Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beer Moment & Closing The Book

Weather has taken a turn for the cool around Beer Rant HQ, Halloween is here and before we know it Thanksgiving will be here. Beer-wise, this is probably my favorite time of year.

Beer Moment: A Beer On The Rim
From recent posts you might gather that I’m something of a traveler but that’s not so; I usually manage one or two decent trips a year either for family fun or work related stuff. This year has been a bit different in that I’ve gotten to Oregon (for the first time) and to Utah and to Colorado but that’s probably going to be it for 2009. Quick on the heels of the Colorado jaunt was a one-day quick trip up to Grand Canyon to meet family members intent on celebrating a birthday by taking a helicopter ride

We did our visiting while strolling around Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim and my nephew, who is something of a beer geek in his own right bought me a glass of beer from Grand Canyon Brewing at the bar in the El Tovar Lodge. He’d gone on at some length about a Grand Canyon Porter or Stout he’d tried the night before at a bar near their hotel in Tusayan. One would have thought that we’d have spent that brief, quiet time comparing notes on all things beer related but we didn’t. We quietly downed our pints with an offhand comment about the bar d├ęcor and a brief comparison of the pilsner at hand to the stout my nephew had tried the evening before. It was as if we were meeting for a routine pint after work. I don’t see my nephew or the rest of my extended Colorado family nearly often enough but the ease with which we simply slide into a familiar routine is comforting to me in a way.
Incidently, the beer we tried at El Tovar was a pilsner from Grand Canyon Brewing. It wasn’t all that noteworthy, but the setting and circumstance more than made up for what the beer might have been lacking!

Closing The Book
I filled up my first beer notebook a week or so back. The first entry is dated May 9, 2008 and was written during a visit to the Yardhouse where I noted my first sample of Old Speckled Hen. The final note is dated October 18, 2009 and indicates I was rounding out the notes with a Deschutes 2009 Jubelale. (Excellent beer, as always.)

I’ve debated whether or not to even start a new beer notebook. Frankly it’s a bit of an obstruction to actually enjoying the beer: the sniffing, the sipping, and the rabid jotting of notes. The Brits seem to have a term for folk who do this; they’re called “tickers,” and I’d liken them to those really ate up bird watchers who let their lives go to hell while they’re out looking for yet another bird to add to their life list. I don’t want to become a ticker, but I think I have.

On the other hand, without a notebook, I won’t have any way to document what I’ve done beer-wise and thus, no way to post comments on this blog. To lose the notebook would be to lose the Beer Rant blog, which in life’s large scheme wouldn’t amount to muck (another British term, I think). But I need to write, even if I don’t write all that well, and for now, blogging is writing for me.

So, I have purchased another book for beer notes. It’s the same style Sokkia Engineer’s Field Book that I just finished up with; they’re sturdy, somewhat waterproof, brightly colored so they’re not easily misplaced and they’ve got plenty of room for notes. My dilemma now is to decide what form my notes will take this time around. I don’t believe I’m going to be going into as much detail regarding color, head, smell and taste because doing so seems to slow down my process and usually that information isn’t even used here at Beer Rant anyway. I subtitled Beer Rant as a “beer diary” so, moving forward, I’m going to try to document more of the Beer Moments in this second beer notebook. We’ll have to see how that translates to what appears here at Beer Rant.

Finally, my thanks to those silly few of you who’ve chosen to “follow” Beer Rant. I’m planning to put together a post that acknowledges as many of you as I can, with links to your blogs or websites, but in the meantime, I appreciate your stopping in from time to time and I enjoy seeing your comments posted.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Colorado Trip

Dad Gum! This Is A Long Post!
My work as a low-level government functionary provides a single perk for which I have been constantly grateful ‘lo this past decade or more: ample vacation time. I accrue damned near 8 hours of vacation time every pay period! Mrs. Beer Rant, eh, not so much. Consequently, I found myself in Colorado by myself a couple of weeks ago. My primary purpose was to attend the annual reunion of the Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy, but with kinfolk scattered across the state, I enjoyed family company as well. Oh, and beer, too.

