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New Brewery Spotlight: West Flanders Brewing Co.

There’s a craft beer boom hitting our state.  Denver was tagged earlier this Summer when Prost, Crooked Stave, TRVE and others began popping up around town, while more new breweries like Our Mutual Friend and Black Shirt are just a few short weeks from making their debut.  Now it looks like that boom is making its’ way up to Boulder, where two new breweries have opened in the past week. Meet West Flanders Brewing Co.

Last Monday, West Flanders Brewing opened their doors to give us a special night of beers, food and a glimpse into what the future holds.  Their location on Pearl Street Mall couldn’t be better.  When the former resident, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse moved out earlier this year, West Flanders owners Mark and Chris Heinritz knew it would be the perfect spot to open their new brewery and restaurant.  The brothers, who have owned the popular restaurant, The Sink in Boulder since 1992, are joined by partner Barry Wolfman.  Together, the trio is looking to bring a new restaurant to Boulder that will be considered THE place for food and beer.

In addition to an absolutely perfect spot on the popular pedestrian mall, the location came with a 10 BBL brew system already installed. This entirely eliminated hassle of tracking down equipment, the phone calls and worries of damaged and delayed parts and a mountain of other obstacles that comes with securing and building a brewhouse.  The team just had to get their license, order ingredients and hire a brewmaster to come and play.  But wait, who would be taking on the important role of Brewmaster?

Enter Brian Lutz, formerly of Oskar Blues, Lefthand and Redfish Brewhouse.

Brian, who’s probably best known for helping to create Dale’s Pale Ale with Oskar Blues, introducing cans to craft beer and winning multiple medals at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival, was an obvious choice to take on the brewing for West Flanders Brewery.  Despite that face that Brian’s been out of the game for a few years, he was eager to get his boots back on and get back to brewing.

West Flanders Brewery, which officially opened on September 24th, is already serving up six of Brian’s beers.

Angry Monk – a 7.1% ABV, sweet, Belgian-style ale that has a touch of caramel, bitterness and dangerous drinkability.

St. Mark’s Dubbel – a 7% ABV Belgian Dubbel, brewed with Trappist yeast and a nose of clove and bakers chocolate.

Daisy Cutter – a 9% ABV Belgian-style Strong Ale; a big, sweet, oaky ale, also brewed with Trappist yeast and a high ABV that goes down way too easily.

tbd ESB – a 6.2% ABV Extra Special Bitter that has a moderately hoppy, caramel aroma.

Canniption Pale Ale – a 6.8% ABV brew that pours a clear, amber color and clocks in at 70 IBU’s; packs a big, floral hop nose.

Third Kingdom IPA – a 6.7% ABV India Pale Ale, with a big hop aroma and a citrusy taste.

In addition to his core lineup of 6-beers, he’s also working on a Stout, Tripel and a Pilsner.  Brian could hardly contain himself at the Grand Opening on Monday night.  He spoke of how much the craft beer industry has changed since he began his journey nearly 20 years ago.  Many of the ideas he had at his previous breweries, wouldn’t have worked in the early days, simply due to the lack of craft beer knowledge and boundary pushing styles at the time.  Fortunately, our palates have evolved and the beer world is finally ready for some of the exciting ideas Brian wants to incorporate into his brews.

At the opening, Brian spoke of the importance of yeast.  He believes that the magic of brewing is in mastering yeast strains.  Brian also spoke of his plan for creatively incorporating local ingredients into his brews.  He has no desire to brew within a restricted style guideline, but would rather brew interesting, fun and flavorful beers. Brian is a brewer who is constantly evolving, in order to keep his craft exciting for both himself and his legion of beer drinking fans.

In the near future, Brian will be moving his grains off-site and installing barrels and barrel racks into the third floor of West Flanders Brewing.  The barrels will give him the opportunity to experiment with wild yeasts and the art of blending.

True beer geeks will also appreciate the thoughtful list of guest taps and bottles, ranging from classics like Duvel and St. Bernardus to newer treats such as Houblon Chouffe and Ska’s Modus Hoperandi.

