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Holiday Ale Review: Petrus Winter Ale #9

Hello again!  After a long hiatus, I am ready to resume my public duty of reviewing ales for my fellow Beertopians.

My buddies Jim and Jeri suggested that I review some holiday ales.  Here goes:

Beers with the name “Petrus” are actually brewed by the family-run Bavik Brewery in Bavikhove, Belgium.  Bavik brews one of my favorites–Petrus Aged Pale–which is a “must try.”  So, I was excited to try the relatively reasonably-priced ($9) bomber.  Sadly, this one doesn’t live up to the Petrus standard.

I’m going to skip the color/pour, and go straight to the relevant observations.

Aroma:  Caramel, spice, dried fruit.

Body/mouthfeel:  Medium body, high carbonation.

Taste:  Malty, sweet, caramel, spice, dried fruit.

This is not a bad beer–just an unremarkable one.  With plenty of remarkable holiday ales out there in the same price range, you can safely skip this one.

Next up:  AleSmith YuleSmith!

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Beer Review: HopTar Stout, from Summersalt Factory Brewing

Disclaimer:  My nephew Kevin and his Special Lady Friend Anne are the brewers; but, I stand by my review.  I am anxiously awaiting the next release!

At its best, beer–through its flavor, aroma, appearance, and mouthfeel–creates and facilitates happiness, contentment, and camaraderie.  Memories of good times, good friends, and favorite places mingle with the sensory experience of drinking the beer to create something beyond the mere enjoyment of the beer.  When a beer produces this result, it is remarkable; it is even more so when it is the brewer’s first effort.  That brings me to today’s review–HopTar Stout, the very first effort by brand-spanking-new craft brewers at Summersalt Factory Brewing in Copenhagen, Denmark.  This all-grain beer was brewed in the basement of an establishment of sorts, and the brewers had to adapt on the fly to unanticipated shortages of some planned ingredients, as well as the necessity of pitching the yeast at a higher-than-usual temperature.

Poured into a beer glass, HopTar is dark–”darker’n a black steer’s tuchus on a moonless night”–and is capped with a small amount of coffee-and-cream colored head.  Hoppy aromas join with the roasted malt to invite the first sip.  HopTar has a big body, but the significant carbonation keeps it from being too heavy.  The taste is an explosion of different flavors:  bitter chocolate, roasted and toasted malts with hints of smokiness, and plenty (but not too much!) of hops.  The overall flavor is a fine balance between roasted maltiness and hop bitterness, with sweet flavors in the finish from, maybe, the homemade granola the brewers used.  The finish is surprisingly, and pleasantly, dry.

This is a magnificent beer–one of the very best stouts I’ve ever had.  It is significantly more hoppy than most stouts; but, that is a very good thing, as obsessive compliance with style guidelines has resulted in many a boring and repetitive ale.  By ignoring the rules, Summersalt Factory created a true original.  I am sorry to report that its release here was extremely limited; but, I have it on very good authority that these innovative and talented brewers fully intend to keep brewing iconoclastic and delicious brews.

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Beer Review: Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel

On a recent visit to Rueben’s Burger Bistro in Boulder, which boasts a huge selection of Belgian beers (many of which are on draught), I thoroughly enjoyed a draught Straffe Hendrick Quadrupel.  It’s brewed by De Halve Maan brewery, located in the center of Bruges, Belgium.  I haven’t seen this beer available anywhere else on Colorado’s Front Range.

Poured with perfection into a Belgian tulip glass, Straffe Hendrick is a very dark ruby red with a lingering, one-finger off-white head.  Lightly caramelized brown sugar dominates the aroma.  The mouthfeel is somewhat rich, well-carbonated, and a little chewy, with a pleasantly dry finish.  Flavors of bourbon-y booze, caramel, and dark fruits (currants and prunes) meld pleasantly, but only become apparent if you allow the beer to warm for several minutes after it’s poured.

Overall, this is a fine, complex, Belgian strong (11% ABV) dark quad that improves as it warms.

Style notes–Quadrupel

Belgian quadrupels are reddish-brown to dark brown, strong (10%-12% ABV), and often sweet and raisiny, with chocolate flavors sometimes sneaking in.  These beers are full-bodied, rich, and malt-forward, with low bitterness.

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Beer Review: Funkwerks Brett Dream–AVOID!

We enjoyed some of Funkwerks’ previous efforts, including their standard Saison. So, we thought we’d try Brett Dream, an ale brewed with two saison yeasts and Brettanomyces.

