Saturday, November 09, 2013

All Colorado Beer Festival Ascending

With so many beer festivals in Colorado, a lot of them tend to blend together. And for the first six years of its existence, the All Colorado Beer Festival in Colorado Springs fell into that category of fun but unspectacular.

Something was different about this year's version, though - different enough where the ACBF might have to move into that don't-miss category in 2014. And it was a combination of things that elevated it.

First, the sheer number of breweries set the festival apart. Last year there were 37 beer makers pouring their products there. This year the number rose to 68 - all from Colorado, many small, some just barely open. Kudos to organizer Randy Dipner for that.

Second, one of the drawbacks of this fest in the past, like many massive beer gatherings, was that many of the breweries crammed into the space were offering the same beers you could find on any shelf all year long. That wasn't true this year.

From Gravity Brewing's intriguing Belgian Peppercorn Ale to Epic Brewing's fabulous coffee bomb Big Bad Baptist to Verboten Brewing's Good Day to You - a chocolate porter with sea salt - the Freedom Financial Services Expo Center floor was lined with new and different offerings. Even when a  brewery brought something that missed wildly - such as Fort Collins Brewery's overwhelming Mesquite Chili Lime Ale - it missed by trying, not resting on its laurels.

Third, the VIP area continues to shine and is well worth the extra money. It was there that Grimm Brothers poured the tastiest beer of the festival, if not of the entire year, in its Devil's Riddle Ale, a strong ale aged nine months in Buffalo Trace barrels packed with Brettanomyces to complex effect. And it was there where the likes of New Belgium, Three Barrel and Trinity could happily turn an ordinary festival into a sour festival.

Finally, as a "celebrity judge" for the second year, I had the privilege of helping choose the winners in the IPA/imperial IPA category, and I noticed a huge difference in the quality of entrants just from last year. So when we blindly picked New Belgium's Rampant Imperial IPA for the gold medal and Dry Dock's Hop Abomination IPA for the silver (as shown in the photo at the top), it felt like we were honoring about the best in the state, not just the best there.

The ACBF typically occurs about a month after the Great American Beer Festival. If you haven't been yet, it's worth making a trip to Colorado Springs next year to do so.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Naughty and Nice Beers List

If you are like the Beer Run Blog crew, you like to do your Christmas shopping late - specifically after Christmas, when everything goes on sale. And if that's the case, you might be able to find a good bargain among this year's Christmas beer offerings, which liquor stores are going to start pushing off their shelves soon.

So, in the spirit of always writing this column as late in the holiday season as humanly possible, it is worth giving a shout out to some of the beers that made the past month seasonally fun, especially as they start disappearing. Like searching for Santa, you'd  better look quick before these are gone. And you'd better realize whether you've landed on the naughty or nice lists to figure out what you're getting.

Very, very nice - and knowledgeable about beer:
* Five Golden Rings - Saying that The Bruery's annual seasonal beer is the best on the market almost feels cliched. But when it adds pineapple juice and subtle spices to a Belgian strong golden ale to give it a hugely sweet and slightly tart feel, it's just the best thing out there.
* Tis the Saison - Denver Beer Co's offering was a thinker. You had to swirl its floral flavor around a few times before realizing that what made it unique was the peppermint and spearmint added to it. And then you ordered another one.
* Santa's Little Helper - Port Brewing makes another year-to-year top Christmas beer, but unlike The Bruery, it just stays consistent with a reindeer-butt-kicking imperial stout that warms you completely.

Quite nice
* Upslope Christmas Ale - A medium body and a bold taste made this spiced Belgian-style dubbel a full mouth experience with a slight spice to its backtaste. This Boulder brewery may just be becoming the new king of seasonal surprises.
* Hibernation Ale - Those who make the mistake of going a year without enjoying Great Divide's classic strong ale may forget how its woody, caramel-lined body backed by a strong hop backbone really is one of the most solid Christmas beers around.
* Winter Warlock - Bristol Brewing seemed to add a slight bit of sweetness to its traditionally dark oatmeal porter this year, giving it just a touch of pleasant newness.

Just plain nice
* Winter Tartan Scottish Ale - Maybe the surprise of the Christmas season was this vanilla-laced Scottish ale served up by Rock Bottom Downtown Denver, a unique addition to the holiday pantheon.
* Brr Winter Ale - The other great surprise was a hop bomb by Widmer Brothers that featured a berry-fruit taste rather than a traditional citrus fruit palate with its hops.

