The Rhino in Missoula is hosting what sounds like an amazing beer tasting on Wednesday night. The tasting focuses on aged beer and takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. It’s only $10, which is a steal. There’s going to be at least one beer that’s around 20 years old, to get an idea.
So if you’re looking to have some delicious vintage beer, you might want to set a reminder for Wednesday night!
- Matt Pritchard
I usually shy away from beer infused with any fruit puree, but I’m really glad I didn’t shy away from this one.
New Belgium’s Tart Lychee is an American Wild Ale that is part of the brewery’s Lips of Faith series. It’s been around for a few years, but this is the first time I’ve tried it. The beer is made with a combination of New Belgium’s barrel-aged sour beer, cinnamon sticks and lychee fruit, which is native to southeast Asia and, at least from what the Internet says, tastes kind of like a really sweet grape.
I had a pint recently at the Rhino and then bought a bottle at the Good Food Store. The beer is sweet and sour, to me it tastes a little bit like carbonated white grape juice, but it’s tart like lemonade. New Belgium describes it as “very fruity with earthy, nutty undertones. Both sour and sweet combined!” The beer is refreshing and clean and would be great on any of these hot days we’ve had in Missoula recently.
- Matt Pritchard
I finally made it into the Northside Kettlehouse to check out their Barrel Aged Cold Smoke, and I’m sure glad I did.
It took a year of aging in bourbon barrels before the beer made it to tap, and the result is a 9 percent alcohol by volume Cold Smoke that has the sting of bourbon but finishes smooth like the scotch ale you know and love, with hints of black liquorice and chocolate.
Usually I’m more of a Double Haul guy, so you’ll rarely see me ordering a Cold Smoke, but this beer is definitely worth a try no matter which you prefer. There’s about two barrels (four kegs) of it left and it’s going fast, so don’t dawdle if your interested.
- Matt Pritchard
The Northside Kettlehouse has it on tap, and it’s a must try for anyone who loves Double Haul, burbon or whiskey. The brew has been aged in bourbon barrels for three months and comes in at 9 percent alcohol by volume. One of the guys working there late last week described the taste as like taking a shot of whiskey and dropping it into a glass of the IPA. A woman sitting next to me said she tasted some vanilla. I thought it tasted a little like black liquorice; I could be wrong. Whatever the flavors, there’s no question it’s potent. You could get a growler of it, just make sure you’re with some friends and hide your keys.
Head over and grab a snifter while the beer is still around. And good news for all you Cold Smoke lovers, Kettle’s in the process of doing the same thing with that brew.
- Matt Pritchard
It’s like wine … It’s like bourbon wine … IT’S LIKE BOURBON WINE!!!
Yes, friends, Blacksmith Brewing has re-unleashed their Barleywine. After a year of aging in bourbon barrels in the deep, dark recesses of their Stevensville brew house, this sweet, substantial concoction is back and (truly) better than ever!
According to the bartendress of the eve, there are only a delicate few barrels available (sorry, no growlers) … so, if you want a taste, better boogie on down to Stevi!
In the “golden age” of beer, as one of my friends has dubbed the current beer epoch we’re living in, you sometimes stumble on a little bit of classical art in a world of experimentation. As brewers throw every imaginable concoction into whiskey barrels or red or white wine barrels, we’re all learning together what seems to work now and what needs a little more time to whet our imaginations.
On a short bicycle trip in the Bitterroot Valley with my wife and daughter on Sunday, I had this moment of clarity while drinking a Barrel-Aged Belgian Brown Ale at Blacksmith Brewing Company. It wasn’t an epiphany of any sort, more of a fuzzy thought banging around my brain for a while that finally settled long enough to be thought.
In a time when brewers are redefining what beer even is, and where style guidelines are being tossed out the window as fast as the next batch has matured, it’s good to come back to the basics as a grounding zone to withstand the onslaught of tastes and styles currently available.
When I sipped that Belgian Brown Ale aged in whiskey barrels, it brought me back to what is right about beer. That it’s essentially grains, hops, water and yeast but much like our American government, there is a 4th Estate. The aging process could be broken up into several different categories, but if I could rewrite the rules, I would add it to the basic ingredients of beer. Water, grains, hops, yeast and aging.
