"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, April 5, 2011

Beer Not in Colorado: Iron Fist

This is a continuation of the post titled Beer Not in Colorado: Stone.  Read it before continuing and your life will be easier.
When your bartender pours the wrong beer you must become a Sherlock Holmes of the palate to surmise what’s been laid in front of you (if you’re a literary geek like me, you could become a C. Auguste Dupin of the palate if you prefer).
Having left Stone we headed towards Iron Fist Brewing Co. in Vista, our second brewery of the day.  Like Placentia’s The Bruery and Colorado’s own Big Beaver, Iron Fist does not put barriers between the patron and the equipment.  There are no walls or windows blocking the fermentation tanks, aging barrels, or mash tuns from view.  Everything that is Iron Fist is laid bare for the bar-goer to see as he mingles in the loading dock that doubles as a tasting room. 
Iron Fist's unassuming entrance
Since Iron Fist isn’t a national player in the beer wars and, thus, isn’t readily available in Colorado, I went for a sampler of four flights instead of one, big pint.  What I ordered was Hired Hand (6.5% ABV), a saison; Dubbel Fisted (8.1% ABV), a Belgian dubbel; Velvet Glove (9% ABV), a stout; and an IPA that wasn’t listed on the menu (I assume it was the Gauntlet at 9% ABV).  After paying and informing the bartender (in retrospect, probably too loudly) that a customer had dropped an unflushable deuce in the bathroom, Nicole and I meandered through the crowd until we found an empty table near the back.
The first beer we tasted was Hired Hand.  It has a dry finish and is full of zest.  There are traces of sour in both taste and aroma.  The second beer was Velvet Glove.  It’s a typical stout with a cloudy yellow color, white head, banana-like flavor, and bouquets of grape.
Wait a minute.  That can’t be right. 

I looked at my flights—none of these could possibly be mistaken for a stout.  Its neurotic but I can’t properly evaluate a beer unless I know what I’m getting.  I need to know what qualities said beer should be graded on.  For instance, if I order an IPA then I get it into my head that I’m going to be getting a bitter, hoppy beer and should assess the beer based on these qualities.  If, however, I order a porter or a stout then I understand that roasted malts and coffee essences are the norms and I should judge the beer based on this knowledge.  If I’m in the dark about the beer’s style then I don’t know what I should be expecting and the whole system goes to ruin and I can’t, with any confidence, continue to educate and entertain through this blog and I’ll have to give up my dreams of becoming the beer blogging version of Perez Hilton (also, the straight version) and I’ll have to settle down at a soul-crushing office job and coast through the rest of my life a miserable, miserable man and wonder where—oh, where—did my life go so horribly wrong?  I know, it’s a serious crisis but, please, try to get a hold of yourself.
Inside Iron Fist
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” said Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s eminent detective.  Thankfully, Nicole and I, when presented with a beer quandary, can be quite the sleuths, too.  With help from the beer menu and a little deductive reasoning we started whittling away at the potential suspects until we had our man.  We already tasted Hired Hand and its flavors were congruent with what we understood about saisons so we knew that one couldn’t be anything but what it claimed to be.  We checked the other two flights to make sure they weren’t imposters, too.  The IPA tasted like an IPA and a West Coast IPA at that (re-read Beer Not in Colorado: Coronado Brewing for a refresher about my stance on West Coast IPAs.  In short, I’m against them).  No doppelgangers there.  The next beer in the flight tasted tart and had a plum-like aroma.  I’m not especially familiar with dubbels but I knew I was drinking Dubbel Fisted because my evaluation matched the description on the menu.  That left three suspects: Renegade Blonde, Spice of Life, and Golden Age.  Renegade was a definite possibility; it had the right color and the fruity flavors made me quite suspicious that this very well may be the perp.  Spice of Life, perhaps?  Nah, the description says it has intense flavors of coriander and bitter orange peel.  I definitely didn’t detect any of that in my mystery beer.  Let’s see what it says about Golden Age:  blah blah blah banana blah blah blah grapes.  Ready your pistol, dear Watson, the guilty party is in our presence.  The cervisia incognitus undeniably features banana flavors and grape essences and, according to the menu, there is but one Iron Fist beer that matches that description: Golden Age (9.2% ABV). 
Renegade, Dubbel Fisted, what we discovered to be Golden Age, and Hired Hand
This exercise is a fantastic way to train one’s palate.  To see if my skills are up to snuff, I may ask the bartender at my next brewery visit to pour me a pint without telling me what it is and I’ll see if I can identify it, first, by taste and, second, by how the brewery describes it.  A blind taste-test like that separates the true connoisseurs from the typical college kid whose appreciation ranges from Natty Ice all the way to Keystone Light.     

The Pinzgauer
Having solved our mystery, we sipped at the remainder of our flights, admired the Sharpie art hanging on the wall, and took a few pictures of the Pinzgauer, a military vehicle used by Scavengers Beer & Adventures Tour to transport beer geeks from one San Diego brewery to another.  Nicole and I considered using their services but, at $105 per person, we decided it would be best just to make our own tour.  Still, sweet ride.

Sharpie art
The final installment of our California beer adventure is coming next.  Stay tuned for Green Flash

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