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If you’re reading this, then you’re on our “old” site.  We’ve found a new home and relaunched our site.  Please update your bookmarks and point your browsers over to our new site, http://brewtallyinsane.com   Come on, what are you waiting for?

Cheers!


Collaborative New Brew Review: Odell’s Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout

Late last year, I had the idea of reviewing beers with fellow bloggers.  The whole idea sprouted from two realizations.  The first being that the majority of the craft beer scene works together as a community, looking out for each other (#savestrange), sharing ideas and ingredients and even brewing beers collaboratively.  I thought this would translate well to beer bloggers on a variety of levels.

The other realization centers around the old proverb that “two heads are better than one”.  Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that sharing and talking about beers with friends, has greatly opened up my sensory experience with beer.  For example, I might have picked up on a certain aroma or flavor, while someone else with the same beer, may have picked up on something entirely different.  Sometimes a beer can be so layered with complexities, that we might not pick up on a certain characteristic until someone brings it to our attention or we’ve had the opportunity to try a beer on numerous occasions.

And so, after a few e-mails, text messages and brainstorming during a late-night bottle share, I was able to team up with Dave Butler (who writes the fantastic Colorado-based beer blog, Fermentedly Challenged), for a series of beer reviews.  For our first “coblogorative” review, we went with Odell Brewing’s newest seasonal, Lugene.  This new release from our friends up in Fort Collins, is a Chocolate Milk Stout, dedicated to Lugene Sas and his family of cows.

The 8.5% ABV beer will be available from January through March.  I paid $8.99 for a 4-pack.

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Appearance

Let me start by saying I love the artwork here.  It sounds odd to call a cow cute, but the label has artwork depicting one of these peaceful creatures chowing down on a brick of chocolate.  What’s not to like?

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Brewtally Insane (BI): I used a moderately slow pour.  The beer pours a deep, dark brown, nearly black color with a 1-finger, mocha head that was gone in the blink of an eye.

Fermentedly Challenged (FC): Dave used a “semi-aggresive pour and got a big 3+ finger head with lots of bubbles and sticky lacing.  Color is dark as night – with just a hint of mahogany edges around the glass.”

Overall: It’s not quite oil dark, but dark enough to hide most of the carbonation inside or permit any light from penetrating.  We both picked up on the mahogany tint toward the edge of the beer, near the wall of the glass.  Looks creamy, thick and inviting.  I can’t wait to taste it.  Score: 4/5

Aroma

BI: Lugene had “big, sweet milk chocolate” notes and came off like a “fine piece of rich Godiva”.  I also detected the “slightest presence of hops, but it’s hidden” along with a “touch of vanilla”.  I initially thought I was smelling peanut butter cups, but we later determined it to most likely be the chocolate smell from the type of chocolate used in candy bars.  Admittedly, my favorite chocolate treat is a peanut butter cup, so maybe the chocolate just triggers my brain to automatically think it’s getting a peanut butter cup.  Weird.  Smells fantastic.

FC: On the other side of the keyboard, Dave picked up “milk sugars in this beer”.  “Lugene has the classic milk stout signature aroma, only this one has a distinct chocolate aroma with the malt roastiness pushed behind it.”  He also got a “hint of bitterness in the nose, but not much”.  Dave agreed on the sweetness factor and picked up some “toffee perhaps, like a Heath bar”.  He went on to say “I pick up a hint of alcohol, but not as rough as some Imperial Stouts”.

Overall: No surprise to find plenty of chocolate and candy bar sweetness in Lugene.  We both noticed the slightest presence of bitterness and while I got vanilla, Dave picked up toffee and a touch of alcohol.  Score: 4.5/5

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Taste

BI: Lugene is sweet, creamy and chocolate-y.  I felt it drank like a “rich, melted candy bar” and with a well hidden ABV, it was “very creamy and dangerously smooth”.  There’s a “touch of bitter hops on the tongue”.  This is a great dessert beer, and thankfully it’s not overpowering.  This is what I would expect from a Milk Chocolate Stout, but it’s “not too big that they (flavors) turn you off and they’re not too small that you’re hunting with your nose crammed in the glass trying to find some sign of chocolate”.  It’s sweet, rich, thick, bold, flavorful and quite yummy.

FC: “First thing I got was a semi-sweet chocolate taste.  Reminded me of baking chocolate with some additional sweet in there.  The beer was more sweet than bitter.  Smooth going down.  The roast is subdued also.  The chocolate really comes through on this.  Definitely a dessert beer.  Can’t really pick up on the higher ABV initially.  It’s well hidden, probably one to sneak up on you.”  Dave wrapped up by saying “the chocolate took center stage”.

Overall: We’re both fans of Lugene and appreciate what Odell did with this recent release.  A very nice, sweet dessert beer.  Score: 4/5

Mouthfeel

BI: Lugene leans toward the thick side, which I found to be “perfect for a beer like this”.  Personally, “I think too many stouts fall short by being watery and thin”.  Odell’s Chocolate Milk Stout is “not necessarily oily”, but rather “creamy and dangerously smooth”.

FC: Dave referred to Lugene as a “tongue coater”.  He goes on to say that it “leaves a nice coating over the tongue that lingers.”

Overall: Excellent, thick mouthfeel that only gets better as it warms.  No complaints here.  Score: 4.5/5

Final Score

Odell Brewing continues to impress me by releasing new and well crafted beers into their already stellar lineup of beers.  Lugene is a rich and decadent chocolate milk stout that has won us over with its’ heavenly aromas and balanced flavors.  This seems to be flying off the shelves, so get out and grab a 4-pack before they’re gone.  Highly recommended.  Score: 4.25/5

Barrel-Aging, Food Pairings, Cellaring & Final Thoughts

We kicked around some thoughts about how barrel-aging might change this beer.  Personally, I’m a little fearful of the barrel characteristics overpowering the chocolate, but we both agreed that a little time in a rum or bourbon barrel would be a fun experiment.  (Odell, you reading all this?)

About halfway through the bottle, we started getting the munchies and began talking about possible food pairings.  Dave mentioned “vanilla bean chocolate milk stout”, while I thought of fresh strawberries or a fruity cheesecake.  At the end of the night, I think we were both interested in making a beer float or milkshake with Lugene.  Nom, nom, nom.

We also tried to imagine how a year in the cellar would change this beer.  It seems like the alcohol warmth would fade away, along with the slight bitterness on the tongue.  My only fear would be losing too much of the sweetness from the chocolate.  Lugene tastes great fresh.  Only time will tell how cellaring will treat this beer, but I’d suggest enjoying it fresh and if you’ve got the willpower, maybe tucking one away in the cellar for comparison next year.

As for this format of conducting a beer review, I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed working on it.  I’d like to extend a big Thank You to Dave Butler over at Fermentedly Challenged for taking part in this review.  What I envisioned as the two of us chatting online about beer for an hour or so, turned into 3+ hours of two beer blogging buddies, geeking out and discovering a great beer together and discussing a wide variety of topics about the world of craft beer.  Don’t be surprised if you see more of these “coblogorative”, “Fermentedly Insane” or “Brewtally Challenged” reviews from us in the future.

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Thanks to Odell Brewing for creating this great beer, Thanks to Dave Butler for putting the time and effort into this and Thank You all for reading.  Click HERE to see Dave’s review of Lugene at Fermentedly Challenged and don’t forget to follow him on Facebook.

Cheers!


New Brew Review: Elevation’s Downpour Imperial Red Ale

Ever since I tried my first sip of Elevation Beer Co’s Apis IV (their first bottled release) last summer, I’ve been closely following this fledgling Colorado brewery.  From what I’ve seen so far, they consistently put out high quality beers at a price that’s relatively easy on the beer geek’s wallet.  So when their newest release, Downpour Imperial Red Ale, hit the Denver-area market a few weeks ago, I thought it was time for a review.

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The Story

Straight  from the label:

Downpour is named after the sudden thunderous downpour that hit the Elevation Team during a “team building” trip of paddle boating and beer at Chaffee County’s Cottonwood Lake.  The hot day on the lake and its enlivening, bitter, cold downpour inspired us to create an Imperial Red Ale with a combination of the fresh bitterness of 4 different types of hops and the warming of a big malt backbone.  This beer is perfectly balanced for the warmth of summer sun and the cold of fall rain. 

Downpour balances on the border between malt and huge hop flavors, mulch like the balance between warm summer days and the bitter cold thunderstorms we get here in the high country of Colorado.  The beer pours a hazy redwood red with a white fluffy head.  Hops dominate the nose with pine, earth and grapefruit, balanced slightly by caramel malt flavors and hints of our fruity London Ale yeast.  The beer hits the palate with bitter hop notes and is balanced by bready malt.  A beer for the hop freaks among us.

The Review

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Appearance:  Poured from a 750 mL, corked and caged bottle into a tulip glass, the beer is, well, it’s red.  Says so right on the bottle.  There’s no foolin’ there.  No sediment, just a nice, dark, ruby red with a steady, controlled stream of carbonation throughout.  The head shapes up 3-fingers tall and is frothy, off-white, and resembles a creamy latte.  Plenty of lacing to coat the walls of my glass all around.  Downpour just looks awesome.  Score: 4.5/5

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Aroma:  Piney hops, sweet caramel and bread make up the bulk of the aroma.  There’s also a touch of citrus and if you close your eyes there’s a bit of wood and honey.  Mmmmm….  Score: 4/5

Taste:   First sip is biscuit, nuts and citrus hops.  It’s as if I’m eating a slice of hop bread baked by a mischievous baker.  Second sip, more hops jump out, with pineapple, peaches and mango lurking in the background.  It’s leaning towards an IPA, but never quite crosses that line.  The bottle says 90 IBU’s, but it’s not overly bitter by any means.  That’s where the “Red” comes in.  The malty, rich, caramel notes keep the hops in check and prevent this brew from becoming just another bitter hop bomb.  West coast Red mixes with a malty ESB.  To hell with style guidelines.  What you should know is the combo works and it’s freakin’ tasty.  Score: 4/5

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Mouthfeel:  Downpour is full flavored and brings a medium, yet not too heavy or syrupy mouthfeel to the table.  It finishes on the bitter side and like a red wine, it leaves your palate dry.  What to do, what to do???  Whet that thing and drink some more!  Score: 4.5/5

The Verdict

Overall:  People, I only paid $8.99 for this 750 mL bottle and it didn’t disappoint on any level.  It brings a beautiful pour, aroma, flavor and finish to the table.  As prices on the craft beer market continue to rise, sometimes approaching ridiculous levels (cough, Woodcut, cough, cough), Elevation keeps it in check by offering well crafted AND affordable beers. It’s beers like Downpour that allow the macro-crap drinkers to make the switch over to high quality, craft beer.  Score: 4.25/5

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Add Elevation Beer Co to your list of Colorado breweries to watch and seek out your own bottles of Downpour while they last.  You won’t be disappointed.

