Tuesday, June 28, 2011

5 from Ft. Collins Brewery

Ft. Collins Brewery distributes the “Brewer’s Lunchbox” that has a selection of many different styles.  Five that I have recently sampled are Red Banshee (5.3% ABV and 33 IBU) an American Amber Ale, 1900 (4.7% ABV and 31 IBU) an Amber Lager, Rocky Mountain IPA (6.4% ABV and 80 IBU), Major Tom (5.2% ABV and 34 IBU) a Pomegranate Wheat, and Chocolate Stout (4.9% ABV and 33 IBU).  I am estimating on the ABV and IBU as the site shows thes on a sliding scale - I am very close on these.  Personally, I like it when the brewery offers a variety pack for the purchaser to sample different style brewed.  I am not a fan of fruit beers and I was not a big fan of Major Tom.  I really liked Rocky Mt. IPA, Red Banshee and Chocolate Stout; as well as Z and The Kidd from a previous post.  Ft. Collins Brewery has some good offerings and the “Brewers Lunchbox “ is a great way to sample their products.  Below are pictures of the 5 from Ft. Collins Brewery. 

Red Banshee (5.3% ABV and 33 IBU) an American Amber Ale

1900 (4.7% ABV and 31 IBU) an Amber Lager

Rocky Mountain IPA (6.4% ABV and 80 IBU)

Major Tom (5.2% ABV and 34 IBU) a Pomegranate Wheat

Chocolate Stout (4.9% ABV and 33 IBU)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Abbey and Twilight

Deschutes Twilight (5% ABV and 35 IBU) is a summer seasonal Golden or Blonde Ale.  This is not one of my favorite beer styles, but I wanted to try it since it was from Deschutes.  Twilight pours golden amber with a lacey two-finger head.  Twilight has good flavor and it is mellower than some of Deschutes other varieties – it has a good malt base with light hop bitterness to balance the beer.  I am also thinking they tried to tweak the color to match what it would look like at twilight across the Deschutes river as captured on the label.  The web site description of Twilight is, “A lighter, yet full-flavored, aromatic Ale for the long days of summer. Twilight’s solid malt foundation pairs with distinctive Amarillo hops for flavors every bit as intriguing as bigger, heavier ales. A back porch, lingering sunset wonder.”  This is a nice summer beer. 

New Belgium is best known for Fat Tire but they make many other styles.  One of my favorites is Abbey (7% ABV and 20 IBU).  Abbey pours cloudy dark tan with a two-finger head and has an aroma of a Belgian-style ale.  The aroma comes from the yeast used by the brewer and Abbey smells really good.  New Belgium describes Abbey as, “Winner of four World Beer Cup medals and eight medals at the Great American Beer Fest, Abbey Belgian Ale is the Mark Spitz of New Belgium s lineup - but it didn’t start out that way. When Jeff and Kim first sampled the beer at the Lyons Folks Fest, reviews were mixed at best. One of founder Jeff’s first two Belgian style homebrews (along with Fat Tire), Abbey is a Belgian dubbel (or double) brewed with six different malts and an authentic Belgian yeast strain. Abbey is bottle-conditioned, weighs in at 7.0% alcohol by volume, and pairs well with chocolate (or boldly served by itself) for dessert.  Abbey tastes great and I understand why it has won the number of medals it has garnered over the years.  This is one of my favorites from New Belgium and my list from New Belgium is Abbey, 1554 and Ranger.  These are all very good.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Z and The Kidd

