Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Blue Moon Meets Bold Flavor

Maybe you too have stood at the Blue Moon booth at the Great American Beer Festival, sipping bold and creative beers that have never been bottled and thinking: "Seriously, when are they going to sell these?"

I had thought the answer would be never. The good news is: I was wrong.

The Coors affiliate shocked a lot of people by tapping a Farmhouse Red (pictured above) at the SandLot Brewery that it operates for the Rockies' opening home game this year. Though its primary flavor is more reminiscent of a hibiscus Sweet Tart than a traditional Belgian sour, it quickly became the best beer you could find at Coors Field - and the company was selling it in stores a month later.

But just wait until you see what is coming next. I got a chance to sample the creations of Blue Moon founder Keith Villa and SandLot brewmaster John Legnard while working on a story for the Denver Business Journal that runs Friday, and some were shockingly good.

In August, the company will release a reboot of its seasonal pumpkin ale that takes a bland, stale beer and infuses it with fairly heavy and exciting notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. At the same time, it will release a Caramel Apple Spice beer that's been tested across the country; this one' s a bit lighter on both of its main attribute flavors, but it gets points for effort.

Not set for any release yet - but ripe for beer drinkers begging the company to put it out - is an IPA/double IPA hybrid brewed with juniper berries that greets your palate with deliciously fruity hops and a scent of peach. That was the best of the backroom offerings that the company is toying with, though a 9% ABV cherry imperial wheat that brewers have served at a couple of beer festivals already was not short on a malt-heavy, fruit-tinged taste that would make you do a double-take on its brewer.

Nor was it disappointing to taste a chocolate bacon porter that Villa and Legnard have been toying with - a beer in which all of the aforementioned tastes are subtle but offer more combined than a typical smoked dark ale.

And anyone who's stood in the aforementioned GABF lines might also ask: So, where's the thick, fascinating Peanut Butter Ale that people actually queue up to try (even if putting down a pint might seem a stretch). Villa says that one's nowhere near releasable, but at least he's working to get it ready for the big annual tasting.

Blue Moon Belgian White was a bold beer when released in 1995. But to a fair number of connoisseurs, it seemed that the creativity that was exhibited in that wasn't allowed out of the bottle in subsequent years at Blue Moon.

That restraint is being pulled back by parent company MillerCoors now. And just seeing what the brewmasters are toying with is enough reason to sit through a few more Rockies games this summer, if only to discover what Brewmaster's Choice might pop up next at the SandLot.

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