Friday, July 31, 2009

Durango Brewing Co.'s new Motivator

Durango Brewing Co. will have a new beer on tap this weekend.

Motivator, as it is called, is a Scottish-style ale. It will be pouring tonight (Friday, July 31) at the homebrewers rally at Ska, and starting tomorrow at Durango Brewing, 3000 Main Ave.

Motivator also will be distributed in 22-0z. bomber bottles.

The ale uses Kent Goldings hops from the U.K. and malt from Colorado Malting Co. in Alamosa, said brewer Damon Scott. Motivator comes in at 5.7 percent ABV and 21 IBUs.

If you try Motivator over the weekend, leave a comment and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Obama's beer diplomacy

President Barack Obama will meet over a beer Thursday with the Harvard professor and Cambridge cop whose encounter has led to a national discussion about race, law enforcement and constitutional rights.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters there's nothing on the agenda but a "cold beer."

Reuters reports that the cop, Sergeant James Crowley, prefers Blue Moon, the Belgian witbier brewed by MolsonCoors. Professor Henry Louis Gates is said to prefer Red Stripe or Beck's.

Blue Moon is a fine choice, even though it is made by one of America's brewing giants. There are better witbiers out there (Avery White Rascal, Ska DIFF), but Soggy Coaster won't begrudge Sgt. Crowley his Blue Moon.

Red Stripe and Beck's are disappointing choices - two boring, undistinguished imports.

A much better choice would be something from Gates' and Crowley's hometown Cambridge Brewing Co. Perhaps the arresting officer, professor and president could settle the truth over a Tall Tale Pale Ale?

Or perhaps the host would prefer to serve something from his homestate Kona Brewing Co.? Longboard Lager is well-liked. Or maybe, to remind his visitors of where he truly started his road to the White House, the president could select a beer from Chicago craft brewer Goose Island.

Apparently, the president is busy with some sort of health care thing. But he ought to seriously consider Soggy Coaster's advice. A meeting of such import deserves good beer.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On the merits of glassware

Glassware is an important but often neglected part of drinking good beer.

Some beers do fine straight from the can or bottle - domestics, simpler craft beers. But some beers demand to be decanted, and you do yourself and the beer a disservice by sucking it from a narrow-mouthed container.

Taste is closely linked to smell. The more you can smell, the fuller the taste. So drinking straight from the bottle or can only dulls the taste.

This will be a familiar concept to drinkers of wine and spirits. Brandy, for example, is served in a brandy snifter for good reason. The shape of the glass encourages the drinker to essentially shove his nose close to the booze, resulting in keener smell and taste.

For most beer - pale ales, IPAs, reds, etc. - pint glasses are fine. But some beers, such as Belgian styles and stouts, benefit hugely from being poured in a globe glass.

Some months ago, Soggy Coaster purchased a New Belgium globe glass at Lady Falconburgh's. I've been amazed at the depths of taste I can now detect from the smell curling into my nose as the beer trickles toward my throat (God, this is making me thirsty). It's a huge difference.

Twice this summer, Soggy Coaster has seen people drinking True Blonde Dubbel straight from the bomber bottle. This is of course an abomination, and I'll try to explain why.

Despite its name, Ska's dubbel has little in common with the True Blonde Ale from the same brewery. True Blonde is fine from the bottle or can, but the dubbel is actually a rather excellent interpretation of a strong Belgian ale, made with Belgian yeast and candy sugar. Pour it into a globe. Help the flavor open up. Don't drink it from the bottle. It's not Old Milwaukee, and you're not at a frat party anymore.

This isn't about snobbery or looking cool. It's about getting the most enjoyment from your beers. Decant, and set your beer free.

Ska to host homebrewers event

Homebrewers will gather at Ska Brewing Co. on Friday, July 31, to drink, tour and be loved.

The event is a rally for the American Homebrewers Association. AHA members get in free, while nonmembers can pay $33 that - wait for it - also gets you an annual membership to the AHA!

For homebrewers, this should be great fun. It's too bad it's not more open to the general public.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wheelsucking brewers

Ska Brewing Co. President Dave Thibodeau and Avery Brewing founder Adam Avery share a laugh at the Wheelsucker Wheat Ale release party Friday. I'm amazed they were able to smile much after bicycling 426 miles from Boulder to Durango.

Soggy Coaster will post of a full review of Wheelsucker Wheat in the coming days. Suffice it to say for now, I loved it. It's full-bodied but crisp, with waves of flavor.

I heard some dissension from people who don't like wheat beers, and from others who were taken aback by Wheelsucker's strength. I suppose if you don't like wheat beers, and you don't like strong beers, Wheelsucker probably isn't for you. But I'll be stocking up on the bombers.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wheelsucker Wheat Ale release

Ska Brewing Co. and Avery Brewing Co. will release Wheelsucker Wheat Ale tonight, the first collaboration beer between the Durango and Boulder breweries.

