Saturday, December 31, 2011

Horton’s Homebrew – Orion Stout

My first attempt at a stout was from a Williams Brewing Stout brew kit and it turned out well.  It has a great color and the carbonation was spot on with a nice two-finger head that took awhile to recede.  The beer tastes sweet with a nice roasty / toasty undertone from the dark malts.  It finished a bit under attenuated and I will focus on the wort aeration and use a yeast starter on the next batch.  It has a slight grainy finish and a little more aging should take care of this – a couple of weeks / months in some cold storage should even out the flavors.  I would also add a few more hops to increase the bitterness a touch.  In summary, the beer is easy to drink and it would be easy to drink a number of these with lower ABV (I estimate ~4% ABV and 35 IBU).  What I would do differently on the next batch – 1) use a yeast starter, 2) focus on wort aeration, 3) use a touch more hops to increase bitterness.  These three things and a little more time in storage should take this beer to the next level.  Next up – a pale ale using only Cascade hops.  I’ll be brewing this one later today, and yes, I made a yeast starter.
Website description of the Williams Stout Kit – “In England, stout has traditionally been a sweet black beer, often sweetened with lactose. In Ireland, stout has traditionally been dry. William's Stout is slightly sweeter than the famous Irish stout, yet drier than sweet English stouts. A potent stout with a creamy head, our stout derives its rich bittersweet flavor from a combination of a special dark extract, ale hops, and a liquid yeast with a somewhat dry character. A smooth black stout with a balanced character. Alcohol: 4.9%, IBU's 35.  Includes 8 lbs. of our blended malt extract, English fuggle and other hops, 125 ml of liquid ale yeast, and corn sugar for carbonation. Makes 5 gallons with a starting gravity of 1.050. Ease of Brewing: Beginner.”

Lazy Magnolia – Southern Pecan and Funkwerks – Saison

Another shout out to Dennis Wright for bringing this one back to CO on his recent trip to Georgia – Thank you very much – another nice one.  Lazy Magnolia is one of the few brewers in Mississippi and Southern Pecan (4.65% ABV and 22 IBU), is a Specialty Beer using Pecans in the brewing process.  Southern Pecan pours an amber / tan / brown with a one-finger head that recedes quickly.  Nice aroma of sweetness and nuts.  Southern Pecan is a very tasty beer and the pecans worked well with the brown ale.  There is very little hop bitterness and the emphasis is on malts and the pecans.  I think this is my first beer from Mississippi and Southern Pecan is a tasty one. 
Website description – “Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale is the first beer in the world, to our knowledge, made with whole roasted pecans. The pecans are used just like grain and provide a nutty characteristic and a delightful depth to the flavor profile. This beer is very lightly hopped to allow the malty, caramel, and nutty flavors shine through. The color is dark mahogany. Southern Pecan won a Bronze Medal in the 2006 World Beer Cup in the Specialty Beer category.”

Funkwerks is a small-Ft. Collins-based brewer and Saison (6.8% ABV and 25 IBU).  I opened this up for Christmas dinner.  The head on this beer was just crazy and it literally filled up the glass.  It took awhile and a number of small pours to obtain a decent glass of this Saison.  Saison pours an orange / yellow with a fruity and spicy aroma.  The beer has tastes undertones of the fruit one smells and the spice / pepper with a very dry finish.  This is a solid Saison and I can understand why Funkwerks has been receiving a lot of attention. 

Website description – “he beer you are holding is unique. A special strain of yeast and a warm fermentation produces a beer of exceptional flavor and aroma. An extended secondary maturation and bottle conditioning ensures all these unique qualities are preserved and evolve over time. Serve at 50°F in a tulip glass. “

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Georgia Beers – Terrapin and SweetWater

First, shout out to Dennis – thank you very much for bringing these back on your recent trip to Georgia and both of these were very good.  The only Terrapin beer I had before was via a collaboration with Left Hand Brewing.  Both Terrapin and SweetWater have previously won awards for various beers in their portfolios.

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale (5.5% ABV and 35 IBU) is a pale ale with rye and it won the pale ale category the first year it was entered - 2002.  Terrapin is based in Athens, GA.  I heard an interview with the brewer on “Can you brew it?” on the Brewing Network and the brewer was looking to brew a well-balanced pale ale that had some spice from the rye, but not too much hop bitterness on the finish that is present in many pale ales.  Rye Pale Ale pours a light amber with a nice two-finger head that recedes quickly.  One can detect a spicy note on the nose and this is one tasty pale ale – I agree that the brewer hit the target with a well-balanced pale ale. 
Website description – “By using an exact amount of rye, a grain seldom found in other micro brewed beers, the Rye Pale Ale acquires its signature taste. Made with five varieties of hops and a generous amount of specialty malts, it offers a complex flavor and aroma that is both aggressive and well balanced – a rare find among beers.  The Terrapin Rye Pale Ale was released in Athens, GA in April of 2002 at the Classic City Brew Fest. Six months later this beer which was sold only in Athens was awarded the American Pale Ale Gold Medal at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival, the most prestigious competition in North America. We hope you will agree with our peers in the brewing industry that this is truly one of the best pale ales in the country.”