Yes, some beers are served with minimal aging, just as some beers are served with minimal hop presence or low alcohol. Aging plays such a huge role in what beer tastes like today, especially as our palates continue to work into the unimaginable depths of the taste possibilities in beer.
This particular Barrel-Aged Belgian Brown Ale was a testament to the ability of a good brewer to create an impossibly well-balanced mix of brown ale, always a good choice for blending, souring or barrel aging, and a subtle whiskey flavor complete with a woodsy, sweet vanilla characteristic.
I’ve tasted so many whiskey barrel aged beers that it’s difficult to keep track, but a majority tasted too far in one direction. Not enough wood or whiskey or too much wood and alcohol heat. in some cases, I really enjoy the big, power-packing punch of an overly whiskeyed beer. Most of the time the flavors of beer and whiskey play together briefly, promising so much more than just friendship.
In this case, I believe I witnessed a marriage, of sorts. I’d hate to think of it as a one-night-stand, so I’ll use marriage or perhaps I should go with engagement. Regardless, this whiskeyed beer taught me a lot about what I’ve been trying to process regarding our obsession with breaking limits. To establish a classic, you often have to break every barrier surrounding it in order to establish it as a classic.
I think of Dom Pérignon Champagne and the barrier breaking monk whose name it bears. It’s a classic, but it wouldn’t be without a monk who busted the wine-making theology of the day to create a drink so noble as to become synonymous with celebration.
So, to all the brewers out there breaking boundaries and edging ever closer to whatever it is that will redefine the beverage we know as beer, keep up the good work. And remember, sometimes a little balance goes a long way toward punching out those final boundaries.
I don’t know if it’s like a prayer, but Russian River’s Supplication could be a religious experience
I love wild, sour ales. I can’t stress that enough. I’ve been holding onto bottle of Russian River Brewing Company’s Supplication since Christmas, waiting for the right opportunity to sip on it with a good friend. That day arrived when some dear friends stopped over on their way moving from Madison, Wisconsin, to Tacoma, Washington. After a hot afternoon of walking around Missoula, we retired to the dining room, each with a glass of Supplication to discuss work, family, the future and beer, among other topics.
Classed as an American wild ale, Supplication is a brown ale aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels with three strains of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus as well as sour cherries. Picking flavors out of this mix is almost overwhelming, but the big sour at the center of this beer is a good place to start. The nose is actually fairly light and fruity with an almost delicate effervescence. Some hints of Jolly Rancher fruit candy are evident, while a hint of something like rain forest vegetation is evident just under the pink fruitiness. It’s not quite dank like mushrooms, but it has a rain-smothered vegetation quality to it.
The taste is almost overwhelmingly sour at first, but it gives way to something bright and complex. I’d be inclined to attribute this to the Pinot Noir barrel aging, but I don’t have any way to quantify how much of that comes through.
My drinking companion commented that the beer was actually light and refreshing for a warm day. I had to agree, but part of me thinks we may have enjoyed the beer a little colder than it should’ve been served. Waiting for my beer to warm up a bit took some patience, but that was when I was able to discern the more complex elements of the beer. The wood didn’t come through as much as I would’ve thought, but some of that structure and complexity must surely come from the wood.
When warmed, the brown ale comes through more, and I have to say this is one of the more enjoyable Belgian styles that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve not always been a big fan of brown ales, Belgian or otherwise, but this seems to hold the fruit so well.
If not a prayer itself, I’ll likely practice a little supplication in hopes of finding another bottle of this soon. I purchased this one at John’s Market in Portland, Oregon.
Seeing all those pioneering craft brewers and home brew legends standing next to each other on the iconic-at-birth Sierra Nevada Brewing Company site dedicated to the project is amazing. Ken Grossman, the man who picked craft brewing up from the ashes left over from the close of the first pioneer Jack McAuliffe to found Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has gathered these and the likes of Fritz Maytag and Fred Eckhardt together to collaborate on a beer to celebrate Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary.
And much like an anniversary or birthday does, it reminds one of how old they are. In this case, it’s a good thing. Craft brewing got it’s rebirth in the 70s, and it took all of these people to bring it to where it is today. Which is why it gives me goose bumps.
Here is a look at a few of the beers:
If pressed, I’ll usually tell people my favorite single beer that I return to time and time again is North Coast Brewing Company’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.
