Sunday, April 29, 2012

Belgian Dinner and Belgian Tripels

For the April beer dinner, we decided to focus on Belgian Tripels and a Belgian-inspired dinner.  I sent a note to Patrick, a friend in Belgium, who sent me over some recipes and some beer suggestions.  For dinner, I made Carbonade a la Flamande, Pomme Frites, and Lori made a side of green beans in a garlic almond sauce.  Dennis brought over a platter of cheese, salmon, strawberries, and pickles & olives.  Tibor brought over crème brulee with a Belgian chocolate topping.  The food and the beers were excellent; we did have one American version from New Belgium and one Belgian Christmas Ale.  It was very difficult for me to pick a favorite – all of these were great beers.  The tasting order was:

1)     Brouwerji St. Bernardus – Tripel (8% ABV) -

2)     New Belgium Brewing Co. – Trippel (7.8% ABV and 25 IBU)

   3)     Brouwerji Corsendonk – Agnus Tripel (7.5% ABV)

4)     Brouwerij Het Anker – Gouden Carolus – Tripel (9%ABV)

5)     Brouwerji Corsendonk – Christmas Ale (8.5% ABV)

6)     Brouwerji Bosteels – Tripel Karmeliet (8.4% ABV) - see picture above

Belgian Tripel - BeerAdvocate

Food recipes:

Next month - wheat beers.

Macallan Scotch Tasting

I received a note from my friend Tibor a couple of weeks ago with an invite to a Scotch tasting at the Brown Palace on Friday.  I promptly did an RSVP with my wife and I and we met Tibor, Nicole, and Tibor’s Mom downtown.  We were checked in and provided some marker chips for tasting and were provided hors d'oeuvres and a sample of Macallan 10 for starters.  We were then ushered into a larger room for a presentation and there were three drams at each setting with:
1)     Macallan 12 aged in Sherry Oak barrels
2)     Macallan 15 aged in Fine Oak barrels
3)     Macallan 17 aged in Fine Oak barrels and then were served
4)   Macalllan 18 aged in Fine Oak barrels.

There was also a presentation and the host / emcee described each sample.  Lori was not a big fan of the Scotch, but she enjoyed the history lessons.  The host also shared a story of a very rare bottle that sold on auction for $460K – it was over 60 years old and from the one barrel, it had evaporated down to a bottle and a few shots.  The shots were sold off too and some of the proceeds went to a clean water project in Africa.  Below is a picture of a $20K bottle of Macallan.
From a tasting perspective, the Macallan 18 was the best and it was very smooth that only comes from age.  Depending on where you purchase it, Macallan 18 is ~$80 - $100 / bottle.  The younger Scotches are cheaper and the older Scotches are more expensive.

The Brown Palace -

Ska – Ten Pin Porter

I had tried Nefarious Ten Pin Porter a couple of weeks ago and thought I should sample the base for Nefarious – Ten Pin Porter (5.5% ABV and 46 IBU).  Ska is based in Durango, CO and the boys from Ska very much enjoy Ska music, and they make really tasty beer.

American Porter - – BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Pours a very deep dark brown with ruby highlights and a nice one-finger head. 
Aroma – Mild coffee a bit of chocolate and roast malt – maybe a bit of spice from the hops / yeast. 
Taste – Very nice, a solid porter and it tastes just like it smells.  Very easy to drink
OverallB+ - A very drinkable porter this one is very good.  Nefarious is a step up and the Ten Pin Porter provides a solid base for Nefarious.
Website description – “Rich, Raw and Robust.  Dark like motor oil on a Minnesota night, it rolls down your gullet like a calming stream full of rich and tasty malt.  Six different malts are combined to create this robust porter.  Perle and Willamette hops are added to fashion the perfect balance for which the Ten Pin is renowned.”

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Firestone – Pale 31

I picked up Pale 31 as part of a mixed 6 pack a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it with a couple of other selections from Firestone.  Pale 31 (4.8% ABV) is a pale ale – Firestone calls it a California Pale Ale – that has won a ton of awards over the years, including a Gold Medal at the 2011 GABF.

American Pale Ale - Beeradvocate

Appearance – Crystal clear, gold with a two-finger head.
Aroma – One can detect the grain and sweetness from the malt and nice citrus aroma from the hops.
Taste – Excellent, well-balanced, quaffable, very nice.
OverallA – One could drink these all day.  This is very well-balanced beer that has a great aroma and taste.  This is one of those beers that shows why you should seek out and try craft beer.

