Tag Archives: Twisted Pine Brewing

GABF Report 1: Long lines form to taste specialities at a few top brewers

Panoramic view of the GABF floor. (Photo courtesy Brewers Association)

Panoramic view of the GABF floor. (Photo courtesy Brewers Association)

More than an hour before the first pour, the thirsty were lined up  almost the full length of the Colorado Convention Center along Stout Street in downtown Denver. A light rain had begun to fall, but it did not seem to dampen any of the enthusiasm if those anxious to get into the sold-out  first session of the Great American Beer Festival on Oct. 10.

gabf13_logo_insideOnce the doors opened at 5 p.m. and after ID and ticket checks, the convention center’s main exhibit hall, a space the size of more than five football fields, was soon flooded with brewers, volunteers, media and thousands of imbibers. The Brewers Association, organizer of the event, expects 50,000 people to attend over four sessions that end Saturday evening.

More than a few attendees dressed for the occasion in kilts and monk’s robes added to the festive tone of America’s premier beer festival, now in its 41st year.

The queue to sample Russian River Brewing at GABF

The queue to sample Russian River Brewing at GABF

Queues quickly formed at a handful of top breweries, Avery, Lost Abbey, Russian River, Odell’s and Crooked Stave, to name a few. By the time the announcement to let the taps flow was made, some of these lines were 30 deep times two. And they would last that way for the entire evening.

I found myself queued up at Russian River, anxious for my first sample of the much-hyped Pliny the Elder. With a just a one-ounce pour—the fest’s standard—I was convinced the hype was justified, even though it was not among my preferred style of beers.  A golden-hued double India Pale Ale, its sniffing it was like sticking your nose into a bag of hops. The Intense hop flavor continued on the palate, but melded quite nicely with the malt. It was almost winey and the finish dry. Yes, it is a winner.

Other notable beers of the evening included a dunkel called dark Cloud from Mother Earth Brewery in Kingston, NC; the amazing tart, refreshing lemonade-like Ching Ching American Sour from Bend Brewing in Oregon.

Fal Allen, brewer at Anderson Valley and the author of the book, “Barley Wine” urged me to try his sour Burbon barrel barley wine. Aged for a year in the burbon-soaked out, it was port-wine like and quite nicely done.

Twisted Pine Brewery in Boulder, CO., which I knew for its Ghost Killer chili pepper beer, presented. two unusual brews, a Cucumber Cream ale and its Roots Revival carrot IPA. The cucumber was evident in the light, refreshing hybrid-style beer, but the carrot could not be detected in the IPA.

The were many others, but as some point, weariness prevents me from taking notes. More in future reports.

On a personal note, it was a pleasuring running into Pete Slossberg, founder of Pete’s Wicked Ale, a pioneering craft brewer in the 1990s.  Slossberg sold the brewery and went into the chocolate business.  Now, he’s consulting with Half Moon Bay Brewery near San Francisco and brewers in South America.


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Tasting notes: The ‘Odds of March’

Beware the Ides of March. These words from a soothsayer to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, with a slight twist may be appropriate for beer drinkers as well.

Today, for this Ides of March, I’ve put together tasting notes on some recently sampled brews that I’ve dubbed “The Odds of March,” because of the unusual ingredients that the brewers have chosen to include in their recipes, among them bacon, chili peppers, coconut, garlic, hazelnut flour, wattle seeds and an entire rack of spices.

These are the odds of March,

These are the odds of March,

You’ve got to hand it to American brewers for their willingness to experiment. But why must they foist these brews on us in large bottles that are sold at outrageous prices? Some the brews in this tasting are available only in 750 ml bottles that cost around $20 each — some more.

A few of these beers were enjoyable. Others were difficult to either swallow or to even overcome the notion of putting a glass to one’s lips.  But I did—with some friends in a tasting group known as Long Islanders for Fermentation Enjoyment.  Many in the group found the tasting altogether interesting, but some of the beers less than enjoyable.

Here are my tasting notes:

Fantastic Voyage from Perennial Artisinal Ales, of St. Louis, Mo., an 8.8 percent imperial milk stout brewed with coconut. A mellow, creamy smooth, opaque dark brown brew with chocolate on the nose and notes of roasted coffee mingling with hints of coconut.

