Thursday, July 29, 2010

Grizzly Bear Coffee Stout On Tap at Tamarack

Tamarack Brewing Company in Lakeside, MT turned 3 years old this week and celebrated with two new brews, an Anniversary Amber and Grizzly Bear Coffee Stout. I was fortunate enough to be passing through this week and was able to stop for lunch and try out a pint of the Stout.

Grizzly Bear Coffee Stout is a very dark brown with a tan head.  The aroma is roasted malt with coffee. There's an initial robust, roasted malt flavor with quite a bit of coffee. The finish has a very nice lingering coffee flavor.  It is medium bodied, very smooth and nicely balanced.  It is a solid brew and I'm guessing it won't last long. The stats are 6.0% abv and 30 IBUS.  I also tried a sample of the Anniversary Amber (5.8% abv, 30 IBUs) and could taste just enough to know it goes in a very different direction than their year-round Yard Sale Amber. Where Yard Sale is a malt-forward brew, the Anniversary Amber seemed to have more of a hop presence, trending toward pale ale territory.  I'd have to have a whole pint to know for sure.  Hmm . . . .

As a teaser, the chalk board line up of brews lists an intriguing brew coming soon:  Rye Sally RyePA.  Aside from an outstanding name, I've never seen an IPA with rye and definitely want to give it a try.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Event Reminder: Celtic Festival Missoula

One of the great things about summer in Missoula is the constantly rotating string of outdoor festivals. Each weekend it seems there's an old favorite or a new one to check out.  That's the case this Saturday, July 31, 2010 with the first Celtic Festival Missoula.  It takes place downtown at Caras Park starting at 3:00 p.m. And it's free.

Celtic Festival Missoula is a celebration of the great Celtic traditions of the northern Rockies of Montana. It is also the 100th anniversary of Highlander Beer and there will be plenty of this great Scottish Export on tap. The Celtic Dragon Pipe Band warms up the sheep bladders at 4:15, followed by the Malarkey Celtic Band at 5:00.  But things really get rocking at 7:00 when the Young Dubliners take the stage.  You won't want to miss their high energy show, particularly with a Highlander in hand.

For more details, including kids' events, the full schedule, food vendors and more, check out the website.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

2010 Missoula Half Marathon Race Report: Part II

Part I is here

In more than 400 training miles and 550+ miles on the year, not once had I experienced any need to hit the can, so to speak.  That all changed around Mile 4. Seriously? Today? Now? More than 550 miles since January and nothing. Then again, not once during all those miles had I dragged myself out of bed at 3:30 a.m. to go for a run. I'm guessing it was a combination of the early start and race day adrenalin. I tried to ignore it through Mile 5, but it wasn't long before I knew I needed to come up with a plan. The aid station at Mile 4.7 had long lines at the row of porta-potties and the prospect of significant lost time. I'd have to hope for the best at the next.

The aid station at Mile 6.3 came in to view and I started plotting my attack.  I grabbed a cup of sports drink and rounded the corner onto 3rd Street and checked out the scene.  Five porta-potties and only one person waiting.  Here's my chance.  I told my running partner to go on without me, I'd catch up. I had no idea if that was true. But I stood there. And waited. And waited. And danced. And waited. What the heck?  Finally, one opened up and I took up the cause. I can say without a doubt it's the first time I've ever hit the ground running after visiting one of these things. In retrospect, it might be a good move on a regular basis.

But now what? I checked the Garmin and had lost more than 2 minutes. Uggh.  I couldn't see my running partner anywhere in the long line of runners strung out down 3rd Street. So I took off in pursuit.  I weaved in and out of runners I'd already passed once, struggling with the mental battle playing out in my head. How quickly can I make up the lost time? How quickly should I make up the lost time? Am I going to burn out if I keep up the pace? I rounded 3rd Street onto Grove by the old Bayern Brewing building and figured I was going too fast when I heard a spectator yell out "Look at that guy go!"  Not being known for my speed, it was a moment of pride, but I knew I couldn't keep at it much longer and still have any gas left for the rest of the race.  That's when I spied my running partner a hundred or so yards up the road.   I caught up to him about 3/4 of a mile after we'd split and resumed my pacing job. I'd made up more than a minute of time and still felt strong. I doubt I'd have been able to do that successfully if I hadn't had a target to chase down.

