Friday, July 31, 2009

This Week in Colorado Beer

AHA Rally
Today, 5 to 8 p.m.: Ska Brewing in Durango hosts the event, which is a perfect chance to get free beer and a tour while you're paying to become an American Homebrewers Association member or to just go and drink for free if you're already a member.

Saturday and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.: The Keystone Blues and Brews Festival offers 30 breweries for 30 bucks at the River Run Events Plaza.
Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.: The 2nd Annual Great Boulder Beer Festival celebrates eight Boulder County breweries at the Millennium Harvest House. I wish I knew the price, but I don't.

Anniversary Party
Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.: Avery Anniversary Party, at the brewery in Boulder. This is always a beautiful thing. Twenty bucks gets you in and another $20 gives you access to a mid-afternoon vertical tasting.

New Tappings
Today, 4 to 7 p.m.: Fort Collins Brewery releases its 1900 Amber, but not until after you've partied like it's 1899.
Today, 5 p.m.: Falling Rock Taphouse in Denver rolls out Russian River Publication, a britt-singed creation of five of the country's best ale houses (including Falling Rock) and the maestros at Russian River. Each bar gets only eight kegs.
Thursday, 6 p.m.: Rock Bottom Westminster taps a Bottoms Up Kolsch, which will feel more appropriate in the weather we were having last week as opposed to this week.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Barack and Beer: An Unnatural Combo?
No matter what you think of President Barack Obama's politics, you have to give him this much: He knows that men should settle their disputes with a couple of beers and a hearty talk.

However, judging by the beers that the men involved in today's White House chat - especially the president - were ingesting, this great American tradition may have been a little more forced than it should have been.

By now, everyone pretty much knows the story of Obama inviting recently arrested (and angry) Harvard Professor Henry Gates and heavily criticized (and angry) Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley to the White House to talk about the recent incident that involved them and the harsh words for Crowley from the president. If you don't, here's a story about it that I wrote on Monday for the Denver Business Journal:

The problem was this: When each men was asked to pick their beer, they came up with some strange choices. Gates went for a Red Stripe (a non-American beer at a great American gathering), Crowley passed over fine local options for a Blue Moon and Obama, appearing to flail and grab at the first name he could think of, chose a Budweiser. Seriously. You're the leader of the free world, you could have any brewer in America ship you a couple of cases and you choose Budweiser? Wow.
Here's the way I think it should have gone:
*Gates the professor from the hoity-toity Cambridge university should have picked something from Cambridge Brewing, which is not just an incredible local gift to the beer world but, like most professors, is very environmentally conscious. The barrel-fermented sour wild ale Cerise Cassee was, in this beer geek's opinion, the best offering at last year's Great American Beer Festival, so it certainly deserved a seat at the White House table.
*Crowley's a little more blue collar, so he could have gone with a Sam Adams product. Since he clearly likes Belgian-style wheat beers, we'll give him an Imperial White, something that should both light up his taste buds and take a little bit of the edge off when the professor and the president start to team up against him.
*Obama, meanwhile, is an Illinois resident, so he ought to bring something from his home state to the party. Goose Island is the finest brewery in the Chicago area, and he'd have quite a variety of styles from which to choose. But since he's shown that his beer tastes are, shall we say, quite conservative, we won't give him something too big. The Honkers Ale is an easily drinkable English-style bitter appropriate as a session beer - just what he needs here.
That's one beer geek's opinion. Anyone got better suggestions?

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

This Week in Colorado Beer

Friday, 5-9 p.m.: Hops for Habitat, Plains Conservation Center in Aurora. Drink beer, support the environment: It's the sincerest way to act like a brewer. Tickets are $30, though I haven't found information on the number of breweries that will be there. Reservations required.
Friday, 7-10 p.m: Summer Brew Fest at Mile High Station, 2027 W. Lower Colfax Ave. in Denver. Flyers advertise at least 22 microbreweries and 75 beers. Tickets are $30 in advance ( and $35 at the door.

Beer and Food Pairing
Tuesday, 5-8 p.m.: Great Divide hosts its monthly beer/cheese night. Five beers, five cheeses, $10. With the new selection of beers, you never know what you'll get.
July 31, 6:30 p.m.: Del Frisco's Steak House in Greenwood Village hosts its first beer pairing dinner, with New Belgium Brewery. Cost is $65, and the menu features such tempting twosomes as butterscotch braised duck leg with Abbey. RSVPs needed by July 24 at 303-796-0100.

