I’ve been looking forward to what would have been the 2011 version of All Souls Ale from Big Sky Brewing – especially after having a few glasses of the first batch over the past few weeks – and it looks like I’ll have to wait a bit longer. A friend told me Big Sky ran into trouble with the latest batch (supposedly issues with carbonation), and indeed the release date has been changed to April. On the bright side, in addition to April, Big Sky is on track to release the beer in 750 ml bottles again in December.
- Matt Pritchard
With Halloween only a few days away, it’s prime time for everything pumpkin: muffins, pie, bread (with cream cheese, please) and, of course, beer.
Kettlehouse Brewing Co. just released this year’s version of its pumpkin beer and head brewer Paul Roys mixed things up by changing the recipe and brewing an ale rather than a lager.
Chelsi Moy of the Missoulian talked to Roys this week:
Flowing from the kegs this weekend is the Kettlehouse’s seasonal pumpkin ale, made with 60 pounds of chopped and toasted pumpkins. No puree. No artificial flavoring. Last year, the seasonal pumpkin brew was a lager, said head brewer Paul Roys. This year, the brewers produced an ale and changed the recipe, adding more pumpkin and spices to boost the natural flavors.
It’s available on tap over at Myrtle Street right now. Kettlehouse also plans to bourbon barrel age some for next year.
Other seasonals on tap now include:
- Festival of the Dead Pale Ale
- Garden City Pale Ale
- Matt Pritchard
Recently, I decided to take my well-earned free time and limited coin down to the Blacksmith Brewery in Stevensville for a little “What’s on Tap?” investigatory “research.”
Over the two hours or so that I spent in that wonderful, vintage brick tasting room I had the chance to observe a good cross-section of the North Bitterroot citizenry.
There was the athletic couple who had just cycled in from Lolo; the old-timers reminiscing on the government bunglings of wildfires past; there were felt cowboy hats, young sweethearts and even an employee of the valley’s other brewery. There was (no big surprise on a Sunday afternoon) one bartendress.
There was also a sign on the wall for farm fresh eggs … only $3! While that was tempting, I instead opted for a selection of new and seasonal brews just to get a sense of what the modern Stevensvillian was drinking these days.
Hopper Hefeweizen – 6.0 %
Unfiltered with a mellow gold glow, the Hopper (surprise, surprise) is anything but hoppy. Sporting a rich malty, yeasty aroma, the first sniff brings to mind subtle visions of apricot and citrus. The flavor is full and satisfying with a texture that you can feel on your tongue. Stemming from the annual arrival of the summer grasshoppers (“The hoppers are out”) this brew has been on tap since the beginning of June.
Cuthroat IPA Nitro – 6.2 %
Cuthroat is the Blacksmith’s bread and butter IPA and one of their most popular beers; throwing it on a nitro tap offers some interesting and welcome diversity. For an IPA, this brew is extremely pale with a light wheatish yellow hue. With a slow-rising, delicate yet satisfying nitro head, this brew has a surprisingly subtle aroma compared with the usual Cuthroat. The usually robust flavor is somewhat downplayed by the smooth nitro texture but the aftertaste (BURP!) is quite pleasing.
Simcoe Pale Ale – 6.2%
Noticeably dark for a pale, this beer (the brewery’s newest offering) has a copper/sunsetty appearance. The aroma is striking; floral with a strong vanilla presence and the first sip is almost exotic with that same floral character with an excellent hoppy sustain. Robust, the aftertaste almost pushes itself out through the nostrils. This is a proud Blacksmith brew with the same underlying tones that I find in the Brickhouse Blonde among other Blacksmith staples. Very intriguing.
Blacksmith IRA – 7.4 %
Hold on to your hops, friends, because this Imperial Red Ale is strong and persuasive. Dark red with a slight yeasty haze the aroma is deceptively mild though hoppy and fully indicative of the beer’s flavor. The flavor is quite wonderful with a strong malty opening and a quick hoppy zing that rolls from the tip of the tongue to the back and settles nicely, lingering in the back of the mouth and into the throat. This would be a great beer to start off a Friday evening session.
