Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Thursday Night at the Tap

Those without plans in Colorado Springs tomorrow night (March 6) may want to stop by Rock Bottom, where brewer Jason Leeman will be tapping his new Fire Chief Ale, a German-style alt beer with a red tint to match similar fiery beers rolling out at Rock Bottoms around the country.

The tapping is part of a promotion to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the local fire department's charity of choice. Twenty-five cents of every mug sold goes to the MDA.

The bar is expected to be packed, but here's a little tip for those who can brave the crowd. Like each of Leeman's monthly tappings, everyone who's there in the first half hour - that's 6 to 6:30 - gets a free 10-ounce poor. Give to charity. Get charity. Drink beer. A winning combination.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A New Friend

There's always a certain joy when I arrive in one of my favorite beer-stocked liquor stores, kind of like the Spring Training fan just happy to see all the players on the field again. But there was an extra joy tonight, as I popped into my favorite store and found the shelves now stocked with Farmer's Friend.

Farmer's Friend, for those of you unfamiliar with the brand, is a malty caramel Irish-style ale from the beer mecca of Palisade. Previously one of those hidden joys I was only able to find when I was visiting a friend who lived in Montrose (who has since moved, making the joy temporarily unattainable), Farmer's Friend began statewide distribution just about two weeks ago, the clerk informed me. A number of beers from Palisade Brewery, in fact, can be found on the shelves of better liquor stores now, adding one more arrow to the Colorado beer aficionado's quiver. This one is a special one to me, though.

A good Irish beer is what a good friend should be - constant, loyal, just what you need at the right time. This amber-hued creation doesn't dazzle you with a new taste or with loads of malt; it just gives you a full mouth of flavor when you really want it. Perfect for sipping on cold nights or mixing with food - I just had it with a stir fry that it complemented without overpowering - it's a beer that's just there, all quality and no frills laid out for you. And that's cool.

Any other Farmer's Friend fans out there? Or does anyone else know of other Western Slope creations that need to be brought to the Front Range?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Good Day

I suppose I should start by apologizing to all of my blog readers - yes, both of you - for how long I've been absent here. I was going to tell you how busy I've been or how tired . . . but seriously, four months since my last post? There's no excuse for that. I started this to talk about beer and to hear other people talk about beer, and since November I've been drinking beer without talking about it, and that is never acceptable. So, starting today, I pledge to be more regular on this site and to try to generate more conversation about microbrews - especially Colorado microbrews - so that we can all enjoy our favorite beverage a little more.

The event that inspired me to return to my blog occurred Saturday morning at the CB and Potts Restaurant and Brewery in Highlands Ranch: The 6th annual brewing of the Imperial Sign Warning Eisbock. I'll be doing a full column on this in The Gazette closer to the time this beer is released at the Aug. 9 Manitou Springs Craft Lager Festival, but what might get lost in translation of the describing the creation of the beer is the feelings in place during its brewing.

At 10 a.m., the brewery was stacked with me, the guys from the Beer Drinker's Guide to Colorado (an upcoming post) and - most importantly - about 15 brewers from around the state. They came from as far as Durango (Ska) and Salida (Amicas) and they were there with Jason Yester, the former Bristol brewmaster who, along with current Oskar Blues' brewmaster Mike Hall, founded this collaborative project in 2003. The idea was to have everybody pitch in their special knowledge and to come up with a big beer - it's run around 14 percent in recent years - that is still wildly drinkable and suitable for a lager festival. The brewing site rotates every year, and this year it was brought to the brewery of Bill Eye, whom Yester referred to as the lager expert of the Front Range.

Yes, it was great for all the reasons you can think of: It was 10 a.m., I was drinking beer and I was talking about the art with guys who will understand more about the brewing process than I'll ever forget. But there was also this great air of community that I suspect you don't find in other industries. Brewers were pouring new concoctions from jugs, just seeking opinions and trading ideas. Do you think microchip manufacturers bring their latest inventions to gatherings, toss them around the room for their competitors to look at and share recipes? That's what makes the craft of brewing so special.

Each of the brewers took a 5-gallon keg of Warning Sign home from the event, so if you want to start sucking up to them, you might get a taste before the lager festival. (For those of you in Colorado Springs, that butt-kissing should be directed at Bristol, Phantom, Arctic and Rock Bottom.) But it just seems more natural to show up to an outdoor festival and enjoy the team effort, knowing that the best beers are made not always from careful study but from a bunch of friends standing around, drinking and taking turns stirring the mash.

And I promise to write again before that festival happens. Thanks for reading.

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