Tag Archives: Fort Collins

Friday Linkage 12/15/2017

I was prepared to write some snarky comments about how the voters of Alabama could look past someone being a certifiable crazy person and child molester but could not stomach voting for a Democrat. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that at least enough voters in Alabama had the good sense to not vote for Roy Moore.

The frightening thing is that more than 48% of voters who participated in that special election thought that Roy Moore was the right person to represent them, the state of Alabama, and the values of the United States of America.  There is nothing that encapsulates our broken system, riven by partisanship, more than that fact.

Imagine there was a special election in say Colorado where the Democratic candidate was accused of cruising the mall for teenagers, had been twice removed from office for failing to follow the laws of the land, and had defended slavery.  Can you imagine the howls from people like Sean Hannity and Fox & Friends.  Instead, put an elephant on that candidate and he is the last, best chance to protect America from…access to healthcare?

On to the links…

Trump’s Interior Secretary: Shameless Tool of Oil and Gas Industries—The more light that we can shine on Ryan Zinke’s agenda and actions the better the world will be for it.  Like the other Trump kleptocrats he is gorging on a buffet of public goods to enrich his friends and donors.  Take a moment and read up on the scandals of the Warren G. Harding administration and tell me if you see some similarities.

The Interior Department Is Giving Business to Secretary Zinke’s Billionaire Pal—Can you smell the corruption that Ryan Zinke is cooking?  This guy does not care that he is corrupt because there is nothing you can do about it.  This guy is the point man for the theft of your public goods.

Reclaiming Appalachia: A Push to Bring Back Native Forests to Coal Country—Coal country is a damaged place.  Decades of dominance by companies that care little for the land or people has left a landscape scarred.  Healing that landscape in a deliberative way is a great step forward.

How American Cities & States are Fighting Climate Change Globally—The federal government is in the bag for fossil fuels and ideologues who would have you believe that human caused climate change is some kind of hoax cooked up by academics and liberals.  As if those groups can be counted on to agree on a menu for a campus mixer without things devolving into a bloodbath of recriminations let alone conspire on a global scale in secret.  Cities, municipalities, and states are where the climate change action is happening right now.

Here’s What Carbon Neutral Electricity Could Look Like for Fort Collins—Cities are starting to figure out just how much power they have to transform the energy system of the future.

Trump’s Coal and Nuclear Subsidy Won’t Keep Power Plants Open but Will Raise Prices—Let’s see, a plan championed by all hat, no cows Rick Perry is destined to fail in its ultimate goal yet still raise prices for consumers. It’s like Republicans under Trump have decided that it is okay to get all of the downside risk while achieving none of the goals.  Also remember that this plan is essentially a sop to a half dozen or so coal barons who want a federal bailout without actually asking for a federal bailout.  You know, the free market and all.

The Federal Land at Stake in Trump’s Rush for More Drilling—Trump and the rest of his kleptocrat cronies are running high on the hog right now in transferring public goods into private resources.  If you think that there is anything public about land being opened for oil and gas drilling try getting near one of these facilities out west.  Your ass will end up in the back of a sheriff’s car real fast.

‘Death spiral’: Half of Europe’s Coal Plants are Losing Money—Coal is on the brink.  Why?  It is losing money.

Australia Has Already Hit 1 Gigawatt Of Solar Installed In 2017, Breaking Multiple Records—1 GW is a lot of solar.  Every week seems to bring a solar story from Australia that highlights that country going all in on solar.

Rooftop Solar and EVs Save Water and Cut Pollution in Texas – and Data can Help Us go Further—As we enter a period of climate change stressing water supplies it is important to consider the second order effects of renewable electricity.  It takes a lot of water to produce grid electricity from coal, nuclear, or natural gas.  A solar panel requires zero water to do the same thing.

Are Pigs Eating our Food?—This is a fairly nuanced look at the idea that livestock is eating our food in a 1:1 direct substitution.  The truth is much more complex, as the truth tends to be, as livestock—depending upon the species—eat residues from other agricultural production processes that are essentially waste products or eat substances that humans cannot eat directly for sustenance.

