Sunday, September 15, 2013

Best Beers Sampled June - August

Since it is raining today and I am not on a bike, it is a great time to catch up on the blog and I have 3 months to write up.  The highlight was a family trip to Tennessee and two weeks off from work – very nice.  I was able to sample some of the offerings from the states we visited too.  During this time we also visited a few tap rooms with friends.  The following are the beers I enjoyed the most: 

Avery – 20th Anniversary – Imperial IPA (9.7 ABV)
Funkwerks – Tropic King – Saison (8% ABV)
Odell – Celastrina – Saison (7.5% ABV)
Sierra Nevada – Hoptimum – Imperial IPA (10.4% ABV & 100 IBU)
Stone – RuinTEN 2013 – Imperial IPA (10.8% ABV & 110 IBU)
Stone – 17th Anniversary Gotterdammerung – Imperial IPA (9.5% ABV & 102 IBU)
Stone – R&R Coconut IPA (7.7% ABV & 90 IBU)
Stone – Farking Wheaton Woot Stout – American Double / Imperial Stout (13% ABV)
Strange Brewing Co. – Cherry Kriek – Kriek (4.7% ABV & 15 IBU)

The list has a number of IPAs and Stone brewed some excellent beers in this time frame.  The Farking Wheaton Woot Stout was a collaboration with Will Wheaton and Fark creator Drew Curtis with Stone Brewing – it was not easy to find in stores and I tried it on tap at Parry’s Pizzeria and Pub in Highlands Ranch.  I would have loved to obtain a few bottles for aging - the one glass was excellent.  Many of these are limited releases and some have limited distribution.  Hoptimum should be available nation-wide.  

Sunday, May 26, 2013

May Beers Sampled

Alaskan Brewing Co. is based in Juneau and I have toured the brewery a few years ago.  One of their new offerings is Freeride APA (5.3% ABV and 40 IBU) a very tasty American Pale Ale.

Backcountry Brewery is based in Frisco, CO and their Pale Ale (5.6% ABV and 60 IBU) is another good American Pale Ale.  This beer was formerly know as Telemark IPA and is a Gold medal winner at 2000 and 2009 GABF.

Crooked Stave is just brewing some fantastic beer and St. Bretta (5.5% ABV) is a sour Witbier and it is excellent.  I need to try it side-by-side with Surette to see which one I like best.  Very easy with Crooked Stave, if you see it on the shelf, but it.

Deschutes is based in Portland and is one of my favorite brewers.  I picked up a bottle of River Ale (4.2% ABV and 28 IBU) recently and enjoyed this American Blonde Ale.  It is one of the new session ales that many brewers are releasing and I think a session beer taste-off may be a great choice sometime this summer.

Goose Island out of Chicago brews a large selection of ales and I saw Honker’s Ale (4.3% ABV) recently at Buffalo Wild Wings and really enjoyed this English Bitter.

Hey Day (5.2% ABV) is a Witbier and a new release from Great Divide.  It is not great, but it is not bad – somewhat middle of the road.

Grimm Brothers is a relatively new brewer in Loveland, CO and Master Thief (6.7% ABV) is a German Porter.  I enjoyed the beer and I will try more from this brewery in the future.

Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale (9.75% ABV and 67 IBU) is an American Strong Ale and it is excellent.  It is very easy to drink and be careful - it packs a wallop at almost 10% ABV.  Lagunitas makes excellent products and you can pretty much pick anything they brew and it is good.  

I recently went to Parry’s Pizzeria and Pub and there was a tap of Sierra Nevada’s Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale (6.7% ABV and 67 IBU) an Imperial IPA that was very tasty.  I will add Northern Harvest to my “to try” list.