Website description – “Pale 31 is an ode to our home California, the 31st state to be added to the union.  Beer may not be associated with terroir the way wine is, but we believe that where we’re from impacts how our beers taste. This dry-hopped California Pale Ale represents the bold yet approachable spirit that embodies our state.

Avery Tap Takeover at Parry’s Pizzeria and Pub

When I saw this event at Parry’s, I knew I would attend.  Avery had 22 taps at Parry’s and 2 rare 12 oz. bottle selections.  I have tried everything that Avery has made that is commercially available at local stores.  Some of these selections are only available at the Avery tasting room in Boulder or at special events like the one at Parry’s on Saturday.  I tried three different beers that I had not tried before and each one was unique and very good.  I think my favorite was Out of Sight, which is Out of Bounds with coffee.  Below is a picture of the Avery listing and a shot of the selections I tried.

First up was Brown Chai (5.5% ABV) and is described as “a well balanced American style brown ale cleverly spiced with local chai.”  The description was spot on and the finish has the distinct taste of chai.  Ellie’s brown is one of my favorite brown ales from Avery and I am thinking Ellie’s served as the base for Chai Brown.

Next up was Tweak (formerly Meph Addict – 15% ABV) that was a 4 oz. sample because of the high abv.  This one is a sipper and was quite tasty and described as “this demonic coffee-infused imperial stout will leave you yearning for more.”  I think Mephistopheles’ Stout is the base for this beer.

Finally, I had Out of Sight – Panama Blend (5.5% ABV), “our Out of Bounds stout with a cold coffee toddy added.  It was excellent and the coffee was a great addition to this stout. 

If you ever get a chance to attend a tap takeover, I highly encourage it.  It allows you to try some beers that you might not normally taste and it gives you the opportunity to also meet and speak with representatives from the brewery. 

Parry’s Pizzeria and Pub -

Great Divide - Nomad

I have tried a number of offerings from Great Divide and one of their latest is Nomad (5.4% ABV and IBU) a Bohemian Pilsner.  Great Divide uses two word descriptors on their labels and Nomad has the words “Bright” and “Elegant”.  These descriptors are spot on and this is a very nice pilsner from Great Divide.  Nomad is available January – March.

Czech Pilsener – - Beeradvocate

Appearance – Straw yellow, clear with a silky two-finger head.
Aroma – Smell of a classic pilsner, grain, bitter hops and a hint of citrus (lemon).
Taste – Very clean and a little sweet to start and then a nice finish from the hops.  A very good pilsner without the skunky taste and smell that I find so many pilsners have.
OverallB+ – Another really good beer from Great Divide.  Great Divide is one of those brewers that you can pick anything they offer and it will be tasty.
Website description – “NOMAD is our spin on the classic Bohemian Pilsner style.  The journey starts with German malts and Saaz hops that offer a lively floral nose and crispness, while a full 5 weeks of lagering time ensures that Nomad is eminently balanced.  This Nomad may wander, but it’s got serious roots.

Two Organic Beers from Uinta

I tried a couple of organic beers from Uinta that I picked up as part of a mixed 6 pack.  Hazel (4% ABV and 38 IBU) is an organic Pale Wheat Ale and Wyld (4% ABV and 29 IBU) is an organic American Pale Ale.  I have had a few beers from Uinta and this Salt Lake City brewer makes a number of different styles.

Appearance – Both had the correct color for their respective style, but there was little to no head on these beers.
Aroma – Malt sweetness and some hop aromas.  There is nothing overwhelming with either of these.
Taste – There is nothing outstanding on either of these offerings.  These do not taste bad and are better than any macro.  These may be a bit aged, but I am not sure.
OverallB- – These are not bad beers and they are not great beers either.
Website description – Hazel - “This amber wheat ale has a balanced malt body, hints of coriander, and bright hop character.” and
Wyld – “A lighter bodied pale ale, this EPA is aggressively dry hopped to showcase fresh hop flavors and aromas.”

Sunday, April 15, 2012

New Belgium - Belgo IPA

My wife and I cooked a dinner last night of roasted chicken using Sweet Mama’s BBQ Chicken Rub and Alderwood Smoked Salt from the Savory Spice Shop in Littleton, CO.  With the chicken, we prepared glazed carrots and a side salad.  I decided to pair New Belgium’s Belgo IPA (7% ABV and 60 IBU), a Belgian IPA, with dinner.  It was a very good combination and I think the Belgian IPA is a very versatile beer to pair with many dishes.

