Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ahh, spring . . . beer . . . . and getting busy.

I was rather surprised today when looking at the calendar and realizing that tomorrow is April. Which also reminded me that my blog posts took a nose dive for the month of March.  There are two reasons for that. One, my day job has pleasantly picked up in intensity. Two, I've joined the training group for the Missoula Marathon (I'll be doing the half marathon) which has me running five days a week.  It is a little harder to pay a visit to the Rhino in Missoula to check out the new offerings on a Saturday night when you've got an 8 mile training run waiting for you early Sunday morning.

But fear not. Growler Fills isn't going anywhere. I've got some thoughts on a couple of IPAs I picked up recently and might even make it down to Blacksmith Brewing this weekend.  I heard they planned to have some new oatmeal stout on tap by the end of March. Which is today. In the mean time, let me know what you've been enjoying recently.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Big Sky Brewing Community Brew IBA

Want to get your picture on a tap handle? Not only that, but have 300 gallons of your own beer brewed up by an award winning brewery? All you need to do is win the Zoo City Zymurgist's annual homebrew competition and this, too, can be yours.

Each year, the Missoula area homebrew club puts on a competition in conjunction with Big Sky Brewing.  Big Sky picks a style of beer, members brew up their own interpretation, and submit it for judging by Big Sky's experts.  The winner gets to help Big Sky brew up a commercial size batch.  The beer then goes on tap at the brewery and proceeds from the sale of growlers benefits the club and a local charity. This year's beneficiary is the Watson Children's Shelter.

This year's style was an India Brown Ale (see, the "IBA" in the title wasn't a mistake) and the winning homebrewer was Mike Hoffer with his "Whole Lot Of Mischief IBA".  You can read about the competition here and see pictures and a write up of Mike's brewing adventure here.

I sampled some at the brewery this Saturday and really enjoyed it. It has the hop profile of a very good IPA colliding with the malt base of a brown ale.  I'd swear I tasted some subtle roasted malt undertones, too. I have no idea what's in there, but I can tell you it will be gone fast.  Pick up a growler ($10) at the Brewery before it is gone.

Bayern Maibock: Another Good Spring Arrival

For my taste, Bayern's Killarney never lasts long enough, though perhaps that what makes it something to really look forward to each St. Patrick's Day.  But my sadness at its quick disappearance never lasts too long. Right on its heels each year comes Bayern's Maibock Lager which I found in stores this week. It is the "undisputed Bavarian spring opener" according to the brewery.  And Bayern would know.

This Maibock pours a deep golden color with some reddish tints and a white head.  It has a fairly full mouth feel and a good body.  It's malty and that's what I like about it, from the aroma through the aftertaste.  I taste lots of caramel with some biscuit flavors. The Hallertauer and Saaz hops provide balance, but they're not featured. I find the malt profile to be similar to Killarney, though this one provides more of a punch. It is very smooth and crystal clear.  It won't last long either, so stock up today.

Name: Bayern Maibock Lager
Brewery: Bayern Brewing Co., Missoula, MT.
Style: Maibock.
Color: Deep golden with reddish tint and a white head. 
Packaging: draft and 12 oz bottles.
Stats: 6.5% abv, ? IBU.
Bought: Local grocery store in Missoula.
Ruling: Three and a half out of Five Hops. Great, smooth, malty, spring favorite.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Welcome Back Flathead Lake Brewing Co.

Sometime around last June I remember going in to The Old Post in Missoula for an afternoon burger and a Flathead Lake Brewing Peg Leg Porter only to find that the Flathead taps had been replaced. Rumor from the bartender was that the brewery was closing and no longer sending out kegs.  Those rumors turned out to be true, though I did manage to drop by the brewery twice before its doors closed.

Fortunately, the story has a happy . . . . ending? No, beginning, or rebirth is more like it.  Tomorrow, Flathead Lake Brewing Company reopens with a St. Patrick's Day celebration and a grand opening follows on Saturday. The fantastic beers are back along with food from a new kitchen.  Starting this fall, we'll also be able to purchase their beers in bottles, a very welcome surprise.

The Flathead Beacon has an excellent story on the reopening. Welcome back!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jubel 2010 Lives Up to the Hype

As luck would have it, I did not have to pop the cap on my freshly acquired bottles of Jubel 2010 Once-A-Decade Ale in order to try it out.  After enjoying a warm evening trip to Missoula's Red Bird Wine Bar for excellent crab cakes and a glass of Tempranillo, we headed down the alley for a quick stop at the Rhino wondering what might be new on tap. Bayern's Killarney was there, not surprisingly, but so was a keg of Jubel 2010. I guess you don't have to wait for March 17 for a little luck to fall on your side.

The "regular" Jubelale is a seasonally brewed winter warmer from Deschutes that provides a welcome signal of the approaching holidays and the time to dive into the strong winter brews. I always pick up a six pack at the start of the season as some sort of right of passage from fall into winter.  The hop bitterness is more than I like for most of my beer drinking, but I've always enjoyed a few of them mixed in with the dopplebocks, imperial stouts, and strong ales that dominate the season.

