The first three beers:
Allagash Curieux – Jim Beam barrel-aged trippel
Flyers – Laphroig-oaked Bottleworks VIII Imperial Scotch Ale
Pacific Rim – Maker’s Mark Rat City “Abyss” IPA
With names like that, who needs an introduction?
The first Big Wood Fest at Brouwer’s got underway Thursday, with dozens of oak-aged beers from around the world. It was so shocking to see so many tap handles in one room, but I got over that quickly, and started making my way through the list.
It was tempting to go with the sour beers first, but I resisted and started down the long list of Belgian-style ales from around the states, New York and Seattle to be exact.
My traveling companions, Matt and Charlie, came for the beer, but the priority of the evening was watching the Packers and Cowboys play.
We’re meeting up today for another stab at the list, which, for me, includes trying Big Sky’s two contributions to the festival – Ivan the Terrible and Belgian Dark Strong Ale.
Bayern’s Thorsten Geuer called yesterday with some big news. The brewery is releasing its first new beer since the 1990s ( as far as anyone can recall). Faceplant is a combination of German ingenuity and American marketing savvy. The doppel weizen is a warm and pleasant beer with major wheat characteristics, which gives it a softly sweet texture and keeps the warmth of the higher alcohol content (7.5 percent) in check. Nicely balanced, but with enough attitude to live up to the name, Faceplant is sure to be a favorite up at Snowbowl, the Rhino or in the tap room at Bayern Brewing.
Like a fruitcake in a bottle and nearly that chewy, Dogfish Head’s Olde School barley wine is nothing to be toyed with. As you’ll read in other reviews, this beer is bigger than big, and to the uninitiated, it could turn you off of the style.
But given the chance to age, which I have not tried, I’m sure this ale will be even more spectacular than it is now.
My wife’s reaction is worth noting, it went something like this:
“Oh, my goodness,” she said. “That caught me off guard.”
A huge fruit nose with none of the hot alcohol and hops evident in so many barleywines today, Olde School is unique in the style.
And forget the fact that the beer is conditioned on dates and prunes, besides a deep raisin taste it’s difficult to define any specific dried-fruit tastes or ethers, though I think the addition of those dried fruits gives the beer a rounder taste to accompany the silky texture of the beer.
At 15 percent ABV, this beer is not one to drink from the bottle, in fact, I’d have the same recommendation as Dogfish Head:
Open bottle, pour contents into two snifters. Enjoy. ALTERNATIVELY: Walk hand-in-neck with bottle into the middle of the woods. Use shovel to dig 2×2 hole three feet deep. Seal bottle in plastic bag. Place in hole and pack with dirt. Memorize location and leave. Return exactly one year later. Dig up bottle, open and enjoy.
Oh, and Olde School might just be one of the best beers to match with cheese. We sampled between 10 and 15 different styles over the Thanksgiving weekend, and I can’t think of one that this beer wouldn’t cozy up to like a favorite blanket.
Brouwer’s Cafe will hold the First Annual Big Wood Festival this weekend, the snag is that it’s in Seattle.
Well, I guess I’m going to have to make my way out there and report back.
What with beers like; Allagash Curieux, Big Sky Ivan The Terrible, Big Time Bulleit Bourbon Old Rip, He’brew Rye Whiskey Barrel Lennys and Pike Oak aged Kilt Lifter, among dozens of others, it’s the festival not to miss.
Look for updates from the festival on Friday and throughout the weekend as well as a video blog, and I’ll let you know how Big Sky’s Ivan The Terrible fared against the other barrel-aged giants out there.
You would never see this with a pint glass.
With Missoula encased in a sheet of crusty snow over the Thanksgiving weekend, we needed some perspective. Saturday provided a blindingly clear day for a drive down the Bitterroot. I think our original plan was to find a coffee shop, get a croissant and head back to Missoula.
Instead, we popped in to Bitter Root Brewing Co. for a warmer of a different kind.
I’ve felt bad that I haven’t been able to visit this brewery since I moved to Missoula six-months ago,but visiting with my family was a wonderful way to experience it.
My sister-in-law started off with Bitter Root’s IPA, a beer she was really delighted with. And she’s no beer novice, she’s a lawyer in Oregon, which is better known as Beervana.
My brother tried the porter, and I tried the pub’s barleywine, which was decidedly lighter than other barleybombs on the market but incredibly drinkable and user friendly.
The winter seasonal, which we all sampled, was like pancakes in a pint glass. This smooth beer goes down with all the rich taste of maple syrup, which was a new experience for me. Just serve this one up with bacon eggs and hash browns.
The Wee Heavy Ale, a Scottish-style ale with more than just hints of smokiness on the nose and palate, is one of three Brewer’s Whims on tap with the brewery’s standard porter, amber, IPA Sawtooth pale ale and nut brown. It was not as strong as a rauch beer, but the smokiness was more prevalent than I’ve found in other Scottish-style ales, and it blended well with the richly roasted malt character.
Unfortunately, I had my limit before I realized they have a barrel-aged imperial stout on tap. Call me heart broken. But I did get to taste it, and wow, this beer is worth the drive alone.
You can bet I’ll be heading back down for some of that soon.
My in laws were very impressed with the friendly atmosphere and spacious feeling of the tap room, and so was I.
I’ll be heading back down for a more thorough look at Bitter Root Brewing Co. soon, but for now, suffice it to say that rain, snow or sunshine, the trip to Hamilton is easy on the eyes, while the brewery is easy on the the rest of your senses. Owner Tim Bozik told me the imperial stout is in limited supply, so cruise down before the cask dries up.