Belgian IPA description - - BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Pale yellow, straw-colored with a nice head poured into a New Belgium globe glass.
Aroma – Citrus from the four hop varieties that are citrus focused and the distinctive aroma of Belgian yeast.
Taste – Very nice balance between the citrus from and banana from the yeast with nice malt sweetness.   
Overall – A – New Belgium does the style well.  I highly recommend Belgo IPA, New Belgium is a very consistent brewer and you can not go wrong selecting something they brew.
Website description – “When we set out to brew, we use imagination and salvation to guide us – not necessarily style guidelines.  It’s the Belgian way.  So, Ameri-Belgo and IPA both being styles, the branding begged for new Belgium whimsy to liven things up.  Hmmm Belgo souds like a Belgian disco.  Hops like to party.  Next thing you know, we bust out the disco-ball and brewers started grooving.  Hops started hoppin.  Add in an authentic Trappist yeast strain and the place brewed into a frenzy of citrus hoppy folly.”

URL - The Savory Spice Shop -

Ska – Nefarious Ten Pin Porter

Ska is based in Durango, CO and they make a number of different styles.  One that has been sitting in my beer-fridge for some time is Nefarious Ten Pin Porter (8% IBU and 60 IBU) that is an Imperial version of Ten Pin Porter.  I am very glad I selected it and now I have to replace it.  A nice touch, is the waxed bottle too.

Baltic Porter Description - - BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Black with no head poured into a globe glass.
Aroma – Dark fruits, chocolate, coffee and rich malts.
Taste – Very well balanced and this beer is a great example of this style – one of my favorites – as nothing is over the top.  One can detect sweetness that is nicely balanced by bitterness – the key is balance.  Then there are coffee, chocolate and dark fruit overtones of date and cheery.
Overall – A – Ska does a great job with Nefarious.  I am not sure if you will be a better bowler, but you’ll enjoy bowling if you have one of these.
Website description – "Nobody bowls better sober.  No one is suggesting you get drunk; merely stating the facts.  Our extra strong Imperial Porter will make you better at bowling.  King of the alley – this Imperial Porter reigns supreme.  Creamy, chocolaty sweet, with hints of coffee and bing cherries, the Nefarious is wickedly outrageous."

Green Flash – La Freak Ale

I attended a Firestone Walker “pint night” at Parry’s Pizzeria & Pub and started off with a pint of Green Flash La Freak Ale (9.2% ABV and 101 IBUs), that Green Flash describes as mix of two different styles, Belgian Trippel and American Imperial IPA.  Since I enjoy both styles, I thought this would be a good one to try, along with the knowledge of my previous positive samples from Green Flash and very positive reviews.  I did order a Firestone Walker Union Jack for my second beer and also enjoyed some meatball sliders as an appetizer.

Belgian IPA description - - BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Light copper / gold with a nice head poured into a New Belgium “globe glass”.
Aroma –Definite hops aroma of citrus with Belgian yeast and malt breadiness. 
Taste – One gets sweetness from the malt, firm bitterness (citrus) from the hops, and the a Belgian yeast providing bubble gum / banana hints.
Overall – A – This is an easy A, with a very nice tasting experience and this Belgian IPA is a good one.  
Website description – “An ‘out of the box’ modern ale crafted by converging two beer styles, Belgian Trippel and American Imperial IPA. Dry-Hopped and Bottle-Conditioned – it’s a zesty brew with enticing American hop and fruity Belgian yeast aromatics.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stone Levitation

Stone Brewing is based in San Diego, CA and I have tried almost everything that is distributed in Denver.  One that I had not tried was Stone’s Levitation Ale (4.4% ABV and 45 IBU) that is an American Amber / Red Ale.  Levitation is the lowest ABV beer that Stone brews and it has won awards over the years.  Levitation is very good and it is a great beer to choose if you are looking for a session beet that has a lot of flavor.

American Amber / Red Ale – description –  Beeradvocate
Appearance – Amber / copper / garnet color with a nice two-finger head
Aroma – Nice hop aroma of citrus / grapefruit and nice caramel malt sweetness too.
Taste – Excellent – there is some caramel sweetness with a nice hop taste of citrus / grapefruit.
OverallB+ – an excellent session beer.  Stone does a great job with this low ABV session Amber Ale.

Website description – “It's been said that "Gravity Sucks." Simple enough. Well, we at Stone have identified gravitational forces in the beer world. And we have come to the conclusion that they, well, see above. So we avoid these less-than-desirable gravitational forces. We avoid dumbed-down flavor profiles and the vigorous pursuit of the lowest common denominator. We avoid big dollar marketing mentalities. We avoid additives, cheap adjuncts, stabilizers and chemical preservatives. So in the defiance of gravity we bring you Stone Levitation Ale. This deep amber ale has rich malt flavors, a big hoppy character, citrus overtones (courtesy of the hops and our special brewers yeast) and modest alcohol.”

