Thursday, June 19, 2008

Restaurant Review: Choice City Butcher & Deli

Choice City Butcher & DeliLiving and working in a big beer town like Fort Collins is like living in a candy store. So many beers are brewed all within a few square miles. The local restaurants in the area can't help but highlight all of these local brews. The downtown Fort Collins area along College Avenue has a wide variety of restaurants and cafes and makes the perfect location to go grab some lunch. I had the pleasure of meeting up with a fellow beer blogger David from Musings Over a Pint who was out in Colorado on a business trip. He told me that he was headed up to Fort Collins to visit one of the local breweries. He and I hooked up for lunch at a quaint little deli shop that has a nice hidden surprise. I'm speaking of Choice City Butcher & Deli.

Choice City Butcher & Deli is just a half block west off College Avenue on Olive Street. From the outside, you see a small intimate outdoor seating area leading into the interior. From within, you'll find a small seating area and a deli counter displaying a wide variety of meats and cheeses along with a posted menu of sandwiches and other delights. What you may not notice is something that is bound to grab the attention of beer lovers everywhere. They seem to have a fairly big beer cooler and a beer menu.

The two Dave bloggersI had heard from some friends that the beer selection here was rather different. I asked the friendly guy behind the counter if I could look at his beer menu. He was more than happy to hand me his leather bound beer selection. Almost immediately I was amazed at just how many selections they had. I was counting over 78 different beers on site. While discussing the list with David, our host behind the counter said that this list wasn't complete and that they had a lot more specialty beers stored in their cellar. He even showed me some beers that I knew were almost impossible to get here in Colorado that he had sitting in the cooler. Nice.

While I swore to secrecy not to divulge what special beers he had available I can point out their extensive list that they have on their web site. While they stocked the usual local brews, they also carried some aged beers as well as a good selection of Belgians and out of state beers.

I opted for the Stone Ruination IPA as that brew was on my "to try" list. Stone in known for their big and hoppy brews and this was definitely one of them. It's IBU rating was off the chart at 100+. This brew was a mild orange color with a small head. Smell the aroma! This beer didn't disappoint. I'll have to give this a full review later sometime but it's one I know I'd have again.

My friend David opted for an Odell 90 Shilling, a local favorite Fort Collins beer he couldn't get back east in Virginia. We took our lunch outside and enjoyed the nice warm late Spring day in Colorado.

If you're a beer fan and visiting Fort Collins, make Choice City Butcher & Deli part of your meal plan. There's something for everyone here. Be warned, their deli sandwiches are HUGE. I suggest getting the 1/2 sandwich unless you are extremely hungry. Their full sandwiches can easily feed 2 people. Might even be a good idea to split with your buddy if you like the same thing. Then after your meal, head on over to one of Fort Collins many breweries for a tour and a tasting.

Choice City Butcher & Deli
104 W. Olive Street
Fort Collins, CO 80524
(970) 490-2489

Update: Since my original visit, they've recently expanded their taps and now offer over 37 craft beers on tap and still have an extensive bottle list. This is one beer stop you don't want to miss.

Related articles:
- Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard review.
- Odell Brewing tap room.
- Lunch at Coopersmith's Pub and Brewing.
- Restaurant review: The Tavern at St. Michael's Square - Greeley CO.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Colorado Beer News for June 2008

Colorado Beer NewsHere's a few tidbits of information I heard in the news involving Colorado and Beer this week. If you've heard any bits of information involving a Colorado beer or brewery and wish to pass it along, please post a comment.

Roll Out the Barrel

Flying Dog Ales announced that they are now experimenting with whiskey barrel aged beers. One of the first of these tests have been done on their Gonzo Imperial Porter. They're calling it BAG - Barrel Aged Gonzo. Some of the first of this limited 35 barrel run was casked on Friday the 13th of this month. Only selected accounts will be receiving these barrels. Look for some of this soon in a lucky drinking establishment in the states that sell Flying Dog. Also look for their new Woody Creek White - a Belgian Wit beer!