Cheers!


Brewtally Insane Best of 2012: Beers, Breweries and Beer Bars

2012.  What a year!  Certainly a HUGE year for beer!  With more than two dozen breweries opening in Colorado this year, there were plenty of new and interesting brews that were introduced into our market.  It’s not easy for a beer geek to keep up with everything…

We did our best to try them all and my liver hates me for it.  But have no fear, all this “research” has good purpose.  There was no way we could have tried everything out there, but here’s some of our personal favorites from 2012.  While I didn’t take availability into account, we did have a few rules that each beer had to meet: 1. available in either bottles or cans.  2. a new release in 2012.  3. made right here in Colorado.

Without further ado, here’s our list of favorite beers, breweries and beer bars from the past year.

10. Odell Brewing – The Meddler

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Big woody notes combine with tart cherries and plums to round out this complex Flanders Oud Bruin.  Such a tasty style that seems to be making a bit of a comeback.  Odell has been rolling out great sours since the emergence of Friek last year and this is a great addition to their already impressive lineup.

9. Oskar Blues Brewery – Deviant Dale’s IPA

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Not only did Oskar Blues give us an IPA this year, but they put it in those big ass 16 oz. cans!  Who do I need to thank for this great gift?  Plenty of grapefruit, caramel, pine and citrus hops galore.  Best addition to the OB family since TEN Fidy.

8. Prost Brewing – Hefeweizen

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We all knew Bill Eye was an amazing brewer, but I don’t think any of us knew German lagers could be sooo damn tasty.  I love the entire Prost lineup, but the Hefeweizen is pretty special.  Fruity, flavorful, refreshing and light enough to make it a sessionable beer.  In addition to being on tap at a variety of restaurants and bars, look for growlers of this tasty brew at liquor stores throughout the Denver area.  Delish!

7. New Belgium – Lips of Faith Tart Lychee

A three-year old wild ale was mixed with lychee fruit and cinnamon to create a unique combination for New Belgium’s summertime Lips of Faith release.  It turned out to be the perfect “lighter” sour brew for the warm summer months.  I liked it so much, I greedily snagged a keg for myself.  I hope they keep this tasty offering in regular rotation.

6. Trinity Brewing – Oh Face Saison Provisional

I credit my wife, Mrs. Insane, with finding this one.  While I was filling my cup with Trinity’s phenomenal sours during GABF, she was discovering Oh Face.  This is another beer in their “Office Space” series, which also includes TPS Report and the upcoming Red Swingline Stapler.  Oh Face is a sensory adventure with plenty of Bretty funk, fruit, cardamom, pepper, coriander, yeast and more.  Another complex masterpiece from our favorite brewery down in the Springs.

5. Funkwerks – Deceit

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The 2012 Small Brewery of the Year just seems to get better and better.  Deceit is a classic Belgian-style Tripel with flavors of tropical fruit, spices and hops.  Look for more interesting one-off’s and seasonals to come out of this Fort Collins brewery in 2013.

4. AC Golden Brewing – Hidden Barrel Apricot

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Low production numbers, a high price tag and no distribution for AC Golden’s first bottled release. Yet, it still managed to tie up phone lines with orders and sold out on the same day it hit store shelves.  And for good reason.  It’s full of sour apricot, barnyard funk and oak.  Hopefully we’ll continue to see more interesting bottles and expanded distribution from AC Golden in 2013.

3. Elevation Beer Co. – Apis IV

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Elevation’s first bottled release was a delicious, complex Belgian-style Quadrupel, that was much more authentic Belgian than American knockoff.  Although Elevation may or may not brew this beer again, they’re clearly on the right track and I’m looking forward to more greatness from them in the years to come.  Awesome beer.

2. Avery Brewing – Uncle Jacob’s Stout

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This 17% ABV Imperial Stout, debuted in April as the 2nd release in Avery’s Annual Barrel Series. Bourbon, chocolate, vanilla, oak and booze make up this sticky, sweet stout.  Look for another batch to be released sometime in 2013.  Be sure you don’t miss out!

1. 2012 Beer of the Year: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project – Persica055

I could have easily picked 5 beers from Crooked Stave to make this list.  They’re just that good. But for me, Persica was the standout and my pick for best Colorado Beer of 2012.  Unfortunately, the only way to try this one was by being a member of Crooked Stave’s 2012 Cellar Reserve, having a generous friend who’s in the Cellar Reserve or were lucky enough to snag a sample at Avery’s Sour Fest.  Ripe peaches and oak mix for this fruity, sour gem.  It’s a shame only a few hundred bottles were made, but the good news is that it’ll be making a return in 2013 to members of the Cellar Reserve.  It’s not too late to sign up, so don’t miss out.

Best Colorado Breweries of 2012

1.  Avery Brewing – Not only do they offer a solid lineup of year round beers, but their seasonals and occasional Barrel-Aged releases are second to none.  The Barrel-Aged series has become so popular, that the releases have turned into mini-festivals at the brewery, where Avery taps unique and hard-to-find beers just for the occasion.  Combine their great beers with their annual Anniversary Party, Sour Fest, IPA Fest and Strong Ale Fest and the new brewery which is expected to open in 2014, and it’s easy to see why Avery Brewing is our favorite brewery of 2012.

2.  Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project – Wild Wild Brett Indigo, L’Brett D’Or, Nightmare on Brett, Persica and they even managed to bring Cantillon’s Zwanze Day to Colorado.  Phenomenal job all around!

3.  Odell Brewing – They make some of our favorite CO beers including Friek, Myrcenary and Bourbon Barrel Stout.  I could sit in their tasting room all day, play a little cornhole or just watch the world go by on the patio.  Thank you Odell for another great year of events, tappings and bottled releases.

Best Denver Area Beer Bars of 2012

1.  Parry’s Pizza – Epic tap takeovers, pint nights, great food and a friendly and knowledgable staff made Parry’s our favorite place to sip a pint outside of a brewery in 2012.  Three locations around the Denver area, with more on the way!

2.  The Rackhouse Pub – Aside from great beer, great food and multiple beer events throughout the year, The Rackhouse shares the roof with Stranahan’s Whiskey.  Stop by for a tasting and tour of the distillery, stick around for a bite to eat and a locally brewed craft beer.

3.  Falling Rock Tap House – The classic Denver tap house.  They get the good stuff the for the geeks and always seem to have something special on draft.

Three Colorado Breweries to Watch in 2013

1.  Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project – More barrels, more bottles, a coolship and a brewery at The Source.  Look out!

2.  Dry Dock Brewing – A new production facility, new brewhouse, a 63-BBL foeder, canning line and expanded distribution.  I’m in!

3.  Black Shirt Brewing – I’ve admittedly only tried 3 of BSB’s brews, but if that’s any indication of what’s to come, Denver’s in for a treat in 2013.

With so many great beers, breweries and beer bars around town, this wasn’t an easy list to compile and sadly, many deserving beers didn’t make it.  What were your favorites from 2012?  Leave a comment on our Facebook Page and share with us.

As 2012 draws to a close, I cant wait to see what lies ahead for the Colorado Beer Scene in 2013. It’s an exciting time to be a craft beer lover.

Cheers and Happy New Year!


Crafty Christmas Beers of the World

The holidays are here and it’s my favorite time of year for beer!  Soooo many great beers come out during the winter months.  I love it.  My wallet hates it.  I wanted to share some of my favorite Holiday Seasonals with you, but thought I’d offer a few that you might not be all that familiar with.

Most Colorado craft beer fans know about Great Divide’s Hibernation, Odell’s Isolation and Avery’s Old Jubilation, but what about those crazy Belgian’s and their wacky beers?  And what’s going on outside of Colorado?  Well, I thought I’d take some of the confusion out of the equation and break down a few of those other, maybe lesser known beers that are out there right now.

Here’s a few suggestions to share with those wine snobs in your family, your drunk uncle or just to help get you through dinner with the in-laws.  Whatever your situation is, here’s a guide to some of our favorite holiday brews.

Brasserie d’Achouffe – N’Ice Chouffe

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The little gnomes from the Ardennes Mountains in Belgium know how to make a great beer.  N’Ice Chouffe pours a deep, dark brown with a 2-finger, off-white head and huge carbonation.  Notes of dark fruits, candi sugar, orange peel and Belgian yeast dominate the nose, while the flavors take on raisins, cinnamon, oranges, biscuit and malt.  A lovely winter brew that will age for 2-3 years.  In fact, the bottle has an “enjoy by” date two years out from the original bottling.  750 mL bottles retail for $10 – $12. Score: 3.75 / 5

Brasserie Fantôme – Fantôme De Noel

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Another Belgian classic, this one from brewer Dany Prignon and his quaint, farmhouse brewery in the small town of Soy, Belgium.  Fantôme De Noel pours a hazy, copper color with a 3-finger tan head and moderate lacing around the glass.  The aroma is fresh fruit (apples, cherries, pears), earth, oak and a touch of hops.  The flavor brings out more fruit and candied apples, biscuit and like most Fantôme beers, there’s a bit of funk as well.  The carbonation is crazy on this one and mine was a gusher.  Folks, have your glass(es) ready!  750 mL bottles retail for $12 – $15.  Score: 3.5 / 5

P.S. All of the Fantôme beers are corked.  My wife and I opened this one at the “haunted” Stanley Hotel in Estes Park and I forgot the corkscrew!  Oops.  Don’t be me!

