Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Old Bisbee Brewing Company

Bisbee, AZ
200 Review Alley

My wife and I spent a wonderful Thanksgiving in Sierra Vista Arizona with my brother and his family. One of the highlights of the weekend was a trip to the old mining town Bisbee in the mountains east of Sierra Visa. Bisbee was founded as a gold, silver and copper mining town in the 1880s. The huge, and now dormant, open pit mine east of town reminded me of a smaller version of "the pit" in Butte Montana. Now the town serves as a tourist trap and artist hangout. A perfect place for a brewery!

The Old Bisbee Brewing Company is not that old at all – opening only eight months ago. The brewery is split between two buildings. A small brewhouse contains their custom built 10-barrel mashing and lautering system as well as four fermentation vessels. Across the narrow alley sits the taproom and all of the serving vessels. Both buildings are fairly small, with the taproom seating only 30 people. To transfer beer between the two locations, the owners actually jack hammered up the alley and ran lines under the asphalt.

Favorite Beer

During our brief visit I sampled Bisbee’s Copper City Ale, Wit, fine Imperial Stout, IPA, and easy drinking Pale Ale. My favorite was their Copper City Ale – a Nut Brow Ale. (OG 1.052, FG 1.018, 4.5% abv) The color was blood red and it was served almost completely flat with no head at all. The nose was of toasty malt, becoming stronger as my pint warmed.

A strong biscuit malt character dominated the flavor with notes of dark crystal and no hop preseience at all. Copper City finished with dry toasty malt and a touch of diacetyl. It was dark in color, but quite light on the palate. Copper City is definitely an “old school” Brown Ale employing dark crytal (120 L) and over 14% Victory malt (hence the biscuit and toasty flavors), so it relies on a stong dose of amber malt (Victory) instead of chocolate malt in the gain bill. All of their beers I sampled, except for the Wit, were served relatively flat. They were also served fairly cold. Except for the Wit, all contained noticable diactyl.


Tours are available upon request. The brewers are also open to letting people just walk into the brewhouse and look around. Co-owner and brewer Dale Fountaine happened to be prescent when we visited. He was very friendly and willing to answer any questions we had about history, process, business, etc. Dale was proud that Old Bisbee Brewing does not have any secrets. All recipes, mash schedules, and fermentations notes are proudly displayed for any patron to view – with a clipboard hanging on each of the serving vessels in the taproom where everyone sits.

Worth Noting

Both Dale and his partner Victor Winquist are in thier 60s. Dale noted that they just brew and own the business to be happy, and getting big is not a priority. Neither were homebrewers, but both had extensive experience in the wine industry. Victor’s daughter Mindy is officially the head brewer.

Bisbee is a very eclectic tourist town and worth a visit if you are in the area. Old Bisbee Brewing Company does not bottle or keg, so the only place to get their beer is directly from the taproom. (growlers are available) This young brewery is still working out some small kinks, but while in Bisbee a visit to this taproom is must for any true beer lover.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Last month I had the opportunity to visit the Vaterland again, and considering how this part of the world is the epicenter for brewing and beer culture, there are many things I could write about. My friends, Matt & Skye, and I could not have possibly packed more beer experiences into our short eight-day visit than we did. We attended the Wiesn Wirteinzug (opening parade of the Oktoberfest), visited Austria’s greatest brewery, beer hall and Biergarten, Kloster Mülln in Salzburg, enjoyed a Weißbier at the Watzmannhaus after a 4000 vertical foot hike straight up to some of the most spectacular scenery in Bavaria, enjoyed the famous Braüstuberl in Tegernsee, and successfully completed the eight mile walking tour of the four breweries in the town of Aufseß (so Matt and Skye could also become Fränkische Ehrenbiertrinker – honorary beerdrinkers of Franconia). But to cap off our trip, we had a truly special and unique beer drinking experience, and that is what I will be writing about in this blog – drinking Zoiglbier and visiting authentic Zoiglstube.

What is Zoigl?

Don’t worry if you have never heard of Zoigl before… even if you are a self-identified beer expert. Most Germans do not know what Zoigl is either – including a majority of Bavarians! I suppose this is not too surprising. Germans are world-renowned beer lovers, but they tend to drink local and pay little attention to what is going on down the road. Zoigl is a very regional thing, and few outside of Oberpfalz know much about it.

Zoigl is more than beer. The term encompasses a number of things; the brewers, the process, ancient property rights, and community - all in addition to the drink itself. (More about that in the next paragraph.) Zoiglbier falls into the category of what most would call Kellerbier or Zwickel. It is a relatively flat, unfiltered lager beer that is served directly out of the keg after a maturation period that is much shorter than most traditional lagers.

Zoigl may be a Kellerbeir-type of beer, but not all Kellerbier is Zoigl. Zoigl is special, and is defined by a unique set of circumstances. Authentic Zoiglbier is made by communal brewers who take turns using a town brewhouse. Each brewer has their own recipe; so all Zoigl beers are slightly different. Zoiglbier is brewed using local ingredients and traditional practices including the use of wood fired kettles. At the conclusion of the brew day in the communal brewhouse, the brewer takes the wort back to their own cellars to ferment and briefly age. The beer is then served directly in their own home. This communal approach to brewing, as well as the brewing right itself, is very unique. And it is specifically unique to the Oberpfalz region in northeastern Bavaria. This Zoigl tradition goes back hundreds of years. For example, the Zoiglbraurecht (right to brew and serve Zoigl) dates back to 1455 in the town of Windischeschenbach and to 1415 in Neuhaus. At that time property owners received the right to brew and distribute beer in their home. This right remains valid today and is tied to the property and house. The Zoiglbraurecht is passed along from owner to owner in the property’s deed.

Since the late middle ages there have been dozens of communal breweries all across Oberpfalz, but over the years most have closed down due to a variety of reasons. Today only five true “Zoigl towns” remain: Windischeschenbach, Neuhaus, Eslarn, Falkenberg and Mitterteich. The center of Zoigl activity is in Windischeschenbach and Neuhaus – two small burgs separated only by the Waldnaab River. Each of these two towns has seven communal brewers. (Mitterteich has three, and Eslarn and Falkenberg have only one each.) Zoiglbier can be found in these locations, but not just at any time. Zoiglbier is always served over a “long weekend” that starts on Friday and lasts through Monday or Tuesday depending on the family. Patrons are often served in the family room or kitchen, though some have a special guest rooms for the occasion. The brewers take turns and rotate hosting with one or two Zoiglstube being open over any given weekend.

The Zoiglstern

Upon arriving in one of the Zoigl towns, there are two ways to find out where to get authentic Zoiglbier. First, one can consult the Zoiglkalender, posted in the local newspaper, or published online in the case of Windischeschenbach and Neuhaus. The other, old-fashioned way is to look for the Zoiglstern. (Zoigl Star)

When a Zoiglstube is open, they will hang this star in front of their house. The Zoiglstern looks like the Star of David, though there is no connection with the Jewish symbol. The six-pointed star is an ancient, medieval sign of the brewer, and its association with beer remains today. It can still be seen on the label of some Bavarian beers, and it is still a symbol of Zoigl in Oberpfalz. The star can be plain or it may have a mug in the center. It is believed that the term Zoigl actually stems from this tradition of using the star to guide locals to beer. The star is an indicator, “Zeiger” in German, that beer is being served. In the local dialect the word Zeiger morphed into Zeigel, and eventually Zoigl. Many locals to this day still say, “Geh’n ma am Zeigel!”


