Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ska to can True Blonde

Ska Brewing Co. will release True Blonde Ale (5.3 percent ABV, 39 IBUs) in cans on Friday, May 1.

Of course, May 1 is also International Workers' Day, so there you go.

Ska already cans its ESB and the new Modus Hoperandi IPA.

The brewery is having a party at 5 p.m. at its headquarters in Bodo Industrial Park. The Lawn Chair Kings, who are incidentally better than ever, will play.

True Blonde has been around forever. It was Ska's first beer, originally brewed for a competition in Telluride. It is now one of their staples.

Rumor has it the cans are bright yellow and super-fly.

Monday, April 27, 2009

In the fridge

Soggy Coaster is excited about the bottle of Stone Imperial Russian Stout in the fridge. I love imperial stouts, and Stone is a quality brewery.

This beer from the San Diego brewery was just released. I found a 22-ounce bottle at Star Liquors.

Spring seems like an odd time to release a seasonal stout, but hey, they own a brewery and I don't.

I'm looking forward to seeing if Stone's imperial stout measures up with others I've had this winter, including Carver's Imperial Stout, Deschutes' The Abyss (11 percent ABV, 65 IBUs), Rogue Imperial Stout (88 IBUs), North Coast's Old Rasputin Imperial Stout (9 percent ABV, 75 IBUs), Great Divide Oak-Aged Yeti Imperial Stout and Victory Storm King Imperial Stout (9.1 percent ABV).

My only concern is the very aggressive profile of Stone's stout: 10.5 percent ABV, 90+ IBUs. I loved The Abyss, but found its very noticeable alcohol bite to be a discordant note. With a similar profile, I fear the Stone will carry a boozy fume.

My favorite imperial stouts have been those that were just slightly dialed back, like the Old Rasputin and Victory Storm King. Once you get above 10 percent, you're talking serious booze.

Until I crack that open, I'm enjoying working my way through a six-pack of Mexican Logger, Ska's just-released seasonal lager. At only 4.2 percent ABV and 18 IBUs, it's a nice break from the "big" beers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Yesterday, Soggy Coaster joined a couple of colleagues for an after-work beer at Cosmopolitan, a restaurant at 919 Main Ave. in Durango.

I like Cosmopolitan. It has a copper bar and an invariably friendly bartender behind it. The atmosphere is pleasant, even if the clientele trends a little old.

A fine dining restaurant, Cosmopolitan offers four beers on tap: Mirror Pond Pale Ale (Deschutes Brewery), Pinstripe Red Ale (Ska Brewing), Stella Artois and 1554 (New Belgium).

I opted for a Mirror Pond, then another. Finally, the bill came: $12. For two Mirror Ponds.

I was a bit taken aback. I would have expected the beers to cost, at most, $4 each. Six dollars is the most I can recall paying for a beer on tap.

Mirror Pond is a wonderful but fairly unremarkable microbrew; there is nothing about it that justifies charging $6 for a glass. Neither was the glass unusually large - perhaps 16 ounces. With foam, figure the drinker ends up with about 14 ounces of beer.

Lost Dog down the street charges only $2 for the same beer in a similar glass.

Perhaps - and this is speculation - Cosmopolitan is compensating for its lack of diners by charging Cadillac prices for beers. Restaurants have been hurting because of the economy. Restaurant revenue in Durango, as measured by sales tax receipts, declined 4.4 percent in March from the same month in 2008.

When we went to Cosmopolitan, the restaurant was empty, save for my colleagues, myself and a middle-aged couple cutting each of their sushi bites into several tiny pieces.

Now, I know one might expect beers at a fine restaurant to carry a small premium. You're paying for atmosphere, staff and the presumably costly Main Avenue rent. I understand keg prices have risen for restaurants and bars. But there is simply no excuse for a $6 Mirror Pond. (To be clear, all their beers were $6, making their Pinstripe tap easily the most expensive in town).

