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Archive for March, 2012

New Beers and Beer News 03/28/2012

It’s a great time to be a beer trader.  Spring is shaping up nicely with so many great beers getting ready to pop up around the country.  Russian River in Santa Rosa, CA is about to drop another batch of Beatification for your drinking pleasure.  This is a much, much bigger batch when compared to last month’s release.  That’s good news, but it’s still going to be a brewery only release.  Vinnie and the gang are going to start selling bottles on Friday, March 30th at 9AM, with a 6 bottle limit.  Beatification is sour turned up to 11!  It’s delish and should be on your radar if that’s your thing.  Highly recommended.

Glorious spontaneous fermentation!

Last week I mentioned Cascade up in Oregon and their Sour Blueberry release.  They’ve got another tasty beer coming out on March 29, (yeah, tomorrow!), called The Vine.  The Vine is a blend of soured triple, blonde quad and golden ale, refermented with white wine grapes.  It then undergoes lactic fermentation, while spending more than 6 months in a barrel.  I found some old notes from a bottle I opened back in 2010.  I rated it very well and wrote down “notes of lemon, apples, grapes, grass and wood.”  The good news about Cascade and their bottles is that they’ll ship directly to many states.  Just check their website for an order form with all the details.  I believe they still have bottles of Sour Blueberry, Apricot and Kriek for sale as well. 

Also on the horizon for traders is Ithaca’s LeBleu.  All the way out in upstate New York, is a great little place, called Ithaca Beer Company.  LeBleu is part of their Excelsior series, which highlights events and special releases and has resulted in some amazing beers.  I believe this will be the third batch of LeBleu to be released.  The beer is a sour ale brewed with New York state blueberries and fermented with Brettanomyces.  It’s then barrel aged and gets a dose of Champagne yeast when it’s finally transferred into 750mL bottles.  This batch is a blend of barrels filled in 2010 and 2011.

LeBleu is another tart and super sour beer, but the Champagne yeast gives it an added dimension.  The Champagne yeast gives it a huge, bubbly head, plenty of carbonation and a very dry finish, much like a traditional gueuze.  I’ve been going on and on about how tasty this beer is, just making myself thirsty, that I didn’t even give you the release details.  So the release is set for Saturday, April 14th from 11-7 EST.  I haven’t seen a price yet, but plan on paying in the $20 range for a bottle.  The good news is that there will be a 1 case limit, so if you know a beer trader out that way, it shouldn’t be too hard to track down.

I’ve talked quite a bit about beers to track down in trades and some of you might not have a clue as to how to go about getting into the world of beer trading.  So maybe it’s about time we do a trade together.  Whaddya think?  I’ll work on putting together a trade in the next few weeks and I’ll walk you through it from start to finish.

Anybody have a suggestion on a beer they’d like to trade for?  It doesn’t have to be anything crazy rare or limited, it can just be a simple 6 pack or bomber that you have had and enjoyed, maybe something you miss from back home or something you’ve never had before, but have been wanting to try.  Here’s your chance.  I’m telling you, it’s like Christmas morning when you get a big ol’ box o’ beer from the FedEx guy.  It’s a fun and exciting way to try beers from all over the country that aren’t available in your neck of the woods.  So hit me up if there’s something you’re after and we’ll go through the entire process together, one step at a time and post it on here.

Ready for your first beer trade?

Now for something you don’t have to trade for.  Firkin Master Walt Chleva over at Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora, CO, has a Bacon Maple Firkin that will be tapped on Friday, March 30th at 3PM.  I can’t make it out for this one, but would love to hear how it turns out.

MMMMMM, Bacon!!!

Also at Dry Dock this weekend is their sort of, maybe, kind of annual Chili Cookoff.  It’s being held on Sunday, April 1st from 1-3PM.  Stop by and try some really tasty entries and vote for your favorite.  They’ve got details on their Facebook page if you’d like to enter your own creation.  This is a great way to spend the afternoon and the competition is pretty fierce.

That’s it for today.  Drop me a line if you have a suggestion for a beer to track down in trade, or if you’d like to learn how it’s done.  Cheers!

A Toast to Michael Jackson

Today we remember Michael Jackson.  No, not the king of pop.  This is a beer blog people!  I’m talking about The Beer Hunter and writer, Michael Jackson!  The man was a legend and pioneer in the world of beer and if he were still with us today, he’d be celebrating his 70th birthday. 

Michael Jackson shed a light on the world of beer in 1977, when he published, The World Guide To Beer.  He spent most of his life traveling the world in search of great beer and whisky, visiting breweries, meeting brewers, reviewing beers and writing books.  I carried a copy of his Great Beers of Belgium book all over that little country when my wife and I visited a few years ago.  Without it, we would have been lost and missed out on a lot of special beers. 

The Belgian Beer Bible

In 1993, he hosted a popular TV show on The Discovery Channel, appropriately called The Beer Hunter.  It’s pretty amazing to think that one person was able to visit so many breweries, try so many unique beers and share his passion with people all over the world.  He’s a big reason why the craft beer industry is so successful today.  Without him, we might be swirling wine right now.  Yikes!   

Michael Jackson went on to start the Michael Jackson Rare Beer Club, which is still going strong.  He even has his own line of glassware.  I was fortunate enough to meet him at the Great American Beer Festival a few years ago and was admittedly a bit star struck at the time.  In 2007, the beer world was turned upside down when he died suddenly from a heart attack. 

Five years later, you don’t have to look far to be reminded of his legacy and all that he did to advance, promote and educate people about craft beer.  I see it around my house on the bookshelf, hanging over the convention center floor during GABF and most of all in the great beers I’ve come to know and love.   

There’s a documentary in the works about Michael Jackson that will hopefully introduce him to a whole new generation of beer nerds.  Click HERE to stay up to date on the project. 

A Toast to Michael Jackson!

In the meantime, remember Michael Jackson tonight.  Raise a glass and salute the man who helped make the beer world what it is today.  Cheers!

New Brewery, Seasonals and Other Beer Happenings

It feels like summer outside!  This nearly 80 degree weather is making me thirsty for an IPA on the deck, but first, let’s get the rundown of what’s happening in the beer world.

First, I wanted to share some news about Great Storm Brewing down in Colorado Springs.  Their grand opening is today!  Jeff and Lynn Jacobs held a soft opening last week, but they’re official grand opening is today.  Jeff has been homebrewing for 6 years and recently decided to make the jump and open his own place.  He’s operating on a 1 bbl system and plans to have 5 flagship beers with 2-3 rotating seasonals.

Great Storm sampler.

From left to right: Lightning Wit (Belgian Witbier), Brass Ale Honey Amber (British Amber / Braggot), Black Bear Zwartbier (Belgian Black Lager), Lilliput Pale Ale and Shine On (Oaked Belgian Golden Strong).  By the time you read this, there should also be an IPA called Seven Wolves available on both CO2 and Nitro, as well as a Rum Raisin Stout on Nitro.  The Rum Raisin Stout is brewed with oats and brown sugar and sounds delish.

There’s no food for sale at Great Storm, although pretzels are available and there’s a pizza place next door.  Stop by and enjoy the nice weather on their patio.  Great Storm is located at: 204 Mount View Lane #3, Colorado Springs, CO  80907.

Tap List at Great Storm.

Great Storm Fermentation Tanks.

Thanks to Steve, one of our readers, who visited Great Storm last night and was able to get these pics to share in the blog.  Thanks man!

All the way up in Fort Collins, CO, Odell has announced that their Double Pilsner will be back on store shelves soon.  I gotta admit, when I think pilsner, I think Bud, crap, Miller and more crap…, but the Odell Double Pils is a tasty beer.  Come on now, can the guys at Odell make a bad beer?  Perfect for those warm summer days, it’s full flavored and refreshing and at 8.1% ABV, it packs quite the punch.

Want to get your “drink on” a little early on Tuesday, March 27th?  Start your day off right and head over to Lone Tree Brewing for an early riser happy hour.  Fox 31’s Good Day Colorado will be broadcasting live from the brewery and they want to fill the tap room with beer drinkers.  You’ll be rewarded with $1 off pints from 6am-9am and who knows, maybe you’ll even be on TV!  I’m sure your boss won’t mind if you stop by on your way to work.  Maybe it’ll make your co-workers seem a little more tolerable.  You bring the doughnuts, Lone Tree will bring the Oatmeal Stout.  Lone Tree Brewing is located at: 8200 Park Meadows Drive, Suite 8222, Lone Tree, CO  80124.

Next weekend, Hops & Pie is hosting another one of their Littlest Big Beer Fest’s on Sunday, April 1st.  This time they are focusing on barrel aged beers.  Once again, they will be pouring a solid list of beers with treats like Firestone Walker XV, Dogfish Head Burton Baton, Verhaege Duchesse De Bourgogne and Odell Bourbon Barrel Stout to name a few.  This is NOT an April Fool’s joke and will certainly be THE place to be next Sunday afternoon.  Hops & Pie is located at: 3920 Tennyston St, Denver, CO  80212.  Check it out!


If anybody was out at Dry Dock last night, I hope you got to try the Hop Goblin with 7 C’s hops.  It was a super tasty brew.  The last few ounces were like a thick, hop slurry.  Mmmm, good stuff!  My son is a big fan of their root beer which is also pictured below.  Nice big crowd as usual.  I love Firkin Fridays!

