Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Freaking delicious...Devils Backbone Striped Bass Pale Ale

Fellow beer drinkers, you have a reason to hate me . . . I *live* at a brewery.  Not just any brewery, but one that continues to win gold at the Beer Cup, and who's newly bottled fare is flying off the shelves in Virginia.  I don't actually live *in* it, but *at* it rather, just on the other side of some trees.  The reason why I haven't blogged about Devils Backbone Brewing yet is because I guess it seemed too obvious.  These folks are like family; the owner Steve Crandall is not only active in the bustling community of our beloved Nelson County, but DBB has been instrumental in the success of The Festy, a music and lifestyle festival held on their grounds Oct 5-7 (where, yes, I'll be performing; another reason to write this blog is that tickets for The Festy 2012 go on sale today!!!)  So, it just seemed like it was too close to home to be objective.  But another reason is that I was patiently waiting for them to reveal a crisp, clean Ale.  The brewer is so innovative and adventurous, a simple Ale had not made it's way to the menu since I moved to the area almost 6 months ago (unless it came and went during one of my tours and I didn't know!).  As you know, this is currently my favorite flavor and I was thrilled when they added the Striped Bass Pale Ale to their beer menu in April in honor of the Oyster Festival, also held on the grounds of their beautiful western-lodge brewery.

At first sip, this beer explodes onto my tongue with a brightness that I love, reminding me of Sierra Nevada's Summerfest.  But what this Ale has working in it's favor is less carbonation, which I find overwhelming in SN Summerfest.  DBB released this beer to be enjoyed with seafood, which they nailed perfectly with the freshness; I can almost taste a hint of ocean in it.  It is well-balanced and full enough to be called a Pale Ale, but almost has a pilsner quality in it's lightness and lack of heavy after-taste.  I'm in love with it.  Another please. ;0)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Love is in the Beer - Dolores River Brewing

Just a short and scenic drive from Durango, Colorado is a quaint no-stoplight town called Dolores.  When planning this Spring duo tour with my hubby Travis, he suggested that we play a show at Dolores River Brewery, knowing that I love good beer and good vibes.  He had played there years ago with his original bluegrass band 'Broke Mountain' and had fond memories of showing up to their gigs on intertubes by way of the Dolores River.  The brewery is tucked just off of Main Street, surrounded by gorgeous, dusty Old West buildings which saw their glory back in the day when the town was a stop along the Rio Grande Southern Railroad.  All the folks we met in the area were bright-eyed, laid back and happy to be in this beautiful village.

If you blink, you may miss DRB's unassuming storefront, but at closer look, you'll find a warm dining and tasting room with a welcoming patio in back, complete with what the owner lovingly calls his "mini Telluride stage" for the warmer summer months.

Mark, owner, brewer, music enthusiast and sound man, met us at our car with a grin and hand ready to help unload our gear, and within minutes of finishing a seamless soundcheck, our pub table was graced with a beautiful sight...a sample of each beer currently on tap (minus the wheat beer which he knew my sinuses couldn't tolerate from reading my blog), all poured into perfectly mis-matched wine glasses.  I immediately knew this would be a good night.

From left to right, there was a German-style Lager named "Hell", the Pale Ale, the ESB, a Dry Stout, the "Snaggletooth" Double Pale IPA and a Barley Wine.

I was eager to taste them all, but in anticipation of picking a favorite, I discussed with Mark my love for pale ales.  As my readers know, I prefer a crisp, clean ale to a cloudy one, and after a couple more descriptive words, he suggested that I may take to the ESB more than I may expect.  He was right.  I'll note that every beer is conceptualized and brewed solely by Mark.  The specialized pint cans of beer are canned and hand-labeled by Mark.  His logo hangs proudly from his neck on a hand-made pewter pendant.  So, when he recommended a beer based on my tastes, I took it to heart.  

One of the most pleasing qualities to Mark's beer that we also found earlier in the week at Pagosa Brewing Company was it's mellowness.  The mild character wasn't at all wimpy, but instead very present, smooth and made for extremely pleasant sipping.  I rarely get to meet the brewers, but in this case, Mark's kindness and gentile manner was clearly reflected in his brews in the most positive way.  Just like Travis has been known to say that I "put love in the food" when I cook, Mark definitely "puts love in the beer."

ESBs (Extra Special Bitter) mostly appeal to me when they aren't actually extra bitter.  I don't usually think of it as a beer that you can pair with foods that also have a strong flavor, because they seem to be so full in flavor (and also one of the more carbonated variations), that I would pair it with either a light snack or just enjoy on it's own.  However, Mark's ESB wonderfully accompanied my dinner and never got in the way or took the spotlight from the flavor of my meal.  There was something so smooth about this ESB that I could visualize the roundness of the rocks that the snow-melt river had worn down over the decades just yards from the brewery door.  It was golden in color and had the smallest hint of caramel that perfectly balanced the *very* subtle bitter hop.  The way the flavors met made for one very well-rounded and clean charactered pint.   

A few years back, Travis and I spent the summer in Lyons, Colorado just outside Boulder, where we fell in love with everything Upslope Brewing.  What Upslope shares with it's sister brewer Oscar Blues is a boldness and attitude, that although yummy in it's own right, made Dolores River Brewing's friendliness of flavor and drinkability so refreshing.  I would say that Ska Brewing sits somewhere in the middle of the aforementioned Front Range beers and DRB, but when you are road-weary and have been far from home too long, what you *really* need is beer that has pure love in it.  We came to the right place and can't wait to go back!

Inside the brewing room:

My ESB from the tap, with hand-labeled cans to go!

Playing to a packed house:

Enjoying a post-show pint with Mark:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nelson County Beer Feature - Wild Wolf Pilsner

so, i moved to beautiful nelson county, va the week before christmas, and besides being nestled in the blue ridge mountains, this county is home to 17 wineries and 4 craft breweries!  oh many things to try.  my first highlight i must share is from Wild Wolf Brewery, just a couple miles from my house.

Wild Wolf Pilsner
Wild Wolf Brewery

i am usually an ale girl.  i like clean, forward ales, sometimes on the darker side.  most of the times i try craft pilsners, they are too thin but i found one that makes me smile from ear to ear.  the pilsner at wild wolf brewery is true in color - but the flavor is more complex than the typical pils without being too fancy.  a perfect summer sipper, but hearty enough for me for a cold night by the fire.  right in the middle of the flavor is a round, bready taste, almost reminding me of a perfect sourdough slice, and the after taste is fresh and light.  i love it.  not to mention, wild wolf is a really cool place...the restaurant is in an old school house and features mostly local ingredients (complete with a gluten free bun i can select on any sandwhich or burger!).  just outside is a courtyard of old tobacco barns that are being renovated into specialty shops with jewelry, housewares, and a home brew store, all centered around a mill-wheel water feature.  heaven on earth? yes.  and there is a great pilsner to go with it all...