Monday, February 25, 2008

Most Bizarre Festival to Promote Beer In

This has got to be the strangest way for a brewer to promote their beer. The New Belgium Brewery of Fort Collins, Colorado, is a major sponsor in a small mountain town's festival in March. But this isn't your ordinary festival, it's an event to celebrate a man who has been cryogenically frozen in ice since 1989. The little town of Nederland, Colorado is hosting it's 7th annual Frozen Dead Guy Days on March 7-9, 2008.

Here is New Belgium's own words on this little known festival:

"This is the “coolest” local event for you front rangers. Come celebrate the decision to keep loved ones close during the holidays with the support of the entire town. Nederland transforms into a snowy memorial to Bredo Morstol and his frozen body with coffin sled races, pancake breakfasts just like grandpa Bredo used to make, a formal costume ball, slow-motion parades…the list goes on and on. This is the only event like it in the world. New Belgium backs it up with drink specials all over town, beer at the races and our very own sled team racing in a coffin shaped like a bottle of frosty brew. Don’t miss this one!"

And what beer are they showing off for this event? Why nothing but their seasonal 2º Below Ale. It seems like the perfect fit. Promote a beer with a name as cold as ice at an event that celebrates a person who's literally cold as ice. What's next? Miller Chill?

Among the events held at the 7th annual FDGD are downtown coffin races, a contest to see who has the most frozen looking legs, a masquerade ball featuring a dead guy orchestra, and a Grandpa look alike contest. Now doesn't that make you want to head to the mountains and drink some beer? While you're there in Nederland, stop by the local brewpub - the Wild Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Samuel Adams Honey Porter review

Samuel Adams Honey PorterI returned to an old reliable brewer for my next beer this week. The Boston Beer Company seems to put out a quality product no matter what beer they make. This time I chose the Samuel Adams Honey Porter. In my never ending quest for the perfect porter or stout, this one stood out as one that I knew I could reliably choose a 6-pack of and not be disappointed. As you can see from the pic, this beer pours a darkish brown with reddish overtones but not dark enough to block out all light. The light tan head was a very thick two and a half fingers worth upon entering the glass and the bead lasted for a long time after that.

This beer was brewed as a traditional English porter and had a decent amount of Scottish heather honey added to it. Boston Beer dry hopped this beer with East Kent Goldings along with some English Ale hops (Spalt Spalter & UK Fuggles) during the boil. The beer itself comes in around 5.45% ABV. Not sure of the IBU rating but didn't think that it was more than 30 by the taste. This Sam Adams beer uses a wide variety of malts including: Pale 2-row Metcalfe and Harrington, Munich 10, Caramel 60 and Weyermann Carafa. This blend ends up with a rich malty aroma mixed in with some sweet floral tones.

The taste of this beer is much what I expected. Nice to the tongue, slightly sweet with no bitter aftertaste. There is a slight malt kick just after swallowing this beer. I don't really get any coffee flavor here as I might in other porters. Yet quite nice. I'm going to add this to my repeat list for sure. Ratebeer gave this beer a moderate 60th percentile 3.15/5 score, while Beer Advocate gave this beer a "B+" / 3.78 out of 5 rating. Seems to be a wide range of opinions on this beer.

I realize that the Sam Adams line of beers is endless and I have quite a number of their beers left to try. A nice problem to have. Yet I fear that they may soon become more of a mainstream beer due to their popularity. Some people may lower their rating just because it's a beer that can be found almost anywhere now in the States. Regardless, this is a quality porter and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone. Don't worry, the honey doesn't make this beer too sweet by any means. The hops counter that very well. If it didn't have the word honey on the label I don't think I would have picked that out in the smell or taste. I'm going to give this beer a 3.5 out of 5 rating and put it on my favorite list. I'm going to have a nice time finishing off this 6-pack this week.


Related articles:
- Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red review.
- Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock review.
- Boulder Beer Planet Porter review.
- Ska Ten Pin Porter review.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

New Belgium 2° Below Ale review

New Belgium 2 Below AleThis is the first of what I'm calling a mini brew review. It's not a full review as circumstances behind the drinking of this beer caused it to be sampled under less than favorable conditions, usually while out at a restaurant and without the benefit of a good drinking glass. I went out for a business lunch today and had the opportunity to try a 2° Below Ale from New Belgium Brewery.