It would take a month and a half to visit all Zoigl homes since they are spread across five towns and their opening weekends rotate. This is something I want to do some day, but on this trip Matt, Skye and I had only one day, so we visited Windischeschenbach and Neuhaus where, on the Saturday we were in town, the Schoilmichl (Neuhaus) and Da Roude (Windischeschenbach) happened to be open. This worked out well since we could visit two Stub’n without getting in a car.

Da Roude

Even though we had a map, and knew exactly where we where we were going, we still walked right by Da Roude. From the outside the residence was very quiet. Besides a small star hanging above the door, there was no indication of activity. After finding the star, we tentatively

opened a large wooden door and found ourselves in a narrow court. There were a few tables in the court available for overflow seating, or for those wanting to enjoy the fresh air on warmer days. We soon found that a side door in the court led inside where all of the action was.

I made it through the door fine, but anyone slightly taller than me would need to duck to get through the stubby door. We walked right into a full house. Da Roude was a great introduction to the Zoigl experience. It felt weird taking a seat, because we were sitting in owner’s living room next to the kitchen. After the awkwardness wore off though, we felt right at home. It was packed, warm, and very cozy. As you can imagine, the setting was quite rustic with nailed down, weathered wood flooring, wainscot on the walls, arched stone windows, and dark ceiling beams. There was a stove and small woodpile in the kitchen right next to us. It was a very unique experience being served and drinking beer in a Bavarian home.

Here is a quick overview of their offering. Da Roude’s Zoiglbier was a pale orange beer that was hazy, but not cloudy, with a solid cream-colored head. It had a nose of light malt, and its flavor was snappy and spicy clean. It finished with a light, tangy malt note and just a slight hop presence. Overall it was very easy drinking and refreshing. Da Roude’s Zoigl was a well-rounded tangy and smooth beer with no fruity esters. I though of it as an unfiltered Märzen.


After enjoying a few Halbe at Da Roude, we trekked 20 minutes to Neuhaus where the Schoilmichl (pronounced with a ridiculously funny Bavarian accent) was open for the weekend. Schoilmichl was a bit less inconspicuous. In addition to the Zoigl star hanging from a pole mounted on the corner of the house it had a sign and large wooden keg out front. There was seating in front of the home, though most of the people were inside and downstairs in the Schoilmichl’s guest room. It was quite a bit larger than Da Roude, and (un)comfortably seated around 80 people.

Despite the low ceiling, the room was packed with hanging decorations of hops bines, Zoigl stars and banners. It resembled a rock the cellar of an old monetary, but packed with beer loving locals. One patron brought his accordian and was playing German favorites by request while everyone sang along. The atmosphere was buzzing.

Schoilmichl’s Zoigl was a hazy dark-golden color with a fresh lager nose. The flavor was that of a light Märzen with a medium body. The finish was well rounded and clean. This beer was not quite as spicy as Da Roude, and a bit drier with less of a malt presence.

In addition to their beer, the Zoigl establishments pride themselves in serving great regional specialties. Whether it is beer-garden-style cold cuts or a warm dish. At Da Roude we saw the owner in the kitchen slaving away cooking and dishing up their daily soup special for the hungry guests. These are very communal establishments, and their earnings go toward maintaining the town’s brewery and paying expenses. Profit is a secondary consideration, if one at all. The food and beer are ridiculously inexpensive. For example, at Schoilmichl we enjoyed seven beers, all half liters, and three dinners, huge plates of sausage

and sauerkraut so large we could barely finish, all for less than 23 Euros. It was almost unbelievable. Great food, world-class beer, and a truly unique experience that one can only have in this small part of the world.

There are a few other things to note. Some commercial breweries, especially in the Oberpfalz region, sell beers labeled as Zoigl. Despite the name I would not consider these authentic since they are made commercially. They are excellent beers that fit well in the Kellerbier category, just not true Zoigl. Also, in addition to the brewer’s home, there are a few other establishments they partner with were you can find Zoiglbier. So one may find other hotels, homes and restaurants that dispense the beer brewed by these communal brewers. Most Zoigl establishments have more information at their premises including maps and addresses for the other dispensaries. And to learn more you just need to travel to Bavaria and take it in. I know I did not get my fill, and I still have a lot to learn about Zoigl, so I’ll return some day when I have more time. I have listed some resources for your reference below. To conclude, I would like to thank J Mark Angelus for tipping me off to the Zoigl experience!
(good starting point) (Windischeschenbach and Neuhaus site – includes their calendar)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Silverado Brewing Co.

St. Helena, CA
3020-A N. Hwy 29

Last week my wife and I visited the Napa Valley for my Aunt and Uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary. While in the area I took the opportunity to pop into one of the local breweries - the Silverado Brewing Company. The Napa valley is primarily known for its superb wines, not beer, but as Silverado’s slogan goes, “it takes a lot of great beer to make good wine.” In addition to Silverado, there are two other breweries in the valley – the Napa Smith Brewery (Napa) and the Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery (Calistoga). Silverado is located between those two on Highway 29 two miles north of St. Helena in the Freemark Abbey Winery building. (Though not connected in any way to the winery.)
There are three areas at Silverado where patrons can enjoy their handcrafted beers - in the restaurant, which features fresh, local and seasonal ingredients in their dishes, bellied up to the bar, or they can sit outside in the shade of a massive California live oak. Silverado Brewing is known as a local hangout featuring good food, reasonable prices, and frequented by many prominent local wine makers.

Favorite Brew

As usual I started with a sampler tray of their six offerings. This included a Blonde, Brunette, Rye, Amber, Pale Ale, and Oatmeal Stout. Years ago their Brown Ale was renamed “Brunette” so the blond on the tap handle could have a dark-haired companion. I enjoyed all of their beers, but my favorite was their Pale Ale. (5.67% abv / 55 IBU) This American Pale Ale is made with pale, rye and crystal malts, and hopped with Chinook, Cascade and Challenger. It was copper in color with a subdued, citrusy nose. The rye twang and crystal sweetness gave way to a solid hop backbone, but not nearly as heavy handed as many American Pale Ales. There was a pleasant touch of diacetyl in the finish. A very well balanced ale in my opinion.

Worth Noting

I thought it was interesting that three of their six beers contained rye malt – their Pale Ale, Stout, and obviously their Rye. I also detected diacetyl in most of their beers. This house flavor could result from their yeast strain or perhaps their fermentation process. Also, manager Jennifer Baum noted that their Blonde Ale, though not certified, contained mostly organic ingredients. Silverado is working on getting organic certification for their beers. All beers are brewed on their 10-barrel system, which is visible from the bar. Tours are available seven days a week at 11 o’clock.

While in town

While in the Napa Valley you have to visit some wineries. The atmosphere and smells alone are worth the visit in my opinion. And when you are ready for a break from wine, visit one of the three breweries in the valley, or pop over the hill to Santa Rosa and visit Russian River Brewing.

On a personal note

Not to toot my own horn, but… toot, toot. Last weekend my Germany Roggenbier, named Liquid Pumpernickel, took best of show in a BJCP certified competition. I rarely enter competitions, so when I do it is nice to get a positive result. For those of you that attended SBM XVIII back in June, you got to drink this beer... if you arrived early enough.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Red Meat & Scotch

Michael Jackson, a legend and hero for beer lovers across the globe, once famously said his true love was not beer, rather Whisky. (and yes, without the “e”) This should not be too much of a surprise. He has authored a number of books on the spirit. I too must admit I love the water of life, though I’m not sure I would place it above beer. Regardless of the rank, I strongly believe beer and Whisky go hand in hand. Whisky is basically distilled beer, right?

