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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Boston Beer Company: Barrel Room Series

The Boston Beer Company (aka Samuel Adams) is constantly coming up with new and interesting concepts.  I've enjoyed their Limited Released, one-off specialty beers, and the Brewmaster's Collection of beers for decades.  Many of these beers pushed the envelope for more than just the actual beer and used interesting bottling and marketing concepts.

The same is true for the Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection of beers. The collection focuses on traditional Belgian-style beers, but with a unique Samuel Adams twist.  Traditional Belgium-style beers use wild yeasts and bacteria that create a signature spiciness and sourness.  Indeed, in some styles, Trappists Lambics for example, wild yeast is allowed to blow into the brewery from nearby fields.  This is not really practical for a full-scale brewery, so Samuel Adams creative staff developed a yeast/bacteria blend that achieves the Belgian-like flavors with more consistency and less time.  They call the mixture Kosmic Mother Funk and it is used in all of the Barrel Room beers.  These beers are also aged in oak barrels and come in totally unique bottles that are corked and caged.

My beer vendor had three of the four varieties.  The first was Stony Brook Red, which I would consider to be an imperial red ale.  It is low in bitterness (10 IBUs) and high in alcohol (9% ABV). Three yeasts are used in this beer, including champagne yeast for bottle conditioning.  The second was New World, a tripel brewed with both barley and wheat malts.  This beer is low in hops (17 IBU) and is 10% ABV.  The final beer was Thirteenth Hour, a stout brewed with 13 ingredients (hence the name), including 7 malts.  It is lacking in hops (17 IBU) and is 9% ABV.  The other beer in the collection, that I'm still searching for is called American Kriek.  This one sounds the most interesting of the group and is a traditional cherry lambic, made from Michigan Balaton cherries.  Oh, and Balaton is a registered trademark of Michigan State University. Cool!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Brewery Vivant: Grand Rapids Michigan

Grand Rapids, MI continues to live up it's title of "Beer City USA."  Back in late 2010, a couple of guys with a lot of brewing experience opened a brewery in a former funeral home.  As I understand it, the concept was to brew Franco-Belgian-style beers in an ecologically responsible way and to pair those beers with local, wholesome food. Thus, Brewery Vivant was born.

Some of Brewery Vivant's Offerings
I'd seen this brewery's beer sold in cans for some time in the beer aisle of my favorite store.  However, being a beer-bottle collector, and having grown up in the age of "cans=bad beer" I never purchased it.  The buzz, however, surrounding the brewery continued to grow and they were getting rave reviews from just about everybody.  As a lark before going out golfing one afternoon, I grabbed a 4-pack of the imperial saison (called Zaison), thinking this style would be perfect for a hot day golfing.  Note that the cans are a pint (about 16 lf oz) and pretty pricy at about $14 a 4-pack. I opened the beer and took a drink.  Wow, I thought.  The beer was marvelous, with a slight hint of spices (peppercorns and orange peel according to the label).  About half way through the pint, I was a little confused as I started to feel an alcohol-buzz.  Sure enough, after carefully looking at the label I found it was 9% ABV!  About twice what I was expecting given the style.  My golf suffered a little, but we all make sacrifices right?

Okay, not a great beer for golfing, but an excellent beer for just about everything else.  The saison, and the other styles they make, are currently some of my favorite beers.

The reputation of Brewery Vivant continues to grow.  They have recently collaborated with the craft brew giant New Belgium Brewing in Ft. Collins, CO.  The first of their collaborations is on sale now in Michigan called Escoffier Brett Beer, a French farmhouse ale (biere de garde). The beer celebrates the pairing of beer and food.  I hear that the next beer will also be a farmhouse ale presented as the next incarnation of New Belgium's "Lips of Faith" series.  Now that New Belgium beers are being sold in Michigan, I hope that we will be able to get it in the Great Lakes State.

I look forward to seeing what else is in store for Brewery Vivant and simply must make a trip over to Grand Rapids to visit the brewery.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beer Bottle Labels: Sea Creatures

Go figure...most of these are from breweries near the ocean....


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Backcountry Brewery, Colorado

There's something special about tasting craft beers while looking out at beautiful mountain vistas.  That is part of what you get at the Backcountry Brewery in Frisco, Colorado.

The place is located upstairs in small strip of stores, with pretty views of mountains out all windows.  The restaurant and bar take up the top floor and it appears that the brewery takes up some of the first floor.  The decor is wood and stone, with an emphasis on comfort.  We choose to lounge on sofas while we sampled beers and enjoyed appetizers.

The main restaurant area.
The bar area.
The lounge area.
Tasters and appetizers.
The beers were very good and included some interesting varieties (like the barleywine).  The service was a little slow and spotty, but friendly once they showed up.  The appetizers were satisfying and what you would expect from a brewpub.  The restaurant menu looked good, but we were full from the appetizers.  This is a brewpub where one could easily spend an enjoyable evening.

They also sell their beers in bottles. Definitely worth purchasing.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dillon Dam Brewery: Colorado

I got the opportunity a few weeks ago to visit the Dillon Dam Brewery in Summit County, Colorado.

The place was very inviting: roomy, comfortable, good food, tasty beer, and wheelchair accessible.  The pub had a Western mining town feel to it, with lots of wood and an open middle space.  Patrons on the top floor can look down on the bar.  At one side of the top floor there is a self-guided tour of the brewery operation.  Nothing too surprising there, but it's nice to see they make the effort to educate the public about craft beer making.

The beers were pretty good, but I would have liked to see a few more risky beers for those of us who are always on the lookout for something special.  That is not to say that I did not enjoy the beers--they were excellent.  Some of beer names played off the "Dam" theme and I'm told there actually is a Dillion Dam.

We didn 't try the meals, but the appetizers were good.  All in all, well worth a stop.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales: De Viento

Not only do beer labels reflect popular culture, they also on occasion reflect historical events.  Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales recently began selling a limited edition beer called "de Viento" in 750 ml bottles.  The beer was brewed to commemorate an EF-3 tornado that damaged more than 100 homes in Dexter, Michigan on March 15, 2012. Cleverly, the name translates roughly to "...of the wind."

The tornado missed the brewery but caused all sorts of havoc and heartbreak in the quaint village of Dexter.  The brewery is donating all proceeds from the beer to the Dexter Relief Fund.  Kudos to Ron Jeffries for giving back to the community that has embraced his brewery. 

The rest of us also benefit from having a unique offering from a world-class brewery. The saison-style beer is a collaborative effort with some other local businesses and is flavored with coffee and spices.  It is aged on oak like most of the Jolly Pumpkin ales. A good beer brewed for a great cause.




Friday, September 7, 2012

New Belgium Brewing Company

I have had a keen appreciation for beers from the New Belgium Brewing Company ever since visiting the Ft. Collins brewery this past year.  At the time, I asked the person serving the beer (who was also a co-owner, since the brewery is employee owned!) why they did not sell their beer in Michigan.  I was told that they had been looking into it and it may not be too long before they were selling beer in the Great Lakes State.  Indeed, a few weeks ago was the much anticipated release date. A local grocery store has a huge display to my surprise and several people were grabbing bottles.

 Only four beers are for sale in Michigan presently and many of us are hoping that the Lips of Faith series will be sold here eventually.  I really like that the Red Tire Amber Ale is being sold in a special 2012 Michigan Commemorative Bottle.  It makes me feel special!