Friday, April 26, 2013

Barrel Aging

It is one thing to go to a brewery and drink good beer because that alone will have you leaving happy. But what about those times where there are very special beers on tap? The ones that have been in the back aging for months and absorbing additional flavors like notes of wine, the subtle flavor of oak, or the hints of vanilla from bourbon. This is a wonderful process known as barrel aging and it is one of the most fortunate things to come into the craft brewery world. The options and styles of beer that are finding homes in barrels are becoming limitless and as always there are some that taste better than others, here are a few of our favorites that we have found throughout our travels.
One of the first memorable barrel aged beers we tried was on a visit to Boulder, Colorado where we found ourselves at Upslope Brewing Company. Located just a couple doors down from this tap room lies Bookcliff Vineyards and it was their Cabernet Sauvignon barrels that were used to age this brewery’s IPA. The end result is a beer that has a dark red color, a full body, and all the qualities one would love both from a glass of red wine and a traditional IPA. The richness of the wine just adds to the body the malts have already brought to this beer, but they are still background flavors to the hops. While this is still a hop forward beer the barrel aging creates balance, mellows out the hops, and adds a flavor profile that will not be seen often in an IPA which makes this one of the best barrel aged beers in Colorado.
But what about having a beer that was barrel aged in a barrel used for three different drinks? Like a cherry wine, a bourbon, and a port wine. That was the case at Copper Kettle Brewing Company where a Belgian Dark Strong was aged using that exact barrel, and what was the end result? One of the most complex, full flavored beers one will ever try. With so much going on in the barrel nothing was lost and all flavors still had a presence in this beer. The sweetness from the port, tartness from the cherry and subtle oak and vanilla flavors from the bourbon was not lost, and was present in each sip. The only downside to a beer this good is that it was gone too fast, so one can only hope there are a couple kegs being saved for special occasions around this small brewery.
Sometimes there a beers saved for special occasions and are so sought after that it makes the barrel aging process go hand in hand with the beer. This is no truer than in Aurora, Colorado at Dry Dock Brewing Company with the annual release of their Bligh’s Barley Wine. Aged in Stranahan’s Colorado Bourbon barrels for nine months prior to its release the line to purchase a bottle of this annual ale grows every year. As for the taste? A full bodied beer with a strong malt flavor and a subtle sweetness that any fan of this style will enjoy. But the months spent in a bourbon barrel escalate this beer to a whole different level. The great aroma and flavors come through strong but do not overpower the strong malt flavor. Instead the notes of oak, vanilla, and bourbon balance out the sweetness to create a very balanced beer that drinks easy, and obvious why this beer is looked forward to by the masses each year.
The last beer has not been aged with wine, or bourbon but instead has spent anywhere from one to three years in French Oak barrels. It also is from the largest brewery in Colorado, the La Folie sour brown ale from New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins. A brown ale with a red hue this beer is everything that fans of sour ales will like. The light body, effervescent mouth feel, aroma that gives off hints of oak, but most importantly with a beer like this is the flavor. From beginning to end this beer is highly sour and at times brings out a taste that makes one have to pucker their mouth. While it is not a style all beer drinkers are extremely familiar with, and ones that are not always easy to find the La Folie is worth the hunt to find it for two reasons. It is a great way to introduce yourself to sours and being from such a mainstream brewery it is easy to find. Not to mention from beginning to end this 22 ounce bomber drinks very easy, and is one of the best sour ales available.
As with anything in the beer world from ingredients to style the one rule remains true and that is that anything is possible. The same rule can also be applied to what style of beer gets the treatment of aging in a barrel, and also what kind of barrel is used. The varieties available are plentiful and can include every style of beer possible from the lightest saison to the darkest of stouts and porters. Whenever browsing the bomber shelves at a liquor store or reviewing the tap list at your favorite brewery look for something barrel aged, they can very easily turn into some of your favorites.
Is there a brewery you want us to visit? A style of beer you would like us to profile? Let us know at

