Thursday, July 29, 2010

Colorado Beerventure Part 2

Next stop on the Beerventure...New Belgium Brewing

I heard great things about the New Belgium tasting room called the "Liquid Center" and apparently so has everyone else.    I didn't realize what a pain it would be to get onto the tour there.  The night before we tried to sign up, but it was full, actually it was full for the next 3 weeks.  So we planned to get to brewery early to get onto to the wait-list.

We got to the brewery at 10:30 AM to get put on the wait-list, then headed into town for some grub, then to Odell's for a warm up.  We went back to New Belgium about 1:00 and hung out to see if we got on the tour.  The Liquid Center is quite an experience.  Fully staffed with about 8 people, at about 1:15 this place was hopping like a full fledged bar and we were there on a Wednesday.  Upon arrival at the Liquid Center you show your ID, you get a nice sample pour and two tokens for tastings.  Along with the normal lineup of beers they had 6 Beers from the Lips of Faith series and few of which you can't get in bottles here. 

So at this point we had already tasted a dozen beers from Odell's so notes are out the window on these beers.   I started with new one from the Lips of Faith series, Hagdorn's Helles (not yet available in Ca).  Hagdorn is German style Helles and was pretty good beer, not the best from this brewery, but I haven't had a Helles for awhile it was a nice treat.  Next up I had the Lips of Faith Belgian Style Blonde (again not available in Ca yet).  This was a really tasty beer, stronger than I had expected, with nice bready yeast notes.  I finished up the tasting with the Imperial Berliner Style Weisse (not available in Ca, picture above).  I really loved this beer,  but I originally was not too sure what the style was.  This is an imperial style sour beer that pours golden and has a great sour flavor, what a great treat.

After those tastings we went on the famed tour which was lead by Brad, a former East Bay brewer for Drake's and Triple Rock.  Our tour was the first ever for Brad and he rocked it; the five tastings on the tour didn't hurt the tour either.  I won't tell you about the tour because I wouldn't want to spoil it, but there were a few highlights.  One of my favorite things was tasting 1554 directly off the bottling line.  I am huge fan of 1554, it is by far one of favorites from New Belgium and drinking it right from the line was fantastic.  The final treat were two tastings of their two new beers from the Lips of Faith; the Berliner and their new Belgo IPA, a Belgian Style IPA.  I already discussed the Berliner, like I said before I really enjoyed this beer and because my girlfriend loves sour beers I more than happily passed this to her and had a double taste of the Belgo IPA.
The Belgo IPA
pours out golden copper,
smell:  Belgian yeast, sweet malt and hops.
taste:  initial flavor or sweet malt, Belgian yeast, caramel, and finishes with a strong pine and citrus notes.
mouthfeel: medium to high carbonation, good mouthfeel
Would I drink this again?  Of course I would two of my favorite beers in one.  It is a huge beer as most Belgian IPA's are.  My favorite of this style is still Le Freak from Green Flash, but they have had time to refine that beer, so I'll give New Belgium some time to work on it.

My experience in Ft. Collins was fantastic.  New Belgium continues to press the boundaries of beer by adding another sour to their list as well as a BIPA.   The  hidden gem of this trip was Odell's, a brewery we have not had the benefit of enjoying on the west coast yet.  I am sure they will make their way out here before too long.

Next up the on itinerary was a quick trip to Denver.  I was fortunate enough to be directed to a Belgian restaurant and bar called The Cheeky Monk.  We stopped in and had some Mussels, frites and some beers.  There list of beers was quite numerous, I had Mischief from the Bruery and my girlfriend had a Saison Dupont.  I am not sure why I went with the Mischief when I could have had La Chouffe or Maredsous, but the Mischief was good and went well with the Mussels we ordered.  We ended up talking it up with the bartender and she informed me that The Cheeky Monk had just finished up brewing a beer for the restaurant at Avery Brewing in Boulder.    

Avery Brewing has been a favorite of mine for a couple years now and I was lucky enough to get a chance to taste some amazing brews. Avery is located in Boulder Colorado in an industrial complex just outside of downtown.  We arrived at Avery on Friday for a very impressive tasting of a few of their beers.  They had huge list of about fifteen beers.  4oz. tasters were $1 and pints of 8% and below were $4, 8% and above were $5.   I grabbed a pint of Hand of the Buddha, and tasters of Ballsmack Baltic Porter, Karma Belgian Pale Ale,  17th Anniversary Black Lager and Hog Heaven Barley Wine.

Hog Heaven is Tap room only beer.  It pours golden copper.  Smells like Belgian yeast and caramel malts.  Taste was something different, I am not sure what was added to the kettle, coriander, maybe kaffir lime.  It had a herbal floral quality that was new to me for a Belgian Pale.  It didn't finish particularly well for me, but the initial flavor was surprising and for that I have to say I enjoyed the uniqueness of it.    It had a good mouthfeel and medium carbonation.  It was a very drinkable beer.  I am assuming this was an attempt at a light style of Belgian Pale, maybe a Belgian Summer beer. 
Would I drink it again?  I sure would, it would pair well with some spicy Thai food for sure.

Next up was another Belgian, Karma which is available in bottles as well.  This is a traditional Belgian Ale and it really didn't surprise me.  It had good yeasty nose, tasted of sweet caramel and had a nice spicy finish.  Overall it was a good interpretation of the classic, but knowing the kinds of beers Avery can make I was actually disappointed in this beers simplicity.  I blame myself for the poor review, I guess not every beer can be "Extreme".  It was a good beer and I would drink it again, but only if they didn't have any Ballsmack which was my next tasting.

Ballsmack is a Baltic Porter and available only at the tap room.  Pours out dark black.  Smells of roasted malt and chocolate.  Tastes are sweet malt, chocolate and finishes with some strong roasted malt flavors.  Mouthfeel was nice and light for this style.  Overall this was a lighter more drinkable version of the Baltic Porters I am used to drinking, but for the Climate I think it worked out well.  I would drink this again, but do prefer my Baltic Porters to be a bit bigger.

Avery brews an anniversary beer every year for the past 7 years and this will be year 17.  So to celebrate with them I enjoyed their 17th Anniversary Black Lager.  I have had the pleasure of doing a tasting of 14 and 15 with my brother a couple years ago.  I thought 14 was the better of those two beers and luckily my brother loved the 15 so for the first time in history we didn't have to compromise on something.  The 17 pours nice dark with nice off white head and a little lacing.  Smells are roasted malt and licorice.  Taste, malt forward with licorice and caramel and a nice smooth hoppy finish.  This is a tasty brew and very drinkable.  I love a good anniversary beer, especially one that doesn't cost $18 (sorry Firestone Walker).  I would drink this again in a heartbeat.  It is good to see these Black Lagers making an impact in the beer world.  I love 1554 and Linden St. in Oakland makes a Black Common as well.  Rich, malty, dark beers don't have to be big to be good and this beer was a testament to that.

Next up was the Hog Heaven Barlywine, this beer is available in bottles.  This beer pours dark amber with little to no head.  Smells of sweet malt, pineapple and of course he 9.7% of abv comes through.  Tastes sweet malt, pine and grapefruit, nice balance of hops to balance the alcohol finish.   Overall I loved this beer, I thought all the flavors were in great balance.  The hops really mellowed the hot finish and I felt the drinkability of this beer was very good.

What a great ending to a great trip.  Not only the beer, but Colorado in general is beautiful place. 

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