Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gestalt Theory: Blending a Barrel-aged Sour Beer. Hosted by Andy Parker, Barrel Herder at Avery Brewing Co

Avery Brewing has been a brewery that does more than brew and pour beer. It's become an educational brewery where they have hosted events that focus on the process of making beer. Gestalt Theory was one of those educational events with Head Barrel-aging Master, Andy Parker as host and lecturer. He has been a brewer at Avery for around 11 years. The start of their barrel-aging craze was as Andy calls it, "On a whim".   Andy ask Adam Avery if he could barrel-age a few of their beers and of course, it was given the thumbs up.
Andy Parker is behind the bar.

Salvation, Reverend, and Hog Heaven were barrel-aged with various results. At this stage of the learning curb, Andy was an infant. But since then he has become "The Master".

The "lecture" was about the blending process of the making of Emermita V. When you open a bottle of a sour beer, the first thing is nose,  the lovely aroma and then the taste of the beers flavors burst in your mouth and the last phase is the after flavors which is much like drinking any other beer except the process of making the sourness or tartness isn't at all like brewing a brown or an IPA. Just for Emermita V is took many barrel-aged beer and many blind tasting for this sour beer.

 I learned that blending sour beer is a long process that on first glance seems like a sweet job, but after the lecture I realized it takes dedication and a good palate. Andy said that on some days of barrel tasting, his palate becomes saturated with the sourness of the beers that he has to walk away and drink a palate cleanser such as Avery's Joe's Pilsner.

Avery Brewing has these kinds of events throughout the year and it's well worth the price of a ticket. Andy Parker did a wonderful job with his knowledge and humor.

My Picks for the Best Taprooms in Denver

The Thrillist, an online Denver magazine wrote an article about the seven best taprooms in Denver and I want it noted that half their picks were awful. So here is my list of the best brewery taprooms in Denver.
A taproom is where breweries showcase their brews, it's also a place where beer lovers can taste their beers onsite in a quality atmosphere. But a taproom isn't as important as the product because no matter how stylish or cool the  taproom is, it's the beer that keeps people coming back.

The order of breweries doesn't designate my favorite to least but just a list of breweries with a nice and interesting taprooms.

Prost Brewing is right off the freeway on 20th St.
Beer taps at Prost Brewing.

They specialized in German style beers so if you enjoy Hefeweisens then this is the brewery for you. The taproom is large with groups seating on picnick tables or there's room at the bar.

Hogshead Brewery is located in the Highlands district in Denver. This brewery wasn't on the Thrillist list.

The brewery is situated in an old gas station that has been renovated and the taproom is small but modern. Hogshead styles their beers in the English tradition of low alcohol but tasteful.
North Denver is called RiNo (river north) area has many breweries but only a few I would recommend. 

Crooked Stave moved to The Source, a market place on Brighton Boulevard. This brewery was one that I agreed with the Thrillist  list.
Crooked Stave Brewing inside of The Source.

The taproom is very modern with small seating area. There's a nice bar seating with my only problem with it is that there needs to be an area for taking beer orders. On the weekend it is packed with sour ale loving patrons. The taproom has an open air concept with the brewhouse within sight.
Crooked Stave specializes in sour ales, Belgian-style farmhouse, and Saisons.
Going south on Brighton Blvd. you will cross Blake St where another brewery is located.

River North Brewing is another one left off the Thrillist list of Denver breweries.
River North Brewing.

The taproom has a semi-circular feel with a great view of the brewhouse. The room is small but they have a nice size bar. They brew Belgian-style ales and have barrel-aged beers. 
The next street over is Walnut St. where another brewery that I agreed with the Thrilist is located. 

Black Shirt Brewing has an iconic feel to their taproom.
Bar area of taproom of Black Shirt Brewing.

Black Shirt has a niche in brewing Red Ales.  The Red Ale is the base for all their other beers. 
Their taproom is inspired by Johnny Cash, all black and metallic but not oppressive. There are tables seating and a nice bar, in the summer there's patio seating outback. The atmosphere is dark but on nice days they open the large garage door to let in sunlight.
Traveling down Broadway there's another agreement with Thrillist, TRVE Brewing has a cool taproom plus great beer.

TRVE Brewing is a metal music inspired brewery.
Part of Trve Brewing's insanely large picnic table and bar area. 

Their taproom is metal gray and black with a very long picnick like table that was probably built to intiate conversation among the patrons.  The music is metal and can be loud but don't be intimidated because the beer is why it's on the list. There is a wide range of styles of beers but most love the IPA.

Next stop is Renegade Brewing in the Santa Fe district of Denver.  They have a large taproom with plenty of seating at the bar. The beer is good and they have a wonderful IPA on tap, Elevation IPA.
Renegade Brewing's taproom.

 This next brewery is located in the industrial area of Denver but accesible by freeway.

Strange Brewing is in a industrial strip mall and from the outside doesn't have much curb appeal.
Strange Brewing's bar in the taproom.

You walk through the overflow room to get to the main taproom. It's a nice room but not impressive by a long shot but adequate and there's a moderate size bar. The bar itself is impressive where resin was laid over fresh hops. There's tables for group seating in both rooms. Strange Brewing has many styles of beers on tap from IPA's to their famous Belgian Stout, the Cherry Bomb.

Taprooms in breweries are designed as a place for visitors to enjoy beer in a welcoming atmosphere. Some taprooms are more impressive then others but remember it's the beer that keeps us coming back.

Old Mine in Erie, CO

Old Mine Cidery and Tap house in Erie. They have Shotgun Stout from Dry Dock Brewing. It aged in the same Bourbon barrel as the Bligh, a barley-wine.

