Imagine Missoula and Big Sky Brewing are gearing up to release the latest version of All Souls Ale, the 2012 Christmas Edition. All profits from the limited-edition brew go toward Imagine Missoula, a nonprofit “working to make Missoula better than it already is.”
If it seems like the last version was only released a few months ago, well, you’re right. Because of a brewing issue last year, Big Sky made the 2012 All Souls Easter Edition, a Dark Tripel, in April and now has the 2012 All Souls Christmas Edition ready for release. This version is again an Imperial Saison, like the original, punching in at about 11 percent alcohol by volume.
There are only 100 cases up for grabs, although at least 26 cases have already been sold. The 750 ml bottles sell for $14, half-cases go for $84 and cases for $168. If you want to place an order, call Nina Alviar at (406) 546-4697.
The release party is Friday, Dec. 7, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Big Sky taproom. There will be food, music by Tom Catmull and the Clerics and, of course, beer. They ask that you RSVP if you’re interested.
Can’t make it? Don’t fret. The beer will also be on tap at Big Sky after Dec. 7.
- Matt Pritchard
Missoula Five-O, created by Bill Ruediger and brewed by the folks over at Big Sky Brewing was and is the richest beer I’ve ever had. It’s a Chocolate Coconut Imperial Porter and lives up to its name in all respects. It is, of course, dark, and its flavors are like someone pouring chocolate syrup into your mouth while someone else grates fresh coconut onto your tongue. Big Sky Brewing’s Alix Jennings describes it as tasting like a Mounds bar, and, really, that’s the best comparison I can think of.
Kudos to Big Sky Brewing for being able to take the recipe and make it turn out the way it did in a commercial brew. It couldn’t have been easy. I will have to say though, like any sort of treat, tread lightly. At around 7 percent alcohol be volume and with as sweet as it is, you might get a sugar high if you’re not careful.
Growlers are $10 at the Big Sky Brewing taproom and sales go to help out AniMeals.
- Matt Pritchard
Give it up to the SLC, and Utah in general for that matter. The brewing scene has been rocking of late, especially since alcohol laws were modified a few years ago. And breweries have responded with a flurry of creativity. Take Epic Brewing for instance. According to their website, they are Utah’s first brewery since prohibition to brew exclusively high alcohol content beer. I was lucky enough to get a bottle from the good Dr. Caldwell, actually, the other Dr. Caldwell, who happened to be in the SLC last weekend.
He brought me a bottle of Imperial Red Ale, which is part of the brewery’s Exponential Series. It’s a big boy at 8 percent alcohol by volume, which is why I’m writing it up as a potential Saturday morning breakfast beer. Being a red, it’s a little more balanced to the malt side of things with a soft core of velvety breadiness and a bead of hop work that creates an almost fresh fruit on pastry taste. Not that it would necessarily pair well with fresh fruit on pastry, but that is what comes to mind on the nose and first sip. The Amarillos come through well enough, and the dry hop addition of Centennials give the beer a little it of a dry finish.
A nice color with loads of apple red and a cinnamon flecked head give the beer a pretty appearance in a good bowl glass.
I could see this beer paired with a breakfast of more complexity. I’m thinking of eggs Benedict or Florentine, a big bagel with cream cheese, lox, red onions and capers or perhaps a flavorful seafood omelet of some kind.
I haven’t seen this available in Montana yet, but keep an eye out. I plan to ask Worden’s if they can get their hands on some.
There was a time when I could drink a specialty brew by Rogue Ales that had chunks of hop floating in it as if it were a light session beer. I would joke about taking a whiskey glass and pouring the hop chunky beer over ice cubes and sipping it like liquor. Such was my love for overly hopped beers.
Instead of reading beer labels for the ABV level, as so many do, I read labels looking for IBUs, the higher the better. Living in Oregon gave me an advantage. Every IPA was a Northwest-style IPA oozing with hop oily goodness. I wanted the hops to leave a mark on me, like when you take a sip of coffee that’s too hot and it scalds you for the rest of the day. There was no IBU too high for me.
But then along came Montana and a different style of brewing. Something this beer writer hadn’t had a lot of time for before – balanced beers. Oh, I’d had my share of Belgian beauties and German lagers, but I preferred the hop to the malt. After three years of tasting the balanced beers of Montana and only rarely delving back into the palate destroying hop lords out there, I’ve found my palate actually craves balance. A hint of malt with the tangy, citrusy notes dancing along a biscuity backbone are so satisfying in comparison to the searing mouth saw of a highly hopped beer.
All right, I’ve exposed myself, bring on the criticism.
Last night some friends and I got together for an informal tasting and sauna night in the Rattlesnake. Two of the beers we tried were from Moylan’s Pub and Brewery in Novato, California. The first, a Moylan’s Moylander Double IPA, was advertised as “fat and resiny,” and it was. You could almost feel the hop oils eating into your taste buds like acid. And even though the beer claims to be double hopped and double malt, I found almost no malt backbone at all. If there was malt in that beer, it was weak and unable to hold up the shear weight of the hops.
The second beer was a Moylan’s Hopsickle Imperial Ale, which sports a combination of the killer Tomahawk, Cascade and Centennial hops. This beer had more of a malt backbone to sustain the hops, which tempered the three-headed beast of a hop profile. I wish I would have had this one first. I felt like the first beer drilled holes in my palate, and I had almost nothing left to give this one.
I still love big, hoppy beers, don’t get me wrong. I just think my palate has adjusted to the more balanced brewing style of Montana beer makers. I’ll have to revisit the big hop monsters of the Pacific Northwest more often to keep my palate whipped into shape it seems.
Want to experiment with some big-hop beers yourself? You can find Moylan’s beers at Worden’s Market.
Jake Talbot just might be the most recognizable brewer in Montana. I say might, because there’s no way to know for sure. But his ginger hair is unmistakable when cross his path inn Hamilton or elsewhere.
He keeps it shorter now, but there was a time when he had long, red dread locks, a testimony to his free-spirited ways. The fact that Bitterroot Brewing has named their Imperial Red Ale after Mr. Talbot is a testament to his big personality and his larger-than-life attitude about life.
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.”
Here’s the description from Great Northern Brewing Company.
Good Medicine Imperial Spring Ale now on tap at the Black Star Draught House. A well balanced malty, hoppy ale with quite a kick… a whopping 8% to be exact. Come enjoy one with us.
Methinks I need to make a trip to Whitefish soon.