Seeing how I work right in the home town of New Belgium, I at least owe it to myself to sample all of their beers as I advocate supporting your local brewery. This beer was purchased to go along with some spicy Mexican food (perhaps not the best pairing) but I thought this would be a great time to sample it.

First of all, this restaurant did not provide a glass. They simply handed you the 12oz glass bottle to drink out of. Unfortunately, this meant I wouldn't be able to examine the color and head of this beer. I knew the beer was fresh as I had seen the New Belgium truck drive off just as I got to their restaurant and they were restocking the beer cooler. From what I've read, this beer falls under the category of an ESB / Winter Warmer so I knew to expect a slightly different taste. The last ESB I tried I really enjoyed so perhaps this one would be good as well.

I made the mistake of ordering a meal with a medium hot sauce and taking a big bite of food before I sampled the beer. I've had hot sauces before and knew I didn't want the real hot version. Medium is usually ok for me, but this topping was HOT. It was so hot that I just had to take a drink of beer just to cool off my throat. I didn't have a great chance to smell the aroma at first because my need to put out a fire took precedence.

The first taste of 2° Below Ale hit me hard with an ambush of hops. Whoa hops! I hadn't had a New Belgium beer with so much bitter hoppiness right up front before. I was worried that this was going to be something like those real bitter IPAs. I had several sips of the brew before the meal burn would go away. I believe this was covering up the maltiness that this beer supposedly had. The beer went down smooth, but one couldn't help but taste the dry hops that were put in here.

I had to pace myself as I needed a sip of beer for every bite of the hot tacos I was eating. This is why I don't like to review beers under less than ideal conditions as I'm certain that it affected my taste buds. The 2° Below Ale is only brewed during a limited time of year (winter) and is advertised as a winter ale. This beer has an ABV of 6.6% along with a 30 IBU rating - typically a bit stronger alcohol than usual ales but not uncommon for a winter ale.

Apparently, the "cheery warm afterglow" that is mentioned on the bottle turned out to be the afterburn from the tacos and that unfortunately spoiled the possibility of giving this a fair review. Hence this is simply a mini-review and not a full fledged one. Still, I couldn't help but notice that the hop taste overshadowed the rest of the beer. I was able to finish the beer, but couldn't help the feeling that this was probably not going to be a beer that was going to get to the top of my list. This beer is well made as all New Belgium's are. If you love a big hoppy taste to your ESB, this beer is for you.

I'll link the reviews from Ratebeer and Beer Advocate for you, but I won't rate this beer at this time due to the circumstances. I'll want to give this beer a more thorough sampling in better conditions. At least I can tell you this beer can help put out the fire of a cheap Mexican hot dish.

Update October 2011: This beer is being discontinued (for a couple years anyway) and is being replaced by a new winter warmer Snow Day starting this early November 2011.

Read on: The sinfully delicious list of Colorado winter seasonals.

Related articles you may enjoy:
- New Belgium La Folie review.
- New Belgium revisited.
- New Belgium to partner to make fish food.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Celebrate beer at the Colorado Firkin Rendezvous

Firkin RendezvousThere is a little known beer festival going on this weekend in Colorado. On February 23rd, 2008 the Colorado Brewers Guild will sponsor the 4th Annual Firkin Rendezvous from 1 to 5 p.m. MST, Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Bristol Brewing Co. (1647 S. Tejon St.) in Colorado Springs. Tickets are $30 at the door or $25 in advance. Entry includes a souvenir tasting glass, food and samples of traditional English-style cask ales. Tickets are available at the Bristol Brewing Company. Proceeds will benefit the Colorado Brewers Guild.

What's a Firkin? A firkin is a British term that refers to a particular size of wooden cask that ferments and serves ales.

