Tag Archives: beer

Outer Range Brewing Co. is the Best New Brewery in America

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:

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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.

 

 

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Paying More for the Growler Privilege

Lately, I have been getting my local beer fix via growlers filled when I stop in somewhere to have a beer and maybe eat some food.  If my son had his way we would eat at the brewery all the time because he gets to have a grilled cheese and a soda.  His motivation is always easy to figure out.

Something has started to gnaw at me a little bit when it comes to growlers.  I am paying more for the privilege of using a reusable container.  Hear me out.

On average a growler costs me $12 to $14 to fill.  Not bad for 64 ounces of fresh, local craft beer.  However, a six pack of 12 ounce bottles from a local brewery only costs $9 to $10 at the grocery store.   For the math challenged that works out to an average of $13 for 64 ounces of beer versus an average of $9.50 for 72 ounce of beer.  Or, on a per unit basis, approximately $0.20 per ounce for the growler versus approximately $0.13 per ounce for the six pack.  Therefore, I am paying more for less beer from the same brewery.  Why?

You could argue that the taproom has to be staffed to fill a growler, but I would counter that the same brewery has to staff a bottling line, pay for packaging, deliver the beer to retailers, and in a lot of cases share some promotional cost.  Never mind the costs of designing packaging, getting approval from regulators, and what not.  This is all for the same beer from the same brewer.

Thus, I am spending more money to use my own container, which is reusable a nearly unlimited number of times, to directly purchase beer from the brewer, so no retailer or middle man gets a cut.  What is up with that?

MPG (Beer Equivalent)

The comments were lobbed across the common table at the local taproom:

How many miles per gallon do you get on your bike?

Is it really that efficient to ride a bike?

And so on and so forth.  The topic of conversation was the next step in the #myPersonalParis evolution.  In order to reduce my personal emissions of greenhouse gasses I have set the goal of riding my bike to work three days a week through the fall.  Sixty percent of my commuting trips by bike might seem a little aggressive, but I feel that doing more than half will be a sort of tipping point in my daily behaviors.  It’s a theory and I am going to test that theory in practice.

The miles per gallon question is a constant because there is always some smart ass in the room who says, “You aren’t carbon free because you are breathing.”  Sure enough, but I had to be breathing anyway so I consider that a moot point.

However, let’s spend a moment to ruminate on the relative efficiency of riding a bike to work versus commuting in my truck.

A gallon of gasoline contains 7,594 kilocalories of energy and a gallon of e85 contains 5,463 kilocalories of energy. [1]  On average my truck—a Ford F-150 equipped with a flex-fuel V-8 engine—achieves 15 miles per gallon using e85 fuel.  Simple math says that my truck uses approximately 364 kilocalories to travel one mile.

What about the bike.  Based on over 1,110 miles of riding tracked via a Garmin vivoactive HR the kilocalories expended to travel one miles via a bicycle is approximately 65.  The range is anywhere from 60 to 75 with the high end representing some serious pedal mashing on a long distance ride.

Based purely in terms of kilocalories the bicycle is around six times more efficient just to transport myself from point A to point B.

How does that translate to miles per gallon?  I do not care because I am not fueled by gasoline.  Beer on the other hand?  The average pint of beer—not the light lager swill—contains 200 kilocalories.  A gallon therefore contains 1,600 kilocalories.  [2] Therefore, I achieve approximately 25 miles per gallon beer equivalent or MPGBE.

It’s a ridiculous comparison, but sometimes we need a little folly.

 

Friday Linkage 7/28/2017

I have been a little lax on posting some things lately and I have no excuse other than work, children, life in general…you get the idea.  My hope is to have an update on my upcoming solar photovoltaic system soon and some thoughts on other ways to really embrace a lower carbon life here in middle America.

On to the links…

Vail Resorts Promises to Eliminate Emissions, Waste and Offset Forest Impact by 2030—Welcome to the party Vail Resorts.

Trump Nominates Sam Clovis, a Dude Who Is Not a Scientist, to Be Department of Agriculture’s Top Scientist—This is what happens when you elect people who profess to hate government and expertise in general to run the government.  You get people who are unqualified for the job screwing up and then claiming afterwards, “I told you government does not work.  See?”

The Quieter Monument Battles to Watch—Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke’s assault on our national monuments is, to put it mildly, monumentally unpopular.  Remember, this is a man who can lose the popular vote  by nearly three million votes and claim with a straight face that he had the most lopsided electoral victory in history.  Nothing is beyond the pale for these people.

