Forget what the open poll from USA Today determined. Despite what the voters said, I am crying “fake news!” Outer Range Brewing Co. in Frisco, Colorado is the best new brewery in America.
High praise for sure, but I task you with finding someone who has actually sampled the beers in their small tap room or yurt that would disagree. I will wait here for a few minutes while you try and find someone. Bueller…Bueller…
The focus at Outer Range is on Belgian and IPA styles. If you came looking for stouts or pilsners or marzens…you are out of luck. That is okay because the beers being made by Outer Range are all excellent because of this particular focus. Not every brewery should have a back catalog of thirty different beers and Outer Range shows just why this is true.
On my visit I had one glass each of In the Steeps, Quiet Depths, and Water Colors. All three beers showed similar stylistic traits but was unique in subtle ways that get lost when a brewery is focused on a lot of beers.
If you get a chance to visit the taproom, do it. If you see their beers on a tap list at a bar, order quickly because I have been sitting in more than one establishment in the high country when kegs have been cashed.
The only downside, if it is such a thing, is that the beers are usually clocking in above 6% ABV and do not drink as such. If this is your first day or two at altitude and you are hitting the slopes after your visit be careful. Moderation is your friend, but the guys at Outer Range can help you out by selling you a four pack of cans to take home.
I am such a homer that I bought the t-shirt:
One of the best deals in the mountains happens at Outer Range’s taproom. If you are a skier or boarder hop on the opportunity to get a “Wax + Beer” when the Ski Doctor is parked out front. For $25 I got my Icelantic’s waxed and drank a glass of In the Steeps. Rarely does something seem like a steal in the mountains, but this has to be the one time that it happened.
Posted in Beer, Uncategorized
Tagged ale, altitude, beer, Belgian, brewery, Colorado, craft, farmhouse, Frisco, hazy, In the Steeps, IPA, New England IPA, Outer Range Brewing Co., Quiet Depths, saison, The Ski Doctor, Water Colors
Revolution Brewing is my favorite Chicago brewery—that disaster with the hibiscus ale being excluded—now has new to me—it was available this spring in cans—called Fist City Chicago Pale Ale:
Described as “a supremely drinkable brew for those who love hops” and I would argue that it is the ideal craft beer replacement for schwag macro lagers that populate dive bars. Yes, I am looking at you Old Style. While I respect the adherence to the Old Style cult that has gripped Chicago since the mid-1980s, which is about the same time the rest of America gave up on the brand, it is time to stake your taste buds to something a little better and a little more local. Firing down pint after pint of super hoppy pale ales does not appeal to everyone, but Fist City could easily slot in as the “go to” replacement for forgettable canned lagers that come in thirty packs. Life is too short to drink beer based on its per can price.
The beer is really drinkable at 5.5% ABV and “just” 40 IBU. Yep, it’s about a percentage point higher in alcohol content than a basic macro lager but it is not a beer that is going to put you on your ass after drinking three of them.
Somehow the brewers managed to squeeze in every hop beginning with a C: Centennial, Citra, Chinook, Cascade and Crystal. Too bad there is not a Chicago hop variety. This leads to a somewhat muddied hop profile where none of the characteristics of any variety stands out. It’s not bad, per se, but it leaves the drinker looking for a particular flavor or aroma wanting something different. Call me a hop head or a beer snob. I like to taste and smell individual and unique hop notes. Yeah, I sound like one of those ass clowns in “Sideways” talking about notes of oak and udon.
Back to the matter at hand. If you need a six pack or thirty pack to take to your next event and want something that can please a lot of people without being boring—yes I am looking at the guy who always beings a twelve pack of Blue Moon to a party—give Fist City a shot:
See what others are saying about Revolution Brewing Fist City at Beeradvocate.
Posted in Beer
Tagged ABV, ale, beer, Blue Moon, Cascade, Centennial, Chicago, Chinook, Citra, Crystal, Fist City, hops, IBU, Illinois, Old Style, Revolution Brewing
Sometimes you are figuring out what beers to get in the seemingly never ending selection of craft beer when a different can from a generally trusted brewer catches your eye. That is how I ended up with a six pack of Revolution Brewing’s Rosa Hibiscus Ale:
The color should have been a warning. No beer has that electric red color unless something is deeply wrong with its construction. Instead of listening to my own internal warning system I jumped in palate first and was rewarded with an assault. Geez, how do I describe the flavor sensation? Awful and artificial? Like someone took a pale ale and poured the dregs of a Boone’s Farm vat into the fermentation vessel hoping that some unknown black magic would produce something drinkable? I will just leave the description as nearly undrinkable. It took an entire can of Anti-Hero IPA to expunge the memory from my tongue.
Seriously, is this the craft equivalent of one of those Barf-a-ritas that are stacked to the ceiling every summer as an alternative to something that tastes good? You have been warned:
See what others are saying about Revolution Brewing Rosa Hibiscus Ale at Beeradvocate.
Beer from New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado used to be like a revelation. A twelve pack of Fat Tire Amber Ale was treated like a gift when someone was thoughtful enough to bring some back from the Front Range. Times have changed and I have not been impressed with their recent exploits. Nonetheless, nostalgia will get me from time to time and I picked up a six pack of the recently released Long Table Farmhouse Ale:
This a beer that drinks boozy (6.2% ABV) with little bitterness (20 IBU) or body to balance it out. When I think of “farmhouse ale” or a saison I am generally thinking that it will be a lower alcohol beer that is easy drinking. Think light beer with soul.