Normally, a visit to Colorado is a mixed blessing for me in that I’m always thrilled to be there and sad to leave. This time around, with temperatures dipping into the teens and the roads iced up, I wasn’t so sorry to hop that plane once my nine-day visit was over. (Naturally, the weather cleared up the following week and Denver once again basked under 70 degree sun, but that’s Colorado for you.)

Of course, if you’re one of the few folks likely to even read this post, you’re not likely to care much for stories of my having scrolled through old newspapers on microfilm in the library across the street from the Tommyknocker brewery in Idaho Springs. You’re likely to scroll through any account I might post about shooting pool with my brother-in-law, even if I make mention of the pitchers of Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale that we enjoyed while he systematically dismantled my sensitive billiard ego.

So, here’s the straight beer dope from Colorado:

I didn’t set foot in any breweries, though I did snap a picture of the sign painter touching up the Tommyknocker sign. The weather was so dicey during my stay; I preferred to drink at my sister’s house or in the warming environs of the local pool hall, with a few quick samplings made in a hotel room during the CCC reunion to round out the tasting notes.

By my rough count I sampled 13 new beers, mostly Colorado product and mostly singles, which doesn’t make for decent commentary. (Someone has posted a set of “rules” for beer sampling and one of them cautions against forming an opinion about a beer after only a single sample. Which is why I don’t really “rate” beers here, right.)

Haunting Baker Street
My sister and her husband weren’t home when I arrived at their place, so I ambled around the corner to the Baker Street Pub for lunch and some beer. The waitress drew my attention to a sale on Guinness 250 on draft, which was being offered for the bargain basement price of 2 bucks a pint. “Fill ‘er up says I.” I have to admit that Guinness 250 tastes better on draft, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Perhaps it was the cut-rate price, too. At any rate, I liked it enough to have another one a few days later during a follow on visit.

With the first glass of Guinness 250 gone and still facing half a plate of bangers and mash, I ordered a glass of New Belgium’s Hoptoberfest, which must be some sort of locally protected secret because when I took my seat at the pub I made a point of asking the waitress what seasonals were currently available and all she offered was Sam Adams Octoberfest. (I shouldn’t beef too much; at least my waitress clued me in to the Guinness 250 sale, right?) Lucky for me I overheard another waitress telling other patrons about the Hoptoberfest. Well, sort of lucky. I was expecting something on the order of a marzen but this one arrived lager thin and only slightly darker than a Bud or a Coors. The hop smell is right up front with this one and the taste is hoppy and sweet, reminding me of another beer that I’m still unable to recall. Hoptoberfest is decidedly unlike any other New Belgium offering I’ve had in the past.

I paid a second visit to Baker Street Pub with my brother-in-law later in my stay and as we watched the Denver/Dallas football game I enjoyed a glass of the Baker Street Nut Brown ale, which smells a bit of maple or molasses and tastes great. This one would be too sweet to pound as a session beer. During the same stop I had a glass of Paulaner Hefeweizen, which arrived a cloudy light yellow color with no citrus attached per my instructions to the bartend-ress (who very kindly asked me if I wanted an orange or lemon). This hefe tastes vaguely of Hoegaarden but not as bad.

Drinking On The Kinfolk’s Couch
For light drinking around the house, I picked up a six pack of Great Divide Brewing's Samurai Rice Ale and a six pack of Grand Lake Brewing's Stumpjumper IPA. I found myself turning to these during my short stops by the family place, usually in the evenings between 8 and 10 pm after travels up Clear Creek Canyon or to top off a day with the CCC boys at the reunion.

As for the Samurai Rice Ale, in addition to really cool label graphics, the beer had a pleasant sweet grain smell and taste with a surprisingly light mouthfeel for an unfiltered beer. I will definitely seek this one out again – especially when the weather turns hot again. The Stumpjumper IPA was also a pleasant surprise. I’d not ever heard of Grand Lake Brewing before and I considered a jaunt over Berthoud Pass to pay them a visit but glitchy weather and a full schedule dictated otherwise. (I did drive to the summit of Berthoud Pass during my visit, but only because I worked on that road back in 1988.) The Stumpjumper poured with a sweet, piney smell that seemed right for an IPA. The taste was sweet, grainy, sour and piney if a beer can be all those things at once. The taste was almost too sweet for an IPA, seeming more like a hopped up pale ale instead. Still, a great effort by an evidently small, remote brewer. It’s just unfortunate they haven’t broken into the Arizona market yet, but judging from their website, it would seem they’ve had some growing pains recently. If you’re in an area where you can buy Grand Lakes beer – BUY IT.