As Outdoor Retailer Show Packs up for Colorado, Industry Flexes Political Muscle in U.S. Land Fight—The people who love the outdoors are being heard.  The companies who make money off the people who love the outdoors are making their voices heard.  This is no small change and it represents a viable path forward to protect our access to public lands.

Are Renewables Set to Displace Natural Gas?—Europe and the U.S. are very different places, so extrapolating upon trends from on to the other is dangerous.  However, I wonder what will happen if natural gas experiences price spikes like it has in the past.  Will renewables rush to fill the void left by coal as the second choice when natural gas gets pricey?

Seven Charts Show Why the IEA Thinks Coal Investment Has Already Peaked—Coal is in all kinds of death spirals right now.  The decline in investment is a long term impediment to their being any revival in coal’s fortunes.

“Clean Coal” Is A Political Myth, Says Coal Company Owner—Robert Murray is the gift that keeps on giving.  After John Oliver went after him using public statements and other records that were readily available he just keeps on opening his mouth.  Gotta’ love a rich man with no filter…oh wait, that is the clown we have in the White House.

Peeling Back the Red Tape to Go Solar—The run around and red tape dance has been the most frustrating part of getting my solar photovoltaic system installed on my roof.  Yet, I still have more hoops to jump through once the system is actually installed.  None of it is value added and all of it costs either money or time.  Ugh.

Straus Family Creamery Powered by Cow Gas—Why don’t we have a government program to install one of these systems at every dairy farm or other large livestock operation in the United States?

This Beautiful but Toxic Weed Could Make you go Blind—Giant hogweed is no joke.  I have friends with the burn scars from the sap to prove it.

Minimalism Is Just Another Boring Product Wealthy People Can Buy—I have always found it ironic that people buy books or attend seminars about minimalism.  Shouldn’t the idea be somewhat self-apparent with a little reflection?

Debunking What the Health, the Buzzy New Documentary that Wants You to be Vegan—Veganism has become the new snake oil for a lot of people.  It will not cure all that ails us and to pretend otherwise is to traffic in the same dreck that has gotten us into this mess.

Beer Sales are Down…Especially Among the Millennials—Millennials are trying to wreck everything.

A Cut Above: Two Axe-Throwing Venues Carve Out a Niche in Denver—Axe throwing venue?  Peak hipster?

Some Thoughts on Pocket Beers

Pocket beers are just one of the lower key aspects of skiing.  For all the people who spend near $10 for a draft at the top of the lifts there are a smaller number of hardy souls who take the route less traveled.   During the few minutes of isolation on a lift the pocket beer is produced.  It is consumed before unloading, sometimes shared, and the can is either stowed away or deposited discretely in a receptacle at the top.  Do not be the guy who tosses an empty somewhere on the mountain.

Over Spring Break I discovered that the pocket beer is looked down upon at Beaver Creek.  A fellow lift traveler looked at me as if I had told him that I was going to make America great again with my consumption of beer.  Perhaps it would have been more appropriate if I had broken out a single serve can of chardonnay.  Properly chilled of course.  Just kidding.  I would never drink chardonnay on a lift unless it was goon.  It’s an Australian thing.  Check it out.

Over the course of the week I thought about the nature of the pocket beer because I did not spend any time looking at the news, watching Netflix, or working.  It is amazing what you think about when left with your thoughts on a sunny Colorado afternoon in the spring.  Here are my conclusions:

  1. Pocket beers must be in cans. Like the beach, including the one at A Basin, and the pool glass should be a non-starter.  Bottles can break, the tops are another item to deal with, and it is harder to conceal a bottle in a gloved hand.  Oh sure, you could get by with an aluminum bottle but those are generally only purchased by people who are captive audiences at sporting events.  Don’t be that guy.
  2. Pocket beers should be shared. If you have more than one, offer a beer to a fellow lift rider.  If you only have one, offer a drink to a fellow lift rider if you know the person well.  Strangers might have a fear of your distinct brand of cooties.
  3. Pocket beers should not be craft beers. Yes, craft beer is ascendant and craft beer is a big deal in mountain communities.  However, with most high speed lifts only taking a few minutes to complete their runs there is no time to savor.  Reserve the craft beer for the après pint.
  4. Acceptable pocket beers:
    1. Rainier: Where do people find this stuff? I had not seen anyone drink Rainier since a childhood trip to the Pacific Northwest with my parents in the 1980s.  Sure enough it made an appearance this season on a lift at Keystone.
    2. Yuengling: I cannot stand this beer, but legions of East Coast ice skiers will scream if I do not include their favorite swill.
    3. Natural Light: The Natty is a legend among the hardy souls who ski the Midwest’s small hills. Purchased in containers with no fewer than 24 cans and usually 30 cans the Natty is the common currency of tailgates, impromptu backyard parties in your twenties, and pocket beers at Afton Alps.  Yes, it is swill but when the mercury is dropping below the 0 mark you do not have time to taste.
    4. Coors: Not that Coors Light garbage. When you are in Colorado and producing a pocket beer it should be the Banquet Beer.  The muted yellow can is iconic even if the beer inside is fairly mediocre.  It’s only brewed in Golden, which is off I-70 on the way into the mountains.  If you are chilling on the Peru Express lift, whip out a Banquet Beer, and enjoy your moment of perfection.