I started drinking Single Malts about 10 years ago as a way to lighten my load while backpacking high up in the Colorado mountains and still have something enjoyable to consume around the campfire. (Laphroaig 10 goes nice with a fire by the way.) The more I read and learned about Whisky the more interested I became.

And then one day at work a friend tipped me off to a gathering he and his friends had called Red Meat & Scotch. The concept of this event is that each person brings a bottle of Whisky and a steak, and everyone has a great time while learning about different malts

without having to spend a fortune in the process. Since that day in 2005, I started a tradition with my friends and we have taken turns hosting Red Meat & Scotch events twice per year. Each party comes complete with distillery maps of Scotland, flags, tasting notes (Jackson and others), Whisky poetry, Single Malt coffee table books, and pictures of Highland Cows. They are always enjoyable, and always require a designated driver – usually a very forgiving spouse.

The most recent gathering we had was quite special and unique. One of our friends is on the board of a kidney foundation, and they happened to be holding a silent auction. Twenty of us decided to go in and bid on a private tasting offered by Diageo. (A major beverage concern that owns, among other brands, Johnnie Walker, Guinness, and a number of distilleries.) Well, we won the auction, and last Friday night my wife and I hosted the lucky 20 in our basement for an evening with Diageo Master of Whisky Robert Stickler. By this time we were all pretty knowledgeable about the spirit and made sure he knew that so he could tailor his presentation accordingly. Robert did an excellent job. Wearing traditional attire and packing along bricks of peat, staves of oak, and a freshly distilled 160 proof spirit for us to sample, he did not disappoint. As much as we though we already knew, we all learned something from the event. And we all loved his enlightening toasts. Here is a list of what Robert brought with him:

Dalwhinnie 15 (Highland) – very drinkable
Singleton 12 (Speyside) – surprisingly complex
Carhhu 12 (Speyside) – the base for all Johnnie Walkers
Cragganmore 12 (Speyside) – floral, fruity and rich
Talisker 10 (Isle of Skye) – peat smoke, salt and sweetness
Coal Ila 12 (Isla) – a good example of an Isla

And after we all thought Robert was done, he surprised us all by pulling out his private stash of Bushmills. That’s right, Irish Whiskey to follow up all of the Scotch. I thought there might be a bit of a let down, but Robert did not disappoint. We started with the Bushmills Malt 10, then moved to the 16 Malt, 21 Malt and finished with the brilliant Bushmills 1608 (to honor the year the distillery was founded).
The mash used to make the 1608 contains crystal malt, which is unique, and a dram does have a nice oaky sweetness to it. We all thoroughly enjoyed the Bushmills selections. Irish Whiskey is triple distilled as opposed to the double distillation that is the norm in Scotland, so it tends to be a bit cleaner and smoother, but the Bushmills’ malts are very complex nonetheless.

My favorite of the first batch was the Singleton 12. Maybe because this malt was new to me. But I was pleasantly surprised by the complex nose with hints of fruit and nuts, medium body, and wonderful flavor of sweet fruit, brown sugar and a touch of coffee, topped off by a long elegant finish.

If you are a beer lover thinking about branching out, get some friends together for your own Red Meat & Scotch party. Don’t be afraid to allow Irish whiskey, American Whiskeys, and especially micro distilled Whiskies. Also, if you are interested in having a private tasting by a “Master of Whisky”, shoot me a note and I’ll provide you with Robert’s contact information. He will not disappoint.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Klamath Basin Brewing Co.

Klamath Falls, OR
1320 Main Street

If you drive around Klamath Falls long enough you can’t miss “The Creamery” marked by a large powder-blue neon cow. This is the location of the Klamath Basin Brewing and Creamery Pub. The creamery is long gone, but you can still see the bricked-in remains of the loading dock portals – and their menu still offers a modest selection of ice cream treats. (for my designated driver and wife) I visited the brewery with family while on vacation in Northern California and Oregon.

The Pub and Brewery offers a large, open seating area inside, but we decided to take advantage of the beautiful July weather and sit out on their patio and enjoy the hanging pots of annual flowers.

I am a variety nut, so the first thing I ordered was their sampler tray. ($9.00) This included eight regular offerings plus three seasonals. (Actually one seasonal was their standard Butt-Crack Brown, but nitrogen dispensed. This counts as a different beer if you ask me since the method of beer carbonation and how it is dispensed has a significant impact on its flavor.)

Favorite Brews

Well, it is not really a July staple, but my favorite was their Cabin Fever Stout. Smooth, black and lightly hopped with the right balance of chocolate and coffee flavors rounded out by a slight fruitiness. This was my “post sampler” nightcap. A close second was their Drop Dead Red - a strong red ale with subtle complexity. Different grains step up at different times including caramel and just a touch of roasted malt, and it finishes slightly dry. An excellent interpretation of a style that can, at times, be a touch bland.

Worth Noting

This area of Northern California and Oregon in the Cascade Range is known for its volcanoes and geothermal activity. According to head brewer Corey Zschoche they use 185 F geothermal water to heat their domestic water supply, for building heat, and to heat their water for mashing. They still use natural gas to boil the wort, but as far as he knows they are the “only brewery in the world that uses geothermal energy in the brewing process.” (I need to confer with my beer loving Icelandic friend Beggi who is a thermal energy buff… but regardless, this is very unique.)

While in Town

Make sure and visit Crater Lake, which is less than one hour north. This lake fills a large caldera that was formed around 7,700 years ago. The setting is very unique and stunning. It is the deepest lake in the United States, and its pure water creates the deepest blue you will ever see. The area also offers countless opportunities for camping, hiking and spelunking.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Colorado Brewer's Festival

The 21st annual Colorado Brewer’s Festival was last weekend, and I must admit that I was a bit nervous about this year’s new format. Apparently the Old Town Fort Collins merchants had grown tired of the wildly successful and crowed CBF. Rowdy and intoxicated attendees were causing problems and, surprisingly, their business was down over CBF weekend. The merchants claimed attendees were not patronizing their stores and were scaring off other would-be shoppers. So this year the event was moved a couple blocks from Old Town across College to Civic Center Park. There were also other changes. Instead of an entry fee and individual drink tokens,

there was a single ticket charge, which allowed the attendee to drink as many 4-ounce samples as he or she desired. There were two sessions on Saturday, noon to 3 pm and 3pm to 6pm, and one four hour session on Sunday starting at noon. And ticket sales were limited to keep the crowd down. The group I was with attended the Saturday noon session. I must admit that I was not ready to move on after 3 pm. People with the early session tickets were allowed to stay in the Civic Center Park area, but could not longer sample beers at the brewery booths.
With all of that said, the new format was better than I had feared. Laporte Avenue and Howes Street are lined with mature trees and

provided a nice atmosphere. I still prefer Old Town, but it was better than expected. And the crowd was noticeably smaller than in the past. Lines at the brewery sample stations were almost non-existent which was very nice. There were still bands playing during the event, but a bit out of the way. Not quite as nice as the central band location by the pond in Old Town. Still the event offered 58 beers from 32 breweries (basically the same as last year) and a nice atmosphere to sample many of Colorado’s finest offerings. If the event moves back to Old Town, I would be fine with that, but we’ll be back next year regardless. Whether or not you would like the new format probably depends on if you like festivals with big, rowdy crows or a quieter setting with no lines.

