"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Waxing Philosophical on Beer's Place in Society and Examining Breck's Brews

When it comes to quality ingredients and nuanced flavors, beer should taken as seriously as a fine wine.  When speaking of proper attire and topics of conversation surrounding a tasting, beer should be taken as seriously as a bachelor party. 
Yes, one should sweat copiously from the brow when creating beer but, conversely, be in a state of nirvanic giddiness when drinking a beer.  As much of a beer snob as I am, I still recognize that the ultimate goal of beer is to bring happiness and togetherness to those who sip of its soothing waters.  Sure, pair it with cheese, breathe deeply of its aromatics, and release the flavors with deliberate swishes over the tongue because good beer deserves this attention.  If, however, you find that you’ve been obsessing over your beer all day as your friends are playing a raucous game of cornhole* and conversing about sports, movies, and the promiscuity of each other’s mothers then you may want to reassess your priorities.  Craft beer is a bourgeois drink for the blue-collar person.
In Colorado, during the winter months, it is especially faux pas to drink in apparel any fancier than ski-pants, hat-hair, and a goggle tan. For this reason, Nicole and I were none too uncomfortable visiting the Breckenridge Brewery in just such attire after a day of skiing at Copper Mountain.
Breckenridge Brewery is one of those little breweries with a big reputation; the original brewery is in a modestly-sized brewpub in a modestly-sized ski town yet they have a subsidiary brewery in Grand Junction and two in Denver (one of which is probably twice the size as the original and located within walking distance of Coors Field).  Their distribution is widespread considering their size and it’s not uncommon to find Breck’s beers in any given Colorado or neighboring state’s bar.  Their Avalanche Ale is an amber found in almost as many places as Colorado’s poster child of amber beer—Fat Tire—and is just as good (just look for the ski pole draught handle at your local bar).  The Breck Brewery has fought the good fight to bring worthwhile beer to the state and the populace has responded graciously.   
This was our second time visiting the brewery but, as you can surmise from the previous paragraph, we were already quite well-versed in Breck beer anyway.  Since we were so familiar with their beer, I had to go for a seasonal brew: 471 Double IPA (9.2% ABV).  Nicole went for a more familiar—but probably Breck’s best—beer: Vanilla Porter (4.7% ABV).
Vanilla Porter on the left, 471 on the right
471 is honey-colored and not-quite-clear but not-quite opaque; it is a very low level of translucency.  Although it is a double IPA, 471 doesn’t have an overwhelmingly hoppy aroma.  Breck has balanced it quite nicely with sweet malts.  Those malts are apparent on the tip of the tongue on the first sip with the hops following close behind.  The balance between malts and hops is impeccable; the drinker cannot determine which is more prominent.  Breck has created a double IPA—usually one of the bitterest beers you can have—and reduced the bite to that of a weak IPA or a strong pale ale.  I admire the craftsmanship it took to create this balance but, as I’ve said in previous posts, I’m all about the hops.  Ramp it up, I say.  Kick me in the mouth with hoppy goodness.  I don’t need malty training wheels.  In spite of this minor complaint I still enjoyed 471 and, yes, I would order it again in a heartbeat.
Vanilla Porter is dark brown with red highlights and a tan head.  The aromas are that of a straight porter (roasted malts and coffee essences) as the vanilla has a hard time finding the nose.  Likewise, the first sip is more akin to a no-frills porter but the vanilla eventually catches up to the drinker in the aftertaste.  Apparently, vanilla is a heavy adjunct because the closer to the bottom of the pint you get the more intense the vanilla flavor becomes.  Unlike 471, you can probably pick up a sixer of Vanilla Porter in your local, Colorado liquor store.  So, yeah, go do that because, like I said, I think Vanilla Porter is Breck’s best offering (Ed.  Looks like 471 is offered in bottles.  Go pick up some of that, too). 

I’m not a “porter girl,” I’m a “wheat girl.”  But, on a sunny winter day, the Vanilla Porter seemed like a better choice than a wheat. The creamy porter filled my belly as I tried to soothe my sore muscles from a day of racing down steep, black runs. If you know me, I wasn’t racing down the mountain. It was more like trying not to face plant while “gracefully” making my way to the bottom and not get lost. It was nice to spend the day on the mountain with less people trying to run me over. If only I had every Monday off…I can only wish. But, I must get back to the beer. I have had sips of the vanilla porter before, but never a full pint. I enjoyed the roasty malts and the sweet vanilla aftertaste. As I sipped my beer, I started to notice more hints of vanilla as I got to the bottom of the glass. I actually like porters, or at least Breck’s Vanilla Porter. I think I might have to branch out and try more porters. I might just find out that I am a “porter girl.” Eventually, I will get around to critiquing the Chai Porter that I brewed a few months ago.


*Cornhole is a lawn game of Midwestern origin in which contestants pitch beanbags (originally filled with corn, now filled with plastic beads) at an inclined board with a hole in the top-middle.  The goal is to make the bag in the hole for three points or on the board for one whilst knocking off or cancelling out your opponent's throws.  If you are in my presence, do not call the game bags, beanbags, or bag toss.  The proper appellation is cornhole 

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