Over 17 Colorado Brewers will be participating in this one day event. Brewers include: Bristol Brewing, Boulder Beer Company, Carver Brewing, Dry Dock Brewing, Durango Brewing, Glenwood Canyon Brewing, Great Divide Brewing, Kannah Creek Brewing Company, New Belgium, Odell, Oskar Blues Brewery, Rockyard Grill & Brewing, Rock Bottom Brewery, San Luis Valley Brewing, Shamrock Brewing, Steamworks Brewing, and Ska Brewing.

More details can be found at the www.bristolbrewing.com web site. It's going to be firkin great!

More 2010 Colorado Beer Festivals

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Video Tour of Oskar Blues

I found this off the Oskar Blues web site who found out about this video from the Grizzly Growler web site. OB liked it so much they posted it on their site. Enjoy this short video on a popular small Colorado brewery!



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Best Job In The World - Chief Beer Officer

I found this story out on the National Public Radio (NPR) web site that I just had to share. I think this is a craft beer drinkers dream job. This guy was hired to be the Chief Beer Officer for a huge hotel chain. He actually gets paid to search out and taste test beers and recommend them to their hotel guests at tasting sessions throughout the world. He then suggests which craft beers to stock for each of the hotels in the chain. And yes, he is based right here in Colorado - the Napa Valley of Beer. Check out the article and judge for yourself. Wouldn't you want to have this job?

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How Much Are You Paying For Beer These Days?

Ouch. The price of beer going up is starting to get noticeable. During my most recent trip to buy beer the sticker shock was surprising. I like to buy local Colorado craft beers. I'm a real fan of imperial porters and stouts. I occasionally buy special 22oz bomber bottles of a special beer. These beers are now costing me around $6.00 per 22oz bottle. Wow. Never thought I'd see that. Even a four pack of Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout was going for $14.00 for 12oz cans. That's $3.50 a can. So while I bought two bomber bottles and one 4-pack, the tab was $26.00. Ouch. I realize that I could have gotten a case or more of the macro commercial beers, but I don't drink that stuff anymore as my tastes have expanded.

The hop and malt shortages are definitely hitting beer drinkers hard now. Here is a link to an article from the Colorado Springs Gazette that explains how others are feeling the affects of higher beer prices.

If a typical craft beer 6-pack is going to start costing $10 then I'm sure many beer drinkers are going to start looking for ways to get discounts. While those 4-packs that many local breweries are producing my seem cheaper to buy than a 6-pack or 12-pack, you can't help but notice the added expense. Many brewers are going to start growing their own hops to help offset the shortage, but even still, new hop plants take at least 2 years to mature. So while America's addiction to ethanol begins and corn crops continue to replace hops in our farmlands, hops will continue to be in low supply. The shortage will eventually drive up hop prices enough to perhaps make it more attractive again to grow, but in the meantime, corn is the main cash crop.

It's sad to think that our thirst for fuel is going to temper our thirst for beer a bit. How high will the price of beer go before we say enough is enough? Are we willing to pay stadium prices for the beer we drink at home? Sky high ingredient prices will make it hard for even homebrewers to make a cheap beer. The typical homebrewer can't buy in bulk like the big breweries can, so costs to brew it yourself are going to be somewhat prohibitive these next couple of years.

Perhaps this is a wake up call to us all. We need to lessen our demand for gasoline and ethanol. Otherwise, our beer drinking days are going to get more and more expensive. I'd hate to think we'll have to start outsourcing our brewing and importing the majority of it from other countries who can grow hops and malt cheaper than in North America.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Left Hand Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout review

Left Hand Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout 2011I've become smitten with joy over Imperial Stouts and Porters these days. I've picked up on several of the imperials over the last weekend. This time I bought a Left Hand Imperial Stout (2008) (now called - Left Hand Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout). I've recently tasted several of the Left Hand's sampler pack beers but that didn't include any of their premium beers. This brew came in a big 22oz bomber bottle for around $6. Not a bad deal for an imperial stout.

Appearance: Left Hand's imperial stout poured extremely dark with just a bit of light able to peek through all of it's malty and hoppy goodness. My glass held a nice 1 inch medium tan head on it that stuck around for a long time.