I sampled around 20 beers, so I cannot report on them all, but one beer of particular note was Odell Brewing’s St. Lupulin. The name screams “hop bomb,” but that is not the case. St. Lupulin weighs in at a sturdy 6.5% abv, but packs only a modest 46 IBUs. To compare, Odell’s IPA contains 60 IBUs. According to the representative, the concept of St. Lupulin is to focus more on hop flavor and aroma and be less bitter. This is a fine line to walk, because hop aroma accentuated beers still need a solid IBU backbone to avoid being one-dimensional. But Odell created a very nice balance for those seeking flavor and aroma and a smooth, balanced malt/hop backbone. It is a seasonal summer ale, and I was surprised how refreshing it was, especially given the relatively high alcohol content. Give it a shot if Odell is distributed in your area.

One final note. There are always vendor booths lining the streets of CBF, and this year was no different. As my friends and I saw an interesting tent for a new company called BrewClick, we wanted to check it out. Interestingly enough I stumbled across an old friend, Julie Hull, who I had not seen in years and is now working there. It was good to catch up with Julie and I promised that I would hit their website. Their portal includes beer news, brewery profiles as well as other interesting beer related information. I asked them for a paragraph to include in my blog. According to Brew Click’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kris Erlewine:

“BrewClick.Com is an Internet portal designed to collect
highly-targeted consumer preferences for beer and to match those
preferences with specific offers from Breweries, BrewPubs, Liquor
Stores, Distributors, Bars and Restaurants. By completing preferences,
consumers are able to receive offers that exactly match their
interests. Vendors are able to effectively market on a one-to-one

I figured I would learn more so I signed up for their “Local Hops”. If you are interested you can learn more about their services at

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bozeman Brewing Company

In February Tom Ciccateri, the 2005 BDOTY winner, was back in Denver as a judge for this year’s national Beerdrinker of the Year Finals. Tom knew I spent five years at MSU and visit Bozeman regularly, so he was excited to show me a picture on his camera of the Bozeman Brewing Company tap house. I was embarrassed to say that I had never been there. We joked as to whether or not my title should be revoked since I had not even visited the lone tap house in my second home town!

The tap room for Bozone, as it is affectionately called, is located on 504 N. Broadway in Bozeman, a bit off the beaten path. When I am in Bozeman, usually over MSU Homecoming weekend, I spend most of my time on campus in meetings, or downtown. The brewery is on the exact opposite side of town as the campus tucked away in an industrial area on the north fringes. But a visit to the brewery and adjoining tap house is well worth the bike ride.
The Bozone tap room is like being in a large living room with a bar and numerous tap handles at one end. It is open from 4 – 8 pm, and like all other Montana tap rooms, patrons are limited to 48 ounces of beer.
I was very lucky to get a private tour of the recently renovated brewery from brewer Tucker Kalberg. Bozeman Brewing purchased Spanish Peak’s old equipment after they dismantled in the 90s. For years they produced beers on this seven barrel system. Faced with high demand they were required to upgrade their entire system to a new 20 barrel system that also employs a number of 40 barrel cylindrical-conical unitanks for fermentation. Their facility is quite large, and they still have adequate room for further expansion according to Tucker.
The first beer I tried was the Pinhead Pils. (6.3% abv) It was very pale in color with a nice firm head. It was a clean Pilsner with a noticeable presence of alcohol, and it finished with a barely detectible note of diacetyl. (so does Pilsner Urquell) Pinhead had a nice hop balance from start to finish. I noticed that it was a very high alcohol Pilsner, and then I also noticed that all of their offerings were quite strong – all over 6%. This may be the Bozone way of “getting around” the 48 ounce per person limit.

Tucker said once per year they make a special wet-hop beer made with “C” hops all grown locally in the Gallatin Valley. A celebration of the fall harvest and local ingrediants. This beer sounds very unique and like quite a treat – especially for hop lovers. I’ll have to visit next fall when it is on tap.
I won’t go into details about the other beers, you’ll have to visit yourself and try them out. Don’t worry about too much about not being able to sample them given the limit, they do offer flights of beer (four 4 ounce glasses of your choice), and if you still don’t get a chance to sample all of their styles, just take home a couple growlers, or come back the next day. There is no better place in the States to visit than Bozeman. So hang out and stay for a while. With that said, I have one final note. When I woke up on Friday morning it was snowing. (It will snow in July too) The locals wanted me to make sure and point that out. Tourism is great, but rich immigrants wear on the natives. Bozemanites love harsh winters and are doing their best to chase the flat-landers back to their warm weather states!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Montana Tap Rooms

I am back in the Big Sky for an 18 day tour through God’s Country. Every state has their own unique liquor laws, and Montana is no different. As a way to promote the craft brewing industry, the state legislature passed MT Law 16-3-213. This ordinance allows breweries to serve beer at a tap room without an expensive liquor license as long as nobody is served more than 48 ounces, and as long as they close by 8 pm. Most of these tap rooms are open from 4 – 8 pm and give their guests a three-punch card to keep track of the beer consumed.
One of my favorite tap rooms is Carter’s in Billings on Montana Avenue. It has a nice atmosphere with indoor seating right next to the open brew house. Space is tight because oak barrels full of sour and wild beers take up a good portion of the seating area. Carter’s is right next to the railroad and Mike (owner/brewer) just added on a small deck out the back door next to the tracks to accommodate more thirsty guests. Trains and brewing seem to go together.
Mike does not discriminate against nationality in his extensive list of offerings. He serves a Dort and Kölsch (Germany), Bitter and Mild (England), Farmhouse and Saison (Belgium), as well as great American styles like his Black IPA. In addition to the draft selections, patrons can also buy 750 ml bottles of Carter’s Saison for six dollars to take home. This is a real steal. I just finished his 2009 vintage, which is partially fermented with brettanomyces and is a bit drier than previous vintages that I have had. It is a very nice, floral and complex Saison. I recommend purchasing a couple bottles since they are so reasonable. Drink one now and lay the others down to see how they mature over the years.
The picture I’ve inserted is from Walhalla – my property on the Yellowstone river. As you can see I was “roughing it” and did not have the proper glass to drink the Saison in, but the peace and tranquility of the open space and river made it taste just fine none the less.
After my stay in Billings, I headed to the mountains with my brother to do some hiking. Con has a plot of land at the base of Black Butte Mountain in the East Rosebud river valley. After a cup of coffee and some socializing with the locals that live in the area, including famous Native American artist John Potter, we headed up into the Beartooths for a hike up to Elk Lake. As a reward after finishing up the seven mile hike, we though we'd treat ourselves to a couple of drafts. So we packed up and headed toward Red Lodge to visit the Red Lodge Ales tap room. But most roads out of the Beartooths lead through Roscoe, and Roscoe is home of the famous Grizzly Bar. As we passed, we had to pull over. It is hard to drive by without stopping. Con and I had a quick Bent Nail IPA. Two beers cost us $3.50 – that is how you know you are in Montana! And for another $15 you can buy your own “Where the hell is Roscoe” t-shirt. It is a tiny blip off the road, but every good Montanan knows where Roscoe and the Grizzly Bar are.