Does This Can Make My Tire Look Fat?

At long last, the new cans of Fat Tire beer started shipping to Colorado stores this week. New Belgium Brewery is pleased to announce their flagship beer is now available in Colorado in easy to take cans. Following in the footsteps of Oskar Blues, more and more craft brewers are starting to believe in the power (and cost savings) of putting their fine microbrews in a coated aluminum container.

Western Slope Breweries Expanding

Two of Durango's breweries are expanding distribution. Steamworks Brewing Company is expanding to more midwestern states. First it was Minnesota in March, then into New York in May and now soon in Wisconsin. Across town in Durango, Ska Brewing is moving into a new headquarters over in Bodo Industrial Park in September 2008. Ska plans to expand distribution to Texas next. They already ship to Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Illinois and North Carolina.

Even More Cans Coming!

Seems like the Craft Beer in a Can Revolution is catching on in Colorado breweries. Arctic Craft Brewery of Colorado Springs has announced they too will be shipping their first craft beer in a can. Their On-On Ale, a Pale Ale, will start shipping in cans very soon. Update: Sadly, Artic Craft Brewery shutdown in 2009 due to hard economic times. They will be missed.

Beer is Good for your Lawn too!

9News in Denver is reporting that your favorite full strength beer can also be a benefit to you heat stressed grass lawn. Follow the link to a story for a recipe to keep your Colorado lawn looking green all during the summer.

New IPA for Avery Coming

More word on the street. Avery Brewing is expected to release a brand new IPA come this November. To be named: Avery Gemini. Expected ABV of 8% and dry hopped. Should be a good one!

Odell Brewing to Expand

The word was revealed to me today during a tour of their facility that Odell Brewing Company of Fort Collins is planning for a big expansion. Capacity to increase from 40,000 to 100,000 barrels a year. Target completion in late 2009.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Rocky Mountain Brew Fest 2008

Rocky Mountain Brewfest 2008
The 2008 Rocky Mountain Brew Fest was held at the Estes Park Brewery in Estes Park, Colorado on June 14, 2008. Just look at this beautiful location! It was a perfect day for a beer fest. Sunny, blue skies and not too hot.

16 breweries were expected to participate but 15 were actually in attendance. The $30 entry fee got you in with a small sampling glass for unlimited samplings, a brat coupon and a raffle ticket. There was lots of other food and treats available.

The official brewfest t-shirt (white) cost $10 (optional). here were 2 live bands playing on at the stage to the north side of the lot. They rotated bands every hour it seemed. It was sunny around 80 degrees and no wind.

Tasting Highlights from the Brewfest

Pitchers Brewery - Greeley. Newcomer to the fest. Small sports bar, not well known but lately their 808 Wheat Beer has been getting a lot of attention. Their 808 Wheat was a cloudy yellow brew that was moderately carbonated and had a sweet citrusy aroma. Excellent - 4 stars!. They also brought their Scottish Ale and Sunset Amber.

New Belgium - a big Colorado brewery with a strong reputation. Their featured beers were their 1554 Black Ale and Skinny Dip, a summer seasonal. Skinny Dip is a clear, golden brew with a white head. Contains Cascade hops and Kaffir Lime Leaf. Very good - 3 stars.

Boulder Beer Company brought along Hazed and Infused (American pale ale) and their Sweaty Betty (wheat). The Hazed was cloudy, golden and very hoppy. Not an IPA according to them but darn close. It's been dry hopped for extra bitterness. Dry finish. OK but prefer this in small quantities. 2.5 stars. The Sweaty Betty is a cloudy wheat with a big white head. Had some off flavors and slightly skunked. Not sweet. 1 star.

Dillon DAM Brewery featured their Dam Straight Lager, Sweet George's Brown Ale, Extra pale Ale and McLuhr's Irish Stout. I tried their flagship Dam Straight Lager. a darker gold. Malty, slightly sweet, not bitter. Tasty - 3 stars.