Brouwerij Het Anker – Gouden Carolus Noël

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Founded in 1471!  Are you kidding me?!?!  Belgium has some serious brewing history.  Why must it be sooo far away from the U.S.?  The Noël pours a hazy, ruby-red with a one-finger, tan head.  The aroma is raisins, plums, malt, caramel and anise.  The flavor is on the spicy side with notes of caramel, cinnamon, anise, brown sugar, cherries, dates and other dark fruits.  An interesting sipper for sure and one that opens up and becomes more complex as it warms.  Personally, I enjoy the subtleness of the spices.  All too often American breweries over spice and almost “dumb down” their beers for us, whereas Belgian breweries are masters at creating layer upon layer of complexity for us to seek out and discover.  This one is no exception.  A nice 10% ABV brew that should age well for 2-4 years.  This one goes for $4 – $6 per 11.2 oz bottle or $12 – $15 for 750 mL bottles.  Score: 4.25 / 5

Brasserie Dupont – Avec Les Bons Vœux

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This next one from Belgium is a Saison from Brasserie Dupont.  Dupont is a master of the Saison style and this is their 9.5 % ABV Winter release.  Avec Les Bons Vœux translates to “With Best Wishes”.  The beer pours a cloudy yellow color, with a huge, 4-finger white head.  The aroma is lemon, Belgian yeast, earthy hops and pepper, while the flavor has notes of lemons, peaches, apricots, pepper, spices and sweet malt.  This is a beautifully balanced, almost champagne-like beer.  Xmas morning beer-mosas anyone?  Light and dry, it’s a great beer for the non-craft drinkers, yet complex enough to keep the sophisticated drinker interested.  Hard to believe it packs a 9.5% ABV punch, as the alcohol is very well hidden.  A 750 mL bottle will run you $11 – $14.  Score: 3.5 / 5

Brauerie Schloss Eggenberg – Samichlaus

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Samichlaus, which translates to “St. Nick”, is a monster of a holiday beer.  This comes in at a whopping 14% ABV and for a long time, held the title of being the World’s Strongest Lager.  It’s brewed only once a year on December 6th and spends the next 10 months aging.  Samichlaus pours a clear, dark amber color with a tiny, quickly diminishing head.  Looks more whiskey than beer. Huge notes of caramel, raisins, cherries, brown sugar and leather in the nose.  The high ABV gives the taste an expectedly warming and boozy feel with notes of dark fruits, honey, nuts, vanilla and rum.  Samichlaus is a thick, syrupy brew with a sticky, full mouthfeel.  Very tasty and a great candidate to cellar away for a few years.  11.2 oz bottles run $4 – $6.  Score: 4 / 5

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales – Noel de Calabaza

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Jolly Pumpkin is a Michigan-based brewery, well known for making some funky, yet very approachable sour beers. Noel de Calabaza is a winter release that pours a dark ruby-red color, with a  4-finger!, foamy, tan head.  The aroma dances with sour cherries, oak, brown sugar and pepper. The flavor is moderately tart with notes of dark fruits, vinegar, oak and a touch of spices.  A very nice gateway beer into the world of sours, that also ages well.  750 mL bottles sell for $13 – $16.  I wouldn’t call this one a “gusher”, however a slow, steady stream of foam poured out of my bottle for 5+ minutes.  Score: 4 / 5

The Lost Abbey – Gift of the Magi

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This unique, Brettanomyces-based brew from The Lost Abbey in California is a funky, Farmhouse / Biere de Garde. Gift of the Magi is a 10% ABV brew that pours a hazy, copper color with a 3-finger, bubbly tan head.  The aroma is all fruit here with loads of pineapple, pear, apricots and apples.  In the back, you can pick out caramel, malt and a touch of funk.  The flavor is expectedly sweet and fruity with caramel apples, bread and a small dose of hops.  Very dry mouthfeel that leaves you wanting more.  Another candidate for cellaring, I’ve had some nice ones in the 2-3 year range.  750 mL bottles sell for $12 – $15.  Score: 3.75 / 5

Hair of the Dog – Doggie ClawsDSC_0513

This Oregon brewery is known for their deep, rich Old Ales and Strong Ales.  Doggie Claws, is an American Barleywine that is released every November.  Reader beware, this is NOT available in Colorado.  This one’s for the beer traders, pac-NW travelers or beer freaks that have creative ways of getting ahold of beers that aren’t distributed to our great state.  In other words, it’s going to take a little more work to track one of these down.  I’ve also seen it for sale online from liquor stores that are willing to pack and ship.  Is it worth it?  Let’s find out.

2010 vintage.  Doggie Claws pours a cloudy orange color, with a 1-finger, sandy head.  Light carbonation comes up through the beer and leaves a touch of lacing around the glass.  The aroma is super sweet with loads of toffee, rum-soaked raisins, leather, oak and a bit of bourbon.  The taste brings out notes of leather, tobacco, brown sugar, booze and caramel.  Another great candidate for the cellar.  Over time the hops will drop out and the rich flavors will blend together like a fine wine. Plan on shelling out $5 – $7 for a 12 oz. bottle.  Score: 4.5 /5

De Dolle Brouwers – Stille Nacht

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I saved my favorite for last.  De Dolle Brouwers or “The Mad Brewers” out of Esen, Belgium, releases Stille Nacht annually to ring in the holiday season.  This was actually distributed to CO at one point (as was Hair of the Dog mentioned above), but for one reason or another, hasn’t made it out here in a good 5 years or more.  I’ve previously ordered bottles at Falling Rock Tap House, but I’ve got a feeling those days are over.  Regardless, it’s distributed to quite a few states and if you happen to be traveling or have a way to get some, I highly recommend it.

Stille Nacht pours a rusty-brown color with a two-finger, creamy, off-white head.  Slow carbonation rises through the beer and leaves a thick coating of lace around the glass.  The aroma is a combination of oak, candi sugar, figs, apple and funky Belgian yeast.  The taste is sweet and is layered with apple, honey, cherries, cinnamon, port wine and the ever so slightest hint of sour.  Stille Nacht is ridiculously complex and only gets better as it warms.  It’d be tough to put this into a category, but it bounces between an English Barleywine and a Belgian Quad.  Words just can’t do justice to this beer.  Get out and track one down for yourself.  It’s also another for the cellar.  I’ve had bottles aging for 7+ years and they’re still holding up well.  11.6 oz. bottles sell in the $6 – $7 range.  Score: 5 / 5

I hope this list gives you a reason to try something new this holiday season.  There are hundreds and hundreds of great beers to reach for during this time of year and this list is by no means complete. Stop by our Facebook Page and share what you’re drinking during the winter months.  Aside from the last two picks, all of these beers were purchased in the Denver area.  Head to the better beer store in your neck of the woods and try them out for yourself.

Hope everyone has a great holiday!

Cheers!


Craft Beer Pairings For Your Thanksgiving Dinner. Part 2

Alrighty guys, in Part 1 we discussed pairings for your Appetizers and Main Course for your Turkey Day Masterpiece, but now it’s time to dig deeper as we head towards the end of that long day of cooking, eating and football watching.  Time to talk about beers to pair with desert, what nightcap to reach for and even what to sip on with your leftovers on “Black Friday”.

Desert

Pumpkin Pie rocks.  I LOVE the stuff and it’s really the only food I’m responsible for preparing on Thanksgiving (aside from choosing the beers).  There are lots of options for this one, but I’m going with Great Divide’s Hibernation (perfect for Pecan Pie too!).

Oh man, do I love this winter release from the Denver-based brewery.  This is an 8.7% ABV Old Ale that pours a dark, ruby red color with a 1-finger head.  Big nose of malt, caramel, dark fruits, nuts and moderate hops.  Full flavored with notes of brown sugar, vanilla, dark fruits and caramelized raisins.  A beautiful brew that ages really well.  I opened a 7-year old bottle last year and couldn’t believe how well this one holds up over time.  $9 – $11 / 6-pack.

Mrs. Brewtally Insane is leaning towards Bristol’s Winter Warlock to pair with her desert this year.

Winter Warlock is Bristol’s 6.5% ABV Oatmeal Stout.  Look for an all-black pour, with a 2-finger mocha colored head.  Aroma is chocolate, roasted grains, coffee and oats.  The taste backs up the nose with roasted coffee, chocolate and dark fruits.   I’d consider this to be one of Bristol’s best offerings and it’s a great time to grab a 6-pack if you’re not familiar with it.  $8 – $10 / 6-pack.

I know plenty of people don’t care for Pumpkin Pie, so if you’re having something along the lines of cheesecake, brownies, etc., I’m going to recommend a big stout or a fruit based beer.  Strange Brewing’s Cherry Kriek comes to mind.  This immensely sweet Cherry ale, makes for a great desert beer and reminds me quite a bit of Belgian Red from New Glarus out of Wisconsin.  Although Strange doesn’t put this into bottles, you can grab a growler to-go from their Tasting Room in Denver.  This beer is great on its’ own, but if you want to have some fun, mix it with a little Oskar Blues Ten FIDY Imperial Stout. Cherry FIDY is a yummy little variation you can easily make on your own.

Odell’s Friek is another great offering you might want to consider.  This is a slightly sour beer made with raspberries and cherries and aged in oak barrels.  This year’s batch is making its’ way into our market right now.  Even if you’re not a sour fan, don’t be afraid of this one.  It’s much more sweet than sour and is actually a nice entry-level sour if you’re looking to break into the style.

Alternative suggestions: Great Divide Yeti (any variation), New Belgium Imperial Coffee Chocolate Stout, Odell Isolation, Liefmans Fruitesse, Odell The Meddler

Nightcap

If all that eating hasn’t induced you into a food coma yet, finish off the night with something special.  (Assuming you’re not driving of course.)  A nightcap beer is your perfect opportunity to crack open something special from the cellar and settle down after a long day.

Again, you’ve got a lot of options here.  I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be opening this year, but I’m leaning towards Avery’s Rumpkin, which is an 18.1% ABV pumpkin beer that’s been aged in rum barrels.  This is an amazingly complex beer with notes of vanilla, molasses, pumpkin, cinnamon and more in the nose.  The taste is loaded with oak, vanilla, rum, cinnamon and allspice.  It’s hot and boozy and sure to warm you up on a chilly night.  This was $10 / 12 oz. bottle at the release party back in September.

Alternative suggestions: Dry Dock Bligh’s Barleywine, Firestone Walker Parabola, Avery The Beast, The Bruery Fruet, Crooked Stave Sentience

Black Friday Leftovers

The big day’s over and we’ve gotten some rest, but knowing how my family cooks, I’ve got at least 2-3 days worth of leftovers waiting for me.  I think I actually enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers more than the big meal itself.  There’s just something about two slices of bread stuffed with roasted turkey, mayo, lettuce and tomatoes.  Delish!