The final piece of the West Flanders Brewing puzzle was filled by Executive Chef Jamie Lucas.  Jamie brings a wide variety of foods to the dining room and plans to pair his dishes with Brian’s beers in “new and unexpected ways”.

He makes a delicious entrée called Monk Chops that is a grilled pork chop basted with Angry Monk beer.  I also had the chance to try his Smokestack Burger, which is a beef patty basted with Angry Monk BBQ sauce, topped with a layer of thick-cut bacon, followed by a third layer of smoked pulled pork on top.  Soooo delicious.

Chef Jamie has also designed a menu with a variety of gourmet pizzas, salads, sandwiches and my personal favorite, sausage and cheese plates.  There’s just something about a well-crafted beer and a slice of smoked Cheddar or Gruyère.

West Flanders Brewing’s amazing location is a given and at just over a week old, their beer and food are already living up to expectations.  The next time you’re out and about on the Pearl Street Mall, be sure to stop by for a tasty beer and a nice meal.  West Flanders Brewing is located at: 1125 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO.  303-447-2739.

Cheers!

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Beer Trippin’ in New York. Part 1 – Brewery Ommegang

I’m from the East Coast.  Don’t hate me because of it.  We’re not ALL rude…  Really, we’re not.  My wife’s from out that way too and at least once a year, we sling our packs across the camels and head back east for a visit.  You know, to do the whole family thing.  It’s good.  We like it, they like it (I think).  It’s a win/win.

Anyway, it was that time of year again.  Oh, and before I forget, HUGE shout-out to my in-laws, who recently celebrated their 50th Anniversary!  That’s incredible!  Cheers guys!

Time for a journey back to our roots.  My wife’s turn this time, to see her family, go back home, get drenched in humidity, have some seafood, visit an east coast brewery or three and just get away for a little vacation.

We always manage to find a brewery along the way.  Cheers to beer-lovin’ women!  Time for a detour to Brewery Ommegang!  Ommegang, Ommegang, how I adore thee.  A little slice of Belgium right here in the U.S.

Ommegang holds a special place in my beer-pumping heart.  Three Philosophers was a “Belgian gateway” beer for me.  The cherry-quad turned me on to so many new, sweet, tasty Trappist and Trappist-style brews.  It also reminds me of one of my early trips up to NY, in the dead of winter, when my nose hairs instantaneously froze together anytime they were exposed to the bitter cold outside.  Good times.

Brewery Ommegang is located in Cooperstown, NY.  Cooperstown probably rings a bell, as its’ the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Another amazing place that I highly recommend you visit.  I could spend a week there, but I love baseball almost as much as I love beer!

Alright, here’s a 30 second recap.  Ommegang was founded in 1997, by Don Feinberg.  He liked loved Belgian beer and modeled his brewery after a traditional Belgian farmhouse.  A 136-acre Belgian farmhouse to be exact…  People like his beers.  Expansion.  People like his beers A LOT!  He can’t keep up.  Sold to Belgian brewery, Duvel Moortgat in 2003.  Duvel, yeah they rule!  You heard of it?  I hope so.  If not, look it up.  Please, you need to look it up if you don’t know Duvel. Ommegang beers get brewed in both Belgium and Cooperstown, NY to keep up with demand. Expansion, growth, people sucking down Ommegang’s offerings, which brings you to…  Today!

Amazing Belgian-style beers brewed right here in the U.S.  They’ve got an extensive line of creations, including an Abbey, Saison, Witte, Kriek and more.

We had been here before, but it was long before the major brewery growth and cafe addition.  It was back when they had local cheese infused with fresh hops and samples of Belgian chocolate on the tour.  But the ongoing growth has been a good thing.  They manage to conceal the bustling bottle line and production brewery behind the walls of a brick-built “Belgian farmhouse” in the rolling hills of New York.  It’s a beautiful thing.  This place sure is purr-dey.

The newly opened cafe was a welcomed sight as we were rolling in just as our stomachs were beginning to grumble.

I honestly don’t know when this section of the brewery opened, but I was informed I was the first person to use the men’s bathroom.  Strange, but, hmm, ok.  My son gave me a high-five and we headed back to our seats in the dining room.