It’s no secret that picking a wine to go with your Thanksgiving Day feast is almost impossible. In fact, beer likely was the original drink of choice for Thanksgiving if you subscribe to the theory that the Pilgrims on the Mayflower actually stopped at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 because they had run out of beer.
Fact: Beer is a much better match with your Thanksgiving Day meal because it is more versatile with more types of food than wine. I’m not knocking wine here, it has it’s place at your table and it pairs wonderfully with so many foods. But beer is the beverage for Thanksgiving.
Here are my picks for your table this Thursday:
Want local beer that will hold up nicely to turkey, mashed potatoes and green-bean casserole? Look no further than Bayern’s own seasonal Doppelbock. This well-rounded lager is as food-friendly as they come and it absolutely kills with creme brulee or pumpkin pie.
One of my favorite beer beers on Thanksgiving, or any day of the year for that matter, is a good Belgian Gueuze ( pronounced gooze). These beers are fermented by naturally occurring yeasts and they take on a sour taste that is perfect for salty dishes and the rich giblets from your bird.
For a little hop addition to your fancier TG-Day fare, try Full Sail Brewing Co.’s Wreck the Halls. This hoppy winter ale is great with rich sauces, sweet potatoes and a drumstick in each hand.
I know I can’t say enough about Rogue Brewery’s Festivale, but this farmhouse, or saison-style ale is about as good as it gets with Thanksgiving-type food. Try it as your main beer with turkey or have it with a high-powered salad or appetizers.
Two others that I must mention are Big Sky Brewing Co.’s seasonal release, Olde Bluehair Barleywine. You can pick up these rich, roasted and bourbon-barrel aged beers at the brewery or at select stores around town. But get them fast, they won’t last long.
And last, but certainly not least, you must grab a growler or two of Kettlehouse Brewing Co.’s Slow Ride Stout on Nitro. This rich beer is elegant and a great match with any chocolate desserts. For the really adventurous, dunk a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream into your Slow Ride Stout and taste what has become a ragingly popular dessert item around the country.
But most important, try something new, something that you haven’t tried before. Go out on a limb and see what beer goes best with what food. You won’t be disappointed, and I’d love to hear about what you found.
I love that growlers are like a favorite coffee mug in this town. You know you love to look at the way sunlight filters through that barrel of glass or the way the heft of your growler filled with your favorite Bayern, Big Sky or Kettlehouse feels.
But then that guy walks in with a Party Pig and you get a jealous twinge in your chest as you think about having to drink all four pints in your growler in one sitting because you know it’ll be flat in the morning.
That’s right, meet the new guy in town. The 2.25 gallon Party Pig is all it’s cracked up to be. It holds the equivalent of 24 12-ounce cans and it keeps the beer inside fresh for up to three months so you can drink your beer at your leisure. Want just a half a beer before bowling league? Now you can.
Pricing is different from brewery to brewery, so ask about the Party Pig at your local tap room if they carry them. Generally speaking you pay anywhere from $35 to $60 for the pig and the first fill. Essentially you are paying for a returnable container that you bring back and exchange for a full one. Refill prices are any where from $25 to $35.
Just three of Montana’s 20 + breweries carry the pigs, but you can bet that more will soon. For right now, you can pick up a pig at the Kettlehouse Brewing Co. in Missoula, Quarry Brewing Co. in Butte and Lone Peak Brewing Co. in Big Sky.
Want to know how the Party Pig works? Watch this:
Is not the United States, Australia or Germany. It is China. Although the Chinese aren’t drinking more beer, that title goes to the good folks from the Czech Republic. But more Chinese are drinking beer. And when you have 1,321,851,888 people, you have a lot of potential beer drinkers.
And while American craft brewers ponder the possibility of introducing micro brew to a macro culture, the big boys have come to play.
China’s version of less filling vs tastes great is taking shape in the form of Snow beer, owned by South Africa’s venerable SABMiller vs Tsingtao, of which Anheuser-Busch holds a 27% interest in.
What about micro-economic development in towns, villages and cities in China? Wouldn’t setting up small business owners across the country as brewers and pub owners be a better bet than going at the beer wars all over again?
It’s not much of a read, but if you’re interested in what big breweries are doing in places like China, check this out.
I know that in Montana we have a lot of beer purists, shoot, many of the brewers adhere as strictly to the Reinheitsgebot as brewers in Germany still do. But some do add an occasional flavoring to their brew, you know, something to spice it up a little.
As I’ve mentioned, cacao is one of my favorite adjuncts because it can enhance those brown-roasted chocolate malts in stouts and porters.
Hmmm, maybe I have a little Mesoamerican in me.
In a Reuters story posted Nov. 12, what we know today as chocolate likely started out as a fermented drink more than 3,100 years ago.
“The earliest cacao beverages consumed at Puerto Escondido were likely produced by fermenting the sweet pulp surrounding the seeds,” the scientists wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
One of the researchers, anthropologist John Henderson of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, said cacao beverages were being concocted far earlier than previously believed — and it was a beer-like drink that started the chocolate craze.
What this tells me is that brewing with adjuncts is as old as time, and though beer brewed with pumpkin might not be your thing, it’s a natural form of human expression to use that which is around them in their pursuit of happiness.
So beer lovers out there be proud. And those who love a beer lover, but who don’t love beer themselves, remember that chocolate, as we know it today, likely came about because some brewer out there decided to throw some into his beer 3,100 years ago in a village somewhere in what is now Central America.
Salud y amor y tiempo para disfrutarlo,