Telluride Brewing Company is based in Telluride, CO and I picked up Face Down Brown Ale (5.7% ABV) that was a Gold medal winner at the 2012 World Beer Cup.  It was very good and I will try some more from Telluride.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

April Beers Sampled

Yesterday I attended The Big Ass Tap Takeover at Parry’s Pizza featuring beers from Avery Brewing Company and tried a few I had not tried before.    During the event I met Adam Avery and he toasted the event at 11:30 with a new release from Avery.

Samael’s 2008 (14.5% ABV and 41 IBU) is and oak-aged English strong ale and was from Mr. Avery’s personal stash.  It was excellent and the aging has only improved the beer.

Trogdor the Burninator (7.6% ABV) is a smoked doppelbock and I thought this was an excellent beer.  You could taste the smoke at just the right level.  Very well-balanced and it went well with the sweetness of the doppelbock.

3Point5 Pale Ale (3.5% ABV) is a session pale ale that is new from Avery and we had a complimentary serving with the event toast.  It was a highly hopped, bitter beer and one that could be consumed throughout the day with the low ABV. 

On a different trip to Parry’s Pizza, I enjoyed Elevation Brewing’s First Cast (6.5% ABV and 75 IBU) an IPA.  It was the first time I have tried something from this new Colorado brewer and I will try to sample more form them in the future.

Stone Brewing has created some new Imperial IPAs that are entitled “Enjoy by Month.Day.Year” that have limited distribution and are meant to be consumed fresh and by the date listed on the bottle.  I was able to find one at the local store and it is a very good IPA.  If you are lucky enough to find one I recommend purchasing some, as these are very good IPAs.  The one I had was Enjoy by 04.20.13 (9.4% ABV and 88 IBU).

Smoked Beers (Rauchbiers) and BBQ – A Great Pairing

April was a busy month at the homestead as we moved to a hotel for an extended weekend as we had the hardwood floors refinished.  We had previously scheduled a beer dinner that weekend and decided to host it at the hotel and it worked really well.  The theme was smoked (Rauchbier) and BBQ.  The menu was pulled pork, brisket, wings, beans, and coleslaw.  Guests brought over appetizers and desserts.  The beer paired very well with BBQ and it was a nice evening.  

Round 1 – Aecht Schlenkerla – Bamburg, Germany
Weizen (5.2% ABV and 20 IBU) – a beechwood smoked wheat beer
Marzen (5% ABV and 30 IBU) – a beechwood smoked Oktoberfest / Marzen
Urbock (6.4% ABV and 40 IBU) – a beechwood smoked Bock
Eiche (8% ABV and 40 IBU) – an oak smoked Dopplebock Christmas release

Round 2 – American Craft Beer
Stone Smoked Porter (5.9% ABV and 53 IBU)
Stone Smoked Porter w/Vanilla Beans (5.9% ABV and 53 IBU)
Stone Smoked Porter w/Chipotle Peppers (5.9% ABV and 53 IBU)
Stone Oak-Smoked Old Guardian Barleywine (11.4% ABV and 70 IBU)
Left Hand Smoke Jumper (8.9% ABV an 50 IBU) – an Imperial Smoked Porter

I enjoyed the Weizen and the Marzen best from round 1 and the tasters agreed that the Weizen was the top choice.  I enjoyed Smoke Jumper the best in round 2 and it was a toss-up between the tasters for Smoke Jumper and Stone Smoked Porter w/Vanilla Beans.  Smoked beers or Rauchbiers paired very well BBQ and the rich chocolate desserts we had that evening.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tasting - Crooked Stave, Magic Hat, Empyrean, Lagunitas, Odell and Russian River

Time to catch up on a few weeks of tasting different beers.  These are from Colorado, Vermont, California, and Nebraska.

Crooked Stave is based in Denver and the focus is on barrel-aged beers and the use of brettanomyces.  Chad Yacobson, the owner and brewer, of Crooked Stave wrote his Master’s on the topic and I have been wanting to try his beers for some time.  He offers a subscription program that is sold out and when I saw a couple of bottles at the store, I promptly purchased them.