We ordered the “FonDuvel”, which was a cheese fondue made from three different cheeses and of course Duvel beer.  We had sausage, bread and apples to dip in the fondue pot.  Oh delish!  Add on an order of frites and a few Belgian beers and this is my idea of the perfect meal.

I ordered the Hennepin Saison, followed by a BPA (Belgian Pale Ale) to wash it down, while my wife ordered the Liefmans Cuvee Brut, which is an Oud Bruin blended with cherries.  Our kids tore it up with a juice and root beer.

Click HERE to take a peek at the menu if you’re interested.  In addition to moules y frites, a variety of cheeses, waffles and more, there’s also a great selection of Ommegang and authentic Belgian beer, both on draft and in bottles.

No tour for this visit.  Any kids taking the tour have to be 5 or older and our monkeys don’t meet that criteria just yet.  No worries.  We were free to wander the grounds, smell the facility and watch the world go by.

Seriously, one of the prettiest breweries in the U.S.

They were in full swing, gearing up for their annual Belgium Comes To Cooperstown event.  This is a weekend long event that combines a beer dinner, tasting session, live music and camping to make for an amazing time.  I really need to plan a trip to attend this beer fest.

At any rate, Ommegang is a pretty special place.  Amazing Belgian -style beers, a gift shopped filled with goodies to decorate and drink in your man cave and a recently opened restaurant to keep your tummy stuffed during your visit.  I grabbed a few bottles for the road and we headed out.

If you’re ever in the area, this is a MUST!  They’re located at: 656 County Highway 33, Cooperstown, NY 13326.  607-544-1800.  Also be sure to stop by The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Cooperstown Brewing.

Ommegang can be found in more than 40 states, including Colorado.  Give them a try if you haven’t already.

Cheers!


Weekend Beer Buzz 07/19/12

It seems like every weekend, there are more and more events going on around town.  There’s a TON of events happening this weekend.  I’m not complaining, I just hope I can fit it all into one post.  It’s worth a shot.

Start your weekend by hitting up Dry Dock’s Firkin Friday release on July 20th.  Mix Master Walt has come up with Apple Pie Rye in July for this week’s release.  3 PM sucka!

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

Speaking of Dry Dock, Patti and I will be pouring beers for them over at the Hops for Habitat Beer Festival on Friday, July 20th at the Plains Conservation Center in Aurora, CO.  Come out and drink some beer while raising money for the environment!  This charity brewfest runs from 5 PM – 9 PM and will feature more than 15 Colorado breweries, food trucks, wagon rides, live music and more.

Some of the breweries pouring include Dry Dock, Copper Kettle, Odell, New Belgium and Ska.  Stop by the Dry Dock booth and say Hi!  Tickets for the event are $30 ($15 for DD’s) and can be purchased in advance HERE.  The Plains Conservation Center is located at: 21901 E Hampden Ave, Aurora, CO 80013.  303-693-3379.

Celebrate Belgian Independence Day on Saturday, July 21st, over at the Wynkoop Brewing in Denver, CO.  They’ll be hosting the 2nd Annual United Tastes of Belgium with more than 50 breweries on-hand, pouring authentic Belgian and Belgian-style beers.

Some amazing breweries will be in attendance including Stone, Great Divide, Crooked Stave, Duvel and of course Wynkoop.  Check out the complete list of beers HERE.   Advance tickets are $30, which covers your glass, beer, cheese and chocolate samples.  Tickets can be purchased HERE.  Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door for $37.50.  Wynkoop Brewing is located at: 1634 18th St, Denver, CO 80202.  303-297-2700.

The radio waves will be blowin’ up again with Turk and The Gubna from the Colorado Craft Beer Show on AM 760 at noon.

This week, they’ll be sitting down with the guys from TwinHops Brewing to talk about their campaign on Kickstarter and hear about their plans to open a brewery in Aurora next year.  (More on TwinHops further down in this post).  Also in the studio will be Whitney and John from City Star Brewing out of Berthoud, CO.  The Colorado Craft Beer Show will also be giving away tickets to Kyle’s Brew Fest and the Denver Summer Brewfest, so keep your phones handy.