"Super Jubel" as it is called by Deschutes is a much more potent version available yearly in draft form in limited supply at their pubs.  2010 marks only the second time it has been bottled, the first coming in 2000 to mark the turn of the century.  Jubel 2010 Once-A-Decade Ale was aged for 13 months in Oregon pinot noir barrels. What did that do? It created a complex beer with a variety of flavors that are tough to discern, but really fun to explore.

The beer is a very dark ruby/brown and had a thin, off white head. The aroma is sweet, almost sugary. The taste? I'd call it a curious collision of flavors.  I can pick out the Jubelale undertones, but I'm not sure if that's merely the power of suggestion. I tasted strong flavors of a Brach's caramel candy at the start, but there's a lot more in there that keeps popping up. We tasted toast. (Hey, remember, it is all subjective).  We tasted flavors we described as toasted chocolate (and hereby coin that term). The alcohol is warm, but not overpowering. Ultimately, there is an underlying sweetness that dominates the flavors with an ever-so-slight bitter finish. We agreed it was a very fun beer to sip and ponder. My guess is that it will improve with aging as the flavors blend more together.

Jubel 2010 has 10% abv and 55 IBUs which compares to 6.7% and 60 IBUs in the regular Jubelale. It is curious that Deschutes ramped up the malt to increase the Alcohol, but did not follow suit with the IBUs.  In fact, they lowered the IBUs. For me, Jubel 2010 doesn't reach the epic greatness that is The Abyss, but it certainly lives up to the hype. Perfect, no, but who cares. My definition of a great beer is one that combines complexity with great taste and gives you something to explore and ponder. Jubel 2010 delivers on all fronts.

Name: Jubel 2010 Once-A-Decade Ale
Brewery: Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR.
Style: Festive winter ale on steroids.
Color: Dark ruby/brown with off white head.
Packaging: 22oz bottles; draft (both limited quantities).
Stats: 10% abv, 55 IBUs.
Bought: Worden's Market, Missoula (bottles); Rhino, Missoula (draft).
Ruling: Four and a half out of Five Hops. A complex, fun beer that will improve with age.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bayern Killarney is a Sure Sign Spring is on the Way

In Montana we look for any and every sign that spring is on the way. One of those signs shows up earlier than the rest. Around the last week or so of February each year Bayern Brewing of Missoula releases Killarney, an Irish red lager brewed in celebration of St. Patrick's Day and the Irish influence on Montana's culture. I've enjoyed this beer since the first St. Patrick's day it was brewed and look forward each year to its return. It is often rather surprising for those not from or familiar with Montana to understand and appreciate the effect Irish immigrants had (and continue to have) on the foundations of Montana. Spend a couple of days exploring the history of Butte and Anaconda and you'll start to understand the significance.  It is prevalent in Missoula and elsewhere, too. Spend one St. Patrick's Day in Butte and you'll be overwhelmed by it.

Bayern Killarney is a beautiful red color with a white head. The rich, smooth caramel malt flavor dominates with only enough hops to provide balance and a slight bitterness to the finish.  Bayern says it never lasts long and I've found that to be a very true statement. Rarely is there any left after St. Patrick's Day, so stock up now. Though there's no green in the grass yet in Montana, at least we have Killarney to pick up our spirits.

Name: Killarney Irish Red Lager
Brewery: Bayern Brewing Co., Missoula, MT.
Style: Irish Red.
Color: Deep red with a white head. 
Packaging: draft and 12 oz bottles.
Stats: 5.7% abv, ? IBU.
Bought: Local grocery store in Missoula.
Ruling: Three and a half out of Five Hops. Great, smooth, malty, spring favorite.

Jubel 2010 Showing Up Around Town

I've become a huge fan of Deschutes Brewing Company's Reserve Series.  These curious, complex beers are an adventure all to themselves.  After years of missing out on the Abyss, I was finally able to score a few bottles and have some on tap earlier this winter.  I'm guessing Deschutes has significantly increased its production of these beers given the better availability. I've also got a bottle of Black Butte XXI stored away and waiting for just the right urge to give it a try.

Finding the Abyss got my hopes up for also finding Deschutes' most recent Reserve Series brew, Jubel 2010 Once-A-Decade Ale.  My hopes were realized this week when I spotted it in the cooler at Worden's Market in Missoula.  Mark does a great job at Worden's keeping something new on the shelf and there's always an inventive and interesting brew ready to explore.  I haven't checked around town, but you may also find it at the Good Food Store and Pattee Creek Market.  I saw the Abyss at both of them. Once I open up the Jubel 2010 I'll let you know how it treats me.

Update:  As of Friday, March 5, Jubel 2010 is on tap at the Rhino in Missoula.