Also on Tap at The Blacksmith
- Brickhouse Blonde
- Montana Amber
- Pulaski Porter
All great beers and worth a trip down the Bitterroot, but in the words of the great Lavar Burton, “Don’t take my word for it …” go taste ‘em yourself! Cheers!
Looks like Bayern Brewing will introduce a new summer beer at this year’s Garden City Brew Fest. The Dump Truck Extra Pale Summer Bock is a lighter bock, but it should retain the typical bock alcohol strength, according to the company’s Brewsletter.
Check it out on Saturday and in bottles as our Missoula summer kicks into high gear…oh, what in July or something like that. Just kidding, the bottles should be available long before summer starts.
If you live in Western Montana, spring can be a long time coming. That’s if it’s not an El Nino year and the bizarro weather patterns that produce trees full of dead leaves in February and 60-degree, blue bird days in March, do not throw a kink into the rotation. You might find yourself tiring of the heavy stouts, porters, Scotch-style ales and other big beers of winter as you do the deep snow drifts, river icebergs and sub-zero temperatures of bygone winters.
And if that should happen to be you, you might find yourself looking forward to something crisp and floral, like fragrant flowers or a newly mowed lawn.
The good news is that spring seems to have sprung in the west, where very mild temperatures cause one to almost forget that last year’s winter seemed to extend into late May.
And to go along with the great weather, western breweries seem to be suffering a bout of El Nino madness as well. I mean who can believe that Big Sky Brewing Company would release Summer Honey in February.
Without further delay, because who knows when this El Nino thing ends for sure, I’ll introduce a few spring-ish beers for your tasting pleasure.
1. In the big-producer categories, we have Full Sail Brewing Company’s new Hop Pursuit. I’ve not tried it yet, but it claims to be 55 IBUs and is brewed using Cascade, Willamette and Mt. Hood hops. It’s reportedly dry hopped for two weeks.
2. Another big producer is Big Sky Brewing Company and their upcoming Saison, to be released April 1. Big Sky brewed a Saison a year or two ago, so I’ll be excited to see how similar or different this one turns out. The best part is this beer will be available in bottles in Missoula only.
3. White Rabbits Hoppy Tripel from Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project in Massachusetts. I know we can’t get this beer in Montana, but I had to include it, because fluffy white rabbits remind me of spring. And I’m just really impressed with this brewery and almost anything they do. (Anyone in Mass. want to do a beer trade?)
There are a lot of great spring seasonal beers hitting your local brew pubs in the next few weeks. Holler when find something good, and I’ll stick your review on the blog.
In case you’re wandering around Western Montana looking for that famed powder, there is some bad news on that front. El Nino has conspired to provide a dry winter forecast. This doesn’t bode well for you powder hounds out there. And for those ski bums who might be even now heading toward the great state of Montana hoping to shred the gnarliest slopes, well, the only thing I have to offer is an alternative to good snow.
If you can’t seem to find the perfect ski conditions, do the next best thing. Head on over the local Montana brewery and grab a pint and say a quick snow prayer to the snow gods.
Take Lone Peak Brewery in Big Sky for instance. Here’s there current specials list:
Wit’s End Belgian White Ale - Starting with Castle Pils, the finest Belgian malt available, we complete the grain bill with nearly 50% unmalted white wheat and just a touch of oats for a mouthfeel that is substantial and silky smooth. Liberal doses of coriander, Curacao and sweet orange peels add a pleasant citrus/herbal character to the aroma and flavor. We brought in a special Belgian yeast most notable for producing a tart complexity to create a slight sweet-sour flavor. Garnished with a slice of blood orange for an equally unique presentation.
Hopfest ’08 - Brewed in celebration of the annual hop harvest, this brown ale is all about the hops. We take it as a challenge to add hops at every opportunity possible…boil, finish, whirlpool and dry hops after fermentation. If you are a hop lovin’ fool, this is one you have to try!