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Copper Kettle Anniversary

In 2012 it was known as a “Year in the Making,” where the small Denver brewery Copper Kettle celebrated their first anniversary. This event was celebrated over the course of 4 days with 4 new beers which included a Black Belgian Quad, a Belgian Golden Strong, and a Barleywine. Fast forward a year and now this brewery is celebrating their second anniversary with what is appropriately called “A Year of Growth.” A year in which the fermenters were upgraded to included both 10 and 30 BBL, where the size of their refrigeration was tripled, and a year where the overall space of the brewery almost tripled in size. Soon to be added to that list will be bombers available after their purchase of a bottling line. It has been a year of growth for Copper Kettle and now this four day event will include not 4, but 10 new beers, the only question is which day to try?
The festivities will begin on Thursday, April 18 with two different beers being profiled on cask. The first is a variation of the signature and award winning Mexican Chocolate Stout, but instead it is a Double Mexican Chocolate Stout. Does that mean more chocolate, cinnamon, peppers, or all three? Regardless of what the double means it sounds like a must try for the longtime fans of this beer or the guests trying this for the first time. Also available on cask this day is a beer that is not often seen, and that is a Rauchbier. A beer from Bamberg, Germany where the malts were dried over an open flame a Rauchbier is a smoked beer. The level of smoke flavor varies from brewery to brewery buy given that they are not seen often on the craft beer level, this is a can’t miss beer.
Friday, April 19 will be that day that internal bragging rights are on the line as all five employees of Copper Kettle made their own beer and guests will get to enjoy the Battle of the Beer. Five very unique styles of beer that guests will be allowed to vote on. The beers available will be a Pecan Wood Smoked Brown Ale, an India Alt Ale, a Belgian Witbier with lemongrass and Ginger, a Belgian Dark Strong Ale aged in port wine barrels, and a Belgian saison with strawberry and rhubarb also aged in port wine barrels. All sound delicious, interesting, and refreshing. But before the voting begins they must be tasted, and the first question we will all be facing is which one to try first.
Going into the weekend the celebration will continue with a few more new beer releases. Saturday the bourbon barrels that have been used to bring us the High Country Breakfast Stout, and Old Ale will now also bring us a Baltic Porter. A higher alcohol, but also sweeter porter that is originated from the Baltic states these are beers that are not often seen, but are very good. Mix that with bourbon barrel aging and it has the potential to be one of the best beers released this weekend. Also available on Saturday are 2 more cask releases that are one day only. Once they are gone that is it so show up early to get a taste of these highly limited brews. Going into the last day of this four day celebration will be a throwback to the first anniversary and a celebration of the second. There will be vertical pairings of the 2012 and 2013 batches of Barleywine. These are worth tasting side by side to note the differences in taste, and what a year’s worth of aging does to change the profile of this ale. 
Through all four days there will also be events going on to keep the crowd entertained with live music, plus local food trucks to feed all the hungry guests that will be there for this event. The amount of growth that Copper Kettle Brewing Company has seen since they first opened their doors has been nothing short of amazing. This once small brewery now has a huge customer base but the regulars from day one are still showing up every day to enjoy the same high quality beers they have loved from the beginning. As the second anniversary approaches and the growth that they have seen since the first it makes you want to enjoy the moment of the celebration and enjoy all the great beers that will be available. But in the same moment it makes you wonder where they will be a year from now, and how big they will be then. For that we will have to wait and see, but for this second anniversary party, it could very well be one of the best celebrations for a craft brewery this year.
Is there a brewery we need to visit? Let us know at