Sweet Water Brewing is based in Atlanta, GA and Georgia Brown Ale (5% ABV and 24 IBU) is a brown ale.  Georgia Brown pours dark, not as dark as a porter or stout, but it is dark; with a two-finger lacy head.  It has a nice aroma of chocolate and caramel / toffee and just a hint of hops.  Georgia Brown is a nice brown ale and tastes just like it smells – some chocolate – some caramel – and just enough hop bitterness to balance it out.  These were a great delivery from Dennis and I appreciate it.  If you get down to Atlanta – I highly recommend Terrapin and SweetWater. 
Website description – “A river of deep caramel and chocolate malts meandering through undercut currents of hop additions. Georgia Brown is part of our year round lineup and is line priced with SweetWater’s other lip smackin’ core styles.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

December – Beer Tasting – Porters and Stouts

Tibor, Dennis, Chris and Chris came over to my humble abode for the next round of beer tasting a couple of weekends ago with a focus on Porters and Stouts.  Dennis had just returned from a trip to Georgia and brought back some regional offerings from the south.  We sampled a number of beers and there were some really good beers.  Chris brought over some BBQ that went wonderful with the beer.  We also had some Honey BBQ wings and chocolate pie.  One of the most interesting pairings of the evening was a side-by-side tasting of Belgian Yeti and Oak-aged Yeti.  By themselves, everyone liked the Belgian Yeti the best.  It was the first time that I had tasted this version of Yeti and it was very good.  The Oak-aged Yeti was an excellent pairing with the chocolate pie and everyone liked Oak-aged Yeti better when sampled with the chocolate pie.  We had some fantastic beers, good food, and good fellowship.  Below is a list of the beer sampled and pictures of the bottles.

Deschutes – Black Butte Porter – 5.2% ABV and 30 IBU
Lazy Magnolia – Southern Pecan – 4.39% ABV and 19 IBU - Nut Brown Ale
Stone – Smoked Porter – 5.9% ABV and 53 IBU
Alaskan – Smoked Porter – 6.5% ABV and 45 IBU

Great Divide – Belgian Yeti – 9.5% ABV – Imperial Stout
Great Divide – Oak-aged Yeti – 9.5% ABV – Imperial Stout
Left Hand – Wake Up Dead – 10.2% ABV and 45 IBU – Russian Imperial Stout

Alltech Lexington Brewing - Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale – 7 – 9% ABV
Terrapin – Rye Pale Ale – 5.5% ABV and 35 IBU – Pale Ale with Rye
SweetWater Brewing Co. – Georgia Brown Ale – 5% ABV and 24 IBU

Yuengling – Black and Tan – 4.7% ABV
Yuengling – Lager – 4.4% ABV

Next month we will sample Pilsners.

Bristol - Winter Warlock

Bristol is a small brewer based in Colorado Springs and their winter seasonal offering is Winter Warlock (6% ABV and 25 IBU).  Winter Warlock is an Oatmeal Stout that pours black with a small head.  The aromas are very nice and one can take in chocolate, coffee and some notes of caramel / toffee.  The oatmeal gives a creamy mouthfeel with a nice finish.  This is a very easy drinking beer and is very good for winter.  This would go great with rich foods and chocolate deserts.  Another nice offering from Bristol and I plan to visit this brewery next year. 
Website description – “Chock full of highly roasted barley malt and 100 lbs. of flaked oatmeal, the Warlock is a dark and satisfying winter elixir. Smooth, rich and exceptionally comforting. An annually-awaited winter seasonal, and one of our award winners.  Winner of the Silver Medal in the Foreign-style Stout category at the 1998 Great American Beer Festival®.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Firestone Walker – Double Jack

Double Jack is an Imperial IPA (9.5% ABV) from Firestone Walker and I have wanted to try it for some time.  Fortunately, Firestone Walker started distributing here in CO this summer and I picked up a bottle of Double Jack on my last visit.  Double Jack pours amber with a three-finger, small bubble head.  The aroma is incredible and you can pick up slight sweetness from the malt and huge citrus aroma of orange and grapefruit.  The taste is very good and it starts sweet and ends with a nice bitter finish that is just right.  This is a fantastic IPA and I have liked everything I have tried from Firestone Walker.  I can understand why they were awarded the Brewery of the Year at the 2011 GABF for the third time and Double Jack was awarded a Silver at the 2011 GABF.
Website description – “Double Jack IPA is our first ever Imperial IPA. It features a big malty middle to cloak the high alcohol and mouth puckering hop bitterness. Huge tangerine, grapefruit and juicy fruit aroma blossom over the herbal blue basil and malt earthiness of this aggressive beer. Best enjoyed in moderation.”

Anderson Valley - Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice (6.9% ABV and 6 IBU) is a seasonal ale from Anderson Valley Brewer and I picked this up in a 12 oz. can.  Winter Solstice pours amber / garnet with a nice malt and spice aroma and a large head that subsides quickly.  This beer is malty and spicy that reminds one of a pumpkin beer without the pumpkins.  This beer would go great with holiday dinners and I think it would be a good beer to introduce to people who don’t normally drink craft beers. 
Website description – “The holidays are a special time in Anderson Valley. The days are darker, weather colder, and foods richer. And Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale is perfect for this time of year. Deep amber in color, with an inviting aroma of spice and nutmeg, it was made for the turkeys, cranberries, hams, and yams of the holidays. Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale evokes a crackling fire, drifting snow, and smells of home. A hint of spice and hop bite to balance out the creamy and smooth mouthfeel, and medium sweetness.”