Aroma: The 1st aroma shortly after pouring was a bit hoppier than most stouts I've tried. I even could smell the 10.4% alcohol as well. This beer had a healthy 65 IBU rating and I could definitely pick out the Magnum and US Goldings hops. There was an abundance of roasted malt and a hint of chocolate in the air.

Taste: The first taste was roasty and very smooth. It went down well with no real after taste or burn. After drinking through half a glass of this special brew, I could definitely feel the ABVs. This beer was giving me a nice "glow" after the first 12 oz. This has got to be one of my most favorite styles of dark brew. Whether it be an imperial stout or even an imperial porter, my taste buds have been thoroughly biased by the great taste of the darker brews. This one went down slow and coated the tongue well.

Left Hand used a wide variety of malts in this beer including: Premium 2-row, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate, Roasted Barley, Black Barley and Flaked Oaks. Wow, that's quite a line up and it came out very nicely with a great balance with the hops. After finishing the full 22oz bottle I was really feeling it. Any beer over 10% alcohol is going to hit you - so tread lightly. Glad I was home that day and didn't have to drive anywhere because this one 22oz bottle probably put me over the limit.

Left Hand Imperial Stout 2008The major review sites liked this beer. Ratebeer gave this beer a 93 percentile with a 3.7 out of 5 rating. BeerAdvocate gave this brew a B+ and a 3.84/5 rating. As for me, this is going to be added to my recommended list. It's a good beer indeed. I'll give this a 3.7 out of 5 rating. Love the label too - a green dragon covered with a silvery shield. Kudos go out to Left Hand. This is one of their best beers for sure.

Update 2011: This beer was renamed "Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout" and has a slightly different recipe and a whole new look. The recipe is mostly the same but they've dropped the IBUs down to 45 and dropped the ABV a bit to 10.2% ABV. Same hops - different label. This new look imperial stout still holds up even better than the original. Rich, creamy feel. Powerful nose and flavor. Simply wonderful.

Related articles:
- Left Hand releases Smokejumper Imperial Porter.
- Left Hand Milk Stout review.
- Left Hand Snowbound Winter Ale review.
- Goose Island Bourbon County Stout review.
- Left Hand Oak Aged Imperial Stout review.

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ska Nefarious Ten Pin Imperial Porter review

Ska Brewing Nefarious Ten Pin Imperial PorterThe parade of dark beer reviews continue and today I tried an imperial porter from the western slope of Colorado from the Ska Brewing Company of Durango - the Nefarious Ten Pin Imperial Porter. This brew came in a big 22oz bomber bottle. What was unique about this bottle, aside from the cool skeleton wearing a crown, is that the top of the bottle was sealed in a blue wax. Nice touch to bring some sense of excitement to this imperial. Ska Brewing seems to have a skull and bowling pin theme to several of their beers.

This was my first taste of a beer from Ska and I was eager to try it out as I am a porter lover. This beer has an 8% ABV and a decent 77 IBU rating. The beer pours dark, almost like a dark cola. Just a hint of light can be seen through this porter. Surprisingly, this beer did not pour with much of a head and what little there was of it dissipated quickly. I let this beer warm up a bit before sampling.

The aroma immediately hit me as being sweet, almost chocolaty. Not quite as burnt as a dark stout. The brewer says that you may detect some cherry in it but I could not find that in this bottle. The first taste was creamy smooth. No real alcohol shock and no after taste. I could almost detect the flavor of toffee in this beer. It definitely had a sweet malty taste but the hops blended well with it to bring it down to earth. I didn't notice as much of a coffee taste in this beer which is nice. While the type of hops weren't mentioned specifically, if it's anything like their regular Ten Pin Porter, it has a good amount of Perle and Willamette hops in it along with 6 different kinds of malt.

The lack of a head on this beer left me to feel that this beer was nearly under carbonated, but the taste made up for it. I happened to be eating some English Toffee Ice Cream at the same time and I could swear that this beer had some of this in it. The beer and the ice cream went together very well. In fact I even poured some of this beer onto the ice cream and it tasted great! A nice Beer Float. I'll have to remember that combo for next time.

