Monday, February 02, 2009

Five Beers for Apres-Ski
There are few times that feels as appropriate for a beer as those first moments after you take off your skis. You've spent the day working your muscles, you in all likelihood don't have to head off to work and you're ready to celebrate.

But you're also dehydrated, tired and probably somewhat cold - conditions that don't lend as well to the beer-drinking experience. So, you have to choose well to get the full enjoyment you're seeking. What do you do?

After being faced with this dilemma just this past weekend, I've spent far too much time thinking about the balance of lightness on the palate with heft of winter warming needed to pull off the perfect combo. I think I've come up with a few ideas. And, in keeping with the ski season, I've tried to confine this list to Colorado beers.

1) New Belgium Mothership Wit
No beer I've had seems to blend such an unfathomable lightness of body with the full heft of taste so much as a Mothership. This is thin and light like those beers you'd never consider drinking, yet it lands in your mouth with a citrus-coriander bite of a classic Belgian white. While you're sweating and slouching into a chair, this beer will go down smoothly but remind you that you can't celebrate without enjoying taste as well.

2) Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale
All things being equal, I prefer my hoppy beers of the double IPA variety, so thick and sweet that they serve as both a drink and dinner. But when you're exhausted and parched, all things are not equal. A Maharaja, for example, could leave me asleep within an hour in the post-skiing state. So, I'll go for a full-flavored pale that is less alcoholic and significantly lighter in body but still fills the taste buds with flowery enjoyment and presents itself with a backbone.

3) Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
Though any thick, dark beer will warm your frostbitten toes, not all of them will roll so easily over your dry taste buds. But this one adds a kick that is sweet and pleasant while still being warming. You may not want to drink it all night after a hard day on the slopes, but it's like that wake-up call to let you know there will be bold flavor ahead.

4) Boulder Singletrack Copper Ale
In what amounted to unknowing preparation for this column, I spent two days in the hot sun at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival eight years ago drinking nothing but Singletrack. I was dancing and panting and probably should have consumed less alcohol. But the Singletrack was just bold enough to give me some hopped comfort while its medium body flowed through me easily. Heck, I imagine this is the beer I would want with me on the ski slopes . . . if, you know, that kind of thing were allowed.

5) Backcountry Telemark IPA
OK, this one breaks the pattern by tossing some bullying hops into an otherwise mellow category. Maybe it's just that I've stopped by the Frisco brewery so many times on my way home that this is the Pavlovian apres-ski beer of choice for me. But there's also a tangy, accessible quality to the hops that leave them less battering on your taste buds than they should be. Reward yourself. You've earned a beer this big and drinkable.

Anything I overlooked?

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Alberta Peak Pale Ale, from Steamworks Brewing, is sold in 22-oz. bottles only at Wolf Creek Ski Area. It's the only beer I know of that's tied specifically to a ski area.
I'm sure you'll have a hard time finding these beers anywhere but at their respective breweries, but I think these three also fit your criteria of being refreshing to the palate, while still warming the body and frankly, making you forget entirely about that face plant you took out in the Imperial Bowl.

I know it's traditionally a summertime beer, but Saison's have morphed into a higher alcohol, year-round kinda beer and Backcountry makes a decent one.

I'm more in favor of the Breck Christmas seasonal rather than the Vanilla Porter for apres ski. It mostly fits the strong ale category, but I don't remember it to be as rich and malty as some other strong ale seasonals.

And we should never forget about how easy drinking that double pils is from Odells. Yum!
Hah, glad to see the Telemark IPA make the list. Haven't had that one in quiet a while. Definitely the best of the lot at Backcountry.
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