Bull & Bush. Denver brewer actually had a tapping schedule posted. Each hour they would bring out another beer. I tried the Man Beer. Copper, small white head. Very hoppy and dry. Decent. 2.5 stars. Also saw Justice IPA.

A beer related t-shirt and hat vendor also co-sponsored the event - Had a booth of goods. Featured on the sampling glass.

Twisted Pine Brewery - a growing brewery hidden in the industrial section of Boulder. They brought two brews - Hoppy Boy IPA and Billy's Chilies. I opted for the Billy's Chilies. They told me this version from the keg was ramped up and more intense than the bottled version. I could smell the hot chilies they put in this beer right up front. The taste was VERY INTENSE CHILIES! OMG. This beer actually made your mouth burn like a spicy taco. I needed to drink another beer to cool off my mouth. Intense but worth trying in small quantities. 3 stars.

Oskar Blues Brewery - the Lyons brewery brought all of their beer in cans. They featured Old Chub Scottish Ale and their flagship Dales Pale Ale. The Old Chub is a darker brown brew. You can smell the smoked malts. It was sweet and well blended. Excellent 4 stars. BREAKING NEWS - Oskar Blues will have a couple new brews coming soon - Momma's Little Yellow Pils will debut on June 27th. Also a new Hefeweizen is in the makings as well. Both will initially be available only at the brewpub and in kegs and growlers. They are considering canning these beers at some point. They also talked a bit about their new facility coming to Longmont. OB hopes to be able to ramp up to 100,000 barrels per year within 5 years. They are constantly expanding their distribution as well.

Odell Brewing Company from Fort Collins - noticed I was wearing their Small Batch Fest T-shirt right away. They featured their award winning Odell IPA and their Easy Street Wheat. Wheat was the most popular style. IPA is top quality. 4 stars.

Avery Brewing Company - This Boulder brewery featured the Maharaja IPA and their Karma (summer ale). I went for the IPA as I am now a fan of the style. Copper colored, nice head. Hoppy. 11% ABV. Nice brew with a big taste. Go easy on this one. 3.5 stars.

Flying Dog Brewery (formerly of Denver) - no longer brewing in Colorado but still has corporate offices here. They brought their Gonzo Imperial Porter and the Classic Doggy Style Pale Ale. I've grown to appreciate their brews. Over the top kinda beer. Chose the Gonzo. Strong and hoppy. Dark. 3.5 stars.

Tommyknocker Brewery - from Idaho Springs. They brought Jack Whacker Wheat and Imperial Nut Brown Ale. I just reviewed the Jack Whacker last week so I went for the Imperial Nut Brown. Just like the regular Maple Nut Brown but with a bit more kick. 9% ABV. Very sweet. Perle and Willamette hops. 3.5 stars. They have some oak aged beers coming soon at their tap room.

Left Hand Brewing - Longmont brewer brought their Sawtooth Ale and their Chainsaw Ale. I chose the Chainsaw. A doubled version of their Sawtooth. Higher in malt, hops and alcohol Tasty. 3 stars. Told me they have several new brews coming out by this Fall including an IPA, a Double IPA and others. Later in the day another keg was tapped, this time it was Left Hand Milk Stout. A mighty good dark brew.

Breckenridge Brewery - featured their Agave Wheat and the 471 IPA. I went for the wheat again. Usual cloudiness. Decent. 2.5 stars.

Fort Collins Brewery (FCB) - brought along 3 brews - Tom's Pomegranate Wheat (one of their best), Retro Red and a Rocky Mountain IPA. Love the wheat with pomegranates. Underrated. 3 stars. Summer Fling coming out later this month - a tasty blonde / kolsch mix.

Estes Park Brewery - the host had the most beer offerings of anyone there. They were showcasing 4 of their beers - Estes Pale Ale, Samson Stout, Stinger Honey Wheat and Bear Lake Blueberry Wheat. I opted for the Stout. Very dark brew. Not strong at all. Toned down. Dark malts ok. Average brew - 2 stars.