Dupont – Saison and Avril

La Brasserie Dupont is a located in Belgium and Saison (6.5% ABV) is a classic among Belgian beers and some regard it as one of the best beers in the world.  Avril (3.5% ABV) is an USDA organic Saison or Farmhouse Ale that is described as a Biere de Table on the bottle label.  Both pour a cloudy yellow tan and the cloudiness is from the bottle conditioning.  Saison was incredibly effervescent and gushed out of the bottle when the cork was popped.  Avril was more restrained there was no gushing.  Both have an aroma of a Saison of bread, yeast, and spice.  Saison has a bit more kick and Avril is a session beer.  You could literally drink it all day with the low alcohol content.  Both these beers have a large lacy head that takes some time to subside.  There is a nice malt taste with a dry, and hoppy finish and Saison is a stonger beer – Avril is more restrained.  Both these beers are good ones and I enjoyed them both.
 Website description from the distributor – Dupont Saison – “Saison Dupont is a world classic beer and the yardstick for one of Belgium’s most important beer styles. It is the most admired AND imitated Saison in the world. The Saison style was pioneered by farms in Wallonie, the grain-growing region of Belgium. Traditionally beers were made during harvest to make use of excess grain. But before refrigeration, beers were hard to keep and the typical method of preservation was higher alcohol and sugar. This made for a heavy beer not very thirst quenching or suitable for hard labor. Golden, spritzy, quenching Saisons were the answer. They were strong enough to keep (4–6.5%) and very well attenuated so excess sugar could not go sour or create unwanted re-fermentations.
A strong, vital yeast is key to full attenuation and thus to the style and why Dupont’s role in its popularization has been central. Starting in the late 1800s and continuing till the present day, Dupont has helped neighboring farms and brewers by selling them yeast and providing lab services!
Saison Dupont is a wonderful straw color with a dense creamy head. The nose is alive, like fresh raised bread, estery with citrus and spice notes. Full-bodied and malty, it sparkles on the palate and finishes with a zesty hop and citrus attack. Incredibly compatible with food!”

Website description from the distributor – Dupont Avril – “Bières de table are not the heavy hitters Belgium is so famous for – but are central to Belgian beer culture because they are how Belgians learn to appreciate beer. They are typically enjoyed with home cooked meals at the family dining table. There is no finer example of the style than Avril. USDA-certified, organic Avril is aromatic like fresh bread, full in the mouth and light on the finish. Exceptionally flavorful given its low 3.5% alcohol by volume.” 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ska – Special ESB

Ska is a brewer that is located in Durango, Colorado and they are known for being an interesting group that likes to poke fun at the establishment.  They even made fun of Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Brewery, for his shows on the Discovery channel last year when they made a parody video.  Like the name, these guys enjoy Ska music and featured the Toasters in their parody video.  Not only do the boys from Ska like to have fun, they also brew some very beers.  I picked up Special ESB (5.7% ABV and 58 IBU) as part of a mixed six.  I have wanted to try this for some time and should have purchased some earlier.  Special ESB pours orange gold with a nice small-bubble, two-finger head.  This is a very nice beer with a firm malt background with notes of caramel and a little chocolate.  There is a good addition of hops that provide a well-balanced beer. This is another good beer from Ska.

Website description – “This English Special Bitter is our “Special Ale.”  Special because it was the second canned microbrew in the nation (after Dale’s Pale Ale).  Special because the Galena hops and pale ale malts create a crisp first sip, a hoppy tongue, and a malty sweet finish.  Though “bitter” is part of the name, “better” would be a more accurate term.  Fresh and lively, this canned beer suits the needs of any outdoor enthusiasts.  Like is says on the can: Fish, Luau, Golf, Raft, Toboggan.  Ska can!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Beers – a Brown and two Stouts

I sampled three beers over the Thanksgiving week holiday and I liked them all.  Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merlin (5.5% ABV and 30 IBU) is an Oatmeal Stout that pours black with a two-finger head.  Velvet Merlin has an wonderful aroma of coffee and dark chocolate.  This is an excellent beer with tastes of coffee, chocolate with a silky mouth feel that and would go great with an after dinner desert.  I liked this one the best.

Website description – “A decadent Oatmeal Stout brimming with cocoa and espresso aromas. Partially aged in bourbon barrels, this beer features a rich, dark chocolate and roasted coffee flavor with a creamy mouth feel and wonderfully dry finish. The addition of U.S. grown fuggles hops contributes the perfect amount of bitterness to this exceptionally balanced beer”.

Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout (6% ABV) is an American Stout that pours black with a large head.  It smells and tastes of coffee, chocolate and just a hint of licorice.  I was happy it was just a hint of licorice because I am not a big fan.  I thought they had just the right touch.  A very nice stout, but I liked Velvet Merlin better.

Website description – “Kalamazoo Stout represents stouts in the Bell's year-round roster, offering a blend of dark chocolate and coffee flavors with just a hint of brewer's licorice. One of our oldest recipes, it balances a significant hop presence against the roast malt body.

Commonly asked trivia:

·        The brewer's licorice we use is gelatin-free, making it acceptable for vegetarians.
·        The label comes from a series of portraits by a local artist”.

Lost Coast’s Downtown Brown (5.0% ABV) is an American Brown Ale that pours a dark tan with reddish notes and has a nice head.  Downtown Brown is a nice brown ale that is easy to drink.  It is not as roasty as a porter or a stout and is not as hoppy as a stout or an amber.  Downtown Brown hits that fine line of a lightly hopped, caramel roasty flavor of an American Brown. 

Website description – “A smooth, full-bodied nut brown ale, lightly hopped with a hint of roasted and crystal malts.  This ale is dark in color without the heavy taste of porter or stout.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sierra Nevada - Celebration Ale 2011

Celebration Ale (6.8% ABV and 65 IBU) is a seasonal release from Sierra Nevada for the holidays and is a fresh hop ale.  Celebration pours an orange gold with a nice two-head that has a great citrus and pine aroma.  Celebration is a very solid holiday ale and I will probably purchase at least one 6 pack each season.  The focus is on the fresh hops and if you like stronger pale ales and IPAs this one would be tasty for your palette. 

Website description - "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."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Odell - Mountain Standard

Odell started releasing 4-packs this year and each one has been very good.  First was Double Pilsner, then Myrcenary, and now Mountain Standard.  Mountain Standard (9.5% ABV) is a Double Black IPA and it pours black with a nice head.  Odell does a great job emphasizing aroma and I remember the first time I opened the IPA and was very impressed by the nose.  Mountain Standard tastes great - it is not too roasty and it is not too hoppy - it is just right.  It is one of the best Black IPAs I have every tried and I will warn you that these are easy to drink and high in alcohol.  If you like IPAs and / or Black IPAs, I highly recommend you try Odell's Mountain Standard.  I really liked it and I will need to purchase some more.  Luckily, it is available November through April - during Mountain Standard Time. 