Surette (6.2% ABV) is a wood-aged Farmhouse Ale and it is one of the best, if not the best beer I have tasted this year.  The sourness is perfectly balanced and this is a fantastic beer.

Vieille (4.2% ABV) is another Farmhouse Ale and I could not find much information on it.  It is a very good beer – I liked Surette best.  However, Vieille is an excellent beer too.

Magic Hat is based out of South Burlington, Vermont and I picked up a mixed 12 that contained the following beers.  They offer many different varieties and are now in Colorado.

Wooly (4.5% ABV and 20 IBU) an English Special Bitter brewed with spruce tips that is OK.  I am not a big fan of spruce tips in beer.

# 9 (5.1% ABV and 9 IBU) a Fruit beer that is OK – I am not a fan of fruit beers.

Encore (6.4% ABV and 35 IBU) an American IPA that is very good.

Heart of Darkness (5.7% ABV and 30 IBU) is an excellent Stout.

Empyrean Brewing Co. is based in Lincoln, Nebraska and I had not tried anything from them before.  Their packaging was very good and I thought their branding on the package and labels was excellent.

Fallen Angel (5.5% ABV and 17 IBU) is an easy drinking Sweet Stout and is very good.  I will try other products from Empyrean.

Lagunitas is based in Petaluma, CA and they are opening another brewery in the Chicago area.  Lagunitas is one of my favorite brewers and they consistently make excellent beer in many different styles.  They have a very robust seasonal list and when I saw WTF, I picked it up.

Wilco Tango Foxtrot or WTF (7.83% ABV) is a Double / Imperial Brown Ale and is just fantastic.  Brown Ales are easy drinking and some consider them “ho-hum”.  I like a good Brown Ale and WTF is an excellent one.

Finally, my family took me to Parry’s Pizzeria and Pub a couple of weekends ago for my birthday and I had two very tasty beers.

Russian River’s Damnation (7% ABV) is a Belgian / Golden Ale that is incredible.  Russian River makes some very good beer and it is on rare occasion that I find one in Colorado.  When I do, I purchase it.

Odell’s Amuste (9.3% ABV) is an Imperial / Double Porter and is very good.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

8 Tasty Beers to Sample

Time to catch up as I have not had the time to keep up with the blog.  There are a number of great beers out there and I very pleased with the increased volume that is available from craft brewers, an increasing number of craft brewers, the quality of the products offered and the brewer’s interpretation and creative license on classic beers styles. 

Sierra Nevada – Ruthless Rye (6.6 ABV and 55 IBU) – American IPA - this is a seasonal release and rye is part of the malt bill.  Highly recommended - excellent beer.

New Belgium – Springboard – (6.2% ABV) – Belgian-style Pale Ale – gogi berries and Schisandra were added to this beer.  It is OK, not bad, but not great.

New Belgium – Rampant (8.5% ABV and 85 IBU) – Imperial IPA – Unlike any IPA I have tasted before and featuring Mosaic, Calypso, and Centennial hops.  Highly recommended – excellent.

Dry Dock – Paragon Apricot Blonde Ale (5.3% ABV) – Fruit / Vegetable Beer – I am not a big fan of fruit beers and I think I found an exception – Paragon is very tasty and the apricots make this beer special.

Dry Dock – Tripel (8.75% ABV) – Belgian-style Tripel – If you see something from Dry Dock, just buy it – they won “Small Brewery of the Year” for a reason.

Port Brewing Co. – Santa’s Little Helper (10.5% ABV) – Russian Imperial Stout – Port is based in SoCal and this one was on tap at Parry’s Pizzeria in Highlands Ranch.  Santa would be very pleased with this one – in a word – Fantastic.

Brewery Ommegang – BPA - Belgian-Style Pale Ale (6.2% ABV).  This was on tap at Parry’s Pizzeria and it was my first taste from Ommegang that is essentially a Belgian Brewery in Cooperstown, NY.  I look forward to sampling more from Brewery Ommegang.

