Tag Archives: Belgian

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:


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.



Revolution Brewing Bottom Up Wit

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:

Revolution 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:

Purchased One Mug Rating

Here is what other people are saying about Revolution Brewing Bottom Up Wit @ Beeradvocate

First August Beer Thoughts

The weather the past couple of weeks has bordered on perfect for Iowa in mid-August.  I am talking about mid-70s during the day, abundant sunshine, and temps that drop into the 50s at night.  Perfect for sitting around a patio fire and enjoying a few homemade beers.

Lefse Blonde Ale

The Lefse Blonde recipe kit from Northern Brewer really intrigued me because it was described as “this Belgian-style blonde ale features the same generous malt profile and spicy yeast character of stronger Dubbels and Tripels, but its more modest gravity means you can enjoy a couple and remain upright and hard-working past Compline.”

For the past month or so, I have found myself imbibing stronger and stronger beers which usually means my nights end earlier and my mornings start later.  Or at least start a little slower.  Nothing starts later when you have two children below the age of six in the house.

The first pour was promising:

lesfe blonde

According to my iBrewmaster calculations this beer have it coming in at ~5.2% ABV and a modest ~26 IBU.  The alcohol in the estimate seems a little high after having had a few pints, however I know that some beers drink lighter than the stated alcohol level would have you believe.  Based on mouth feel alone I would have pegged it at around 4% ABV.  Oh well.

The real winning aspect of this particular beer in the heat of Iowa in August is that it is effervescent.  It’s not just about the bubbles, but having long lasting bubbles in the brew helps.

The recommended yeast was Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II, which according to its description is known for its dry finish.  True to the description the Lefse Blonde really does finish dry and clean.  Not quite lager-like, but much cleaner than American style pale or amber ales.

This is a real winner of a recipe.

Phat Tyre Amber Ale

The Phat Tyre Amber Ale kit, also from Northern Brewer, intrigued me for a different reason.  By the name you can guess that it is a take on New Belgium’s classic Fat Tire Amber Ale.  I remember a time when Fat Tire was not distributed widely in the Midwest and people treated it like some kind of golden liquid from a faraway land.  My father may have talked about a time when people bootlegged Coors from Colorado, but for my generation we bootlegged Fat Tire Amber Ale from Fort Collins.

It looked right after an initial pour:

phat tyre ale

Something however is just not right with this beer.  Even though it used the same yeast as the Lefse Blonde—Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey II—the flavor was very different.  I am not talking about the malt profile or the hops, but the flavors that the yeast is primarily responsible like those arising from esters.  Thankfully, the beer does not have that banana smell that I cannot stand.  Nothing will ruin my mood more than having a batch turn out to have banana aromas or flavors.  It does not go down the drain, but it quickly becomes the beer that I serve my guests.

Part of the problem may be that the room in which the beer was fermented probably had temps a little higher than normal.  Another issue may be that Belgian-style beers or ones that use Belgian-style yeasts are prone to developing different flavor profiles over time.  I may just need to allow the beer some extra time in the bottles for the flavors to really mellow or even out.  At least that is my hope.

What’s Next?

Right now I have a batch Le Petite Orange in the carboy.  It is about halfway through its primary fermentation, so I am quite a few weeks away from any tasting.

Weekend Beer Musings

After the disaster of my honey kolsch I was a little down on the whole homebrew scene.  Irrational?  Perhaps, but it was a lot of work to watch get poured down the drain.  My father suggested that I try to sell it to the local bums.  I doubt that even a bum would have consumed the libation.


The first few bottles of my latest rye beer were opened on Saturday.  It was an improvement over the nasty honey kolsch, but it fell short of my earlier American wheat or organic light recipes.   The flavors were muddy and there was distinct lack of spicy bite that is supposed to be characteristic of rye beers.

Drinkable, but underwhelming.

Belgian Wit

I have a batch of Belgian wit bubbling away in the basement right now.  Two weeks past pitching and the krausen is still bubbling away.  Granted, the activity is slowing down.  In two more weeks the beer should be ready to bottle.  The interesting thing to see will be how the flavors mellow in two weeks of fermentation and two weeks of bottle conditioning.  When the wort was poured into the carboy there were some very bold–almost like a smack in the face–aromas of spice and hops.  I thought the same thing about my first American wheat recipe and it turned out much more restrained at the time of drinking.

Homebrewing: How to Get Better at It

Peter Reed at Serious Eats has a simple prescription for getting better at homebrewing: practice.  It all boils down to making more beer, sharing it with other beer lovers, and being ready to learn.  I can handle that.

The value of community surrounding any hobby is vastly underrated.  A mentor or a steady hand can be the difference between pouring entire batches of beer down the drain and having something to drink on Friday nights.

New Glarus

The Chicago Tribune recently had a travel article about the Wisconsin town of New Glarus which is the location of a namesake brewery.  Most people in the southwest corner of Wisconsin are very familiar with the beers coming from New Glarus Brewing.  Relatives of mine in the northern part of the state are staunch fans of the brewery’s Spotted Cow.  I am less a fan of that beer and more partial to the beers in the Thumbprint series.

It’s all part of the movement toward local and regional flavors that make travel so much fun.  It is hard to find New Glarus Brewing beers outside of the region, but the discovery is a treat when you are in the area.  It reminds me of stories people used to tell me about “smuggling” Coors to the Midwest in the 1970s when distribution was limited.  If anyone told you they were making a special trip for Coors you might puke.

If you find yourself in the area, make the short trip from New Glarus to The Grumpy Troll in Mount Horeb.  It’s only about 17 miles and well worth the trip to get a great tast of rural Wisconsin.