Hop Goblin of the 7 C’s firkin and Dry Dock Root Beer.

That’s it for now.  Enjoy the weather and the tasty beers.  Cheers!

New Beers and Beer News 03/21/2012

Alrighty, time for a recap of what’s going on in the wide world of beer.  There’s quite a few new beers that will be hitting the market in the near future.  Here’s a rundown of what to keep an eye out for, both close to home and around the country.

First up is Denver’s own, Great Divide, who are close to releasing two new beers in 22oz. bombers.  One is a Dopplebock, which they’re calling Wolfgang.  It’s a big 8% ABV, malty, sweet lager.  Scheduled release date is set for July 1, 2012.

Great Divide is also gearing up for their 18th anniversary this summer and they’ve brewed a wood aged Double IPA to mark the occasion.  This is a really tasty seasonal release and a beer that any self-respecting hophead should seek out.

River North, the newest brewery to open in Denver, is working on getting their first bottles out into local stores.  They recently got two of their labels approved.  One is called Hypothesis, which is a 9.0% ABV Belgian Double IPA.

The other River North release is a 7.5% ABV Belgian saison called J. Marie.

The brewery is hoping to bottle somewhere between 50 and 100 cases in 22oz. bombers.  They’re looking at an April release.  Has anybody had the chance to try them yet?  River North is located in the former Flying Dog facility on Blake Street in Denver, CO.  Drop me a line if you have any other details to share.  I won’t be out that way until baseball season rolls around and would like to hear how they’re doing before then.

Speaking of baseball, the Sandlot Brewery at Coors Field in Denver, CO, has brewed a Farmhouse Red that will only be served at the stadium.  A tart and sour beer at the ballpark?  I’m all in.  I’ll definitely be seeking this out at the Rockies Opening Day in a few weeks.

Wrapping up the Denver news, the Vine Street pub is getting ready to brew their first batch of beer in the next few days.  They’re part of the Mountain Sun & Southern Sun family.  Vine Street has been open as a restaurant and brewpub for several years, but have had a lot of hurdles to overcome before they could actually brew on-site.  Hang in there people, the wait is nearly over.  They’re in the midst of sanitizing and cleaning and hope to be brewing very soon.

Out in Aurora, head brewer Doug Hyndman released Hop Goblin’s Revenge, which is a Double IPA brewed with CTZ, Warrior and Simcoe hops.  It measures more than 100 IBU’s!  Doug knows IPA’s like Bo knows baseball.  This beer is delish and not to be missed.  They’ve got a firkin going on this Friday at 3PM called Hop Goblin of the 7 C’s.  Check it out!  Speaking of 7 C’s, I’ve got a prize for the first person who can e-mail me with the names of the hops used in Dry Dock’s Double IPA, yeah, the IPA formally known as 7 C’s Double IPA.

Dry Dock’s Hop Goblin’s Revenge!

In other beer news around this glorious nation of beer, Victory Brewing, has announced they will be opening a second brewery in Chester County, PA.  They plan to reach maximum capacity this year at their Downington, PA facility.  Opening a second location will allow them to keep up with current demand, while continuing to expand and create new beers.  They hope to have the new brewery up and running by the summer of 2013.  Victory has been brewing since 1996 and currently distributes to 29 states, including Colorado.

Victory expanding to a second location.

Also out east, the always popular Dogfish Head, has released 3 beers in bottles this month.  The Deleware based company has released seasonal favorites ApriHop and Sah’tea and for the first time ever, they’re releasing 75 Minute IPA in bottles.  75 Minute has been available from time-to-time at the brewery for several years and has proven to be very popular.  It’s an IPA that is continually hopped for 75 minutes with Cascade hops and then bottle conditioned with maple syrup.  This is showing up to stores around town as I type this.  Keep your fingers crossed and eyes open and maybe you’ll find some!

I mentioned last week that Cascade would be announcing sales for their Blueberry Sour later this month.  The release is happening tomorrow!  Bottles will go on sale at the brewery up in Portland, OR at 4:30 PM.  If you like sours, you won’t want to miss out on this.  They also have a few remaining bottles of their Apricot for sale.  Grab some while you can.

And now what you’ve been waiting for!  Finally, some details on Westvleteren XII coming to the U.S.!  It was originally supposed to make it’s debut in the states next month, but that’s now been pushed back to June.  Hey, I didn’t say it was all good news.  The two importers bringing the gift packs out here are estimating that 15,000 packs will reach U.S. soil, with a retail price of $85 each.  Each pack will contain 6 bottles of Westvleteren 12, considered to be one of the best beers on the planet, along with two chalices.

At $85, it’s probably not the cheapest six pack you’ll ever purchase, but well worth it.  This is most likely a one time only deal as the monks who make the beer in Belgium are trying to fund a restoration project at their abbey in Belgium.  Typically, the only way to get the beer is at the abbey, so to have it shipped over to us is a pretty big event.  This is a great opportunity to get some without having to pay jacked up prices on ebay or a plane ticket to Belgium.  I’ll keep you updated with any more details I come across.

Patti guarding her Westvleteren loot.

Until next time, go check out one of those new breweries this week.  There must be more than 50 breweries that have opened in Colorado over the past 12 months, with plenty more scheduled to open this year.  Go check one out!  Send me a pic and I’ll try to use it in a future post.  Cheers!

Beer Trippin’ in California. The Bruery, Orange, CA

In my last two posts I covered our stops at The Provisions Store and The Reserve Society Party during our trip to California.  Our last stop of the day was at The Bruery’s actual brewery.  It’s  kind of tucked away off the highway and doesn’t look like much from the outside.  In fact, if it hadn’t been for the big grain silo out front, we probably would have missed it.

They have a huge, heavy door leading into the tasting room and we were greeted by their big chalkboard o’ beer.

mmm, beer.

As you can probably tell from the picture above, there were plenty of tasty options to choose from.

Patti and I both went with the BeRazzled, a raspberry sour beer.  Hey, I can’t resist a good sour and this was right up my alley.

Patti double fistin’!

The tasting room has a small, 4 or 5 seat bar area, with a row of taps on one side and a large fridge with bottles around the corner.  There were about a dozen picnic tables throughout the tasting room and nearly all were full.  We shared a table with a group of guys from Las Vegas, NV, who had also been at the Reserve Society party.  They were beer traders, had been to GABF a few times and knew their stuff, so we had plenty to talk about.

I explored the area and snapped some pictures of the brewing equipment, fermentation tanks and some of their barrels.  I was really surprised at how small the place was.  For the amount of beer they pump out, I really thought the place would be bigger.  We didn’t get a formal tour or anything, but I’m sure there’s a barrel room hidden in the back somewhere.  With the St. Patrick’s day holiday and all, it was just too busy to ask the bartenders any questions.  The three guys working behind the bar were busy, busy.

The Bruery doesn’t offer any food, but have different food trucks park outside on the weekend.  You can bring in whatever you’d like to snack on or eat there.  This seems to be the way more and more places are going, which is fine by me.

For our next round, I went with a glass of 2010 Saison De Lente, which is a slightly spicy farmhouse beer, with a touch of pepper and fruit.  Really nice beer.  Patti got the Humulus Lager which was pumped through a Randall with ginger.

The Bruery tasting room has a fun, laid back atmosphere and everybody seemed friendly and outgoing.  I could get used to a place like this.

Barrels lining the tasting room.

Someone at our table shared the bottle list with us and it was solid.  The prices were the same as retail and even cheaper for us, given the 15% off we get from the Reserve Society membership.

The Bruery tap list.

I couldn’t help it, I wanted to end the night on a sour note, so we split a bottle of Provisions: Mother Funker.  Funker is a sour ale that was aged for several years in Chardonnay barrels.  This beer is fantastic!  Tart green apples, enamel stripping acidity, lemon and citrus and a very dry finish.  I could have sipped this beer all night long.  At $12.75 for a 750mL bottle, it’s delicious and reasonably priced.

The Bruery Provisions: Mother Funker

Eventually, it was time to wrap it up and head back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.  It was a bit of a whirlwind day, but it was certainly a fun one.  If you’re ever out that way, be sure to stop by and pay them a visit.  You won’t be disappointed.  Be sure to check their hours though, as they’re currently only open on fri, sat and sun. 

Hope you enjoyed some of the highlights from our trip to California.  It was a whirlwind of a St. Patrick’s day, but we had a ton of fun.  I’ve got tons of other beer news to share with you, so check back again soon to stay up to date with everything.  Until next time, Cheers!

Beer Trippin’ in California. The Bruery Reserve Society Initiation Party

In my last post, we visited The Bruery Provisions, in Orange, CA.  After finishing up our beers and stuffing ourselves with cheese, we decided to go find our hotel.  Patti had done her homework and found a hotel right next to The Bruery.  I don’t want to lose you here, but The Bruery Provisions is different from the actual Bruery.  Same company, but The Bruery is the actual brewing and bottling facility, with a tasting room inside.  We could see the grain silo from the hotel.  Yeah, my wife rules!  Unfortunately, The Bruery doesn’t open their doors to the beer nerds until 4PM on Fri / Sat and noon on Sun.