Widmer – SXNW: South by Northwest (9.3% ABV and 40 IBU) – American Strong Ale.  A dark beer brewed with chilies, cinnamon, chocolate, and pecans.  I was not sure what to expect and this was very good – if you see it buy it, number 7 in the Brother’s Reserve Series.

These were all tasty beers from a wide range of brewers.  Some were just the basic style and some were very different and interesting variations from the brewer.  Bottom line – there are a number of fantastic selections and there is no need to stick with the macro brewers – get out and sample some craft brew.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Great Divide - Orabelle

I have tried almost all of the offerings from Great Divide and they make one of the best Imperial Stouts available that is named Yeti.  When I saw that there was a new offering named Orabelle (8.3% ABV) a Belgian-style Tripel, I wanted to try it.  One of my favorite Yeti varieties is Belgian Yeti, and I was thinking Great Divide is probably using the same yeast strain for Orabelle.  Orabelle is a seasonal offering that is available January – March.  Great Divide adds a two word descriptor on each bottle and the ones for Orabelle are Beautiful and Golden. 

Tripel - – BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Just like the bottle descriptor, Orabelle pours a golden straw color that is a bit hazy and has a small two-finger head that quickly dissipates. 
Aroma – Belgian yeast, peach / apricot, a touch of lemon and biscuit.
Taste – Very similar to the smell with a subtle touch of warming booziness.
Overall – “A” – This is a very good offering from Great Divide and a very good Belgian-style Tripel.  It is only here for a short time, so pick some up and enjoy.

Orabelle description – “ORABELLE is brewed with barley, wheat, oats, and rye.  This Belgian-Style Tripel is a golden beauty.  Its two yeast strains, orange peel and dash of coriander impart surprising complexity and richness to this delicate ale. Don’t let Orabelle’s demure nature fool you; this is one flavorful pour.  Watch out, she’s a charmer – one sip and you’ll be in love.”  Great Divide Website


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lugene - Chocolate Milk Stout

Odell is a great regional brewer based in Ft. Collins and I stopped by the tasting room with Tibor and Dennis in early November.  Odell recently released a new beer in their 4-pack series call Lugene (8.5% ABV and ? IBU) a milk stout or sweet stout. Lugene is only available January – March.  The other offerings in the 4-pack series are Double Pilsner, Myrcenary, and Mountain Standard.  I have enjoyed, really enjoyed the other offerings in the 4-pack series and I added Lugene to my list.

Milk / Sweet Stout - – BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Lugene pours black with little to no head.
Aroma – Sweetness, chocolate, perhaps a touch of coffee and smoke.
Taste – One first tastes sweetness then chocolate and vanilla notes.  It has a finish with perhaps a touch of smoke and coffee but only a hint.  There is no bitterness with this beer.
Overall – A really nice milk stout and this would go great with deserts.  I think it would be fantastic with a fruit desert.

Lugene description – “If you’ve ever been to our brewery, you’ve likely seen the old, beat-up truck that hauls away our spent grain. That truck belongs to Lugene who’s been feeding his dairy cows the hearty malt for over a decade. Named in his honor, Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout is brewed with milk sugar and milk chocolate. The rich and creamy brew reminds us of a cold glass of chocolate milk and our hometown “Aggie” roots.”  Odell website

Two from Dry Dock Brewing Co.

The Dry Dock Brewing Co. is located in Aurora, CO and the brewers have won a number of awards for their beers over the years including Small Brewery of the Year.  Dry Dock is expanding and they are starting to offer their beers in cans.  I recently picked up Hop Abomination (6.5% ABV and ? IBU) an IPA and Amber Ale (5.8% ABV and 49 IBU ) a British-style ESB that is also known as HMS Victory ESB.  There are other varieties available in cans and distribution of Dry Dock beers should increase as the larger brewery comes online.