After the quick stop we finally made our way over to the Red Lodge Ales Brewery. Since I was last there a year and a half ago they moved a couple miles out of town to a new and much larger facility. The old tap room was a bit tight, especially since dogs often outnumber the two-legers. The new location is very open with a glassed-off view of the new 20 barrel system and bottling line. Strong demand required them to expand from their old seven barrel system. Most of the interior was made out of scrap material off of an old family barn and the decor has a nice retro/modern feel. Outside there is also a patio and grass court where people can eat, drink and play frisbee under a beautiful mountain backdrop. Red Lodge Ales is technically not a tap house. They have a tavern license which allows them to serve more than three pints and stay open later like a more traditional bar.
I sampled their Maibock, which was honey colored with a big malty flavor and a pleasant dry finish. A nice, clean, strong lager. I also enjoyed a pint of their nitro tap Porter. The nitrogen pour made this a very smooth beer which tasted sweetish – almost like lactose had been added in the boil. I also detected a hint of vanilla. Dark, smooth and tasty. Stop by if you are in the area. Red Lodge is about an hour south of Billings, and the brewery in on the right before you get into town.
Stay tuned for more to come from Bozeman…

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Horse-Drawn Wagons and Another Pro-AM

On Friday, April 16th the Wynkoop Brewing Company made history. For the first time in almost 100 years, the Koop delivered kegs and cans of beer to LoDo bars via horse-drawn wagon. Now it is not uncommon to see draft horses pulling meticulously decorated wagons with massive oak kegs in Bavaria, especially during Volksfest season, but here in the states this is rare. The Wynkoop wagon is a bit more modest than what one finds at Oktoberfest, but it truly fit in with the western heritage of Colorado. Local historians say beer has not been delivered like this in Denver since 1915.

Brewers Andy Brown and Charlie Berger rode on the wagon pulled by two beautiful 2000 pound Clydesdales. Cans of their flagship amber ale, Railyard, and kegs of Wixa Weiss, B3K Schwarzbier and Pilsner were slowly delivered to Scruffy Murphy’s, the Wazee Supper Club and other fine LoDo establishments.

Don’t feel sad if you missed it – this was not a one-time gimmick. If you want to witness history you can see it again every 2nd or 4th Friday of each month. Get to the Brewery before 6 pm so you don’t miss the action. Heck, get there by 4 pm and warm up.

In other news, I was back in rubber boots and gloves at the Wynkoop to brew another Pro-Am beer with head brewer Andy Brown. Actually this time we had a little help. None other than the CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Wynkoop Holding Company, Lee Driscoll. It is great that the big boss is involved and interested enough to show up on brew day. And what a brew day it was. Andy and I concocted a Quad based on a beer I took first place with at a BJCP certified competition. For an 11-barrel batch we used over 1000 pounds of base malt, plus additions of Munich, Cara Munich, Special B, and over 150 pounds of dark Belgian candy sugar. The original gravity was over 25 plato! (over 1.100) To attain this density we could not sparge the beer. The mash was conducted in a 20-barrel mash tun with 12 barrels run off, which were then boiled down to 11. This beer will have plenty of time to mature before September’s GABF – and it will need it. Wish us luck!

I’m off to Montana soon and hope to keep you up to date on beer happenings in Big Sky Country. Aufwiedersehen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Just a Beer, Please...

With all of the double, imperial, quadruple, wet hopped, continuously hopped, torpedo hopped, oaked, brett fermented, extreme, spiced, double digit percentage alcohol beers on the market these days, it can be easy to forget that sometimes people need “just a beer.” There are seven taps in by basement. I like keeping one or two of the above-mentioned beers around at any given time, but for the most part, people that come over to visit want to drink something that I’ve brewed, and they usually want to have more than one. So sometimes I simply need to brew an enjoyable beer that can be safely consumed one after the other. Ideally this beer is something that I can crank out relatively quick.

Recently I brewed such a beer – an Ale that I call the “Red Loin.” Despite the red designation, it does not fit, nor is it intended to fit, into any particular style guideline. Last month as my beer supply was getting dangerously low, I just started jotting down a recipe off of the top of my head for something to get on tap as a standard offering. The recipe is pretty arbitrary as you can see below. I enjoy brewing these spontaneous beers, because when I shoot for something specific, I am often disappointed. (It is hard to duplicate beer, especially those from the other side of the globe.) But I almost always enjoy the results of a randomly brewed beer for which I had no pre-conceived notions. Here is the recipe if you are interested:

89% Weyermann Vienna
5% Crisp “Light Crystal” (15L)
3% Crisp “Medium Crystal” (45L)
1% Crisp “Dark Crystal” (75L)
1% Castle Special B (145L)
1% Roasted Barley (~500L)

60 min boil – Northern Brewer (enough for 20 IBUs)
40 min boil – Northern Brewer (enough for 17 IBUs)
20 min boil – Willamette (enough for 8 IBUs)
Knock Out – Willamette (I used 1 oz for a 6.25 gal batch)
Dry – East Kent Goldings (I used 1 oz for a 6.25 gal batch)

Wyeast 1028 – London Ale

Mash: 122 degrees for 20 minutes, 154 for 40 minutes, and 168 for 10 minutes.

O.G.: 1.055
F.G.: 1.013
Alcohol: 5.5% abv
Apparent Attenuation: 75%

The percentages given above are by total grist weight. Use your own calculations to achieve the listed IBU for your system and volume. I open ferment in an 8 gal enamel pot, but you can ferment any way you desire! And that is not a typo above; I used Vienna as the base malt. Normally I would have used Marris Otter, but I wanted this beer to be different. Vienna is a great alternative, because it has a bit more character than a standard 2-row malt, and like Marris Otter, it adds a touch of color. Though seldom used, I believe it makes a great base malt. Maybe it gets no respect because it is caught between Pilsner and Munich malt?

The Red Lion turned out very nice. It pours a dark copper/light red color with a solid off white head. It has a pleasant earthy hop aroma with a touch of yeast character, a soft, round flavor that is fairly mild with nothing dominating, but a solid hop backbone along with a range of malt flavors. And it finishes with a smooth malt note and a subtle dry hopped EKG finish. Overall it is a very easy drinking beer with good character. Perfect to have on tap for when friends come over to visit. If I were to change one thing I would probably darken it up a touch. You can achieve this by adding a bit more Special B or roasted barley to the mash. Play around with it!

Speaking of all of those over-the-top beers that I mentioned above in the first sentence, do any of you have recommendations for my upcoming snow cave camping trip later this month? It is a bit of a hike (through the snow), and relatively cold, so I am looking for something strong and compact that will warm me up around the fire. (And it has to compliment Laphroaig 10.) Please provide any suggestions – I’m always looking to try new beers.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vintage Beer

Flüssiges Brot is one of the terms Germans use to describe beer. (liquid bread) And for the most part, beer is very much like bread. When it comes to freshness, most beers are intended to be consumed as soon as possible after they are made. Just like bread, fresh is better. Once the brewer filters and packages his/her beer, it will only diminish over time. Even some bottle-conditioned beers are intended to be drank immediately. One example I can think of is Hefeweizen. Weißbier yeast are very temperamental and definitely change the character of the beer over time. When a Weißbier brewer distributes his/her beer, it is at its peak and intended to be promptly enjoyed.

With all of that said, there are some beers that benefit from aging. Some are even intended to be “laid down.” Most examples of this fall into the category of very strong bottle-conditioned ales. Unpasteurized, bottle-conditioned beers are still alive, and the yeast will continue to slowly work away for years when subjected to the proper conditions. And the character of the beer will continue to change over time. When aging a beer, just make sure not to store it too cold. My basement fluctuates seasonally between 58 and 65 degrees, which is about perfect. A cool, stable temperature like this is ideal.

