Tuesday, October 02, 2012

One Last Callout: Best Beers of Summer 2012

With rumors flying that the Denver area could see a light dusting of snow this week, it's time to declare this seemingly endless summer finally over. But before that happens, it's worth reflecting on some of the finest gifts that breweries gave to beer drinkers in what was an unusually tasty season that more often is known for light, forgettable offerings.

So, while most of this six-pack of special beers are off shelves or taps by now, let this serve as a call for these breweries to bring them back again - in summer 2013 or, preferably, even sooner.

* Black Swan by Twisted Pine
A big beer in most every sense of the word, this sixth offering in the Boulder brewery's 2012 Artisan Ale series combined the tastes of peat moss and licorice, mellowing into a slightly sweet ester with an alcoholic kick. It was a black saison complex enough to make you think about what was going on in your mouth as you reach for sip after sip.

* Saison du Buff - a Dogfish Head/Stone/Victory collaboration
Employing parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme as key ingredients in a beer sounds like a gimmick - right until the inital earthy spices, combined with the citrus body of a classic saison, leave an unforgettable original taste. This was first released in 2010 before coming back for a limited run this summer; here's hoping it becomes an annual seasonal.

* India Pale Lager by Great Divide
The so-called "IPL" is another gimmick that a smattering of  breweries have tried in limited runs, often at summer beer festivals. But the hop masters at Great Divide seems to have hit just the perfect balance on it, producing a sweet and grassy beer whose body takes on the thickness of its flavors while still remaining shockingly refreshing for summer crowds. This year it was available only in the tap room. Next year, please bottle it.

* Kaffir Lime Wheat by Denver Beer Co.
You know that Charlie Berger and Patrick Crawford realize they've hit on something good when the Denver Beer co-conspirators actually decide to put a beer in seasonal rotation rather than make it a one-off. The Kaffir Lime Wheat had the tart, powdery quality of a well-made sour, but the citrus was held in check enough to make this widely appealing. Even Fearless Tasting Crew members who tend to eschew fruity wheat beers gobbled this up.

* Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse by Grand Teton Brewing
With the growing popularity of berliner weisses, there appear to be two camps on how to make the German sour - low-alcohol and light or bold and big. Grand Teton's Cellar-Reserve series take on the style was loaded full of both the banana and clove typical to its hefeweizen yeast and the sharp mouthfeel of the Lactobacillus of the secondary fermentation. And it was bold and big. It may, in fact, be the new flag-bearer for the style.

* Trade Winds Tripel by The Bruery
One of the greatest things about the too-soon-departed District Tavern restaurant in LoDo was its offering of this spectacular seasonal on tap. It's likely the Orange County brewery will offer this Belgian golden ale spiced with Thai Basil in the future. Let's hope more Denver bars will be willing to serve it up.

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