Along the course were numerous signs bearing well wishes for specific runners or, more often, rather humorous bits of encouragement for all of us.  "Pavement Fears You" and "Toenails are for Sissies" made me chuckle, but my favorite read "Getting Up at 5:00 a.m. to Make This Sign Isn't Easy Either." There was also a series of Chuck Norris themed signs you can read about here.

I finally started feeling tired at the aid station at Mile 8.2, but at least from here on out I didn't expect any surprises.  We'd run this part of the course so many times in training that it had become second nature. Fourth street is a long straight section of the course, but there are enough dips and street crossings and trees to keep it interesting.  Almost to Mile 11, Bonner Park presents a tantalizing part of the course. The route runs by it on two sides.  As you approach from the west, you can look across to the other side of the park and see faster runners heading toward the home stretch.  But not you. You still have to turn to the south and take a 3/4 mile diversion before looping back and reaching that side. Ha! No soup for you!

With about 2.5 miles left, I was losing some steam, but that's also when my total inexperience in these running type things caught up to me.  On the one hand, I felt like I had enough energy left to dig deep and shave off some more time and perhaps move up a few spots in the standings. But I would have nothing left after that. On the other hand, my mind was telling me it would be the ultimate embarrassment to completely run out of steam on the Higgins' Street Bridge in front of hundreds of adoring fans. Well, one, anyway.  So I decided to stick with my pace to ensure I'd at least finish with a smile on my face.

Really, that was a given.  I hadn't stopped smiling since 4:00 a.m. Here I was, out running a race I'd set as a goal back in February, having only started running in January.  I'd spent 18 weeks in a training course, determined and driven for no other reason than a challenge to myself.  I'd been hit by a car while on a training run and knocked out of training for three weeks while battling pneumonia. I wasn't running for a cause or a show or a purpose. I was just running for fun and a sense of personal accomplishment.  And it was fun. I remember thinking around Mile 7 that I didn't want it to end as I jokingly asked a spectator for a cup of her coffee.

With the home stretch underfoot, my smile widened as I wondered what it was going to feel like when I rounded the final turn on to the Higgins' Street Bridge.  Many of our training runs crossed this bridge and our coach frequently reminded us to visualize just such a scene when the runs got tough.  To my right I was jolted out of my day dreaming by an overly enthusiastic young couple bellowing out encouragement. I enjoy hearing the cheers and a hearty "way to go" or "good job" and - I don't care who you are - a clanging cowbell pumps up the excitement any day.  For some reason I don't like hearing "you're almost there" or "there's only one mile left!" as these two were boisterously delivering. I got the feeling that the full marathoners coming behind me weren't too interested in hearing "there's only one mile left!"  But that was particularly true since the pair had apparently lost their way. At that point they were a quarter of a mile off.

In the last half mile, the course has a series of turns that help keep things interesting with the final turn taking you off the quiet edge of the University District and on to the Higgins' Street Bridge, the picturesque main thoroughfare crossing the Clark Fork River and diving into downtown Missoula. After a small rise, that last 0.1 or so of the race is a nice downhill stretch that lets you coast across the finish line.  It is welcome not only for the finish line, but because the course is subtly uphill all the way from the Bitterroot River back at about Mile 3 (or Mile 16 for the full).  The bridge is lined with hundreds of spectators and the cheers make you feel like everyone is patting you on the back.  I scanned the crowd for Cheryl, my one adoring and supportive fan, but didn't spot her.

Crossing the finish line felt exactly as I'd expected. Barely containable excitement and pride.  I collected my finisher's medal, found Cheryl - who smartly declined a sweaty hug - and headed for the finishers photo and food line.  Like everything in the Missoula Marathon event, the food is well organized and top notch and we had our pick of watermelon, bananas, pasta salad, frozen fruit pops, nuts, trail mix and other things I missed. I found my running partner whom I'd left behind around Mile 8.   I'd been able to successfully pull him along enough to meet his goal of finishing in under 2 hours. We headed back to the bridge to cheer on friends still out on the half and full courses.