With not much else going on and the monsoon still raging outside, we decided to check in and relax.  Patti caught a nap and I went to find a cup of coffee.  We had some time to kill before the main event.  After an hour or two, I called for a cab and we got ready to head out.

I’ve already mentioned The Bruery Reserve Society, and you might not have a clue as to what I’m talking about  Well turn down your walkman and listen up.  Neil Diamond can wait.  The Reserve Society is a club run by The Bruery that gives members access to their hard to get, rare, one-offs and seasonals throughout the year.  If you’ve heard of beers like Black Tuesday, Chocolate Rain and Melange, this is the way to guarantee yourself a bottle or three.  If you haven’t heard of these beers, you need to seek them out!  Mark your GABF map now!  Seriously, GO!  It’s cool, I’ll wait for you until you get back.  Grab us a beer while you’re at it.

Now, do yourself a favor and hunt down some beers from these guys.  Even if it’s just off the shelf stuff like Saison Rue or Mischief.  Try them, ask a friend to share some, come to one of our tastings, join the club next year.  DO IT!  They’re making some pretty special beers and since opening in 2008, they’ve jumped to the top of the pack as one of the best breweries in the U.S.  It’s nice to see too.  Patti and I met the founder, Patrick Rue, at GABF in 2008 and he was just trying to get his beers out into the market.  We tried Black Orchard and Autumn Maple and knew we’d be hearing more from him in the future.  It’s safe to say he’s done very well for himself.

Memberships are sold out for this year, but signups typically open around November for the following year.  They won’t ship your beer to you, so if you don’t live nearby, start trying to track down someone who can pick up and ship for you.  This isn’t as hard as you might think.  I can point you in the right direction of some beer geeks out that way who will be glad to help.  If that’s not your thing, the fine folks at The Bruery will store your beer at The Provisions until March of the following year.  So, let them stockpile your beer, then make one trip out there and ship it back to your home or make a nice little road trip out of it.  Yes, it can be done!
Throughout the year, members can participate in various parties, beer releases and events exclusive to Reserve Society members.  We were in town for one of these events, The Reserve Society Initiation Celebration.  It just kind of worked out that I had the time off for our spring training trip to Arizona, so adding an extra day to hop over to California seemed all too easy.
The party was being held at The Phoenix Club in Anaheim.  This place is kind of like a big German hall with a restaurant and bar and various other areas that can be rented out.  Our party was in a giant tent.
They checked our ID’s, pulled our name on the guest list, gave us a wrist band with 10 tabs for samples, a glass and a list of beers being served.

Beer Menu for the party.

 They had some rock music playing and along the edges of the room there were tables set up offering different beers.  There was already a line about 75 people deep for pours of Chocolate Rain.  Chocolate Rain is a version of Black Tuesday, their big ol’ 18% ABV imperial stout, that has been barrel aged with vanilla beans and cocoa nibs.  I’ve tried Black Tuesday (phenomenal beer!), but had never been lucky enough to get my paws on a Chocolate Rain.  It’s only been bottled two or three times and it’s never been sold outside of the club.  So, Patti and I got in line and waited for our pour.
Wow!!!  Amazing beer.  Thick, oily pour, deep black color.  It was so thick it coated the glass.  Huge bourbon, vanilla and oak aroma.  Loads of chocolate, fudge and caramel.  Man, oh man.  Delicious beer.  I’m really looking forward to getting my bottles.

Brewmaster Tyler King pouring his beers.

We really savored our sample and didn’t want it to end, so we took some time to walk the place and take in all the sights.  Each table had a row of bottles lined up, showcasing what was being poured.  I’m honestly not familiar with all the names of their beers.  With names like Run BMC and Gunga Galunga, it’s not easy to remember what everything is.  The bottles have a description on the label, so that really helped us with some of their more obscure beers.
After a good rinsing to peel the Chocolate Rain remains off our glass, we eventually decided on our next samples.  Patti went with Batch #50 Grand Funk Ale Road and I grabbed a pour of Melange #1, which is a blend of Black Tuesday (imperial stout) and Oude Tart (flemish red).  Batch #50 is an interesting beer.  It’s created in the traditional Belgian gueuze process of blending old and young lambic together to create a new beer called gueuze.  Sour and complex, there’s really no way to describe a beer like this until you’ve tried it.  It’s unique and a favorite style of mine.  Also interesting to note that it was brewed to commemorate their 50th batch, back in 2009, but because it took a blend of an old and new beer to make, it wasn’t ready for release until well after their 300th batch of beer had been released in 2011.

Batch 50 and Melange No. 1

Patti and I usually order different beers and swap glasses to sample each other’s and try more beers.  In this case, she preferred mine and I preferred hers, so we just swapped glasses.  It’s awesome having a beer loving wife!  I highly recommend finding yourself one.  It’s better than having to share beers with your buddy who’s probably just going to get you sick.
 Eventually, we made our way outside and discovered the draft truck.  This is a big, white, box truck, with 30 tap handles drilled into the side.  Lots of fun things pouring from the truck, but my favorite was a guest tap from Bootlegger’s called Knuckle Sandwich.  This was a nice big, west coast, Double IPA.  Patti got it with a splash of Centennial hop oil.  This made it green (it was St. Patrick’s day after all) and extra hoppy.
Food was provided by Beachwood BBQ and they had pulled pork, brisket and chicken to choose from, plus a wide variety of sides to try.

Plenty of great food provided by Beachwood BBQ.

Patrick and The Bruery peeps really know how to throw a party.  My only regret was running out of tickets before trying Sour in the Rye with kumquats.  It created quite the buzz, but I didn’t hear about it until after we got home.  There were just so many great beers to try, we were bound to miss something special.  Oh well, something to keep an eye out for in the future.
There were cabs all over the place when we got back to the parking lot and it was a short, 7 minute ride back to our hotel.  We stopped our driver as he was going past The Bruery, right next to our hotel.  So that wraps up part two of our Bruery weekend.  The third and final installation of our St. Patrick’s day throwdown will be at The Bruery’s brewing and bottling facility.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, here are some random pics and labels from a few of the many beers that were being poured at the party.  Cheers!

Beer Trippin’ in California. The Bruery Provisions, Orange, CA

After having a nice trip to catch some baseball and beers out in Arizona, it was time to move further west to California.  My parents took the kids and caught a flight home to Denver, while my wife and I hit the first flight out to Ontario.  No, not Canada eh.  There’s another Ontario, which  is east of Los Angeles, CA and only about 30 minutes from The Bruery in Orange, CA.

I was pretty happy with my $9 / day rental car through Enterprise, until I noticed that gas prices are pushing up to nearly $5 / gallon out there.  That’s crazy talk.  Luckily we didn’t have too far to go.  There was a steady, cold rain coming down as we started our journey south from the airport.

Our first stop was at In-N-Out for some early lunch.  We rolled in just as they were opening their doors at 10:30AM.  If you’re coming from an area without In-N-Out, into an area with In-N-Out, you must stop there first for a bite to eat.  I don’t want excuses people, just make it happen.  It’s inexpensive, delicious and send me one while you’re at it.  E-mail me and I’ll get you shipping information.  Thanks and well done.

Now with that out of the way, we could begin some southern California beer-trippin’.  Our first stop was at The Bruery Provisions.  Back in 2010, The Bruery Provisions opened as a specialty market filled with some of the finest beer, wine, cheese and other grocery items around.  They have several coolers filled with some very nice Belgians and a wide variety of American microbrews.  They’ve also got a huge selection of Bruery beers, including a line of beers that is made exclusively for the store.  The cheese section was pretty impressive with dozens of different types available for purchase.  The Provisions is also the pick up point for members of The Bruery Reserve Society, which we’ll talk about later.

In the back of The Provisions is a tasting area with an extensive beer menu, as well as meat and cheese plates.  Patti picked up three different wedges of cheese and I ordered a flight of beers for us to try.

Specialty flight and delicious cheese!

From left to right: Filmishmish (oak aged sour apricot), Humulus Lager (hoppy imperial pilsner), Sour in the Rye (oak aged sour ale), White Oak (bourbon barrel aged wheatwine) and Chocosaurus Rye (collaboration with Bootlegger’s; lager brewed with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans).  The cheeses were brie, cambozola and goat.  It was quite the start to our day.

The Provisions also offers free wifi, so we got our laptop and tuned in to American Craft Beer Radio to hear Gary V’s broadcast and catch up on what was happening back home in Colorado.  The staff was busy filling orders for Reserve Society members picking up their orders.  I’m a member of the club, but because I had a large order, I’ve got a friend who’s going to pick it up and ship it out to me.  It’s easier than trying to fumble with it at the airport or trying to pack it up for FedEx.  We had limited time and my hookup said he’d take care of it for me.

There were quite a few guest tap offerings to go along with the extensive list of Bruery beers.  They had Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, Allagash’s Odyssey, Ballast Point’s Sea Monster Imperial Stout and Great Divide’s Espresso Yeti to name a few.  There wasn’t a bad beer on the menu and the staff seemed knowledgable and able to help with pairings and suggestions.

They periodically host tastings and offer classes where they pair up flights of beer and cheese or wine and cheese.  Tune into their facebook page to keep up with the tap list and new beers arriving in the store.  They are also working on getting approval for their patio.  Once that happens, you’ll be able to enjoy a beer outside!