Over on American Craft Beer Radio, Gary V will be sitting down with a panel of beer judges.  They’ll be breaking down the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) style guidelines, explaining how a beer is judged and doing some on-air tastings of commercial beers.

Tune in to the show on 102.3 FM on Saturday, July 21st at noon.

Where my freaks at?  Sour Freaks that’s you!  (Don’t get offended, I include myself in that category). The 2nd meeting of the Funk ‘n Wild Club is scheduled for Saturday, July 21st at Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids in Longmont, CO.

This unofficial club of local sour freaks doesn’t require a golden ticket or secret password to get inside.  Just show up and be ready to get your mouth-puckering, funky, freak on.  Breweries on-hand include Crooked Stave, Jolly Pumpkin, New Belgium, Russian River and more.  Beers can be purchased in full pours, half pours or tasting flights.  Special guest Chad Yakobson, the mastermind behind Crooked Stave Brewing is scheduled to be the guest speaker.

Dude, I’m pumped for this!  More info on Funk’n Wild can be found HERE.  The event runs from 3 PM – 6 PM at Oskar Blues Liquids and Solids: 1555 S Hover Rd, Longmont, CO 80503.  303-485-9400.

Speaking of sours, The Rackhouse Pub keeps their Sour Month rolling with new sours getting tapped daily throughout the month of July.  This week, look for Great Divide Bretty Yeti, Crooked Stave Surette, Odell Shenanigans and AC Golden Apricot Sour hitting the tap lines.

The Rackhouse Pub is located at: 208 S Kalamath St, Denver, CO 80223.  720-507-7824.

Looking for something not sour, but still packed with complexity and flavor?  Copper Kettle Brewing’s got ya covered.  They’re releasing an Imperial Oak Aged Stout on Saturday, July 21st.  This is one of those rare chances to try a nice, big, flavorful stout, right, smack in the middle of summer.  Skip the wheat and pils, grab your big boy drinking pants and hit up Copper Kettle for this one.

Stop by at noon for the tapping, stick around for the Harvest Food Truck at 5 PM and music from Pete Stein at 6 PM.  Copper Kettle Brewing is located at: 1338 S Valentia St, Denver, CO 80247.  720-443-CKBC.

River North Brewery is getting ready to begin accepting sign-ups for their Locals’ Club.  Sign-ups for the club begins on Sunday, July 22nd at 1 PM.  The $30 membership includes an exclusive, 16 oz. glass (pictured below), $4 pints all day, every day and a membership card.

Memberships will be sold to the first 50 people on a first come, first served basis.  River North Brewery is located at: 2401 Blake St, Denver, CO 80205.  303-296-2617.

Hops & Pie is back with the next round of their Littlest Big Beer Fest on Sunday, July 22nd.  There’s a killer lineup of Firestone Walker beers hitting the tap lines at 2 PM.  Look for Double Jack (Double IPA), Double DBA (Barrel-Aged Barleywine), Parabola (Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout / my FAV of the bunch!) and more.

This special collection of Firestone Walker beers should not be missed.  Hops & Pie is located at: 3920 Tennyson St, Denver, CO 80212.  303-477-7000.

Lastly, the guys behind TwinHops Brewing want to invite you over to help them brew a batch of beer on Sunday, July 21st.  Brad, Scott, Rick and Colin will be firing up the burners to educate, answer questions and share with fans all the details about their upcoming brewery.  More info on TwinHops Brewing can be found on yesterday’s blog.

Starting at noon and rolling throughout the day, stop by and taste their beer.  Bring your homebrew rig over and brew with them if you’d like!  This is being held at: 23891 E Alabama Dr, Aurora, CO 80018.

7/20 Update: The TwinHops brew day has been postponed.  Just got word that it won’t be happening on Sunday, July 21st, but will be rescheduled for a later date.  I’ll update you when they get a new date scheduled.

That’s it kids!  Hope to see you around town this weekend.  Have fun, stay cool and follow us on Facebook for more updates throughout the weekend.

Cheers!