Holiday Ale # 16 – Wild Christmas

Upslope has transformed their popular Christmas Ale into a wild version of the holiday classic. Aged for 10 months in Leopold Bros. Maryland-Style Rye Whiskey barrels and their house sour culture, the Belgian-style spiced dubbel Wild Christmas Ale is a complex yet balanced blend of holiday spices, dark cherry caramel and whiskey-spiced oak. Mildly tart due to the Brettanomyces, this ale also boasts a slight chocolate finish and notes of candied orange. At. 9.2% abv, Upslope’s Wild Christmas Ale is sure to bring you warmth and cheer this holiday season.”
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Featured Review – 400 Pound Monkey from Left Hand

Big eyes adorn the label of 400 Pound Monkey English-Style IPA from Left Hand Brewing.  Except for the monkey in the center who looks rather serene.
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I find it funny that we Anericans took IPA and spun a whole cottage industry out of it, to the point where we find ourselves back at the source.

This beer certainly tilts the equation back towards an even split of malt and hop. And the earthy hops also add to the grain-centricity. The bitterness is there at the front.  Part of a dual front with the malt. And this beer still has zip to it as well. Almost a flavor memory of honey on toast here.

Featured Review – Introvert Session IPA from Left Hand Brewing

The Session IPA craze shows no sign of abating but at least the offering from Left Hand Brewing has a catchy name. Or at least catchy for an introvert like me.

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Introvert Session IPA has a little bit of everything, hop wise. Pine notes mostly, followed by a bit of citrus and fruit. The body is nice and light and bears up the load of bitterness well but this could be easily labeled as a pale ale in my book.

My hallmark of the style is Ponto and/or Easy Jack. Lighter, fruitier options that are quite differentiated from their bigger brethren. Having Introvert before 400 Pound Monkey for the first time might skew me a bit but this seems too big a start.

That being said, the overall taste is great if you are looking for a bold Cascade-y type beer.

Featured Review – Polestar Pilsner from Left Hand

I had to wait for the chilling effects of the right out of the ‘fridge Polestar Pilsner.  But when I did, the bright yellow beer was a sight to behold.

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Right off the bat, this beer is primarily mineral driven there are undertones of citrus and hops but they are well underneath that mineral taste. This Colorado Pilsner is crisp but doesn’t fade away quietly. The taste lingers on the tongue. Right at the back you get some grain tastes clocking in.

This is a solid pils and a great start to the Left Hand Brewing line -up.

The Regulations

Let me explain myself. I am what Fox News would call a liberal heathen. But when it comes to business, especially the craft beer business, I am much more laissez faire Libertarian minus the strange 4 letter name. I don’t agree with the over oversight that government (looking at you City of Los Angeles) imposes on breweries. (Within reason of course)

Which is why I have been following House Bill 1217 in Colorado with interest and trying to pinpoint if I think it works. In a nutshell, the bill signed by Wynkoop Brewery past and current governer of the state, John Hickenlooper puts the decision of approving a brewery taproom in the sole hands of state regulators. While still giving local government a voice but not a veto sized one. Gaining neighborhood resident signatures would also be off the to-do list for a brewery.

As long as the regulators are familiar with the world of craft beer, I am down with this. I assume that Colorado has such people in that office. The largest stumbling blocks that I have seen here in SoCal has been the simple lack of beer knowledge that community residents have and that their elected officials have. Finding a council member who “gets it” is rare, though incrementally growing.

The problem, as I see it, is that the rules and regulations expect bad actors. Remember in grade school when the whole class was punished with a rule because of one bad kid? That is what it seems like navigating through the system. I would think it would be easier and more cost efficient to have less paperwork upfront and more supervision during operation. Assume that a brewery will be an asset and then, if it doesn’t live up to it, shut them down until they behave. If that doesn’t work, then we can go back to the way we do it now and if anyone complained, they would complain to the breweries that f…ed it up for the rest of us.

Maybe if the Colorado law works, something to that effect could be put into place in California.

Gunbarrel Brewery # 3 – Vindication Brewing

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The final Gunbarrel stop is at the awesomely named Vindication Brewing Company. With Oskar Blues and Rock Bottom experience in the founders resumes, you can rest assured that they haven’t gone into the brewing game cold.

Here is what I would add to my initial taster tray……

American Bold Ale – “An Intentionally out of style bold ale. Rich in complex notes of layered caramel and balanced with heavy waves of hoppy goodness.”

Winchester Wheat – “Made with Maris Otter malt and wildflower honey from Clark’s Honey Farm in Ft. Lupton.”

Billy Badass Brown IPA – “A hybrid of styles: a heavily hopped IPA with the color of a brown ale with a large amount of Haystack Hops.”

Big Sampson Imperial Rye IPA – “A big, smooth IPA featuring all hop additions from Haystack Hops in Boulder.”

Ginger Ale (Non-Alcoholic) – Refreshing non-alcoholic ginger ale brewed fresh from all natural ingredients.

Gunbarrel Brewery # 2 – Asher Brewing

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Tour stop # 2 brings us to Asher Brewing Company an organic Colorado brewer since February 25th, 2010.

Here are my top three choices for my taster tray. And if I have room after that, I might just try one of their hoppy offerings like Green Bullet Organic IPA or Greenade Organic Double IPA.

Green Lantern Organic Kolsch
Fermented with its own special ale yeast and brewed with a Pilsner malt, our version boasts a uniquely smooth balance with a dry, hoppy finish. The Green Lantern’s simple recipe lets our fine organic ingredients and meticulous brewing techniques shine through.

Tree Hugger Organic Amber
Living up to its roots, this full-bodied American classic boasts the perfect balance of naughty and nice. Crystal and Munich malts bring a caramel sweetness to the brew. Yet just when you think you’ve satisfied your sweet tooth, the organic German hops produce an unmistakeable dry finish. With a toffee aroma and deep amber color.

Green Monstah Organic Strong Ale
The Green Monstah Strong Ale boasts bold caramel malt flavors with a smooth aftertaste attributed to a low mash temperature in the brewing process in which results in the most sugars fermenting out.

Gunbarrel Brewery # 1 – Finkel & Garf

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The name may conjure up the old-timey department store that your grandma bought you sweaters for your birthday but Finkel and Garf is in fact it is our first stop in Colorado and the Gunbarrel district in Boulder.

It is a father and son brewery that has two goals:
1.“To make outstanding craft beer.“
2.“To facilitate great moments among family and friends.”

They also don’t take themselves too seriously adding toys to their logo instead of the usual beer images or fancy fonts.

Onto what I would drop into my taster tray: (they use the one word method of description)

Cream Ale – Creamy + Malty + Floral
Oatmeal Milk Stout – Roasty + Chocolate + Malty
American Lager – Crisp + Dry + Floral
Pale Ale – Malty + Hoppy + Citrus
Rye Saison – Spicy + Tart + Crisp

Left in LA

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Looks like Los Angeles is on the Left Hand Brewing distribution list. Starting this spring the Craft Beer Guild of Los Angeles will be bringing in beers from the Colorado brewery into SoCal. From San Diego to Santa Barbara.

Whether or not they blitz the area like Bell’s did in February is an open question but it seems the amount of choices for the L.A. beer consumer is growing.

It will be interesting to see if their famed Nitro Milk Stout takes off here.