REVIEW: G’Knight Double Red IPA from Oskar Blues Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Oskar Blues Brewing Co.
Location: Longmont, CO
Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.7%
IBUs: 60
Appearance: Subdued Orange-Red With a Little Murkiness Within
Aroma: Fruity & Clean, Minimal Hints of Pine & Malt
Flavor: Fresh Citrus & Pine, with Hints of Malts Trailing Behind
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Cajun cooking, Spicy sausages, Saucy BBQ, Sharp Cheddar, Strong Blue Cheese

Many times when I go looking for beer I have something in mind; a style, a brewery, something.

But this week, amid a push to get a bunch of things done at home before I take off for six weeks, I went hunting with nothing concrete in mind. I wandered aimlessly for a while, like a ship with no rudder, stopping here and there, retracing my steps to stand in front of beer I’d just seen, hoping that something would pop out at me.

Well, nothing popped and after about ten minutes the practical side of my brain overrode the part seeking divine, beer muse, intervention. What had I not reviewed in a while?

Several styles ran through my mind, but something hoppy jumped and plastered itself all over my brain wall, like a jar of lobbed molasses. So, here I am reviewing something hoppy.

The Oskar Blues Grill and Restaurant opened in 1997 and their first beer was brewed in the basement the following year. Oskar Blues has won multiple awards, their first was in 1998, a bronze from the Great American Beer Festival. Some will claim they were the earliest craft brewery to start canning, but there’s some dispute on this point, so we’ll just say they were one of the first. Though, it is safe to say that canning great beer has become Oskar Blues “thing.”

They have proved that the same world class beer can be packaged in this eco-friendly and lighter container. A can protects the beer from the oxidative effects of any light, they offer a tighter seal than bottles, get cold faster than bottles, and are easier to take into the outdoors and public places.

“Sip from the red river and learn of the Hop Giver”

The one standing argument against cans is the metallic taste some claim the can imparts to beer. But, this is more a fault of the drinker and not the packaging. These days all cans have a liner inside that stops any direct contact between the aluminum and beer… that is until you drink. When you take a sip your lips are in contact with the can as is the beer. Guaranteed if you pour that beer into a glass or cup there will be no metallic taste. But, I digress…

This particular beer was first dubbed Gordon Ale, but the name had to be changed after a trade mark dispute with Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant. It was brewed as a tribute to Gordon Knight, a Vietnam vet and early forerunner in the Colorado craft beer movement, who died in 2002 while fighting a wildfire.

G’Knight Double Red IPA from Oskar Blues Brewing

G’Knight has won multiple awards including World Beer Championships in 2008 and 2010. It’s a big beer in every sense of the word. From what I can gather four different malts and three different hop varieties are used, with a generous dose of Amarillo, dry hopped, just to round things out.

The Pour and Aroma

A whopping three and a half fingers of loosely packed, off-white foam builds through the pour. It retreats slowly over the next several minutes to a finger high stronghold of wet dense foam. Color is a subdued orange-red with a little murkiness to it, no doubt a consequence of the hop amounts within.

Aroma is fruity and clean, like standing in a meadow with a slight breeze pushing through a stand of citrus trees, mixing with the air above fresh grass and flower. Pine and minimal sweetness lurk here too. I catch very little malt character.

Mouthfeel and Taste

The body is big and thick with a warming mouthfeel that runs smooth at the front, but transitions into a viscous stickiness toward the back.

Fresh citrus and pine pervade with hops knocking bitter close behind. Malt comes through more here then in the aroma and it’s bigger than expected. Though, it feels a bit like the race is being run with the hops continually getting just faintly ahead of the malt. It balances on the very edge of being balanced and drinks like it might fall to the hop-side at any moment. Swallowing leaves some nice heat. The aftertaste is viscous, creating a cottonmouth-like gumminess that lasts a long time.

Finishing The Impression

This beer will certainly not be to everyone’s liking. It’s not gonna quench any thirsts and its high ABV and viscous-like mouthfeel make the thought of drinking more than one in a sitting a little, well… terrifying. It’s a beer worthy of its bigness, but G’Knight is definitely a sipper, one of those beers you reach for on a relaxing quiet evening; a beer to accompany a movie or good book.

Cheers!

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REVIEW: Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter from Left Hand Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Company
Location: Longmont, CO
Style: Smoked Imperial Porter
ABV: 8.8%
IBUs: 55
Hops: Mt. Hood, CTZ
Malts: Smoked Munich, Roasted Barley, Pale 2-Row, Chocolate, Wheat, Rauch, Special W,
Appearance: Dark as a moonless night with mocha-colored foam
Aroma: Mix of Sweet Molasses, Warming Alcohol & Not-so-Subtle Smoke
Flavor: Rich Smoke; Dark Malts, Molasses & Chocolate-Espresso
Availability: Limited
Pairs With: Meat dishes, BBQ, Smoked Salmon, Sharp Cheddar Cheese

With a forest fire burning in the Gila, about 15 miles away from Silver City, this beer just sorta seemed right. A time to sit, drink in some smoke, and reminisce, for a moment, about those times when I ate smoke trying to catch wildfire. I’ve worked with the men and women this beer is a tribute too. They deserve the honor.