The Ft. Collin’s Brewery is located in Ft. Collins and one of their offerings is the “Brewer’s Lunchbox” that provides a selection of different styles from Ft. Collins.  I fixed a dinner last evening of sausages that were spit roasted on the grill and some sautéed vegetables.  I thought a lager would pair well with this dinner and since there is some “smoke” in Z, I opened up one to enjoy with dinner.  Z (5.4% ABV and 30 IBU) is a Rauchbier – smoked beer – and is a smoked amber lager.  Z pours amber with a two-finger head and a smoky aroma.  The smoke is just a hint and not overpowering and Ft. Collins did a very good job of using the smoke to give Z a nice complexity.  This may be the perfect BBQ brew as the smoke and the malt sweetness go well with grilled dishes.
Z is described on the website as, “Rauchbier dates back to the 1500’s in Bamberg, Germany when malt was often dried over the flames of a beechwood fire.  Our Z Lager was crafted to be smoky and palatable.  Slight caramel undertones and a bright amber color compliment the lingering smoke flavors.  The perfect companion to a good meal.”  Z also won a Gold medal at the 2010 Open Beer Championship. 

The Kidd (4.5% ABV and 24 IBU) is a Schwarzbier or black lager.  The Kidd pours black with a small head.  Another very tasty brew from Ft. Collins and this goes down easy.  I would consider it a session beer because of the low ABV and it is a real treat.  I usually drink ales, but I must say that I really enjoyed these two from The Ft. Collins Brewery.  I think they are doing a great job and I appreciate these offerings as they are different and I am sure it helps The Ft. Collins Brewery differentiate itself from the bigger guys in Ft. Collins.  I look forward to sampling the other brews from the “Brewer’s Lunchbox” next weekend.

The web site describes The Kidd as, “Schwarzbier was crafted to taste much lighter than it looks.  Chocolate malt lends Kidd its color while German Tettnang hops create the minimal bitterness of this brew.  We’ve added a dash of smoked malt to make our Schwarzbier slightly more complex.” 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ska - Mexican Logger

Ska’s Mexican Logger (4.2% ABV and 18 IBU) is a Mexican-style lager and should be considered a session beer due to the low ABV.  Mexican Logger pours clear and yellow with good carbonation and a lacey two-finger head.  On the label, the word Saaz is written that I am assuming is referring to the prominent hop variety used in Mexican Logger.  The Ska website plays Ska music, but it is not real easy to navigate.  The description is, “The perfect Mexican Lager.  Light and refreshing, it really hits the spot after a long day of brutal chainsaw work.  Soul Mates: Delicious with cream soups and green salads with cream dressings.”  This is not a bad beer and is better than the macro brews; however, I would make other selections from Ska.  Modus Hoperandi and Buster Nut Brown are my favorites from Ska.

Great Divide - Hercules

Hercules (10% ABV) is a Double IPA produced be Great Divide Brewing in Denver.  The descriptors on the label are Mighty and Revered and this is a big beer.  There is a very good hop aroma when on pours this orange beer with a two-fingered lacey head.  This is a hoppy beer and the emphasis is on the hops, but there is some good malt sweetness too.  Another really good one from Great Divide – Yeti is not the only really good beer they make.

Great Divide describes Hercules as, “not for the faint of heart. It is, however, fit for the gods.  HERCULES delivers a huge amount of hops from start to finish. Its hefty backbone of nutty, malty sweetness balances its aggressive hop profile.”  Suggested food pairings are: “Grilled fish tacos and aged Dutch cheese.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Great Divide - Rumble

Rumble (7.1% ABV) is an Oak Aged India Pale Ale that is seasonally available May – October.  The descriptors on the label are Exemplary and Balanced and these words describe Rumble very well.  Rumble pours gold / orange with a small head (depending on how you pour) and has great carbonation.  You can pick up the hops and know this is an IPA.  Rumble has the taste of an IPA and I could detect oak in Rumble.  This is another nice offering from Great Divide – another great Colorado brewer. 

Great Divide’s description of Rumble – “Rumble IPA is an American IPA with subtle nuance. Brewed with heavy handed additions of Pacific Northwest hops, this beer is gently aged on French and American oak resulting in a wonderful balance of bitterness, caramel sweetness, vanilla, and undertones of pine and citrus. Very inspiring. 7.1% ABV.”  Suggested Food Pairings areMarinated skirt steak, grilled sweet potatoes, ripe Brie or Talleggio cheese, apple crisp with creme friache ice cream.”  Great Divide is located close to Coors field, so if you are in Denver, this is an easy brewery to visit.