This leads into a beer I just had last night – J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2000. This 11.5% abv beer was brewed on December 1st, 2000, so not quite a decade old, but getting close. I’ve enjoyed their Harvest Ale before, so I knew it would be a treat. I served the Harvest at 55 degrees to make sure no flavors were suppressed. It pours garnet with a firm, but short lasting tan head. (Probably due to the high alcohol content.) The nose is intense and packed with the aroma of raisins and caramelized malt sugar. Age only concentrates this characteristic of the beer. Full bodied, the flavor picks up where the aroma leaves off with very sticky malt and dried fruit notes. The alcohol is not dominant at all. Almost scary for a beer of this strength. The Nachtrunk lingers and slowly fades with toffee, malt sugar, and lots of raisin character. This is a wonder must-try beer! It is not a hop-head beer, rather a beer for lovers of old school strong ale. These beers can be hard to find, but if you do stumble across them, buy enough to set a few aside to compare tasting notes as they age. J.W. Lees also bottles special editions of this ale matured in sherry, port and Islay Whisky casks. I find these offerings to also be great, but I tend to like the original the best. (As much as I love smokey Whisky!)

My friend Chris Cross and I brewed a strong ale in November of 1998 to be consumed at the turn of the millennium called, appropriately, Millennium Ale. Over time that beer matured in a similar manner to the Harvest Ale. The older it got the more the yeast slowly added character to the spirit - with almost the same pungent raisin character. We did enjoy this beer on 1/1/2000, but we also hid a number of these bottles away. When the beer was over six years old I entered it in the AHA Nationals and it took first place in our region. Now we will usually open one bottle per year at the New Years gathering hosted by Joycelyn and I. Currently I only have one bottle left – so I have a big decision to make this year.

To sum up, don’t be afraid to lay down some of these strong, bottle-conditioned ales. There are many styles now from England, Belgium and right here in the U.S. that are well suited for this treatment. And take notes so you can track how these beers mature over the years.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Brew Crew TV

The Brew Crew is a gang of beer lovers that are working to develop a pilot for a potential Cable TV program. They wanted to use Denver’s oldest craft brewery, the Wynkoop, as the model for their pilot. In conjunction with the Wynkoop coverage they wanted to do an interview with me as the Beerdrinker of the Year. The excellent results of their efforts are now posted on YouTube and on their own web site:

Beerdrinker of the Year Interview:

Wynkoop Video:

They are looking for investors and feedback, so please leave them a comment at the bottom of the page!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 Beerdrinker of the Year - Bill Howell

Bill Howell of Sterling, Alaska was anointed 2010 Beerdrinker of the Year at yesterday’s National Finals held in the Mercantile Room of the Wynkoop Brewery. All three finalists (the other two being Phil Farrell of Cumming, Georgia and Logan Perkins of Denver, Colorado) proved that they were more than worthy to be on the national stage with their deep knowledge of all things related to beer. Bill used a combination of wit, knowledge, passion, and a strong commitment to improve the beer culture in the remote Kenai Peninsula community to edge out the competition.

As the winner Bill will receive, among other things, $250 to spend at his home pub (St. Elias Brewing Company in Soldotna, Alaska), a beer brewed in his honor by the Wynkoop for next year’s competition, free beer for life at the Wynkoop Brewery, and worldwide recognition. It is always tough to not win, but Phil and Logan should be very proud of their performance too. Both were entertaining and exhibited great beer passion and knowledge. I really enjoyed spending the weekend with all three of the finalists.

This year was much less nerve racking for me than last year. Driving in from Golden to Denver with Joycelyn for the finals, all I could think of is how much of a mess I was last year. I’m relieved that I won last year on my first attempt in the Finals, and that I don’t have to be a contestant again. This year I was one of the six judges and did my best to help make the competition fun, educational, and tried to ask relevant questions. It was fun being on the other side with such a prestigious panel. (The other five judges were Andy Brown, Wynkoop Head Brewer, Jill Redding, Brewer’s Association, Tom Ciccateri, 2005 winner, Jamie Magee, Yankee Brewing News, and Rich Grant, Visit Denver.) Keep an eye out for more photos and footage of the competition that will come out in the next few days. Beertap TV was back this year filming, the Wynkoop will soon put out a press release, and there were a number of other press organizations in attendance covering the event. And once again, congratulations Bill!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beer Buzz #66

Here is the episode of Beer Buzz that was just released today - filmed in my basement.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Taste Buds #185

Beertap TV just published the Taste Buds program we filmed last week.  Check it out!

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

BeerTap TV

Last Saturday I had the great honor to work with Erik, Eli, Dusty and David of Beertap TV and help them shoot a couple episodes of their great beer-focused programs. After winning the Beerdrinker of the Year last February, Erik asked me if they could shoot a show from my basement. It took us almost an entire year to find a date that worked for all of us, but it finally came together. The gang van pooled up from Colorado Springs to Golden and set up their studio equipment in my downstairs pub & brewery. We filmed three programs – Beer Buzz, Taste Buds, and the first ever installment of a new program they are working on called “Manctuaries.”

Beertap TV is the largest beer-related Internet “television” site in the world. Their shows provide a great resource for beer lovers and interesting content from beer events around the country as well as some great interviews with beer legends. After about 45 minutes of setup, we started by filming an episode of Taste Buds. Taste Buds is a relatively short (10 minutes) weekly segment where the guys sample a specific beer and discuss its qualities. For this episode Erik, Dusty and I sampled Odell’s India Barley Wine. Odell touts it as being part Double IPA and part Barley Wine. It was an excellent strong ale that I found to lean more toward the DIPA side than BW. It was aggressively hopped and carbonated, was relatively light in color (amber), and had a light body with subdued malt notes. Definitely not an old school Barley Wine, but I’m sure the brewers at Odell were shooting for something more on the “India” side. It is a very creative new beer.
Next we filmed an episode of Beer Buzz featuring Erik, Eli and I. Beer Buzz is a longer segment that discusses beer related news and upcoming beer events. During Beer Buzz the guys usually drink a mix of different beers, and I was honored that Erik and Eli wanted to sample some of my home brewed offerings. During the course of the show we consumed my Oaked Golden Strong Ale – a dry hopped Belgian-style ale aged with light toasted oak, my Belgian Dubbel – a Rochefort 8-esque beer, a Strong Scotch Ale that I brewed for our New Year’s Eve party, and finally a Flemish-style Sour Brown Ale. I am proud to say Erik and Eli honestly enjoyed my creations. The main point of discussion for the show was the upcoming Beerdrinker of the Year National Finals. That competition will take place at the Wynkoop Brewery on Saturday, February 27th at 2 pm. Of course Beertap TV will be there to cover the event.

The final program we shot was a new series the guys are working on called “Manctuaries.” Think MTV Cribs for beer lovers. This was fun because they followed me around my basement and we got to talk about the beer hall and brewery that my wife and I have been building over the past ten years. As usual Joycelyn was a trooper and had fun with the guys all day during the filming. Which isn’t too hard, because Erik, Eli, Dusty and David are all great guys and a complete hoot to be around. And I love what they are doing for the beer community with Beertap TV. If you’re ever bored, surf over to their site to keep up to date on what is going on in the beer world, or learn about a new beer you’ve maybe never tried. Register on their site and you will receive email notifications when they upload new content. The shows are always entertaining. Our Taste Buds segment will air Tuesday, and the Beer Buzz segment will air on Thursday.

