Monday, August 23, 2010

Manitou Festival Highlights

Yes, there were a few problems getting all of the beers you wanted at the Manitou Craft Lager Festival this year. But, showing why the event is so good, there were also some finds. Here's a look at a few things that stood out among the entries from the the 26 participating breweries:

*Avery Brewing is officially through the looking glass in terms of hopping a lager. Its recently released Joe's Premium American Pilsner blends a truly refreshing lighter body with a jump-up-and-grab-your-attention amount of hops to create one of the most interesting summer beers in recent memory.

*Looking for the next impressive beer trend? Think Helles. The bolder, sweeter style of lager was on fine display at several breweries. Pug Ryan's brought the biggest and toughest of the bunch, and its charge could not be ignored. The soon-to-open BierWerks of Woodland Park also rolled out a very medium-bodied, balanced and refreshing entry.

*Oak aging is doing wonderful things to lagers. This was most evident for the short window of time in which Odell was pouring its Woodcut #4, a shockingly smooth 11% ABV vanilla wonderland of a double-marzen-style lager aged in virgin American oak barrels. And even a smaller brewery like Rockyard showed with its Excavator Doppelbock that oak aging can make what is considered by some to be the simpler style of beer into a complex and meaty creation.

*Left Hand Brewing's Oxymoron was tapped a little early at the festival - it had yet to be filtered, I was told - but it portended a fascinating experiment to come. This "teutonic India pale ale" was brewed with a lager strain and was the hoppiest entry of the festival.

*If you're looking for someone to push the envelope a little further, look no further than Trinity Brewing. This year's debutante beer was the Kinky Reggae, an unhopped lager brewed with Jamaican jerk spices. There was considerable debate among the Fearless Tasting Crew about the merits of unhopped beers, but the rising spice level left this alone in terms of unique flavors at the event.

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