My decision to keep my pace consistent brought me across the finish line with gas left in my tank.  I wasn't exhausted and probably had a couple more miles in me. I'll have to experiment more in training to get a feel for how much and when to push.  The Garmin told me I'd run 13.11 miles, ridiculously close to the actual race distance (which is always set to ensure you run at least 13.1 or 26.2 miles, etc.).  The final results say I came in 540th out of roughly 2,500 finishers with a time of 1:56:11 for an 8:53 min./mile pace.  Not bad for a beer blogger doing his first race.  I'd started out the day with a goal of hitting an 8:50 pace and would have hit it were it not for my mid-race calling.  Once home, I celebrated with a fine imperial stout.

On Monday, the day after the race, I felt a little stiff, but no more than any of our other long training runs. Tuesday arrived and I couldn't wait to get back to the streets.  I knocked out a five miler feeling stronger than I'd felt in weeks.  Maybe the remaining pneumonia crud was finally in check. Maybe it was the unusually cool 65 degree evening air.  Maybe it was the satisfaction of completing a challenge months in the making. Or maybe, it was because I was out running just to run.

Lagunitas' Wilco Tango Foxtrot

I had to laugh when I saw this one at Pattee Creek Market in Missoula this week (it is also available at Worden's Market).  Lagunitas Brewing Company has a history of great beer and funny names, but Wilco Tango Foxtrot is my favorite so far. Name, that is.  Billed as a "malty robust jobless recovery ale," I can only imagine what the backstory is to this one.  Lagunitas apparently released it back in March, but it just showed up in Missoula over the past week.

The label asks the question, "We're not quite in the red, or in the black, does that make us in the brown?" - which describes the color perfectly. (You should know by now not to trust my pictures for color.) I find it to be a clear, deep red, but at certain other angles it looks brown or even trending towards black.  It has a lightly tan head with a sweet malty aroma. Their website calls it an imperial brown and describes it as "rich, smooth, dangerous and chocolatey."  It definitely delivers on being rich and smooth which, when combined with its potent 7.8% abv can certainly make it dangerous.  There is a medium-full body. I taste a hint of chocolate in there, too, or perhaps roasted malt, but overall I get flavors that taste like toasted brown sugar.  The lingering slightly bitter finish is very pleasant.

Despite it being 92 degrees out, I enjoyed this beer with some asiago and roasted pepper sausages on a bun with caramelized onions on a lazy Sunday evening.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rogue Ale's Chatoe Rogue First Growth OREgasmic Ale

I was having lunch at Wordens' Market in Missoula the other day when one of the guys pointed this brew out and suggested I give it a try.  Rogue Ale's new Chatoe Rogue First Growth OREgasmic Ale is brewed with all Oregon grown ingredients including "Micro Barley Farm first growth Dare™ & Risk™ Malts; Rogue Micro Hopyard Willamette & first growth Independent Hops."  (Yes, as you can see from the picture, I've spelled "Chatoe" correctly.)  The Chatoe Rogue is a series of brews Rogue calls GYO Certified - grow your own - reflecting the very cool fact that Rogue grows its own barley and hops for the beers. This is the first one in the series I've seen, though I'd love to get my hands on the previous release, Dirtoir Black Lager.

I have no idea if using your own barely and hops in a beer makes it taste better, but as a long-time gardener, there's no question it's a great thing and lends a greater sense of care to the whole process.  The satisfaction that comes from growing your own is why I've long tossed the idea around of growing my own grapes. (There's no chance I could grow my own barley.)  I've grown hops for years just for fun, but have never used them in a homebrew. If you need some homegrown garlic, though, I'm your guy.  There's also no question this is a very good brew.

First Growth OREgasmic Ale has an orangish color with a big off-white head.  The pictures don't do the color justice. It is far more orange than shown.  I get a spicy malt aroma.  There's a big malt punch up front in the flavor followed by strong, but balanced hop resin flavor.   There is some very pleasant lingering bitterness in the aftertaste, but that dissipates quickly. I was surprised to see there are only 40 IBUs in this beer given the level of hop bitterness.  That suggests the malt backbone isn't nearly as potent as I'd guessed, yet the beer is full, rich and very flavorful. I'd give it 3.5 to 4 hops on my scale and will definitely be going back for another bottle.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

2010 Missoula Half Marathon Race Report: Part I

I'm still not sure how it happened, but back in early February I started toying with the idea of trying to run the Missoula Half Marathon. I tossed the idea around in my head for more than a week before telling anyone about it. Even then it was with a very cautious, tepid, "what if" kind of a statement. I'd started trying to run for fitness on January 5th, the Monday after the holiday season.  My seasonal ten extra pounds and I weren't getting along and it was time to part ways. By February running was starting to click as a positive challenge, not some dreaded chore in the name of getting exercise. But miles on the treadmill and laps around the indoor track at Missoula's Peak Health and Wellness Center can only take you so far. I needed a goal.