Maracaibo Especial by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales of Ann Arbor, Mich. Is this 7.5% brew an American brown ale or an abbey brown ale?  I’d have to go with the latter, given the Belgian-style flavorings – cacao, cinnamon and orange peel used in this oak-aged brew. Cloudy amber in color with notes of cinnamon and apple on those, it comes across as yeast, spicy and extremely tart.

Birra Etrusca Bronze, a Dogfish Head collaboration with Italy’s Birra del Borgo and Birrificio Baladin.  This is an herbed, spiced beer brewed using a recipe based on the analysis of residue recovered from drinking vessels found in 2,800-year-old Etruscan tombs in Italy. Its ingredients include raisins, hazelnut flour, pomegranates, Italian chestnut honey, Delaware wildflower honey and clover honey. A handful of whole-flower hops were added, but Dogfish Head attributes the bulk of the bitterness to gentian root and the sarsaparilla-like Ethiopian myrrh resin.  This copper hued brew offered up aromas that first suggested bubblegum, but soon turned to Patchouli, the musty scent popular in the Hippie era. On the palate, I can detect some sweet malt, but overall this is more like sipping dry, liquid incense.

Urkontinent, also from Dogfish Head, is an 8.1 percent Belgian-style dubbel based on Pilsner, Munich and chocolate malts and Belgian dark candi syrup. But any similarity to a Belgian dubbel ends there. To the grain bill, Dogfish Head has added wattle seed, toasted amaranth from South America, green rooibos from Africa, myrica gale from Europe and Hiveplex Honey from California. Quite a mix, but somehow it works to make a pleasant brew that’s medium brown with a mocha-colored head. There’s chocolate on the nose and a creamy nuttiness on the palate and flavors that recall chocolate-colored cherries.

Smoking Wood, an imperial, smoked, barrel-aged rye-based porter from The Bruery, of San Diego, Calif. This 13 percent brew, was concocted with malt smoked over beech and cherry woods and was aged in rye whiskey barrels. This is a dark opaque brown brew with a smoky, somewhat medicinal nose. Hints of vanilla and strong alcohol notes.  I’d love to revisit this after a few years of aging, when I believe it will mellow out.

Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Porter from Rogue Ales, Newport, Ore.  Reviews elsewhere give this beer either raves or rants. I’m with the latter group.  This 5.6 percent smoked beer named for the bacon maple donut popular at an Oregon donut chain is made with Briess cherry-wood smoked malt, Weyermann beech-wood smoked malt, house-smoked hickory malt, Great Western 2 Row, Munich, C15, C75 malts; apple wood-smoked bacon, pure maple flavoring and Rogue’s homegrown Revolution & Independent hops. Copper colors, there are aromas of French toast, bacon and maple.  Suggestive of a Denny’s breakfast in a glass, only one word comes to mind: Ugh!

Mama Mia Pizza Beer, a sessional 4.6 percent brew made with oregano, basil, tomato and garlic by Sprecher Brewery, Milwaukee. Appropriately named, this golden brew reeks of oregano, garlic and spicy tomato sauce.  It finishes dry. I doubt I could sip too much of this, but it’s okay as far as novelty beers go.

Ghost Face Killer from Twisted Pine Brewing, of Boulder, Colo.  If you can remember Ed’s Cave Creek Chili Beer from the 90s, this is nothing like it.  Ed’s had a simple jalapeno character.  This 5 percent beer, however, is brewed with six peppers: Anaheim, Fresno, Jalapeno, Serrano, Habanero and Bhut Jolokia. The last also is known as the ghost pepper; it offers 200 times the heat of jalapeno. The brewers say they had to wear masks and gloves to cut the peppers up for the mash. Pale gold in color, there the scent of raw peppers hot the nose. On the palate, this is a beer with hot sauce lighting up your mouth from the tip of the tongue to the back of the throat. It’s a heat that lingers and lingers.  For those game enough to try it, small sips only are recommended.

Have you tried any of these? What do you think?

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