Thursday, December 30, 2010

Left Hand Brewing - Fade to Black Series 2

I got the family home safe and sound from a holiday in Phoenix with the relatives and after driving 16 hours, I was ready to drink a nice beer.  I opened up a Fade to Black Series 2 from Left Hand Brewing.  This smoked imperial stout has an ABV of 7.8% with an IBU of 35.  This one pours very dark without a head if you pour down the side.  On the second one, I poured the last 1/3 of the bottle in the middle that resulted in a nice creamy head.  This is a great beer and I really enjoyed it.  You can detect the smoke and the chocolate malt. The smoke is not overpowering and not as "smoky" as Alaska Brewing Company's Smoked Porter.  This is very balanced and is very drinkable.  This would go great with a rich chocolate desert. 

Left Hand's website has this description, "Fade to Black, that time of year when the light seems to fade away. We drift further into the darkness with each passing day. Volume 2- Smoked Baltic Porter is inspired by our collaboration with Nørrebro in Denmark. This mischievous cousin to Smoke Jumper has a penchant for pillaging and burning everywhere he goes. Smoked malts redolent of the burned thatched roofs in villages and towns all over Northern Europe impart flavors to warm the spirit of invading hordes far from home. You finally have something in your hand darker than the winter night sky."  Great job on this one and I will purchase it again, providing there are any left at Davidson's.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Dark Night - 2 Porters and 1 Stout

One great thing about Christmas is the good food and the associated leftovers.  Can one go wrong with  a dinner of leftovers that included– standing rib roast, baked potato, salad and pecan pie paired with Avery’s – New World Porter.  New World Porter has an ABV of 6.7% and IBU of 45.  This beer poured very dark, almost black, and had a nice creamy head.  This paired very nicely with the rib roast and the pecan pie.  Avery’s website describes New World Porter as “A traditional black porter, with a surprise twist - it's dry-hopped!!  We've expanded the porter category a bit, adding a delightful, dry hop aroma to blend with the sweet caramel and chocolate characteristics of a Robust Porter.”  It was nicely balanced and I will purchase it again.
I then tried Cutthroat Porter from Odell at an ABV of 5.1% and an IBU of 43 that pours very dark with a nice thick head.  This beer has won a number of awards over the years and I detected undertones of chocolate, smoke, and coffee.  It was interesting to have this beer after New World Porter as they are similar in style, color, and IBU; however, both have distinctive differences and both are very good.  Odell's website describes Cutthroat Porter as "Not quite a stout but definitely no lightweight, Cutthroat Porter is smooth and robust.  Inspired by the classic London porters, we use dark roasted malts to create a deep, rich color and flavor that hint at chocolate and coffee.  We named it Cutthroat Porter as our tribute to the Colorado state fish - with its own heritage and unmistakable dark coloring.  And while we're big fans of small batches, here's to the currently threatened Cutthroat population reaching mass quantities."  I would purchase Cutthroat Porter again. 
Ska’s Steel Toe Stout has an ABV of 5.4 % and IBU of 29 and Ska describes Steel Toe as “Milk Meets Its Maker.  It’s as though a cow stared into the face of God and as God told it the meaning of life we grabbed its udders and squeezed out a bucket.  This traditional English Cream Stout is brewed with actual milk sugar to create a creamy and sweet brew.  Jet-black in color, the latte frothy head will make you moo for more.”  I would love to try this with some chocolates and compare it to Left Hand’s Milk Stout.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas / Winter Ales

I picked up three Christmas Ales / Winter Ales for Christmas dinner and the evening.  First up was Sierra Nevada - Celebration Ale with an ABV of 6.8% and IBU of 65.  This was a nice ale to enjoy with dinner of a standing rib roast (prime rib with the bone) as it cut through the fat and the malt blended well with the rib.  I also thought this went well with the pecan pie.  Sierra Nevada describes Celebration Ale as "The long, cold nights of winter are a little brighter with Celebration® Ale. Wonderfully robust and rich, Celebration® Ale is dry-hopped for a lively, intense aroma. Brewed especially for the holidays, it is perfect for a festive gathering or for a quiet evening at home."  Celebration Ale has won a number of awards and this is a nice brew.

Next up was 2 Degrees Below by New Belgium with an ABV of 6.6% and IBU of 32.  I probably should have had this one first as the lower IBU after the Celebration Ale made this beer a "let-down" for me.  It is not a bad beer, but I was expecting a little more kick.  New Belgium describes 2 Degrees Below as "Pull on your wool socks and crack open a 2° Below Ale. This tasty winter warmer started life as a small batch beer brewed for the Al Johnson Uphill Downhill a telemark ski race in Crested Butte, Colorado. The Uphill Downhill celebrates the exploits of Al Johnson, letter carrier extraordinaire, who delivered mail by ski in the late 1800 s. Dry hopping during fermentation creates a floral nose with a hint of pepper and spicy, subtle undertones. 2° Below provides a bright, hoppy palate and a cheery warm afterglow. "  I did not find this beer hoppy at all - probably because of the higher hopped Celebration Ale.