Come Friday, I’ll be reaching for the classic of canned craft brews, Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale.  And since I won’t be going out to fight crowds and crazy xmas shoppers on Black Friday, I’ll be super-sizing with the new 19.2 oz cans!  This is no tall boy, this is a Man Can!  BOOM!

It’s a classic, flavorful Pale Ale, that’s not too hoppy and not too light.  It’s just a highly drinkable, great tasting, canned craft brew.  These retail for just over $3 / 19.2 oz can.

Alternative suggestions: Renegade Ryeteous Rye IPA, Odell IPA, Dad & Dude’s Dank IPA

Like I’ve already mentioned, nearly all of these beers, with the exception of some of the suggested Nightcap beers, should be relatively easy to track down at any of the Denver-area’s better beer stores.  Any of  the staff at Argonaut, Lukas, Libations, Total Beverage, Liquor Mart, Parker Payless, etc., should be able to find most of these beers for you or offer a similar suggestion.

I hope this little guide points you towards some great local beers to enjoy during the upcoming holiday.  If you’ve got comments, suggestions or want to share your favorite pairings or beer pictures, please head over to our Facebook Page and share with us.  Happy Thanksgiving guys!

Cheers!


Craft Beer Pairings For Your Thanksgiving Dinner. Part 1

Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  As you head to the grocery store to pick out your prized bird, overload your shopping cart with sweet potatoes and attempt to learn the real difference between stuffing and dressing, DON’T FORGET THE BEER!  It’s just as even more important than the pumpkin pie!

There’s an ongoing debate about beer vs. wine with food pairings and I’m not going to rehash it on here.  But let’s be honest, beer is waaaay better suited to go with your turkey dinner than those old smashed grapes will ever be.  But with beer, comes a few tough questions: Where do we start?  What do we buy?  What will pair best with my desert?  What about leftovers?

Relax my friends.  The holiday’s are already stressful enough.  I’m going to make this as easy as possible for you with a list of quality beer recommendations from local Colorado breweries that you should be able to easily find at most respectable Denver-area liquor stores.  Grab a pen and paper (and a beer of course) and let’s break it down.

Appetizers

I admittedly haven’t been to many Thanksgiving meals outside of my family, but both my family and my wife’s side of the family have a tradition of serving shrimp cocktail for an appetizer.  We’re also a big fan of artisan cheeses and meats.  So for the first round, I’ve chosen one of New Belgium’s newest Lips of Faith offerings, Biere De Garde, which pairs nicely with both seafood and cheese.

Brewed in collaboration with Brewery Vivant, out of Grand Rapids, MI, this 9% ABV offering pours a clear, orange color with a 2-finger, creamy, white head.  Plenty of orange, lemon, apricot, yeast and peppercorn throughout the aroma.  The taste is very much on the farmhouse side of the spectrum with moderate tartness, spices and earthy notes throughout.  The dry finish and high carbonation will have you thinking champagne.  A nice start to the meal that will be sure to awaken your taste buds.  Readily available at all liquor stores in the Denver-area for $8 / 22oz. bottle.

Alternative suggestions: Boulevard Tank 7, Jolly Pumpkin Oro De Calabaza, Brewery Ommegang Hennepin

The Main Course

Warm up over, stomach stretched, palate cleansed, let’s move onto the main course.  Assuming you’ll be going with a traditional turkey dinner, I’ve got two (very) different approaches you can take.  The first is that you go with something on the lighter side that will subtly complement your meal.  The other is that you go big and bold and add a new layer altogether to the meal and we’ll discuss this approach a little later.

On the lighter side, I’m recommending Deceit from Funkwerks out of Fort Collins, CO.  This awesome little brewery up North, specializes in Saisons, and was named Small Brewing Company of the Year at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival (GABF).  They took home 3-medals at GABF this year, one of which was a gold for this particular beer in the Belgian-Style Experimental Ale Category.

Deceit is a Belgian-style Tripel that pours a slightly cloudy, golden, straw color.  The 3-finger tall head has notes of clove, Belgian yeast and lemon.  Lots of tropical fruits, spices and just a touch of hops round out the flavors in this tasty brew.  A dangerously drinkable 9.4% ABV beer that goes down much too easily.  Deceit bottles were released for the first time on November 1st and they’re beginning to pop up at stores all over town.  I really enjoyed this one and know you will too.  A 750 mL bottle will run you about $12.

Alternative suggestions: Funkwerks Saison, La Chouffe, Tripel Karmeliet

I was only going to suggest one on the “lighter side”, but I can’t help myself, so I’m going to hit you with two.  The second is Tivoli Helles Lager.  This was a beer that basically went extinct when Denver’s Tivoli Brewery closed their doors back in 1969.  Fortunately, earlier this year, the Tivoli family collaborated with Bill Eye, head brewer at Prost Brewing, to bring this one back from the grave.

The 5.1% ABV Helles Lager pours a clear, straw color with a 2-finger, white head.  Plenty of biscuit, fresh grains, plus some floral notes and a touch of bitterness.  Hey, if it came from the Prost brewhouse, you know it’s good.  This is a great beer to introduce family members to craft beer.  You know the ones that “Don’t drink dark beers” or claim they “Get gas from microbrews!”.  Insert Grandpappy voice here: “Damn kids and they’re new fangled beers!”.  Yeah, those are the ones that you just might be able to save and convert to craft beer by introducing them to a refreshing lager like this Helles.

The only drawback to the Tivoli Helles is that it’s not available in bottles, so you’ll need to get your butt over to Prost and grab a growler to take home with you.  Wait, that’s not a drawback at all.  In fact, that’s great news!  Now you’ve got an excuse to make a trip over to Prost for a Maß of one of their delicious creations while picking up a growler of great beer for your Thanksgiving feast.  Maybe you can convince your better half that you’re going “grocery shopping” for beer.  Just a thought and if you get busted, you never heard it from me…

Moving on, let’s talk about the other end of the flavor spectrum, and how we can add a big, bold beer to bring a completely new, unique and independent layer to the dinner table.  In the past few years, I’ve gone with beers like St. Bernardus Christmas Ale and The Bruery’s 2 Turtle Doves with the main course.  These are complex, spicy, Belgian-style beers that have worked well at the dinner table.  A very different approach, but for those that like to experiment with pairings, I think this is a fun option.  For this round, I’m going to recommend Dry Dock Brewing’s Wee Heavy.

This popular Scotch Ale has pulled in back-to-back medals at the prestigious World Beer Cup.  Look for big, sweet caramel flavors and plenty of malt to make up the base of the beer.  There’s also a bit of dark fruit, chocolate, spices and smoke in the flavor as well.  This 9.5% ABV beer is a slow-sipper, but I’m intrigued by this pairing and looking forward to trying it this year.  This is Dry Dock’s Winter Release and it’s on shelves all over town these days.  Plan on spending around $8 / 22oz. bottle on this one.

Alternative suggestions: Oskar Blues Old Chub, Great Divide Grand Cru, Odell Isolation

But Wait, There’s More!

We’re off to a good start, but the best is yet to come.  DESERT!!!  To quote the Kool-Aid Man, “Oh yeah!”.   Coming up in Part 2, we’ll discuss beers to pair with desert, the perfect nightcap brew and even what to drink with your leftovers while the rest of the world wrestles over  TV’s and iPad’s during the nonsense we like to call “Black Friday”.  Stay tuned.

Cheers!


Colorado Artisans Collaborate to Debut New Brews in Trendy Glassware

When it comes to appreciating craft beer, glassware is an important, but often overlooked component of the drinking experience.  I’ve always been fascinated by glassware and I’m constantly on the hunt for new and interesting pieces.  If we were to just go grab a beer out of the fridge and drink straight from the bottle, we’d be robbing ourselves of the appearance, aroma and other nuances that the brewer intended for us to enjoy.  Glassware allows us to experience all those little details and unique characteristics found in our craft beer.  After all, as much as 90% of what we taste comes from our sense of smell.

Recently, I came across Offero glassware, when it was featured in BeerAdvocate Magazine earlier this year.

The design blew me away.  It was a completely new take on a very traditional wine glass.

But the Offero wasn’t initially designed with the beer drinker in mind.  Gasp! The first Offero release was actually a coffee mug.

Earlier this year, it was named Best New Product by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.  As the line of coffee cups began taking off, Mitch Bangert, owner and designer of the Offero, had the idea to design a glass for Scotch, Beer and Wine.  Behold the Offero Omnis.

Was it possible that Bangert had reinvented the wheel with his line of Offero glassware?  I needed to find out for myself.  After contacting Bangert and getting the full scoop, I was ready to take it out for a test drive.  Brewtally Insane style.

As you put the glass to your face, your mouth goes on the lowest part of the rim, allowing the tall, curved back of the glass to wrap around your nose, which essentially traps the aromas for your enjoyment.  It’s a modern twist on a classic design and I’m happy to tell you that it really works.

I’ve been testing the glasses for the past few months (a tough job indeed) and I love them!  They’ve quickly become my “Go-To” beer glasses for everyday beer tasting.

If you’re a Denver local, you won’t have to go far to give the Omnis a test drive for yourself.  Just head over to Black Shirt Brewing Co. (BSB), one of Denver’s newest breweries, where they’re using the glassware exclusively in their tasting room.

BSB Co-Founder and Head Brewer Branden Miller says his brewery worked with Bangert and the Offero Omnis to test prototypes before they went into production.  Miller goes on to say BSB believes the Offero Omnis glass is “the best beer glass in the world!”, largely due to the fact that it not only “drives aroma, but directs it in a very precise manner”.

BSB Customers enjoy the Omnis too.  Miller says “Everyone is blown away by them”.  The Omnis have “changed and elevated the experience of drinking a beer at BSB”.  He’s witnessed craft beer drinkers at BSB “stop…and consider what it is that they are smelling and subsequently, the flavors that are coming through”.

I’d highly recommend this glass to any craft beer drinker.  For those of you that enjoy hosting tastings and writing reviews, I’d consider the Omnis to be a “must have” for your glassware collection.  With its’ unique shape, it’s not just a conversation starter, but also a functional and very thoughtfully constructed piece of glassware.