We could have easily spent an afternoon in this place.  Friendly staff, great beers and cheese.  Orange is a nice little town with antique stores and family restaurants.  We’ll be back for sure and this is a must-stop if you’re ever out that way.  Not to mention, Reserve Society members get 15% off purchases.  We need a place like this in Colorado!  Their address is: 143 N. Glassell Ave, Orange, CA 92866.

We had such a beer filled trip to California, that I’m going to split this into three parts.  Check back soon and we’ll take you inside The Bruery’s Reserve Society Initiation party and then finish up with a stop at The Bruery’s prodcution facility and tasting room.  Until then, Cheers!

Beer Trippin’ in Arizona. Baseball and Beer Hunting.

My family and I are big baseball fans and every year we find ourselves heading to Arizona for a few days to take in some Spring Training games.  We got up bright and early on Wednesday morning to grab the first flight from Denver, CO into Phoenix, AZ.  As we were waiting for our bags at baggage claim, we realized that we had accidentally left the kids bag at home…  NOOO!!!

In the past, my wife and I would always share a bag with them and fit their stuff in with ours.  But, since they would be flying back to Colorado with their “Mimi” and “Pap” and my wife and I were heading to California for the weekend, we decided to give them their own bag.  Unfortunately, since we got up at 2:45AM on the day of our flight, we packed the bag and had all their things in it, but we forgot it at the top of the staircase at our house.  Not a great start to the trip.  Hey, it’s not like we pulled a “Home Alone” and left our kids behind.  Trying to stay positive about the situation, it gave us a chance to get them some new clothes and was a way to kill a few hours before In ‘N’ Out opened.

mmmm, in-n-out!

So a few hours later, after a trip to Target, they had clothes and we were off to get checked into our hotel in Scottsdale, AZ.  When we got in, everyone was tired and ready for a nap.  With not much else going on, I decided to head out for a little beer hunting.  I always try to track down new and interesting beers when I’m out-of-town.  I like trying beers I’ve never had and usually keep a mental list of things I’ve been wanting to try from different regions around the U.S.

Within a few miles of our hotel was a Bevmo! and a Total Wine.  These places are practically next door to each other.  It’d be like having Argonaut and Lukas Liquors across the street from each other back home.  Kind of crazy, but it makes an out of towner like me happy to not have to drive far for good beer.

Bevmo! was solid and had a wide variety of beers, both local and imports, but Total Wine was just awesome!  They had a sign advertising 2500+ different beers.  I liked the setup quite a bit.  They divided their beer section up by style.  For example, all the IPA’s were in one section, in alphabetical order, with notes about some of the beers and staff recommendations.  They even had a section for special releases and limited beers.  It was almost too easy.

Total Wine offers classes every month educating consumers and offering samples of different styles of beers.  They had some deep discount beers to get rid of their past seasonals.  I saw quite a few xmas seasonals for great prices.  For example, Sierra Nevada Celebration and Odell Isolation for $4 / 6-pack.  Great idea that I wish stores back home would adopt.  It prevents beer from just sitting around for months and keeps inventory fresh.

Anyway, the store was great and I got lost in their beer section for nearly an hour.  I made a mix-6 of some locals and grabbed several bombers to open during our stay or take home to the cellar.

Arizona locals.

The next day, we headed to Salt River Fields to watch the Colorado Rockies take on the Chicago Cubs.  We had perfect seats about 20 rows back behind home plate.  We were in the shade and it was 84 degrees.  Glorious!  You couldn’t have asked for a better day.  There’s not much of a beer scene at the stadium, but you can get an $8 Blue Moon or a $10 bomber of Fat Tire.  I stuck with my bottle of water and enjoyed the game.

The view from our seats. Perfect day!

Yeah, the Cubs still suck and the Rockies won 7-5.  Hey, there’s always next year Cub fans.

After the game, my parents offered to watch the kids for a few hours, which gave my wife and I a chance to visit a few local breweries.  Our first stop was at Papago Brewing in Scottsdale, AZ.  As soon as I walked in, I knew it was our kind of place.  The walls were completely covered with beer signs, tap handles, mirrors,  posters and so on.  Papago has 30 beers on tap, which featured both their beers along with a great selection of guest taps.  I decided to try their Hopago IPA and Patti went for their Oude Zuipers Tripel.  Both were well balanced and very drinkable.

An impressive tap lineup at Papago Brewing.

Oskar Blues was there doing a promotional deal with their Deviant Dale’s.  The rep, who was from Denver, spent a long time chatting with us about the Colorado beer scene and gave us some swag to take home.  I had a tough time trying to deciding on a second beer.  Papago has about 9 glass door refrigerators full of bottled beer that’s out in the bar area.  They allow you to buy bottles or make 6-packs to take home or you can pick out a bottle, bring it to your table and drink it there.  I LOVE this idea!  First, the fact that you can actually look at the bottles and not have to order from an out-of-date menu was nice, but also being able to take things to go or share with friends at the bar…  Brilliant!

They had all kinds of locals, but some nice out of state options and imports, including all sorts of beers from Dogfish Head, Epic, Marin, Ballast Point, Lost Abbey and so on.  They even had big time beers like Firestone Walker’s Sucaba, their highly sought after barleywine. named this one of the top 20 places to have a beer in the entire world and Papago has the beer to back it up.

I was pretty impressed and for my next beer, I went with a Three Floyds / Mikkeller collaboration called Boogoop.  This was a new one for me and is listed as a 10.4% wheatwine.  Big hops, sweet, sweet malty backbone.  I loved every drop of it.  Patti got a Bear Republic Racer 5, which is a classic American IPA from Healdsburg, CA.  You can spend a pretty penny in this place if you’re not careful.  Well done Papago.  We will be back.

Shuffleboard in the back at Papago.

Our next and final stop of the day was at Four Peaks Brewing in Scottsdale, AZ.  We got a table outside and took a look at the beer menu.  Patti went for the sampler and I ordered a Hop Knot, American IPA.  Their sampler consists of 8 different beers which range from a Peach Ale to an Oatmeal Stout.  It wasn’t anything mind blowing, but they were all well made and were pretty tasty.  They had good food and a friendly atmosphere (think Rock Bottom).  They sell growlers and bottles to go as well.

Four Peaks sampler.

Arizona is slowly transforming into a decent beer town.  Every year we come it seems that another brewery has popped up and is trying to educate the locals on choosing better beer.  Arizona Beer Week was two weeks ago and they have various beer festivals throughout the year.  It’s not exactly Colorado out here, but they’re working on it.

Today was another perfect day of baseball.  We sat 8 rows behind home plate to watch the Brewers vs. the Royals.  Spring training is tough to beat!

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and we’re heading out for a big ol’ throwdown at The Bruery in Orange, California.  This should be a pretty epic party with nearly 50 small batch, hard to get beers being poured, plus 4 guest breweries and a ton of food.  We’ll be making a few other stops along the way, so stay tuned.

Tomorrow’s schedule will consist of The Bruery, The Bruery and The Bruery!

Rogue / Voodoo Update, Meet the Brewer Night and Cascade Blueberry Sour!

I know several of you have reached out to me with interest in splitting a case of Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale.  I haven’t forgotten about you.  But, Lukas Liquor down in Lone Tree, CO, posted today that they expect to have it on their shelves sometime next month.  I’ve got another friend in the industry who’s trying to get some into his store in Parker, CO.  So keep your fingers crossed.  I’ll update you as I get more details, but it looks like we’ll be getting some out here after all.   

All hail bacon and beer!

Down in Gleneagle, (think Colorado Springs), the folks at Another Pint are putting together a Meet The Brewer Night with Doug Odell from Odell Brewing.  This will be their third installment in this series and is scheduled for Friday, March 30th at 7PM.  Doug will be on hand to talk about his beers, answer questions and share some of his creations with you. 

For this event, Another Pint will be pouring 90 Shilling, IPA, Myrcenary, Shenanigans and Footloose.  I mentioned Shenanigans in my post from yesterday.  It’s scheduled to be released later in the month.  Footloose is a barrel aged Brett and Lacto beer with a tropical fruit flavor.  This event will be pay by the pint.   

If you’ve never heard of Another Pint, I’m not surprised.  I was introduced to this place by a college buddy that lives down that way and they really seem to be flying under the radar.  I was blown away by their tap and bottle selection.  Everything from popular locals like Bristol and Avery to impressive and harder to get offerings from Dogfish Head and Firestone Walker.  Check them out!

Samuel Adams has announced two new beers for their small batch series. 

Sahti Ale brewed with Juniper Berries.

Gose, with Salt and Corriander.

These should be making their debut in April or May.  Interesting and unique styles this time around.  For only $5.99 per 22oz. bottle, they’re worth a try. 

Lastly, a bit of news from up in Oregon.  Cascade, one of my favorite U.S. breweries, has been talking about releasing their Blueberry Sour for a few months now.  Today, they said it will go on sale at the brewery later this month.  Still no date has been set, but it’s coming!  This is a must try beer!  I can’t say enough good things about these guys.  If you’ve never had them and enjoy sour beers, you must, must, must seek them out.  You’re going to have to trade, travel or make a friend out there to get some, but it’s worth the extra effort. 