The last tasting of the evening was Ska's Euphoria Ale at ABV of 6.1% and IBU of ??.  This is a nice ale and I appreciated more hops / bitterness after the 2 Degrees Below.   This one poured a nice golden brown with a head that quickly receded.  Nice aroma from the hops and this was a nice beer.  I think the best of the evening.  I am a fan of craft beer in cans and I think the cans keep the beer in better condition than bottles.  Ska describes Euphoria as an IPA, but lists pale ale on the can and the Ska description states -  “This seasonal beer is brewed in the Do It Yourself (DIY) spirit along with our friends from Bayfield at the Venture Snowboard Factory. An India Pale Ale, the Euphoria is crafted with piles and piles of Golding hops to provide a unique spicy finish. Great for after hitting the slopes. Anarchic enlightenment: (1) Brewed in strict accordance to D.I.Y. methodology, the beer of choice for epic powder days. (2) brewed and bottled by Ska Brewing Company, Durango Colorado using the finest hops, yeast, malted barley and San Juan waters.”  I like this beer and I would purchase it again.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Gift - Beer and Glassware

I received some great gifts from my wife and mother-in-law for Christmas that will be great to try.  My wife gave me Rochefort Brewery - a Belgian Trappist Brewery - number 6, 8, and 10.  All of these are highly rated and 6 is difficult to acquire because it is brewed only once a year and represents only 1% of the brewing output from the Abbey of Notre Dame.  My mother-in-law gave me a large bottle and a small bottle of St. Bernardus Abt 12.  This is the highest quality ale produced by St. Bernardus and is considered a showpiece for the brewery.  I am looking forward to sampling these highly rated Belgian Ales.  I also received some nice glassware of a set of 4 each - Imperial Pint, Czech Pilsner, and Bavarian Pilsner. 

Oskar Blues - Gubna and Trader Joes - Winter Ale 2010

Christmas Eve started with a Trader Joes - Winter Ale 2010 at ABV of 9.0 % and IBU ??.  This is not a bad winter ale with spicy undertones in the aroma and taste.  I detected hints of cinnamon / nutmeg / cloves that is not unpleasant and is probably best with desert like pumpkin or pecan pie.  It might also go well with fruit cake.  It pours dark with a thick head that you need to allow to sit to recede. 

I had Gubna after dinner and this is one fantastic beer made by Oskar Blues in Colorado.  Gubna is an Imperial IPA at ABV 10% and 100 IBU that pours golden with a nice head.  The aroma on this beer is fantastic and you can tell this will be a hoppy beer due to the citrus aromatics.  It was nicely bittered with the hops, but I thought the balance was excellent and I found myself "nursing" this beer as it was the last one for the evening and I wanted to just savor the flavor.  This is a very good beer and I will purchase it again.  The Oskar Blues website accurately describes Gubna as "Emphasizing that complexity of character can arise from simple elements, this ale is made with 3 malts and 1 hop. Its light amber color and slightly spicy malt character are derived from the use of German Dark Munich Malt and Rye Malt respectively. North American 2-row barley combines with the other grains to lay the foundation for the hop onslaught to come. Summit hops are used exclusively in the boil for bitterness, flavor and aroma but it doesn’t end there. Post-fermentation dry hopping allows the 10% ABV monstrosity to gently coax the citrus rind and grapefruit aroma to join the 100 IBUs already present. This beer will greet you with a pungent citrus blast, provide a spicy yet round middle and finish with a brisk, clean bitterness."  If you like IPAs or Imperial IPAs, this is a great beer to try.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Four Peaks Brewery - Kilt Lifter

Four Peaks is a brewery in Tempe, AZ and their flagship offering is Kilt Lifter.  Kilt Lifter is a Scotch Ale that has an ABV of 6.0% with an IBU of 21.  This one pours a dark amber color with very little head.  Kilt Lifter is on the sweet side with very little bitterness and a slightly higher alcohol content that is consistent with the style.  I paired this with a grilled steak, baked potato, tossed romaine salad, and mixed fruit.  This was not a bad beer and it has won a few awards for Four Peaks Brewery.  The website for Four Peaks highlights the other beers and I think the Peach Ale might be good for people new to craft beer or for those who say they do not like beer.  They seems to have a nice offering of eight different styles with some seasonal ones too. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2 Pale Ales and an IPA

I purchased a number of brews for the next couple of weekends and started this evening with 2 pale ales and 1 IPA.  First up was Oskar Blues - Dale's Pale Ale at ABV of 6.5% and 65 IBU.  This one pours a light amber / golden color with a light head that quickly recedes and has a nice citrus aroma.  Oskar Blues describes Dale's as "America’s first hand-canned craft beer is a voluminously hopped mutha that delivers a hoppy nose, assertive-but-balanced flavors of pale malts and hops from start to finish. First canned in 2002, Dale’s Pale Ale is a hearty (6.5% and 65 IBUs), critically acclaimed trailblazer that has changed the way craft beer fiends perceive canned beer."  Dale's is highly rated and well-respected and I can taste why as it is nicely balanced with a nice hoppy finish.