Overall Impression

The 2008 Rocky Mountain Brew Fest probably topped over 500 guests. Everyone was well behaved. The area was a little crowded however. If it gets any more popular they will need more room. Later on, I went inside and viewed part of the brewhouse. It was full of shiny stainless steel fermenters. I really enjoyed a great day at this fest. There were enough tents to give plenty of shade if you wanted it. I'll definitely go to this festival again sometime.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Brew Fest Review Forthcoming

I just flew in from the 2008 Rocky Mountain Brew Fest at the Estes Park Brewery in Estes Park, Colorado and boy are my arms tired. So tired in fact that I don't have the energy to write up all of the details tonight. But I will leave you with some preview pictures. What a great day! Click on the pics for a bigger view. Details to come plus more images - stay tuned!

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oskar Blues Ships to California

Oskar BluesWe've known for a while now that Oskar Blues recently opened up it's new brewing facility down the hill from Lyons in Longmont Colorado. Since then, the brewery expanded operations into Texas and became the 18th state to offer O.B. in a can. Now, Oskar Blues is expanding once again and this time into California. While this news may not come as a surprise, the real surprise is who is going to be showcasing the new brews in the Golden State. Would you believe Stone Brewing Company?

I received a newsletter today from the Stone Brewing Company and, much to my surprise, I found out that they will be sponsoring a "Keep the Glass Night" featuring Oskar Blues beers. Below is a blurb from their newsletter describing the event:

Question: What tastes better, beer from a can or beer from a bottle? Answer: Depends on the beer—and the glass that you pour it in. Join us for another installment of “Keep the Glass Night,” where we will be featuring some of the best canned beer in the Rockies…hee hee…and Wayne Anderson and Chris Katechis don’t need commercials to convince you of it either! Newly arrived in Southern California all the way from Lyons, Colorado, Oskar Blues’ brews have already racked up a decade’s worth of accolades. Whether you try their delicious Dale’s Pale Ale or their Old Chub Scottish Style Ale, you’ll be impressed. And yes, you should always pour a great beer into a proper glass. Don’t have one? We’ll let you take one home! Call us enablers.

Go figure. Doesn't a brewery like Oskar Blues directly compete with Stone Brewery? So why the welcoming committee? Perhaps Stone is a big fan of the O.B. brews. Or rather it's a unique brotherhood that all craft brewers seem to share. I applaud Stone for letting their patrons sample world class beers. Just don't expect them to offer it up as a regular feature for a long period of time.

Kudos to Oskar Blues for their success in expanding even further across the nation. With it's expanded facilities, perhaps one day the entire country will have access to their one of a kind "Gonzo Beer in a Can".

Related articles:
- Oskar Blues Deviant Dales IPA review.
- Business Profile: Oskar Blues.
- Oskar Blues Gubna Imperial IPA review.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

2008 GABF Tickets Going on Sale

2008 GABFTickets for the 2008 Great American Beer Festival being held at the Colorado Convention Center in Downtown Denver Colorado on October 9-11 went on sale today for members of the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association. Members get first shot at tickets to the festival.

Tickets will be sold to the general public starting July 1st, 2008. Be warned, tickets for all sessions are expected to sell out quickly. Today on the 1st day of sales, the ticket web site was being hit hard. Don't forget to get your tickets early! This is one of the biggest and best beer festivals in the world. Hundreds of brewers and thousands of beers will be on hand.

This year's festival may prove to be the biggest one yet. For more info visit the Great American Beer Festival web site. I got my tickets for the Saturday afternoon members only session. I'm hoping to hit up many of the after session parties after the session. I'd better get a hotel room while I'm at it. Don't think I'll be driving home after this one. If you plan on being there let me know and I'll meet you for a beer or two! Cheers!