Avery - 18

Avery is my favorite brewer and I have sampled everything that is available.  One I had not tried is the newest anniversary edition – 18.  Avery brews a special anniversary edition each year, and this year it is a Dry-hopped Rye Saison Ale.  The Dry-hop is a hop addition added during the fermentation stage of the brewing process and per the web site description below, Tettnang was the aroma and dry-hop selection.  Rye is used today in a number of brewers and Roggenbier is the name of Rye Beer that was brewed in Germany.  Rye increases the complexity of a beer’s flavor and adds a crisp and slightly spicy finish.  This goes well with a Saison Ale as there are spicy flavors with this Belgian-style ale.  The Belgian yeast also adds distinctive flavors to the beer too.  18 pours tan / burnt orange with a lacey three-finger head.  18 has a very nice aroma from the hops and the Belgian yeast.  18 is a pleasure to drink to and the description encourages the drinker to take the time and smell and taste the complexities, that I totally agree with.  18 is a great beer and it is one that I will appreciate again before it is gone, as this is a “one and done” edition.

The web site description is:
Beer Style: Dry-hopped Rye Saison Ale
Hop Variety: Bravo, Hersbrucker & Tettnang (aroma + dry-hop)
Malt Variety: Two-row barley, rye malt, chocolate malt, acidulated malt, caramunich malt
Yeast Variety: Proprietary blend of five Belgian yeasts.
OG: 1.069  ABV: 8.12%  IBU: 40
Color: Tawny  Availability: Bottled in May 2011. One and done.
For this year’s celebratory brew, we decided to focus on the characteristics that certain yeasts bring to the party.  Each of the five Belgian yeasts selected adds its own unique aspect to the flavor and aroma of this saison.  The hefty addition of rye helps dry this beauty out and lends another spicy component to the flavor.  And for added fun, we dry-hopped it, too!  Take your time and smell and taste the complexities that Eighteen has to offer. 

Food Pairing: Try pairing Eighteen with wild game, diver scallops with pineapple mango chutney, or a potato lentil soup.

Peace to all and follow your dreams!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

3 From Big Sky Brewing

Big Sky Brewing is based in Missoula, MT and offers a variety pack of 4 selections (3 each).  The one I purchased had Moose Drool (5.3% ABV), Trout Slayer (4.7% ABV), Big Sky IPA (6.2% ABV and 65 IBU), and Heavy Horse (6.7% ABV and 20 IBU).  On Friday, I sampled Montana Trout Slayer (Filtered Wheat Beer) and paired it with roasted chicken thighs, corn on the cob and green beans.  Trout Slayer pours straw-colored with a two-finger head.  Trout Slayer went very well this dinner and is an easy drinking ale. 

On Saturday, I switched to red meat and enjoyed a steak, corn on the cob and some sautéed Vidalia onions and mushrooms.  I enjoyed dinner with Heavy Horse (Scotch Ale) that pours garnet with a two-finger head that quickly resides.  Heavy Horse is a classic Scotch Ale that is malt-forward with little bitterness.  This is a very nice Scotch Ale and a real treat. 

Finally, on Sunday, I pulled out the spit and grilled a cheese and bacon stuffed chicken breast accompanied with a salad and sautéed carrots.  This dinner was paired with Big Sky IPA.  Big Sky pours orangey gold with a large head – I had to let it recede before emptying the bottle.  This is a really good IPA and I thought the hop bitterness was just right with the malt sweetness.  Big Sky IPA went very well with dinner – highlighted the blue cheese in the salad, the bacon in the chicken and the sweetness of the carrots.  If you have the opportunity to pick up something from Big Sky, I recommend it – the product is good and you get to sample 4 varieties if you select the variety pack.  Big Sky distributes to the Western states and as far east as Michigan and Illinois and then west of the Mississippi.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What I Like and What I Don't

