"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!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Pre-Gaming the Great American Beer Festival

For more Great American Beer Festival pre-gaming, click here.

When you live in Denver you know your beer.   It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a beer geek because the city is so absorbed with brew culture that you can subconsciously pick up tidbits of information by osmosis; just being surrounded by great breweries and great beer makes one a pseudo-expert.  It’s the same way everybody in Memphis knows their blues, everybody in Kansas City knows their BBQ, and everybody in Miami knows their cocaine.  Collectively, we know our stuff.

We know, for example, that, like wine, certain types of beer pair well with certain types of food.  I do not profess to be an expert on the matter because, while I do love beer and I do love to grub out, I’ve never actually been to a beer and food pairing event.  Thanks to Jared (who Nicole and I met at Star Bar’s Beer Cocktail event), I got the hook-up at the Apps ‘N’ Ales with Avery Brewing event held at Paramount Café.  That’s right, world; I can hold my head up and proudly proclaim, ‘Yes, I have eaten a snack and washed it down with a beer that has a complementary flavor!”  Truth be told, I didn’t follow the guide and I didn’t exactly match up my appetizers with my beer—I just ordered the beers I haven’t had yet.  So, technically, I’ve been to a beer and food pairing but I didn’t follow the rules.  Nonetheless, I had a great time chowing down, sipping samplers, and talking shop with Jared and the Avery reps.    

For the “app” portion of the night I ordered the Sweet Chili Dry-Rubbed Wings (so good I think they’re illegal in the Bible Belt) and Nicole had the veggie pizza.  For the “ale” portion of the night, well, where do I begin?

The first sampler I received, Immitis, was a freebie from an Avery rep.  Immitis is a sour beer and, while I’ve talked about sour beers before, no previous experience could have prepared me for the wallop that Immitis packs.  Although it looks like whiskey with red highlights, this beer was actually aged in zinfandel barrels so it has a certain wine-y quality.  The nose on this beer is the first clue that Immitis isn’t your average beer; it nearly knocked me off my chair with a punch of sour aroma.  The aroma does not mislead—Immitis tastes just as sour as it smells.  So sour, in fact, that I couldn’t help but make a puckered-up face.  Despite how torturous this experience might sound I actually like this beer a great deal.  Then again, I’m a food masochist: I love Sour Patch Kids, raw rhubarb, and I douse everything in hot sauce.  If it aint painful, it aint good.  So, if you can find Immitis (and I don’t know if you can because they don’t currently bottle it) I recommend you snag it.  Make sure you don’t get a rookie bartender that might pour you a whole pint—a splash in a snifter is more than enough.

The next four beers I ordered to go along with my wings but, like I said, I didn’t put any effort into actually pairing drink to food; I just picked the ones I’ve yet to taste: The Reverend (10% ABV), Collaboration Not Litigation, duganA IPA (8.5% ABV), and Hog Heaven Dry-Hopped Barleywine Style Ale (9.2% ABV).
From left to right: Reverend, Collaboration, duganA, Hog Heaven

I lied.  I actually have had Reverend before but it was while I was an undergraduate student and a mere fledgling of a beer geek (I was still a beer geek, though, as I had it at the local brewpud: Gunnison Brewery).  I was anxious to try it again now that I’ve developed my palate.  Reverend is the color of cherries dipped in milk chocolate: deep red with a tinge of brown.  The nose is rife with the scent of black licorice and earthy aromas.  There is an unmistakable cherry flavor in Reverend that plows the way for a black licorice aftertaste.  Warming spices in the back of the throat round out the Reverend’s sermon.

Collaboration Not Litigation has a very interesting story.  You can read said story on the Avery website but I will quickly re-cap it here for your convenience.  The Avery and Russian River breweries realized that they both had a beer called “Salvation” but, because the craft beer world is a system of mutual support, the breweries didn’t sic their lawyers on each other but instead created a new beer by blending the two Salvations together.  Thus became Collaboration Not Litigation—a beer that is dark, burnt orange in color, and smells of apricot.  Peach, cinnamon, and nutmeg all make themselves known in the flavor.

