#509: Heyday – Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, Colorado
Baseball is well underway. The NHL and NBA playoffs are moving right along. And the temperature is now sitting comfortably around 70 degrees here in the Northeast. Yes, I’d say it’s time for a witbier. This one is brewed with barley, oats and raw wheat, and checks in at 5.2% ABV.
A creamy, fluffy bright white head sitting on top of this one, and very eager to stick to the sides of the glass. An interesting look for the body; at times it had a yellow/green appearance, but at other times it resembled the purer pale gold that I’m accustomed to with witbiers. In any event, quite nice, with a touch of haze and steady streams of carbonation feeding the head. On the nose, I get a big punch of spice before anything else. I’d call it a smoky pepper type of note, and underneath that there’s some ripe citrus in the form of orange peel. So I was braced for something potent, but the beer goes somewhere else on the palate. Before mention of any flavors, I have to mention the mouthfeel, which is wonderfully creamy and rich. Ample carbonation keeps it from feeling heavy, and provides the perfect platform for a blend of spicy and fruity flavors. Ripe, tough-skinned gala apples, orange and bitter lemon peel join the party, leading to a finish that has a very grainy note in the form of cereal or baked bread.
The Verdict: For a beer that has a lot going on, it’s wonderfully approachable. Distinct, flavorful and quite unique, but not overdone in any way.
#505: Third Shift Amber Lager – Coors Brewing Company, Golden, Colorado
This beer, provided for me by my dear friend Scotches, is the source of some controversy. You might have heard radio ads claiming it is made by the “Band of Brewers Company” in Ft. Worth, TX., and about how they have a “love” and “passion” for brewing, and about how it won a gold medal. And at the end of one of their press releases, it said “To find out more about this award-winning, passion-brewed beer…” just in case you didn’t take the hint. But there is no Band of Brewers Company. This beer is made by Coors, the multi-national brewing conglomerate. And it’s no secret what trend this beer, and its marketing campaign, has been inspired by. Fair play? I’ll let you decide. As for me, I’ll stick to the beer, which clocks in at 5.3% ABV.
Third Shift pours with a large, sturdy, foamy bright white head, and caps off a clear, coppery/burnt orange body, a good deal of carbonation scurrying about. On the nose, a mellow, but pleasant aroma of caramelly baked bread and grains, complemented by some mellow herbal hopping. On the palate, a crisp, but decently bodied beer, carrying subtle flavors of caramel and bready grain sweetness, with mellow, but noticeable hop spice placed in between. Certainly a mild flavor profile, but far from weak or insubstantial. On the back end, faint hoppiness gives way to a mostly clean finish, leaving a little of that malty sweetness lingering around.
The Verdict: I don’t always do this, but I checked Beeradvocate to gauge the reaction to this beer. The reviews were riddled with assumptions about intentions and who the “real beer” should be left to. I’d bet that in a blind taste test, the beer would score fair marks. Because you can say what you want about the company, but this is a professionally made, perfectly respectable beer.
There’s one thing that’s rather horrible about autumn for this guy: allergies. They fire up right around midnight, so I knew I had to squeeze this review in early last night if I were going to be able to smell or taste anything. So I did. This porter comes from Boulder Beer, which was started in 1979 by two University of Colorado professors. Checks in at 5.5% ABV.
Took a little agitating to whip this head into shape. I began pouring slowly and barely any was forming, but after a sharp dip in the pour, this lovely light mocha-colored head appeared, in all its foamy, thick glory. The aroma is exactly the kind of thing that gets me all giddy and silly about porters: A rich blend of dry cocoa powder and bright, milky chocolate, with very subtle burnt malt tucked below. On the palate, this is all apparent, but the winning hand is found in the texture. Wonderfully silky and delicate, providing a comforting roundness to the beer as those rich flavors of cocoa, milk chocolate and other milky confectioneries fill out the palate, with a bit of a roasty, toasty burnt malt edge rounding things out. For all the richness found in the center, it dries out nicely in the finish, leaving a faint bitterness.