Expect a Meat Tax within 5-10 Years—Five to ten years seems a little sporty, but as we fully understand both the environmental and health impacts of eating meat there will be an increasing drumbeat for some sort of action.  In the United States I think that the easiest solution would be to end the crop subsidies that make CAFOs possible.  Without subsidized corn and soy there would be no way that companies could make CAFOs work.

How Our Housing Choices Make Adult Friendships More Difficult—Is it just our housing or is it our entire society?

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New Belgium Long Table Farmhouse Ale

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:

Long Table

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:

Purchased One Mug Rating

See what others are saying about New Belgium Long Table Farmhouse Ale at Beeradvocate.

 

New Belgium Slow Ride IPA

When you cut back on drinking beer you begin to curate your selection a little bit more because each bottle seems like part of a zero sum game. I did not give up drinking so much as curtail it down to a few bottles per week. Moderation if ever there was such a thing.

If there is one trend that has made it easier for me to stop brewing my own beer—never mind the entire drinking a lot less beer—has been the emergence of “session” IPAs. The adjective session has lost a lot of meaning in the past couple of years, which is no surprise given the wide ranging style differences that can occur under previously well understood definitions like IPA or stout.

New Belgium Brewery recently came out with Slow Ride IPA. It was debuted at Winter Park in January and made its national appearance soon after. BTW, New Belgium is now the official craft brewer for Winter Park. I think once craft breweries start becoming the “official brewery” of anything it means they are not really craft in the manner that many of us think.

Slow Ride is definitely a lighter IPA coming in at 4.5% ABV and 40 IBU:

New Belgium Slow Ride IPA

Slow Ride uses Mosaic, a well known hop variety, and Nelson Sauvin, which I had never heard of until visiting New Belgium’s website. It’s a hop grown in New Zealand. A lot of the descriptors sound like “Sideways” wine guy words, but it seems like the main current of description is that it is a fruity hop that imparts white wine like notes. Okay, I’ll bite but it seemed like a pretty standard dry hop profile to me when I drank a couple of bottles. Call me unsophisticated. It won’t hurt my feelings.

Slow RIde comes close to the golden ratio of 1:1 ABV to IBU that I have been fiddling with for a while now. If your beer is 4.5% ABV it should be 45 IBU. It seems to hold true that beers like this are very balanced if the body of the beer can hold up its end of the bargain.

This is where I feel like New Belgium beers have really been falling down lately. The body of the beers has been lacking. You could say the beers are thin, but for a product that is mostly water even in the thickest instances it is not really the most appropriate descriptor. What is lacking is interest. Some beers have it, even if the alcohol and bitterness are not at stratospheric levels, and a lot of other beers do not. This is where true brewing talent shines.

Overall, this is a solid effort and if you want something easy to drink on a warm day that actually tastes like beer grab a pint of Slow Ride:

Two Mug Purchase

New Belgium Ranger IPA

It was Memorial Day and I was looking for a beer in a compliant container. I needed beer in cans to satisfy The Man and his desire for safety. Okay, I think that if people are going to be drinking in a public place, like a park, it is a good idea to drink from cans so that no one ends up taking a spill onto some broken glass.

Unfortunately, my go-to canned beer—Founders Brewing’s All Day IPA—was out of stock. Sucked back into the unenviable position of choosing amongst the masses of options my hand fell onto a twelve pack of New Belgium Brewery’s Ranger IPA.

Making its debut in bottles in the first part of 2010, Ranger IPA was part of a wave of beers that started to increase the hop content in somewhat more mass market beers. Prior to this time a lot of hoppier beers were reserved for taprooms and more localized markets.

Several years later, how does Ranger IPA hold up:

Ranger IPA

This beer does not drink as bitter as its 70 IBU rating would suggest. Chinook hops are a smooth addition to any beer and seem capable of imparting a resinous bitterness without overpowering every other flavor. One of my favorite extract recipes from Northern Brewer is the Chinook IPA, which is a single hop beer showcasing that particular variety. In fact, I have a keg of Chinook IPA that should be ready to serve in the first week of June or so.