Cascade's Blueberry Sour, bottled, labeled and waiting for you.

Patti and I paid them a visit last October and couldn’t believe how many great sour beers they were pouring under their roof.  They keep things interesting and fun with their “Tap It Tuesday” series, where they continue to push boundaries and pump out one-offs and experiments every Tuesday night in their Portland based Barrel Room.  Tonight, they released a beer called Pink Pixie Sticks, which according to their Facebook page had hints of raspberries, grapes, lemon peel, cherries and sweet tart fruit.  These draft only beers are here today and gone tomorrow.  Do yourself a favor and check them out! 

Sippin' on some tasty sours!

New Beers and Beer News 03/12/2012

So I’m not even sure where to begin this week.  So much news to share!  I guess I’ll just dive right in and start with the news that’s close to home.

First up, Odell Brewing, in Fort Collins, is getting set to launch their Shenanigans on March 24th.  This 8.1% oak aged, Brett brew will be hitting shelves in 750mL corked and caged bottles.  If you live in the Odell distribution area, make sure you seek this one out.  Their last few big, seasonal beers, such as Friek and Saboteur have been fantastic.  I’ve got a feeling this won’t disappoint either.

Odell Brewing is at it again.

Odell’s neighbor up in Fort Collins, New Belgium, also has a new beer up their sleeves.  This one is a collaboration with Elysian Brewing out in Seattle, WA.  The two have combined for a Pink Peppercorn IPA.  This 7.5% ABV beer will be bottled and sold in 22oz. bombers.  No release date has been set yet. 

New Belgium’s also planning their next Lips of Faith release.  This line of experimental beers has had some great releases in the past year, but this one could top them all.  The 7.5% Tart Lychee, is an intensely sour beer that bases itself around the unusual, tropcial lychee fruit.  I’m a huge, huge fan of sour beers and I got to try this one last year at the Avery Sour Festival.  Sweet, sour and complex, it was one of my favorites of the day.  I’m really excited to see they’re going to bottle this beer.  You better hope I don’t get to the beer store before you when this comes out.  I’ll be the guy stocking up when it hits the shelf.   

New Belgium announced today that they will be entering the Michigan market in August.  They’ve been in the news quite a bit lately with rumors surrounding a possible east coast expansion.  Although there’s no official word yet, the rumor is that the brewery is looking at property in Asheville, NC.  Might not be a bad time to start planning that trip to North Carolina after all.

Down in Colorado Springs, Jason Yester and the Trinity crew are plugging away getting their new 12 barrel brewhouse installed.  They worked into the wee hours last night and are back at it again today.  They’ll be closed until Wednesday, March 14th to get everything up and running.

Shiny new fermenters at Trinity, waiting to be fed tasty beer!

Over in Denver, Bill Eye is also hard at work, getting his masterpiece assembled at Prost Brewing.  I can’t wait until we can talk about the beers he’ll be pouring when Prost opens.  Hopefully it’ll be sooner than later.

Bill Eye becoming one with his kettle at Prost.

In Aurora, be sure to mark your calendars for the Copper Kettle One Year Anniversary Party coming up in April.  They’ve got 4 big days planned with music, food and some exciting beers.  Check out their website for more info.

Copper Kettle turns 1 in April!

To wrap up the local news, if you’re looking for something to do tonight and are in the Boulder area, slide over to Mountain Sun on Pearl Street.  If you order a beer, they’ll give you a free Stout Month t-shirt.  They’ve got some awesome beers on tap right now including two of my favorites, Hop Vivant Imperial IPA and Nihilist Russian Imperial Stout.  If you’re looking for something a little lighter to enjoy with the nice weather, check out their Blackberry Wheat or FYIPA.  With 15+ beers on tap, there’s something for everyone, even your light beer drinking co-workers.  So grab a beer, get a shirt and watch the world go by.  Life is good!

Before we finish up, here’s a little something for all the beer traders:  Rob Tod and the gang at Allagash, up in Portland, ME, are getting ready for another one of their small batch, brewery only releases.  They just announced a release party for Saturday, March 31st to release Old HLT, a beer that was brewed with cherries and aged in stainless steel for more than 2 years.  This one clocks in at 8% and will be sold for $10 / 12.7 oz. bottle, with a 4 bottle limit.  I’ve traded for a few of their small batch beers and they never disappoint.

Brewtally Insane is hitting the road this month.  We’ll be checking out some breweries and beer bars near Phoenix, AZ, as well as the Los Angeles, CA and Anaheim, CA areas.  Got a recommendation or know of some places we should visit?  Drop us a line on our Facebook page and let us know.  We’d love to hear from you.  Until next time, Cheers!

Avery Strong Ale Festival 2012 Recap

I had been looking forward to the Avery Strong Ale Festival for weeks.  Unfortunately, these things always seem to come and go so quickly.  I’m a little sad that another one is in the books, but wanted to share some highlights with you.

My wife and I checked into our hotel at around 2PM on Friday and walked to a nearby restaurant for a big dinner.  We wanted something that would stick with us late into the night and the big ol’ NY style pizza we ordered really hit the spot.  After dinner, we tracked down a few bottles of water and called for a cab to pick us up.

The festival opened at 5PM and we arrived about 20 minutes after the hour.  There was no line, so we strolled right in, but were still early enough that it wasn’t packed with people just yet.  We got our glasses, tasting tickets and a beer list.  Avery was nice enough to post the list on their Facebook page on Friday morning, so atendees could get an early glimpse at what would be pouring.

They set the festival up in alphabetical order by brewery name, so it’s relatively easy to navigate.  The Avery tasting room housed the first 20 taps, from A-B.  The barrel room had an additional 35 taps, from B-G.  The remaining 69 taps, from G-V, were in the warehouse.  We figured the least amount of people would be in the back warehouse area and decided to hear there first.  Kind of like when you’re a kid going to Disney World.  You want to hit Space Mountain first to avoid the long lines later in the day.  Same principle.

Ready to roll with the first 20 beers in the Avery Tap Room.

In the warehouse, I grabbed my first beer, Russian River’s, Pliny the Younger.  I couldn’t resist the hoppy goodness and wanted to get a pour before the keg kicked.  I figured it wouldn’t last long.  It was the perfect start to the night, until I went to reach for my camera…  Yeah, so, uhm, no camera…  I had left it back in the hotel.  A blogger without a camera is like a stormtrooper without his blaster.  Pointless.  Oh well, I’m new to this.  Lesson learned.  Still, I wasn’t going to let this get me down.  I used my quick thinking, ninja skills and hijacked my wife’s iPhone to use the camera feature.

Anyway, moving on, I headed down a few taps to get a pour of The Bruery’s, Melange No. 3.  I’ve got a bottle of this in the cellar at home, but I’ve been been waiting to try this one for a while.  It didn’t let me down.  Melange # 3 is a blend of three different beers.  White Oak Sap, a wheatwine, their Anniversary Old Ale and Black Tuesday, their famous Imperial Stout.  Big, sweet nose, chocolate, bourbon and dark fruit flavors.  It’s a pretty special beer.  Mmm, delish!

Moving on down the line, I found what would prove to be my favorite beer of the night, Surly’s Five.  Brewed in honor their recent 5th anniversary, this is a 100% Brettanomyces fermented dark ale, aged in red wine barrels.  Sour cherries, oak, along with some tartness and bretty funk.  A beautiful brew.  I love my sours and this one was top notch.  Now for the bad news, Surly doesn’t distribute outside of Minnesota…  Sigh.  If you’re a beer trader, you’ve got to seek this one out.

Surly Five. My favorite beer of the night!

We came across plenty of other highlights along the way from all over the U.S.  Some of my other favorites were Alpine – Bad Boy DIPA, Cigar City – Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, Avery – Bourbon Barrel aged Meph Addict and Pizza Port – Nose Rider DIPA to name a few.  The lineup seems to get a little better every year.

We saw lots of familiar faces and good people from around the beer world.  Plenty of local brewery representation, bloggers and even some out of state breweries.  Avery, Great Divide, Lone Tree (Jason, please bring beers next year!), Strange, Dry Dock, Bull & Bush, Oskar Blues, Redstone Meadery and many more.  We also met the gang from COOP Aleworks out in Oklahoma City, OK.  These guys were really cool and have some interesting projects going on that they were eager to tell us about.  Well worth checking out if you’re ever out that way.

Gary V. and The Gubna. Nothing like a little friendly competition.

“What’s yours?”

They don’t call themselves Strange Brewing for nothing.

No bathroom lines, the ability to go in and out of the fest to get some fresh air, good food, even better beer and some high school kids laying down some nice jazz tunes.  Another job well done by the good folks at Avery!

As the night began winding down, we called for a cab and headed back to our hotel.  It was time to head back and grab some zzzz’s.

American Craft Beer Radio host Gary V. had asked us to help him with his show on Saturday.  He was broadcasting from the Avery lot on Saturday morning and wanted us to pull some winners from his facebook page for a few brewery prizes he had to give away.  The good people at “The Kitchen” offered their upstairs bar for us to set up shop and connect with Gary.  His show is on 102.3FM from noon-1PM on Saturday’s.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that The Kitchen people really know their beer.  If you’re ever up in the Boulder area, check them out.  They’re right on the Pearl Street Mall and have a huge beer list.  They were pouring not just tasty locals like Avery IPA, but also harder to find beers like Russian River Supplication and Firestone Walker XV.  They also host beer dinners and have a Dry Dock beer dinner scheduled this week.  The food looked good too.  Being a sucker for cheese, they had a pretty impressive selection.  Like I said, check ’em out.  The radio show went off smoothly and it’s always fun to help when we can.

