Wednesday, June 17, 2009

This Week in Colorado Beer

Help a Brewer Out
Sunday: Dry Dock Brewing Company, the Aurora rags-to-riches story that went from start-up brewery to World Beer Cup medal winner a few years ago, is moving to bigger digs. They're looking for a little help in the move and are willing to ply faithful servants with kegs of CB & Potts Frambozen and Great Divide's Belgica and Titan IPA. (Their beer is being moved, of course.)

Beer Pairing Dinner
Thursday, 6:30 p.m.: Oskar Blues is hosting a dinner at Castle Rock's Barking Goat Tavern. The menu includes salmon, pork medallions . . . oh, and some Gordon Double Red and Ten Fidy Imperial Stout. Cost is $42 and reservations are appreciated.

New Tappings
And you'll excuse me if I'm a little behind on some of these . . .
*Odell Brewing has released its St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale, a dry-hopped tribute to the scientific name of hops given by that legend, Pliny the Elder.
*Trinity Brewing has put out its Root Saison, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale brewed with beets, quinoa and dreadlock hops.
*Gordon Biersch in Broomfield has given the world its Sommerbrau, a light Kolsch-style ale.
*Thursday: The Rock Bottom in downtown Denver rolls out its Liquid Sun.
Mmmm . . . kegs
Friday: Oskar Blues taps a firkin of Farmhouse DPA, a Dale's Pale Ale fermented with Belgian farmhouse yeast.
Saturday, noon to 9 p.m.: It's time for another tapping of a cask IPA at Bristol Brewing.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

"What Do You Pair with a Double IPA?" and Other Thoughts on Great Divide's 15th Anniversary

Denver's Great Divide Brewery turned 15 on Saturday: Not yet old enough to drive, but giddy enough to throw a great party all the same. There were bands, DPA-soaked brats and three separate booths serving, at various times, everything in the collection. If you missed it, the lesson is that you should clear you're calendar and make brewery parties priority number one.
Many thoughts can spring from a monumental event such as this and, like the speech patterns of a number of the attendees by 7 p.m., they may not all be coherent. But here's just a few that came to me and other members of the Fearless Tasting Crew throughout the day.

*The 15th Anniversary Oak-Aged Double IPA (which Great Divide founder/owner Brian Dunn is shown uncorking during the festivities above) is the most complex beer in the long line of complex concoctions the brewery has rolled out. A multitude of tastes hit your mouth simultaneously, with vanilla, hops, oak and bourbon most prominent among them. One immediate impression is that aging a double IPA in a barrel actually goes better than the more common practice of aging a stout, as the hops provide more of a counter-balance to the big whiskey taste than a darker beer's malt does.

*At age 15, this brewery is speeding up rather than slowing down. It is now rolling out about three new beers per quarter, diversifying its selection and playing with some new things. And some really, really work well. The Chocolate Oak-Aged Yeti, for example, is dark, complex, thick, malty and hoppy, all at the same time, almost as if its going for the highest level of depth in the beer world. The Double Wit, meanwhile, wallops you with a big taste of subdued citrus and heavy sweetness that dances on your tongue but doesn't overpower you. A member of the tasting crew aptly referred to it as "a Belgian Wit on steroids."

*With so much experimentation, you have to take the good with the bad. There has been debate in the past on the merits of the Samurai rice ale and on the Claymore Scottish Ale. But for the first time, I'm actually hearing more negative than positive on one particular beer: the new Saison. This comes on like a normal yeast-pronounced Belgian farmhouse ale, but what throws you is an aftertaste that strays past murky lemon territory and picks up a slightly minty character. It just feel unnatural. But, I suppose if a baseball player failed to get a hit for the first time after 20 or 21 straight at-bats, that particular swing also might be forgotten in the greater picture of things.

*Finally, it should be noted that Dunn and the brewmasters are putting more effort into beer-pairing dinners, such as one held last month at Highlands-area restaurant Duo. Such efforts are truly laudable, as it not only shows off the beer to a different crowd but really produces some combinations to drool over. For example, he paired the Yeti Imperial Stout with a banana gelato such that the ice cream took on a more serious taste and the beer rolled smoothly over it to create a whole new, incredible flavor in the blend. But he also tried to throw the Hercules Double IPA up against a spice-crusted snapper for dinner. On their own, both tastes were luminescent. But I'm just not sure that a beer as bold as the Hercules (the best beer in the Great Divide collection) blends seemlessly with anything. In conversation afterward, we decided that the acidic hops might cut very well against a spicy Indian or Thai dish. But I'm curious if anyone else knows what you do with a double IPA at dinner.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

New Brew: Rock Bottom Jazzberry Ale

Summer has always meant lighter beers, as well as a cacophony of beers imbued with the taste of a fruit that doesn't go quite naturally with your average hops and malt.

And if that's your thing, then you really should introduce yourself to the newest beer at Denver's downtown Rock Bottom Brewery, the Jazzberry Ale that just rolled out tonight.

Jazzberry, a lightly hopped ale with a strong taste of raspberry, introduces itself lightly. But quickly, the slightly acidic, very lingering fruit taste takes over your taste buds, and it sits just a bit too sweetly on your palate.

Raspberry is clearly a flavor that can be melded into very good beers, as anyone who has sipped New Glarus' Raspberry Tart or Lindemans Framboise can tell you. But the fruit in both of those creations is blended with Belgian yeast that weaves seamlessly with the sharp taste.

Jazzberry is a strange combination of mellow ale and harsher fruit that, to put it bluntly, just doesn't feel natural after a good amount of sips. About the time this thought hit me, I looked down at the glass and saw a strangely colored liquid that looked less like beer and more like lemonade with a shot of Tabasco in it.

Jazzberry, mind you, isn't an awful concoction, and its sweetness may very well render it a nice starter beer for someone who's been used to slogging fruity mixed drinks. But you spend so much time pondering the odd combinations that don't seem to work together that there's just not enough time left to enjoy it.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

This Week in Colorado Beer

I swear I'm going to have to start drinking prune beer, so I can get more regular at this blogging thing . . .

Friday and Saturday: Snowmass Chili Pepper and Brew Fest. Take a heavy heaping of bands, add two hours per day of beer and chili, and you've got this rollicking weekend. More than 50 breweries are expected to attend.

Big Parties
Saturday, 2 to 7 p.m. Great Divide's 15th anniversary celebration might not be a festival just yet, but at $20 a pop, it's cheaper than any tasting ticket you can buy to Snowmass. And in addition to food and a sampling of the Denver brewery's beers, you get to be among the first to try the oak-aged 15th Anniversary Double IPA. If you go, find me and say hi: I'll be the short, curly-haired guy drinking a lot of the new beer.

New Tappings
Thursday: Head to a Rock Bottom nearest you. The Downtown Denver location rolls out its Jazzberry Ale, presumably to the sounds of smooth jazz. The Orchard Town Center location taps a Sunset Steam.
Already out: I'm a little late on this one, but Left Hand recently released its St. Vrain Tripel Ale, a 9% ABV whopper available in 22-ounce bombers. Anyone tried this one yet?

New Tap Rooms
Just when you thought I was running out of categories . . .
Upslope Brewing of Boulder, the newest addition to Colorado's microbrewery scene, opened its tap room about a week ago. It's still operating on limited hours - 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday - but any new brewery willing to make a go of it in these economic conditions needs a little support.

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