American IPA - - BeerAdvocate
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) - - Beer Advocate

These beers are excellent to try because each is highlighting a different ingredient.  Hop Abomination focuses on bitterness from the hops used in the brewing process, while the Amber focuses on malts bread notes with more subdued bitterness.  I liked both beers and I favored the Amber over Hop Abomination.  I like hoppy beers and was somewhat surprised by my choice, as the Amber is not hoppy.  The Amber is just stunning with sweetness of honey and caramel with bread and biscuit.  I can see why it took a gold medal at the 2006 World Beer Cup.    

Dry Dock Brewing Co. –

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lagunitas Sucks – Brown Shugga’ Substitute

One thing I have learned in life is I learn my most memorable lessons when I experience a failure or a defeat.  It has taken me some time and some gray hair to not only learn this lesson, but also to take it in stride.  Mistakes also occur at companies and Lagunitas Brewing Co. serves as a shining example of learning from a mistake and taking it in stride.  Brown Shugga’ is a seasonal release from Lagunitas that could not be brewed one year due to “construction-induced capacity issues”, and Lagunitas decided to brew another beer and make fun of themselves in the naming of Lagunitas Sucks (7.85% ABV and 63 IBU), an Imperial IPA.  This year, I had the opportunity to sample both Brown Shugga’ and Lagunitas Sucks – both are excellent.  Learn from the example of Lagunitas - learn from your mistake, take it in stride and figure out a way to improve.  

American Double / Imperial IPA – - BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Copper, like a bright new penny, with a two-finger head that takes some time to recede and with nice lacing.
Aroma – Hoppy and you know you are in for a hop trip – tropical fruit and citrus are the main aromas.
Taste – A bit of sweetness – think a touch of honey - and then citrus (lemon / orange / grapefruit) and tropical fruit (mango / papaya) with a piney / resin finish.
OverallA – This beer is fantastic and I am really glad that Lagunitas needed to make this substitute – it is available for only a short time and if you are a fan of IPAs – buy it.  I plan to pick up another 6er on the next trip to the store, if any are remaining.

Website description – “E. K. Ross would have enjoyed our suffering in 2010 when he saw we couldn’t brew our Brown Shugga.  But in that time of deepest despair, as is common to artist everywhere… broke, hungover, abandoned by the muse and prepared to take a job at Arby’s, we found that in that darkness the  spark of inspiration that would yield up this nearly sanctified recipe!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tasting History - New Albion Ale

Jack McAuliffe started New Albion Brewing Co. in 1976 and while the brewery only survived a few years, brewing its final batch in 1982, McAuliffe and New Albion made brewing history as one of breweries that started craft brewing in the U.S.  New Albion has been described as, “the most important failed brewery in the industry’s history” (Ogle, Maureen).  It was important for serving as an example to other brewers who were getting started in that time period, brewing beers that were not like the large marco-breweries, using hops differently and in larger volumes, and a number of other reasons.  Flash forward to 2012 and Jim Koch of Boston Beer Co. announces that New Albion Ale (6% ABV and 30 IBU) would be brewed under the Samuel Adams brand and available in January 2012. 

American Pale Ale - BeerAdvocate

Appearance – Straw gold with a one-finger head that quickly dissipates.  The beer is very clear with good carbonation – a steady stream of bubbles from the bottom of the glass.
Aroma – Grain, floral, citrus and pine / resin.  I picked up the grain the most.
Taste – A solid APA that starts with a sweetness, bread from the malt then a bit of citrus, grass from the hops and then a clean finish with little aftertastes
OverallB – New Albion Ale is very easy to drink and I really appreciate Boston Beer Co. brewing a bit of history.  We have a plethora of choices in beer today and we are in the middle of a craft beer renaissance.  I am happy to have the opportunity to try a bit of history.  It will be here for only a limited time – pick some up and taste a bit of history.

