Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Heavy Horse Scotch Ale Now Out From Big Sky

Among the new items I spotted this week in the beer isles was Heavy Horse Scotch Ale in 6 packs from Big Sky Brewing Co. in Missoula.  Turns out, Heavy Horse is the new name for the previous Stone Thrower Scotch Ale.  If memory serves, Stone Thrower was never bottled, so Heavy Horse marks Big Sky's first foray into a bottled scotch ale.  I don't know the scoop behind the name change, but I'm guessing it was changed to fit Big Sky's scheme of animal named beers.  They already have a couple of dogs (Powder Hound and Bobo's Porter) a mountain goat (Scape Goat Pale) and a moose (Moose Drool Brown Ale).  Even the IPA and Summery Honey have animals on the packaging (antelope and bear, respectively). So the horse fits, though Stone Thrower was a really cool name. September usually means a release of Big Sky's Slow Elk Stout (cow, not elk), but it looks like Heavy Horse is taking its place for the time being.

I first had Stone Thrower Heavy Horse back around 1999 at some Scottish games held at the Missoula County Farigrounds. It was quite good then and is quite good now. It pours a clear, dark red/copper with a nice, fairly thick biscuit colored head.  The aroma is caramel malt which matches the taste.  There's lots of caramel flavor creating a sweet, slightly candy-like, flavor.  Hops are nowhere noticeable which is typical for the style. Scotch Ales, or "wee heavy," are beefed up versions of their little brother, the Scottish Ale. They are sweeter, richer and higher alcohol.  Heavy Horse checks in at 6.7% abv and is indeed sweet, rich, medium to full bodied and very smooth.  You'll find it in limited release 6-packs and on tap at the brewery. Enjoy it while it lasts. Bobo's Porter can't be too far behind. 

Upcoming Event: Maverick Brewfest, Friday, Sept. 10

The wonderful summer season in Missoula is book-ended by two fine brewfests.  Signaling the start of fall (though the weather has already done that) is the 12th Annual Maverick Brewfest at Caras Park on Friday, September 10, 2010 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.  There will be more than 40 beers on tap along with live music and food.  Cost is $10 which gets you a commemorative mug and three samples.  Additional samples are $1 each and proceeds benefit Missoula area youth sports. I've often thought it a tad odd to drink beer in support of youth sports, but that's never stopped me from enjoying great beer at a great event.

So, if you're not headed to the Montana Brewers Association 2nd Annual Montana Brewers Festival in Bozeman at the same time on the same night, head on down to Caras Park in Missoula and get in on the fun. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Upcoming Event: SeptemBEERfest, Wednesday, Sept. 8.

Brooks n Browns, Bayern Brewery, The Trail 103.3, and Summit Beverage are throwing a party in downtown Missoula on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 from 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on the lawn outside the Holiday Inn Parkside Hotel.  There's a beer pong tournament to go along with some Bocce Ball and Folf nets.  Bayern will be serving up several of its brews and Juergen Knoller will be tapping a wooden keg of Bayern's Oktoberfest, one of the finest examples of the style you'll find.

Brooks n Browns is providing beer inspired bbq including brats, ribs and pulled pork marinated in beer and served with beer based sauces. As long as the weather turns around by next week, it sounds like a great opportunity for some great food, great beer and great fun.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager

About a month ago I tried a bottle of Rogue Ale's Chatoe Rogue First Growth OREgasmic Ale and rather nicely enjoyed it.  Studying up on this line of brews from Rogue, brewed with Rogue's own farm grown malts and hops, I realized I had missed one in the series that is right up my alley: Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager.

Black lagers, or schwarzbier - a german black beer, tend to be very soft, well balanced beers with hints of coffee and chocolate and always with the smoothness characteristic of a lager.  Either it hadn't made it into our Missoula stores, or I totally missed it when released back at the start of year. Nonetheless, I grabbed the last bottle in the cooler at Whithey's up in Kalispell this past week when I stopped in to check out the selection.  Someone had told me Whithey's had a good selection of 22oz bombers. Turned out to be a true story, particularly if you like Rogue Ales.