Embrace the pocket beer and the grungy soul of skiing before we are all left at mega-resorts staring at a menu of eye watering prices.  The pocket beer is the resistance.

Well Said Mr. Brookstein

Jesse Brookstein, one of the co-founders of Call to Arms Brewing Co. in Denver, sat down with Jeremy Meyer of the Denver Post to offer his assessment of “beer scene” in Colorado and predict the trends that will define craft beer in 2016.

I have not seen, read, or heard a more accurate assessment of what things will look like in 2016 than the following statement from Mr. Brookstein:

The continued fear-mongering of the craft beer hype-machine. As the industry grows, so grows the legions of beer writers — and what truly drives their creativity is doom, gloom, and not-so-original (and often wrong) opinions and predictions. There isn’t a craft beer bubble about to burst. Hops will remain readily available — not everyone will get Citra, but they will get hops. It’s not the can or bottle itself that leads to oxidation, it’s the environment in which it’s packaged. IPAs are not a fad; fads don’t last decades. Sours are not a fad; fads don’t last centuries. Oft-repeated opinions don’t necessarily reflect facts.

Craft beer will be fine because what these brewers are doing cannot be duplicated at a macro level.  There will be challenges, but the industry will adapt and-dare I say-thrive in the face of these challenges.

Again, well said Mr. Brookstein.

Great Divide Brewing Company Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale

By most counts there are over 3,000 breweries in the United States. The upper limit I have seen is over 3,200 with a lot in the planning or building stages. In this era of small brewery saturation it is inevitable that brewers are going to start stepping on each other’s trademarks and intellectual property when it comes to naming the countless beers. There are only so many ways to be creative when it comes to naming a seasonal IPA made with kumquats and coriander.

Great Divide Brewing Company and Boston Beer, the people behind Sam Adams, found out that they were both making a beer named Whitewater. Great Divide’s beer was going to be a hop forward wheat ale while Sam Adams was intending on bottling a white IPA. Different beers with the same name. Thankfully, these relative heavyweights of the beer industry found a way to get along and not fight this out in court.   That is more than I can say for the jack wagons at Lagunitas Brewing who went about threatening Sierra Nevada over the font used to spell out IPA on a beer label.

Anyway, Great Divide is brewing Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale again and making it available in all of its markets:

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Here is the thing. With more than 3,000 breweries making countless beers there is going to come a time when the vast swath of middle ground is somewhat indistinguishable. I believe that Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale represents the dawning of that age.

It’s got a good amount of hop bitterness, but because it is a wheat beer there is a different malt profile versus an IPA. The juxtaposition is kind of interesting and when consumed side-by-side with a traditional IPA it is made even more apparent.

However, what would make me recommend or rate this beer over any of a hundred others beers that are available year round in your market? I do not know. Maybe you like wheat beers more than IPAs, but want something a little bolder as the summer months turn to fall and football is on the television. Okay, buy a six pack and enjoy.

This is the problem that has led to breweries getting increasingly gimmicky in their special releases and seasonal beers. It’s also why hard cider has taken off recently as people are looking for something different without having to sort through countless beers in an attempt to excite their palates.

The downside is that Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale, like a lot of other beers in the great middle ground of the craft brewing “scene”, is a damn good beer that would have been revelatory for the vast majority of consumers in the 1990s. Now we just shrug and look at the tap handles for something that is really different. Has our love of craft jumped the shark?

Regardless, if you are a wheat beer fan looking for something on the heavier side this winter give the beer a shot:

Two Mug Purchase

See what others are saying about Great Divide Brewing Company Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale at Beeradvocate.