Please do not ask me why duganA IPA has such unique capitalization; I do not know.  Ask the folks at Avery.  This beer is darkish yellow and clear.  The aroma is like a suburban lawn after the neighborhood kids have mowed it—very grassy.  There are also whiffs of lemon essence.  While Avery claims duganA is “brutally bitter,” I couldn’t disagree more; it has a very tame bitter bite although the Christmas tree-like flavors of the hops come through in full force.

Hog Heaven is a light ruby colored beer with an aroma that is hoppy, citrusy, and caramel-y all at the same time.  It packs a monster of a hop bite so much so that it burns as it goes down.  I felt like a dragon about to spew fire after the initial swallow. 

This is where my memory gets a little fuzzy and my notes get a little sloppier.  I honestly didn’t drink very much quantity-wise since all of these beers were served in tiny, sippy-sized cups but, because all of them hovered near or over the double-digit ABV threshold, their effect was noticeable.  Good thing I did take notes or else this information would be lost to the ages.

The Avery rep came by our table to drop off The Beast Grand Cru (14.9% ABV) and talk beer.  I like to claim to be a beer geek but I don’t like being put on the spot and having to defend that claim.  Well, that’s too bad for me because that’s what I had to do when the rep stopped by.  The initiating question: why is The Beast called The Beast?  I didn’t know.  I guessed and said it had 666 ingredients.  Well, that was dead wrong but I was on the right track: it has six types of malts, six types of Belgian candied sugars, and six types of hops.  I also learned that “Grand Cru” simply means “Best Offering” and that The Beast once claimed the highest ABV of any Colorado beer.  That title has since been usurped by some glory hogs but Avery isn’t upset; they said it was never about the record for them, it was just about making good beer whether or not it contained a ton of alcohol.  The Beast smells and tastes a lot like Lipton iced tea.

The next beer came in the form of Meretrix, another sour beer.  Meretrix is a lot like Immitis except that it is a hazy brown-orange in color and it has hints of sour apple in its aroma and taste.  It still has Immitis’ KO sour punch, though.
Pretty sure this is Meretrix

God bless ya, Jared, for bringing out three more beers to review.  By golly, I was sated but you brought out more samples.  I can always make room for more.  Jared’s trio: Stranahan’s Barrel Aged Vanilla Porter (8-9% ABV) from Breckinridge Brewery, HGH from Oskar Blues Brewery, and Māori King (8% ABV) from Funkwerks.

The Stranahan’s Barrel Aged Vanilla Porter is just like Breckenridge’s normal Vanilla Porter except it was aged in Stranahan's whiskey barrels.  The coloration is basically the same—dark brown with red highlights—but the aroma blew me away.  It is, without doubt, the best smelling beer I’ve ever had the pleasure of sticking my nose in.  Sweet, sweet vanilla mixed with subtle hints of wood and whiskey?  It’s beer geek aromatherapy.  The taste is almost as good with whiskey being the most obvious flavor and vanilla as back-up.  The mouthfeel is somewhat thick making the drinking experience similar to that of eating a vanilla ice cream cone.  This is a gentleman’s drink; I want to put on my monogram robe, light up a pipe, and enjoy this beer next to a crackling hearth and a conked out hound dog. 

HGH—or Home Grown Hops—is clear mahogany and possesses a big, malty nose and a big bitter bite.  HGH’s alcoholic flavors are apparent; sipping this beer is like taking a shot of watered-down liquor.  The mouthfeel is thin and dry.

Even though it is no longer called Māori King, this imperial saison is still mighty tasty.  It is hazy and light yellow with a yeasty aroma.  The flavor is bready and slightly hoppy but certainly not a barrage of bitterness.  The mouthfeel is dry.
From left to right: Māori King, HGH, Vanilla Porter 

Thank you once again, Jared, for informing me about this event and I’m sure Nicole and I will be seeing you again so long as you keep serving fine beer.



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