The Verdict: I think the Beeradvocate folk missed the point. Yeah, it’s a sweet beer. Do yourself a favor and get over it. It might not be the ideal session companion, but it’s damn delicious.
Fruit beer and I have a tumultuous history. We don’t get along that often, and I’m not talking about Belgian Lambics here. I’m talking about those vapid, thin-bodied, candied flavor fruit beers that manage to clog shelves with their teeth-rotting sweetness overload. But I hold out hope for one that might make me a believer. Great Divide’s a quality brewer, so let’s see what they’ve got here. This raspberry ale checks in at 5.6% ABV.
Pours with a beautiful, burnished ruby red tone, deep, dark and lovely, with remarkable clarity. It’s certainly been filtered quite well, and it’s capped off by an off-white head of creamy foam. A delightful, complex aroma of subtle acidic raspberry whips around the nose gently, not at all wrapped in the fakery syrup notes that scare me off in most fruit beers. Excellent texture on the body of this one. It avoids the common fruit beer pitfall combination of weak body, sickly fruit flavor. Instead, the acidic, prickly raspberry flavor is folded within a substantial body of sweet (but not too sweet), bready malt flavor, with a delicate level of carbonation to keep things flowing smoothly. Green hoppy bite in the finish to go along with the sweet, subtle touch of raspberry on the throat.
The Verdict: Fruit beer done very, very right. With exception to fruit lambics, it’s perhaps the best fruit beer I’ve had. No sickly mess, no weak body, just a sturdy beer with outstanding fruit flavor and a substantial body to back it up. Great stuff.
Flood the market indeed. My tastebuds might be getting a little too accustomed to the set of pumpkin beer flavors, so take whatever I say about this with a grain of salt. Checks in at 5.7% ABV.
The 87,000th pumpkin beer I’ve ever had pours with a modest, but sturdy rim of off-white foam, retaining quite well. Underneath that it’s a carbonation party. Bubbles whipping about in all directions, illuminating the orangey/red body, transparent as transparent gets. In the nose there’s the discernible nutmegy/cinnamon fakery, and I smell pumpkin in the sense that if I were in a laboratory doing some kind of sense test, I’d identify this smell as “pumpkin” or a “syrup derived from pumpkin extract of some kind.” A little crack of fizz up front, folding over the palate in slightly unpleasant fashion, revealing a center that’s more of what the nose was picking up on: Generic cinnamon and allspice, bootleg pumpkin flavor and a barely noticeable suggestion of biscuit. Finishes spicy, washing over the throat in a fizzy manner. Those two combined don’t work that well together.
The Verdict: Unoffensive, but unremarkable. It probably makes fans of the brand happy enough, but if I were looking for a more subtle pumpkin beer like this one, my attention would go elsewhere. There’s no way I could buy this beer when Post Road or Smuttynose Pumpkin are parked on the shelf next to it.
The first time I ever had this beer, it was nitrogenated. True story. I was at Barcade in Jersey City, and I arrived just in time to sip the leftovers of Left Hand’s tap takeover there. One such leftover was Nitro Sawtooth. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Let’s see how it is in the bottle. It’s brewed with Pale 2-row, Crystal, Munich, Wheat and Black Malt, and hopped with Magnum, Willamette, US-Goldings and Cascade. Checks in at 5.3%.
I think I’m finally starting to master this slow pour down the middle thing. I mean, check that beer out. Would you assume I’d poured it down the middle? I think not. Moving on, we’ve got a rich, coppery-looking, amberish beer here, well-filtered, while maintaining a great deal of that lovely deep color, and all capped off by a sturdy off-white head. Aroma suggests a balanced beer. Green, grassy, herbal hops lay above the rim in somewhat muted fashion.