My workplace is one of the many sponsors of Run Wild Missoula and the Missoula Marathon and I've got a number of coworkers who are impressive runners and ultra-runners. I was familiar enough with the Missoula Marathon to know we had one, but that's about the extent of it. Me, run? Ha!  In the fall of 2009, I'd also had a casual conversation with a couple of friends about their experiences with the Run Wild Missoula training group. I guess all of that converged in my head in early February to spawn an idea in the form of some crazy, personal challenge.  What happened next found its way into earlier blog posts here and here.

Fast forward to the week before the race. Training runs were short and I was getting crazy anxious. Anxious excited, not anxious worried.  Our last group training run was the Wednesday before race day and we all ran to Missoula's Greenough Park for "The Talk." One part tips and reminders and 10 parts encouragement from our coach. Most of us hung out far longer than normal after completing our four mile run. The excitement was real and we wanted to live all of the moment. I found myself bestowing great wishes of "good luck" to fellow trainees I'd never spoken with before. I find myself now wondering what has made me use the word "bestowing" in a sentence for the first time.

Race day was Sunday July 11.  The night before we headed out to a local Italian joint for a great carb-loading meal. Frankly, my regular diet has plenty of carbs in it already, but I don't mind using excuses for a few more when they're handy.  Handy excuses, that is. The carbs are already handy. Walking through the bar section of the restaurant, I spied all of my friends lined up neatly behind the bar with handles and glasses at the ready.  I'd given up beer for the pre-race week to help ensure I'd be plenty hydrated. The taps were beckoning me with their siren call of hops and malt. For a guy who writes a beer blog, that was getting harder and harder each day.

I woke at 3:30 a.m. to shower, eat a bowl of cereal and head downtown.  I met some folks at work at 4:20 a.m. to take the short walk over to catch the buses out to the start line.  It was dark and cool and exiting with runners pouring in from all directions. We boarded the bus quickly and easily and found some seats.  A runner from Oregon took a seat next to me and we chatted about Missoula, the race course and running life for the 15 – 20 minutes it took to get to the staging area.  The Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon have separate start lines, joining together at the 2.6 mile point of the Half Marathon. The Half Marathon starts at Peak Health and Wellness center - my gym and where this crazy idea of mine took root.  About a half mile from Peak, I spotted the flashing lights of the Highway Patrol cars directing the bus traffic into Blue Mountain Road. That’s when the goose bumps and chills started. This was my first race and I was about to do 13.1 miles with 2,700 other half marathoners.

We stepped off the bus and were treated to pulse pounding music and an announcer energizing the crowd. The atmosphere was festival-like with runners milling about greeting friends, warming up and hitting the porta-potty lines. We were an hour ahead of the start, but it sure beats the anxiety of wondering if you’ll make it on time.  Thanks to the super organization of the Missoula Marathon and Beech Transportation there really aren’t any worries, but it felt good to have a few minutes to relax.  We checked our race bibs, secured our timing chips, ate some energy bars and visited with a runner from Minnesota making her first trip to Missoula. Her husband was doing the full marathon on his quest to complete a marathon in all fifty states. I think this made number 21 for him.

Twenty minutes before the start I decided to hit the porta-potty line and ran into one of my new training group friends. He asked what pace I was trying to hit and we decided to run together. This ended up being a good move for both of us. At 5:50 a.m. we got the call to be at the start line and found a spot at about the middle of the pack.  I had no way to gauge where in the pack I should line up, figuring a large chunk of the crowd had to be faster than me. The national anthem played and the announcer started the countdown to wild cheers from the mass of runners. Precisely at 6:00 a.m. the cannon went off and so did we.

It took more than a minute to reach the actual start line, but that’s the beauty of chip timing. Your official time doesn’t start until the circular, orange chip attached to your shoelaces crosses the force field beaming across the line.  Here’s a picture of the timing chip. I thought the “This Side Up” label on the chip might serve as a nice reminder during the next 13.1 miles.