Website description - "As the Colorado hop growers prove they can produce world class hops, we as a Colorado Craft Brewer want to showcase what our state can offer, not only with our hand crafted beers, but also with the ingredients used in creating them. Mountain Standard, Double Black IPA, features the homegrown hops our Brewers helped pick from farms along Colorado’s western slope. MST pours committingly dark with a light tan head and a slightly roasted hoppy nose. An ephemeral bitterness, the result of combining roasted malts with an assertive American hop profile, contributes to MST’s act of balance and harmony. As the season’s darkness sets in, why shouldn’t your beer become darker too?

Stone - Double Bastard 2011

Stone provides some very interesting beers and they try to challenge the drinker's perception of what beer should taste like.  They waited one year to release Arrogant Bastard after they accidentally created it, because they did not think people would like it or "get it".  Arrogant Bastard proved to be very successful and helped put Stone on the map.  Double Bastard was first released on the one year anniversary of Arrogant Bastard.  Double Bastard (10.5% ABV and CLASSIFIED IBU) is a big beer that pours an orangery tan with a nice head.  It has very good malt tastes that is quickly overtaken by a hop wallop.  I have enjoyed the various Bastard releases by Stone and this year's release of Double Bastard is very good.  This is a "one and done" release for the year, so get it while the getting is good.  For those who really like Double Bastard, it is released in a 3-litre bottle - excellent.

Website description -  "This is one lacerative muther of an ale. It is unequivocally certain that your feeble palate is grossly inadequate and thus undeserving of this liquid glory...and those around you would have little desire to listen to your resultant whimpering. Instead, you slackjawed gaping gobemouche, slink away to that pedestrian product that lures agog the great unwashed with the shiny happy imagery of its silly broadcast propaganda. You know, the one that offers no challenge, yet works very, very hard to imbue the foolhardy with the absurd notion that they are exercising ‘independent’ thought, or attempts to convey the perception it is in some way ‘authentic’ or ‘original.’ It’s that one that makes you feel safe and delectates you into basking in the warm, fuzzy, and befuddled glow of your own nescience. Why so many allow themselves to be led by the nose lacks plausible explanation. Perhaps you have been so lulled by the siren song of ignorance that you don’t even notice your white-knuckle grip on it. You feel bold and unique, but alas are nothing but sheep, willingly being herded to and fro. If you think you are being piqued in this text, it is nothing when compared to the insults we are all asked to swallow streaming forth from our televisions and computers. Truth be told, you are being coddled into believing you are special or unique by ethically challenged “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” marketers who layer (upon layer) imagined attributes specifically engineered to lead you by the nose. Should you decide to abdicate your ability to make decisions for yourself, then you are perhaps deserving of the pabulum they serve. Double Bastard Ale calls out the garrulous caitiffs who perpetrate the aforementioned atrocities and demands retribution for their outrageously conniving, intentionally misleading, blatantly masturbatory and fallacious ad campaigns. We demand the unmitigated, transparent truth. We demand forthright honesty. We want justice! Call ‘em out and line ‘em up against the wall... NOW."

Deschutes - Fresh Hop Mirror Pond

When I saw a bottle of Deschutes Fresh Hop Mirror Pond, hereafter referred to as FHMP, at the store, I had to buy it.  I had previously tried Hop Trip and really enjoyed it.  I was sure that FHMP would good.  FHMP (5.0% ABV and 40 IBU) is a Pale ale with limited release from Oct. - Dec.  To me, the best thing about fresh hop or wet hop beers are the aroma and the taste.  These need to be consumed soon after purchase to obtain the fullness of the beer that the brewer wished to impart with the beer.  FHMP pours an a golden orange with a large head and the aroma of fruity hops is easily detected.  The taste is Mirror Pond, but the hops seem to be much more discernible on the nose and the palate.  FHMP is very good and Deschutes does a great job showing how the addition of fresh hops provides changes to their very solid pale ale.  I suggest you try these two side-by-side for a good comparison between Mirror Pond and Fresh Hop Mirror Pond.

Website description - "This noble, fresh hop version of our classic American pale ale arose from a single plot of heirloom Cascade hops. Revived by our brewers from the original rootstock developed at Oregon State University, grown by Goshie Farms in Oregon, this very limited release is just for you".

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2 Winter Seasonal Ales

Winter is my favorite time for seasonal ales and there are several breweries that brew some good ones.  Two that I recently tried were Breckenridge’s Christmas Ale (7.4% ABV and 22 IBU) and Odell’s Isolation Ale (6.0% ABV and 29 IBU).  Both beers emphasize malt sweetness and each had a nice head that took a bit of time to recede.  There is very little bitterness with these ales and the Christmas Ale is sweeter than Isolation.  Isolation has just a hint of bitterness / hops on the finish.  Deschutes Jubelale and New Belgium Snow Day have a much bitter / hoppy finish.  The winter or Christmas ales are usually only available for two to three month and then they are gone.  I think these would go excellent with Thanksgiving dinner and I am sure the higher alcohol will put you in a festive mood.

Christmas Ale website description – “The chill of a Colorado high-country winter calls for a beer with extra flavor and warming characteristics. Here it is. Breck Brew's Christmas Ale. At over 7% alcohol, with a sturdy texture and rich flavors of caramel and chocolate, our holiday seasonal is the fermented equivalent of a good fire.”  Available November - December.