Next up was Stone - Pale Ale at ABV 5.4% and IBU of 41.  This is a very drinkable beer and is noticeably not as hoppy as Dale's.  This one pours amber with a small head that quickly recedes.  A nice balance with nice malt sweetness and slightly bitter hops.  Stone describes their pale ale as"Our flagship ale, Stone Pale Ale is our Southern California interpretation of the classic British pale ale style.  Deep amber in color, Stone Pale Ale is robust and full flavored.  A delicate hop flavor is balanced by a rich maltiness.  This is an ale for those who have learned to appreciate distinctive flavor.  Stone Pale Ale is great by itself, or with food that requires a beer of character."  This is a nice one - 2 for 2 for the evening.   

The final beer of the evening is Stone - Ruination IPA at ABV 7.7% and IBU 100+.  I knew this one would be hoppy due to 1) IPA, 2) 100 + IBU and 3) Stone.  This is a hoppy IPA and if you are a hop head, you are going to like it.  Stone warns the reader of the label to beware because your palate will be challenged and Stone delivers on the measure.  I have had 100+ IBU India Pale Ales, but they are usually double or imperial varieties.  This is for the IPA lover and hop head.  Stone describes Ruination IPA as "So called because of the ruinous effect on your palate!  This massive monster has a wonderfully delicious and intensely bitter flavor.  One taste and you can easily see why we call this brew a 'liquid poem to the glory of the hop!'  Those who seek, crave and rejoice, in beer with big, bold, bitter character will find true nirvana in Stone Ruination IPA!"  3 for 3 for the evening.  These were all very nice beers.  Stone and Oskar Blues do not disappoint. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Flying Dog - Raging Bitch IPA

Flying Dog - Raging Bitch is an India Pale Ale with 8.3% ABV and 60 IBU.  I had been wanting to try Raging Bitch for some time now as I had read that it was a recommended IPA to try.  Raging Bitch pours a light amber / golden color and has nice carbonation with a nice foamy head that takes a little time to recede.  I like to let my IPAs warm up a bit to take in the aroma and taste this beer.  Flying Dog uses graphics associated with Hunter S. Thompson and you immediate see it on the label.  Flying Dog describes Raging Bitch as "Bitches come in a variety of forms, but there's never been something as sassy as Flying Dog's Raging Bitch Belgian IPA. An American IPA augmented with Belgian yeast, our 20th anniversary beer jumps out of the glass and nips at your taste buds with its delicate hop bitterness. At 8.3% ABV, this bitch is dangerously drinkable."  This is a nice IPA and I paired it with a nice chunck of blue cheese and the pairing was very nice.  Flying Dog recommends a strong blue cheese with this beer.  The bottle and website noted this as a 20th anniversary and Flying Dog has a nicely balanced IPA with a hoppy finish - but not too hoppy.  If you like IPAs, I would add this one to the try list.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Great Divide - Oak-aged Yeti

Great Divide’s Oak-aged Yeti is an Imperial Stout at 9.5% ABV and 75 IBU.  This one pours a much frothier head as compared to Yeti and the head is so think you can pick it up with fork.  I know because I did.  The aging seems to blend the flavors and further balances this already very good beer.  I did not pick up oak per say, but I still picked up caramel, toffee, coffee and smoke.  The coffee and smoke had mellowed out.  I paired Oak-aged Yeti with a dinner of Burgundy Pepper marinated Tri-Tip, Sweet Potato and a mixed vegetable sauté of onion, jalapeno peppers, carrots and broccoli.  I thought this pairing worked very well together and the sweetness and caramel notes of Yeti were enhanced by the meal.  Oak-aged Yeti is very nice and I can easily recommend it.

Great Divide’s website describes Oak-aged Yeti as ”Yeti Imperial Stout’s sophisticated sibling. They may be from the same clan, but they have entirely different personalities. Oak aging gives a subtle vanilla character, rounding out Yeti’s intense roastiness and huge hoppy nature. Who says you can’t tame a Yeti?”  This beer has won numerous awards and suggested pairings are “Grilled NY strip, fudge brownies, strong/salty blue cheese”.  This is a very nice Imperial Stout and if you like this style, you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Great Divide - Yeti and Avery - IPA

On the can of Avery – India Pale Ale – it states “Hop Heads Unite.”  So, I knew I was in for a hopped up version of IPA.  This is a nice one too at 6.5% ABV and 69 IBU.  The beer pours golden with a nice head and a floral / citrus nose.  The description on the can says that, “Our IPA is an intense hop experience straight from the can?  Settle back and savor the citrusy floral bouquet and the rich, malty, yet dry finish.  Brewed by hop heads, for hop heads.”  This one is nice and it was great to have while I was preparing dinner.