I will not be back to Cosmopolitan - not for their cold beers, not for their excellent martinis, not for their tasty meals - until the restaurant charges a reasonable price for its beer. The same goes for any restaurant that chooses to charge exorbitant prices.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A visit to Steamworks

Soggy Coaster sat down with Steamworks brewer Patrick Jose a few days ago for an informal chat.

Patrick hails from Texas. He studied geology at Texas Tech before committing to a brewing career. Like many brewers, he started on a small homebrewing kit.

Patrick has been at Steamworks a little more than a year. He is head brewer for the Durango pub. Steamworks also has a head brewer in Bayfield, and a director of brewing operations who oversees them both.

A firkin of dry-hopped Tax Alement, a seasonal ESB, was on tap. The dry-hopped version was far hoppier and more interesting than the standard brew. Soggy Coaster also sampled a personal favorite, the Backside Stout (6 percent ABV, 28 IBUs), only this time on nitro.

Thanks to Patrick for the beers, and Soggy Coaster looks forward to trying more forthcoming brews from the Steam team.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On tap at Steamworks

Steamworks brewer Patrick Jose fills us in about what's on tap:

Irish Red on nitro (Limited quantity remaining)
Backside Stout on nitro
Lizard Head Red
Colorado Kolsch
Steam Engine Lager
Conductor Imperial IPA
Third Eye Pale Ale
Rock Hopped Pale Ale
Habanero Green Chili Pale Ale (Prescribed Burn)
Slam Dunkel (Dunkelweizen)
Pittman’s Premium Ale (Light Ale)
Tax Alement (ESB)

Jose says: "Also, this Friday at 6pm I will be tapping another firkin with a dry-hopped ESB after our free keg drawing. I brewed a Maibock yesterday that will be available in mid-May. On Thursday, I will brew a brown ale that should be out in a few weeks."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New Belgium tops Colorado breweries

The Brewers Association released its list of the top 50 breweries Monday. They are ranked by beer sales volume.

Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams) stayed at no. 1. There were no big surprises among the Colorado breweries. Here's where the Colorado breweries landed on the craft breweries list:

3. New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins)

32. Rock Bottom Brewery Restaurants (Louisville)

34. Odell Brewing Co. (Fort Collins)

40. Breckenridge Brewery (Denver)

46. Boulder Beer Co. (Boulder)

None of the Southwest Colorado breweries cracked the top 50.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sour reading

Chow has an excellent article on sour beers. If you have any interest in the topic, it's a must-read.

Ah, Brettanomyces. My darling.

Soggy Coaster's first experience with a sour beer was The Dissident from Deschutes Brewery. It was something of a personal revelation.

Since then, Soggy Coaster has tried Avery Brabant and New Belgium's Lips of Faith Dark Kriek and La Folie. The Dissident was better than any of those, but any beer in this vein is an exciting departure from the norm.

I think it's about time Ska brewed a Brettanomyces sour. How 'bout it, fellas?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Birds, bees and beer

Spring seasonals are coming out fast and furious.

Ska Brewing will release its Mexican Logger on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Ska HQ in Bodo. Pints of the beer will be $3 and Zia Taqueria will have $2 tacos.

Have several Loggers, then go see Ward Churchill. It should be an interesting time.

Soggy Coaster thoroughly enjoys Mexican Logger. It's as if Corona made a good beer.

Seriously, why would anybody buy Corona when Mexican Logger is available? Given importation costs, the beers are very comparably priced. Mexican Logger (4.2 percent ABV, 18 IBUs) happens to be much fuller-bodied, tastier and, um, good. I doubt Corona has Saaz hops. Nevertheless, Corona remains the no. 1 import beer in America.

Mexican Logger is a great session beer for summer barbecues.

Unfortunately, spring also means that a Northern Flicker woodpecker has been pounding away at Soggy Coaster's metal roof every morning. I'll need some Mexican Logger to deal with that.

