July 8, 2014

Port and Vintage Beer

Just got back from a trip to Porto, Portugal. The wine region famous for making their fortified cellar-worthy wines. As a fan of positive oxidation flavors, days of tippling decades-old Tawnys and Colheita’s was a real treat. I highly recommend that any fans of aged barleywines definitely take a foray into Port. The main thing that separates it from normal wine is its higher alcohol content and the increased amount of time it spends in the barrel.

And just like vintage beers, Ports age well for a variety of reasons, but foremost a high ABV (typically 20%) and a high amount of residual sugars. For those not familiar (i.e. me just a few weeks ago) the typical types of Port you’ll come across are:

Ruby: Fortified wine that has spent 2-3 years in a foeder (in a concrete tank for the cheapo brands). These have lots of young, fruity wine flavors, and very little oxidation (caramel, dried fruits, etc) aspects.

Tawny: A ruby port that has been further aged in a barrel. Typically for seven years, but also for longer. The bottle label should indicate the amount of time. In my experience, the older the better (and unfortunately, the more expensive). Most of the young fruity flavors of the Ruby have faded and been replaced by a rich oxidation character. And just like vintage beer, time has greatly mellowed the alcohol presence, which can be quite boozy in a Ruby. They are absolutely fantastic, and anyone serious about cellaring beer should check them out if for no other reason than to sharpen their vintage flavor palate.

Colheita: This is essentially a Tawny, but comes from a single vintage rather than a blend of multiple years. The label should read Colheita and the year. Only the best Tawny barrels and vintages become Colheitas, making these akin to Tanwy Reserves. Was able to try quite a few of these, and just blown away by the complexity. And as far as these things go, they are not outrageously expensive, being around $50-$75 for a bottle of 25 year aged.


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March 16, 2014

Deschutes Abyss Complete Vertical Tasting Notes

Overall the thing that blew me away by this vertical was the complete lack of oxidation. Even the first batch, 2006, was relatively free of oxidative effects. This is a good and bad thing. Personally, I like a little oxidation. It adds sherry/port, dried fruit, and a bevy of other effects. On the other hand, it was fantastic to taste a BA imperial stout without negative stale oxidation too.

Bottom Line: I love this beer with 4-5 years on it. The roast and booziness has mellowed, but there is still an impressive roast malt character and body along with some vintage flavors.

Deschutes Abyss Complete Vertical: 2006-2013

Deschutes Abyss Complete Vertical: 2006-2013

Tasting notes below:

2013: Coffee grounds, caramel malts and a somewhat harsh booziness. Light vanilla oak presence that stayed constant throughout the entire vertical. Astringent roasted finish.

2012: The fullest bodied of the bunch. chewy black licorice, cheap rum and bittersweet chocolate.

2011:  Still a bit fusel-y, but starting to show some vintage flavors. Raisins, black chocolate and spiced rum.  The fullest bodied and sweetest of the bunch. Astringent roasted finish almost totally gone.

2010:  Sweet cuban coffee, brown sugar, and port. Less sweet and more integrated than the 2011.

2009: Most bottles of this vintage were infected and this was no different, however, it was substantially less than most we’ve experienced. Was much drier with a distinctive red wine quality. Still chocolatey, but not near as sweet. Was some folks favorite, but I found it too dry to allow it best qualities to shine through.

2008: Belgian chocolate, raspberries and oak-induced vanilla and coconut. Perfectly balance of sweetness. Amazing.

2007:  More roasted than the 08, presenting more of a coffee flavor. Caramel and vanilla, but overall a subdued bottle.

2006: Very coffee forward and bitter. The same flavors as previous years, (chocolate, caramel, sherry, etc) are present, but muted. Comes across a bit flat.

barrel aged imperial stout vintage

Abyss 2013: This young’in has a ways to go


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March 16, 2014

Deschutes Reserve Series Tasting

On Saturday I attending a tasting hosted by Jonah Edwards that covered the entire series of the Deschutes Reserve beers. This includes Abyss, Dissident, Black Butte, Jubel, and their handful of one-offs (Stoic, Green Monster, Class of 88, etc). It was an epic day and I did my scholarly best to take tasting notes. I’ll post them over the next few days.

Oh and did I mention the food? There were Abyss Cupcakes, Dissident Pate, and Chainbreaker Queso. Absolutely killer to say the least.

I’ll be publishing my tasting notes on the individual verticals in subsequent posts. Get excited!

Jonah made this pate. Literally made the gelatin topping out of Dissident. Possibly my favorite tasting experience of the day. It was that good.