Friday, April 12, 2013

Breckenridge Beer Festival

With the winter months slowly coming to an end and spring upon is the season of beer festivals is slowly starting up again. When it comes to one of the first festivals of the year there is no place better to host it than in one of the best small towns tucked away in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Breckenridge, Colorado. So on a beautiful Saturday afternoon with the snow capped mountains in the background over thirty breweries from Colorado, and a few throughout the country gathered in this small town to pour beers to the thirsty masses here for the event.
With so many breweries to choose from it was a difficult choice on which one to start with first, so the goal became to try breweries that I had not had before. Breweries from more small mountain towns, the western slope, and further south towns that cannot be easily visited. With a chill in the air, an empty mug, and a map in hand we entered the festival to see the rows of tents, and the only question we faced was which brewery to try first. After several samples here is a recap of some of our favorite beers that we sampled for the first time from breweries that we also sampled for the first time.
Starting with a small brewery in the western slope town of Palisade, Colorado we sampled the Dirty Hippie from Palisade Brewery. This dark American style wheat ale was a deep brown color and served with a slice of orange to compliment the flavor. A rich wheat flavor with a subtle malt note the citrus added a brightness to the beer. This dark wheat also had more body to it than a standard American Wheat and was one of the most refreshing beers of the day. In a further south direction in the small town of Alamosa San Luis Brewery also made the trek to Breckenridge to serve up samples and during ski season in a mountain town no beer sounded more enjoyable than a Winter Warmer. This strong ale lived up to its name and warmed the body up in the brisk weather. With a subtle spice note, full body, and clean aftertaste this beer will be one to look forward to when it comes around again.
In towns that are a decent drive from Denver but close to Breckenridge there were some very notable breweries with some delicious beers. From Eagle, Colorado was Bonfire Brewing and the Dirtbag Dunkel they were pouring was an excellent beer and a style that is hard to find in the craft beer scene. A rich dark lager with a rich malty flavor and a subtle hint of banana this was one of the best beers we sampled throughout the day. In another small town of the Vail Valley Crazy Mountain Brewery from Edwards was there and for the fans of hops out there the Rye Pale Ale was a beer anybody would enjoy. This was a dry beer full of hop flavor and had the bitter aftertaste that one would expect. However the addition of rye added a great spice note that was more prominent than in most rye based beers, and this complimented the hops and created a well balanced beer that only made you wanting more.
Now it is one thing for us to go from Denver to Breckenridge to enjoy craft beer from all around the state but for the people that live in these small mountain towns it can be hard for them to enjoy the great craft beer from Denver. Thankfully there were some great Denver breweries that also participated in this event. Prost Brewing was there serving up their delicious Weibier and spreading the word on great German beers. Copper Kettle made the venture up the mountain and owners Jeremy and Kristen could be seen pouring their Bavrian Helles and award winning Mexican Chocolate Stout. Last Great Divide was there pouring several offerings including their newest beer Hey Day.
Beer festivals can be an overwhelming experience the first few times you attend one. The amount of booths is astonishing and the variety of beers available cater to fans of all styles. But once all is said and done they are also some of the most enjoyable experiences, and can educate the novice craft beer drinker and even the more experienced craft beer drinkers. Most importantly they are worth going to for the opportunity to try so many breweries from all over the state in a single day. As long as you have a plan and an open mind you may very well leave with a new favorite beer. Breckenridge Beer Festival was a great way to kick off the season, and with many more to come we can’t wait to see which one we find ourselves at next.
Is there a brewery we need to visit? New beer we need to try? Let us know at

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hey Day

Since 1994 Great Divide has been making high quality craft beers from the same location in the LoDo part of Denver. Even though they have a great lineup of flagship and signature beers people still look forward to their seasonal offerings. But what we really look forward to is when they release a new beer altogether, and in 2013 we have been lucky enough to see two brand new beers from this iconic brewery. In January there was Orabelle, a Belgian style Trippel that was full on flavor, but most recently in April a new Belgian Style White Ale was released called Hey Day, and here are our tasting notes from one of Colorado’s newest beers.
After a gentle pour into a traditional pint glass with a decent head it became clearly obvious that this was going to be a very light beer. The light straw color with white head makes this a light beer that lends itself to the season. The cloudy appearance shows that this a unfiltered beer, true to style. This led to an aroma that fans of Belgian beers will love, as the strong smell of yeast hit the nose. Underneath the strong scent of yeast was the subtle smell of citrus that added a nice acidic note to the aroma. If the aroma was any indication this beer had the potential to have a strong flavor profile to it.
After first sip the flavor profile was a great replica of the aroma, but with a few more complexities added into it. For a beer so light in color it had a body much heavier than one would expect, and this can be attributed to the prominent yeast flavor. It creates such a strong flavor that hits the tongue on all levels but it does not make the beer so strong in one flavor profile that it becomes hard to drink. The richness of the yeast is cut by a very subtle citrus flavor that adds a much needed note of acidity and there is also a hint of spice that adds complexities. This all leads into the aftertaste that finishes fairly clean but does leave a small hint of the yeast flavor lingering around. It is not so overpowering that you wouldn’t want another sip, just prominent enough to make you crave another sip to enjoy the layers of flavor this ale has.
But what ultimately makes this unique beer so good is the wide appeal it will have to the beer drinkers out there. Fans of craft beer will enjoy the complexities that it offers, and at 5.2% ABV it is a great session beer and perfect for the warming weather. On the flip side it is a great beer to introduce the new fans of craft beer as it is a high quality version of 2 mainstream Belgian style white ales, and it will only help to expose them to the other styles of Belgian beers out there in the Colorado craft beer scene. But for those that are already huge fans of craft beer we will love it because after 19 years of serving high quality beers the fact that Great Divide is still able to put out new, great beers time after time only goes to solidify why they are one of the most iconic breweries in all of Colorado. Whether it be at the tap room, or in a 6 pack Hey Day is a must try, it will be enjoyable in this spring weather, and it will make us look forward to what could be coming out next as well.
Is there a brewery you want us to try, or a new beer we have to try? Let us know at