Left Hand brews this beer as a tribute to Smokejumpers, the courageous souls of the wildland firefighter community that parachute into rough country, risking their lives to save national resources and property from fire. It is widely considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the US.

It is a no brainer that the official beer of the National Smokejumper Association needs… well, smoke. But how to get the right smoke?

The brewers at Left Hand realized that to get a close rendering of the smoky sense of a wood fire they would have to smoke their own malt. After many trials, a wood combination was found that seemed to best signify the smoky character they were searching for.

This beer was first brewed in 2006 and won gold in the 2009 Great American Beer Festival in the smoked beer category. It was brewed again to great acclaim in 2012 and now for a third time, this year.
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REVIEW: Spring Blonde from New Belgium Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: New Belgium Brewing Co.
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Style: Belgium Blonde Ale
ABV: 6.0%
IBU: 48
Appearance: Deep, Translucent Gold with Snow-White Foam
Aroma: Mild Lemon Zest, Grainy Yeast, Bread
Flavor: Malty Sweetness, Mild Bitterness
Availability: Spring Seasonal
Pairs With: Grilled Chicken, Creamy Pasta, Salmon Rigatoni

I am always ready to sample any new offering from New Belgium Brewery up in Fort Collins, Colorado. What’s not to love about this place; it is employee owned, run in a highly sustainable and environmentally ethical way, and they make some killer beer. Which are all reasons they made my list of American Breweries to visit.

Back a couple years ago Outside Magazine rated New Belgium the number one company to work for in their yearly “50 best places to work list.” And, as if all that wasn’t enough, the employee “extra” that inspired this beer and, most likely, was a big factor in their ranking at the top of Outside’s list, is a spring biking trip to Belgium for all 5 year employees; a trip to see the companies roots, as it were. I’d have to say that’s quite the perk.

I love most of their beers (and sorely miss some of the ones they have discontinued), and a chance to try a new offering is hard to pass up, especially something they haven’t tried to brew yet, like a Belgian Blonde Ale.
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REVIEW: 90 Shilling Ale from Odell Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Odell Brewing Co.
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Style: Scottish Ale
ABV: 5.30%
IBU: 27
Appearance: Copper, Slightly Red with Off-White Foam
Aroma: Bread, Biscuit & Big Malt
Flavor: Sweet Malty Characters; Faint Hoppiness
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Roasted Pork or Quail; Dark Chocolate or Caramel Desserts

Odell Brewing Company is another one of those success stories. You know the ones, a home brewer goes pro and ends up a grand success. Those stories, the ones that, as home brewers and beer coinsures, we have a mixed bag of emotions about. We love to know that if one of us bravely stepped off the boat into the wide ocean and took the plunge, there’s a chance we’d come up kicking water and swimming hard at some point. But we also kinda hate them because they’ve gone before us, and are “there” already, making a living, doing something truly loved. Well, Odell is a grandfather on the craft brew scene, so don’t get your feathers too ruffled.

Founder, Doug Odell, along with his wife Wynne, and sister Corki got their start in 1989, which is, on a craft brewery timeline, the beginnings of the post probation climb back into popularity. There was only one other craft brewery operating in Colorado when they started, now there are probably over 200. So, they’ve been brewing for a while. They know their stuff.
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REVIEW: 400 Pound Monkey from Left Hand Brewing Co.

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Co.
Location: Longmont, CO
Style: English IPA
ABV: 6.80%
IBU: The Monkey Isn’t Telling.
Appearance: Light-Golden Pour with White Foam Head
Aroma: Subdued Citrus & Grain with Hoppy Freshness
Flavor: Earthy Pine, Grapefruit Hints, Malt
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Coconut Chicken with Curry, Burgers with Caramelized Onions

Colorado seems to be full of top notch craft breweries these days and Left Hand Brewing Company is no exception. They have a nice year round lineup of beers including the one siting before me now, fondly named 400 Pound Monkey. I’m not too sure what gave them the idea for the name, the beer doesn’t taste like a 400 pound monkey at all (bad joke… sorry).

Actually the name, as far as I can gather, came out of a discussion over extreme beers for an article Lew Bryson was writing for Beer Advocate Magazine. In the article Eric Wallace quotes his VP of brewing as saying “Any monkey can put 400 pounds of hops in a kettle,” and with those words I can only speculate that both an idea and a name were born.

India Pale Ale’s are gaining more and more of a foot hold within the craft brewing community and there are more consumers out there than ever willing to take the plunge into bitter beers. So, why another IPA? Well, judging from the article just quoted, I think maybe the brewers up at Left Hand got it in their heads that they might be able to pull off something a little different than the usual “mostly” American IPA offerings out there. They decided to try to make an English style IPA.
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