The beer rating sites gave this brew a decent score. Ratebeer gave this beer an 84th percentile and a 3.49/5 rating. And Beer Advocate graded this beer a "B+" with a 3.92/5 rating. As for me, this beer was the perfect compliment to the late night snack I was enjoying and it didn't buzz me quite as much as the Ten Fidy I had the previous night, but just enough to warm me up a bit. I'm going to give this brew a 3.6 out of 5 rating and will definitely look this beer up again. If you enjoy imperial porters like I do, it pays to try as many of this style as you can. I love the variety.

Related articles:
- Ska Ten Pin Porter review (regular).
- Ska Decadent Imperial IPA review.
- Ska True Blonde Ale review.
- Ska Modus Hoperandi Double IPA review.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout review

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial StoutFill 'er up and put in some motor oil. Today's reviewed brew comes from a local Colorado brewery, Oskar Blues Brewery of Longmont, Colorado. This brewery offers it's fine crafted brews in cans only. But before you look elsewhere dig this, all of Oskar Blues beers are canned and they prefer it that way. Watch their video on their web site and you'll know why this brewery is known for the "best craft beer in a can". (This beer was reviewed in 2008).

Of the growing canned selections they offer, I chose their Ten Fidy Imperial Stout first as I am partial to the darker brew. I had already read the hype about this craft beer in a can and decided it was time to try it. Be warned, this beer is not cheap as it came in a 4-pack and cost around $12. Wow. Even the guy at the liquor store check out said "I hope it's good for that price". Well let me tell ya - I'm not disappointed. (Update 2012: A 4-pack now runs around $15)

Appearance: This beer pours dark and I mean DARK. It's one of the darkest stouts I have ever seen. As many drinkers have reviewed, this stuff looks like motor oil yet pours out with a nice thick brown head. This head lingered quite a while and still has a nice bead to it much later in the drink.

Aroma: The aroma is one of rich chocolate malt and some coffee tones. You don't notice a big hoppy smell to it but you know that it has a fair amount of it judging from the 98 IBU rating. Oskar Blues put in an assortment of malts including: 2-row, chocolate malt, roasted barley and some flaked oats. They call it their winter warmer and I can see why. The beers was measured to have a 9.4% ABV value.

Taste and Feel: I swirled the beer in the glass to bring out the rich malty aroma. Upon first taste I was struck (WHAM) with a kick right up front. Wow. You immediately taste the chocolate malts and the alcohol kick. This is not a light weight beer by any means. It hits you and keeps on coming with flavor. The alcohol isn't overpowering but you can definitely tell it has a higher value than most beers. Certainly had a lot more kick than the Full Sail Top Sail Imperial that I tried last week.

This beer has a nice rich body to it. You can't possibly see anything through this dark brew. The beer nicely coats your tongue with flavor and has a nice dry finish to it. Seeing that this beer has some kick to it, it is not going to be one you're going to have many of in an evening as I bet that if you tried to drink the entire 4-pack that you'd get hammered.

Rating and Overall: The beer ranking sites all loved this beer. Ratebeer.com gave it a 100th percentile score and a 4.11/5 rating. BeerAdvocate gave this beer an "A" rating (4.38/5). It appears that the can did little to chase away imperial stout lovers. I like this beer simply because it is bold and gave me a "wow" affect upon the very first taste. I definitely feel a warm alcohol feeling in my body after just a half a can. As far as Imperial Stouts go, this is going to be one of my favorites for sure. I am really looking forward to having another one on an upcoming night this weekend. As for my own personal rating, while it's not my all time favorite, it's going to get a decent score from me, a 3.8 out of 5 rating.

You owe it to yourself to seek this one out and try one. It may cost a lot more than other beers, but it is worth the experience. Now if I can only get back to Longmont and the Tasty Weasel (now open) to try this on tap. I heard some of this is now aged in whiskey barrels! Yum.

Related articles:
- Oskar Blues Gordon review.
- Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale review.
- Breweries of Longmont - Oskar Blues.
- Oskar Blues Old Chub Scottish Ale review.
- Avery The Czar Imperial Stout review.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hop shortages cause rising beer prices

It's 2008 and beer prices are going up and there's not much we can do about it. Shortages in both malts and hops are primarily to blame during the early stages of this year. Listen to local Colorado growers and brewers on their take of this recent hop shortage and higher barley prices.