New Tappings
*Pagosa Brewing rolled out its Summer Hop Ale, a once-a-year cross between a pale and an IPA, on Wednesday.
*Two new New Belgium Lips of Faith bombers hit store shelves this week: the wild-yeast, dry-hopped La Fleur Misseur and the Transatlantique Kriek, a lambic brewed with Polish cherries.
*Left Hand's Oak Aged Imperial Stout, aged in Heaven Hill brandy barrels, is back in stores for the first time in two years.
*Dry Dock Brewing, now situated in its new home in Aurora, taps a firkin of Creamsicle Pale Ale on Friday.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Breckenridge Beer Festival 2009

The sun shined down as always on Breckenridge's Main Street Station for its annual summer beer festival this past weekend. Here's one man's scribblings-turned-into-opinions about the events.
The Good
Beer of the Festival: One of the joys of the event was getting to pit Breckenridge's 471 Double IPA against Great Divide's Hercules Double IPA head to head. And what I and others realized was the same fact that began to creep up at last year's Great American Beer Festival - that Breck's whammer may be less well known but just may be the best big IPA in Colorado, if not America. That's not to discount Hercules, which remains gruff and strong and challenging in its enormous hoppiness. But the 471 is one of the most stunningly drinkable ales in America for its size, sweet and natural and borderline soothing in its grassy splendor without going soft on the hops. Let's hope more festivals offer us the opportunity to make this comparison.
Surprise Beer of the Festival: All I'd heard about Ska's Mexican Logger before the show was that some Hispanics did not appreciate the picture of a sleeping Mexican beside a chainsaw on the label, feeling it might be stereotypical. The only place my mind went after sipping this, however, was to the sharp smoothness and great malt texture that made this seem like a totally different beer than other Mexican lagers, which can look and taste shockingly similar to urine in a bottle.
Sam Adams booth: Boston Beer Company once again brought two new creations to let the crowd rate and vote on them. While the Fearless Tasting Crew generally agreed that neither the pils nor the pale ale should be added to Jim Koch's permanent collection, true interactive relationships between the brewers and crowd at these gatherings are always appreciated.
The little guys: Beer festivals are partly about finding that unknown brewery. For this one, Grand Lake Brewing came strong with three offerings just as their product is starting to circulate statewide. And tiny Aspen Brewing showed off a very impressive Brown Ale teeming with nuttiness and body, enough to make you want to stop by the brewery the next time you're skiing.

The Bad
Festival organizers and their poor advertising: Check out the website for the festival and tell me where on it you can find that the show was only open to VIP ticket purchasers (at $75 a pop) until 2 p.m. Yet, that is exactly what ticket takers said to the crowds pulling up shortly after 1 p.m. and wondering why they couldn't get in. Organizers added that they had mentioned the VIP pricing on flyers around town. Well, for everyone who came from out of town - most of the crowd, I'd wager - it was a rude shock to find out the discrepancy. It was, at best, a poor job of conveying festival details to people who had traveled hours to get there and, at worst, a fraudulent way of trying to extract more money from the crowd.
The humdrum beer booth selections: Some festivals around the state inspire brewers to bring their most experimental wares, or at least something a little off the beaten path. For the most part, this wasn't the one. Kudos to Breck and Great Divide for going big, Flying Dog for having an imperial porter and a Belgian-style wit and Ska for saving a keg of double blonde for when its first tap blew. Otherwise, there were standard offerings from the big craft breweries that could be found on bar taps pretty much anywhere in the area. And, while we're bringing a more diverse beer selection, a few rinsing pitchers would be nice too, folks.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Denver's Two Beer Weeks

Haven't heard about Denver Beer Week? Or about Denver Beer Fest? Here's a little explanation (written by yours truly) of why I mention two potential beer festivals that will leave you only 50 weeks of the year in which you can plan other things to do:

What this breaks down to is this: Visit Denver (the Denver convention and visitors bureau) wants to do a week-long celebration of beer between the Larimer Square Oktoberfest celebration and the Great American Beer Festival. Brewers in this state want to do it sometime between February and April, when less people are roaming the Denver streets imbibing and eating in restaurants. The differences between the two groups appear to be leading to two beer weeks during the year, which are not competing so much as they're two different celebrations.

The question is this: Does having two beer weeks in one year really nix the importance of both of them and rob Denver of the ability to have a beer-specific celebration that the city deserves more richly than places like San Francisco and Philadelphia that now have such weeks?

