Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pike's Peak Brewing - Big Flavor in a Small Town

The summer put me on a hard cider kick (my favorite being our neighbors Bold Rock, more on that later!) so haven't been checking out the craft brews as much lately...oh, and we had a child so I've been busy!  But, she is 7 months old now, and we toured in Colorado this week, so it was high time to try some craft beer.  My hubby is from a little town called Palmer Lake, CO and the next closest town is Monument, CO.  From what I could tell in the past, Monument was a cozy, mellow community with it's own history but perhaps mostly a bedroom community for Colorado Springs and Denver.  I like to frequent the local bead store when we are in the area, and we noticed this time around that there are new businesses popping up - wine bar, new restaurants, and a new brewery called Pike's Peak Brewing Company.  The brewery sparked our interest, so we went in and tried some beer.

After a couple of tastes (our hostess was also the brewer - check out the Pink Boots Society - and she was very generous in giving us free samples), I ordered the "America the Pale" Ale, Travis ordered the "Kissing Camels Berliner Weiss" and his dad ordered the "Summit House Stout".  I was really impressed with the fullness in flavor to all three.  My APA was very bright and fresh with a long finish.  The hoppy-ness edged towards an IPA, but just what an APA is supposed to be!  I really enjoyed it.  I won't comment on Travis's sour beer, because it isn't my cup of tea, but the stout was delicious.  Very smooth and light for a stout with a caramel finish.  It had an undercurrent of roasted-ness which was pleasant.  Full bodied and very drinkable.

We will definitely return in the future.  They even have a nice big "Barrel Room" where they host live bands, so you never know if we might just have to play there on our Brewery Tour.... :)

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 yeh...so 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...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2 Pumpkin Beers

my trio and i just finished 2 weeks on the road, and one of the highlights was sampling pumpkin beers along the way.  i'm a pumpkin fanatic, so of course pumpkin beer would delight me!  here are two we tried, and my discovery of heaven in a glass...

#1 - blue point pumpkin ale, blue point brewing co, long island, ny
we played at one of my favorite venues greyhorse tavern in bayport, ny.  they serve the most delicious and carefully prepared food here, so it was no surprise that they presented their pumpkin beer in pint glasses rimmed with cinnamon sugar.  the girls and i couldn't speak...this was absolutely one of the most lovely things i've ever put in my mouth.  the beer itself was so rich and full of flavor, while still being light-weighted.  it was perfectly crisp.  i could almost taste hints of apple in it - maybe it was the cinnamon reminding me of apple pie?  either way, it was the perfect combination of having great personality but not overpowering.  it paired perfectly with the skirt steak we all devoured.  i MUST have this beer again one day.  it's on the top of my list of all time tastes.  HEAVEN IN A GLASS!

#2 - great pumpkin ale, cambridge brewing co., cambridge, ma
the great pumpkin ale was my first experience of draft pumpkin beer years ago, playing in boston.  it had been my favorite until i discovered blue point pumpkin ale!  the cambridge great pumpkin ale is a little heavier and the flavors aren't quite as balanced as blue point.  it is still delicious, but it's weight made it more of a dessert beer option.  we all enjoyed it while playing at the cozy toad in cambridge, ma.  

#3 - we also tried a pumpkin ale in pittsburgh, pa, but i didn't catch the name of it as we were buzzing around trying to go onstage.  it was good, but on the much lighter side.  without knowing the brewery, it seems silly to critique it much more than to say that nothing can hold a candle to blue point pumpkin ale, with sugar and cinnamon on the glass!! :)

we'll be in the southeast in november - i welcome suggestions of pumpkin beers to try in TN, NC, SC and GA!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The 2 Best Beers I had in May...

I have gotten pretty behind on my beer blog.  I meant to update it during my 2 week tour through Colorado, where I usually discover the best new beer, but one of my new favorites actually was introduced to me in Nashville.

I played a private house concert in early May where the theme and focus was the Kentucky Derby, so the drink of choice was mint juleps.  They were delightful, made from fresh mint from the neighbors garden and simple syrup handmade from organic cane sugar by the host.  There was an array of Kentucky bourbons to chose from and I definitely decided that the mint julep is one of my new favorites.

However, what I didn't expect was when the host handed me a stout in a can.  He knew that I am a bit of a beer snob, so he was curious if I had tried Moo Thunder Stout by Butternuts Beer and Ale (New York).   The can looked familiar, but I couldn't say that I had tried it...THIS BEER IS RIDICULOUS.  It may even be a close runner to Young's Double Chocolate Stout as my favorite dark beer.  It is silky smooth with a coffee undertone, but isn't bitter at all.  A hint of chocolate adds to a full, complex flavor that has a quick finish, unlike other heavier stouts.  I was so thrilled when I saw it in my local Whole Foods!

Later in the month, I did get to try some new Colorado beers on my 2 week tour there.  Always a favorite brewer of mine, I got very excited when I heard Ska Brewery had a new beer called "Mexican Logger"...I first had it on draft at one of my mother-in-law's favorite Mexican restaurants in Durango.  I loved it so much, we requested that we had it backstage that night at our gig downtown!  The "Logger" is more of a full bodied pilsner than a lager.  The flavor is really round and complex, but still managed to be light.  It almost reminded me of a good loaf of fresh baked bread with a lather of butter on top!  We bought a 6-pack to take back to Nashville, but it didn't make it past Missouri!

Some of my other favorite beers in the summer:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cisco whale's tale pale ale

I heard about sunset grill on beer tv. I think it was rated the highest for best beer selection in the country.

I just played at berklee with Ari Hest and he and his buddy and I are getting a beer and food. I told the waiter I wanted a local ale so he recommended the cisco whales tale pale ale.

I must say on the first couple sips, it has a slight taste of ocean. The hoppiness is not offensive and the aftertaste is mellow. It feels like a very classic, true pale ale. I like!!

Rating: 9.5

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