* Big Shot Seasonal Ale - Fort Collins Brewery offered up a big brown ale that was malty, decently hopped on the back - and no different than a year-round decent brown ale would be.
* Newcastle Winter IPA - Yes, British IPAs are much subtler than American IPAs. But it's still extremely hard to identify the hop presence in this extremely easy-drinking caramel-base beer. It's not awful, just dull - not the kind of thing you want to put in a beer aficionado's stocking.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

The New Tastes of Summer

It's one thing for breweries to rebel against the grain of summer, as Great Divide did in releasing three monster beers a couple of weeks ago. But sometimes, Colorado breweries can go the traditional route, yet produce unexpectedly tasty results in a low-hop, low-malt season.
One of those recently released treats comes from Fort Collins Brewery, the seasonal Maibock that just showed up in the local liquor store in the last week. Brewed in fall and aged in the summer, this is in many ways a traditional spring beer. But it's got the resume and chops to stand out in the summer crowd.

Presenting a decidedly caramel color, this quaffer is toffee sweet, with warm notes of a slight burnt-pan cooking goodness flowing through every taste. What is appealing about it is that is has a very understated yet present body that offers a bock that's both sweet and roasty without being syrupy or heavy.
Crystal Springs Brewing's Summertime Ale, a kolsch-style ale, is appealing in a different warm-weather way. This is a light-bodied German-style beer that introduces itself with a hint of sweetness to open your eyes.

Further sipping reveals a slight honey taste, blending effortlessly with the malts and without the residual heaviness of most honey-tasting beers. Thus, you have a concoction that goes down very easy for hot evenings such as tonight but lets you know it's something more than a light lager.

Surely there are more great Colorado summer creations out there. Anyone have recommendations?

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This Week in Colorado Beer

I've come down sick and can't drink beer at the moment, but that doesn't mean you can't ...

The Ranger Is Rolling
*New Belgium's Ranger IPA, which I wrote about a week ago, finally hits stores and bars this week. Falling Rock Taphouse offers a public kickoff of it Friday at 5 p.m., and Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs is holding its own release party for it at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

New Tappings
*Thursday, 6 p.m.: Rock Bottom Brewery Downtown rolls it its latest, a Subzero Winter Ale. The tapping is part of the Apres-Ski Party associated with the SIA Snow Show over at the Colorado Convention Center, so expect an even more festive atmosphere than usual.
*Friday: Fort Collins Brewery unleashes its Scotch Lager, yet another intricate non-ale from the brewery that arguably leads Colorado in lager experimentation.
*Friday, 5 p.m.: Trinity taps its Stop Making Sense Eis Bock, a doppelbock aged and frozen before it's tapped. It comes in at 11% ABV, so bring a driver.

New Offering
*Right around now, Left Hand Brewing has been set to release its 400 lb. Monkey, an IPA it had been testing since June. This new creation adds an almost bubble-gum sweet tinge to the classic bitter hops. The taste is a bit more atmospheric and maybe just a bit more aged than a bite-your-buds fresh hop. But it's definitely another classic in the Longmont brewery's collection.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

This Week in Colorado Beer

What? A weekend without a beer festival? . . .

Tapping Parties
Saturday (today), 2 to 6 p.m.: Boulder's newest brewery, Upslope Brewing Co., will break out its Belgian Dubbel at a release party that includes cheap pints and some free eats.
Monday: Fort Collins Brewery taps Common Ground, a collaboration between it and Jackie's Java to create a coffee-infused amber ale.

New Tappings
*Already missing the spate of summer beers that debuted this season? Crabtree Brewery in Greeley just cracked open a Strawberry Blonde to ensure you don't have to drink dark beer before all the kids are back in school.
*Wednesday: Trinity Brewing of Colorado Springs is putting its Flo IPA on cask at the same time it keeps it on its regular tap as well. Crazy.

Beer/Food Pairing
Tuesday, 5 to 8 p.m.: Great Divide holds its latest beer and cheese pairing. Here's a tip that I've learned firsthand: If you're wanting to go, make sure you RSVP at or call Patrick at 303.296.9460 x29. It will be worth it.
Thursday, 6:30 p.m.: Can't get enough of that Flo IPA? Trinity hosts a $55 six-course beer pairing dinner, with a maximum of 20 seats available. Call 719-634-0029.

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