The Omnis come in both stemmed and non-stemmed versions.  A quick search on the internet revealed that a pair of glasses retails in the $21 – $28 range.  Do yourself a favor, save on shipping charges and pick up a set during your next visit to the BSB Tasting Room, where Miller sells them in pairs.

Black Shirt Brewing, one of Denver’s newest breweries to hit the ever-growing craft beer scene, is located at: 3719 Walnut St, Denver, CO 80205.  Keep your eyes on our Weekend Beer Buzz for weekly updates on BSB tappings and hours of operation.

Offero is also based out of Colorado and can be reached here: OFFERO Vessels, 58 South Holman Way, Golden, Colorado 80401.

The collaboration of these two up and coming local companies is both exciting to see and a tribute to our amazing craft beer scene.  It’s just another reminder of how lucky we are to live in the great state of Colorado!  So raise a glass and pour yourself a beer to toast these guys.

Cheers!


New Brewery Spotlight: Wild Woods Brewery, Boulder, CO

There’s something special about a beer that’s capable of taking you on a sensory journey.  A special beer that can conjure up good memories or allow you to sit back and reminisce about a memorable event in your life.  For me, Magic Hat #9 reminds me of my Wedding day.  It flowed like water at our Wedding reception and was enjoyed by both the beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers in the crowd. Cantillon Gueuze is another beer that’s capable of whisking me away to a great memory. One sip and I picture myself sitting in the old, cobweb filled brewery in Belgium, where I met the Van Roy family, owners of the 100+ year old brewery.

It takes a pretty special beer to be able to achieve such a connection, but Wild Woods, the newest brewery to open in Boulder, CO, is on its’ way to evoking a good memory or two out of you. They’ve taken an approach that brings the great outdoors to craft beer.

The husband and wife team of Jake and Erin Evans came up with the idea to open Wild Woods Brewery during one of their many camping trips.  They’ve spent the past few years fine-tuning and perfecting their recipes on a homebrew setup and are finally ready to share them with you.

The Wisconsin raised couple have been brewing up their ideas and dialing in their recipes on a 2BBL electric brew system at their newly opened brewery.  They’re pouring 6 year round beers and in just a few short weeks since they’re official opening, they’ve already released several unique and tasty seasonals.  Their year round beers consist of:

-Wildflower Pale Ale, 5.6% ABV, 38 IBU.  Pale ale brewed with organic jasmine flowers.  Hoppy, floral and fruity.

-Berry Patch Wheat, 5.5% ABV, 25 IBU.  Wheat beer blended with raspberry and strawberry puree during secondary fermentation.  Cloudy amber beer, with huge, sweet fruit notes throughout.

-Campfire Red, 5.4% ABV, 22 IBU.  Red ale brewed with smoked malt to create a nutty, smoky flavor.

-Treeline IPA, 6.4% ABV, 65 IBU.  American IPA dry-hopped with juniper berries.  Citrus and pine throughout this hop forward, tasty, bitter IPA.

-Ponderosa Porter, 5.1% ABV, 40 IBU.  Porter aged with toasted oak and organic vanilla beans.

-Smores Stout, 4.7% ABV, 28 IBU.  Sweet stout aged with raw cacao nibs.  Roasted grains, bitter chocolate and an underlying sweetness combine to round out this yummy brew.

During my visit, they were also pouring Tropical Paradise Imperial IPA, that had a nose of mango and fresh melon.

Wild Woods Brewery has a laid back vibe and a friendly staff.  In addition to a long, wooden bar and multiple tables in the tasting room, there’s also a small outdoor patio that’s perfect for sipping on a beer and watching the world go by.

Wild Woods is located just around the corner from Avery Brewing and near the location of the upcoming Upslope tap room.  Sounds like the perfect side-trip on a Boulder brew tour by bike or with a designated driver.  Stop by and grab a pint and a growler to go.  Wild Wood Brewery is located at: 5460 Conestoga Ct, Boulder, CO 80301.  303-484-1465.

Cheers!


Pumpkin Beer Guide Pt. 2 – The Locals

Pumpkin Beers Round 2!  Last time, we discussed some awesome Pumpkin Ales and Lagers from around the U.S.  This time, we’re going to talk Pumpkin Beers that are brewed right here in Colorado!  Whether they come in bottles, cans or growlers, there’s a variety of great tasting gourds waiting for you.  Take a look.

Tommyknocker Brewery, Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest Ale.   The Idaho Springs brewery first released their Small Batch Pumpkin Harvest Ale in 2011.  This 5% ABV beer retails for $7.99/ 6-pack. The beer poured a very dark, ruby red color with a 1-finger, off-white head.  The aroma was malt, dark fruit and molasses.  Where’s the pumpkin?  The taste was cherry, raisins, burnt wood and molasses.  I was a little confused by this one as I found very little pumpkin anywhere in the beer.  It seemed one-dimensional and was fairly disappointing.  Score: 2.5/5

Note: My review is based on Tommyknocker’s bottled version.  I had it on-tap at the brewery in Idaho Springs two weeks ago and found it to be a whole lot better.  It’s possible I got a bad bottle.

Dry Dock Brewing, Half Moon Pumpkin Ale.  The ’09 Small Brewery of the Year released this beauty last week and I was able to make it over for the release party.  This 5.2% ABV beauty pours a clear, dark orange color, with a 1-finger, off-white head.  Big pumpkin spice dominates the aroma, along with some notes of cinnamon and brown sugar.  The taste was pumpkin pie spices, brown sugar, molasses and a touch of vanilla.  This is a very spicy, flavorful brew.  Very enjoyable.  Hey homebrewers, The Brew Hut (homebrew shop) next door will set you up with the recipe so you can brew your own batch.  I brewed a batch about 6 years ago and it’s a great recipe.  Score: 3.75/5

Upslope Brewing, Pumpkin Ale.  The Boulder brewery took home a Gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011 with this special beer.  The 7.7% ABV brew pours a clear, copper color with a half-finger, off-white head.  Soft carbonation and faint lacing trim the glass.  Pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and malt round out the aroma, while the flavor is pumpkin pie, graham cracker, brown sugar and a touch of hops.  A touch of alcohol and the slightest hop bite in the finish.  Very nice beer.

In addition to sporadic tappings at the brewery, 16oz. cans have been distributed to multiple stores along the Front Range.  You can purchase a 4-pack from the brewery for $15, which also includes a coupon for a free pumpkin from Munson Farms in Boulder.  Baby Bear Pumpkins from Munson Farms were used in the making of this wonderful beer.  Score: 4.5/5

Avery Brewing, Rumpkin.  Wow.  There are pumpkin beers and there are PUMPKIN BEERS!  This is a monster of a pumpkin beer, clocking in at 15.9% ABV!  That’s right, 15.9%!  Avery released this amazing concoction for the first time in bottles last year and most stores were sold out within hours. This brew was barrel-aged in rum barrels and sold for $10 / 12oz. bottle.  I’m reviewing the inaugural 2011 batch, since the 2012 batch is yet to be released.

This monster pours a hazy, dark amber color, with a 1-finger tan head.  Amazingly sweet notes of rum, brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, raisins and booze.  Smells more along the lines of an Old Ale or aged-Barleywine than a Pumpkin Ale.  The taste, ooooohhhhhh, the taste…  Sooo sweet and smooth. Vanilla, rum, raisins, dark fruit, cinnamon, caramelized brown sugar and a slight hint of pumpkin. This is a truly amazing beer and completely different to anything else I’ve tasted while going on this little journey through the land of Pumpkin Beers.  It’s clear that some of the pumpkin flavors have faded since the ’11 release, but that’s part of the beauty of aging beers.  Over time, the layers slowly blend together, harsh flavors mellow out and time can turn sharp notes into smooth ones.  Score: 4.75/5

This is a very special beer and is more along the lines of Avery’s “The Beast” than a standard Pumpkin Ale.  I picture The Beast chowing down in a pumpkin patch.  If you’re looking to grab a bottle from this year’s batch, you had better make plans to visit the brewery on Saturday, September 29th.  Word on the street from Avery’s Barrel Herder, Andy Parker, is that he had trouble tracking down rum barrels and production is lower than last year.  I’ve also heard that there will be no distribution for the 2012 batch.  In other words, get your butt to the brewery on the 29th if you want a bottle.  12oz. bottles will run $10/each, with a 12-bottle limit.  It seems like there’s 826 beer related events going down on the 29th, but I’m going to give it the old “college try” to make it up to Boulder for this.  Hope to see you there!

“But wait, there’s more!”

Keep your eyes out for a variety of other Pumpkin brews that are in various stages of fermentation at your favorite local brewery.  Strange Brewing in Denver is working on a Pumpkin Porter.  Look for it to get tapped sometime around October 8th.

Slaying Pumpkins at Strange Brewing

TRVE Brewing, also in Denver, was cooking their gourds earlier this week.  Owner / Brewer Nick Nunns is naming TRVE’s Pumpkin Ale, “Carving Out The Eyes Of Gourd”.  He’s brewed the beer with 8 different varieties of roasted heirloom gourds and expects it to be in the 8% – 10% ABV range. Nick’s planning to spice it up later with vadouvan, which is a French-influenced curry blend.  I’m excited to try his creative take on the style.

Grilling Gourds at TRVE Brewing

Down in Colorado Springs, Bristol Brewing was picking perfect pumpkins earlier this week for their amazing Venetucci Ale.  This is a very nice beer that can only be purchased at the brewery (guaranteed to sell out!) and proceeds go to charity.

Also down South in the Springs, Trinity Brewing has brewed several batches of this year’s Emma’s Pumpkin Saison.  This is always an impressive beer that can be found on tap at the brewery and in 750mL bottles.

This list is by no means complete, but it’s certainly a great starting point for you to get your gourd on this season.  Grab a pint at your favorite brewery or get a growler to-go.  Many of these won’t last more than a few weeks, while some will be gone in a matter of hours, so get out and enjoy them while you can.  If you’d like to share your favorites, feel free to send me an e-mail or post a picture on the Facebook page.

Cheers!


Pumpkin Beer Guide Pt. 1 – The Tourists

It’s a special time here in beer land.  We’re only a few weeks away from the Great American Beer Festival and getting ready to enter my personal favorite time of year for seasonals.  As the cooler months roll in, I know we’ve got some awesome beers right around the corner.  From big, thick Stouts to spicy Christmas ales to rich, hoppy Barleywines and everything else getting ready to hit our shelves.

