Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The seasons, they change

Craft beer, like leaves, changes with the seasons.

A Budweiser is always a Budweiser. There is no such thing as a fresh-hop Budweiser, nor does Anheuser-Busch InBev brew a Budweiser stout.

This is one of the great advantages and distinctions of craft brewing. Most craft breweries offer anywhere from a half-dozen to 20 distinct beers at any given time, and at least one or two will be seasonal creations.

In the earthy world of craft beer, seasons dictate brewing certain beers.

We can celebrate autumn with fresh-hop beers like Ska's Hoperation Ivy or Steamworks' Wet-Hop Brown. Or we can enjoy bottled out-of-state treats, like Deschutes' Hop Trip. Or we can taste other seasonal creations like Durango Brewing's Colorfest or Steamworks' Ale Diablo.

Just as soon as we tire of wheat beers, light lagers and other summer seasonals, the weather turns cold, encouraging us to move on to stouts, porters and dark lagers.

I've done that myself, drinking within the last week a Session Dark Lager from Full Sail Brewing in Oregon, (a near clone of Durango Brewing's Durango Dark Lager); a Black Butte Porter and a Ska Steel Toe Stout.

Steel Toe (5.4 percent ABV, 29 IBUs) has been around for quite some time, but it came to my attention again by winning a bronze medal in the sweet stout category at last month's Great American Beer Festival. It makes a fantastic dessert beer - I can vouch that it pairs wonderfully with Cherry Garcia.

It won't be long before I'll be enjoying a Backside Stout on tap at Purgatory. Summer is gone, and fall is slipping away. The current temperature in Durango is 43 degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, we have an impressive variety of beers to keep us warm through the cold, bleak winter.

Like the sky, it's time for beer drinkers to go dark.

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