Ranger IPA is also dry-hopped which leads to a burst of aroma when your nose first hits the glass. With the very resinous notes of Cascade hops you expect a more bitter punch from the beer, but because dry hopping does not contribute to the bitterness it is just not there. It’s kind of a trick that is common to many dry hopped beers. I used to think this was a gimmick, but I have come over to the side of dry hopping and believe that it allows for another layer of complexity in the beer without going down the tastes/smells like a headshop route. No one wants to think they are drinking bong water.

If you can overlook the campy Beer Ranger marketing ploy give it a try. It’s a very good exemplar of a modern American version of an IPA.

Recently I have been pretty harsh on the beers coming out of New Belgium Brewery, e.g. Snapshot or Spring Blonde, but Ranger IPA is somewhat of a redemptive beer for the brewery. It shows that a properly focused beer can come out of a rapidly expanding brewery with national distribution intent.

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

New Belgium Brewery’s Spring Blonde

The liquor store can be a frustrating place for me.  Given that I brew almost all of my own beer now the few times a year when I find myself pacing the beer cooler is an exercise in frustrated decision making.  I want to try something new—a new style of beer or a different brewer—but it seems like the cooler is just filled with derivative beers from a few larger craft brewers.

I went to the section populated by New Belgium Brewery’s offerings hoping to find the newly released Snapshot, an unfiltered wheat beer, or Accumulation, a white IPA.  Instead, the only new beer was Spring Blonde:

Spring Blonde

It’s described as a Belgian-style ale with “drinks malty, sweet and wonderful. And the easy Nugget hopping pedals towards a dry, lightly bitter finish.”  Forgetting for a moment the constant use of cycling metaphors in New Belgium descriptions, I found that the beer was really lacking in delivering any of those defining characteristics in a way that might have been considered intentional.  Sure, there were elements of maltiness and hoppiness but nothing that anyone would write home about.

According to New Belgium, Spring Blonde is a “seasonal” beer so if you want to try your hand at a six-pack you might want to jump soon because it may disappear from shelves quickly as more summertime seasonals round the bend.

In all honesty, the beer came off like a well-executed version of a pale American lager.  Overall, I thought this was a very weak outing from New Belgium.

Purchased One Mug Rating

New Belgium Sampler Seduction

Does every serious beer drinker know the moment when they transitioned from being a casual beer drinker?  I cannot pinpoint an exact moment, but there are two watershed events that definitely signify my conversion from the unwashed masses of pale lager drinkers.

The first was my introduction to Newcastle Nut Brown Ale my first year of college.  Until that point beer had been Old Style or Natural Light or Busch Light…you get the idea.  It was all about copious quantities of questionable quality.  That first bottle of something other than insipid swill was like going into hyper drive on the Millennium Falcon—all rush of starlight and what not.  Okay, maybe it was not just like that but after one bottle there was no going back.  I still have a Newcastle bar mirror in my basement by the homebrew corner as homage.

The second was my several yearlong love affair with New Belgium Brewery’s Fat Tire Amber Ale.  In the dark days of craft beer’s emergence in the United States it was difficult to get many beers outside of their locales.  You could Rogue in the Pacific Northwest or Sierra Nevada in California or Dogfish on the eastern seaboard, but you might be stuck with nothing if you lived in a small college town in southeastern Minnesota.

Fat Tire became like a unicorn or white buffalo.  If a friend was coming back from Colorado…beg some space for a case or two.  Once distribution started in Kansas City my sister-in-law became a conduit every couple of months for sought after six packs.  I used to ration out the beers like a prepper consuming the last bottles of Coca-Cola on Earth.  Once distribution became widespread in Iowa, my love affair waned.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all.

All that being said, I still maintain a special place in my heart for the beers of New Belgium Brewery even if I do not frequently buy them anymore because so many new-to-me options exist.  It’s the same story with Summit Brewing out of St. Paul, Minnesota.  It’s less a commentary on the beer being produced by these trailblazers and more a story about the emergence of so many excellent breweries.  The carboys bubbling away in my basement may also have something to do with my infrequent visits to purchase commercial beer as well.