Steep ‘N Deep Winter Ale - No berries, bark or pine cones in this winter warmer, Steep ‘N Deep is the perfect way to loosen the spirits. This potent ale is rich, robust and full of complex flavors created specifically to bring warmth and cheer to the winter season. Moderately hopped and brewed with lots of crystal and caramel malts to give it just a hint of sweetness…it has been known to liven up nearly any social event.
Bourbon Barrel Oatmeal Stout - We took 18 year old Elijah Craig Bourbon barrels from Heaven Hills Distillery in Kentucky and aged our Hippy Highway Oatmeal Stout for 3 months. What came out is our Stout brew with a lot of Bourbon flavor and aroma…without all the alcohol. Serving in 4 and 8oz samples only. Pricing is different than the other brews.
And don’t worry, the turns will come. But what better to do when you’re waiting than to sip on a pint of something aged in a whiskey bottle. Aside from keeping your spirits up, it will give you inspiration for your next great adventure.
When I started this blog in the summer of 2007, the temperature in Missoula was 105. It stayed that way for 10 days and ignited forest fires around the state and smoked us out of town for the month of August. When I wasn’t donning fire-safety clothing and cruising around covering the three fires burning within site of these fair hills, I was happy to be exploring the city’s great beer scene and poking away at the keyboard in an air-conditioned office. It was a summer made for light, flavorful beers like Eddy Out Pale Ale and Trout Slayer. (the first incarnation from Bayern Brewing)
It is a different story this summer. Our long, cool spring dripped into a playful but sometimes chilly summer that hides behind big thunderheads for days at a time. And while a sprinkling of 90-degree days is cause to grab a growler of Big Sky’s Mexican Lager or a six-pack of Trout Slayer, (the new, Big Sky version) I’ve found myself leaning toward cool-weather beers more and more lately.
That said, here is a list of beers I’m looking forward to trying this fall, especially as the allowable alcohol content law changes to give brewers more leeway in brewing big beers.
1. Slow Elk Stout -Big Sky Brewing Co.
2. Hemptober Spliff – Kettlehouse Brewing Co.
3. Oktoberbest – Bayern Brewing
4. Juggernaut Real Ale – Pyramid Brewing Co.
5. Lip Stinger Farmhouse Ale (with cracked peppercorns) – Mac Tarnahan’s Brewing Co.
6. Festbier – Victory Brewing Co.
7. The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest – Avery Brewing Co.
8. Night Owl (pumpkin beer) – Elysian Brewing Co.
9. Chocolate Oak-Aged Yeti – Great Divide Brewing Co.
10. “Saison D’Erezée – Automne” – Fantome
I don’t like making beer lists, because finding new beers to try is what I’m all about. However, I have a few readers out there who live for beer lists, especially those featuring seasonal varieties. And since we’re just entering spring in the Northern Rockies, I thought I’d do a little bit on what I’m liking right now.
Spring, in the Northern Rockies, can be downright nasty. From frequent showers and snowstorms to a pleasant 60-degree day all in a few hours is not uncommon.
With that in mind, it can be tough to pick your favorite spring beers. Here’s what I do. I want a spring beer that still has a little alcoholic warmth to it and a little body as well. You know, for those cold April nights.
This year’s picks:
Lagunita’s Imperial Red Ale: Ever since a few skater punks began handing out beer in their small Santa Rosa brewery, I’ve been stoked on nearly every style they brew. The Imperial Red Ale kind of defines spring beers for me.
Inversion IPA: Aside from the fact that this one the IPA category at the Garden City Brewfest this year, Deschutes Brewing Co.’s Inversion IPA is a phenomenal spring beer with enough kick to get really take the sting out of that early season hiking or the chill off when you wade the rivers.
Dead Guy Ale: Many of my fellow bloggers usually pick this beer in their fall lineups, but I find it to be a great spring beer as well. This malt bomb delivers a great combination of flavor and warmth without the heaviness of a stout or porter.
India Brown Ale: Dogfish Head’s India Brown Ale just might be the perfect hybrid for spring. Characteristic IPA hoppiness with lush brown malt accents in a great blend of fantastic styles.