After dinner, I opened a bottle of Great Divide’s Yeti – Imperial Stout at 9.5%ABV and 75 IBU.  This is one of the best beers I have tasted this year.  It pours very dark with little head and is described as “an onslaught of the senses. It starts with big, roasty malt flavor that gives way to rich caramel and toffee notes. YETI gets its bold hop character from an enormous quantity of American hops.”  I tasted the caramel and toffee qualities of this beer and I also picked up hints of smoke and coffee.  Great Divide recommends pairing Yeti with Grilled Steaks, strong / salty blue cheese, and chocolate and I paired Yeti with a salty (not too strong) Windsor Blue Cheese and they went together wonderfully.  I can see why Yeti has won numerous awards over the years and it is one I will buy again.  I am trying the Oak-Aged Yeti this evening with steak and it should be very good.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oskar Blues - Ten Fidy

Lori and I met Courtney at the Outback in Castle Rock last night for dinner.  There were just under 10 taps with approximately 10 – 15 beers in bottles.  My first selection was Sam Adam’s Winter Lager on tap at 5.6% ABV that is reddish brown.  The website describes the beer as having cinnamon, ginger, with a hint of citrus (orange peel), but I did not pick it up.  I was not real satisfied with this selection and was very happy to see Abita on tap.  Could it be Turbo Dog?  Yes, it was and I ordered one to go with my dinner of Sirloin Steak and baked potato.  I had Turbo Dog the previous week at NoNo’s Café in a bottle, and I thought the beer tasted even better from the tap.  Turbo Dog is a dark brown ale with 5.6% ABV and 28 IBU and went perfectly with my dinner.  I will order Turbo Dog again, but I will not order Sam Adam’s Winter Lager.

I poured an Oskar Blues Ten Fidy – Imperial Stout at 10.5% and 98 IBU to enjoy while watching SyFy’s Sanctuary and this one pours as dark as I have ever seen a beer and there is virtually no head.  Some describe the pour as oil coming out of a can and you have to see it to truly appreciate the darkness of this beer.  I took my time with this one and I poured it in a pint glass and let it warm up a bit.  It is better warmer than fridge cold.  Oskar Blues describes Ten Fidy as “This titanic, immensely viscous stout is loaded with inimitable flavors of chocolate-covered caramel and coffee and hide a hefty 98 IBUs underneath the smooth blanket of malt.  Ten FIDY (10.5% ABV) is made with enormous amounts of two-row malt, chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats and hops. Ten FIDY is the ultimate celebration of dark malts and boundary-stretching beer.”  This is an interesting beer and I cannot see one drinking more than 1 or 2 at a setting.  This is a sipping beer to be enjoyed with chocolate – good dark chocolate – or a powerful cheese.  I can see why this beer is rated high and I am glad there are a few more in the fridge.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Avery - Joe's American Plisner

Avery – Joe’s American Pilsner is a session beer at 4.7% ABV and 42 IBU.  As the story goes, Joe is Adam Avery’s grandfather who gave Adam his first taste of beer and Joe’s picture graces the can.  Yes, craft beer in cans and I think this is a good way to go.  The can is a great because there is no oxidation and no exposure to light that can damage beer.  Cans are very portable, easier to store, and are better for the environment.  The cans do not alter the taste of beer because they are lined and many craft brewers are moving to cans.  One thing that brewers in Denver have is the experience from Ball Corp. and from Coors. 

Joe’s is a nice beer and it is easy to have more than one because of the lower ABV.  I think this is the lowest ABV of any from Avery and is described on the can as, “You’re holding a contemporary rendition of a classic style. Hopped with purpose, Joe’s is beautifully bitter and dry with an abundance of floral, Noble German hops. Uber-sessionable. Utterly American. This is Premium American Pilsner.”  Avery added the hops to this beer to make it their own and this is a nice beer.  It pours clear yellow with a nice head that one needs to be aware as this can over run your glass.  The head is thick – almost meringue-like.  I poured it into a champagne flute to enjoy with dinner.  If you are a fan of pilsner’s, I suggest you try it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Abita - TurboDog, Avery - White Rascal & Stone - Double Bastard

Last night, the family went to NoNos café and I had Blackened Crab Stuffed Quesadillas with an Abita – Turbo Dog.  Turbo Dog is a dark brown ale with 5.6% ABV and 28 IBU and has a deep brown / red color.  This went very well with the quesadilla and I would order this combination again.  Abita’s web site describes Turbo Dog as their flagship and it was a very nice beer.

After I got home, I decided to try Avery’s White Rascal – Belgian White Ale with 5.6% ABV and 10 IBU.  This pours a golden yellow color that is cloudy because the beer in unfiltered and it has a foamy head.  This is a nice drinkable beer and I would think that this would be a good “conversion” beer for those who have not tried or are new to craft beer.  I could taste the Curacao orange peel in this and I thought the balance was very nice.  This will be in my fridge during the summer as this would be great after yard work or on picnic.  Nicely done and true to style.