Isolation Ale website description – “A funny thing happens here around summer’s end – our eyes start searching the skies for those first fall flakes. As we welcome autumn’s first snow, we celebrate the return of Isolation Ale. A sweet caramel malty ale that is balanced by a subtle crisp hop finish. Whether you ski, shred, or shoe, Isolation Ale will inspire you to make first tracks.  Available October through December.”

A trip to Dry Dock Brewing Co.

Dry Dock Brewing Company is a small craft brewer that is located in Aurora, Colorado.  I met my friend Aaron and his mother-in-law’s friend Carl to taste a few samples from Dry Dock.  Dry Dock has a sampler that you can choose 6 – 3 oz. samples of the beer they brew and I had the following:

Coffee Milk Stout (5.3% ABV and 30 IBU) – incredible coffee aroma and a really nice sweet stout that had a solid coffee taste.
Two Tasks American Stout (6.5% ABV and 65 IBU) – a bigger stout than the previous stout, more alcohol, more hops, and most roast.
HMS Bounty Old Ale (6.9% ABV and 35 IBU) – a really nice old ale with a sold malt base tasting of toffee and caramel.
Three Heavy Wee Heavy (9.5% ABV and 30 IBU) – a very tasty Scottish Ale – I am fond of Scottish Ales and this is a good one.
USS Enterprise IPA (6.4% ABV and 63 IBU) – very drinkable IPA.
Double IPA (8.5% ABV and 90 IBU) – excellent double IPA with a citrus hops aroma and bitterness on the finish.
+ Vanilla Porter (5.5% ABV and 33 IBU) – very enjoyable and I would love to do a side-by-side with Breckenridge’s Vanilla Porter.

I was impressed with all of these beers and I can easily understand why Dry Dock won the Small Brewer of the Year at the 2009 GABF.  Dry Dock has won awards for various beers and I think they won 5 in 2010.  If you are in the Denver area, take a trip to Dry Dock and enjoy a sampler.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Left Hand – Wake Up Dead

Left Hand is a local brewer based in Boulder and I have wanted to try their Russian Imperial Stout - Wake Up Dead (10.2% ABV and 45 IBU).  Wake Up Dead pours black with a very thick and brown head that takes some time to dissipate.  There is a great aroma of malt, coffee and chocolate.  The taste is just fantastic and this is probably my new favorite Russian Imperial Stout.  It is not over hopped and has a great taste of dark fruit, coffee, and chocolate with a nice hop finish that is just right. This is a very good Russian Imperial Stout.

Website Description – “Here’s a black ale to brighten your day. Wake Up Dead lurks in our cellars for over 4 months before being unleashed. Hints of raisins, black licorice, coffee and dark chocolate are followed by earthy, herbal hop notes. Any apprehensions about the rest of your day are quickly forgotten, for whatever the mind expects, it finds. Sometimes you’re not in the mood for what everyone else is having.”

Beer Pairings – Seasonal Beers and Mexican Cuisine

Tibor, Chris and I gathered at Dennis’s house for the next beer tasting and Gayle picked up some tasty tamales, green chili, queso, tacos, salsa, chips, veggie tray and some cupcakes.  The tamales and green chili were a highlight – they were excellent.  For the beer, we started off with Rockyard’s Plymouth Rock Pumpkin Ale (5.8% ABV) is a pumpkin beer and classified as a Fruit / Vegetable Beer.  It has an aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon and was a tasty beer. 

Milk Stout Nitro (6.0% ABV and 25 IBU).  I reviewed this beer earlier – (last month).  It is just an excellent stout and if you get a chance to try it after it is distributed beyond Colorado, pick it up.  This was everyone’s favorite of the evening.

New Belgium’s Snow Day (6.2% ABV & 55 IBU) is a winter seasonal ale that has a nice malt sweetness on the start and a hop bitter finish.  It reminded me of Deschutes Jubelale and I liked it.

Next up was a big one Twisted Pine’s 16 Anniversary Bough Breaker Barley wine (9.1% ABV and 120 IBU).  I think this is the bitterest beer I have ever had in terms of IBU and it was OK.  No one liked this beer and some just did not like it at all.  The only hop used in this beer is Amarillo and they use a lot of it.

Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (8% ABV & 38 IBU) is from Boulevard Brewing Co. and it is a Saison / Farmhouse Ale.  This is a style that I really appreciate and it was one of my favorites of the evening.  Very effervescent and was just a pleasant drinking saison that one could easily discern the Belgian yeast influence.

Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout (4.95% ABV and 31 IBU) is an oatmeal stout and a really good one.  This has some coffee-like tastes and paired beautifully with the chocolate cupcakes.  Tibor picked two nice stouts for the evening.

Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest (9.3% ABV and 24 IBU) is one of my favorites from Avery and my wife really enjoys it too.  I think everyone liked this one for it’s clean malt sweetness and light bittering.  The Kaiser is a very nice Oktoberfest and it is brewed once a year in limited quantities.

Avery Mephistopheles’ Stout (15.83% ABV and 107 IBU) is one big stout that is brewed once a year and is only available in 12 oz. bottles.  This was a 2009 vintage and proves you can easily cellar beer given the right style, ABV, and conditions.  This beer was almost 2 years old and I bet you could easily cellar it for 10.  It is as dark as night and had an intense molasses aroma.  It is a sipper and I think everyone enjoyed it.  We split it four ways, so only 3 oz. pours – very nice way to end the evening. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Belgium – Hoptober

Hoptober (6.0% ABV & 40 IBU) is a seasonal Golden Ale from New Belgium based in Ft. Collins, CO.  I wanted to try this beer last year, but I could not find it in stores.  When I saw it this year, I immediately bought some.  Hoptober pours clear and gold / yellow with a large fluffy head.  The carbonation on this beer is great and the bubbles do not stop.  Hoptober has a pleasant aroma of spice and earthy hops.  The taste is very well-balanced and I thought the hop level was just right.  The spicy notes probably come from the rye.  This is probably my favorite American Blonde Ale to date.  I am not a big fan of the style, but Hoptober is very good and I will buy it again.  It was great to enjoy a few of these on Halloween evening while sitting out on the front porch doling out candy to the kids.

