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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!

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Art & Ale Brew Festival Recap

It’s brew fest season here in Colorado.  We’re in full swing right now as we inch closer and closer to the Big Daddy, the Great American Beer Festival.  Seems like my calendar has some sort of festival or tasting highlighted nearly every weekend.  There’s no chance I’ll hit ’em all.  My liver couldn’t keep up, but one can dream right?

For me, beer festivals fall into a few different categories.  There are a handful of festivals that I probably won’t ever attend again for a variety of reasons (cost, distance, poorly run, etc…).  Others, are on the “Maybe” list, which just means it’s a solid beer fest that would be nice to attend again, but life goes on if I can’t make it.  While a few make it to the exclusive, “Must-Do!” list, that I make every effort to attend every year.  Last night, my wife and I attended the Art and Ale Brew Festival at The Wildlife Experience in Parker, CO and it’s already been added to our “Must-Do!” list for next year.

We went with the Dry Dock crew and spent the evening pouring samples of their Amber, Pale, Hefeweizen and the ever popular Apricot Blonde.  We had a great spot outside, in the shade and right next to New Belgium Brewing.

The Dry Dock Crew ready to rock!

NB Beer Ranger Andrew, kept us stocked with samples of their Peach Porch Lounger, Red Hoptober and Super IPA, their delicious IPA brewed in collaboration with Alpine Brewing out in California.  We talked about their sour program for a bit and he mentioned that the next batch of La Folie might be ready as early as this fall.  Keep your fingers crossed!

In between pours, we took some time to wander the grounds outside and the halls of the museum inside.

In addition to the 30+ breweries, there were a variety of restaurants, wineries and distilleries in attendance as well.

David Parry, owner of Parry’s Pizza was super-busy all night long handing out slices of their delicious pies.  They banged through more than 150 pizzas during the event!

He had just gotten the keg list for his next tap takeover, which will be with Oskar Blues on Saturday, September 15th.  There are some mighty fine beers on the list, so mark your calendars now.  More details to come.

The gang from Strange Brewing was pouring Cherry Kriek, Colorado’s answer to Belgian Red from New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin.  God, I love that beer.  Thanks again for the full pours guys!

Jim from Rockyard Brewing brought his Redhawk Scottish Ale and Double Eagle Wheat.  They also had their chef on duty, who cooked up an amazing batch of Jalapeño Cheddar Soup and Pretzels stuffed with jalapeño cheese.  Oh my goodness!  Delish!!!

Outside at Elevation Brewing, Xandy was flying through kegs of Mount Blanca Belgian Saison and Apis IV Quadrupel.

Twisted Pine brought three offerings from their monthly Artisan Ale Series.

I finally got a chance to try the Dank IPA from Dad & Dude’s, which was nice and hoppy, but still approachable and very drinkable.

There was even a band inside cranking out 80’s covers from bands like Tears for Fears and Duran Duran.  Alcohol + Music + Dance Floor = Best People Watching Ever!

After eating and tasting our way through the festival, we met up with some friends and hit the chocolate fountains for desert.  The good peeps from Sir Chocolate brought a variety of things like strawberries, marshmallows and rice crispy treats to dip in three different kinds of chocolate.  Nom, nom, nom!

As the sun dipped down behind the mountains, the fire pits lit up and people lounged in the grass around the museum.  What a night!

Beautiful weather, plenty of old friends and new ones too, music, amazing beer and food.  We’ll definitely be back again next year and so should you!

Anybody else make it out there last night?  What did you think?

Big thanks to the staff and volunteers at The Wildlife Experience for hosting a great event.  Shoutout to all of the different companies in attendance as well.  You guys rock!

Cheers!


Weekend Beer Buzz 07/05/12

Hey everybody!  Hope you had a fun and safe Independence Day.  I know many of you are probably taking advantage of the mid-week holiday and enjoying a nice, loooong weekend.  Many of my favorite breweries either closed early or were closed all together on the 4th, but are gearing up for a busy weekend.  You ready?

Kick it off over at Dry Dock Brewing for their weekly Firkin Friday.  This week’s release is a Kona Coffee Milk Stout.

Dry Dock’s Milk Stout is solid and I know Walt worked some magic with this coffee’d version.  I’m going to try to hit this one up and so should you.   Tapping is at 3 PM.  Dry Dock Brewing is located at: 15120 E Hampden Ave, Aurora, CO 80014.  303-400-5606.