Last Sunday evening I tried Stone – Double Bastard – American Strong Ale with a 10.5% ABV and ? IBU.  Stone does not publish the IBUs for the Bastard line of ales.  This one pours a deep dark amber color with a smaller head.  The taste was bready, creamy, fruity – bitter fruity, and one can taste the alcohol – but it is not “hot” – one knows it there.  Personally, I liked Arrogant Bastard better, and I would like to try them side-by-side for a comparison.  I also think Double Bastard would be interesting with some cellaring and a vertical comparison.  Stone makes beer with kick and they like the hops – these will take your palette to a new level.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Avery - duganA - Double IPA

Avery – duganA is a Double IPA with an 8.5% ABV and 93 IBU.  This one pours golden and will create a rather large head if poured quickly.  It takes some time for the head to recede.  Since this is an IPA, I like it to warm a bit.  So, take your time pouring and allow the beer to warm slightly.  I like this beer and loved the taste of grapefruit and pine.  There is definitely an emphasis on hops and I like it.  I was thinking that Cascade hops were used, but I see that it’s cousin Chinook is used; as well as, Centennial and Columbus.  The barley is two-row, and dark aromatic caramel malt.  Avery brews this beer “whenever we have a little extra tank space and a desire for dank hops!  On Avery’s website, duganA is described as “Lupulin Rapture Incarnate! As fervent devotees of hops, we found ourselves on a quest to create a transcendental IPA capable of quenching our voracious lupulin desires. Our mantra became "unity of bitterness, hop flavor and aroma." Enlightened, duganA IPA was born: A brutally bitter, dank, piney and resinous ale designed for those seeking a divine hop experience.“  I heard on a pod cast that duganA is the Hindi word for double.  So, if you like hops and you like a double IPA, I suggest you try Avery’s duganA.  This one is for the hop-heads and I think they will not be disappointed.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Avery - The Czar

Avery – The Czar is an imperial stout with an 11.69% ABV and 60 IBU.  This one pours black with a small head that recedes quickly.  This is a sipping beer because of the higher alcohol rate and you taste the alcohol on the finish.  One tastes toffee / molasses, chocolate and a hint of licorice (anise).  Avery recommends cellaring this beer and this one should last quite a while.  If Avery hosts a vertical tasting of the Czar, I will plan to attend. 

The Czar is seasonal (Nov. – Feb.) and is one of Avery’s Dictator Series.  Maharaja is an Imperial IPA (10.24% - ABV and 102 - IBU) that I think tastes best when warmed up a bit.  When I first had the Maharaja, the aroma took we back to my grandmother’s herb garden in Virginia.  The Kaiser is an Imperial Oktoberfest Lager (9.3% - ABV and 24 – IBU) that my wife (not-a-beer-drinker) likes. 

I was happy to try the Czar as I have previously tried the others in Avery’s Dictator Series.  I would love to enjoy the Czar with my friend George with ancestry from Czarist Russian.  I am sure he would appreciate this one and have fond recollections of his relatives.  I can see why Russian Imperial Stout was a favorite of Catherine the Great.  This is a nice beer to put in a snifter and enjoy by a fireplace.  I recommend Avery’s Dictator Series and these beers are a real treat.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving - Best pairing ever and Beer Brined Turkey

Thanksgiving was a great day and a great meal.  I modified a beer brine recipe from Sean Paxton ( and used the following (minus a small glass of each):

1 – Alaskan Smoked Porter
1 – Paulaner Oktoberfest - Marzen
3 carrots and 3 celery stalks
4 garlic cloves
1 C. Kosher Salt
½ C. Brown sugar
2 Lemons quartered
Couple of tablespoons of peppercorns

Combine the ingredients and simmer until the vegetables softened.  Cool the brine and put it in the refrigerator overnight.  Strain the vegetables from the brine and add ~ 1 gallon of water.  Clean and rinse the turkey.  Put the turkey into a large Ziploc bag or use a cooler that the turkey just fits into.  I put the turkey in a bag, added the brine, placed it in a cooler and then covered with ice.  The turkey should brine 24 – 48 hours.  Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse and let dry.  I then used a dry spice rub called Tiny Town Turkey Rub from the Savory Spice Shop in Littleton, CO.  The 12-pound Turkey was cooked in a bag for 2 hours at 350 degrees to an internal temperature of 160 - 165 degrees and then pulled from the oven and allowed to rest for 30 minutes.  The oven was then set to broil.  Remove the turkey from the bag and place in the oven for ~10 minutes to allow the skin the crisp.  The turkey turned out excellent and was enjoyed by everyone.  I think it was the best turkey I have ever cooked.

I paired dinner with Avery – Old Jubilation (ABV - 8% and IBU – 30) and Left Hand – Black Jack Porter (ABV – 6.8% and IBU - 35) with a desert of Lori’s Chocolate Pie.  The desert pairing was perfect with the beer and the chocolate pie being one of the best pairings I have ever experienced.  The beer cut through the fat and emphasized the chocolate and the crust.  The pie emphasized the sweetness, chocolate, and bread qualities of the malt.  It was amazing.  I split a bottle of the Kaiser with Lori and her mom and they both very much like the Kaiser (ABV – 9.6% and IBU - 24).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Avery - Out of Bounds Stout

Yesterday evening we had a nice dinner of romaine salad, Stilton blue cheese, kalamato olives, garlic and cheese croutons, sesame ginger dressing, and salmon lox.  I paired this with Avery – Out of Bounds Stout at ABV of 6.3% and IBU of 51.  This one goes down very smooth and was actually a nice pairing with the salad.  The salads components enhanced characteristics of the beer – croutons – bread, Stilton – nuttiness, dressing – sweetness, and salmon – smoke.  This was a nice pairing and it worked very well.