Website Description – “Five hops and four malts make Hoptober Golden Ale a veritable cornucopia of the earth.  Pale and wheat malt are mashed with rye and oats to create a medium-bodied ale with a creamy mouthfeel.  Centennial, Cascade, Sterling, Willamette, and Glacier hops form a bonfire of citrus notes, fruity cheers and a bold finale.  Seasonal in August, September, October.”

International Stout Day – Tallgrass – Buffalo Sweat

International Stout Day was November 3rd and after I returned home from a long day, I was ready for a beer.  Tallgrass is a brewer based in Manhattan Kansas and I had tasted a few of their beers at a tasting at Lukas Liquor a few months ago.  Buffalo Sweat (5.0% ABV & 20 IBU) is a stout in a 16 oz. can that pours black with a nice two-finger head.  I personally prefer craft beer in cans because they are protected from light and oxygen and a bonus is they are better for the environment because of reduced shipping cost any can be recycled.  This is just a win – win.  Buffalo Sweat has a nice aroma and you can easily detect the dark and roasted barley used in the brewing process.  The taste is very good with a slight sweetness on the finish.  Buffalo Sweat is a very easy drinking stout and I would think the stout-drinker would enjoy it as well as people who normally do not drink stouts. 

Website Description – “We love this beer here at the brewery, and think you will have one of those “I’ve never-tasted-a-beer-like-that” kind of moments when you try it!  What we really like about this beer is the smoothness that brewing with cream sugar brings to the palate. This smoothness balances out the copious quantities of roasted barley used in the brewing process to create a rich, complex, and delicious beer. If you have not been a stout drinker in the past, give this beer a try. It might just change your mind about how dark beers should taste. It tastes so rich, but is surprisingly easy to drink!  Can’t find the sweat? Don’t sweat it. Just ask for Buffalo Sweat at your local liquor store or your favorite tavern”.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Two excellent seasonal beers from Deschutes

You just cannot go wrong when you purchase something brewed by Deschutes.  The two latest ones I tried were Hop Trip (5.4% ABV & 38 IBU) and Jubelale (6.7% ABV & 60 IBU).  Hop Trip has limited availability from Oct. – Dec. and you want to drink this soon after purchase to capture the freshness of the hops used in brewing this pale ale.  The hops are raised locally to Deschutes and they go from vine to brew kettle in 4 hours.  Hop Trip pours copper gold with a nice two-finger head.  There is a very solid hop aroma and I really expected a hoppy tasting beer.  I should have known that Deschutes would balance Hop Trip perfectly and it a wonderful blend of sweet malt and bitter hops.  This is a fantastic beer.

Website description – “Each year around Labor Day, Deschutes brewers high-tail it over the pass to Doug Weather’s hop fields near Salem for the harvest. After bagging these aromatic jewels, we hustle back and toss them into the brew kettles within four hours of picking. Our reward: a pale ale with a uniquely bright citrus punch and fall spice. It’s something only Deschutes would take past the idle-talk stage.”

Jubelale is a winter seasonal offered between Oct. – Dec. and is a Stong Ale.  I knew when I poured this garnet tan colored beauty that it would be a malty beer.  I has an excellent sweet malt start with spicy notes then a nicely bitter finish from the hops.  Jubelale may be my new favorite holiday beer and I will pick up some more.  If Deschutes distributes in your area, I suggest you picked these up and they will be gone all too quickly.

Website description – “A dark, malty celebration ale with layered flavors and beautifully balanced hopping. Jubelale pours deep garnet in color, medium bodied, with notes of chicory, earth, spice and fruit. To beer lovers, it’s like Yule fire and family.  The collaborative art of Central Oregon artists Cara Thayer and Louie Van Patten adorns this year's label.”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Uinta – Baba

Uinta’s Baba ( ? ABV & 32 IBU) is classified as a Euro Dark Lager and I had to actually look up a description, as I did not recall ever reading this one before.  From The Beer Spot – “The Euro Dark Lager is a slightly stronger and malty/sweeter version a typical lager. The flavors should be notable but still somewhat muted, as the malts overshadow the hops. The aroma should have minimal malt or hop tones. Color should be amber to medium brown.”  Baba (black sheep) pours black and has a nice head that will top off the pint glass.  It is very easy to drink and I enjoyed it.  This is one of Uinta’s organic line and there are 6 styles that are USDA certified organic.  While I am not a big fan of lagers, I do like the dark lagers and I will try more in the future. 

Website Description – “Robust and smooth, this full-flavored lager is exceptionally drinkable and pitch black in color.” 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dogfish Head – Punkin

Dogfish Head’s Punkin (7% ABV and 28 IBU) is a pumpkin beer from the makers of “off-centered stuff for off-centered people”.  Besides the basic ingredients for beer, pumpkin, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg are added.  Think of this as pumpkin pie in a glass.  Punkin pours what my son described as orange almond brown and has a two-finger head.  One can detect the pumpkin and spices on the nose.  The pumpkin and spice taste is subtle – you know it is there, but it is not over-powering.  Punkin is a very good seasonal ale and it would go very well with the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  This beer was featured on the Discovery channel show Brewmaster’s and was interesting to watch.