Website description – “Brewed solely with American Cascade hops (why? Because that was all that was available to Jack at the time), New Albion Ale is a golden American Pale Ale that holds a distinct citrus hop note and subtle piney character. A delicious brew, it’s no wonder New Albion Ale inspired so many of the Pale Ales we drink today.”

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sierra Nevada - Bigfoot 2012 & Narwhal 2012

Sierra Nevada has been in craft brewing for over thirty years - the company was founded in 1979 and if you want consistently good beer and a variety of styles to select, Sierra nevada is an easy choice.  They also have nationwide distribution and are one of the largest craft brewers in the U.S.  One of their new offerings is Narwhal (10.2% ABV and 60 BU) is an Imperial Stout, which is one of my favorite styles and an old offering is Bigfoot (9.6% ABV and 90 IBU) is a Barleywine style ale.  Both of these beers are seasonal offerings and you will need to purchase them when they are available.  Narwhal is in 4-packs and Bigfoot is in 6-packs.  These are appropriate for cellaring and the Bigfoot is almost one year old.  These are big beers and they should be poured into a snifter and allowed to warm up a bit (50 - 55 degrees).  Think of sitting be a fire and slowly enjoying these - you want to savor every drop.  Both of these beers deserve space in your fridge / cellar and I plan to keep back a few bottles of each and plan to do a vertical tasting of these at some point in the future.  I rate both as A beers and Narwhal recently won a medal at the GABF in Oct.  If you want to try either of these styles - Sierra Nevada makes two excellent ones.  

Also - start looking for Ruthless Rye - a seasonal offering that is now available from Sierra Nevada.  

Russian Imperial Stout - - BeerAdvocate
American Barleywine - - BeerAdvocate

Narwhal website description - “A malt-forward monster, highlighting the depths of malt flavor.  Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come.

Bigfoot website description - “Our cult-classic beast of a barleywine.  Bigfoot is a beast of a beer, brimming with bold flavors of bittersweet malt and heaps of aggressive whole-cone Pacific Northwest hops. First introduced in the winter of 1983, Bigfoot is a cult-classic beer brewed in the barleywine style, meaning a strong, robust, bruiser of a beer with the refined intensity of a wine. Bigfoot is prized by beer collectors for its supreme cellarability. Under the proper conditions, it can age like a fine wine, developing new flavors and character as it matures in the bottle. Each new release or “expedition” is vintage dated. Collect your own and see the flavors develop and progress.”

Narwhal -
Bigfoot -

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Alaskan Imperial Red Ale

Alaskan Brewing Co. was one of the first craft breweries I toured almost 10 ten years ago and they are still growing and brewing strong.  The have a series called the Pilot Series that is a rotating collection of different beers that are offered in 22 oz. bombers.  Alaskan Imperial Red Ale (8.5% ABV and 70 IBU) is a west coast style Imperial Red and Alaskan is going for a balanced beer that is slightly malt-forward.

American Amber / Red Ale - - BeerAdvocate.Com 

Appearance - Deep amber / ruby with a two finger head that takes some time to recede.
Aroma - Let it warm up a bit - one can detect sweetness (honey?) from the malt, alcohol, and citrus, herb, and resin from the hops.
Taste - Sweetness if the first sensation, then bitterness (citrus - grapefruit / lemon) and then a dry finish.
Overall - B - This was not a bad beer; however, it is not a great beer. I think the Barley Wine, Perseverance, and the Double Black IPA were fantastic beers. I suggest to try one of these, Smoked Porter or Alaskan Amber if you are looking for something from Alaskan Brewing Co.

Website description - "Alaskan Imperial Red is a full-bodied deep mahogany ale with ruby red highlights. Citrus notes of chamomile, grapefruit and Meyer lemon brighten the aroma. A zesty array of hop flavors from mango and bitter orange to green mint and hibiscus meld with the nutty, roasted caramel and subtle dried fruit flavors of the complex malt profile to create a surprisingly fresh, yet warming example of the style."