Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Mini-Keg Party

When I was growing up and too young to drink beer - legally, at least - one of the big products on the market was the Coors party ball. It was portable, it held a lot of beer, it cost less than a keg. All in all it was great - except for the fact that it typically was full of lukewarm Coors Light.

The mini-keg isn't a product that many breweries have since tried to reproduce. But Newcastle Brown Ale thinks the concept could be a winner. And so, it is rolling its DraughtKeg out across the U.S. this summer after trial runs in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago with it. And Denver, naturally, is on the list of places it will be available.

The DraughtKeg holds five liters (1.32 gallons) and comes with a two-part tap system so simple that it makes tapping a full keg look like rocket science. Directions say you need to chill it for 10 hours before serving, though I found that a six-hour respite in ice will do it just fine. And the keg, which fits without problem into an average-sized cooler, is guaranteed to remain fresh for 30 days.

To test out this new product, I took it for a recent weekend at a friend's cabin where the Fearless Tasting Crew was happy to help me out. The results were fairly positive.

The beer remained cold and fresh. It was easy to pump. It was light to carry, even when full. And while I admit a bit of a prejudice against brown ales in general because I find them to be dull and looking to please a mass audience without unique flavors, the idea of bringing a mini-keg of the ever popular Newcastle turned out to be a good one when you're trying to meet the taste needs of a large and diverse group of drinkers.

On the down side, I found that the farther the DraughtKeg got drained, the foamier it became - not unlike a full-sized keg, but the foam seemed a bit more excessive here at the end.

Suggested retail price for the draughtkeg is $22.99, and it is set to become a full-time product for Newcastle. It may not be the dream thing to bring to a picnic of hop heads and beer snobs, but I'm betting this would make you some friends at an office barbecue or family reunion.

Also, Newcastle has put out what it calls its Geordie Schooner, a special glass that aims to maintain the head of its beers while using a laser-etched star on the bottom of the glass to create a continuous stream of bubbles. The product - which, true to its billing, seemed to maintain the head of the beer well - is available at select bars across the country.


Friday, June 18, 2010

This Week in Colorado Beer

New Tappings
*Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.: Avery releases its Joe's American Pilsner, which promises to be unusually hopped for a beer of its style, at the brewery in Boulder. It won't be available outside the brewery until mid-July.
*Saturday, 2 p.m.: Odell Brewing brings back a limited edition of its Double Pilsner, a beer that redefined the summer style. Tapping at brewery.
*Tuesday, 6 to 8 p.m. Gordon Biersch brewery taps Sommerbrau, a kolsch-style pilsner with a slight fruit zing. Caribbean appetizers will be served at the tapping.

New Releases
*For those of you that drank a little too much during the U.S.-England soccer game last Saturday (not that I would know anyone who fits that description) and missed Great Divide's 16th anniversary bash, take heart. Both the 16th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA and the Double Wit are in stores now.
*Wynkoop Brewing has canned its second beer, Silverback Pale Ale, and it hits five area liquor stores today before going into wider distribution next week. It also is available at the brewery.

Beer/Food Pairings
*Tuesday: Avery and Upslope Brewing are jointly hosting a beer dinner at Highlands favorite Duo restaurant. Tickets are $39.
*Thursday, 6:30 p.m.: Wykoop joins with California legend Stone Brewing to host a Father's Day beer and spirits dinner at the downtown brewery. Tickets are $40.

Free Stuff
*Saturday and Sunday: Any father enjoying a beer at one of the BJ's brewpubs in the area receives a free pint glass. If you're not a father, borrow your neighbor's kid and fake it.

GABF Tickets
*Finally, if you've read this far down, you should know that Great American Beer Festival tickets go on sale for American Homebrewers Association members at noon Tuesday, exactly six days before they go on sale to the general public. Go to the AHA website for details.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Grand Teton's Dueling Tastes of Summer
Most breweries that delve into regular seasonals can be relied on to produce a summer ale that is lighter bodied, maybe splashed with a hint of citrus. And if they dare to come out with a second hot-weather beer, it's usually something in the wheat family.

And then there's Grand Teton Brewing Co., the Victor, Idaho-based rising star that's decided summer is appropriate for two very different tastes. One is the lighter, sweeter taste of a white beer ... albeit, a Belgian double white. And one, of course, is a double IPA, since nothing says "beat the heat" quite like a hop-gutsy 8 percent ABV concoction.

The big boy, released April 1 and available through September, is the Lost Continent Double IPA, a 2009 debut that is back by popular demand. Only this year's version is a little different, with a half pound of "dry hops" added to the three pounds of hops per barrel in kettle and a revised fermentation program aimed at producing a more traditional double IPA flavor.

What comes from those changes is a medium body with a big, bold taste, one that lets you feel citrus zest and chewy flower root in every sip without the stickiness that sometimes is present in this style. And while Lost Continent may be lacking some of the bitterness of other double IPAs - a positive attribute for the new version - it does fall into that classical taste now, something golden enough to be drunk all year long and bold enough to be noticed.

The Tail Waggin' Double White Ale, the summer release in Grand Teton's cellar reserve series, is an animal of a different nature, however. This one provides a little more bark than bite, and the opinions of the Fearless Tasting Crew were decidedly mixed during a tasting at a Memorial Day get-together.

This new creation adds zing by mixing lemongrass flavors in with the traditional orange peel and coriander overtones, leaving your taste buds scrambling a little more to try to figure out what it rolling over them. It is light-bodied with a late-breaking sweet backtaste, leaving it decidedly refreshing in the warm weather without ever being confused with the beer your grandparents drank in the summer.

But the hints of lemongrass and orange peel remain just hints of taste in this one, far enough off that you can imagine what just a little more of either could have done to lift the flavor profile of this beer. In the end, Tail Waggin' is a decent beer, but not the kind of mind-blowing flavor bomb that past Cellar Reserve series entrants such as the Pursuit of Hoppiness American Red Ale and Sheep Eater Scotch Ale have been.


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