Birthday = Pizza and a nice Stout

My birthday was Monday and my wife and son took me to Parry’s Pizzeria and Bar for a birthday brew and a nice pizza.  We ordered crispy green beans for an appetizer and the 5 bouroughs pizza for the main course.  I selected The Lost Abbey’s Serpent Stout (10.5% ABV), an imperial stout, for my birthday brew and it was excellent.  I had read and heard, via podcasts, about this beer and it lived up to everything I had heard about.  It was an excellent beer and I highly recommend it.  It is a big beer and is one to be slowly consumed and enjoy.
Website description – “The history of the bible and religion is indeed the struggle of good vs. evil. Our Serpent’s Stout recognizes the evil of the dark side that we all struggle with.  This is a massively thick and opaque beer that begs the saints to join the sinners in their path to a black existence.  Tasting Notes:  Pours dark and thick, with a creamy mocha-colored head and aromas of roasted malts, dark chocolate and french roast coffee.  The mouthfeel is full, smooth and round on the tongue. The taste is rich with deep roasted malts, cocoa, coffee and a touch of vanilla balanced perfectly against the alcohol to create an excellent winter warmer.

I was running some errands a couple of weekends ago when I received a text from my friend Roger who was having lunch with Jay at Parry’s Pizzeria and Bar and I was right next to it.  I ran in to say hi and ordered a Moylan’s Kilt Lifter (8% ABV) Scotch Wee Heavy to enjoy as we chatted.  It was a very nice Scotch Ale and ws perfect for a Sunday afternoon.

Website description – “Robust and Strapping , Our Scotch Ale takes BIG Beers to a whole new level. Rich malt balances perfectly with delicate hops to provide a concentrated and intense flavor; an ideal companion for hearty foods, or as a meal unto itsself. Allow this ale to warm slightly in your glass to enhance its truly bold character .Sharing is encouraged, as this is one beer that lives up to its name! Hey! No peeking! Slainté! “

Three Nice IPAs

I picked up three IPAs during a recent trip to Phoenix that are not available in Denver.  These were Lumberyard – Flagstaff IPA (6.1% ABV and 90 IBU), Four Peaks – Hop Knot (6.7% ABV and 47 IBU), and Green Flash – West Coast IPA (7.3% ABV and 95 IBU).  These were all good and I think I liked the Four Peaks – Hop Knot the best.  It was very easy to drink and very well-balanced.  The Flagstaff and West Coast IPAs were very hop focused and much bitter in comparison.  

Website description – Lumberyard – Flagstaff IPA –

Website description – Four Peaks – Hop Knot – “Hop Heads this is your beer.  American malt, lots of American Hops, mixed in with a bold pioneering spirit.  Hop Knot gets its name from weaving seven different hops added at seven different times during the brewing process.  Including the cavernous hop-back, which gets so stuffed with whole leaf hops that we feel genuine guilt for its excess.  So you know its chock full of hoppy goodness.  It’s the cure-all for hop obsessed.”

Website description – “A menagerie of hops is layered throughout the brewing process: Simcoe for unique fruitiness and grapefruit zest, Columbus for strong hop pungency, Centennial for pine and citrus notes and Cascade for floral aroma. A multi-dimensional hop experience.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Buying Supplies and Sampling Local Brews

On Sunday, I picked up ingredients for the next home brew at The Brew Hut.  I first went to the adjacent Dry Dock and picked up a pint of the SS Minnow Mild Ale (3.3% ABV and 18 IBU), which is a mild or low-alcohol ale.  It was very good and had a nice malt sweetness and grain taste.  The SS Minnow Mild Ale won a silver medal at the 2008 GABF and is a great session beer that I consumed as I picked up my ingredients.  Dry Dock is a fantastic small brewery and they have the awards to prove it.