(Note, after writing this entry, Erik informed me they had a mixer problem and the sound for the Beer Buzz and Taste Buds segments was unusable. Both had to be trashed. Total bummer! Anyway, Erik and David came back up and we re-taped the segments with different content than I described above. I’ll post the links when available.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Who is James Boag?

My buddy Jim Escalante was just in Australia a couple of months ago, and in addition to bringing me back a jar of Vegemite, he tipped me off to a great brewery that I needed to visit - the James Squire brewery in Sydney. Their Sydney Brewhouse is located in the King Street Warf on Darling Harbour. The restaurant and pub is right on the water walkway so you can’t miss it.

James Squire was a convict transported to Australia in 1788. He founded Australia’s first commercial brewery and is also credited with being the first to successfully cultivate hops on the island. Though commonly referred to as James Squire, the actual brewery is called the Malt Shovel Brewery (two crossing shovels emblazon their beer labels), which is now part of the Lion Nathan beverage group. Malt Shovel’s primary brewery is in Camperdown New South Whales, but the Sydney location also has an operating brewery, which produces four of their eight offerings on premise.

I would classify James Squire as startling a line between US craft brewery creativity and a traditional British brewery. Their IPA was a well-balanced copper ale with a definite Fuggle accent - not the high-alcohol citrus hop bomb of most American IPAs. It leaned toward a British example of the style, but fully carbonated. The second beer I tasted was the Highway Man Red Ale. Another beer with exceptional balance between malt and hops. This beer is brewed with English, European, and New Zealand hops and six different grains. At least one of which is roasted according to my taster. The result was a rich Red Ale with just a hint of roast; lots of body and solid hop character. Unfortunately, Ankur (from the Australia office) and I did not have time for a third since we were already late for the APAN gala dinner taking place down the walkway. So we reluctantly wrapped up after two pints and moved on.

James Squire’s motto is “Never Forsake Flavour,” and they don’t. This is another great Australian brewery. Geography plays a key role in the types of beer brewed and where. Oz’s climate is warm, especially up north. So the beers in the north, like XXXX, cater to the drinker looking for refreshment, while the southern breweries like Coopers, James Squire and Lord Nelson, brew beers with more character. Anyway, if you’re in Sydney, head across town to Darling Harbour and visit the James Squire Brewhouse. And by the way, has anyone yet figured out “Who is James Boag?”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Down Under With Rikki

After a six-year hiatus I have finally made it back down to Australia. I am in Sydney for work attending the APAN conference, but I have had a bit of time to do some sight seeing, and to see an old friend.
Back in 1990 two Aussies, Mark and Rikki (pronounced with heavy Australian accents), took Montana State University by storm. They exploited an imbalance loophole in the Australia/US University exchange program to “attend” school at MSU for one year. Without going into details, I assure you that these two were absolutely crazy! Among other things, they introduced us to rugby, surfing naked through bars, and Vegemite. (Which I initially found hideous, but am now addicted to.) Their stay was only one year, but the impact it had on the people they met in Montana extends to this day. When Joycelyn and I visited Oz six years ago Rikki lived right on Clovelly beach in Sydney. Since then he has moved and now lives with his girlfriend of ten years, Sam, and their two children a couple of hours south of town. Luckily, however, he happened to be in The City on Tuesday for work, which enabled us to hook up for a few rounds that night. We met at the Lord Nelson Brewery, which is located in Sydney’s oldest hotel on 19 Kent Street. ( Located in an old and quaint neighborhood in The Rocks, it is a tad off the beaten path, but a short walk from it.
I was working my way through a few samples when Rikki arrived. He had not changed a bit. Rikki is as big as I am small. Solid as a rock, I would not want to go up against him on the pitch. It was great to see him again and catch up on old times. He also called Mark, who now lives in Perth, so we could chat for a bit. Mark was quite surprised to hear my voice when Rikki called from the pub and passed the phone me! As crazy as these two were, and to a lesser extent still are, they are both complete gentleman and all around class acts. Now their MSU friends are just waiting for the both of them to fulfill their promise to make it back for Homecoming some year. We’ll make sure and pre-post bail for that trip. Rikki had to head back home after a few pints to tend to his newborn baby boy, but I was very happy that my short notice trip worked into Ricky’s plans of being in Sydney so we could meet up.

A few notes about the Lord Nelson Brewery. The décor, menu, and selection of Ales are very much British. (I had a beef pie with mushy pees and mashed potatoes for dinner.) They offered six of their own beers, brewed on premise, but also did not shy away from the competition. A couple of Coopers beers were on tap as well as Pauline Helles and even Chimay! But I focused on their offerings. Below are a few notes on the three beers I sampled while there. If you’re even in Sydney, take the 10 minutes walk to get out of the tourist areas and head to the Lord Nelson pub.

  • Victory Bitter (5%) – Served a touch too cold for a Bitter, but to be expected in this climate where it is over 90 degrees. It had a rich copper color with a very slight caramel note and an earthy Fuggle hop finish. I’d put it in the Special Bitter category.
  • Trafalgar Pale Ale (4.2%) – A very pale beer they bill as a session ale. They are correct. All I could taste were hops and Maris Otter. Simple and very pleasant.
  • Old Admiral(6.1%) – Their Old/Strong Ale. In their words “Red with Black highlights.” This is a bit of a throwback beer that is brewed using brown and amber malts it tastes like. Much more of a “special roast” and “biscuit” malt flavor than caramel and darker roasted malts.
  • Nelson’s Blood (5%) – A Robust Porter. In their words, this time, “Black with Red highlights.” More of the same as above, but with less alcohol. Lots of amber/brown malt. Probably similar to what was brewed in London 250 years ago than the taste of most of today's Porters.

Friday, February 5, 2010

2010 Beerdrinker of the Year Finalists Announced

The three finalists for the 2010 Beerdrinker of the Year were announced this week.  (See the excerpt below from the Wynkoop's press release.)  I hope you can all make it down to the Wynkoop on the afternoon of Saturday, February 27th for the National Finals.  I'll be the short guy in the white wig and robe!

Phil Farrell, a Cumming, Georgia commercial pilot, homebrewer, and beer judge. He has tasted beer in every country in Europe, 1000 of the world’s pubs and 400 brewpubs. He’s known to many in the beer community as the “Chicken Man” because he’s hauled his homebrew club’s mascot, a rubber chicken, around the world and photographed it with thousands of beer people.

His philosophy about beer: “Beer is first and foremost a social drink. It is the most flexible and universally affordable fine beverage there is. Every social gathering and every food item is enhanced with beer. Beer is the greatest gift ever given to the human race and meant to be shared with others.”

William Howell, a Sterling, Alaska, college administrator, retired Navy officer, homebrewer, and beer educator. In 2007 he created a new course for Kenai Peninsula College entitled The Art and History of Brewing, and has traveled extensively across Alaska and the West in pursuit of great beer.

His beer philosophy: “I have been a lover of craft beers since 1984 and a homebrewer since 1989. Since my retirement from active duty I’ve been really been able to “get serious” about beer. I decided it was time to start giving something back to the world of craft beer that had given me so much.”

Logan Perkins, a Denver, Colorado beer enthusiast who has tried nearly 5,000 beers in 45 states, 21 European countries and 5 Asian nations.

His philosophy of beer drinking: “Drinking beer is about enhancing the quality of life through flavors, feelings and friends. I love beer alone, but especially enjoy sharing it with others. I believe in handling, collecting and tasting beers with the same respect as a wine lover. I try to keep everything in moderation, including moderation itself.”