The release party begins at 5 p.m., Fri., July 24, at Ska HQ in Bodo Industrial Park, 225 Girard St. The Soda Jerks will play, and proceeds will benefit the Safe Roads Coalition of La Plata County.

Soggy Coaster is looking forward to tasting what Ska and Avery hath wrought. I'll probably write a review sometime within the next week, but if you want to beat me to the punch, post a comment.

For more details about the beer, see two posts down.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ska Mexican Logger earns props

Ed Sealover, who writes the Denver-based Beer Run Blog, named Ska Brewing Co.'s Mexican Logger his "Surprise Beer of the Festival" for last weekend's Breckenridge Beer Festival.

Here's what Sealover had to say:

All I'd heard about Ska's Mexican Logger before the show was that some Hispanics did not appreciate the picture of a sleeping Mexican beside a chainsaw on the label, feeling it might be stereotypical. The only place my mind went after sipping this, however, was to the sharp smoothness and great malt texture that made this seem like a totally different beer than other Mexican lagers, which can look and taste shockingly similar to urine in a bottle.

That was my reaction to the taste, too (although I wouldn't describe it as "sharp smoothness" - a phrase that would seem to be a contradiction in terms, but in fairness to Sealover, describing beer can be tricky). Mexican Logger tastes nothing like Corona, which is a good thing.

One wonders how Hispanics feel about the bottle label. The only comments I've heard about it came from sensitive white people, and I often find minorities aren't nearly so sensitive as the self-appointed guardians of political correctness. Intent, I think, matters more than content when talking about race and ethnicity. To a point.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Preview: Wheelsucker Wheat Ale (Ska/Avery)

Hefeweizen is one of those beers that makes beer worth drinking. So it's a good thing that Ska and Avery Brewing are set to release Wheelsucker Wheat Ale on Friday.

Wheelsucker is a collaboration beer from Ska in Durango and Avery in Boulder, two of Colorado's best breweries.

Ska tends to keep it simple, brewing classic American-meets-English beers like Modus Hoperandi IPA and Pinstripe Red Ale.

While Avery brews a solid lineup of typical beers - a stout, an IPA, etc., - it is perhaps best known for brewing huge, weird beers. Avery's Brabant barrel-aged ale (8.7 percent ABV, 25 IBUs) and Salvation Belgian-style ale (9 percent ABV, 25 IBUs), exemplify talented, risk-tasking brewing that sometimes pushes the limits of what beer can be. Soggy Coaster visited the Avery brewhouse last month, and seeing 108 wooden barrels aging various beers was a sight to behold.

Avery Brewing founder Adam Avery visited Durango with a small crew July 1 to brew Wheelsucker. He and the Ska boys, led by Head Brewer Thomas Larsen, came up with an imperial hefeweizen (the bottle label calls it a "Mountain Hefe"). It approximates the style of traditional German hefes, but Avery, Larsen and co. pimped it out to about 6.6 percent ABV. (The brewers were aiming for higher, but the yeast crapped out).

By comparison, Widmer Hefeweizen, a phenomenally popular American hefe brewed in Portland, comes in at 4.9 percent ABV.

Hefes pour a cloudy, golden color, and taste light and refreshing. They're often served with an orange slice, but good hefes do fine without fruit adornment.

"When we were discussing a beer style, we wanted something strong, but also refreshing and would mix with lemon-lime soda to make a Radler, a staple of European bike tours for many years," Larsen says in an e-mail to Beer at 6512. "We decided on a hefe partly because Adam (Avery) was always a big fan of Tabernash Weiss, I have always enjoyed Bavarian wheat beers, and what's more refreshing than Hefeweizen, especially if you mix it with Sprite or orange juice?"

This must be one of the first commercial experimental brewing projects for Larsen since he came to Ska from Wynkoop Brewing in Denver. Wynkoop, as one might expect from the German name, brews a bunch of German styles, including a hefeweizen named Wixa Weiss. Larsen is certainly no stranger to hefeweizens.

To wit (pun intended), the brewers used Hallertau Hersbrucker and Mittlefrue hops for Wheelsucker. The yeast is originally from the Hopf Weissbier Brewery in Meisbock, Germany, south of Munich.

Ska and Avery brewed only 25 barrels of Wheelsucker, which comes out to 775 gallons - not a lot. Last time Soggy Coaster talked to President Thibodeau, Wheelsucker was to be bottled in bomber bottles and distributed, at least locally and possibly around Denver.

Sometimes, strong beers ruin the well-balanced character of their more standard cousins. Just as most IPAs, I feel, lack the balance found in many good pale ales, some double reds sacrifice the drinkability found in standard reds. We'll see how Ska and Avery did with Wheelsucker Wheat, but the provenance is promising.

