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.