Highlander Scotch Ale: With its distinctive sweet maltiness and silky smoke flavors, Missoula Brewing Co’s Highlander bears no resemblance to its namesake. However, as a spring beer, this one stands out for its balance of easy drinkability and developed tastes and flavors. Oh, and it just won Best Montana Beer at the Garden City Brewfest.
Get out and get some beer and enjoy spring to the fullest.
I don’t like making lists. Someone inevitably gets left off and then pissed off at me. But, I know some of you really like lists, so I’m going to round out the top local beers of 2008. I may or may not get around to doing my favorite beers anywhere list, so enjoy this one.
In no particular order:
Big Sky Brewing Co. Biere de Noel: I grabbed three or four bottles of this year’s Biere de Noel to take home for the holidays. It was a huge hit last year, so I figured I’d make everyone happy once more. Huge aroma of vanilla, spice, dark chocolate and dried fruit. This beer is so amazingly complex it offers something new an almost every sip. Once warmed, Biere de Noel explodes into rich red wine territory with hints of tobacco, leather and black fruit on the nose and intense vanilla vodka on the palate. With a mouthfeel like warmed brandy, Biere de Noel consumed slowly over the course of a long winter’s evening, can increase the size of a Grinch’s heart three sizes.
Bitter Root Brewing Co. Saison:
Watching many Montana brewers put out batches of this famous French farmhouse ale, I thought it would be fun to compare one against the others. But, being the hardened professionals they are, our brewers outdid themselves in their own right. Not much to compare here, just several great takes on this classic brew. I grabbed a growler of Bitter Root Brewing’s saison to taste at home on a warm August day. The earthiness of the beer comes right off the nose, as does a pleasant grassy smell. It’s not fresh-cut lawn exactly but like when you walk out into a meadow after the sun has warmed the dew. The bready yeastiness of this beer was so good with Asian food and even lighter fare like salads.
Flathead Lake Brewing Co. ROY’S Imperial India Pale Ale:
This is imperial IPA the way imperial IPA should be. Big, over-the-top hops and alcohol meeting in a malty medium of balanced goodness. Fig, dark berries, dried peach and green herbs are evident in the nose, and the mouthfeel is of a serious nature given the high gravity of this beer.
Kettlehouse Brewing Co. Sports Recovery Beer:
The reason I’m picking this beer had to do with the fact that the brewers took time out to consider what kind of beer might fit well with the lifestyle here in Missoula. A light, caffeinated beer with hints of ginseng is a perfect idea for the outdoor-minded community that inhabits this fair valley. Nothing is overdone on this beer, and one feels they can drink a pint shortly after a run, hike or bike without the side-splitting affects of consuming a heavier beer. Kudos to the Kettlehouse crew for pushing the boundaries and keeping beer fun.
Great Northern Brewing Co. Highlander:
While not even closely resembling its noble ancestor, Highlander beer has returned to Western Montana in the form of a scotch-style ale brewed by Great Northern Brewing Co. in Whitefish. This malty dog with hints of smoke and a velvet mouthfeel has become a popular talking point for the folks who still remember when the fabled red and white cans still were available in Missoula and the college crowds alike.
Glacier Brewing Co. Autumn Ale:
I don’t like smoked beers. Might have something to do with ordering a pint of Rogue Ales smoked porter several years ago to find the beer tasted just like smoked salmon. Makes me gag just to think about it. But in the last few years I’ve grown to appreciate the fact that brewers have toned down the smoke for better balance. And so I’ve resumed tasting them. A big one still can take me back to Newport Bay, but a great one can be some of the best food beer on the planet. Glacier’s version has the intense flavor of smoked peat, but the smokiness has a woodsy characteristic more like a Laphroaig scotch. The malt dances on your tongue with the smokiness from spotfires of roasted grains spread out with a silky smooth mouthfeel.
Tamarack Brewing Co. Old Stache Porter:
I didn’t try this beer. But everything I’ve heard about it has led me to add it to this year’s top list. Apparently, this popular whisky barrel aged porter was a hit with skiers and boarders returning from Blacktail Mountain as well as locals and tourists alike. Which is why I didn’t get to try any. Craig, you better save some for me this year.
Happy New Year,