The Missoula Half Marathon course starts with a bit of an easy incline. At the top of that short stretch we were treated to two incredible vistas that nearly had me stopping to snap a picture.  To the east, the view was across the Missoula Valley with the Bitterroot River in the foreground and the sun just about to crest Mount Sentinel in the distance. It is an inspiring view any day and more so early in our quest for the finish line. In front of us, the road curves.  Stretched out for a half mile was the chill-inducing scene of a multi-colored ribbon of runners in dawn’s early light. Behind us, an equally long line pressing forward.  

We quickly realized we had a problem. We’d started too far back in the pack. That awe inspiring sight in front of us was a nearly solid block of runners stretching from edge to edge on the road.  How to get through? Over the next mile and a half, we darted and sprinted through every tiny hole we could find, even resorting to the grass in the roadside ditch when a couple of ipod wearing runners couldn’t hear our approach. It was an unexpected challenge, but after about two miles, the pack had stretched out enough to be able to pick a comfortable spot and get a consistent pace. I felt fueled, hydrated, and energized and wanted to push it. My running partner needed solid pacing to help ensure he'd meet his goal to finish in under 2 hours.

The first aid station came at mile 2.6.  We'd had plenty of aid stations during our group training runs, but I'd never done one during race conditions. I'd always stopped for a quick rest while chatting and rehydrating. This time, I didn't want to lose time or piss off any of the thousand-plus runners coming fast behind me. At the first aid station I grabbed a cup of sports drink on the run. Three seconds later my cup was empty, but none of the fluid had made it in me.  After a laugh, I slowed to a quick walk, wondered who had just witnessed that fiasco, and grabbed another cup.  There's nothing that screams "new guy" louder than showering yourself with sticky sports drink on the fly.  (That's hard earned sweat on my green shirt, not sports drink. I think.) For the rest of the race, I slowed to a walk at each aid station, made sure my fluids reached their intended destination and took off again. It worked well and certainly wasn't going to have any real effect on my time.

The next thing did.

Coming in Part Two: Annoyingly enthusiastic fans, signs of encouragement, and a cruise across the finish line.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Flathead Brown Ale and a Note on Antiquated Beer Laws

If you've been paying attention, and . . . ahem . . . I know some of you aren't, you know I'm a big fan of brown ales.  I stopped in at North Bay Grille in Kalispell for dinner recently while up doing some work and found Flathead Brewing Co.'s Brown Ale on tap. This is one of their regular line up I had not had a chance to try.

Not surprisingly, it is a very dark brown color with a thin light tan head.  Hey, don't laugh. I recently got a fun surprise when trying Terminal Gravity's breakfast porter which is neither dark brown or black. Sometimes brewers do some strange things just to mess with us. I got a slight caramel aroma, though the mesquite fire from the kitchen was smelling pretty good, too. The flavor starts out with rich caramel flavors and a hint of roasted malts.  I even get some biscuit flavors in there, too. I'd call it medium bodied and very smooth. Malt is the feature, but it is balanced and doesn't become sweet. There's not as much of the classic brown ale flavor profile as in the Abita Turbodog, but it is yet another good one from Flathead Lake Brewing Co. 

On another note, Tim over at Grizzly Growler had a post last week on Oregon's latest problem with outdated beer laws. It seems Deschutes Brewery inadvertently cased a sequence of events to shut down homebrew judging competitions by asking questions to ensure they were doing things legally.  He asks whether it is better to keep quiet about those things or bring the antiquated laws to light in order to evaluate them and lobby for change.  He and I agree that the active route is the better one to work change.  So, with antiquated beer laws in mind, take a look at this picture of a bar in Kalispell. Can you tell me what is wrong with the picture? I don't know if it fits in the category of antiquated beer laws, but the issue in the picture is one of the more curious one's I've run across in Montana's laws.  If you get it right, I'll share a bottle from my stash with you. Well, maybe.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Run Wild Missoula Beer Run

For the same reason I didn't buy great running shoes until I knew I was going to stick with it, I was reluctant to call myself a runner until I'd trained for and run my first race - and decided to keep running afterward.  Well, that happened this past Sunday when I completed the Missoula Half Marathon. After a day off, I got back on the streets yesterday with a relaxing five-miler and contemplated where to go next with this running thing.