Right now, we’re in the midst of Pumpkin season!  There’s quite a few hitting store shelves these days and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  So I sought out some new pumpkin beers along with some old favorites and put together a little guide to help you track down the perfect Pumpkin Ale.  You ready?

First up is a trio from Elysian Brewing out of Seattle, WA.  The Elysian Brewers pride themselves on their Pumpkin Beers.  They brew a variety of interesting traditional and non-traditional beers and even hold an Annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival, which is entering its’ 8th year.

For those of us here in Colorado, we got three of their releases this year.

Elysian Brewing, Night Owl Pumpkin Ale.  First up, is the 5.9% ABV Night Owl Pumpkin Ale.  This came in a 22oz. bomber that retails for $3.99 / bottle.  The beer poured a slightly cloudy, amber color with a 2-finger tall, tan head.  The aroma was light notes of pumpkin pie spice, cloves and nutmeg.  Taste was very similar, but light and sessionable.  Very balanced and easy drinking. Score: 3.5/5

Elysian Brewing, The Great Pumpkin.  This 8.1% ABV brew is billed as their Imperial Pumpkin Ale. This 22oz. bomber retails for $9.99 / bottle.  This one poured a clear orange color, with a 1-finger tall, white head.  The aroma was pumpkin, graham crackers, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Flavors match the aroma, but this big boy was quite a bit more intense than the Night Owl and tasted more vegetal than pumpkin pie.  Medium carbonation, medium body and a touch of hops finish this off. Really nice beer.  Score: 4/5

Elysian Brewing, Dark O’ The Moon.  This clocks in at 6.5% ABV and is a Pumpkin Stout.  A 22oz. bomber will run you about $5.99 / bottle.  The beer poured nearly pitch black with a thick, 1-finger, toffee colored head.  The aroma was cinnamon, pumpkin spice, anise and roasted grains. The flavor on this was cinnamon, pumpkin bread, caramel and light espresso.  Full mouthfeel and the finish is on the bitter side.  This was a very interesting beer as the flavors weren’t overly done or too sweet. The subtle pumpkin notes combined with the rich stout flavor, made this my favorite of the Elysian Pumpkin series.  Awesome beer!  Score: 4.5/5

Lakefront Brewery, Pumpkin Lager.  The cheeseheads from Wisconsin brew a variety of beers, many of which are lagers.  This one’s running right around $9.50 / 6-pack.  The Pumpkin Lager is a 6% ABV brew that pours a clear orange color, with a 1-finger head.  Big pumpkin spice notes dominate the aroma, along with cinnamon apples and caramel.  The taste was pumpkin pie spices and seemed a bit bread-y.  The body was thin, almost watery.  The spiced up lager didn’t do much for me.  Score: 2/5

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Punkin Ale.  The Delaware brewery has been pumpin’ out this hot seller for nearly two decades.  The beer, which is named after the famous Punkin Chunkin games from out east, is also the first beer Dogfish ever released.  Plan on dropping $11.50 / 4-pack.  The 7% ABV brew poured a clear amber color, with a thick, creamy, 1-finger head.  Plenty of carbonation and heavy lacing coat the glass.  Aroma is pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, nutmeg and caramel. The taste is full flavored and complex with pumpkin pie spices, toffee, brown sugar and a touch of salted caramel and hops.  This is an excellent brew and one that I used to buy by the case when I lived back east.  You might have to do a little hunting around for this one, but it’s still out there and well worth it.  Score: 4/5

Uinta Brewing, Punk’n.  This one, from Salt Lake City, UT, was a new one for me that retails for $8.50 / 6-pack.  Pours a slightly hazy amber color, with a 1-finger head.  A steady flow of carbonation with moderate lacing around the glass.  The aroma was predominately pumpkin pie spice with a bit of malt.  Taste matched the aroma, plus a touch of nutmeg.  Very drinkable and sessionable with a low 4% ABV.  I was pretty happy with this one as it was a well-crafted, easy-drinking beer with an affordable price tag.  Score: 3.5/5

It’s still early in the Pumpkin Beer hunting season.  Keep your eyes out in the next few weeks for The Bruery’s Autumn Maple (brewed with 17 lbs. of yams in each barrel!), Jolly Pumpkin’s La Parcela (Pumpkin Ale with a sour twist) and Uinta’s Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin (Oak Aged Pumpkin Ale). These should be showing up very soon and all offer their own unique take on the style.

For the beer traders out there, I’ve come across quite a few interesting Pumpkin Ales over the years that don’t make it out to our awesome state of CO.  If you’re willing to put in the extra effort, I’d highly recommend Southern Tier’s Pumking, Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale and Heavy Seas The Great’er Pumpkin Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin.  You won’t be disappointed.

That about wraps up this round for our out-of-state Pumpkin Beer Guide.  Stay tuned as next time we’ll be talking about some of the tasty Pumpkin Ales brewed right here in Colorado.

Cheers!


New Brewery Spotlight: TwinHops Brewing

I get excited when I start thinking about all of the new breweries plugging away in various stages of opening in Colorado.  While some are in the final stages, others are just getting started.  This week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the team behind TwinHops Brewing, which is shooting to open in the Aurora, CO area in early 2013.

The TwinHops Brewing team consists of identical twin brothers and Brewers Brad and Scott Burton, older brother Rick Burton and Creative Director, Colin Bridge.  The guys sat down with me to share a few pints and fill me in on their last 18 months of progress as well as their future plans to get TwinHops up and running.

Like many other successful brewery stories, Brad and Scott began as homebrewers back in 2006. From there, they discovered a passion for the craft that helped them create and fine tune their own recipes for tasty brews.  For TwinHops, they’ve created 5 beers that will represent their core lineup: Bad Medicine Oatmeal Stout, Golden Spike Pale Ale, Scantily Clad Blonde Ale, Salinger Rye IPA and a yet to be named IPA.  They’ve also mastered a Green Chili Smoked Porter that could eventually serve as a seasonal offering.

While the guys are currently focused on getting their brewhouse and tap room secured, they’re not shying away from the possibilities of expanding into barrel-aging, souring and just experimenting with beer recipes in general.  No style guidelines are safe!

I had the opportunity to try their Bad Medicine Oatmeal Stout and wanted to share some notes with you.  The beer pours a dark brown, almost black color.  Kind of initially looked like a glass of cola. A 1/2 finger, tan-colored head forms at the top of the glass and is fed by a slow, steady stream of moderate carbonation.

The aroma is roasted grains, malt, oats, a touch of coffee and biscuit.  Smells really nice.

Taste is roasted grains, sweet oats (malted milk balls???), chocolate, toast, faint caramel and chocolate.

The mouthfeel is smooth, while the finish is a bit dry, and slightly bitter.  A well-crafted beer and with a 5.5% ABV, it’s very approachable, flavorful and highly drinkable.  Recommended!

In order for TwinHops to become a reality, they’re trying to get some financial help through kickstarter.com  The guys want to upgrade from an all-grain, homebrew setup to a 7 BBL system and a space to call home for TwinHops.  Obviously, that all takes money.

Through Kickstarter, supporters are able to contribute anything from $1 to more than $1000 and are awarded for each different level of donation.  If TwinHops isn’t able to reach their goal of $20,000 by July 30th, 2012, you won’t owe anything, but that means they won’t be getting any financial help either.  Get all the details and find out how to pledge by clicking HERE.

The guys have other plans if Kickstarter doesn’t work out for them.  They’ve created a Founder’s Club that will reward members with a lifetime of benefits, including a custom 18 oz. stein, which comes with $3 fills.  Other benefits include 20% off growler fills, invitations to special events and access to exclusive bombers.  The club will get backers in on the ground level and is limited to the first 100 people who sign up.  1/3 of the Founder’s Club memberships have already been snatched up.  Click HERE for more details and to enroll in the club.

At noon on Saturday, July 21, the TwinHops team will be making an appearance on the Colorado Craft Beer Show with Turk and The Gubna on AM 760.  They’ll have a chance to talk about TwinHops and share some beers with the guys, so be sure to tune in.

On Sunday, July 22, they’ll be hosting an open brew day.  For this unique event, the guys have invited beer lovers over to have a beer with them and taste their Blonde, IPA and Rye IPA.  They’re also inviting homebrewers to bring their rigs over and brew a batch of beer with them.  Think of it as a fun, educational afternoon that will give you a chance to hone your brew skills or just hang out and try some new brews.  The day kicks off at noon and will be held at: 23891 E Alabama Dr, Aurora, CO 80018.

Update: Due to unforeseen circumstances, the brew day on Sunday, July 22, has been cancelled.  I just got word from Scott that they’ll be rescheduling for a later date.  I’ll keep you updated when a new date is set.

TwinHops is off to a great start.  By offering your support, you’ll be helping them bring their vision to life.  In turn, they’ll be enhancing our community and amazing Colorado craft beer scene.  Check them out and I hope to see you at the Brew Day on Sunday!

Cheers!


Beer Review: Renegade Brewing, Ryeteous IPA

First off, Happy Birthday to Renegade Brewing Company!

They recently celebrated their first anniversary by hosting a big party on July 7th.  During the event, they treated fans to several barrel-aged and vintage beers and also introduced the canned version of their flagship beer,  Ryeteous IPA.  Ryeteous IPA is a rye-based American IPA that kicks it up to 60 IBU’s and packs a 7% ABV.

I dig cans.  A lot!, but that’s an article for another day.  This is Renegades’ first venture into the world of cans and I’m pretty excited about it.  I was able to track down a 4-pack of 16 oz. cans for $11.

I pour my Ryeteous IPA from its’ 16 oz. can into a nonic pint glass.  The beer pours a clear, orange, almost amber color, with a two-finger, creamy white head.  There’s a steady, moderate flow of carbonation that streams towards the top of the glass.

I inhale to get my first impression.  Hop notes flood my nostrils and I’m transported to an enchanting state of tasty, lupulin zen.  There’s a bit of citrus, combined with a generous dose of pine and earthy hops.  It’s not a hop bomb by any means, but these hops aren’t afraid to jump up and make you take notice either.  In the back, there’s some sweet caramel mixed in, along with malt and bread.