The aroma was awful. MC found it sulfurous; to me, it smelled like a nasty mix of garbage, old sweaty socks, and bad cheese. The smell was so revolting that it overwhelmed the flavor of the beer–although it is possible that the flavor was equally bad. I found it impossible to separate the two. I rarely dump out a beer; but, I gave up on this one after three really unpleasant sips.

Maybe this one failed because Brettanomyces yeast are difficult to brew with. Whatever the cause, I found this beer to be completely undrinkable.

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Cafe Aion (Boulder): Excellent

Disclaimer:  MC and I had dinner at Aion tonight with four of our favorite people–Bridget, EJ, Kathy, and Bruce. As with a special locale, great company enhances a dining/drinking experience.

Aion, which is in a former used bookstore, is a grown-up’s oasis in the midst of Boulder’s collegiate wasteland known locally as “The Hill.”  Having gone to CU, I have nothing personal against the student body and the dozens of establishments on The Hill which wisely cater to that demographic group.  But, I haven’t had any good reason to go back to The Hill until tonight, when our friends suggested a night out at Aion.

The food was phenomenal. First, we enjoyed excellent tapas, including homemade potato chips seasoned with smoked paprika and cumin; marinated white anchovies (which were more lemony than salty); roast beets with shallots, feta, mint, and almonds; Hazel Dell mushrooms braised with thyme and fino sherry; and fried cauliflower (I hate cauliflower, usually) with saffron yogurt, cumin, and lemon.  We then shared some tasty main courses: a whole roast Colorado bass with fingerling potatoes and salsa verde; and paella made with saffron rice, linguica sausage, and Maine mussels.

And yet, this is a beer blog…

Aion has a small, yet inspired, rotating draught list.  Last night’s selections included Chimay “White,” a Trappist-brewed Tripel; Jolly Pumpkin La Parcela Sour Ale; Asher Organic IPA; and Crazy Mountain Winter Warmer. I enjoyed the Jolly Pumpkin and the Chimay, which was actually served at the correct temperature to allow expression of its full range of aromas and flavors–something even most “serious” beer joints can’t seem to get right.  The bottled/canned beer selections included Dale’s Pale Ale, Unibroue La Fin Du Monde Tripel, Paulaner Salvator, Rochefort 8 Belgian Strong Dark Ale, and Pinkus Munster Alt, among others.

Aion is a great example of how even a limited beer selection, if served with care and paired with great food, can make for a great experience–especially in the company of good friends.

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Beer Review: Panil Barriquée

Ah, Italy!  The wine, the language, the beaches, the history, the charming cliffside hamlets, the mountains, the architecture, the…beer?  Are you sure this isn’t Belgium?

Really, artisanal craft beer is one of the last exports I’d expect from Italy.  But, Panil of Italy (note:  site is in Italian with no English-language version) is challenging my expectations.  Panil Barriquée  is a true Sour Red ale in the Flemish tradition:  all-natural, unpasteurized, unfiltered and unsweetened.  Barriquée is “triple-fermented”–first in stainless steel, then for three months in cognac barrels (barriques?), and finally in the bottle where it is naturally carbonated.

Poured into a stemless red wine glass, Barriquée is a gorgeous amber red color, with one finger of rapidly dissipating head.  The aroma is invitingly sour, with a touch of apricot.  The taste is satisfyingly sour and a little bit earthy, without the cloying sweetness that too often ruins other attempts in this style.  The finish is extra dry, as it should be.  As Barriquée warms up, a bit of cognac or orange liqueur aroma emerges, along with subtle vanilla flavor.

Damn!  I might just have to incorporate  a side trip to Italy on the fantasy Belgian brewery tour trip…

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Brew #1 (Pale Moon Rising) went over well with visitors, comparing favorably with Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker, and Great Divide Denver Pale.
Brew #2, a French/Belgian Farmhouse Ale, is abiding in 2ndary fermentation
Brew #3, a Black IPA, brewed today and getting tuned up in primary.
“When in doubt, brew!”

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Beer Review: Crooked Stave W.W.B.G.

Crooked Stave, currently out of Fort Collins but soon moving to a permanent home in Denver, is a “project brewery” largely dedicated to artisanal ales, many brewed with Brettanomyces yeast.  Brewmaster Chad Yakobson is also the “guru” to the Brettanomyces Project, an intensive scholarly study of the “wild” Brettanomyces yeast.  The project formed the basis for Yakobson’s masters’ dissertation in Brewing Science and Distilling.

