Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Taste of Rock Bottom Centerra

Rock Bottom CenterraI missed out on an opportunity to tour a brewery on April 7th, the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition, so I decided to pay a visit to a local restaurant / brewery one day late. There is a fairly new brewery in the Northern Colorado area that is situated in the middle of a shopping complex just off of US 34 and Interstate 25 at Centerra. Rock Bottom Brewery Centerra Promenade opened this new restaurant about a year ago and is a hidden gem among the bigger craft and mass market breweries in the area. I've only been to this restaurant once before shortly after it opened and sampled one of their initial brews but wanted to head back there to sample more of there crafted ales and lagers. I headed over there during a lunch break and took a seat at the bar and ordered the Brewmaster's Luncheon special along with a sampler. I expected to try up to 6 beers as that what was on their beer board but what I got was actually a treat. The site's Brewmaster, Dave Peacock, was on hand and must have noticed that I brought along my tasters notebook and personally struck up a conversation with me. It didn't take long before he started pulling up several more beers for me to try.

At first count, I was offered their regular six beers on tap. They included their Lumpy Dog Light Lager, Double Barrel Pale Ale, Iron Horse Red Ale, Molly's Titanic Brown Ale, their Specialty Dark beer which this month was an Oatmeal Stout, and a seasonal wheat beer which they referred to as an American Wheat. This alone would normally have been plenty for me to sample, but the more I spoke with Brewmaster Dave, the more he started bringing over even more beers to try. He first asked me if I had ever had any casked beers. I've only had one to my knowledge and that was the La Folie from New Belgium. He hand pumped two different cask beers for me to try as well: a casked version of their American Wheat and a casked version of their Iron Horse Red. When I mentioned the La Folie, he told me that he wanted me to try a Belgian recipe he was experimenting with and quickly brought over a glass of a new Belgian recipe he had just made up.

Now the count was up to 9 beers, but that wasn't the end of it. Rock Bottom restaurants also brew up a monthly Year of Beer brew. This month's beer was just tapped the day before. It was a Rye beer that they named: Catcher in the Rye. Along with that, they also had some of last months beer still available, an Irish Red ale named Fire Chief Ale. Wow. Now I had 11 sampler glasses in front of me and a plate of food as well. Time to get to work on tasting!

I've never attempted to review so many different beers all at once, so rather than give a long winded review on each one, I'll simply give a short highlight and a rank.

#1 - Catcher in the Rye - my first taste of rye beer. Gold colored. Nice light aroma. A lighter tasting brew, not malty and low hopped. Good. 3.2 out of 5.

#2 - Fire Chief Ale - An Irish red with a fare amount of hops. Richer malt taste. Poured red with a nice white head. Nice balance between malt and hops. 3.4 out of 5.

#3 - Cask Wheat - Dave the Brewmaster told me this version had only been in the cask 10 days and he had left out the coriander and orange peel from this wheat. 5.4% ABV. I could only detect a slight woodiness to this beer. Cloudy yellow. A tad watery and needed something. Probably the spices. Not much flavor. 2.8 out of 5.

#4 - Experimental Belgian Ale - this brew is targeted to become their December brew but the brewmaster wanted my opinion of this. I instantly got a big aroma of bananas and bubble gum. Different! It tasted nearly the same as it smelled with a bit of bubble gum flavor along with the typical belgian yeast taste. It was a dark gold with a tan head and nicely carbonated. Not bad but may want to work on that aroma a bit. 3.3 out of 5.

#5 - Casked Iron Horse - an amber ale with a light tan head. Nice slight hoppiness and bitter finish. Could sense a bit of "wildness" to this from the cask. Enjoyable. 3.3 out of 5.

#6 - Lumpy Dog Light Lager - one of their standard year rounds. Looks like a Bud. Yellow with white lace. 4.5% ABV. A session beer. Would be better served much colder. Not remarkable. OK. 2.9 out of 5.

#7 Double Barrel Pale Ale - English style pale ale. Caramunich and caramel malts. 5.67% ABV. Copper color with near white head. Nicely hopped. Good balance of malt and hops. Smooth. No bitter aftertaste. Used Northwest hops. 3.4 out of 5.

#8 Iron Horse Red Ale - This was the same beer that they casked in #5. 5.31% ABV. Used English pale and crystal malt with UK Kent Golding hops. Goes down well. Nice distinct hop smell and taste. I liked this a bit better than the cask version. 3.4 out of 5.

#9 Molly's Titanic Brown Ale - English style brown ale. 5.14% ABV. Dark brown with red overtones. Tan head. Can taste the darker malts here. Would have liked a bit more hops in this beer. This beer recently won a Gold medal at 2006 GABF. For a gold medal winner I really wasn't impressed. Nice caramel malt taste but I've had much better. 3.0 out of 5.

#10 Specialty Dark - an oatmeal stout with a Nitro finish. It's hard to get that nitro effect in a 4 oz sampler glass. Didn't really notice the nitro in this, but then again it had been sitting there for almost an hour before I could sample it. 5.2% ABV. Tasty. Good roasty chocolate malts. Not as "coffee" like as other darks. Smooth and not overbearing. Near black with tan head. Very drinkable. 3.3 out of 5.

#11 Seasonal Wheat - their American Wheat. 5.4% ABV. This wheat was NOT cloudy as the casked version was. This beer did have the coriander and orange peel and had a much better aroma. In fact it was much more tasty than the cask. I think I saved their best beer for last. Yellow with white head. Nice blend of spices. 3.5 out of 5.

By the end of the 11th sample, my sense of smell was beginning to leave me. I think my taste buds were beginning to get overloaded. The sandwich and chili I had with the samples was very tasty and I'm glad I selected that in their Brewmaster's Luncheon. I was amazed at just how many different beers a small brewery like this could put out. For being opened for just about a year, this place has a lot going for it. Thanks to Dave Peacock for taking the time to talk to me about his beers. I look forward to coming back and trying out more of their monthly Year of Beer beers. If you're in the Loveland / Fort Collins area, it's quite easy to get to. Just exit east on US 34 and turn left into the Centerra complex. Head towards the north side of the complex and you'll find the Rock Bottom Brewery. Well worth the trip.

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