Adore it. Balance, balance, balance. That’s the ticket, dear boy. There’s a malty wave of flavor up front, folding itself over the palate and bringing rich, sweet flavors of biscuit and a touch of toffee, and perhaps a little buttery caramel as well. In between the malty wave are notes of hoppy brightness, adding much-needed bitterness to smooth things out as well as bringing earthy, almost minty flavors to the party. Malt and hops. Working together. There’s a bit of a marmalade thing going on as well, as it smooths out brilliantly towards the finish, capping it all off with a pleasant, slightly crisp dryness.
The Verdict: Fruity, caramelly, with enough of a hop bite to level it all out. Easy, enjoyable drinking.
Hoppy IPA day, my lovelies. I often neglect the seasonal/holiday shift on this blog, but today I’ve put my foot down… to myself. I’m reviewing an IPA on IPA Day. Stop the presses. This one comes from Breckenridge Brewery. It’s brewed with Pale MAlt, Munich Malt, Caramel-30, Carapils, Torrified Wheat, and hopped with Chinook, Centennial, Simcoe and Fuggles.
Poured with a beautiful, perfectly sized, frothy head of off-white foam, capping things off brilliantly. There’s a discernible haze in the orangey amber body, lightly obstructing the view to the lovely carbonation emanating from the base of the glass. A quick whiff reveals a relatively subtle aroma compared to the American IPAs we’re usually quaffing. It’s still hoppy, for certain, bringing mostly pine along to the party, with hints of a sherbety, orange rind citrus component. Just punchy enough, but not overbearing. Just the way I like it.
And the flavors reflect the nose quite well. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: This is the kind of IPA I adore. Punchy, stated hop presence, but restrained enough to be enjoyed and admired. Strong, yet balanced. The hoppy flavors greet the palate in a bright, yet warm manner, providing a lemony, citrusy bite up front, leading to a center of juicy, toasty malt, balancing things out quite nicely. The interplay between both is key. While the malt holds the attention in the center, the bright citrusy flavors occasionally rise up to steal some attention, leading to a drying, bitter finish. Here’s my only complaint: At 9.2% ABV, the price I’m paying with alcohol doesn’t really justify this set of flavors. It tastes more like a 7.0% beer than a 9.2% beer, and at this level of ABV I’m looking for something more along the lines of Double Trouble or Perpetual IPA. If I wanted a beer that tasted a lot like this, but with less alcohol, I would go for Goose Island IPA or Two-Hearted Ale.
The Verdict: Good, but I question whether or not this set of flavors is worth the alcoholic punch you’re getting with this beer.
I have to admit, I was downright giddy when I heard that Milk Stout Nitro was on the horizon. I rarely get giddy, but this did the trick. I thought the idea was absolutely brilliant. Left Hand Milk Stout was already a creamy, chocolatey treat, but a nitro version? I could hardly wait. And they somehow achieve nitro-like consistency and tightness without the use of a widget. I bet that cost them a lot of money, so let’s see if it was worth all the trouble. It’s brewed with Pale 2-row, Crystal, Munich, Roast Barley, Flaked Oats, Flaked Barley and Chocolate malt, and hopped with Magnum and Goldings. Checks in at 6% ABV.
I had way, way too much fun pouring this beer, as can visually be witnessed in this video here (just make sure to tilt your head to the
left when watching). I wanted to give you some motion photos (motion photos? What am I in the 1920s?) so you could get a better understanding of how this thing develops. It’s quite interesting, as at first it appears a modest head is going to develop, but as the body violently clears itself and all of that matter comes gushing down, a tight, nitro-like creamy tan head suddenly builds into a proud pose. It’s quite impressive. As was the aroma, which was riddled with rich milk chocolate, brown sugar and a touch of creamy coffee.
This is just damn lovely and wonderful. A beer after my own heart, really. It was love at first sight, and at first taste, and gulp, and second taste and second gulp. Really, a superb job they’ve done with this one. It has all of the creaminess and silkiness of a well-poured Guinness, but Milk Stout Nitro is a far, far, far richer beer than Guinness is. It’s absolutely covered with notes of rich, creamy, decadent milk chocolate as the beer’s silky texture greets you up front. Midway through there’s notes of dry cocoa powder and mocha, coming together to create the impression that you’re drinking a cappuccino with chocolate powder on top. It gracefully finishes with a hint of chocolate and just the slightest lactic tang, along with a delicate bitterness.