From the packaging there are double diamonds and the words expert only in alignment with the skiing packaging theme.  Avery describes Out of Bounds as, This big, roasty stout takes flavor to the extreme. We aren't afraid to use plenty of rich roasted barley and a mountain of hops to give this full-bodied stout that little extra something you've been looking for in a beer.  This comes in a six-pack and I will have a couple of other opportunities to pair this beer. 

My wife (not a beer drinker) tasted the beer and she is noticed a similarity between this beer and some of the other Avery beers she has tried.  She actually likes the Kaiser.  She noted that the beer is drinkable and then the bitter or other flavor hits.  I will continue tasting Avery beers and I have Old Jubilation and the Czar for Thanksgiving. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bridgeport IPA and Breckenridge Avalanche at NoNo's Cafe

It had been some time since the family went to NoNo’s and we decided it was time.  NoNo’s is located in Littleton, Co on County Line Road just east of Sante Fe Dr. (HWY 85).  Brian and Sonda Brewster are the owners and they have a great place; they know about good food and service.  Fresh bread is served with a special dipping sauce and my son always wants seconds on the bread.  I ordered Bridgeport’s IPA with an ABV of 5.5% and IBU of 50.  This is a nice IPA that pours golden with a nice head.  It has a very good floral aroma and is not as bitter as many craft brew IPAs.  This went very well with the dipping sauce, cutting through the fat and going well with the spice. 

I ordered the NoNo’s Sausage Classico for the main entrée, which is two sausage patties on a bed of linguine noodles smothered in a nice tomato based sauce that is just a bit spicy.  I ordered Breckenridge’s Avalanche Amber Ale with an ABV of 5.4% and IBU of 19.  This is a good beer and is very drinkable, but it was a bit overpowered by the spiciness of the dish.  Not a bad pairing, but the IPA probably would have been a better choice.  It paired much better with a beignet that I split with Lori.  It was a nice meal and I tasted two nice beers. 

NoNo’s never disappoints and I am very happy this restaurant is close to home

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Alive

Yeast – Are living organisms in the Fungi kingdom that convert sugar to alcohol during fermentation.  There are many different strains of yeast that the brewer can use during the brewing process to make the desired style of beer.  The primary categories of beer are ales, lagers, and lambics.  Ales are known as top-fermenting or warm-fermenting because the yeast forms foam on the surface ferments between ~60 – 70 degrees F.  Lagers are known as bottom-fermenting or cool-fermenting because the yeast tends to collect at the bottom of a fermenter ferments at a lower temperature around ~50 degrees F.  Lager means to store in cool temperatures in German and does not pertain to fermentation.  Lambics are known as spontaneous-fermenting or wild-fermenting because they are exposed to the wild yeast and bacteria and are brewed in Belgium.  There are always exceptions with some beers that “blur” the lines on these descriptions, and craft brewers today can use strains of wild yeast for their particular beer.  The taste of beer is also affected by the type of yeast used during fermentation.
Ale varieties include – Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Scotch Ale, Porter, Stout, Old Ale and Barley Wine, Belgian Trippel and Duppel, Wheat Beer, and others.
Lager varieties include – Lager, Pilzner, Bock, Dunkel, Helles, Oktoberfest / Marzen / Vienna, and others.
Lambic varieties include – Lambic, Gueuze, Mars, Faro, Kriek, and others.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Hops – a climbing plant that is used for flavoring and preservation of beer.  There are many varieties of hops and they are grown in many parts of the world.  Hops add bitterness to beer that is used to balance the sweetness of the malt, or to increase the bitterness and associated aromas for “Hop Heads” – people who love a beer that is strong in hops.  A good example of hops use is in India Pale Ale.  When British brewers first sent beer to soldiers in India, the beer spoiled during the route.  India Pale Ale had higher alcohol and hops that prevented the beer from spoiling.  Over time, the IPA also became very popular locally.

American craft brewers are known for the use of hops that result in some IPAs with high IBU – International Bitterness Units.  A lager may have very little IBUs (example – 5) and an IPA may have over 100.  Some brewers mix hops to impart different aromas.  There are essentially two types of hops – bittering and aromatic – that are used by the brewer to develop the final taste and aroma of the beer. The beer will also smell and taste differently depending on the temperature of the beer.  Germany leads the world in growing hops followed by the U.S.  Hops growers in the U.S. are primarily in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  Hops do grow in Colorado and wild varieties can be harvested.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Left Hand - 400 Pound Monkey and Milk Stout