Jonah made this pate. Literally made the gelatin topping out of Dissident. Possibly my favorite tasting experience of the day. It was that good.

Chocolate Cupcakes with frosting made from Abyss butter.

Chocolate Cupcakes with frosting made from Abyss butter.

The 7th Inning Stetch. The Abyss lineup in the back.

The 7th Inning Stetch. The Abyss lineup in the back.

The closers, the entire Black Butte vertical

The closers, the entire Black Butte vertical

So delicious, and so necessary…





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March 15, 2014

Vintage Beer Porn

I’m finally getting around to moving some photos off our camera, and thought I’d post a few from Bill Young’s epic New Years Eve Vintage Beer Party. Most bottles were courtesy of the ever generous Jonah Edwards.

Bottle of 1902 Bass Corker King's Ale

Blackberry Jam, blackstrap, tobacco, leather, and raisins. Utterly outstanding.

Courage Russian Imperial Stout

Tobacco, Smoke, mushrooms, and molasses. Drinkable, but over the hill.

Vintage JW Lee's Barleywine

Held up remarkably well. marmalade, honey and sherry. Notes of cellar must. Still like a bit younger (10-15 years)


bottles of vintage beer

A small glimpse of the offering’s at Bill Young’s NYE Party


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March 10, 2014

Lowdown Brewery Hits The Spot

Dark chocolate, chewy black licorice, vanilla, coconut, and a smidge of port. No this isn’t a dessert description, it’s a list of all the layers of flavors swirling around in the glass of Imperial Stout in front of me. This beer, aged for a year in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels and then one more year in a keg, wasn’t what I expected from a brewery in it’s opening week, but it’s exactly what Lowdown, Denver’s newest brewery, had to offer when they opened their doors this February. It’s this kind of forethought and execution that quickly shows anyone paying attention that the new kid on the block is not messing around.

Headed by two ex-Rock Bottom brewers, Lowdown takes their former employer’s same approach of offering a wide range of beer styles and options. And like Rock Bottom, they are a bona fide brewpub with a full kitchen and restaurant menu; bucking the brewery-and-a-food-truck trend. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a Rock Bottom re-incarnate. Lowdown has taken a more…flavorful, let’s say, take on both their food and their beer. It’s obvious they’re not trying to cater to the tourist strolling in off 16th street looking for a light beer and a burger.

Initially, the food options might sound like standard pub grub; pizza, sandwiches, salads, etc., but a closer look at the menu reveals a bounty of unique ingredients and creativity. Beet and pickled carrot salad? Pancetta, apricot and goat cheese sandwich? Green chile and lime crema pizza? Definitely not your average fare and most importantly everything sampled was delicious. As a bonus, prices were reasonable, with sandwiches ranging from $8 to $12 and 10” pizzas from $9 to $13.

Behind the bar, an impressive 10 taps pour freshly brewed suds and accompany three guest taps currently showcasing local brewers Crooked Stave and Prost.

Hopheads will certainly enjoy their flavor-forward IPA and India Red Ale, but the real hoppy winner was the Selfish Ale. A unique 5% ABV beer with a subdued malt character and hop bitterness, but bursting with tropical fruit flavors from exotic hop varietals like Citra and Amarillo. It has all the hop punch of an IPA, without the alcohol sting, and was created by the brewers as something they could enjoy after work without worrying about feeling groggy the next morning.

Malty options abound as well with the two-year aged Imperial Stout stealing the show. While we can’t expect them to constantly have such time-intensive brews on hand, it showcases the brewhouse’s prowess and is hopefully a harbinger of more to come. Other excellent malt-forward choices included the Lonely Sheep, a Scottish style ale with sweet caramel flavors and a dry finish from a pinch of roasted malts, and the Black Bessie milk stout, a beer that gives Left Hand’s classic a run for its money.

Lowdown’s atmosphere is classic brewpub with its comfortable booths, high-tops and long bar surrounded by stainless steel fermenters. It still manages to retain a fresh decorative twist though with strings of hung lampshades and vibrant African travel photographs dotting the walls.

We look to provide readers with neighborhood specific info. Our coverage extends north to I-70, south to 6th Ave, and to Lincoln and Wadsworth for the respective eastern and western borders. Lowdown Brewery + Kitchen sits in the very southeast corner of this zone at 8th Ave and Lincoln, not far from the new History Colorado Center. Almost out of range, so not something we’d normally cover, but a few visits convinced us otherwise. With so many solid nearby options in our Highlands, it can sometimes be hard to venture too far out of our neighborhood, but Lowdown makes it well worth the trek.

Ales and menu items from Lowdown Brewery

Meatballs and dopplebock. Mmmmm

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