Saturday, October 27, 2012

Burning into Colorado

A ton of new beers enter the Colorado market every year. But almost none of them can brag that their sales benefit a specific nonprofit.

So, when L.A.-based Firemans Brew officially launched in the Centennial State last month, it brought with it a unique commitment - donating a portion of all sales to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. And it is only appropriate, as the brewery, which sprang to life six years ago, is the creation of two actual firemen/homebrewers who felt they needed to make something appropriate for celebrating after putting out a fire.

Rob Nowaczyk, one of those firefighter founders, related how the idea sprang up after battling a Southern California brush fire. And like a fire, the beer that came from those discussions has spread outside the L.A. area to Chicago, Texas, Arizona and Colorado with its unique philanthropic bent.

"If we put a product out there that's gimmicky ... no one's going to buy it a second time," Nowaczyk said in an interview. "I think we bring a good quality beer, but at the same time we're able to raise money for firefighters all across the nation."

It's important to remember, though, that the beer was conceived to be consumed after enduring arduous work in hot conditions. So, for those looking for something to burn into their taste buds, this isn't it.

Of the three Firemans Brew beers , the Brunette is the most impressive. An 8 percent ABV German doppelbock, it's got a chocolate-tinged malty body with a nice underlying hop presence that gives it gravitas.

The Redhead - picking up a theme here? -  has an appropriately smooth palate introduction for an amber ale, but while the requisite caramel mouthfeel is there, its personality is somewhat lacking. Meanwhile, the Blonde, a pilsner lager, has a slight uptick in malt flavor from the Americanized versions of this style, but its lack of hop presence makes it also a pleasant but not memorable offering.

Six-packs of the individual beers or sampler 12-packs containing all three are on store shelves now. Nowaczyk acknowledges that the hop-subdued nature of his creations may seem odd in today's day and age, but he's hoping they're less for the advanced beer-geek crowd and more for residents wanting to make the leap into craft beer - for a cause.

"I think if someone likes a lighter beer, their palate will like it," he said.


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