Five Things I Learned from the Manitou Craft Lager Festival
The seventh annual Manitou Craft Lager Festival took place this past weekend, and at two full days with 22 different breweries (and one beer made by about a dozen brewers), it was bigger than ever. One is always tempted to use the cliche "bigger and better," and with a bevy of good bluegrass music and host Jason Yester strolling throughout the festival talking beer with everyone, that expression is probably true.
But I'll choose to use the term "bigger and smarter" instead, because that's how I came away from the event. And here's a few of those things to smarten you up that many attendees may have picked up this year:
1) Just because a beer is of a typically light style doesn't mean it is. Ask especially the Sam Adams Double Bock
, which was, in the opinion of this one beer geek, the offering of the festival. A dark, malty, ass-kicking beer that weighed in at 9.5 percent ABV, this is the most complex version of a lager that you'll find. Kudos as well to Carver Brewing's X-Rock Bock, whose big alcohol left it with a caramely sweet taste.
2) Even if it is light doesn't mean it tastes anything like (Insert Megabrewery Here) Light. Some of the finest sips on this 85-degree day came from thin, translucent beers with easy malt flavoring - the emphasis being on actual flavor. Left Hand's Polestar Pilsner (which judges named the beer of the festival) was crisp, refreshing and style-defining. Likewise, Del Norte's pale Orale Mexican-style lager was just lightly hopped and sweet enough to pronounce its personality without getting in the way of your need for something less than chewy under the summer sun.
3) Fruit, which soars in Belgian-style ales and adds personality if done right in regular ales, can be intrusive in a lager. Ask Michelob, whose Pear Beer resembled a pushy cider but not a beer. Even Rocky Mountain Brewing, the Colorado Springs envelope-pushers who have added everything but a thick steak to their beers in their first year of existence, demonstrated that a little lemongrass in a lager might intrigue you, but it also can take over the beer.
4) "Bitter" and "lager" no longer are mutually exclusive terms. Shmaltz Brewing, another envelope pusher, opened a lot of eyes with its Sword Swallower, an IPA-inspired lager brewed with eight hops that jolted while most of the other beers poured at the festival soothed. Meanwhile, Boulder Beer rolled out a new Rye't On! Lager that presented a spicy and bitter taste to you.
5) Pug Ryan's
needs to find a way to get its Helles Good Beer out to the Colorado market somehow. A sweet and highly malty seasonal bock that somehow finishes with cooling properties, it had the best combination of originality and drinkability of any lager on tap. A number of people said the same thing at the 2008 Arapahoe Basin beer festival. The small Dillon brewpub right now cans just one of its concoctions - its Morningwood Wheat. If you can't wait for the Helles to come to you, I'd suggest getting up to Summit County to try it this summer.
Labels: Festivals, Manitou Springs, Pug Ryan's, Sam Adams