Friday, January 15, 2016
First, I have to apologize to all of you — and yes, I mean both of you — who have been asking what's happened to my blog as of late. Between the Jan. 3 due date for my book and Jan. 16 due date for my second child, I've had to pull my attention elsewhere. But, hey, nothing gets a writer like me going quite like a deadline.
That said, 2015 as a whole was another year of experimentation by Colorado breweries but also a year of taking simple styles and just making them ridiculously good. And with that, you will see that the following list contains a little of both, with a complete rainbow of flavors that show once again how the biggest experiments can have some of the biggest payoffs.
10) Odd 13 Humulus Kalecumber
Few breweries took as giant a leap forward this year as this Lafayette beer maker, which dialed in on its sours and increased distribution in the metro area. But nothing was as shockingly tasty as this Berliner Weisse brewed with kale, cucumber and mint - tart and yet undefinable.
9) CaseyBrewing & Blending Saison
Troy Casey is building a cult following with the tart and fruit-infused beers he is putting together in Glenwood Springs. But his greatest feat was offering a clean and crisp saison that jumped to the top of its style in Colorado — and one that appeals to both edgier and more traditional palates.
8) Mockery Brewing Lapsang Souchong
This brewery tucked around the corner from Great Divide's Barrel Bar made its name in 2015 with beers that were made perfectly and had just a little twist. None was more satisfying that this smoked tea lager that was light-bodied but permeated the palate completely.
7) Ska Estival Cream Stout
Ska took your expectations and tossed them out the window twice with this masterpiece. First, it made its primary summer seasonal a stout — and one that was easy to drink even in the warmest weather. And then it added cream and orange zest and made a dark beer smooth and slightly fruity.
6) Avery Antonius' Carmen
The opening of Avery's destination brewery in Boulder County gave it more taps to dole out its growing barrel-aged collection. The biggest and best surprise of the year there was this dark sour ale aged in Madeira barrels, beautifully chewy and bright.
5) River North Third Anniversary Ale
A 17 percent saison designed to celebrate an anniversary of these Denver auteurs sounded at first like a gimmick that would backfire. On the contrary this was bold and sweet and shockingly smooth, and the alcohol was muted enough to make it both delicious and dangerous.
4) Horse & Dragon Sad Panda Coffee Stout
The best thing to come out of the craft-beer mecca that is Fort Collins this year not only was introduced originally in 2014 but was made by one of the smallest and newest breweries in the city. Yet, this coffee stout with a hint of sweetness drank like one of the most perfect blends of big and accessible in Colorado, and the hope is that it gets more widespread distribution this year.
3) Ratio New Wave
Arguably the best new Colorado brewery of 2015 opened in Denver's RiNo neighborhood with a saison and a scotch ale that tasted like the works of seasoned veterans. But what announced Ratio's presence with authority was this summer-released strawberry Berliner Weisse that sizzled with tartness and big, juicy fruit. It was a combo that worked with a touch of genius.
2) Dry Dock Whiskey Barrel-Aged Double Hazlenut Brown Ale
Dry Dock's introduction of a series of barrel-aged big beers at the start of 2015 was the herald of what already one of the state's best breweries turning a corner toward a whole new level. In this effort especially, the barrel didn't assault your taste buds; it blended remarkably with the muted alcohol and stunning malty sweetness of the beer to take a complex experience and make it more pleasing.
1) Strange Craft Beer/Copper Kettle Brewing Basil Kriek Blonde
Collaboration Fest ranked as one of the best beer festivals of 2015, largely because of the wide variety of experiments that worked so well. But the one that soared above the rest - and continued to strike wonder as Strange and Copper Kettle served it throughout the year was this combination of Strange's Cherry Kriek and Copper Kettle's Basil Blonde. Two beers that are laud-worthy in their own right took seemingly clashing strong flavor profiles and turned them into a blended burst of fruit and spice with a soft blonde base beer that fortified it without overpowering it. It was a truly memorable effort from a truly memorable event that proved its mettle as more than a 2-ounce one-off creation.
Labels: Avery Brewing, Casey Brewing, Copper Kettle Brewing, Dry Dock Brewing, Horse and Dragon Brewing, Mockery Brewing, Odd 13 Brewing, Ratio Beerworks, River North Brewery, Ska Brewing, Strange Craft Beer