Rogue delivers wonderfully with Dirtoir.  It pours thick and solid black with a dark tan head. The aroma is slightly sweet with hints of molasses.  The flavor is earthy, rich and fairly full bodied. There's coffee, toffee, and molasses flavors.  It is chewy and sticks with you in a long, balanced aftertaste.  It is indeed smooth. It has more complexity than most schwarzbiers and at around 6% abv has a higher alcohol content than the norm.  You'll get no complaints from me, though. There are times when a crisp, light ale is just the right fix, but more often than not, I'm looking for something rich enough to make me ponder it. And ponder I did.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale

Sierra Nevada Brewing recently released its new fall beer, Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale, and I've started seeing it arrive in Missoula's grocery stores over the past week. It replaces Sierra's Anniversary Ale in their line up of regular seasonals.

I've read (source: beernews.org) that Sierra replaced its Anniversary Ale for a couple of reasons. First, Sierra is releasing a series of special 30th Anniversary ales throughout 2010 and thought it would be a bit odd to also release the regular anniversary ale.  Second, they apparently decided they've simply got more than enough hop-featured beers out there already (think Torpedo, Estate, Fresh hop, Pale Ale, etc.). I'm pleased with this news because I do love a good brown ale, but last years' anniversary ale was far too similar to its current lineup to make it distinguishable (or interesting enough to buy or drink).

According to Sierra, Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale is made with fresh roasted malt that arrives at their brewery within days of cooling, lending a much more pronounced roasted-grain flavor. True? Heck if I can tell. The roasted grain flavor is definitely there as you would expect for a brown ale, but I couldn't tell you whether rushing the malt to the brewery makes the flavor more pronounced.  What I can tell you is that Sierra Nevada picked another winner and a big improvement over the Anniversary Ale. It is a clear, reddish brown color with a thick white head. I get a light caramel aroma.  The flavor is a nutty caramel and toffee flavor that finishes with some roasted flavors and a touch of hop bitterness. It has a medium body, 5.5% abv and 37 ibus. 

Now, about that name . . . .

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Flathead Lake Brewing to Start Bottling Soon

The labels have all been approved. Now they just need to arrive at the brewery and Flathead Lake Brewing Co. will enter a new phase. Starting any day now, Flathead Lake Brewing will be putting their fine brews in 22 oz. bombers for retail sale. They'll be starting with their IPA2 and eventually expanding to include their pale ale, wheat, porter, and amber.  I'm sorry their brown ale, one of my favorites, isn't on the current list. From what I understand, the brewery will self distribute the bottles to a variety of local retail outlets, but no word yet on where. Like Tamarack Brewing of Lakeside, Flathead Brewing is putting a tap room in Missoula which causes mixed emotions.  For me, their beer becomes that much more accessible, but somewhat diminishes the "treat" that comes with making the pilgrimage north to the breweries.

I stopped in on a recent Sunday afternoon to see how the reopened brewery was faring. The deck was full of folks enjoying the sunshine and plenty of food was flowing out of the kitchen. Eight beers lined the taps: wheat, saison, porter, espresso porter, amber, ipa2, pale and brown.  It occurred to me that I'd never tried Flathead's pale ale, so I ordered a pint.  I'm not sure what took me so long to try it. It is a medium gold color with a thicker white head.  The light floral hop aroma pares perfectly with the crisp hop flavor and mid-level bitterness. It is a very balanced beer and perfect on a hot day. 5.8% abv and 35 ibus.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mahogany Brown and Scotch Ale - New at Tamarack

I try to get to other breweries. Really I do. But I can see how my two readers could get the mistaken impression that I only ever visit Tamarack Brewing Co. in Lakeside.  Unfortunately, my travels rarely take me east of Missoula where great breweries like Blackfoot River, Quarry, Angry Hanks and many others lurk.  Lately, my travels have been taking me north to Kalispell and Whitefish, right past Tamarack Brewing.  You don't expect me to drive on by simply because I keep writing about their beers, right? Heck no. This trip, I did have time to head up the east side of the lake and also visit Flathead Lake Brewing Co.  More about that in a later post.

When it comes to rotating new beers, Tamarack must be one of the most prolific. Two new brews appeared on tap since my last visit a couple of weeks ago.  The Mahogany Brown ale was kegged and put on tap only a couple of hours before my visit.  It was brewed/released for this weekend's Annual Antique and Classic Boat Show in Lakeside.  As you can see from the picture (which, for once, is reasonably accurate) the beer's color matches its name.  It has a slightly sweet aroma which matches the initial flavor, but beyond that the only word that came to mind was another color: green.  As in the flavors haven't had a chance to blend yet. Perhaps there was a rush to get it out for the weekend celebration, but I get the feeling the beer will be much better, and quite good, after a couple more weeks. Its stats are 5.2% abv and 30 ibus.