For several years, my best friend and I would get up at 6 a.m. on Sunday mornings and prepare a huge breakfast for 60 + people. We’d peel potatoes, brew coffee, slice up breakfasts steaks or unpack bacon and sausage. Then we’d load everything up in a big trailer and head down to the Marion Street Bridge in Salem, Oregon. We’d unpack several large camp stoves and some big boilers and start making breakfast as a bunch of hungry homeless guys stood nearby and warmed there hands over frying bacon.
It started as a mere curiosity, a question really. Can you feed 60 + homeless guys every week on a portion of the tips you make serving at a bar? My best friend since childhood asked himself that question and decided to challenge himself to the task. But it was no ordinary breakfast. Just a block away from the bridge, the Union Gospel Mission feeds sober men a diet rich in sweet carbohydrates if they’ll sit and listen to a sermon first. The breakfast Jason created, “Sunday Morning Breakfast,” would feature proteins, specifically in the form of eggs, bacon, sausage, and when we could afford it, breakfast steak. And there was no sermon. As Jason put it, “food is a basic right. You can’t dangle it as a carrot for other things.” And to Jason, good food was more than a right, it was an expression of care that gave value to people that society considers trash.
Jason roped me in early, and we combined our tips to buy large, inexpensive roasts that we cut up on the slicer at the brew pub we both worked at during those years. Our main goal was to give these guys something special, something many probably hadn’t had in years. And over the course of our two-year experiment, we saw that number rise from 60 to close to 200. People would come from as far as Los Angeles and tell us they’d heard about “The Sunday Morning Breakfast.”
Our combined tips were about $60 to $70 at the time. As our needs grew, people would pitch in a new stove or a big boiler, a few bucks here and there, maybe a box of onions from their farm. In two years we never had to reach much deeper than our original $30 each. The needs were always met, and we made fast friends with a bunch of guys, including women and children, who the world would normally cast off.
It would be easy to say the reward in our labors was the smile on their faces and the huge grins when a toothless man would look longingly at a breakfast steak, and Jason’s wife, Erika, would cut it up into tiny pieces he could gnaw on. Of course those were the rewards, how could they not be?
But every Sunday, we’d drive the dirty pots and pans back to Jason’s house and spread them out on the front lawn, where we’d set up an impromptu dish washing station. And as we finished and let the big pots dry in the sun, we’d crack open a bottle of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout and sit down with our legs in the grass and talk about what the world would be like if everyone knew how easy an economical it was to help others and give them value. It was over those big, roasted malts and that tangy, dry hopped bitterness in that huge beer that we formed some of the thoughts that would drive us both to go to college in our late 20s and early 30s to pursue degrees that we felt could help inform the world about social injustice. Jason studied art and now runs his own design studio, and I pursued journalism and communication. But our conversations over beer in a veritable outdoor kitchen drying on the lawn before us really shaped who we’d eventually become.
We both went our separate ways, he to Portland, Oregon and bigger challenges with a huge homeless population and I to Montana and a whole different notion of wealth and poverty.
Sadly, when we tried to get a few others to take over “Sunday Morning Breakfast,” we found no takers. Despite the $60-a-week cost, no one wanted to take on the vision Jason had several years before. And so we disbanded it, and the men and woman under the Marion Street Bridge are eating day-old donuts and crusty bread leftover from bakeries and listening to sermons to get a hot cup of soup on a cold afternoon again.
Occasionally Jason and I will get together and pick up a few Old Rasputins and relive the “Sunday Morning Breakfast.”
There are a few beers out there that are permanently stuck to memories for me. Old Rasputin brings back one of my favorite memories.
And today, when I saw that Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout X Anniversary Edition scored 100 on www.ratebeer.com, it brought back a flood of memories.
That means that I need to go in search of one of these anniversary beers, set up a video chat with Jason and plan the next version of “Sunday Morning Breakfast.”
Good things seem to be underway in Lakeside this month and next. Not only is Old Stache’ back on tap at Tamarack Brewing Co., but they have a brewer’s dinner coming up March 11. Here are the details:
Once again, Craig and Roger are working their magic to bring us another amazing Brewer’s Dinner! They are hard at work on creating the menu as we speak… visit our
What’s Up page soon for menu details…
Only 42 lucky foodies will have the chance to enjoy this Brewer’s Dinner; to reserve your seats or to request a menu for our March 11th Brewery’s Dinner, email Andra or call 844-0244 ext 4.