To round things out around the homestead, I picked up a bomber of Breckenridge Brewing's Small Batch Imperial Porter Porter, which I purposely purchased one evening as I headed home in the face of an impending storm. Knowing the weather was about to turn decidedly winter-like, I figured a nice porter or stout was definitely in order. (I ended up scraping ice off the windshield of my rental car with a Gordon Biersh card the next morning.) The Porter Porter has an alcohol bite up front and is rather acidic tasting and it definitely warms going down. Though it isn’t an outstanding porter, it does represent the imperial style well enough.

I Drink Alone, and Sometimes, Not
I hit Lucky Strike Lanes for happy hour one afternoon and, in the process sampled some 2-for-1 beers that included Odell Brewing's Easy Street Wheat. The bartend-ress compared this one to Blue Moon, but Easy Street arrived smelling slightly alcoholic, so I’d describe it as Blue Moon’s slightly more aggressive sister, tasting more of wheat without the spice of Blue Moon. They may be related somehow, but they’re distinctly different. (For the record, I’d originally ordered an Odell’s 90 Shilling, but Lucky Strike evidently doesn’t carry that product any longer.) To follow up the Easy Street Wheat, I had a glass of Sam Adam’s October fest and marveled at the beauty of its orange color and nice caramel component. Boston Brewing rarely disappoints.

In another session, with my brother-in-law, we dropped in to Las Margaritas for a bottle or two of Lakefront Brewing's Pumpkin Lager. This one has more spice than pumpkin in the taste but it’s terrific. I made note in my beer notebook (per my brother-in-law’s instructions) that I was enjoying this beer as “a prelude to getting my ass kicked at pool,” which turned out to be a fairly accurate prediction.

Love in a Plastic Cup: Hotel Room Hook Ups
My very own, dear mother was attending the CCC reunion, too and, while I was imposing on my sister and her very patient husband, mom elected to roost at the hotel where the reunion was being held – with the potential for icy roads and the busy reunion schedule, I think that was a wise move on her part.

Knowing I’d have a convenient sampling room near the center of reunion activities, I snagged a few odd beers at a huge liquor store called Tipsy's Liquor World near the hotel. Here in quick riff fashion are those beers:

Fort Collins Brewery
Chocolate Stout
Roasted tasting with only a vague hint of chocolate. Pours dark opaque with a beige-brown head, it’s okay as a stout but weak as a “chocolate stout.”

Odell Brewing
Cutthroat Porter
Smells a bit like Deschutes Porter, and pours opaque with a beige head. Unfortunately, while it may smell like Deschutes Porter it certainly doesn’t taste as good. It finishes with a faint coffee taste. The low, 4.8% abv is a plus in my book.

Boulder Beer
Planet Porter

Poured opaque coffee brown with a beige head and a vague alcohol smell. No roasted, malted or hoppy component. Slightly warming with a hint of coffee at the finish

Great Divide Brewing
Saint Bridget’s Porter
Had no significant smell – perhaps coffee. Certainly had a distinct coffee taste and pours dark coffee color but not opaque with a yellow/beige head.

Tommyknocker Brewing
Maple Nut Brown Ale
Dark tea color with a robust head and a faint but noticeable maple smell. This one offers a good taste with “just enough” maple to make it a contender.

The Civilian Conservation Corps reunion wrapped up, I enjoyed a day or two with my sisters in the Denver area and then hopped the bird to fly back to the Arizona desert. It was a nice trip with just enough of the gold and amber stuff to knock the edge off. Life’s good. Now back to work. No really!

This post has been far too verbose. I’m going to tack on some photos I took during the visit and leave it at that for the time being. If you’ve read this far, you have the patience of a saint or the curiosity of a cat. God bless you.

Up next...Grand Canyon Beer with my nephew and "Closing the Book."

Colorado Beer Facts

Denver Colorado Beer Facts