Monday, November 8, 2010

Winter beers come in from the cold

The first taste of Spruce Goose Ale is akin to a first taste of a fresh-hop beer. It carries a remarkable flavor, unique among local beers, lent by recently harvested high-altitude spruce tips.

Like fresh hops, the spruce taste is subtle but most present as soon as the beer is available. It recedes, and within a few months Spruce Goose will taste rather muted.

Last weekend, I made it down to Steamworks Brewing Co. for my first pint of this year's Spruce Goose release. It pours a dark amber color with a sizable head of foam. At 8.1 percent ABV, it's on the strong side. Spruce Goose is lightly hopped to 21 IBUs.

I love this beer. The spruce flavor, as I've said, reminds me of raspberries, but that's not quite right. Spruce really has a taste all its own.

Spruce Goose seems to fly under the radar. A good friend of mine who has lived in Durango for 12 years and drinks his fair share of craft beer had never tried it before I brought a bottle over to his house. It's seasonal (November through January), which limits its visibility.

Spruce Goose also costs about $10 a bottle. Some craft beer drinkers will not pay $10 for a beer, even if they wouldn't hesitate to pay that much for wine.

This is one worth trying.

Snow is expected in the mountains tonight, and around town, other winter seasonals are beginning to emerge. Ska's burly Euphoria Pale Ale is their lead winter seasonal. The purple cans ought to fit in your ski jacket, not that I would ever condone sneaking beers on the mountain.

At Carver's, an imperial stout just went on tap, and the brewpub will presumably have its annual barley wine available before long. November is Locals' Appreciation Month at Carver's, and they're having some good deals: pints are $3.75 (if I remember correctly; they may have been $3.50), while growlers are only $6.50.

I got my 64-ounce growler filled with imperial stout. You would have to look long and hard to find a deal better than that.

As always, the Front Range breweries have unleashed a flurry of winter beers. There are too many to mention here, but I was impressed by a Great Divide Hibernation Ale (8.7 percent ABV) I had recently. The old ale has a big, malty body that is nicely offset by fresh hopping.

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