Time to get it on and take a sip.  The bitter hops slide down my throat waaaaay too easily.  It’s hoppy, but again, not overly bitter.  It’s balanced quite well with the caramel notes and plenty of rye.  I like the rye aspect of this beer.  In fact, this makes me picture a bitter slice of bread.  I only wish my sandwiches could taste this good…  As I sip on it, I notice that its’ leaving behind some stringy spider webs and lacing along the inside of the glass.

The mouthfeel is creamy, albeit on the thinner side, but for a beer that’s packing 60 IBU’s and a 7% ABV, it’s surprisingly smooth.  There’s just a moderately bitter finish that lingers in the back of your throat.  It just teases you in between sips, making you want another taste of this yummy brew. Eventually, you have to give in and answer this sirens’ call.

I could drink a few of these on my back deck on a warm summer day.  Actually, I’m pretty sure I’ll be drinking a few of these on the back deck later today.  Ryeteous IPA is a winner for me and I’m excited to see another local brewery getting into the canning scene.  I admittedly don’t make it out to visit all the breweries around town as much as I’d like.  Some days, it feels like work, family, sleep, repeat and there’s only so many hours in the day.  But with cans and growlers, I can enjoy new beers from new(er) breweries in the comfort of my own home.

Thanks Renegade for getting your cans into my hands.  If you want to track some down, check out Libations, Mondo Vino, Mr. B’s, Highlands Wine & Liquor and other better beer stores in the area. Ask the beer buyers at your favorite stores for it and make them take notice.  If you can’t find it right away, try to be patient.  The first canning yielded right around 100 cases or 2400 cans.  Not nearly enough for all of Colorado’s faithful, beer loving citizens, but fear not, more is on the way.

Renegade Brewing Company is located in the Art District on Santa Fe: 925 W 9th Ave, Denver, CO 80204.  720-401-4089.

Cheers!


The Beer Drinker’s Guide To Colorado

Several years ago, somewhere amidst the madness that is the Great American Beer Festival, I got my first glimpse of an awesome product called the Beer Drinker’s Guide to Colorado (BDG2C).  I snatched one up and over the years, it’s helped me plan out weekend road trips with my wife and track down breweries all over the state.  Over time, the explosion of breweries in the state has taken its toll on my little map.  It’s out of date and ready to be retired.

A few weeks ago, the 6th edition of the Beer Drinker’s Guide to Colorado was released and filled the holes in my outdated guide.

If you’re not familiar with the guide, it’s a 39 x 26 inch, color map of the state.  Pint glasses dot the map and denote the 168 breweries and brewpubs across Colorado.  They’ve done their homework and planned ahead by including many breweries that are going to be opening in the near future, like TRVE and Black Bottle Brewery.  If you’re not sure about a brewery, call ahead to make sure they’re open and will have beer flowing when you arrive.

The flip side has a ton of useful information, including breakdowns of different beer styles, a list of CO State Parks and 14ers, drive times between cities, homebrew shops around the state and most importantly, addresses, phone numbers, hours and other details about all those breweries you’ll be checking out.  The newly updated map has everything a beer lover in Colorado could ever want.

As if that wasn’t enough to keep you happy, the brains behind the map have also put together an awesome collection of coupons to help you save some money while you drink your way across this great state.  The coupon book has exploded since my last map purchase.  It’s set up like a check book that’s full of coupons you can redeem for free beer, taster trays, discounts, glassware and more!

There are 44 coupons in total, which are valued at more than $250 and don’t expire until January 1, 2014.  Grab one now and you’ve got 18 months to do some serious damage across the state!

Right about now, you’re probably wondering how to get your very own, super snazzy, handy Beer Drinker’s Guide to Colorado.  Head over to their official website and order one online.  They’ve got traditional, folded map versions along with rolled maps for $13.95 each.  There’s also a laminated, man-cave approved version for $42.95.

If you’re in a hurry and need to have one right now, click HERE for a list of breweries, homebrew shops and liquor stores that have the BDG2C for sale.  This is a great map and awesome coupon book that should be in the glove box of any good beer nerd’s ride.  Now get out and explore!

Cheers!


Beer Review: Dry Dock Brewing, 3 Heavy Wee Heavy

If you live in the beautiful state of Colorado, you have no shortage of options when it comes to beer.  You grab your growler, head to your local brewery, but have no clue what to get.  Sometimes it can be downright overwhelming.  I’m taking the guess-work out of it for you and giving you a sweet, malty brew that’s out for a very limited time.

Today, I’m going to review the 3 Heavy Wee Heavy, which is an award-winning, winter seasonal from Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora, CO.  It pops up during the cold months and is available on draft at the brewery and tap houses around town, while also making appearances in 22 oz. bombers at liquor stores in the Denver area.  But, if you’ve pay attention and are on top of your game, you’ve got a rare chance to grab some today.  Yeah, I realize it’s the middle of summer, but read along and find out how to score some right now!

The 3 Heavy Wee Heavy recently won a Gold Medal at the 2012 World Beer Cup in sunny San Diego, CA.  The World Beer Cup (WBC), is the BIG one.  The Great American Beer Festival is up there too, but the WBC is an international event held every other year in a different city.  The international aspect, makes it even tougher for breweries to bring home a medal.  The 3 Heavy Wee Heavy is a back-to-back winner, as it brought home a silver medal in 2010.

Poured from a 32oz. mini-growler into a Dry Dock tulip glass.  Deep, dark copper in color, with just the slightest touch of cloudiness.  The beer has a 1/2 finger, creamy, tan head that leaves very little lacing around the edge of the glass.  A moderate stream of carbonation rises from the bottom.

The aroma is caramel, sugar, maple syrup, with a touch of raisins and dark fruit.  Overall, very sweet.  Smells like candy.  Mmm, beer candy.  On to the taste!

The first small sip is malt, caramel and rock candy.  Nom, nom, nom!  A second larger sip reveals a dark fruit flavor.  Boozy fruit.  I’m thinking fruit soaked in rum.  Oh, delish.  In the background, I taste biscuit, a pinch of bitter hops and the slightest hint of alcohol.

The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth.  The 8.8% ABV hides itself pretty well.  The hidden alcohol combined with the smoothness, makes for a very drinkable beer.  Full flavored and complex, but still, very drinkable.

Careful not to let the 8.8% ABV sneak up on you.  This is a beer you should pull out of the fridge about 20 minutes before you’re actually ready to drink it.  Allowing it to warm up a bit, will give you more flavors and aromas to explore.

The perfect beer for sipping next to a roaring fire in the middle of a snowstorm.  Wait!  Snap out of it man, it’s JUNE!  Flip on the Rockies game and throw a hearty steak on the grill.  This beer is sure to pair well.

I don’t want to be an advertisement for the 32 oz. growler, but I like the little guys.  I’ve gotten a few in trades from Cigar City out in Tampa, FL and it’s nice to see them make their way out west to us non-humidity lovin’, mountain folks here in Colorado.  TRVE Brewing founded their Cvlt around them and Dry Dock Brewing just started selling them last week.  The smaller size gives you a chance to actually finish a beer with a high alcohol content level, like the Wee Heavy, before it goes flat.

The 3 Heavy Wee Heavy is the masterpiece from brewer Lachlan McLean over at Dry Dock.  Get some now while it’s making a rare, summer, encore appearance.  This batch was brewed to celebrate the recent WBC Gold Medal and won’t last long.  Grab a 32 oz. growler fill for $12 or a 64 oz. growler fill for the low, low price of $20.  Miss out now and you’ll probably have to wait until winter to try it again.  Don’t let Mother Nature dictate your beer drinking schedule.  Get some!

Dry Dock Brewing is located at: 15120 E Hampden Ave, Aurora, CO 80014.  303-400-5606.

Cheers!


Beer Review: Wit’s End, Super FL i.p.a.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few hours of my afternoon relaxing over at Wit’s End Brewing in Denver, CO.  In case you haven’t made it out to Wit’s End yet and need hours, contact information and other details, click HERE.

I really dig this place.  The people are friendly, the vibe is laid back and the beer is delish!  Plus, any brewery that has a poster of Mr. T gets bonus points in my book.  I pity the fool who hasn’t been to Wit’s End Brewing!

Patti and I sipped on pints of Super FL i.p.a., their Black IPA and Wilford, their Belgian Oatmeal IPA.  I made sure to bring our 40 oz. to get a refill and enjoy some Wit’s End at home.

Like good little hop heads, we went with the Super FL i.p.a.  Ready for a review?  Let’s do this!

I popped open my supa fine 40 oz. and poured the beer into a not-so-standard pint glass.  Not really sure what this style of glass is called, but it has a sort of hourglass shape to it.  They give them out at the Firkin Rendezvous down in Colorado Springs every year.

Super FL i.p.a. weighs in at 6.6% ABV and pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color.  There was a one-finger tall, sandy colored head on top with bubbly, traces of lacing left around the glass.

The aroma was roasted grains and pine, with just a touch of earthyness to it.  Very faint hops in the background, pretty light for an IPA.

Let’s get this party started and taste it already!  Up front, the flavor is caramel, malt with some roasty notes.  After the sweetness subsides, it’s a blast of hops.  When I say “blast of hops”, don’t think west coast, hop sandwich.  Super FL i.p.a. is hoppy, but in a smooth, classy kind of way.  The bitter, citrusy flavors are there, but they’re balanced and approachable.

The tingly bitterness lingers in the back of the mouth, until quietly fading away like a sunset fading over the back of the Colorado Rockies.  It’s a beautiful thing…

I’m a hop head and I love my IPA’s, DIPA’s, fresh American Barleywine’s, Pliny’s, xx Minute’s, Maharaja’s and so on.  But to me, Super FL i.p.a. has a uniqueness that sets it apart from many popular IPA’s.  What’s that?  Thanks for asking!  It’s drinkability.  Drink-a-who?  What I mean by drinkability, is that for the average beer drinker, they might be able to sit down and enjoy a big ol’ hoppy brew, but are  they really going to have 2 or 3 glasses of a big hop bomb?  Maybe, but probably not.  Super FL i.p.a. allows you to get your hop fix, without the feeling that your mouth just got violated by a vine of lupulin filled, nugget hops.

It’s got it’s hoppy side, but the 9 (yes, 9!) different malts used to make the beer, help to create a complex layer of sweetness to soften up the biting, bad-assedness (i may or may not have just made that word up) of the Cascade and Columbus hops.  After fermentation, this beer is dry-hopped and aged on cedar chips to add yet another layer of complexity.