The release party begins at 5 p.m., Fri., July 24, at Ska HQ in Bodo Industrial Park, 225 Girard St. See you there.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Women enjoying beer

A Kansas City marketing firm has launched an initiative, and website, called Women Enjoying Beer.

One of their first events was a private tasting/focus group with the well-regarded Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City.

Props to those ladies. It would be cooler if it were a more organic initiative, rather than a marketing drive, but it seems to be some of both.

Soggy Coaster has always wondered why more women don't drink craft beer. Many seem to prefer drinking wine, a fact backed up by a recent Gallup poll that the Beervana blog discussed. Only 21 percent of women named beer as their preferred alcoholic beverage.

What's wrong?

Maybe it is a lack of marketing targeted toward women or, alternately, saturation marketing targeted at men.

Women I know who have been introduced to good craft beer have developed a taste for it. There are great, approachable beers out there and beers that taste remarkably like wine. Not that the ladies can't handle something like an imperial stout or double IPA.

I suspect that beer has just been marketed to men for so long that women don't think it's for them. If Women Enjoying Beer can help change that perception, we'll all be the better for it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ska, Avery tour Colorado

The fellas from Ska Brewing Co. and Avery Brewing Co. have launched their Tour of Colorado.

On bicycle, the brewers will wind from Boulder to Durango over six days, conquering nine mountain passes in a 426-mile journey.

When they arrive on Friday, July 24, the brewers will release Wheelsucker Wheat Ale, a much-anticipated (by me, anyway) collaboration beer, at Ska HQ in Durango. (Specifics on that later this week).

Dave Thibodeau, co-founder and president of Ska, is blogging the trip over at Wheelsucking Brewers.

Each night of the tour, the bicycling brewers will stop at a brewery to raise money for charity and further the brewing brotherhood.

Soggy Coaster wishes the travelers well, and has high hopes for the beer. Stay tuned for more.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What's your Top 5?

The blogger over at The Drunken Polack had an interesting idea: Name your top five favorite craft beers of all time. Do it quickly, don't overthink it and don't revise your answer.

Here's what I came up with, in no particular order:

Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale
Avery IPA
Deschutes The Dissident
Stone Levitation
Russian River Damnation

I noticed I neglected all of the great dark beers out there. That probably has something to do with it being a hot July day. I also struggle with the complete lack of Durango beers. I don't intend that as a slight to our local brewers, who make many fine beers. That's just what I thought up in about 30 seconds.

What is your top 5? Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Durango visitor loves everything

Eli Shayotovich of Beer Tap TV swung through Durango recently, hanging out with the Ska Brewing guys and Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch.

He also made an apparently memorable visit to Lady Falconburgh's Barley Exchange in downtown Durango. It is a very well-stocked beer bar, but damn, I don't know if I'd be that effusive in my praise for anybody but possibly Snoop Dogg.

If you're interested, the Durango episode may be viewed here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Stinger

As it turns out, Soggy Coaster did find something interesting in Telluride.

Smuggler's Brewpub had 16 beers on tap, an impressive number for such a small operation.

I opted for a pint of braggot called The Stinger. Braggot, a hybrid of beer and mead, is a refreshing summer style. My only prior experience with braggot was Carver's pear version.

The Stinger (7.3 percent ABV) was everything I'd hoped: medium-bodied, golden in color and carrying a pleasant honey sweetness.

I peeked in Smuggler's brewery downstairs. It looks like a long, narrow closet. I don't know how Smuggler's brews so many beers in so little space.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Beer in Telluride

It seems like most of Durango is trekking north this weekend to see George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic in Telluride.

This provides a great opportunity to stop by Smuggler's Brewpub, right downtown. Their website is unfortunately somewhat rudimentary, but at least you can check out their beer lineup.

Rocky Mountain Rye, a Great American Beer Festival gold-medal winner, is a perennial favorite. It should taste refreshing during the warm weather this weekend.

If you like hoppy beers, they have two IPAs and the Imperial San Juan SkyHop, a 100+ IBU hop bomb .

Smuggler's is a brewpub like Carver's and does not distribute its beers. However, you can take a half-gallon growler home for $9.50 (refills are only $6.50).

The concert also promises a beer garden. Soggy Coaster will let you know if he finds anything interesting.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

On Stone Brewing

Stone Brewing Co. co-founder and CEO Greg Koch was in Durango last week to promote his beers and hang out with the Ska Brewing guys.

I like Stone. Levitation Ale (4.4 percent ABV, 45 IBUs), it seems to me, is a major accomplishment. It has huge taste for a session beer. Levitation was recognized with a gold medal at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival in the American-style red/amber ale category.