Breckenridge Brewery is turning 22 this weekend!  Wow!  There’s not too many craft breweries that have been pumping out beer for 22 years.  Congrats guys!  To celebrate, there’s a Pig Roast / Concert / Beer Drinkin’ Throwdown on Saturday, July 7th from 11 AM – 6 PM.

$22 covers all you can drink, grub on and listen to for the day.  Sure to be a great time.  You can grab tickets ahead of time at: breckbrew.com

The Colorado Craft Beer Show will be broadcasting live from Breck’s Anniversary Party.

Turk will have Tebo sitting in for The Gubna again this week.  Plan on lots of updates from the Breckenridge crew, plus visits with Brian O’Connell from Renegade Brewing, Boone from Bristol Brewing and Virgil from Illegal Pete’s.  The show airs live on AM 760 from noon – 2 PM.  Breckenridge Brewery is located at: 471 S Kalamath St, Denver, CO 80204.  800-328-6723.

Over on the FM side, American Craft Beer Radio, will be broadcasting live from Backcountry Pizza and Tap House up in Boulder, CO.  Gary V will be hittin’ the waves on Saturday at noon.  Keep your ear on 102.3 FM for giveaways and beer news.  If you can make it over to Backcountry, they’ll treat you to happy hour pricing from 11-2.

Backcountry Pizza and Tap House is located at: 2319 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO 80302.  303-449-4285.

Copper Kettle Brewing is releasing another round of deliciousness this weekend.  This Saturday, July 7th, the tap lines will be graced with this year’s batch of German Altbier.  A nice blend of malt and hops round out this highly drinkable, German-style brew.

They’ll be joined by Reetz Treats at 5 PM, who’ll be bringing an assortment of sweet, yummy morsels to pair with this and other Copper Kettle beers.  The tapping is at noon.  Copper Kettle is located at: 1338 S Valentia St #100, Denver, CO 80247.  720-443-CKBC.

Up in Boulder, Twisted Pine is ready to release the next installment in their Artisan Ale Series.  For July, they’re releasing Hoppy Girl, an 8% ABV, 70 IBU, IPA infused with hibiscus and jasmine.  750’s will go on sale at the brewery on Saturday, July 7th from noon – 9 PM.

Kate Medlin, who designed the label art, will be on hand to sign bottles.  Twisted Pine Brewing is located at: 3201 Walnut St. Ste A, Boulder, CO 80301.  303-786-9270.

Sour Freaks, listen up!  It’s Sour Month over at the Rackhouse Pub.  This week will see Dry Dock’s Apricot Sour and Grand Teton’s Snarling Badger (Berliner Weisse) hitting the tap lines.  Looking towards next week, keep an eye out for AC Golden’s Rackhouse Blend and Dry Hopped Sour, Avery Immitis and Crooked Stave’s Petite Sour.

There’s a lot of special sour treats to watch for over at the Rackhouse Pub in July.  This event runs all month long and I’ll keep you updated with everything they’ll be putting on the tap lines.  Rackhouse Pub is located at: 208 S Kalamath St, Denver, CO 80223.  720-570-7824.

TRVE Brewing picked up a Buffalo Trace barrel earlier this week.

A hint of things to come?  They must have gotten smoked on their opening week, as they had to close for a few days to catch up and make more beer.  Don’t worry, they’ll be ready for you this weekend. TRVE Brewing is located at: 227 Broadway #101, Denver, CO 80203.  303-351-1021.

Lastly, Prost brewed their first batch of beer this week!  Bill brewed up his Weißbier on Tuesday.

One step closer to seeing these guys in action!

Still no firm opening date, but they’re getting closer.  Prost Brewing is located at: 2540 19th St, Denver, CO 80211.

That’s all I got!  Hope you guys get out and try some great beer this weekend.  Click “Like” on our Facebook page to stay up-to-date on all the latest updates, events and beer news in Colorado and around the globe.

Cheers!


Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival 2012

Just got back from a full weekend up in the mountains.  Patti and I made the trip up to Breckenridge for their annual Spring Beer Festival.  It was our first time attending, but we had heard good things from friends who had attended in the past.  We headed up I-70 on Friday afternoon and took our time exploring some of the little mountain towns on the way.  We hit a few breweries along the way, including some old favorites as well as a few places that were completely new to us.  I’ll try to post some reviews later in the week.

We stayed in the quiet, resort town of Keystone, CO.  Keystone is just a short, 15-minute drive from Breckenridge, CO and turned out to be the perfect place to call home for a few days.  Hot tubs, no neighbors and no crowds.  It was just what we needed.  We’re not skiers, so we kind of prefer going up there in the off-season.  In our 5-story building, there were only 3 other cars in the garage.  Perfect!