The two beers listed below were sampled on different evenings.  I cannot imagine having them in succession or during the same evening because of the differences between the styles.  Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout (5% ABV) is produced in the U.K. and available in the U.S. with many of the other offerings from Samuel Smith’s.  I have had a few of the offerings and they are all good.  The Yorkshire Stingo was awarded a rare 100 rating by Draft Magazine.  Oatmeal Stout pours dark with a large head – be careful pouring.  Good malty aroma and nice mouth feel.  This is just a nice drinking stout, creamy, slightly sweet, hints of coffee and a nice bittersweet finish.

What I don’t like – Raspberry Beers.  I have only had a couple and I was not particularly fond of either.  I do not think it is an issue with the Brewer, I think it is my palate.  Twisted Pine’s Raspberry Wheat (5% ABV and 10 IBU) pours cloudy yellow with a small head and has a hint of raspberry on the nose.  The beer doesn’t taste bad, I just do not like the raspberry taste associated with it.  Per the website, it is a popular beer.  I think it would be my last choice at Twisted Pine.  I have enjoyed all of their offerings that I have sampled from Twisted Pine.  I think I would even pick Ghost Killa [in ya] Face – a chili beer made with the world’s hottest - Ghost peppers, that would wreck my palate before Raspberry Wheat. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Twisted Pine - Billy's Chilies

Twisted Pine offers a Chili Beer named Billy’s Chilies (5% ABV and 10 IBU).  Billy’s Chilies pours cloudy yellow with a small head that quick recedes.  Carbonation is good as Billy’s Chilies keeps bubbling in the glass.  The aroma of chilies is amazing and you can easily smell the pepper influence on this beer.  I was really impressed with the taste too; there is a nice wheat beer taste with the peppers in the background.  The heat is not too hot; it is present, but not overwhelming.  I paired this beer with some chicken nachos and it was a very nice pairing.  Twisted Pine’s website description of Billy’s Chilies is spot on and I was surprised to see that 5 different peppers are used in brewing this beer, “This light-bodied ale has an amazing chili aroma that jumps out at you.  We infuse wheat beer with fresh Serrano, Habenero, Jalapeno, Anaheim, and Fresno chili peppers.  Surprisingly, the chili flavor is strong but not overpowering and comes through without lending too much heat.  Billy’s Chilies is a very drinkable beer and pairs especially well with food.  It finishes dry with a spiciness that will leave you thirsty for more.”  I was almost afraid to taste Billy’s Chilies because I thought my mouth might be set afire – this was not the case – Billy’s Chilies was my first Chili Beer and it was a great experience. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

100th Post - A Black Ale and a Blonde Ale

Last evening I tried the final style in Sierra Nevada’s Best of Beer Camp offering, #16 Juniper Black Ale (8% ABV).  #16 pours black with a two-finger head, and you need to take care pouring as this can easily foam up.  This has a very thick head that you could pick up with a fork and it takes a bit of time to recede.  #6 has an aroma of malt, hops and pine / juniper.  Taste is very good, I expected more juniper, and was actually somewhat surprised by the balance.  My palate picked up the juniper as closer to bitterness from hops.  I thought this was a tasty beer too and the Best of Beer Camp by Sierra Nevada is worth picking up to try some different and tasty beers.  These all seem to pair well with the dishes I selected for them.  I paired #16 with a cheeseburger on French bread with melted provolone and sautéed Vidalia onion and mushrooms. 