This beer is Super Drinkable, Super Tasty and yes, it’s Super Fly.  I have no idea how long it took Scott to dial in this recipe, but he got it right and it drinks really well.  I dig it.  Can you?

Lastly, big congrats to Wit’s End on the recent additions to the family.  They just acquired two 3 BBL fermenters from the folks over at nearby Strange Brewing.  The new fermenters will allow them to nearly double their current production.  More importantly, that means more beer for you and me and that’s a good great thing.

The newest additions to the fermenting family.

The rest of the gang.

Please tell me that if you’ve not yet made it to Wit’s End, you’re at least planning to stop by soon.  Good people and great beer.  Please, don’t make me use another Mr. T quote.  Just check them out already!  Fool!

Wit’s End Brewing is located at: 2505 W 2nd Ave, Unit 13, Denver, CO  80219.  303-359-9119  Stop by and tell Scott and his crew “Hi!”.

Cheers!


The Beer Lover’s Guide To Cheese: Double IPA & Blue Cheese

Beer & Cheese.  Oh, how they go together so well.  Oh, how I savor each sip of dreamy beer and bite of creamy cheese.  They are a treat.

Today, we take our first step in an exploration of beer and cheese pairings.  But first, I need to take a minute to say Thanks to my wonderful wife.  I came home from work today to find she had stocked our fridge with a growler of Dry Dock’s Hop Abomination and enough cheese to make a goat blush.  She rocks!

So Hop Abomination is a special Double IPA brewed every now and then by Dry Dock’s head brewer Doug Hyndman.  He tweaks the recipe for each batch, resulting in a new, unique and fun beer every time.  This time he’s calling it Hop Abomination Funf (with those “fancy” umlauts over the U, which I can’t find on my keyboard).  Funf was brewed with five different hops: Chinook, CTZ, Centennial, Amarillo and Galena.  As if that wasn’t enough to scare the sissy’s off, he dry-hopped it with an additional five pounds of hops!

It’s a magnificent, furry, beastly DIPA, with absolutely no manners, no reservations and no apologies.  I embrace it.  It makes the Gargoyle from Stone Brewing look like a skirt-wearing cheerleader.  This big-ass brew clocks in with a 6.6% ABV and rocks your esophagus with 100+ IBU’s!

Details, details…  On to the pour!  I poured this aggressive beauty into a Dry Dock tulip.  Hop Abomination Funf pours a slightly hazy, dark orange color with slow traces of carbonation.  The foamy, off-white colored head, leaves its unique and intricate spiderwebs of lacing around the top of the glass.

The aroma is hops.  Duh!  Seriously, what did you expect?  Alright, a second visit reveals citrus notes, faint malt and caramel and, hmm, what’s that…  oh yeah, it’s MORE HOPS!  Bitter, smart-ass, know it all, teenage hops.  These hops are just downright rude.  I love it.

Finally, time to taste this beast.  Funf has more sweet and nutty characteristics than I expected.  It’s almost, dare I say, malty Amber or German Maibock? tasting in the base beer.  Once my mouth moves past the sweetness, it’s dominated by the lurking, evil-twin brother, bitter hops in the background.  It lasts and lasts and lasts and I like love it.

To be honest, I’m a little surprised at the drinkability of Funf.  It’s completely possible that my palate is still recuperating from yesterday’s SourFest, but to me, this beer is well-balanced and easy drinking.  Easy drinking might not be the best term to use.  I know there are certain light(er) beer drinkers (GASP!) and Blue Moon types that read this blog, and compared to mass market beers, this isn’t easy drinking at all.  But to the cats that attend events like SourFest or Strong Ale Fest, they might consider this balanced and smoother than previous batches of Hop Abomination’s.

Either way, Hop Abomination is delish!  Damn good!  Thank you Doug for brewing and releasing another tasty batch of this beer.  Bottles please?  Pretty please?

Cheese?  Did I mention cheese about 8 paragraphs up?!?  Why, yes I did.  IPA’s both big and small long to be paired with a nice, big ol’ hunk of cheese.  Wine is nice, but beer and it’s bubbly carbonation will cleanse your palate after each taste, which might be why I prefer beer over wine.

My favorites to pair with the style are sharp’s and blue’s.  Both styles of cheese are big and bold in flavor, which you need if you want something to stand up to the big flavors of an IPA.  Essentially, a lighter cheese will get washed out by a big, flavorful beer and vice versa.  Big beers and big cheese go hand-in-hand.  Still with me?

For tonight, I’ve decided to pair Hop Abomination Funf, with a big chunk of Blue Cheese.  Blue cheese is spiked with Penicillium, which results in a sharp, salty, blue-veined cheese.  It’s divine!  There are quite a few variations including Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Stilton.  They all have their own, unique qualities and I highly recommend taking your time in exploring them and finding your favorite(s).

For me, there’s nothing better than a wedge of Cambozola.  You can’t beat it.  I challenge you to try.  Hmm, scratch that, bacon might (and I stress MIGHT), improve Cambozola.  I just got a craving for Cambozola bacon cheeseburgers!  We’ll talk Cambozola another day, don’t you worry.

I’m generally not a fan of these crazy kids and their new-fangled “beer cocktails” and I feel the same way about my cheese.  I like to eat my cheese on its’ own.  It’s really just about personal preference.  If you want some crackers, skip the cheese nips and go with something simple so you don’t miss out on the cheese flavor.  Or, get creative and use your cheese in a recipe.  Blue crumbles nicely and can be easily drizzled over pizza, pasta or salad.  Mix it up and make a burger or omelette.  It’s up to you.

Take a look at the cheese section next time your at the grocery store.  See what kind of interesting cheeses you can find and try your hand at pairing them up with your favorite beers.  Give it a whirl and feel free to share your opinions and suggestions on the Facebook Page.

Oh, and grab some Hop Abomination Funf while you’re at it.  It won’t be around for long, so get it while you can.

Cheers!


Road Trippin’ On I-70. Last Stops – Backcountry Brewery and Pug Ryan’s.

After a full lunch and some tasty beers at Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs, CO, it was time to move on to our final destination of Breckenridge, CO.  Breck is only another 40 minutes west down I-70 and there are a few spots worth checking out if you’ve got the time.

First up is the town of Dillon, CO.  Dillon is actually home to two breweries.  Dillon Dam Brewery has been around since 1997 and offers a large selection of beers and a full menu.  There’s only so many hours in a day, so we decided to pass up Dillon Dam on this trip and opted to hit Pug Ryan’s instead.

This was our first time visiting Pug Ryan’s and the parking lot was packed.  We arrived just in time for happy hour and seems like the rest of the town had the same idea as us.  $2.50 pints and 25% off appetizers is tough to beat.  Pug’s has been brewing since 1997 and offers 4 year round beers: Morning Wood Wheat, Pallavicini Pilsner, Over the Rail Pale Ale and a Scottish Ale.  They also keep a few rotating seasonals and on this trip it was the Gorilla Vanilla Oatmeal Stout.  Patti snagged the Oatmeal Stout before I could get my order in, so I went with the Pale Ale.  Both were solid.  The Gorilla Stout is infused with Jim Beam, Frangelico, Meyers Rum and vanilla beans.  Big, bold flavors and really enjoyable.

The place was hoppin’ and we somehow managed to snag the last two seats at the far end of the bar.  The brewery is lined with glass windows overlooking the Dillon Reservoir.  The brewhouse is just off the bar and from our seats, you could reach out and touch the fermentation tanks.   Again, really surprised by the large crowd, especially considering it was the off-season.  I guess that’s a good sign that the locals appreciate this place and business is good.

Pug Ryan’s has been serving food since 1975 and they have a huge menu.  From chicken wings to crab cakes to filet mignon to prime rib.  They really have it all.  We were still stuffed from lunch, so I guess we’ll have to hit them up for food on our next visit.

They’re currently working on expanding and had a large area roped off outside for construction.  All of their beers are available to-go in growlers, along with cans of their Pilsner and Wheat.

After Pug’s, we had time for one last stop, so we rolled down the highway to Frisco, CO.  Frisco sits just outside of Breckenridge and is home to Backcountry Brewery.  Backcountry opened in 1996 as an effort to bring great beer to Summit County.

The brewery is located on ground level, while the bar and restaurant are upstairs.  We walked upstairs and found a large lounge area with a fireplace, couches and TV’s.  Over at the bar we looked over the beer menu.  Their standard lineup covered all the bases.  Wheat, Pilsner, Amber, IPA and Robust Porter rounded out the year round options, but Backcountry really stood out with their seasonals.  On our visit, they were pouring a Double IPA and a Breakfast Stout.

I love a good coffee beer, so decided on the Breakfast Stout.  It was on nitro, which made it very, very smooth.  The beer was pitch black, with tons of coffee flavor, roasted grains and chocolate.  Tasted like a delicious iced coffee.  Patti ordered the Double IPA, which poured a clear, orange color.  Big citrus, grapefruit smell.  Nice hoppy flavor, but nothing that might make your tongue go numb.  Both were very enjoyable.

We caught the tail end of happy hour, which runs from 3-6 PM, mon-fri.  All beers during happy hour are only $2.50!  Kind of nuts to be get a 10% ABV Double IPA for only $2.50.  Between the discounted beers and 1/2 price appetizers, Backcountry might have the best happy hour in Colorado.

The dining room has an area that allows customers to look down into the brewhouse on the lower level.  In the bar, the windows look towards the mountains.  We sat in the windows looking out on the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and really didn’t want to leave.  Although we weren’t ordering food, they offer pizza, pasta, burgers and salads.

Backcountry offers bottles to-go and 2 gallon party pigs.  We agreed that this was probably our favorite stop of the day.  Good beers, great happy hour deals, knowledgable employees and a warm atmosphere make Backcountry a place we’ll be sure to visit again in the future.

So in the past few posts, I’ve mentioned several places that are well worth checking out.  Make a day trip or get away for the weekend and pay them a visit.  You won’t be disappointed.  If you’ve got the time and want to keep chuggin’ west on I-70, there are plenty more that await your discovery.  Seems like every little mountain town has their own brewery these days.  Trust me, that’s not a bad thing.  Get out, explore and enjoy.

Cheers!


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!


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 Beeradovcate.com.  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.

Glorious

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.