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.
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?
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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!
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
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
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
Brasserie Dupont – Avec Les Bons Vœux
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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”.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.