I've also been reluctant to call myself a Beer Runner since I hadn't yet come to grips with calling myself a runner.  What's a Beer Runner?  It's a title coined by Tim Cigelske, a writer for Draft Magazine (among other endeavors) which he defines as: 
Beer Run•ner (noun): 1. Someone equally devoted to fine beer appreciation and an active, healthy lifestyle 2. A blog by Tim Cigelske on Draftmag.com. Ex. "John downed four microbrews at the triathlon finish line. He's a total beer runner."  
Tim is also on Facebook here. I now proudly consider myself to be a Beer Runner, though I can't say for certain that my devotion is quite "equal" among the two components. I did enjoy a fine imperial stout in celebration of the race.

If you're a runner or walker in the Missoula area, you now have an even better reason to love and/or join Run Wild Missoula, Missoula's premier running club. They're the folks behind the awesome Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon and twelve other races in the area along with fantastic training classes for every running and walking ability.  Thanks in part to the great success of the Run Wild Missoula Community Pint Night at Kettlehouse Brewing Co. in June - and a desire to create more opportunities for socializing -  the club has created a monthly beer run.  Here's what they have to say about it:
No, we’re not going on a beer run, but we are running about five miles with a cold one in our sights. These monthly Beer Runs will occur on the last Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at a different tavern or brewery. The group run of about five miles will be posted at the meeting place. If you’re not a beer drinker, we’ll make sure the establishment has other beverages available so you can join in the fun. Watch the web site for location and details.
The first Beer Run is Wednesday, July 28 at 5:30 p.m. at the Silver Dollar Bar on Railroad Street.  The August Beer Run will be at Bayern Brewing.  The Beer Runs are open to Run Wild Missoula members, but that will set you back only $25 for a whole year.  Trust me, it's one of the best $25 you will ever spend.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This One Has Me Salivating

Among the blogs I've inserted into my blog reader are a few that bring news of upcoming beer releases.  I don't pay too much attention to most of the releases because they aren't distributed anywhere near Missoula. Some make me wish I could teleport over to wherever they may be and get in line. Many are either variations on a common theme or simply aren't all that interesting.

Today's batch of news included a new one from Alaskan Brewing Company that has me excited. First, because there's a good chance it will find its way to Missoula, like the annual Alaskan Smoked Porter. Second, because it is a variation of a new style to which I've taken a strong liking. Available September 1, Alaskan Brewing Company is releasing the second beer in its Pilot Series, Alaskan Double Black IPA. It is a black imperial IPA which combines traditional IPA flavors with the dark color and chocolate flavors from roasted malts.  It also continues the tradition of paradoxically calling something both black and pale in its name. (I poached the info and pic of the label from beernews.org.)

Apparently, Alaskan Brewing Company has a program that lets anyone in the operation, from the accountant to the maintenance personnel, to the packagers, team up with a brewer and create a beer in their one-barrel system.  The results go on tap in the breakroom. (Note to self: remember to bring this up at the next company picnic.) The exceptionally popular ones get scaled up and distributed out to the beer loving public. Alaskan Double Black IPA is one of these beers.  It will be available in limited quantities in the 10 western states where Alaskan distributes. If you spot it, pick me up a bottle or two and we'll work a trade or I'll post a personal thank you on the blog. Who can resist that?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

(1/2) Marathon Celebration Beer

The 2010 Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon is in the books and I had an even better time than I expected.  I'll post a full race report soon, but I'm betting both my fans are anxiously waiting to hear which beer I picked for my celebration brew. As you will no doubt remember, the list of choices included Fritz and Ken's Ale, Black Butte XXI, the Abyss, or even an Ivan the Terrible Imperial Stout. And what did I choose?

Weyerbacher Heresy Imperial Stout. The reason has both a practical and indulgent side. Heresy, which I'd brought back from my trip to Virginia, is an imperial stout aged in oak barrels. That's the indulgent side.  The practical side is that it was a 12 ounce bottle of 8% abv, rather than the 22 ounce bottles of 10%+ abv of the others.  Despite having accomplished a 13.1 mile run as my first ever race, I still had groceries to buy, work to do and dinner to make. Ahh . . it stinks when life gets in the way of a little celebration.  Still, Weyerbacher's Heresy Imperial Stout made for a fine celebratory toast when I finally slowed down in the late evening.