Website description – “A full-bodied brown ale with smooth hints of pumpkin and brown sugar. We brew our Punkin Ale with pumpkin meat, organic brown sugar and spices. This is the perfect beer to warm-up with, as the season cools.”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Left Hand – Fade to Black Vol. 3 – Pepper Porter

I tried Left Hand’s Fade to Black Vol. 2 at the beginning of the year and I really liked the Smoked Porter.  Vol. 3  is a Pepper Porter (7.2% ABC and 1,984 Scoville Units) and I picked up a six-pack when I saw it.  It pours very dark – black – with a lacy head.  One can definitely pick up pepper on the nose and I was somewhat surprised that I did not pick up a strong pepper presence on the taste.  This is a very nice porter and has a great taste, I was expecting a bit more of a pepper bite, which may have been somewhat muted by the spicy dish I was eating.  I think Left Hand brews two volumes during the fall and winter and I will purchase these when I see them.  They are always something a little different, are here for only a limited time, and are always tasty.

Website Description – “Imagine Robert DeNiro sitting in your darkened parlour near the fire in his Louis Cyphre persona smoking a Tuscan cigar. This may be the beer with which to save (or lose) your soul. Dried fruit flavors entwined with smoky pepper and licorice embossed on roasty malt sweetness open on your tongue as the slow warmth of chilis creep up on your tongue and throat, finishing in an herbal smoke ring flourish.”

Tommyknocker – Butt Head Bock

Tommyknocker is a local brewer based in Idaho Springs, CO and is probably best know for their Maple Nut Brown Ale.  Butt Head Bock (8.2% ABV and 33 IBU) is a doppelbock or double bock that is a German lager beer style.  Butt Head pours dark brown with a small head.  This is a malt forward beer with little bitterness.  I would classify Butt Head as all right, not bad, not great, just all right.  It would probably pair very well with sausages and roasted or grilled pork. 

Website description - This award winning , high gravity doppelbock lager is brewed with a generous supply of roasted malts producing caramel sweetness and rich mouthfeel.

Kona – Wailua Wheat Ale

Kona Brewing Co.’s Wailua Wheat Ale (5.4% ABV and 15 IBU) is a wheat beer that uses passion fruit during the brewing process.  Wailua pours crystal clear (has to be filtered) with great carbonation.  It has a nice bouquet and one can easily smell the fruit from the use of the passion fruit addition.  Wailua is very easy to drink and has a distinct taste of a wheat beer with a finish of the passion fruit.  I usually do not like fruit / vegetable beers, but this one is not bad.  The name of this beer is inspired by Wailua falls in Maui and I visited the falls a number of years ago.  It is a beautiful site and one can never forget driving the road to Hana.

Website description of Wailua Wheat Ale -  Swimming in a fresh water pool at the base of a cascading waterfall is what we all imagine we would find in paradise. On Maui, follow the old Hana Highway and you will find such a place – Wailua Falls. This plunging cascade of clear water is the inspiration for our Limited Release Wailua Wheat Ale. This golden, sun colored ale has a bright, citrus flavor that comes from the tropical passion fruit we brew into each batch. Sit back, relax and enjoy paradise anytime.”

Suggested Food Pairing – “It typically pairs well with lighter fare like grilled fish and shrimp, roasted chicken, salads and Asian foods. Perhaps even a dish of vanilla ice cream.”

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Cider, a Wit and a Stout

While it sounds like that start of a joke, it is not, and these were the last three styles I sampled.  Strongbow Cider (5% ABV) is the best selling cider in England and it pours straw gold with no head.  It has a cider aroma and is easy to drink with a dry finish.  My wife tried it and took my glass, so there was little sampling I completed other than some original tastes.  I will obtain additional ciders in the future to sample and there are a number of craft hard cider producers making some outstanding ciders.  If you like cider, you will probably like hard cider.

Hoegaarden Wit Blanche (4.9% ABV) is a Belgian Wheat beer and InBev owns the brewery.  Wit has won numerous awards in the Belgian-style Wheat/White beer and Hoegaarden's version is right to standard for the style.  Wit pours a cloudy yellow and instructions on the bottle inform you to use the last few ounces to swirl the yeast at the bottom to pour into the glass.  Wit has a lacey white head that takes a bit of time to recede and I filled a 20 oz. glass while pouring the 11.2 oz. bottle.  There is a nice aroma of spices (coriander and orange peel are used in brewing) and Belgian yeast.  This is a quaffable beer and you can easily drink these all day with the low ABV. 

Stout is one of my favorite styles and when I saw Left Hand Brewery’s Milk Stout Nitro (6% ABV and 25 IBU), I had to try it.  Left Hand is now adding nitrogen with the Milk Stout in the bottle to obtain a pour very similar to the pour of a Guinness Stout.  The instructions are to pour it hard and watch.  Milk Stout pours black and a nice, thick creamy head formed in my pint glass.  Milk Stout has unfermentable lactose sugars, so if you are lactose intolerant, do not drink milk stouts – some may be called sweet stouts.  This is a really good stout and I will buy this again.  A few people tried this at a party we had last weekend and they really liked it.  I poured a few beers and this one and Avery’s The Kaiser were enjoyed by almost everyone.  So, don’t be afraid to go to the dark side and enjoy a Milk Stout Nitro. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bear Republic – Big Bear Black Stout

Bear Republic is a brewer based in Cloverdale, CA and Big Bear Black Stout (8.1% ABV and 55 IBU) is an American Stout.  Bear Republic’s web site describes Big Bear Black Stout as, “Big Bear is a big, black, stout you can really sink your teeth into. The bold, roasty, caramel malt flavor is balanced by Centennial and Cascade hops.  Big Bear pours black with a large head and has a prominent hop aroma.  Big Bear has a great flavor with notes as the web site describes - roasty & caramel, and I picked up some coffee note; and then the hops hit you, but not too hard.  It is a little hoppier than many stouts and this would be a good one for the IPA fan to try.  I ejnoyed Bear Republic's Big Bear Black Stout and I would have it again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stone - Sublimely Self Righteous