We finished off our day with some bacon-wrapped filets and a bottle of Avery’s Uncle Jacob’s Stout.  Beer was delicious.  Bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, sweet – but not overly sweet, 17.4% ABV is well hidden.  Surprisingly smooth at this point in its’ young life, but should age very well.  If you missed the release at Avery last weekend, keep your eyes peeled for the remaining bottles to start showing up around town soon.  Grab some while you can.

 

The Breckenridge area has a public transportation system that could rival New York City.  I couldn’t believe how many busses they offer to get you around town.  During the off-season, the Keystone area even has a bus that you can call to arrange pick up and drop off for personalized service.  It’s convenient and free.  To Breckenridge however, we caught the Swan Mountain Flyer.  This bus runs once an hour from Keystone and makes the loop into downtown Breckenridge.

We caught the 11:30 bus to head to the festival, which opened at noon.  We arrived in Breckenridge at around 12:10 and started our walk to Main Street Station.  Along the way, we ran into Jason, the head brewer over at Lone Tree Brewing.  Sadly, he wasn’t pouring any beers at the festival, but was just out enjoying a rare and well deserved day off with his girlfriend.

The festival offers both a standard tasting ticket, as well as a VIP ticket.  The standard ticket sells for $25 and offers admission, unlimited tastings and music.  The VIP ticket sells for $65 and comes with a commemorative stein, private buffet and lounge area, along with unlimited tastings and music.  Patti had found a deal online for more than half off VIP tickets, so we snagged a pair.  We got up to the festival entrance, traded our tickets for a map and stein and headed inside.

Once we got through the gate, the first table we came upon was Oskar Blues.  I had to get the day started off on the right foot, so I reached for a pour of Deviant Dale’s.  A great accompaniment to the band covering Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” in the background.

Main Street Station is surrounded by several buildings that are condo’s on top, with restaurants and stores on the main level.  Between the buildings is a large, open space, that’s used for different events throughout the year.  It’s a great area for a mid-sized beer festival.

Working around the outside edge of tables, were many out-of-state breweries, including Sierra Nevada, Widmer, Red Hook and Alaskan.

Towards the back were some of the smaller, local places.  A few of which I had never even tried like Bonfire (remember the Tebrew beer from last year’s Tebow mania?), Crazy Mountain and Palisade.  This was my favorite area of the festival.  The tables were situated along the river, with a beautiful mountain view in the background.  Lots of new beers to try, a great view and a whole row of bathrooms nearby.  Hey, you gotta know where your bathrooms are at a beer fest.  Good combination folks.

Back towards the middle of the festival were the big boys.  Avery, Odell, Great Divide, Bristol and more.  Great Divide tapped a keg of Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti at 2PM, which went well with the cooler, afternoon temperatures and the light snow that started coming down.

The VIP ticket also gave us access to a private buffet that was catered by Kenosha Steakhouse.  They brought some tasty BBQ for the meat lovers, plus some lighter sandwiches, wraps, appetizers, salad and even desert.  The lounge area had comfy couches and chairs, so festival attendees could sit down and enjoy their food.  There was even a table full of beers donated by the breweries.  I snagged a Dale’s Pale Ale to go with my plate of pulled pork.  As someone who was kind of on the fence about spending the extra money for VIP tickets, I’d have to say it was worth it.  Even if we had paid full price, the unlimited trips to the buffet, the quiet area to sit and eat, the big table full of beers and the private bathroom, made it all worthwhile.

25 breweries in total made the trip.  It was well balanced between novice, gateway Wheat and Pale Ales, up to big Double IPA’s and Stouts for the true beer nerds in the crowd.  I tried alot of new beers and discovered some new breweries that don’t distribute out my way.  Towards the end of the festival, I snagged a nearly full stein of Great Divide’s Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti and went to listen to the live bands on stage.

The clouds eventually started to roll in and the sun gave way to snow, but it only added to our experience.  You’ve got to expect snow in Breckenridge in Spring.  We made the walk back to the bus station and caught our ride home.

As much as I love the Great American Beer Festival, these little beer fests around the country are a great way to get out and truly appreciate the beer scene, without feeling too overwhelmed.  Nice and relaxing, not too big of a crowd, good music and plenty of good beer and food to go around.  I’d definitely give it a thumb’s up.

Breckenridge also hosts a Festival in Summer, which is coming up on Saturday, July 14th.  I would expect to see a much bigger crowd, but they run a good show.  It might be worth checking out.

Random pics from the festival:

Cheers!