched in '96.
Beers are made at multiple locations (none here) and shared around for a respectable seasonal list that's six deep. (There are also six flagships.) Some excel: One of their Highlands Ranch brewers earned a gold at 2014's Great American Beer Festival; all the IPA renditions are likable; and a couple seasonals such as a blackberry porter and Finnish-style Sahti, with bold juniper notes, wowed us at a media preview.
But when we came back recently — to what looks like an REI on the outside and quasi-industrial brewpub inside, with service ranging from poor pre-bussing at a booth to a killer bartender who greets us with a handshake and remembers our names — the beers on the whole ($5.99/six samples) felt less than exciting, and were often inaccurately described.
For instance, an Irish red is supposed to play up hops; instead, prolific toasted malt takes it almost entirely into a roasted coffee realm. One IPA promotes lemon peel and balancing honey notes, but both are faint, if there at all. A Belgian-style Dubbel hosts none of the advertised cinnamon or clove, nor any defining yeast esters; I actually requested another sample, only to receive a lighter-colored beer that also didn't match the tasting notes.
Guys, if what you meant to brew didn't turn out, just re-write your beer descriptions and we'd be all good ... well, mostly good. Which is better than how some of the food fared.
Nachos ($8.95) are standard-issue and soggy. Pork green chile and chicken tortilla soups ($4 cup) are both thin with quickly departing flavors. Spanish red rice ($2.75) finishes dirty-earthy in the bad way, and a quinoa-rice blend ($3.50) appears weighted 95 percent toward rice. On the gluten-free menu, both a Reuben ($11.50) and chimichurri chicken ($14.25) feel more like concessions than thoughtful creations. More moist bread (rye, please) could elevate the Reuben, while the chicken's dry, steamed veggies boring, and chimichurri not plentiful or potent enough.
At least the chicken-jalapeño-pepper-jack Armadillo Eggs ($9.25) are terrific drunk food, with all the texturally tacky protein, starch and spice you desire in one cracker-crusted, giant oval. A generous Parmesan-crusted cod ($14.95) sports a nice lemon-caper cream sauce with wilted spinach, and burgers like the Buttface Bacon Cheese ($12.25) and Big Porter Blue ($12.95) are beautiful. The first, with a buffalo patty ($3 more) on a pretzel bun, uses an amber-beer cheese sauce, gooing up the pork and crispy onion rings. The second most notably balances Gorgonzola funk with a lovely, sweet jam. With those burgers, sides like chopped-garlic-laden vampire fries ($2.75) and heavy cheddar mashed potatoes ($3.50) work great.
From a house-made dessert menu — assembled soccer-mom-style with commercial products like Oreos and Dreyer's ice cream — a towering Mile High Mud Pie ($8.49) does please, with mocha almond fudge and cookies-and-cream ice creams. But I'd recommend you ask for the sub of delightful Disorder Porter hot fudge. After all, if there's anything these chains know, it's how to bleed their beer everywhere.