It has a resiny, piney taste that's more flavorful than most amber ales. I have never encountered a more flavorful beer with such low alcohol content. It's marvelous.

I spoke briefly with Koch(pronounced Cook) at Lady Falconburgh's (pictured), and he said Levitation is the only beer in Stone's regular lineup that has changed significantly since its introduction. The recipe has evolved. It's now hopped with Columbus, Amarillo, Simcoe and Crystal hops, and dry-hopped with Amarillos.

San Diego-based Stone is all about the West Coast hop craze. Their ales all derive from basic English styles (pale ale, IPA, porter, stout), before getting stuffed full of hops.

Stone's Pale Ale (5.4 percent ABV, 41 IBUs), is its flagship and was its first beer. I recommend it, as I do the IPA (6.9 percent, 77 IBUs) and Imperial Russian Stout (10.5 percent ABV, 90+ IBUs).

Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2 percent ABV, IBUs not released) is an extraordinarily popular beer, but I'm not on the bandwagon. It lacks a distinctive taste. It's not bitter, sweet or funky. It's just a dark ale that leaves me without any memorable impressions.

Arrogant Bastard's marketing is also, to me, a little off-putting. Stone says: "This is an aggressive beer. You probably won't like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth."

The whole arrogant bastard bit is apparently not just a gimmick. Koch, as his public interviews make evident, is a beer snob of the highest order. Still, I found him to be friendly and open during our brief conversation.

In general, I resent breweries that succumb to obnoxious corporate marketing because so many do well without it. Speak softly and distribute big beer, I say.

A lot of good breweries find their way onto liquor-store shelves in Colorado. Stone has to compete with a long list of out-of-state breweries, not to mention Colorado's own brewers. Yet Stone is a solid choice, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend their lineup.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Spoetzl brewery endures

The Associated Press has a good article on the 100th anniversary of Spoetzl Brewery, maker of the Shiner beers.

Spoetzl is a Texas institution. It was founded in 1909 by German and Czech immigrants. The brewery survived Prohibition and corporate consolidation to emerge healthily into our current golden age of craft beer.

I enjoy Shiner Bock (4.4 percent ABV, 14 IBUs). No visit to Serious Texas Bar-B-Q is complete without a bottle.

Another point in Shiner's favor is that their beers are typically a buck or two cheaper per six-pack than most craft brews, without any real sacrifice in quality.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The fruits of collaboration

Ska Brewing Co. and Avery Brewing Co. will release their first mutual collaboration beer on Friday, July 24, in Durango.

The beer, Wheelsucker Wheat Ale, is probably best described as an imperial hefeweizen. It's a bit more heavily hopped than most hefes, and should settle around 7.2 percent ABV, according to Ska President Dave Thibodeau.

Ska will bottle Wheelsucker in 22-oz. bomber bottles for distribution around Durango and the Front Range, Thibodeau says.

Adam Avery, the man behind Avery Brewing, was in Durango last week to actually help brew the beer at Ska HQ.

Avery Brewing, of Boulder, has previously released several collaboration beers, including Collaboration Not Litigation, a Belgian ale brewed with Russian River Brewing of California. Avery also collaborated with Mountain Sun of Boulder to brew Van Diemen, a so-called black saison.

This is the first time I am aware of that Ska has collaborated with a brewery outside of Durango. Of course, Ska frequently collaborates with other Durango breweries as part of the Durango Bootleggers Society.

I'm more than usually excited for this release. Neither Ska nor Avery knows how to brew a bad beer, so the bar is high.

Wheelsucker's release will culminate a major bike ride the brewers are to embark upon. The Tour of Colorado will wind for 426 miles from Avery's HQ in Boulder to Ska in Durango.

Over five days, the tour will stop at microbreweries and brewpubs "in an effort to bring together Colorado craft brewers and encourage the fledgling spirit of collaboration and camaraderie that has taken hold in the craft beer industry," Avery said in a news release.

Each evening after the day’s riding is finished, breweries along the route will host fundraisers with Avery and Ska. Profits from pint sales, raffles and auctions will go to local charities. The ride will commence with a party raising money for Community Cycles, a local bike charity, at the Avery Tap Room in Boulder on Sunday, July 19.

There has been some confusion about Wheelsucker's release date, but Thibodeau says July 24th at Ska HQ. Mark your calendars.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Drink beer for the environment

"Gallons of freshwater consumed in the production of a gallon of milk and beer, respectively: 1,000, 300."

- Harper's Index

This is worth remembering in Southwest Colorado, where water is relatively scarce.

Of course, the best thing you can drink for the environment is municipal tap water. Corporations have done a great job of convincing us that tap water is somehow tainted. It's fine. Especially in Durango, where it comes from the Weminuche Wilderness.

But you can't drink only water, and craft beer is a heck of an alternative.