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale review

Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown AleThe last beer of the Trail Mix sampler 6-pack has finally come. Tonight I cracked open the 6th in a series of reviews on the Tommyknocker Brewery's beers. I saved the darkest brew for last as this one was one has been a beer I've enjoyed for several years - the Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale. I was wondering how this beer would taste now that I've gotten into the bigger and hoppier beers over this last year. It's been over a year since I've last tried a Maple Nut Brown and I was anxious to open it again.

Appearance: The beer pours a familiar dark amber brown and filled the glass with a small tan head. The head didn't build very much and left just a trace of foam. I couldn't see through this one at the top of the glass but at the thinner bottom half I could see that it was slightly hazy. There was a tiny amount of bubbles coming up from the bottom due to the scoring on the Sam Adams glass, but a lot of carbonation isn't a regular thing from darker brews.

Aroma: Upon first smell, I could immediately pick up a maple syrup and caramel maltiness to this beer. It brought back memories. This was one of the first brown ales that I remember sampling years back and it appears that it's quality is still there. The beer itself is a modest 4.5% ABV so you know it's not going to kick you with just one beer.

Taste: This brown tastes just like it smells. I got a mile blend of caramel and chocolate roasted malts with just a bit of sweetness. It's not very bitter and coats the tongue ever so slightly. You can immediately tell the difference between this kind of brown and a juiced up imperial. There's not a slam to your senses up front, but rather a nice, gentle sip that invite you to try even more.

This would be a great beer for someone who is just getting into darker beers. I'll call it the "semi-dark microbrew with training wheels". I remember why I originally called this one of my favorites. It's smooth, tasty and not overly bitter. The roastiness of the malts isn't too heavy and is slightly sweet. There's just enough dark malts in here to remind you of a coffee flavor but not overly so.

Being near the tail end of Spring and with temperatures in the low 70's, this may not be the best time of year to enjoy brown ales. But since it is a "lighter" dark brew it still satisfies a thirst. Of all of the 6 different styles in this Tommyknocker sampler pack, this one was in the top two. The Butt Head Dopplebock just slightly edges out this beer.

I'm going to give this beer a 3.3 out of 5 rating and a repeat buy signal. The beer ranking sites were somewhat neutral to this beer, but then again they tend to only appreciate the over the top kind of beers.

Tommyknocker Sampler Summary

So to sum up the six pack sampler I ranked the six beers in this order - best to least favorite:

(1) Butt Head Dopplebock, (2) Maple Nut Brown, (3) Jack Whacker Wheat, (4) Alpine Glacier Lager, (5) Ornery Amber Lager and (6) Pick Axe Pale Ale.

I think grabbing a sampler pack is the best and least expensive way to test out new beers next to going to the brewery itself. Grats to Tommyknocker for a great mix of ales and lagers. All six got a 3.0 or better in my book which means I'd try them again. While none 'cept the Dopplebock had an outstanding mark above 3.4, they are all worthy of your time.

Related articles:
- After 15 years Tommyknocker offers up a Legend.
- Tommyknocker Jack Whacker Wheat Ale review.
- Tommyknocker Pick Axe Pale Ale review.
- Tommyknocker Butt Head Doppelbock review.
- Tommyknocker Alpine Glacier Lager review.
- Tommyknocker Ornery Amber Lager review.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tommyknocker Ornery Amber Lager review

It's getting close to the end of the Trail Mix Sampler 12-pack from Tommyknocker Brewery. Tonight I opened the cap on the 5th beer in the series. All of the lighter colored beers have been sampled, so the remaining two are the darker ones of the bunch. This is a review of Tommyknocker Ornery Amber Lager - a 5.3% ABV amber lager that was bottom fermented at cooler mountain temperatures. This beer was later renamed to Tommyknocker Vienna Amber Lager.

Of all of the recent beers I've poured, this one looked amazingly good in the glass. It filled the glass with a nice burnt orange brown color with a slight haze. On top there was a near white head that stays and stays. The Samuel Adams glass really brought out a generous amount of carbonation from the bottom. After 10 minutes, the original head was still there.