On the other hand, the Saints Inn Scotch Ale has blended well and has some classic scotch ale flavors with a bit of a twist.  There is clearly more hop bitterness in this brew than a typical scotch ale which shows up in the finish.  It is a reddish/orangish color with an off white head and a medium body.  It checks in at 6.66% abv (come on, really?) with 44 ibus. I like the creativity and hope to be able to enjoy a whole pint next time I stop in.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Upcoming Event: 2nd Annual Montana Brewers Festival

The Montana Brewers Association is throwing its second Montana Brewers Festival September 10, 2010 starting around 5:30 at the Haynes Pavilion, Gallatin County Fairgrounds in Bozeman. We've got a lot of great festivals and brewfests all around Montana, but you're not likely to find a bigger collection of Montana brewed beers anywhere. Twenty-one Montana breweries with 60 Montana craft brewed beers will be on hand.


Tickets are $10 at the door and include a 6 oz tasting glass and two sample tickets.  Additional sample tickets are $1 each. As if great beer isn't enough, three bands will keep things hoping and multiple food vendors will keep you well fed. Wine is available, too, and everyone promises not to give you funny looks for drinking it. Really.  For more info, check out the MBA website.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

No, I didn't spell that wrong. Stone Brewing Company calls their 14th Anniversary Ale an "Emperial IPA."  It is a "British-inspired hop monster" according to Stone, but don't let that deter those afraid of the hop. It isn't powerfully bitter, though it is powerfully good. Stone brews this one with all British ingredients except, as they point out on their typically fun bottle, the water.

I opened this one in celebration of the end of a long work week. I was immediately surprised by the color which is a light, yellow straw color with a big, thick white head. No, that's not a bad pour in the picture.  The aroma also surprised me. Judging by the label, I'm supposed to smell hops, but that's not what I got.  I got malt, trending toward the grain side and a bit of grass. It was gooooood. I spent far to much time with my nose stuck down in the pint glass. Probably concerned the neighbors. At 8.9% abv, there's a lot of malt in this beer and there's some sweet, earthy malt in the initial tastes, but is quickly followed by lots of spicy hops.  What kind of spice? I couldn't put a finger on it. The bitterness level is a pleasant medium that allows both the malt and hop flavors to linger in the finish. I found it at Worden's Market in Missoula.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Two Fun New Brews at The Rhino

After the very successful first Celtic Festival Missoula this past weekend, we had a chance to stop in at the Rhino to see what new brews were on tap. When a joint has 50 taps, you're reasonable well assured to find something new, especially if you let a couple of weeks pass between visits.  For beers I find at a store, I can check out a label, maybe google it a bit, and have some idea of what I'm going to be tasting.  But with the ever rotating set of taps at the Rhino, I often go in blind, having never heard of the beer, let alone know the style.

That was the case with these two beers.  First up was Stone Brewing Co.'s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale. Truth be told, I've got a bottle of it in my fridge, but had picked it up purely for the name and hadn't read the label.  I was surprised to see how dark it was. Black, actually with some deep red undertones and an off-white head. My initial reaction told me it was a Black IPA, but I quickly talked myself out of that because of a sweetness that appears in the middle and a touch lingering in the aftertaste.  There's quite a nice hit of hops up front and some roasted malt flavors in there, too. It is complex and rich. Full bodied, too, and smoothly enjoyable.  On googling it, I discovered it packs a punch at 8.7% abv, which made sense given its full body and richness. The 90 IBUs from Chinook hops also explain the hop punch.  It was originally brewed as Stone's 11th Anniversary Ale back in early 2009.

Next up, I spotted Lagunitas Brewing Co.'s Lucky 13, which Lagunitas calls a "mondo large red ale." It is indeed a big beer at 8.3% abv with a dark amber color and a thick, almost creamy white head.  Like Stone's Self Righteous, this beer has a rich, full flavor, but this one features malt, with enough hop bitterness to provide balance only. I couldn't place the flavors at first, finding them to mostly have a bit of candy sweetness.  About half way through the pint, I found it: brown sugar.  Lots of brown sugar. 

I'd call it another successful night exploring what the Rhino has to offer. And if you haven't tried it yet, they've also got Deschutes Brewery's Hop in the Dark Cascadian Dark Ale which has quickly become one of my favorites.