The Kitchen, Boulder, CO

After we wrapped up, we cruised the Pearl Street Mall for a bit and headed back to Avery to do a little beer trading.  I had set up a trade ahead of time and just needed to make the switch.  I left with a case of Avery bombers, so be on the lookout for some upcoming reviews.  The weather was perfect and people were really digging the outside patio area.

Again, awesome weekend, great people, amazing beer and perfect weather.  Avery, you guys rock!  Let’s do it again next year.  Cheers!

Strong Ale Fest Teaser, Prost Brewing, Firkins, Dark Lord Day Tickets and Beer Radio!

So it’s been an exciting week for me.  We had more than 300 hits in the first week of Brewtally Insane.  It’s awesome to see such a positive response.  Thank You! 

As I get ready to have my face melted at the Avery Strong Ale Festival tonight, I wanted to share a few pieces of beer news that I came across over the past few days. 

First up, Prost Brewing is hard at work getting their brew system up and running.  Prost is led by Bill Eye, the former head brewer over at Dry Dock in Aurora, CO.  Since leaving Dry Dock, he bought a brew system over in Germany, had it shipped to the U.S. by boat and has been hard at work getting it ready to fire off some tasty German style beers.  Bill and the gang at Prost are aiming for a Spring 2012 opening.  Prost will be located at 2540 19th Street, Denver, CO 80211.  Check out their Facebook page to stay up to date on their progress, participate in surveys and see pictures of everything, from construction to glassware. 

Let the countdown to Spring begin!

Speaking of Dry Dock, their Firkin Friday release today is Hop Project:X.  Firkin master, Walt Chleva, says this is a dry hopped pale ale with an experimental hop.  First firkin at 3PM, second firkin at 7PM. 

12 hours from now, the Strong Ale Festival up at Avery will be in full force.  Here’s a few teasers for you from two of my favorite breweries.  First up, Surly.  They sent kegs of Smoke, which is a smoked lager and Five, which is a sour ale they brewed for their 5th anniversary.  Surly doesn’t distribute very far from their brewery up in Minnesota, so be sure to check these out if you’re attending  this weekend.  

Get Surly this weekend at Avery's Strong Ale Festival

Oskar Blues also has some intersting “one-offs” for you to enjoy at the festival.  They’re bringing four beers this time around.  Look for a wine barrel aged G’Knight, an oak aged version of Gubna and a Double Deviant.  That should satisfy the hopheads in the crowd.  If double IPA’s aren’t your thing, they’re also bringing a Wild Turkey barrel aged version of Ten FIDY, their Russian Imperial Stout.  Personally, I’m really looking forward to giving that a try. 

Look for Oskar Blues to bring some tap some tasty barrel aged beers this weekend.

American Craft Beer Radio will be broadcasting live for a pre-festival, tailgate-like show at Avery from 11-noon tomorrow.  Joining host Gary V. on the show tomorrow will be Surly head brewer, Todd Haug and Avery barrel master, Andy Parker.  American Craft Beer Radio is on 102.3 FM, ESPN Radio.  At noon, you can flip over to 760 AM for the Colorado Craft Beer Show and here all the local happenings with John Turk and from Oskar Blues, Chris Katechis, aka “The Gubna”.  I love both of these programs and it’s nice that they’re going to be on at staggered times this weekend so listeners don’t have to flip back and forth. 

Oh and real quick, Three Floyds has announced that tickets for their 2012 Dark Lord Day release will go on sale on March 17th.  The release date is set for Saturday, April 28th.  I’ll have more info on Dark Lord Day soon, but if you’re thinking about going, check out their website and mark your calendars.  This is one of the biggest releases of the year and is sure to be a good time.

Get ready to reserve your Dark Lord Day 2012 tickets next week.

Again, thanks for a great first week.  Business cards have arrived.  They look pretty sharp if I may say so and have a tip chart on the back so you’ve got no reason not to take care of your bartenders around town.  Give me a shout and I’ll give you some to pass along to your beer loving friends.  Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook to get updates, beer releases, reviews and links shared with you throughout the week.

Bell’s Hopslam Review and Rogue Maple Bacon Doughnut Order Details

With the Avery Strong Ale Festival only a few days away, I thought I should get my palate in shape and open a high abv beer tonight as a warm up.  OK, you’re right, I’m just using that as an excuse to pop a big beer.  Whatever.  The kids are in bed and Daddy’s thirsty!

So tonight I reached for a bottle of Bell’s Hopslam.  Bell’s has been brewing beer since 1985 and are located in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Hopslam is their 10% Double IPA and one of their current seasonals.  It’s also currently ranked as one of the top 25 beers on the planet.  Since this is the first review I’ve done in the blog, it also gives me a chance to show you how I taste a beer.

Whenever, I taste a beer, I begin with the pour and observation.  Hopslam comes in a 12oz. bottle and I poured it into a Bell’s tulip glass.  The beer was a pefectly clear, deep orange color.  The creamy, snow white head, rested about the height of two fingers resting on top of each other.  A steady, moderate flow of carbonation bubbled away in the glass.  I waited for some of the head to fade away and it left intricate patterns behind on the glass.  These patterns are referred to as “lacing” or sometimes “Belgian lacing”.  Hopslam had no problem leaving stringy, snowflake-like lacing on the edges of the glass.

Hops, it’s what’s for dinner.

After the pour, I take a minute or three to smell the beer.  I usually give it a swirl like the fancy pants wine-o’s do with their wine.  This will give it a chance to open up and allow all of the aromas to seep out.    Somebody, somewhere at some point in time, told me that 90% of what we taste, comes from what we smell.  Hopslam opens up with grapefruit, tangerines and other citrus fruit, followed by pine, fresh grains and finishes with a touch of sweet malt.  Smells awesome!

Now comes the good part, let’s give it a taste!  Hopslam is a bitter, tongue lashing for your mouth.  Thank you sir, may I have another?!?!  Big, explosive hop flavor, plenty of bitterness but wraps up with a stream of honey and the slightest touch of caramel.  This bit of sweetness is what makes this beer so highly drinkable.  The honey tames the hoppy bitterness and really smoothes the beer out.  The 10% abv is well hidden.  Once your tongue goes numb, this beer goes down way too easily.

Hopslam finishes up with a long, drawn-out bitterness that sticks around in your mouth for a long time.  The mouthfeel is thick and leaves behind a wave of hops on your tongue.  It’s not syrupy, but let’s just say it’s hearty, and that’s not a bad thing.

A fantastic beer and is someting you’re going to want to track down if you’re a card carrying hophead.  Since Colorado doesn’t fall into the Bell’s distribution footprint, I had to trade for my bottles.  I did a little research and this is the fourth year in a row I’ve traded for Hopslam.  My first review of this beer was on 3/9/08.  Yeah, it’s good and worth the trouble.  It should also be noted that I pulled the beer out of the fridge about 15 minutes before I started the review.  Allowing the beer to warm up a bit, will help to open up all the aromas and flavors.  Try it, you might be surprised.

Before I wrap this up, I recently posted some info on the Brewtally Insane Facebook page about Rogue selling bottles of their Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon beer through their webstore.  A couple of you commented on my offer of making a group purchase in order to bring down the shipping costs.  I’ve been thinking about it and if the interest is there, I might be willing to go in on a case purchase.  You probably know Rogue and if you don’t know Voodoo, you’re missing out.  Patti and I visited these geniuses last year and couldn’t believe how good their sweet creations were.

Pick your poison!

So if you’re interested, send me a message on the facebook page or leave a comment on there and I’ll get in touch with the details.  Dude, it’s BACON!  Enough said.  Cheers!

Beer Festival Survival Guide

So this weekend is the 10th Annual Avery Strong Ale Festival up in Boulder, CO.  This is a wonderful, mid-sized festival, featuring some of the top breweries from around the country.  The Strong Ale Fest isn’t for the weak palate.  Every beer there is 8.0% ABV or higher, covering a wide variety of styles.  Whether you lean towards Russian Imperial Stouts, Double IPA’s, Baltic Porters, Barleywines or anything else in between, there’s always something special to be found.

Aargh! Anybody seen my legs?

With a few other nice festivals coming up in the near future, I thought this might be a good opportunity to share some tips and suggestions to make your festival experience one that is both enjoyable and hangover free.

1.  Eat a good, solid meal before the festival.  My wife and I do our best to take advantage of our night off with no kids by enjoying a nice dinner before the big event.  Grab a big ol’ bowl of pasta and sauce or enjoy some fresh sushi.  Something that’s going to fill you up to help absorb that alcohol and won’t leave you feeling hungry half-way through the festival.  Pretzel necklaces clash with my purdy eyes, but if that’s your thing, go for it.  Bling up your pretzel necklace and show your true redneck colors by adding things like string cheese, slim jims and jerky.