On the return trip home, I stopped by Lone Tree Brewing Co. and tried their sampler flight of 7 beers: Hauafrau Hefeweizen (4.2% ABV), Marienplatz Pilsner (5% ABV), Mountain Mama Helles (5.3% ABV), Ariadne’s Blonde (5.7% ABV), Puddle Jumper Pale Ale (5.7% ABV), Hoptree IPA (8% ABV) and Acres O’ Green Irish Red (5.7% ABV).  I have wanted to stop by Lone Tree for some time and I was glad that I did.  They make some very good beer and I was very impressed with Ariadne’s Blonde, Puddle Jumper Pale Ale and the Acres O’Green Irish Red.  I am not usually a fan of Blonde Ales, but the Ariadne’s was one of the best I have tried.  It had a nice fruity taste and was just easy to drink.  The Acres O’ Green was a perfectly clear Irish Red and it is another style that I do not drink much of, but was very impressed by Lone Tree’s take on the style.  Finally, Puddle Jumper Pale Ale was an all-around great pale ale and I really enjoyed it. 
If you get a chance to check out a local brewer, do so.  These guys are working hard and they are proud of their products.  Dry Dock and Lone Tree are two local brewers to check out.

URL – The Dry Dock
URL – The Brew Hut
URL – Lone Tree Brewing -

You Cannot Judge a "Pub & Grill" by its Cover

During the trip to Arizona, I wanted to stop by a local establishment called The Handlebar Pub and Grill.  I had completed a previous web search on “craft beer in Apache Junction” and was surprised to find the listing – with a number of very positive remarks.  The building is almost non-descript and is very easy to drive by.  It does not look great on the outside and is a classic depiction of the quote “you cannot judge a book by its cover”.  The inside of the Handlebar is very nice with a cooler in the corner filled with very good beer for carry-out, nice wood tables and chairs, two chalk boards showing the beers on tap and the menu, and a very nice (and long) wood bar with ~15 taps on the side wall that I think connects to kegs in an adjacent walk-in.  There are also a number of TVs on the walls and entertainment performs Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.  I had one of the best burgers in a long time – a blue cheese bacon burger with a side salad.  The burger was perfectly cooked and I informed Danny, my father-in-law, that he has to check this place out with his group of guys that check out burger joints. 

One item I appreciated was Trevor, the bartender, explaining to one customer when she asked what was like Rolling Rock and his response of “water”.  It was classic and I knew right then that I was in an establishment that knows and enjoys good craft beer.  The other “tell” was the lack of “macro-brewer” taps and if you want one, they are available in bottles; you will most like get an “are you kidding me” look from the bartender and the other patrons as well.  A further “tell” was the number of different tap handles that serve as decorations on the exposed ceiling beams – and they have ran through a large number.  I enjoyed an Oskar Blues G’Knight (8.7% ABV and 60 IBU) an Imperial Red / Double IPA and a Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA (8.5% ABV and 95 IBU) a seasonal India Pale Ale.  Both of these were very tasty and went well with the blue cheese bacon burger.  I will be stopping by the Handlebar Pub and Grill on the next trip to Arizona.

URL – Handlebar Pub and Grill -
URL – Oskar Blues

An excellent Stout and an excellent Porter

I was in Arizona the last week of March for my son’s spring break and a visit with Lori’s parents. I always get in some biking and make a stop at Total Wine for some selections that I cannot find in Colorado. I made selections from local brewers and from items that I normally do not see in Colorado. The two listed below were excellent and I would rate both of them as “A” beers. I am partial to the darker beers and these two were very good. They had a lot of similarities (chocolate / cocoa and coffee / espresso) even though they were different styles. If you have the opportunity to try them, I easily recommend them.

Bell’s – Special Double Cream Stout

Bell’s is based in Kalamazoo, MI and they brew a number of different styles and I have tried a few of them. From my experience, you cannot go wrong with selecting anything they brew. Bell’s has also won a number of awards over the year and I think they would be warmly welcomed in Colorado. Special Double Cream Stout (6.1% ABV) is an American Stout.

Website description – “Special Double Cream Stout derives its name from its smooth, creamy texture, not the ingredients. Completely dairy-free, this stout blends eight different specialty malts to yield a remarkable depth of flavor. With only a touch of burnt notes, Special Double Cream Stout focuses on the softer, cocoa & espresso-like aspects of roasted malt.”


Big Sky - Bobo’s Robust Porter

Big Sky Brewing is based in Missoula, MT and started brewing in 1995. Moose Drool has to be their biggest seller and I have enjoyed a number of their offerings. Bobo’s Robust Porter (6.2% ABV and 32 IBU) is a robust porter or an American Porter. Big Sky has a fairly wide distribution and if you are west of the Mississippi, you should be able to find it.

Website description – “A small bottle with Big Flavor! Brewed with 6 different malts and generously hopped, Robust doesn’t really begin to describe this beer. Smooth chocolate flavors with hints of coffee, caramel and vanilla. Hop presence is copious and is matched by rich Malt flavors. Malts – Pale, Crystal, Chocolate, Brown and Black, Roast. Hops – East Kent Goldings, Challenger.”