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Back in the Brewery

One of the prizes awarded to the Beerdrinker of the Year is a batch of beer brewed in their honor for the following year’s competition. It is hard to believe, but the 2010 BDOTY competition is right around the corner. (Saturday, February 27th at 2:00 pm at the Wynkoop.) So it was time for the Wynkoop to brew a beer for me.
Last month I was approached by the Wynkoop’s master brewer, Andy Brown, about what type of beer I wanted the Wynkoop to brew. The perfect beer immediately came to mind. The Wynkoop brewpub is world famous for its cask-conditioned English style Ales hand pulled from the cellar using their traditional beer engines. I happen to have an Angram beer engine/hand pump in my basement, and every year for my big Screaming Blue Monkey party I brew a cask Ale called “Old Rabbit” for the guests. It is always a crowd favorite, and I knew this beer would be a natural fit for the Wynkoop’s system. So the decision was made – the Old Rabbit. Andy and I worked together to scale my recipe up, and yesterday I spent the day in rubber boots at the Wynkoop with him brewing away. (The 5,299th batch in Wynkoop history.)

The Old Rabbit is an Old Ale made with an English Maris Otter base malt, lots of chocolate & crystal malt, along with Brer Rabbit molasses added with the first hops in the brew kettle. (hence the name) It is dark, rich, fruity and complex. People usually don’t know molasses was used in the brewing process unless I tell them. It lends a slight smokiness and caramelized sugar flavor to the Ale. Andy wanted to add his touch to this beer, so he renamed it “Auld Rabbit”… which made me wonder why I had never thought of that! The Rabbit is currently fermenting as I type and will be tapped around Valentines Day. I’m sure there will be plenty left for the 2010 Beerdrinker of the Year National Finals on the 27th. If you are in the Denver area, come down to the finals and experience the theatrics and fun of the event. And you can let me know what you think of my beer.
If you want to brew your own Auld Rabbit, start with Maris Otter, add a generous helping of English chocolate and 60 deg L crystal, and add 5% (by weight) molasses to the brew kettle. Make sure and use mild molasses and don’t get carried away with the addition, because it can easily be over done. Too much and your friends won’t even drink it! The hops play a secondary role in this beer, so use three additions at 60, 40 and 20 minutes (before the end of the boil) with an alpha acid/weight combination that will yield about 30 IBUs at the end. Shoot for an original gravity of 1.065 and use a well attenuating English Ale yeast. Serve it “warm and flat”, preferably from an authentic British beer engine. I hope to see you in February!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Work has taken me back to Hawaii and I have a quick update for beer lovers on the islands. Hawaii is not always the easiest place to find a wide variety of beers, and due to its remote location, drinks usually don’t come cheap either. Even for locally made crafts. (Which have to import almost all of their ingredients except water.) But on this trip I found a real gem with a great selection and at reasonable prices – The Yard House on 226 Lewers Street in Waikiki.

Upon arriving here on my trip last month I took a Waikiki shuttle from the airport to the Hilton Village where I was staying. The bus driver immediately sprang into hospitality mode before we left the airport grounds. (I think the natives are programmed from birth to be eternally happy and gracious hosts.) He provided us with island history, customs, a geography overview, debunked myths, etc. And as we neared our hotel and crossed into Waikiki I distinctly remembering him saying, “you are now entering Waikiki… everything just got real expensive.” Hawaii is the most expensive state in the union to visit, and Waikiki is the most expensive part of Hawaii. So when I found the Yard House directly in the center of tourist central I tried to set my financial expectations.

I’m a variety freak so I love the Yard House near my home in Golden, CO. And I was pleasantly surprised to find the same great selection of beers in Waikiki - along with reasonable prices. I started off with a six-pack sampler, which consisted of three Lost Coast Brewery (Eureka, CA) beers - Great White, Downtown Brown, and Alleycat Amber, and three beers from Mehana Brewing (Hilo Hawaii) - Mauna Kea Pale Ale, Humpback Blue, and Hawaii Lager. Six wonderful five-ounce beers for $9! Thirty ounces for approximately what one would pay for a pint across the street. And after I finished the sampler I started drinking my way around the rest of the world for $6 to $7 per beer. Understandably all of their beers are market price, so the cost fluctuates depending on the request. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to come off as a total cheap skate, but I always drink more comfortably knowing I’m not getting ripped off, not to mention that the money saved probably means another round.)

The Yard House offers 100 beers on tap from the U.S., England, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Australia, Mexico, Japan, etc. This includes a solid representation of local micros from Maui Brewing Company, Kona Brewing, and Mehana. I’ve stopped by four times already, and ate there twice. As a beer lover I highly recommend the Yard House for good food and a great selection of reasonably priced beers from Hawaii and around the world. It is a short walk from the beach and right in the middle of where Waikiki is happening. That is all for now, I have to head to Lulu’s surf club and watch the sun set.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

French Beer

One of my favorite (non-beer) sayings is, "The French Impressionists were very talented at a technique known as French Impressionism." It is always fun to poke fun at the French. They are a people that are acutely proud of their culture and products - but for some reason they also make an easy target. I suppose one could also say, "French Brewers are the best in the world at brewing French beer." Obviously the French are much better known for their wine and cheese than beer, but they do make some good beer. And, as a beer lover, if you are interested in seeking out a French specialty, I recommend you take an atlas to the liquor store with you. France is located squarely in the wine belt, but its northern border with Belgium is an area of transition into the beer belt. In my experience, the further north the brewery (the closer to Belgium), the better the beer.

Surely some of that beer brewing brilliance from one of the world's greatest brewing countries spills over the border into northern France. This is somewhat ironic since over the centuries the Belgians have borrowed techniques from the French, which has led to some of worlds greatest beers brewed by them. The art of barrel aging and blending their beers were no doubt influenced by their southern wine-making neighbors. And many Belgian beers have characteristics closer to wine than beer - for example being dry and sour instead of malty and bitter. Belgium is at a crossroads between Germany, France and England, and their "anything goes" creativity is a product of local expertise and borrowed practices.

There is one broad beer category that straddles the border between Belgium and France called "Belgian and French Ales." This category includes the similar styles of Saison, Farmhouse Ale, and Bière de Garde. (Note however, it is always risky to try and categorize any beer from Belgium or its border regions.) Last weekend I had a excellent example of such a beer from this category - Brasserie St. Germain's Page 24 Noel from Aix-Noulette, France. Aix-Noulette is located in French Flanders just south of the western (a Flemish) portion of Belgium. French Flanders was originally part of the Courtship of Flanders in southern Netherlands. Over the years borders have changed, Belgium was created, and most of Flanders is now in Belgium while the southern section was ceded to France along the way. And unlike the Flanders region in Belgium, the inhabitants of French Flanders now speak, almost exclusively, French instead of Flemish.

Page 24 Noel is a 6.9% abv beer that falls into the Bière de Garde category. (The name means "keeping beer" - a beer usually intended to be cellared/matured) I was extremely impressed by this example of the style. It pours a copper color with a solid head and has an aromatic bouquet. Its flavor is well balanced with earthy, spicy, and fruity notes that transition into a mildly phenolic finish. All in all a balanced beer with great character. Brilliant!

The Page 24 Noel I drank was packaged in a ceramic swing-top bomber and came compliments of my beer of the month club. ( This beer may be hard to find in the U.S., but if you can get your hands on one, it is one great example of a wonderful French beer.