Those willing to venture to Parker for a visit to Barnett and Son Brewing will find a relaxed taproom with very friendly staff, along with what I would call “comfort beers”. The tap list contains almost exclusively standard styles with no extreme variations within style or unsual flavor combinations. The ones I sampled stayed true to style – comfortable & accessible with no suprises. In other words no triple-hopped IPA, or chocolate mint stout. I found the Irish Red to be the most comfortable of the bunch – medium-heavy body, light malt, light hops, and a good balance between them. Definitely nothing adventurous but a good beer to settle back with on a crisp fall evening.
In time for Thanksgiving, Halfpenny Brewing Company has released a Cranberry Wheat. Its solid underlying wheat-beer structure supports a very forward tart taste. The beer primarily captures the tart part of the berries, leaving only a faint fruit/berry flavor. In a blind taste test I might guess it as a sour with a slight bitter edge to it. In appearance, the Cranberry Wheat looks like a dark wheat beer, with the common wheat beer cloudiness. It’s definitely an interesting beer and certainly worth a try if you like sours or fruit beers, and even worth getting a small pour if you just want to shake things up.
One of my go-to beers and all-around cold-weather favorite is Dry Dock Brewing’s Vanilla Porter. In my opinion it has the perfect balance of vanilla and roasted malt and perhaps that simplicity is why it’s a favorite of mine. I suspect that if it was a porter alone it would still be outstanding, with a medium-dark malt, chocolaty flavors, and medium body. Adding the slight sweetness of vanilla – enough to notice but not overpowering – offers a good balance and kicks up the interest level. Nothing super-complex – just an easy-drinking beer on a chilly fall day. And unlike some Beers of the Week it’s easy to find along the Front Range in cans, on tap, or at one of the two Dry Dock taprooms
Following last week’s beer class – Belgians – it seemed like a good idea to give River North’s new location a try since they’re known for their Belgian beers. I tried a flight of those since they’re all high-alcohol, and in my opinion they ranged from good to great. I thought the Tripel was one of the more interesting ones because of the interplay between the carbonation, alcohol (9.2%), and slight bitterness. In many ways the flavors and body were reminiscent of champagne. Not to say it didn’t have the typical things you’d expect in a Tripel – primarily the yeasty and estery flavors – but the champagne-like characteristics added a whole new level of complexity. The color was a beautiful deep-golden with just a tiny bit of cloudiness.
As we discussed at last week’s beer class, German purity laws forbid the production of beer during the summer so brewers had to brew beers in March (Marz) that would last until the fall. Hence Marzen beers with high alcohol. Naturally I was excited to stop by Epic Brewing Company and see that they had Fest Devious Marzen on the menu. For me, it was the perfect match for a beautiful cool fall day – somewhere between hot-weather light beers and winter darks. Fest Devious was lightly carbonated with a delicious-looking light caramel color that reminded me of fall leaves. The taste was great as well; medium-bodied and malty with bready and crackery flavors. The malt was balanced on the front end with a light bitterness of German hops. Overall I was really impressed by this Marzen as well as several other of the seasonals I tried including the saison, Double Skull Doppelbock, and the Imperial Pumpkin Porter. The only caveat: These are seasonals so they won’t be around forever!
When my friends suggested meeting at Alpine Dog Brewery I was a bit skeptical, as past visits have been extremely average. However I went along with the plan and it seems like Alpine Dog has upped their game. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself sipping several tasty beers, including their Belgian farmhouse ale Ski Naked. It had all the trademarks of my favorite Belgian farmhouses – beautiful slightly-cloudy golden color with a bready, earthy, dry, and mildly straw-like flavor. Basically when I think “farmhouse” this is pretty much what I have in mind. One thing I found particularly interesting is that it tastes like a truly high-alcohol golden but only clocks in at 6.7%. Maybe not sessionable, but you can definitely get seconds!
Sometimes fate takes a strange twist, including at GABF. While talking to the brewers at Seedstock Brewery about their Bohemian Dunkel they mentioned that it was patterned after the 500-year-old U Fleku brewery in Prague. As fate would have it I had just returned from a Czech vacation and visited U Fleku not a week earlier. Even cooler, Seedstock’s Bohemian Dunkel was a dead ringer for U Fleku’s. The taste is malty with little hops and what seems to be a medium malt roast, and the color is typical for dunkel – medium brown with a hint of red but you can still see through it. The only I area I found surprising (with both beers) is the lighter body – almost like a blond. However the whole package is quite appealing and also fairly sessionable. If you’re looking for a truly authentic Czech beer to make it feel like fall, head out to Seedstock!