Last night’s dinner was roasted peppered pork loin with potato, sweet potato, onion, and jalapeno peppers.  Left Hand Brewing – 400 Pound Monkey – English Style IPA was paired with dinner and it worked well.  The 400 Pound Monkey went very well with the jalapeno pepper and the bitter in the beer was a great combination with the heat from the pepper.   This IPA has an ABV of 6.8% and an IBU of 60.  Note, this is not published, but I listened to a podcast of Cicero’s Beer School featuring Left Hand’s Chris Leonard who gave an IBU of 60 for 400 Pound Monkey, and he stated that they came up with the name because someone at the brewery said that a 400 Pound Monkey could just through in lots of hops to cover up flaws in a IPA.  From the website description – “Because this one ain't like them others. We use hops of a different color, earthy and herbal, well-balanced by bready malt.  The result?  An English-style IPA that separates itself from the ubiquitous bunch.  Cartloads of bitter monkeys flinging wasteful amounts of bananas into the jungle . . .we're so done with that.  Left Hand went for a balanced taste and provides the consumer with a well rounded IPA – they have done well. 
I paired Left Hand – Milk Stout, ABV 6% and IBU 25, with a desert of pumpkin bars and this pairing was excellent.  Milk Stout has won a few awards and I tasted coffee on the first sip.  After the beer warmed a bit and was tasted with the pumpkin bars the sweetness came out and the pairing just “popped” – it was a delight.  I think this beer would pair great with chocolate and in particular my wife’s chocolate pie.  I think it would also go well with a chocolate desert with a raspberry sauce.  From the Left Hand website description of Milk Stout, “Dark and delicious, America's great milk stout will change your perception about what a stout can be.  Preconceived notions are the blinders on the road to enlightenment.  Udderly delightful.  This is my favorite beer that I have tasted from Left Hand and I look forward to sampling more from Left Hand.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Avery - Ellie's Brown Ale

There were a couple of Avery – Ellie’s Brown Ales remaining from the previous evening’s beer tasting and I enjoyed one with a dinner of roasted chicken, roasted asparagus and a baked potato with the works.  I thought the pairing worked well and this is a very nice brown ale.  I enjoyed the other one after dinner.  Ellie’s Brown Ale comes in at ABV of 5.5% with a low IBU of 17.  This beer pours dark, with a nice thick head and has just a great flavor from the excellent malt selection.  The note on the package says – “This beautiful, deep russet brew has the sweet and somewhat nutty character of Adam Avery's late (1992-2002) Chocolate Lab, for which it is named. Crystal and chocolate malts give this beer a brown sugar maltiness with hints of vanilla and nuts, while subtle hopping gives it an overall drinkability that's second to none, just like Ellie!”  Avery is right on the money with this description and I highly recommend this brown ale.  I think this would be a good beer for a person who wants to try craft beers or wants to try dark beers because of how drinkable this beer is.  By no means is this beer simple, as there are some great flavors of vanilla, nuts, and brown sugar.  From the previous evening, when I poured it, all gave the “ought oh” of a big, knock-you-upside-the-head, dark beer.  Everyone then said that they were pleasantly surprised by the taste of the beer and it was a prime example of not letting your eyes deceive you.  Avery – job well done and this beer is available all year.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November Beer Tasting

Last night’s beer tasting turned out very well and we (Tibor, Chris, Dennis, and me) tasted some really good beers.  Lori, made some great appetizers consisting of a good selection of cheeses, olives, salami, and pumpkin bars.  Nicole, Tibor’s wife, made a surprise stop with some pizza that occurred at just the right time for one of the beers and the combination (pizza and beer) was very good. I supplied a few different types of beer and everyone brought beer – we had an interesting combination and the list below is in the order of tasting.  I would say that none of these beers were bad and some were truly outstanding.

Paulaner - Wiesn Bier – a German Oktoberfest beer that now is in a 1 litre can available in the U.S.  – Wiesn means meadow and this beer was brewed to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest.  The ABV is 5.8% and this bright beer poured with a nice head and was a great way to kick-off the evening. 

Avery – Ellie’s Brown Ale – Nice beer and this went very well with the cheese and the smoked almonds.  When I poured everyone was concerned that this dark beer was going to be a smack your face dark beer – all were surprised by the drinkability of this beer.  Avery never disappoints and this brown ale comes in at ABV - 5.5% and IBU – 17.

Left Hand Brewing Co – Oxymoron (A Teutonic India Pale Lager) – this is a collaboration beer with Terrapin (Athens, GA) and is described as a American style IPA using 3 different German malts, 6 German hop varieties and a lager yeast strain coming in at ABV – 7.2% and IBU -65.  This is a smooth and balanced beer even with the high IBU.  Nice work by Left Hand and Terrapin and this is Series 3 of the Midnight Brewing Project.

Avery – 17 – Dry Hopped Black Lager (A Study in German Hops) – ABV – 7.69% pours dark with a nice frothy head.  WOW – this is a great beer and I will buy another one of these before they are gone.  This may be my favorite from Avery; however, everything I have had from Avery is very good.

Left Hand Brewing Co – Milk Stout – this is a sweet stout coming in at ABV – 6% and IBU – 25.  This is a dark one with a nice bubbly head.  When I first tasted this I was expecting a sweeter taste and my first impression was “coffee” – this beer would go great with breakfast.  This beer went very well with the pumpkin bars.

Sierra Nevada – 30th Anniversary – Charlie, Fred and Ken’s Imperial Helles Bock with an ABV – 8.3% and IBU – 41 and pours with a large head.  At first, I was disappointed with this as I had very high hopes for it.  I am not sure if it was the order of the tasting and I did not like it as much after the Milk Stout or if it did not resonate with my palate.  Then the pizza came and Tibor said to try the beer with the pizza.  I tried it with a slice of mushroom and sausage pizza and the combination was great.  I was really glad to try this pairing because I would have panned the beer.  This was a good lesson for me that a good pairing will make a beer shine.