2.  water, Water, WATER!  Hydrate.  I drink water constantly, even when I’m not drinking beer, so it’s just kind of natural for me I guess.  Water will counter balance the dehydrating effects of alcohol.  Here at high altitude, the effects can be even stronger, so drink a whole mess of water, which brings us to…

You can’t beat sharing stories next to a long line of steaming port-a-johns.

3.  Know where the restrooms are located.  Don’t wait until it’s too late and you’re seeing yellow.  Scope out the potties so you don’t get into trouble later.  And if you’re a guy, some of these festivals can be one big sausage convention.  In other words, you might get to experience the joy of standing in a long line waiting for the little boy’s room.  Personally, I have a theory that if I don’t “break the seal”, I’ll be good to go deeper into the night, with fewer trips to the bathroom.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but in my mind, it seems to work.  Brewtal Tip: The last few Avery festivals have had port-a-potties outside behind the barrel room.  Skip the tiny bathroom in the tasting room and head to the back to get the job done.  Sorry for all the potty talk.  Let’s move on.

4.  Make a plan, but pace yourself.  Most festivals provide you with a list of beers and basic information about them, while the really big ones also provide a map to help you get around.  Come up with some sort of plan, mark your “must try” beers, but don’t feel rushed to run through and pound them all.  Most beer festivals are 4-5 hours, so take your time.  Brewtal Tip: Skip beers that you have at home or can buy at your local store or brewery.  I use festivals as a chance to try beers I can’t easily track down.  I want to experience the breweries that don’t distribute to Colorado.  At the same time, don’t just skip past your local breweries either.  Many of them will make “one-offs” specifically for a beer festival.  You never know what you’re going to find.  It’s also a great opportunity to thank them for the beers and creations they make.

5.  Be respectful.  Always show respect towards the brewery and venue that’s putting up with all the beer shenanigans.  Don’t act like a fool and help ensure these festivals are able to continue in the years to come.  Acting silly will only get you booted out.  Manners go a long way too.  Say “please” and “thank you” to the people pouring your samples.  Many festivals have volunteers on hand to pour beer.  The Great American Beer Festival (GABF), uses more than 30,000 volunteer hours each year.  Without volunteers, many of these festivals wouldn’t exist.  Be nice.

6.  Don’t Drive!  Yeah, don’t even think about it.  Use public transportation, rent a pogo stick, get a designated driver, train a monkey to fly, call a cab, book a stagecoach, get a nearby hotel and walk.  Whatever it is, there’s no way you should be getting behind the wheel after a beer festival.  Period.

7.  Don’t hover.  We’ve all seen that person who hovers at the front of the table taking sample after sample while the line continues to grow behind him/her.  Take your sample and if you want to get back in line, by all means, have at it.  Don’t be the guy that stands in front of the table and ignores everyone else waiting patiently in line behind them.

8.  Use the dump bucket.  The plastic bucket at the end of the table isn’t there in case someone gets sick.  It’s a dump bucket.  Don’t be afraid to use it.  If you get a beer you don’t care for or just get too big of a pour, there’s nothing wrong with dumping it into the dump bucket.  Rinse your glass out from time to time with water and pour the rinse into the bucket.  Just don’t take up your buddy’s bet to drink from it.  I know it’s beer, but it’s not exactly the latest Firestone Walker blend. Drinking from the dump bucket is a good way to get you sick or kicked out or both.

I hope that’s at least a start down the right path.  Avery’s beer festivals are some of the best around.  Last year’s Strong Ale Fest had 103 beers from more than 50 U.S. breweries.  I heard there ‘s going to be more than 120 beers this time around.  It can be a little overwhelming at first, but if you follow the tips above, you’re sure to have a good time and wake up ready to hit the Waffle House in the morning.  We’ll be there on Friday, be sure to say “hi” if you see us.  Cheers!

In The Studio With American Craft Beer Radio

So I got to sit in the studio this morning during the weekly broadcast of American Craft Beer Radio.  Host Gary V., called last night with the invite and I was quick to jump at the opportunity. It was going to be a full house in the studio, with Gary’s co-host for the week being Jonathan Shykes from the Denver Westword, and their guests, Dry Dock head brewer Doug Hyndman, plus Kjell “the Jellyman” Wygant and Jim Stinson from Rockyard Brewing. 

We all met at the studio about 30 minutes prior to the start of the show and got a quick briefing from Gary about how everything would run during the broadcast.  While waiting, Kjell and Jim shared some details about another collaborative brew that’s in the works down at the Rockyard in Castle Rock, CO.  They’re putting together a Cuvee that will be sold to raise money in an effort to help save the Danny Williams beer mine in Boulder, CO.  If you’re not familiar with Danny Williams, please click HERE.  Danny played a huge role in running the GABF each year and kept more than 3000 bottles cellared in an abandoned gold mine that he owned on his property.  Unfortunately, Danny recently lost his life to cancer and his family is raising money to save his property.  This is one of numerous projects going on right now to raise money for his family. 

Kjell said the beer will be aged in Bourbon barrels, soured with both lactobacillus and pediococcus and bottled in 1-liter flip top bottles.  No word on what other breweries will be involved, but it sounds like a tasty and exciting project.  The best part is that it’s going towards a great cause.  I’ll try to keep you posted with any more information I can find out. 

As the morning sports talk show wrapped up, we had about two minutes to get into the studio, set up, pour a few beers and start the show at noon.  Doug brought some bombers of Dry Dock Double IPA and a 4-pack of Green Flash West Coast IPA.  The guys from Rockyard brought bottles of their Diesel Double IPA and Olde BroAle, which is an English Old Ale.  I brought a bag of goodies too, including Surly Furious and the latest in Avery’s barrel aged series, Muscat D’Amour. 

During the broadcast, Doug touched on an exciting new beer coming up at Dry Dock called Hop Goblin’s Revenge.  It’s another big, hoppy IPA, brewed with CTZ, Warrior and Simcoe hops.  It will also be dry hopped and should be on tap in about two weeks.  He’s also working on another round of Hop Abomination, which is one of my favorite series of beers from Dry Dock. 

There was a live call in from Chuck Silva, the head brewer at Green Flash in San Diego, CA.  It didn’t take him long to rub in the perfect weather they were having in San Diego.  Don’t they always have perfect weather out there?  He talked about some of the happenings out at his brewery and hinted at a possible collaboration between Green Flash and Dry Dock.  Crossing my fingers that they can make it happen. 

I couldn’t believe how quickly the one hour show flew by.  The blog got a quick plug, which was pretty cool.  But before I knew it, we were packing up and moving out so the next show could get started.  It was a really cool experience and nice to meet some new folks in the local beer community.  Gary and I talked after the show and he asked if I could call in during some of my travels.  Patti and I will be in California in a few weeks, so maybe we can try a live call in on his show from a brewery out there.  Stay tuned. 

If you missed the show, there will be a link to the podcast up on the American Craft Beer Radio facebook page in a few days.  Click the “like” button while you’re at it.  For next week, Gary will be broadcasting live from the Avery Strong Ale Festival from 11-noon.  Patti and I will be attending the festival on Friday and probably trying to recooperate on Saturday, but we’ll be listening.  If you like beer, and you’d clearly be a fool not to, be sure to tune in.

New Beers and Beer News 03/03/2012

I recently learned about a few new and exciting beers that should be hitting store shelves in the next few months and had to share with you.  First up is a Bourbon Barrel-aged version of Bigfoot coming out from Sierra Nevada.  I’m excited for this one.  Bigfoot is a very tasty barleywine that ages incredibly well.  The bad news is that they only had enough barrels and space to make about 100 bbls.  In comparison, their barrel aged 30th Anniversary releases were right around 1000 bbls.  So this one might take a little hunting around and good luck to find.  No word on how much will be making it’s way to the area, but I’ll try to keep you posted.  They’re tenatively shooting for a May release.

Bigfoot hunting begins in May.

While we’re talking Bigfoot, check your local shelves for Sierra Nevada’s standard Bigfoot, which is out there right now.  As of last week, it’s at most of the better retail stores around town.  Get some now and put some away for later.

Another collaboration brew was recently announced between Tomme Arthur of The Lost Abbey and Peter Bouckaert of New Belgium.  These two hooked up back in 2004 and brewed a beer called Mo Betta Bretta.  It was a 100% Brettanomyces beer that was sold at the Solano Beach Pizza Port out in California and proved to be very popular.  They are working on a very similar beer that will once again be a 100% Brettanomyces beer, but will be produced on a larger scale and should see store shelves in May.

Mo Betta Bretta 2.0?

And if you need something to do today, head over to Twisted Pine Brewing over in Boulder, CO, for the release of their third installment in their Artisan Series.  This limited series of beers pairs a new beer with a local artist each month and will be released on the first Saturday of each month throughout the year.  For March, the release is called Sacred Spice, which is a Baltic Porter brewed with chai spices provided by the local company Sanctuary Chai.  The release party is set for today, March 3rd, from 12-9.  Twisted Pine is located at: 3201 Walnut Street, Suite A, Boulder, CO 80301.  303-786-9270.