Long Table has none of that soul. With a small amount of bitterness and no dry hopping there is little hop aroma or flavor. With nothing hitting your nose or tongue your palate is left to deal with a thin beer hitting you in the face with alcohol and esters. There are a lot of peppery notes in this beer, but it comes across like someone just cracked a peppermill over the bottle before packaging.
Long Table tastes like it is a derivative of other similar New Belgium beers. The plan out of Fort Collins seems to read like Hollywood’s—reboots and sequels. When is the reality of what New Belgium is brewing—thin variations on a theme—going to overcome the perception of the brewery—pioneering spirit of American craft industry, environmentally friendly, socially conscious, employee owned, etc.? With breweries in two states and a near total coverage of the continental United States it feels like New Belgium is brewing and marketing toward the middle ground where it is offering little different from the craft labels owned by the macro brewing giants.
If you are an aficionado of thin, boozy beers with little else to tickle your palate crack open a Long Table:
See what others are saying about New Belgium Long Table Farmhouse Ale at Beeradvocate.
Posted in Beer
Tagged ABV, ale, beer, Chinook, Colorado, craft, Fort Collins, hops, IBU, Long Table Farmhouse Ale, malt, Nelson Sauvin, New Belgium Brewery, Target, yeast
Wit or white ale are the gateway drug into the craft beer addiction. You wake up one morning from a Natty Light hangover, realize that you graduated from college almost a year ago, and decide that on your next night out you will not be that guy crushing light lagers.
At the bar you are offered a plethora of choices—unless it is one of those bars with two taps reserved for Budweiser and Busch Light, which are always classy establishments where no one ever gets stabbed with an improvised edged weapon—that almost causes paralysis by analysis. Do I want a European pilsner? Or is an IPA a better choice? A Russian imperial stout sounds like a lineup of ex-Soviet hockey players, but is it right for me just a few days removed from wondering which beer came in 30 packs for less than $20?
You look around and notice a lot of people have tall glasses of a hazy, golden beer with an orange. How bad can it be if it has an orange in it? What is that beer that every girl in a sundress and flower crown is drinking on the patio? It’s Blue Moon. What’s a Blue Moon? A Belgian style white ale.
Here is the deal. There is a reason that Coors made Blue Moon its entry into the faux craft movement…people want different that is not too different. You cannot expect people to go from drinking beer measured in twelve pack increments to throwing back IPAs with IBU ratings in the seventies. They are going to run back to the beer cooler for something familiar and never come back. You need a gateway drug. Belgian style white beers are that gateway drug.
Revolution Brewing understands this and brews Bottom Up Wit:
How is Revolution Brewing’s wit different than Blue Moon or Shock Top? Not so much. These are easy drinking beers. How easy? At 5.0% ABV and 14 IBU it compares favorably, statistically speaking, to a Bud Light at an estimated 4.1% ABV and 8-10 IBU. With a little coriander and orange peel there is a lot more going on in terms of flavor, so you feel like you are drinking something that is more artisanal or original than a light lager.
At the end of the day white ales or wits are fairly boring. Maybe it is a style of beer that someone will do something original with and blow people away, but until then I will stand by my assertion that brewers keep this style in their quiver to have something almost anyone can drink when visiting a taproom:
Here is what other people are saying about Revolution Brewing Bottom Up Wit @ Beeradvocate
Posted in Beer
Tagged ABV, ale, beer, Belgian, Blue Moon, Chicago, coriander, hops, IBU, Illinois, orange peel, Revolution Brewing, white ale, wit, yeast
Revolution Brewing should be familiar to anyone who saw the movie Drinking Buddies with Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick. The movie was an unfortunate mumblecore mess for a lot of reasons, most notably that it did not really have an overarching story, but how would the beer taste coming from such a brewery.
Chicago is interesting compared to some of the other big cities in the region because it got a somewhat late start in the whole craft beer scene. Goose Island was a long time player, but it was about the only game in town until recently with the opening of Revolution Brewing and some others like Pipeworks Brewing Company. I guess people really did like throwing down cans of Old Style. Why, dear god, why?
On a recent trip to the Field Museum with my daughter I was able to make a side trip and pick up several six-packs of different beers from Revolution Brewing. First up is Anti-Hero IPA:
The beer is pretty balanced coming in at 6.5% ABV and 70 IBU. There is no single noticeable or overpowering hop notes, so this is not a beer that tries to grab you by the scruff of your neck and stick your nose in a bouquet of citrus. Smell the grapefruit, hipsters! I digress.
It’s an enjoyable beer, but it is not a memorable beer. It is my contention that to truly be a memorable IPA anyone you have to do something out of the ordinary. It says something about the evolution of beer in the U.S. when a slightly boozy and bitter IPA is nothing to write home to mom about. Then again, it’s not that you have to do something good to be memorable. Sometimes you just have to be colorful.
On the other hand this would be a beer that would be happy to have as your “go to” local six pack. Maybe this is the future of craft beer where regional brewers produce good beers for a limited geographical range and knock out some seasonal or special brews to coincide with local flavors or events.
In the end, it’s a beer you can be confident ordering in place of a freakin’ Old Style while you wait for the Cubs game to start:
See what others are saying about Revolution Brewing Anti-Hero IPA at Beeradvocate.
Posted in Beer
Tagged ABV, ale, Anna Kendrick, Anti-Hero IPA, beer, Chicago, Drinking Buddies, hops, IBU, Illinois, IPA, Olivia Wilde, Revolution Brewing