Bed and Breakfast + BEER! Purple Mountain B & B in Crested Butte.

This post is not really about Purple Mountain Lodge Bed and Breakfast but about what they are offering guest, Colorado crafty beer.

Chris Haver and his wife bought the B & B in 2003 and did a complete renovation with keeping the integrity of the historical building. If you've been to a B & B, you know it's not just the room and breakfast that keeps guest coming but that personal touch that hotels just can't give due to the volume of people. This homey touch includes an afternoon happy hour, usually with wine as a ice breaker for the owners to engage with their guests.  Chris Haver really didn't enjoy drinking wine or was really interested. He has been a home brewer for over 20 years and started serving his guest beer instead of wine. With the boom in Colorado with microbreweries, his guest became more interested in craft beer. He found that in some areas the B & B's would offer tours of the local breweries or they were associated with a brewery. Chris realized that there wasn't enough to offer in Crested Butte, one brewery and one distillery which doesn't make for a long tour.

After a long weekend checking out breweries in Denver, he decided to have a special  beer month were he could showcase a specific Colorado brewery. Purple Mountain Lodge is small enough that he can enjoy drinking a beer with his guests and discuss the beer, share information about the brewing process, and the beer history.  March is the start of featuring a brewery and pouring the "beer of the day" for his guests. This is a daily event that is complimentary to his guests.  Left Hand Brewery Co is the brewery for March. This "afternoon beer" started as an end of the season special that was such a success that now there will be a new brewery featured each month.
Photo provided by Chris Haver.

Chris choose Left Hand for their extensive number of beers that he can offer to guests each day. He has a college buddy that works at Left Hand Brewery who was there to give advise if there were any issues but it went very smooth.

Chris Haver

Purple Mountain B & B + Studio Day Spa
714 Gothic Ave.
Crested Butte, CO 81224

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

12th Annual Strong Ale Fest in Boulder Co

One of my favorite annual events was last weekend, 12th Annual Strong Ale Fest hosted by Avery Brewing in Boulder. Every year I'm amazed by the amount of beer being poured at this festival and this year was no exception with over 130 beers from around the country. It's a two day event starting on Friday night. We usually go on Friday where to atmosphere is different than going to the event the following Saturday at noon.

I didn't want to go home staggering through the parking lot so I took it easy. The Strong Ale Fest ticket comes with a commemorative glass and 16 tickets which one one hand doesn't seem much but on the other these beers are all 8% and above.  It can be deceiving when the pours are only a few ounces but it adds up.

Inside the taproom.
I always want to try beers from breweries outside of Colorado so I started with Goose Island Beer Bourbon County Stout which is 14.2% ABV, but was so smooth. Another favorite strong ale was from Ballast Point, Victory at Sea, an Imperial Porter with coffee and vanilla. It is another strong ale, 10% ABV that was so smooth and very flavorful. So you can see where this can go if all you drank where 10% or above but there were some beers that were 8%, like Elevation Brewing's Senorita Horchata Imperial Porter which is 8.5% ABV. As you can see I like a good stout or porter, but I did try other ales. Territorial Bourbon Barrel-aged Rye Wine from Coop Ale Works was really good not my usual MO.
Susan, inside the taproom.

Friends sending Jesse off to his new adventure.

It was a very interesting night where bumping into friends and acquaintances who would talk about their favorite beer at the fest.
Rachael Burrell, Events Coordinator for Avery.
More friends having fun in the barrel-aging cellar room.

The crowds are just coming through in the back tent.
This is Max under the Avery sign.
The kegs of beer in the back tent.
Sarah, Larry, and Mitch, all having a good time.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Collaboration Sour Ale between Crooked Stave and Upslope Brewing

Crooked Stave and Upslope Brewing collaborated on a sour ale. The base beer is the Belgian Style Pale Ale from Upslope that was inoculated with Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus which were carefully selected then were aged in first-time red wine barrels. Crook Stave’s head brewer/owner, Chad Yakobson and Alex Violette, Upslope Brewing’s head brewer hand selected the wine barrels from Rocky Mountain Barrel Co. The barrels were separated with each brewery aging them at their facility. With this in mind, the end result will be that the sour ales from the two breweries will have different qualities to them. 

As of this writing there are plenty of cans of Feris Flexus from Upslope and bottles of it from Crooked Stave at local liquor stores. Don't know if you can still buy them at the taprooms.

News Release from Bootstrap Brewing Co

Bootstrap Brewing released news that they are expanding their production with the help of Sanitas Brewing Co. 

Bootstrap Brewing in Niwot has had a difficult time keeping up with demand so they are contracting with an alternative proprietorship of brewing space from Sanitas Brewing in Boulder. Sanitas Brewing has a much larger brewhouse then Bootstrap's. Steve Kaczeus, owner and head brewer of Bootstrap Brewing said in a press release, "This agreement essentially allows us to rent time on Sanitas Brewing Co. equipment, which is larger then ours and will allow us the ability to both brew and package a lot of Bootstraap beer than we currently are at our Niwot facility." 

Sanitas Brewing Co, has a WIld Goose canning line with the agreement allows Bootstrap to use the equipment to can their beers.  Though it maybe months away til Bootstrap is able to can their number one beer, The Insane Rush IPA. 

This is effective immediately but for those of you worried about Sanitas Brewing, this will not hinder the brewing of their beers.

Both breweries are relative new. Bootstrap Brewing Co being just under 2 years old and is owned by headbrewer, Steve Kaczeus and Leslie Kaczeus. Sanitas Brewing Co is just a year old and owned by Chris Coyne, Michael Memsic, both brewedd at Boulder Brewing Co and Zach Nichols.