Heresy is black with a tan head. There is sweet chocolate in the aroma along with a bit of bourbon and vanilla. It has a full, creamy mouthfeel and lots of chocolate flavor. I also pick up some light roasted malts, a touch of bourbon and vanilla and a hint of alcohol. It is smooth and provides a fantastic celebration as I sit outside in the evening sunlight and bask in a job well done.

Louisiana Beer Making Its Way to Montana

It's not like Missoula, Montana is in the middle of nowhere and we get a great selection of beers thanks to the likes of Worden's Market, The Good Food Store, Pattee Creek Market and The Rhino, to name a few. Unfortunately, we're just not in the distribution area for a number of beer's I'd like to have regular access too, like Troeg, Bell's, and Weyerbacher.  That's why I was a little surprised to find six packs from Louisiana's Abita Brewing Company on shelves at Pattee Creek Market the other day when I was stocking up for the 4th of July. Maybe it has been around Missoula for a while, but I just now noticed it.

I picked up a six pack of Abita's Turbodog, almost passing it over due to the name before realizing it is a brown ale, a style I tend to enjoy. I still haven't figured out the name. There's no explanation on the bottle or website.  I opened one up while spending the 4th of July up at Flathead Lake and quite enjoyed it.  Turbodog pours a very dark brown with a good, off-white head.  I couldn't get the aroma which was very slight. It has a classic brown ale base with a bit more malt presence than some. I detected a slightly nutty finish, but that might be from my preference for nut browns over your traditional english browns. There is a very light hop bitterness presence in the finish. It's got 5.6% abv with 28 IBUs.

4th of July and a Tamarack Brewing IPA

For the 4th of July Weekend we headed up to Rollins on Flathead Lake for some chilly camping. In Montana you never know what you're going to get for any particular holiday. Snow tends to usher in Memorial Day even if the previous week has seen 80 degree temperatures.  By coincidence, I spent my first 4th of July in Montana summer in Montana back in 1993 also near Rollins.  That weekend never never made it out of the 40s. The rain and low clouds kept the ceiling low and I didn't see the mountains ringing the lake until the following year.  This trip was much improved, with temperatures in the 60s and some nice sunshine in the mornings, followed by frequent showers in the evenings.

Rollins is about 10 miles south of Lakeside and that ensures we make it to the Tamarack Brewery every time we're in the area. The food is great and they've turned out some great beers too.  I've heard they're scouting out a location for a restaurant in Missoula and that gives me mixed emotions. You can bet I'll be a frequent patron, but it takes away that special treat we get every time we head up to the Flathead. Well, it doesn't take it away, but you get the point.

I can guess why, but it took me quite a long while to getting around to trying Tamarack's Hat Trick Hop IPA. I think I made the mistake early on in my craft beer exploration days of trying a couple of IPAs that burned my tongue on the excess hop bitterness. I figured that must be the measure of an IPA, so I swore them off for years.  Tamarack's IPA proves just how good an IPA can be when it features all there is to love about a hop without going overboard on any one part. It is a copper/orangish color with a white head. I get a cascade hop aroma and a fairly strong malt backbone in the initial taste, perhaps even some biscuit flavors. There is a moderate amount of floral hop flavor and bitterness that carries through to the finish.  It is extremely well balanced and one of my favorites along with Blackfoot River Brewing's IPA which has a much different flavor profile, but is also well balanced. Hat Trick Hop IPA is 6.9% abv with 60 IBUs.

While there I also tried one of Tamarack's newest brews, Save the Trails Black Ale.  I made a mistake in trying it after a pint of the IPA. It poured a dark red with an off white head. The flavor was a bit earthy with even a hint of smoke and a slightly bitter finish.  At 4.6% abv and 21 IBUs it would likely make a good session beer, but it was overwhelmed by the potent IPA I'd just finished. Perhaps that just means I'll have to think of an excuse to head back to Tamarack. Also, while you're in the area, head up to Somers and stop in at Buns By the Lake, also owned by the Tamarack Family.  Hands down it has the best breakfast and lunch on the lake and for many miles beyond.