(Update: I should have mentioned that Carver Brewing has its new Spring Tonic Elixir on tap, brewed from a Prohibition-era recipe. Monkey Wrenched IPA is also newly on tap. The imperial stout has returned).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gordon thoughts

Just a quick note on Gordon from Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons, Colorado. Soggy Coaster picked up a four-pack from Star Liquors yesterday for $8.59.

This brings up a few ruminations:

1. Goddamn, beer is getting expensive. Granted, Gordon (8.7 percent ABV, 85 IBUs) is an "extreme" beer, high in alcohol and probably expensive to brew. Still, $8.59 for four 12-ounce cans is quite a bit.

2. Price points. To keep high-quality beers like Gordon price competitive with the average microbrew six-pack, brewers are increasingly packaging their high-end beers in four packs. Dogfish Head also does this quite a bit.

3. Cans. Oskar Blues was the first microbrewery to can beer, starting with its better-known Dale's Pale Ale. Ska decided to can its new Modus Hoperandi IPA and continues to can its ESB. Steamworks cans Third Eye Pale Ale and Steam Engine Lager. This presents the consumer with a choice: cans or bottles?

Soggy Coaster prefers bottles, except for outdoor activities. There seems to be no appreciable difference in taste or quality of canned vs. bottled beer. Rather, Soggy Coaster chooses bottles for environmental reasons. In short, glass bottles are relatively friendly to the environment. Bauxite for aluminum cans has to be mined out of the earth, and mining is about the least environmentally friendly activity on the planet.

4. Big red freshness. Brewers are getting some really interesting flavors out of red ales these days. Oskar Blues describes Gordon as "somewhere between an imperial red and a double IPA." Big red ales can be really, really good. Given the fact that Pinstripe Red Ale, Gordon, Deschutes' Cinder Cone and Stone Levitation can all be considered red ales, there is an astonishing variety of taste there.

5. Gordon is pretty tasty. It's like a super-hoppy red. It's got the resiny feel of an IPA, but without the bitterness.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Carver's hosts Prohibition Repeal Party

Carver Brewing Co. will host a Prohibition Repeal Party on Tuesday, April 7.

Highlighting the party will be the release of the Spring Tonic Elixir, a strong lager from the Bootleggers Society. The event celebrates the 76th anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition.

Word is local historian Duane Smith will speak about Durango's brewing history, and Sourmash will play. A $5 cover benefits Animas City Musuem. Prohibition-era attire is encouraged. I've heard three different times - 6, 7, and 8 p.m. - so just show up and start drinking.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Arizona's got beer

A trip to Phoenix last weekend to watch some spring training baseball provided the opportunity to try Flagstaff Brewing Co. and Four Peaks Brewing Co. in Tempe.

First off, Flagstaff Brewing, in downtown Flagstaff. Flagstaff Brewing was founded in 1994. The restaurant-brewpub has a ping-pong table and a distinctly collegiate atmosphere. An ESB and three other brews were on tap. Soggy Coaster elected to go with the Bitterroot ESB (5.75 ABV, 41 IBUs). It was decent but unexceptional. It was the second-best ESB in the house, because Flagstaff had Ska ESB in cans (their only Durango beer in stock). Flagstaff had only four beers on tap, a fairly small roster even for a brewpub. It was a bit of a yawn.

Much better was Four Peaks Brewing Co., near the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. Soggy Coaster got there in time to catch the end of the Villanova-Pitt game (Nova killed Soggy Coaster's bracket). The place was packed. It's pretty big, probably bigger than Steamworks' restaurant in Durango, with plenty of flat-screen TVs.

Four Peaks had an expansive beer menu, including a pale ale, an IPA, a peach, an oatmeal stout, a Scottish ale, a hefeweizen and a Kolsch. Soggy Coaster went with 8th Street Ale, the pale ale. It was excellent, with good hop flavor and nice balance. It has twice won silver medals at the Great American Beer Festival. After drinking it, Soggy Coaster could see why. Soggy Coaster also got the IPA, which was impressive.

Even better, all Four Peaks beers were $3. The brewery is definitely worth a visit if you're in the Phoenix area.