This brew initially had the smell of a European Pilsner only with more body, a classic lager aroma. It had a touch of caramel malt fragrance as well. It smelled very inviting. Be careful though, if you tried to smell the aroma too many times it seemed to become much more difficult after a minute or two.

The first sip was of sweet caramel malt. Very low bitterness in this brew. I have to remind myself that I'm not tasting an Ale, but rather a lager. There was a noticeable difference in taste from an ale. It's nothing like a Bell's Amber or a Breckenridge Avalanche Ale. The sweetness stays with you throughout the entire time. The darker malts came out fully and covered the tongue. I was hoping for more of a bitter finish but it was not to come in this beer. You could tell that there were hops present but with some difficulty. Later on in the sampling, I could detect some bubble gum aroma in the glass from the yeast. A slight reminder of some Belgian strains.

If you lined this beer up with an amber ale you might be inclined to pick the ale over the lager. The Ornery Amber starts out with a lot of promise and then settles down to an average experience. While I enjoyed drinking the entire 12oz bottle I might pass on having a second. The beer was well made but seemed less exciting than other beer styles. Ratebeer and BeerAdvocate seemed rather neutral on this beer, but it's best for you to judge for yourself.

My thoughts here were to give this beer a 3.0 out of 5 ranking and with a sideways thumb. Drink this one slightly cold and on a cool Spring or Fall day. This beer looked good in the glass but didn't make a bold impression after.

Update 2011: Ornery Amber has been renamed to Vienna Amber Lager and has all new packaging.

Next up: Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale - last of the pack.

Related articles:
- Tommyknocker Jack Whacker Wheat Ale review.
- Tommyknocker Pick Axe Pale Ale review.
- Tommyknocker Butt Head Doppelbock review.
- Tommyknocker Alpine Glacier Lager review.

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Homebrewing shopping list ready

Homebrewing EquipmentI'm at the point now where I'm getting back into homebrewing. My love of all things beer has given me the bug to make it myself again. I've had my equipment list ready for a few weeks now and the weather outside has warmed up nicely and the back patio beckons me to brew up something for the first time in 10 years. For starters, I'm going to use my existing gas grill with a side burner for heating up my wort. It's probably not optimal for heating large amounts of liquid but for the smaller batches that I'm going to be doing it should get the job done.

I plan on doing a lot of experimental small batches. I'm not necessarily going to do a full 5 gallon or 10 gallon batches to start, but rather a reduced 1 to 3 gallon batches. This will allow me to play around with different variations on the same recipe. Once I find a mix that I like then I'll work it up into a much bigger batch. The only concern here is that I'll end up spending more on a per bottle basis on smaller batches than I would it I did a full batch.

My goal is to get ready for an early July initial brewing session. I figure I may want to mail order some of the items and get the rest of the items locally from a nearby homebrew store. My home town of Greeley doesn't have a homebrew store anymore, so the nearest one will be about 25 miles away in Fort Collins over at the Hops and Berries store.

I've seen other homebrewers like James Spencer and Steve Wilkes of Basic Brewing do small 1 gallon test batches on their videos before. I love that idea. That way, if the brew turns out bad then it's not a big deal to just dump it in the sink. Also, it allows me the flexibility to do several small batches at the same time. I'll need to grab a handful of small 1-2 gallon fermenters to do this. Perhaps some 1 gallon glass jugs will do the trick.

I'm going to start out with extract brewing with some added grains in a steeping bag. Once I get warmed up on that, I'll switch to all-grain and do some more complex recipes. I have my sites set on an Amber, a Porter, an ESB, a Kolsch and an IPA as my first recipes to try. (By the way if you know of any good extract recipes for these styles let me know)

I remember what a pain it was to bottle a full batch of beer. With smaller batches, that task will be much easier and I'll have a lot less washing and sterilizing to do up front. Eventually, I'd like to be able to keg my own beer and buy or build a small kegerator.