W.W.B.G.–”Wild Wild Brett Green”–is a substantially hopped pale ale fermented entirely with Brettanomyces yeast. A sunny light orange in color, W.W.B.G. is opaque and has a thick white head formed from minute bubbles. Grapefruit and pepper aromas, with hints of sourness and funk, combine in the intriguing aroma. W.W.B.G. has a crisp, tingly mouthfeel from the high degree of carbonation.  Flavors of citrus, pepper, and hop bitterness mingle with a balanced sourness to round out the complex flavor profile.

This delicious ale will please IPA drinkers as well as “Brett” fans who are looking for a twist on their favorites.

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Colorado Craft Beer News Roundup

[Ed. note:  The Colorado Craft Beer News Roundup is a new semiweekly feature with information on new beer releases and availability, new breweries and brewpubs, and general news about Colorado craft beers.]

Avery Brewing (Boulder) will tap two new releases—Récolte Sauvage and Muscat d’Amour—in its Barrel-Aged Series on 2/11/12.   Récolte sauvage translates roughly as “wild harvest;” muscat is a grape widely used in wines.  I’m hearing that Avery used grapes in both, aging Récolte in cabernet barrels and Muscat in Chardonnay barrels.

Boulder Beer recently tapped its Bad Moon Risin’ Double Black IPA, which clocks in at a whopping 12% ABV. The result of a brewing mix-up, this is a one-time-only release, because the brewers won’t be able to duplicate the recipe.

Breckenridge Brewery is collaborating with musician and brewer Kyle Hollingsworth to brew a dark wheat beer.  The brew will be available at Hollingsworth’s BrewSki Tour concerts in March .

Colorado Mountain Brewery (Colorado Springs) has an ongoing “Brewer’s Whimsy” feature–a 10-gallon batch of specialty brew–every Tuesday.

CooperSmith’s (Fort Collins) features an all-you-can-eat, Wisconsin-style fish fry every Wednesday night during February.

Dry Dock Brewing (Aurora) taps a small amount of a cask-conditioned specialty ale this Friday at their Firkin Friday event.

Elk Mountain Brewing (Parker) has Firkin Wednesday, featuring a Black Rye IPA.

Equinox Brewing (Fort Collins) taps a 10-gallon cask-conditioned firkin every Thursday.  During February, they’re featuring cheese pairings with each firkin specialty release.

Funkwerks (Fort Collins) will be teaming up with the Moot House, a steak house, for paired dinners on February 22 and 23.

Horsefly Brewery (Montrose) hosts Community Tap Night on February 7.  A portion of all proceeds will be donated to Montrose 4H programs.

Mountain Sun Pub  (Boulder, 2 locations; Denver, Vine Street Pub) hosts Stout Month in February, featuring their Homebrew Stout Competition and—in about a week—the tapping of Tangerine Cream Stout.

Odell Brewing (Fort Collins) taps Footprint, a blended ale from several small batches with ingredients from ten states, on February 11.

Oskar Blues (Longmont) will host one of Ommegang’s brewers this Thursday night to sample and discuss Ommegang beers and Belgian brewing philosophy.  It absolutely kills me that I have to miss this one (but it’s for a good cause, as I will be pouring some select Colorado ales at a charity event).

Renegade Brewing Company (Denver) is down to its last keg of “black gold imperial peanut butter cup stout.”  Somebody please get down there and try this for me, then report back in the comments…

WHEW!  All this work produces a powerful thirst… .  If I’ve missed something, please mention it in the comments, and I’ll update this post accordingly.

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Beer Review: Liefmans Goudenband

Finally, a brewer that solves the green-bottle skunking problem!

Belgian brewer Liefmans bottles some of its beer in green bottles, but then covers each bottle in colored tissue paper. Aside from aesthetics, this also prevents the dreaded “light-struck,” or skunking, effect present in unprotected green-bottled beers.  Since 1679, Liefmans has been making its beers by blending very old (aged) beers with newer beers.  The brewery intentionally uses lactic acid bacterial strains (such as lactobacillus and pediococcus) along with yeast to ferment the beers, adding sour flavor and enhancing the dry finish.

Liefmans Goudenband is mahogany brown and semi-opaque, with a rocky white head that dissipates but quickly replenishes.   Malt, currant and molasses mix with esters in the aroma.  The mouthfeel is light and tingly due to a very high degree of carbonation.  Caramel maltiness and pronounced sourness, along with a faint hint of raisins, give way to a currant aftertaste.  With its extraordinarily dry finish and moderate (8% ABV) alcohol content, Goudenband is both complex and drinkable.


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