Chris stopped by and he was wanting a lighter beer so I opened a couple of Twisted Pine Blonde Ales (5% ABV and 24 IBU) that is classified as a Kolsch / German Pale Ale.  Blonde Ale pours cloudy yellow with great carbonation and a two-finger head.  Blonde Ale has a floral / fruity aroma and is easy to drink.  The taste has a nice malt / grain start with a slightly hop / bitter finish.  Another nice offering from Twisted Pine.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A night of Ales from the British Isles

Last evening, we gathered at Tibor and Nicole’s for the next round of Beer and Food Pairings.  We focused on beers from the British Isles and Nicole made some UK-inspired dishes of spice Beer Nuts, Fish & Chips with Slaw, and Bananas Foster for desert using Stroh Austria Rum for flambé.  I brought over some cheeses of Fontina, Applewood Smoked Cheddar and Cantelet.  For the beer, I brought over Fuller’s London Pride & Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, Chris brought Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2009 & Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter, Dennis brought over Tetley’s English Ale & Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, and Tibor had Murphy’s Irish Stout and Boddingtons Pub Ale.  These were all very tasty and very drinkable.  I would not hesitate to try any of these again and it is a real tribute to the Brewers of these beers that they make it to the U.S. in very good condition.  With the exception of Fuller’s Vintage Ale – 2009, none of these are meant to be aged, all tasted very good.  Below are some of the pictures I took during the evening.  The fish (cod) was cooked to perfection and the Bananas Foster cooked in 160-proof Stroh Austrian Rum was a highlight.  We paired the Porter and the Vintage Ale with Bananas Foster and the pairing was very good.  I thought the Porter paired better than the Vintage Ale.  The next meeting we will cover Mexican food – still deciding on the bee.

Tetley’s English Ale (3.6% ABV) is an English Pale Ale.

Boddingtons Pub Ale (4.7% ABV) is an English Pale Ale.

Fuller’s London Pride (4.7% ABV) is an English Pale Ale.

Fish & Chips with Slaw – Fish cooked to perfection – Bravo Nicole – slaw was excellent.

Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale (5% ABV) is an English Brown Ale.

Murphy’s Irish Stout (4% ABV) is an Irish Dry Stout.

Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter (5% ABV) is an English Porter.

Bananas Foster – Flame ON.

Fuller’s Vintage Ale – 2009 (8.5% ABV) is an Old Ale.

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (5.2% ABV) is a Milk / Sweet Stout.

The Brew Crew – Tibor, Chris, Dennis and Chef Nicole.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Light and Dark

Sierra Nevada’s Best of Beer Camp #8 is a California Common (6.5% ABV).  Beer Advocate describes the California Common or Steam Beer style as, is a unique 100% American style lager. It's usually brewed with a special strain of lager yeast that works better at warmer temperatures. This method dates back to the late 1800's in California when refrigeration was a great luxury. The brewers back then had to improvise to cool the beer down, so shallow fermenters were used. So in a way the lager yeast was trained to ferment quicker at warmer temperatures. Today's examples are light amber to tawny in color, medium bodied with a malty character. Mildly fruity with an assertive hop bitterness.  #8 pours a straw orange with a nice two finger head.  There is very good carbonation with #8 and a pleasant aroma of malt, grain and fruit.  Taste is nicely balanced between the malt sweetness and hop bitterness – very drinkable.  I need to do a side-by-side comparison with Anchor Steam.

Twisted Pine’s Pearl Street Porter (6.7% ABV and 23 IBU) is a Winter Seasonal offering.  Beer Advocate describes Porter as, “Inspired from the now wavering English Porter, the American Porter is the ingenuous creation from that. Thankfully with lots of innovation and originality American brewers have taken this style to a new level. Whether it is highly hopping the brew, using smoked malts, or adding coffee or chocolate to complement the burnt flavor associated with this style. Some are even barrel aged in Bourbon or whiskey barrels. The hop bitterness range is quite wide but most are balanced. Many are just easy drinking session porters as well.  Pearl Street pours very dark with a small head that quickly dissipates. The nose has malt and slight chocolate hints.  Twisted Pine brewed this beer for the 150th anniversary of Boulder, CO.  This is a very nice beer with a classic porter taste and chocolate / mocha hints.  Pearl Street Porter would be a great beer to introduce someone to dark beers.