But, before this can happen I need to do some shopping! Glad that economic stimulus check just came in the mail. I can afford to indulge myself a bit. Unfortunately, it's getting expensive to buy ingredients as the cost of hops and malts have skyrocketed in price. Once I get all my "shit" together I'll set a brewing date. I also plan to pay a visit to the Liquid Poets homebrewing club in Fort Collins. I've been impressed at what they've done from reading their web site.

Well, I've got some buying to do. I'll let you know when I'm ready to brew.

Related articles:
- Choosing a brew kettle.
- Putting together the home brewery (Part 1).
- Colorado Homebrewing Supply Stores.
- Getting back into homebrewing.
- My humble homebrew beginnings.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Tommyknocker Alpine Glacier Lager review

Whenever a beer is named after frozen mass of ice, what does that bring to mind? Cold brewed refreshness? Or simply ancient mountain water yearning to break free? Whatever image this brew gives you one things for certain, the Tommyknocker Brewing Company wanted to show everyone that a small mountain brewery could put up a lager that closely matches the big guys' beers. This beer goes by the name of Tommyknocker Alpine Glacier Lager and is the 4th beer out of the Trail Mix sampler 6-pack. If I hadn't seen the bottle, I'd swear I was looking at a Budweiser or a Miller. This beer looks just like the inexpensive American lager that every grocery store sells. It pours a simple yellow with a bright white head. The carbonation in this beer is nearly off the scale as the bubbles just won't stop. The big head lasts and lasts and the lacing clings to the glass. So what could be wrong with all that?

It looks like a Bud, but smells vaguely like a Bud yet with a slight aroma of citrus. Upon first sip of this cold lager, it reminds you up front of a wheat beer only lightly so. It tastes clean, a tad sweet and it goes down super easy. If ever there was a session beer worth having again it would be this one. The 4.6% ABV on this brew is about on par for that. It must have a very low IBU value as bitterness is hard to pick up in this beer. As the beer warms you start picking up a slight reminder of a Belgian ale. There must be a different kind of yeast in this beer to give off the scent and taste of a microbrewed concoction.

Now I must be honest, this is no Belgian, but I can't help but be reminded of an Avery White Rascal, only toned down a bit. This beer doesn't have a lot of body but it isn't watery either as it's name would imply. I suggest you drink this beer nice and cold fresh out of the fridge and you won't go thirsty. Let's face it, you're not going to buy this beer for the hops, IBU's or ABV value, but you'll find that you would drink it at just about any venue you happened to find this at. If you want to be able to drink a beer and not have to worry about driving home, this would be your beer. One of these isn't going to impair you. It's enough of a change from the macro beers that you can taste a difference. I'd venture it would win in a side by side blind taste test with either Bud, Coors or Miller.

I'd encourage you to ignore what the major beer ranking sites awarded this beer and to simply enjoy one for yourself. I went into this tasting with no prior knowledge of this beer and I came away satisfied. That's what really counts when you drink beer isn't it? So you BeerAdvocates and Ratebeer people, just because this beer looks exactly like it was mass produced in St. Louis doesn't mean it's a sub par craft beer. This Tommyknocker beer breaks the mold and knows how to quench a thirst. I'll give it a modest but good 3.1 out of 5. I'd gladly finish a six-pack of this in short order, but sadly I only have just one.

Next up: Tommyknocker Ornery Amber.

Related articles:
- Tommyknocker Jack Whacker Wheat Ale review.
- Tommyknocker Pick Axe Pale Ale review.
- Tommyknocker Butt Head Doppelbock review.
- Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale review.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Great Things Come in Small Batches at Odell

Odell Small Batch Festival 2008It's Beer Festival season! Sometimes you need look no further than your local brewery to find a weekend beer event. This weekend was no exception. The city of Fort Collins Colorado had the 1st of many beer festivals this weekend. This one was sponsored by the Odell Brewing Company as they hosted the 2nd annual Small Batch Beer Festival on May 31, 2008. This fest was held on a near picture perfect day. Plenty of sunshine, lots of thirsty beer fans, a great stage with live music, some food, and oh yes, over 23 different Odell beers to choose from.