Light on bottles of homebrew due to my zealous sharing over the Memorial Day holiday, I found myself in the liquor store staring at a sampler pack from New Belgium.  My love of the sampler pack is well-documented.  As is New Belgium’s way the sampler is named a Folly Pack because…well…the marketing department decreed that the theme of the brewery is to “follow your folly.”  I will play along.  This particular Folly Pack contains a beer in the Revival series.  My pack contained Loft, but others this year have contained Springboard, Giddy Up, and 2 Below.  In addition to the Revival series beer the Folly Pack contained Fat Tire Amber Ale, Sunshine Wheat, Ranger India Pale Ale, and Blue Paddle Pilsner Lager.

Fat Tire Amber Ale is a classic:

Fat TireLike Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Fat Tire Amber Ale is a classic that has stood the test of time.  A mild beer (18.5 IBU) with a moderate alcohol level (5.2% ABV) is easy, easy drinking.  Willamette hops provide a nice aroma and lingering bitterness in the back of your mouth that really make you think of “American craft beer.”  It’s hard to imagine a time when a beer with 18.5 IBU would have been considered on the forefront of beer making, but when the choices were Miller High Life or Miller Lite this was groundbreaking.

Sunshine Wheat is even lighter:

Sunshine WheatLike the wheat that is it namesake, this beer pours like the color of recently harvested shocks.  It’s an amazingly light beer (14 IBU and 4.8% ABV) that reminds me a lot of the departed Mothership Wit, which by the way was one the impetuses behind me starting to brew my own beer.

Blue Paddle Pilsner Lager feels like a hop bomb after those two:

Blue PaddleIn relation to the two previous beers, Blue Paddles mild bitterness (33 IBU) and light alcohol (4.8% ABV) comes across more like what we think of as craft beer right now.  Using a hop like Czech Saaz, however, moderates any numerical bitterness because it is such a mild aroma.

Ranger India Pale Ale is a total departure:

Ranger IPAThe drawings of hop clusters should have been the giveaway.  Ranger is a strong beer (6.5% ABV) and fairly bitter (70 IBU), so it was a totally different experience from the other three beers.  The bitterness feels just about right for this kind of beer.  When IPAs start tickling 100 IBUs the bitterness gets overwhelming.  If you have ever had a beer with Simcoe hops, you know it because the aroma and lingering taste in your mouth is very distinctive.

What about Loft?

Loft

Apparently, Loft came out in the early 00s but I cannot ever remember seeing this beer on the shelf or on a tap handle.  Described as Belgian pale ale the beer is pretty light (4.2% ABV) and mild (25 IBU).  For anyone who remembers New Belgium’s Skinny Dip this beer will be really familiar.

 

New Belgium Brewery Odds & Ends

After my trip to Colorado I was in the mood to sample more of what the brewing’s mad scientists across the Front Range had to offer.  A quick trip to Benz Beverage Depot yielded a couple of interesting beers from New Belgium Brewery: Brett Beer and Prickly Passion Saison.  Both are beers in the Lips of Faith series at New Belgium.

The Brett Beer is first:

The best Belgian beers that I have had try to find a way to balance the malt with either hops or alcohol.  With this beer I think that the New Belgium folks were trying to go the alcohol route—granted the beer is not that heavy—but it comes across as too much.  Like homebrewers who get obsessed with making the most potent brews possible without regard to flavor the Brett Beer just tastes of alcohol to me.

How about the Prickly Passion Saison:

Let me get this out of the way: I did not taste any prickly pear cactus at all in this beer.  In fact, it tasted like a well-crafted saison and nothing more.  That is no mean feat, but the inclusion of any other flavors seemed like a complete marketing gimmick to me.  Maybe my palate is just not very refined.

This seems to be a growing trend in beer land—gimmicks.  It’s no longer enough to produce a well-made beer.  It’s no longer enough to refine your craft to a level that allows the ingredients and method to be showcased in a subtle and surprising way.  Nope, now it is about brewing beer with yeast cultivated from some dude’s beard or uses an insane amount of hops.

With that being said, the Prickly Passion Saison was a good beer.  It was just not worth the extra price that I paid compared with other well-crafted saisons.