Cuvee Van De Keizer Blauw (Blue) – 2009 – Belgian Strong Ale at ABV 11%.  Wow, those Belgians know how to brew and this was my favorite of the evening.  This is an amber / brown colored beer that pours with a lacey head.  There is a lot going on here and you taste fruit immediately and the alcohol at the end.  The second taste was evening better and I did not notice the alcohol at the end.  This is a very complex beer and I say to add this to your list – you will not be disappointed.  Caution – this one is dangerous is a very good way – sip it and enjoy. 

Moosbacher – Kellerbier – is a German beer meaning “cellar beer” with an ABV – 5.5% that pours with little head that quickly disappears.  This is a “grainy” tasting beer that can be consumed quickly – it is described as a good representation of this style.  

Left Hand Brewing – 400-Pound Monkey – IPA with ABV – 6.8% and IBU – 60 that pours golden brown with a light head.  This is a well-balanced IPA and is not a hopped up one.  400-Pound Monkey is more earthy and herbal compared to the citrus / resin IPAs.  Left Hand has a different twist on the American IPA and I would like to try this one again and compare / contrast against other IPAs. 

In conclusion, the evening was great – good food – good beer – good camaraderie.  It is hard to beat a nice evening with friends tasting different beers.  All of these beers were good with my favorite three being the Paulaner, Avery 17 and the Cuvee Van De Keizer Blauw.  I would say to obtain these if you can because they will be gone soon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Barley is King

Malt – a germinated grain that is quickly dried.  Germination is when a seed sprouts and many of us completed an elementary school or middle school science experiment of placing sees between moistened paper towels and observing the seeds as they germinate.  The germination changes the seed, enhancing the conversion of starches into sugars and developing enzymes that enhance fermentation.  Germination is halted at a precise time and the sprouted grains are dried – the color of the malt changes depending on the length of drying or kilning of the germinated grain.  The brewer changes the style, alcohol content, and flavor of the beer by using different malts and various mixes of different malts.
Various grains can be used for making malt; however, barley is king.  There are two types of barley, 2-row and 6-row, with many varieties or strains of each type.  The barley farmer is a big risk taker as the malt house or brewer can deny purchase of the barley if it does not meet specific criteria.  The farmer will then need to sell the barley as feed barley at a lower price.  The U.S. is the eighth largest barley-producing country and barley is grown in the Northern Plains and the Pacific NW – Colorado is the 5th largest barley-producing state.  Because Coors has contracts with most barley farmers in CO, local craft brewers acquire barley (or malt) outside of CO.
I am hosting a beer-tasting tonight with guests bringing a CO craft beer.  I will be serving Avery’s – Elle’s Brown Ale and the Sierra Nevada – 30th Anniversary Bock.  Tomorrow’s post will cover the beers tasted, the guest’s synopsis of the beers and notable pairings.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's in the Water

Water – two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule.  Very simple from a molecular structure, but very complex as to what other items may actually be in the water.  As water makes its way to the tap, there are various minerals, metals, and other chemicals that are included in water.  These “ride -alongs” and dissolved items affect the taste of water and how beer will taste, or the flavor of beer.  Depending on what is dissolved in water can change the PH (acidic or alkaline) of the water and make water that is “hard” or “soft”.   Hard water has a high mineral content and soft water has low mineral content – specifically low or no calcium and magnesium ions.  Certain geographic areas have been known for their beers directly attributed to the water and prime examples are Burton-on-Trent, England with perfect water for Pale ale and Plzen, Czech Republic with perfect water for Pilsner.
In Colorado, there are very plentiful water sources from snow melt and from underground (aquifers).  Adolph Coors choose Golden, CO, because of the water supply after scouting out a location for a brewery.  Per Coors, The water is a soft water from the aquifer and Coors describes the water as “perfect” and “pure” for the beer they brew.  Nearly all breweries today treat their water and may include additives to assist in brewing the style desired and as a yeast nutrient.  Home brewers need to know what type of water they have in order to avoid potential ill-effects to the style they are brewing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step .”  This quote has struck a positive note with me for some time as one needs not only the courage to begin a journey but also the realization that the destination may not be the actual goal.  I have discovered the experiences one has the opportunity to live during the journey are what can be truly amazing and the destination many times results in a bittersweet moment as one realizes the journey is near the end.
A friend asked me about craft beer and I thought – “Wow – when was the last time I actually had one?”  I then realized it was the right time and right place to begin a new journey – a craft beer journey.  I researched a number of websites, subscribed to a number of podcasts, selected a number of new people on social media and researched craft beer.   The first trip to a store soon ensued with the purchase of a number of different beers.  The initial beers were found to be quite tasty and it was quite satisfying as these beers fired new synapses and re-fired some previous pathways.
A decision was quickly made – since I reside in Colorado – I should start a journey close to home by sampling the breweries of Colorado.  There are a large number of them and they are very good.  It also seemed appropriate as Colorado was an initial “hot spot” for the beginnings of home brewing and craft beer.   I am sure I will make detours along the way to other states and as travels take me to various locations.
The journey will be recorded here with a focus on the experiences along the way...