My opinion is that two beer weeks are compatible. One in the Spring would be for beer geeks who want to talk beer and drink beer at a time when everyone else is complaining about how cold the weather is and how much the Avs suck. The one in the Fall would be like a push for people to get out and drink beer before the GABF, a time when the true beer-friendly restaurants and bars already are throwing such events but when a specified week could encourage others to get on the bandwagon.

Anyone else have thoughts on this gravest of issues?

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

This Weekend in Colorado Beer

It's just a lazy, dog-dangling summer . . .

Beer Festivals
Saturday, 1 to 6 p.m.: Breckenridge Beer Festival at the Main Street Station in the heart of town. Twenty-six breweries will be giving out their wares, and there's a good chance that Sam Adams will ask your opinion on its latest experiments. Be sure to wear sun screen; I will. $30.

New Tappings
Friday, 5 p.m.: Falling Rock Taphouse in LoDo cracks open a keg of Stone's deliciously hoppy, new 13th Anniversary Ale. But the real prize for those who venture down is the same brewery's Cali-Belgique, one of the leaders in the new Belgian IPA movement.
Friday, 5 to 9 p.m.: In Colorado Springs, Bristol Brewing will roll out the fourth release from Black Fox Brewing, an aggressively hopped saison by the name of Gusto.
Saturday, 4:20 p.m.: Boulder's Southern Sun Pub and Brewery and Denver's Vine Street Pub will tap St. Amos Belgian White, a Belgian-inspired white brewed with lemongrass, coriander and orange peel. I don't think you should read anything into the tapping time, but I could be wrong.

Almost Gone
Rock Bottom in downtown Denver may be just about out of its American Dream IPA, which it tapped on July 2. Very easy and light for its style, it has only a slow, lurking bitterness that doesn't bite as much as stick around longer than you might expect. But while it might be slightly heftless on its own, it actually blends well when combined with food, welcoming and then dispensing the grease while leaving a flavor that tinges but doesn't burn. Not the worst thing you could pair with a hot summer night munching on the 16th Street Mall patio.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New Brews: Grand Teton Goodness

Be honest, you had the same reaction as me the first time you tried Grand Teton Brewing's Bitch Creek ESB about 10 years ago. Good beer that you'd drink on any occasion, but when you shoot the moon with a name like that, you're just never going to reach expectations.

I liked the beer and the brewery, but I never put it in the hallowed class of the top American beer czars. Then came the Cellar Reserve series six years ago, and the complexity of Grand Teton's efforts advanced. Now, after the most recent releases from the collection, I'm beginning to rethink my initial impression and starting to wonder exactly how many breweries have as diverse and daring a collection of specialties as this Victor, Idaho-based beermaker.

Take, for example, the Howling Wolf Weizenbock, the latest Cellar Reserve series member, released about a month-and-a-half ago to what I now would argue was shockingly little fan fare. Dark, spicy, tangy and evolving with every sip, this is the most interesting summer release in recent memory.

Sporting the fizzy tan hue of a double IPA, this 8% ABV bock, cellared for more than three months, hits you with very sharp and spicy wheat tones before overwhelming the mouth with a date-and-green-apple feel. Its stout caramel fruit taste (trust me, the combo works on the taste buds) mellows slightly into a clove-and-raisin combo upon warming then sweetens at the end into an almost syrup-like taste with the heavy feel of that product.

Crafted with 40 percent wheat malt, Howling Wolf is meant to emphasize the wheat aspect of the old German purity laws. But you will find in it an envelope-pushing done by few beers claiming they are classic wheats, and I promise you that you will want to try one before this seasonal rotates off shelves.

Howling Wolf is so impressive, in fact, that it overshadows the impressive Lost Continent Double IPA, a former Cellar Reserve creation released as a new seasonal beer in May.

Lost Continent, sold in four-packs, smells like a wet patch of sod and bites like the dog that lays on it, and after a few uber-hoppy sips, you begin to feel the spice on the back of your tongue. The burn dissipates, however, and is replaced by a smooth but heavy hop presence whose warmed flavor is revved by a biting bitterness.

An excellent beer at all temperature levels, Lost Continent sports a kind of roasted, slightly peppery feel that is unique among its double IPA brethren. And while it doesn't make you reconfigure your thoughts on the style like the Howling Wolf, it's not something to scoff at either.


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