Here's another video from an Indiana brewer's viewpoint:



Yet another brewer laments the growing hop shortage:



Time to grow more hops people! It only takes one big fire at a hop facility or one bad growing season to put the entire beer industry in turmoil. If more and more farmers would start to grow their own hops and sell them in the open market perhaps we could start making a dent in these inflated prices. As beer drinkers we should do all we can to support local hop growers. (Homebrewing and growing our own will help too).

Related articles:
- Higher beer prices - How will it affect you?
- How much are you paying for beer these days?

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Higher Beer Prices - How Will It Affect You?

Beer PricesPrices for beer continue to go up. Has it hit you yet?

As the worldwide shortage of hops and some malts are driving up supply prices for brewers, they are starting to pass along the costs to the consumers. There's no getting around it any longer. With hop prices up nearly 400% and some malt prices doubled, the average six-pack is going up around one dollar in many places. Even the single 22 ounce bomber bottles will see about a 50 cent increase. For the beer connoisseur who enjoys sampling as many craft beers as possible, this could really start affecting how much money is left in the old beer jar at the end of the month.

For example, let's say you like to buy craft beers and typically spend around $8 per six-pack. If you bought one six-pack per week, that would cost you around $416 in a year. But with the extra buck tacked on, you're spending $9 a week and your beer fund will now require $468 a year to fund.

While some brew fans will pay whatever it takes to get their favorite brews on a regular basis, some folks may opt to revert back to a cheaper, more mass market beer like Coors, Miller, or Bud.

While everything in this world is costing more these days and salaries are not keeping up with inflation, it's going to boil down to a matter of choice as to what we decide to buy these days.

Personal plea: Please don't bend to pressure. Refuse to buy the mass market swill even though it's cheaper. Continue to buy quality craft beers from around your local region and support your local craft brewers.

Will you be buying less beer than you do now due to higher prices? While you may consider cutting back on a few things, cutting back on craft beer may slowly start happening as people's wallets start shrinking, but studies show in hard times alcohol is one commodity that people keep buying.

But cheer up! In America, the US Government wants to send us all checks for several hundred dollars to help kick start the economy. They expect us to spend it. So what do we intend to do with those checks? Consider this: instead of spending it on high tech gadgets that were all made overseas, why not put some of that back into your local craft breweries instead? If we spend our government checks on local businesses that produce goods here locally, you'll be helping out your economy much more than if you spend it on foreign made items. For many, that means local craft beers can continue to be in our shopping carts this year.

Support Your Local BrewerySupply shortages will be with us for another season. Depending on how the crops do this year we may have to endure higher prices for some time, if not permanently. Blame it on the growing demand for bio-fuels and farmers dropping other crops to grow corn. Hop and malt farming isn't as profitable as corn farming. We may see supply shortages get worse before they get better. Let's just hope electric cars become more mainstream soon so that farmers won't have to reserve as much acreage to corn.

Related articles:
- Hop shortages cause rising beer prices.
- How much are you paying for beer these days?

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Russian River Brews Coming to Colorado


I'm hoping this is true. According to the guys over at the Pacific Brew News Radio podcast, the famous Russian River Brewing company of California is going to start distributing bottled beer to Colorado. As early as the end of March or early April of this year, Russian River is expanding to several states including Oregon, Washington and Colorado. The first brews expected to be bottled and shipped are RR's Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig IPA. And later on, plans are also in place to ship even their new Pliny the Younger. I've heard a lot of hype about these beers, but unless you can drive to wine county in California or go to one of the big beer festivals, it is fairly difficult to get these Russian River brews. But if the story is true, then soon these beers will be readily available in 16 oz bottles in the Napa Valley of Beers - Colorado. I look forward to sampling these fine ales. This is probably going to be possible based on the opening of Russian River's new brewing facility now under construction and due to be completed in March.

Related articles:
- Russian River Pliny the Elder review.
- Russian River Blind Pig IPA review.
- Avery Collaboration Not Litigation Ale review.

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