Friday, November 26, 2010

Empty fermenters beckon experiments

Label art for Ska Brewing's 2011 Snowdown's beer.

People don't drink as much beer in the winter as they do in summer. This is because they're ignorant and misguided.

The sorts of knowledgeable folks who read Durango's first, best and only beer blog (I'm liking that line lately) know brewers break out great beers in winter, while summer releases tend to be thinner and slightly less wonderful.

The fact that fair-weather beer drinkers take a break in the winter means there's more space in the fermenters for brewers to geek around. Our local brewers are currently indulging themselves with some huge beers that we'll see over the next couple of months.

Above is Ska Brewing Co.'s label art for their 2011 Snowdown beer, brazenly stolen by me from Facebook (I doubt they mind the publicity). It tells us that Ska is planning to brew a so-called "black IPA" for Durango's annual winter embarassment in February.

Black IPAs are big in the Northwest. They're essentially IPAs brewed with dark malt. They can be quite good.

There has been much discussion about what to call these beers. "Black IPA" is contradictory because you're saying Black India Pale Ale, and a beer can't be both black and pale. The voguish term in the Northwest is "Cascadian Dark Ale," which I find a bit stuffy and provincial.

I'm just bummed Ska missed a chance to call their release "Call of Duty: Black Hops." (Maybe it's not too late!)

The brew geeks at Steamworks, meanwhile, are brewing a ridiculous IPA that aims for 125 IBUs. (I think at that point, you graduate from IPA to Imperial IPA to Ridiculous IPA).

Of course, I will taste this beer, because I'm a glutton for punishment, but I'm not looking forward to it. At some point, this attempt to brew the hoppiest beer possible just becomes painful. If you've ever tried to drink Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, you know what I'm talking about. It's not pleasant.

Steamworks is having a naming competition for the beer. I initially suggested "Second Avenue Hop Flood," after their location on Durango's most in-between of streets. However, I've decided I prefer "Shooting an Elephant Imperial IPA" in homage to George Orwell's writing on India.

At Carver's, the brewers are working on a Baltic porter, a burly style that is cold-fermented and brewed with lager yeast, according to the 2010 Brewers Association Style Guidelines.

I ran into brewer Erik Maxson at the Main Avenue joint. He said the inspiration came from his newest assistant brewer. Pulling out a slide rule (and reminding me of my great uncle, a retired Boeing engineer), Maxson announced the big boy should land at just over 7 percent ABV, right on target for the style.

I had a little taste of the Baltic porter. It shaping up quite well: big, dark and malty.

Carver's has its annual imperial stout and Big Grizz Barleywine on tap, as well as a new Belgian-style dubbel. Flavor: bananas. A trippel and perhaps even a quadrupel may be coming.

Update: I should have mentioned that Insider Apple Ale is on tap at all four Durango breweries. It's a project of the breweries' combined consortium, the Durango Bootlegger's Society. The ale uses locally harvested apples.

It's definitely a beer and quite different from cider. I haven't tried this year's version yet, but last year's had a strong apple taste. I liked the flavor but found the texture a little mealy. We'll see if this year's version is any different.

In any case, Insider Apple Ale is interesting as both a brewing project and a local effort using local ingredients. Give it a try, and let me know what you think. It's also available in 22-ounce bottles.

1 comment:

  1. I like the term black IPA- it highlights the two dischordant sources of the beer. I make my own by mixing pale ale and porter in the glass!

    Did you see the Brewmasters show highlighting the making of the 120-minute IPA? Who actually likes to drink that?