Stone Brewing is based in San Diego and is one of my favorite brewers.  Stone is known for pushing the limits and challenging ones concepts of what makes a good beer and Sublimely Self Righteous (8.9% ABV and 90 IBU) fits the image of Stone very well.  Sublimely Self Righteous is an American Style India Black Ale and this is one of the standard-bearers for this style, although it should probably be considered a double or imperial version the style.  Sublimely Self Righteous pours black with a very large head that takes some time to recede.  Just let it recede and let the beer warm a bit, as you do not want to taste this one fridge cold.  This is a nice hoppy beer and if you do not like IPAs, do not even bother trying this beer – you have been warned.  If you like IPAs, this is one to try and it is very tasty.
Notes from the Stone website - We're brewers whose substantial mettle and idiomatic approach to brewing allows us to consistently create works of art such as this justifiably self-righteous ale. Its bitterness hits our sweet spot. Its blackness lightens our hearts. Its liquid dichotomy pulls it all together in this sublimely sacrosanct ale. Yes, we damn well know our stuff here at Stone, and it would be irresponsible of us not to acknowledge how remarkable this heavenly creation of ours is. Thus the name we are compelled to give it --- Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale --- serves as a reminder of just how good we are, in both liquid and verbal form.

We're certainly not perfect. Too often, we allow our modesty to get the best of us as we're simply not inclined towards senseless braggadocio. When you're good, you're good. And when you do something great, the least you can do is acknowledge it. Others benefit from knowing. In this case, we find that we are compelled to point out how amazing this ale is that we rightly call the Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.

First brewed in 2007 as the Stone 11th Anniversary Ale, this ale was an instant hit. With us. Other folks with great taste loved it too, but we were focused on how much we liked it, and we felt it was truly sublime. That euphoria didn't last long though, as it was soon replaced with the grim reality that when we sold out of it there wouldn't be any more. For us. And that was simply unacceptable. So, we are now blessing ourselves, and you the enlightened, with this ale. Thusly, you may now revel in your own self-righteousness as you see fit with this glorious example of ours. You are genuinely welcome, as it is our pleasure.

Elysian - Night Owl

Elysian Brewing is based in Seattle and one of their seasonal offerings is Night Owl (5.9% ABV and 18 IBU), a pumpkin ale.  Night Owl pours and orangey tan with a large head – be careful pouring.  One gets a distinct aroma of spices (each batch is spiced with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice) and pumpkin (seven and half pounds per barrel).  There is very little bitterness with Night Owl and it does taste like pumpkin that reminds one of pumpkin pie.  Pumpkin seeds are also used in brewing this beer and per the brewer, “Both roasted and raw pumpkin seeds are in the mash, with pumpkin added to the mash, kettle and fermenter.”  This is one of the best pumpkin beers I have tried, if you get a chance to try get some before it goes away. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Avery - Salvation

Avery is my favorite brewer and Salvation (9% ABV and 25 IBU) is a Belgian Style Golden Ale that is part of the Holy Trinity of Ales that also includes Hog Heaven and The Reverend.  All of these beers are very good and Avery does a great job with this series.  Salvation pours clear and is golden orange with a small head.  This is a sweet tasty ale and has a nice fruity and spicy taste notes.  This is a really nice one for people who do not like hoppy beers and I think they would be really surprised by the taste of Salvation.
From the Avery website – “The success of Hog Heaven and The Reverend clearly demonstrates that beer drinkers are willing to embrace "BIGGER" beers. In the fall of 2001, we decided that a lighter BIG BEER would complement its darker colored predecessors. Salvation has luscious apricot and peach aromas delicately interwoven with spicy suggestions of nutmeg and cinnamon. This heavenly soft, champagne-like elixer is cellarable for 3 years.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Stone - 15th Anniversary - Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

If you know anything about Stone Brewing and about Stone beers, you know they push the boundaries and challenge people to trying something beyond the normal.  While Stone is unabashedly forthright with “in your face” labeling and text, they back up everything by brewing excellent beer.  The 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA (India Pale Ale) – 10.8% ABV is a great example of Stone bravado and another wonderful beer.  Stone is poking fun at the debate over the style that is classified by the Brewer’s Association as American Style India Black Ale.  There was a big debate over the name, Black IPA to Cascadian Dark Ale, and the people from the NW were not happy about the decision by the Brewer’s Association.  What a great opportunity for Stone to have some fun.  15th pours black with a large frothy tan head that does not quickly reside.  This is a hoppy beer and you can smell the fruity hops and dark malts.  The taste is excellent and it is a wonderfully bitter and dark malty beer.  This is what you expect from Stone – they do not disappoint and I wish Stone a Happy Anniversary.  Just keep doing what you do - you are one of the best brewers in the U.S.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Breckenridge – Autumn Ale

I bought some Breckenridge Autumn Ale (6.7% ABV and 21 IBU) when I saw it at the local store and I think Breckenridge brews some tasty beverages.  Autumn Ale pours a dark brown with some amber hints when held up to the light that the brewer describes as deep mahogany.  The head is small and recedes quickly.  This is a malt forward beer with little bitterness.  I really enjoyed this one and it went well with grilled pork chops.  I like the label too with the little suggestion of “After Rak’n” and concise descriptors of the use of Munich Malt and Bavarian Hops (Perle and Hallertau).  This is a very easy drinking beer and if you like a malty Oktoberfest-inspired brew, Autumn Ale is a great on to try.  Is available September through October and then it is gone – as quickly as autumn can disappear in the Rockies.

Brewer's Description -  Looking for a fresh take on Oktoberfest beer?  Breckenridge Brewery's fall seasonal combines the malty goodness of a German lager with the clean crispness of an American ale. Brewed with Munich malts and a delicate blend of Bavarian hops, our Autumn Ale is a full-bodied treat with a nutty-sweet middle, a warming alcohol level and notes of toasted grains. A pre-winter winner.