You could tell the moment you arrived that this event was going to be extremely popular. The Odell brewery has a lot of empty land surrounding their brewing facility and allowed hundred of cars and nearly 1000 bicycles to park just outside it's doors. The enormous Odell parking lot was roped off and dozens of tents, beer trucks and food booths were set up to accommodate between 3000 to 4000 beer fans. The festival was a one day event and ran from 3pm until 7pm. I managed to show up just as the event was starting and already there was a long line of folks waiting to get their ID's checked and yellow festival wristbands put on. Entrance into the festival was FREE but it did cost you $3 a piece for a beer token which got you 10-oz of any Odell beer your heart desired.

At the back of the parking lot was a large portable stage that was rolled in. There were two live bands scheduled to play including Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams and also Jalan Crossland. The music was lively and everyone seemed to enjoy the mood that it set. Also spread throughout the festival were a series of beer booths. Each booth seemed to have a mix of different beers. The following beers were available on tap:

Colorado Stream Lager, Bobby, Stone Barn, Hop Light, Auto Pilot Dark Lager, Bourbon Barrel Stout, Quick Wit, Tall Tale Brown Ale, Double IPA, Hop Scotch, Market Ale, Town Pump Pail Ale, Viking Malt Liquor, Double Pilsner, Imperial Stout, Nitro IPA, Nitro Levity, Odell IPA, 5 Barrel Pale Ale, Easy Street Wheat, 90 Shilling, Levity and Cutthroat Porter.

On a warm 80 degree afternoon, surprisingly, their Imperial Stout was the first beer to go empty. That beer is one of my favorite Odell beers, however, I was there to sample their smaller, on-site only beers. Most of the attendees were reaching for the lighter beers. I went with these beers: Double Pilsner, Hop Light, Viking Malt Liquor and the Stone Barn.

My first brew was the Double Pilsner, a single batch recent seasonal release that was light, refreshing but a big 8.1% ABV with 40 IBUs. Don't ask me why I went with big beers today. I should know better than to hit those first thing. It was extremely good though. I followed that up with a brew called Hop Light. The only thing light about it was the color of the beer. Everything else was big including the hops. I couldn't tell you what the ABV was but it was a nice follow-up to the double pilsner.

My third brew was one that I chose mostly out of curiosity. I picked the Viking Malt Liquor. I was warned as soon as I was handed the beer that this brew was a whopper coming in at over 9.1% ABV. Woah. It was damn good too, but boy did I start feeling the buzz after that brew. Don't let the name Malt Liquor fool ya. It was a darn tasty brew with a big kick! My final beer of the afternoon was the Stone Barn, an amber style brew. This was the darkest beer I had for the day. I was really getting into the crowd and the music by then. Good thing Odell's started handing out free bags of pretzels. I was really starting to get hungry and I hadn't had dinner yet. There were fresh pizzas available in booths here also for those wanting to eat something.

Last year, Odell's gave you a free beer token if you rode your bike to the festival. Guess what? Look how many bikes showed up this year! There must have been nearly 1000 bikes there by the middle of the 4 hour festival. The number of bikes out numbered the cars by far this year. Way to go Green everybody! If this trend continues they may end up running out of beer sooner next year.

I must have taken over 60 pictures during the festival. It was fun seeing everyone having a great time. In particular, I saw so many interesting t-shirts. I just had to take some pictures of all of these. Click on the picture to the left for a montage of many of the t-shirts being displayed. Most of the attendees were young, 21-mid thirties. I felt like one of the oldest there. Many brought their kids too. Odell provided non-alcohol beverages for them.

I had a blast at the Odell Small Batch Beer Festival. I only wish I could have stayed longer. It was fun to see all of the people and talk about beer. It was a place to show off tattoos, get some sun and enjoy the bounty that Odell's provided. A big thanks go out to all of the Odell employees and the dozens of volunteers that made this event possible. I sure hope they continue to do this again next year.

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