The weather is supposed to be perfect this week in Colorado.  Get out one day, maybe after work or on a day off and enjoy it.  Grab a local growler and sit outside on your deck and watch the world go by.  Or maybe head over to one of the many spots around town with some outdoor seating, bring your dog or kids and try the latest seasonals.  But don’t let your dog or kids try the latest seasonals!  I mean, seriously people, let’s not waste good beer on unappeciative pallets.  Anyway, I love this town.  The beer scene and weather are in perfect alignment right now.  Let me if you find anything new and interesting and I’ll share it with the readers on here.  Pictures are welcome too!  Enjoy yourself and have fun, but be responsible.  Cheers!

P.S. Don’t forget to tune into American Craft Beer Radio on 102.3 ESPN Radio today from 12-1.  I’ll be hanging in the studio with Gary V. and all his great guests.

Radio Show, Firkin Friday and More Russian River News

So I got a call tonight from Gary V., host of American Craft Beer Radio, asking if I’d like to come hang out in the studio tomorrow during their broadcast.  Uhm, yeah!  Gary hosts a great beer show from 12-1 every Saturday on ESPN Radio 102.3.  He’s had some big names in the beer world on his show in recent weeks, including Deb Carey from New Glarus, Ron J from Jolly Pumpkin and Jason Perkins from Allagash.  His guests tomorrow will be Doug Hyndman, head brewer at Dry Dock, Kjell Wygant and Jim Stinson from Rockyard and on the phone will be Chuck Silva, head brewer at Green Flash in San Diego, CA.  I can’t wait! 

Patti and I stopped by Dry Dock to try the latest creation from Firkin Master Walt Chleva.  Tonight he brought out a Graham Cracker Marshmallow Brown Ale.  It was very smooth and had a nice, sweet cinnamon taste to it.  Dry Dock was pretty crowded and everyone seemed to be enjoying the firkin.  The first firkin was gone in under two hours.  A second firkin was scheduled to be tapped at 7PM. 

Walt's Graham Cracker Marshmallow Brown Ale.

And lastly, Russian River is eating up all the big beer news this week.  Today, they announced that Batch 5 of their immensely sour and extremely popular Beatification, will be released at the brewery on Friday, March 30th at 11AM.  This is one of only a few beers in the U.S. that is spontaneously fermented from wild yeasts.  The beer spends over a year in oak barrels maturing until deemed ready to be bottled.  The last batch to be bottled was also a brewery only release and sold out in under 15 minutes.  This time around, there is quite a bit more beer available to hopefully ease the pain and spread it around a little more.  Vinnie has announced that 1000 cases will be for sale on March 30th and there will be a 6-bottle limit per person. 

I’m guessing that right about now, the Bros. and tech team over at are doing everything in their power to prevent their website from crashing again.  Seems like every time a big beer release like this gets announced, the trading forum explodes with people trying to set up a trade for a bottle.  If you’ve never had this beer, it’s definitely worth seeking out.  Hopefully you’ve got the ammo to land a bottle in trade or the ability to be at the brewery for the release.  It’s one of the best examples out there of an American brewery trying to master a true spontaneously fermented Belgian beer.  Good luck in your hunt and if you’ve got one you’d be willing to trade, hit me up.  I’m sure we can work something out.  . 

That’s it for tonight.  Don’t forget, if you live in the Denver area, be sure to tune in tomorrow for Gary V. and his special guests on American Craft Beer Radio.  That’s on 102.3 ESPN Radio from 12-1.  I’m excited.  Now I just need to dig out a few tasty beers to bring and share.  Cheers!

Weekend Beer Buzz and Another New Brewery 03/12/2012

Looking for something to do this weekend?  Get a jump start and kick things off right by heading over to Dry Dock this afternoon for their latest Firkin Friday release.  Firkin Master Walt Chleva has brewed a special Graham Cracker Marshmallow Brown to be tapped today.  No, that’s not a typo.  Sounds like a winner to me.  First firkin goes on at 3pm, followed by a second at 7pm.  Don’t be late, these won’t last long.

Roasting marshamallows for the tasty firkin.

In addition to today’s firkin, they’ve got some awesome seasonals on tap like an oak-aged Sour ESB called Stowaway, a Belgian Tripel, a Bourbon Barrel aged Porter and just in time for St. Patrick’s day, a dry Irish stout pouring on nitro.  Dry Dock is located at: 15120 E Hampden Ave., in Aurora, CO.  303-400-5606.

While you’re there, head next door to The Brew Hut, their homebrew shop.  Ever thought about growing hops in your backyard?  If you brew your own beer or just want a cool, unique and great smelling plant to grow in your backyard, maybe it’s time to start thinking about it.  The always helpful and knowledgable Brew Hut staff is taking orders through today for hop rhizomes.  A rhizome is a chunk of root that will produce a plant.  They’re offering a variety of great hops including Cascade, Centennial, Fuggle, Hallertau and Nugget.

Cascades from my backyard.

Hops are very easy to grow and after a year or two of getting themselves established, will produce a ton of useful hops for you to use in your beer or just to sit back, smell and enjoy while you’re outside.  I’ve been growing Cascade and Nugget since 2006 and they come back stronger and more prolific every year.  Call the guys at the shop to reserve your rhizomes.  303-680-8898.  If you’re not sure what to get or still have your head in the snow and aren’t yet ready to start thinking about gardening, they usually order extra to sell to customers.  At $4.50 / rhizome, you can’t go wrong.

Down south in Colorado Springs, Trinity just released some exciting news.  Their head brewer, Darren, announced that they will be upgrading their 4.5 barrel brewhouse to a 12 barrel brewhouse.  They will be closed on March 12th and 13th to get the new equipment moved in and the first batch on the new setup is scheduled to be brewed on March 16th.

They also have a firkin scheduled to be tapped on Saturday, as part of their First Saturday Firkin program.  This go round is FLO IPA, with Summit, Kent Golding and Williamette hops.  At only $3 a glass, it can’t beat it.  Lastly, if you’re a fan of Saisons, you won’t want to miss their Saison and Farmhouse Ale Festival coming up on April 14th.

$30 pre-sale, $35 at the door, gets you a glass and access to some seriously tasty Belgian style Saison and Farmhouse Ales.  Owner and brewer, Jason Yester is a master at what he does and I highly recommend checking this festival out.  Trinity Brewing is located at 1466 Garden of the Gods Road, Colorado Springs, CO.  1-719-634-0029.

I just caught wind of another brewery getting ready to open up in the Denver area.  Alpine Dog has a website up and running.  Check them out by clicking HERE.  I really know next to nothing about these guys, but will keep you in the loop with whatever I can find out.

Enjoy your weekend and feel free to e-mail me or shoot me a message on the facebook page with any news or anything you’d like to share.  Cheers!

Denver Beer Geeks Suck Down Pliny Keg in 11 Minutes!

So tonight was the big release of Pliny the Younger at the Vine Street Pub in Denver.  I like Vine Street.  It’s family friendly, has a great selection of games, offers simple, but tasty food and has an awesome selection of beer.  They are part of the Mountain Sun / Southern Sun family up in Boulder.  Both Mountain Sun and Southern Sun have been brewing award winning beers for a number of years and Vine Street is hoping to begin brewing at their location later this month.  For now though, they get their beers trucked down from their big brewing brothers up in Boulder.

Tonight’s Beer Menu

As I mentioned in my previous post, Pliny the Younger is a big deal.  It’s currently ranked as the #1 Beer on the Planet by  I made it down to the pub at 3:45 and was able to snag one of the last spots at the bar.  The bartender told me they were pre-selling tickets for the release, which was scheduled for 4:20.  I got my ticket and settled in for the countdown.

At $7.25 for an 8oz. pour, it turned out to be one of the best prices for the release this year.  Other locations around town have been charging $10-$12.  I was surrounded by beer nerds who were all there for the big release.  My buddy Aaron met me there just before 4:00 and got his ticket as well.

Almost Ready!

The staff did a countdown leading up to 4:20.  At 4:20, it was on!  It was a mad dash of pouring, passing out and enjoying.  Sitting almost directly in front of the tap, I was lucky enough to grab one of the first pours.


Wow, what a beer.  Clear, golden orange color.  Big piney hops along with some citrus, tropical fruit and just a touch of malt.  The flavor, where to begin?  Citrus, oily hops, pine, caramel and malt.  Complex and long-lasting.  What an awesome beer.  I’ve been able to try Younger a handful of times since my first taste at the Russian River Brewery in 2005 and it never lets me down.

Just as I was getting lost in the depth of this wonderful beer, I heard the dreaded sound of the keg blowing…  NOOOOO!!!  I checked my watch and it read 4:31.  The keg was history in 11 minutes!  Crazy.  Our server had 4 unclaimed glasses left to pass out.  Aaron and I secured a second round and kicked back to take it all in.

The Vine Street crew quickly switched the empty tap line over to Russian River’s Bling Pig IPA.  Another pleasant sight to see!  Blind Pig is Russian River’s year round IPA and I got a 1/2 glass to sip and enjoy before heading out.

Two thumbs up to Vine Street and their crew.  In addition to keeping things orderly and running smoothly, they were also friendly and helpful.  There was a bit of a crowd, but everyone was well behaved, responsible and respectful.  I’d definitely recommend visiting Vine Street for these types of releases in the future.

It was a fun night.  It’s too bad Younger only comes around once a year.  I’m a little sad that it won’t be around again for another year, but oh well.  I guess that’s part of what makes Pliny so special.