The Verdict: Rich and full-bodied, yet silky, creamy and decadent. A true joy to drink. Best of luck to Left Hand with this. I wouldn’t mind seeing this as the American alternative to draft Guinness at every bar in the future.
I had every intention of trying this beer last summer, but for whatever reason I never really got around to it. I think I was never entirely swayed by the wave of summer beers that made their way onto shelves last year. Not that they weren’t good or of high quality, but I think I was ushered too quickly out of porter season. It was a shock treatment that I wasn’t prepared for. But this summer, I’m ready. So let’s do this. Breckenridge SummerBright is brewed with Two row Pale, White Wheat, Carapils, Munich malt, and hopped with Fuggle, Cascade and Willamette. 4.5% ABV.
From the happy-faced sun can, we get a beer that certainly looks the part relative to what it’s made for; a transparent straw gold, a head of white foam, and very, very subtle carbonation, as a modest bubble stream or two slowly trickles up from the base of the glass to the head. Bright orange and lemon come right off the top and into the nose, followed by some soft bready notes.
It’s quenching, it makes one happy. It does what it’s designed to do, but for me there’s a few unpleasant sequences surrounding the parts of the beer that I do enjoy. Let’s start off with the good. Flavors are fine enough. It’s not sickly in terms of fruit flavor like a lot of poorly made American-style wheat beers can be. Quite modest instead, with some juicy lemon and orange flavors, wrapped in some subtle bready flavors, and just a subtle bite from carbonation. Up front, nothing offensive really. On the way down, though… eh. Kind of acrid. Harsher than it ought to be, and it leaves an unpleasant metallic tang on the throat that is often undesirable.
The Verdict: Not my first choice as summer beers go. Nor would it be my second or third. But it ain’t flat out bad, either.
I need to get a few more Oskar Blues brews on the resume. To date, I’ve had Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub and the pilsner. All very nice, but there’s quite a few heralded beers missing, and I’d like to change that. So Deviant Dale’s, an 8% ABV double IPA, caught my eye on account of the fact that it’s in a bigger can. Yep, call me a sucker. I’m that guy this beer was marketed to. Regardless, I have it now, so let’s take a look.
This one poured out with a slowly-building, off-white head, which built up a greater deal of foam than I was anticipating by the time it was over. Seemed a bit shy at first, but perked right up in the end. And a nice color we’ve got here, too. Ambery/orange appearance, a little coppery with just a bit of haze noticeable. You will be greeted by familiar notes once you start nosing about; grapefruit, orange and such, but there’s a hint of something a little more. Perhaps a bit of caramel tucked underneath that, but there’s a hint of something a little more herbal in a green, almost thyme-like way.
That peculiar herbal note fade once beer meets palate, but it’s for a good cause, because we’ve got a very, very well-balanced beer on our hands. As I’ve said before, my favorite double IPAs are usually doubled up on both hops and malt, not just hops. This one fits the bill. And it wastes absolutely no time. Up front, you get a nice whack of toffee and caramel, joined by all of those familiar American hop flavors; mostly pine and grapefruity citrus here, prickling the tongue through mid palate in a generous manner, but it’s all held in check for all of its bigness. It never quite crosses the sticky, resiny threshold. Instead each force is wrapped up in one another, leveling out the other. Big, yet balanced. The finish, while certainly bitter, leaves a lot more sweetness and hop-derived flavors sticking around.
The Verdict: Well worth trying, and if you’re into double IPAs, well worth making a part of your rotation. Would I choose it over Double Trouble? Probably not, but then again I wouldn’t choose any double IPA over Double Trouble. Still, this is quite good. Big and balanced.