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  • We made a beer with G. Love. Should we have a sip?

    It's called Peach Porch Lounger, it's part of our Lips of Faith Series, and I am happy to say- it's available now. This beer has all the G. Love marks, Southern ingredients, a bluesy charm, and a label to beat the band (very punny, I know)... G. Love came to the brewery a while back and designed the beer of his dreams. He wanted a beer for Front Porch Lounging, and man, did he succeed. Peach Porch Lounger has peaches (duh...), hominy grits, molasses, a French saison yeast for primary fermentation and it's finished with brettanomyces. It carries a nice funk and a peachy sweetness. This beer is delicate enough to grow a daffodil, and yet, it's 9.4% ABV (very punchy). Let's take this next couple minutes to taste and review... 

    Visual: A deep straw color with a rich haze. The head is bright white, and lingers.

    Aroma: Very spicy, saison-y, with herbal and peach overtones. As the brettanomyces ages the over-ripened pineapple aromas will come through a bit more, but for now the it is taking a backseat, and that's perfectly fine.

    Taste: Fruity, sweet and a bit funky. The alcohol fights through in the middle, bringing heat and some pepper flavors. The molasses added sugars to the fermentables, adding some complexity to the alcohols. Very interesting, very good, very strong. 

    Mouthfeel/body: The delicate nature of this beer is most prevalent in the mouthfeel. Peach Porch Lounger starts huge, sweet, chewy and hot. But that fades, and quickly. The finish is dry, like super dry, it leaves you thirsty. Which is good, because there is a whole bottle (or glass) to finish. And, as the brett continues in the bottle, the complexity will only grow and grow. I am looking forward to reviewing this beer again in a couple months when the conditioning yeast has really taken hold. But for now the the beer is awesome and the mouthfeel and body are real highlights.

    Overall: This beer is great (and yes, I'm very biased (but you should expect that by now...)). It's delicate but strong, complex, and fruity, all things I like in beer. The power of the booze in this beer takes it right out of the "sessionable" category, but that does not preclude it from front porch lounging. I like to sit on my steps, sip and watch the world go by. For lawn mowing you should pick a different beer, but for hanging out with friends, listening to tunes and heckling the passers-by, this is the perfect beer.

    We also made a film for the release of this beer, check it out:


    And on that note, I'm out. I have the Fort Collins Tour de Fat to attend tomorrow and my costume is only half done...



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  • Frambozen is back (for a while now)!

    Alright, so this post is a little late, but man I have been really busy lately talking about other things, and it's not like it's too late to talk about it... So with out further ado---> FRAMBOZEN IS BACK!  This beer comes out every year in time for service to your best Thanksgiving guests and it stays on the shelves long enough to see the new year.  Which is to say long enough to serve at all of your holiday gatherings and happenings.  Frambozen is a raspberry brown ale that carries the wonderful sweetness and the casual tartness of the raspberry.  Every year some NBB folks find a raspberry crop they like, they have it juiced and then sent over to NBB HQ.  This is first pressing juice, not concentrate, and we store it in a refrigerated vessel in wait until then base brown ale is ready.  Once the base beer is brewed and fermented and ready for the blending they fine folks in NBB's Church of Fermentology blend the two together.  When together the beer and the raspberry juice marry for a few days, celebrating and becoming one (instead of two) and the alcohol preserves the juice and the juice enlivens the beer.  What you get is a wonderful fruit beer with rich, dark malt tones and then smiles on every mouth that takes the time to sip it.  Frambozen is worth coveting and a it's beer worth sharing with your most loved family and friends.  It should be on the shelves in a beer shop near you right now (as we speak), check the Libation Location for more details about Frambozen in your town.

    And speaking of Libation Location the beer finder can now differentiate package from draft!  This is big news if you want to find a bar with Frambozen (or whatever beer you're looking for) rather than a beer shop (or vice-versa).  So take this knowledge and apply it!  Get the good times rolling and remember ol' Juicebox on those gift lists, I like stuff too.



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  • Bend, Oregon, it has beer and fun and stuff...

    I spent the recent Thanksgiving holiday in the great Pacific Northwest of the United States of America (Bend, Oregon (specifically)) and it was super fun.  I have some family up there, a brother, sister-in-law and their lovely and obedient child.  My wife and (equally as cheerful) child accompanied me up there and when all was said and done my parents also graced us with an appearance.  Family gatherings are the bees knees, there are hugs and kisses and big meals, reminiscing about the good ol' days, hilarious and kind of mean jokes about the clothes that we all used to wear in the 1990's and free baby-sitting.  This last one is pretty special because it is about the clearest win/win of all time.  The grandparents want to spend as much time as possible with the little ones and the parents are looking to have some laughs and time away from their loved (but ever-present) children. 

    Wednesday afternoon was the perfect escape.  The grandparents were primed for some babysitting and the parents loaded up and headed into town to explore some of the local craft beer offerings.  Bend is known for beer, there are something like 12 breweries in town varying in size from pretty big to really small.  There were 4 of us and reaching a tap-room consensus was close to impossible, but with the help of some rock-paper-scissors and one round of spirited thumb wrestling we settled on Bend Brewing and 10 Barrel Brewing Company.  A short list indeed, but the baby-sitting time was limited and the sister-in-law performing the designated driver duties was also performing dinner cooking duties and still needed to do some shopping and roasting and chopping and such. 

    First stop 10 Barrel.  When we got there I was taken aback by how busy it was.  It was 11:15am on a Wednesday.  They do serve food and it was a holiday week, but wow, there were a lot of people in there (very good sign).  We ordered a sampler, 10 beers organized on an arching stainless steel tray that suspended the beers off the table top, giving the beverages a very modern feel, so I used an old-timey camera app on my phone for a great juxtaposition.  The tray came with every beer that was on tap that day minus the cask conditioned Big Black Stout (which I ordered separately).  They were all pretty tasty but the Sasquatch Session was great.  Hoppy but not overly so, just bitter enough to be quenching and a good sweetish, malt backbone for balance.  But I do have to say upon my first sip I didn't like this beer.  After I put it down that first time I figured I would just concentrate on the rest of the beers, but a few minutes (like 10) later I went back to it by accident, I thought I was grabbing the IPA but took the Sasquatch by mistake.  In that 10 minutes this beer opened up.  Maybe it was the warmth it took on, giving it time to breathe, whatever, that beer started to sing a little louder.  This beer turned from a side note to a symphony and I am glad I went back, even if I meant to grab something else.  The malt was more pronounced and struck a better balance with the hops.  The bitter profile was still present but after warming the Sasquatch became more of a two sided beer.  And I love the low alcohol, session beers, it's written into my genetic code.  So when a craft brewery makes an approachable, low octane beer my heart rejoices, nice work 10 Barrel, Sasquatch is a winner.  Some other highlights from the tray were the Pumpkin, the Red and the non-cask Stout, wonderful beers.  After working our way through the tasters and noticing that soft pretzels were not on the menu (that otherwise looked delicious) we moseyed towards the door with Bend Brewing Company on the mind.

    We walked in the door and were immediately hugged by the greatness that is the Bend Brewing Company.  This has been a favorite place of mine since I first went to Bend in 1999, way back when I was not much into beer, but the friendly nature of the staff as well as the wonderful libations have always kept BBC close to my heart and here and now, in 2011, their spot (in my heart) is growing.  Again we ordered the taster tray.  All the beers came on a branded tray marked with a spot for each beer.  Along side the full time offerings were a few seasonal and special release beers, the two that caught my eye right away were Sexi Mexi and Ching Ching.  Sexi Mexi was inspired by Mexican spiced chocolate and carries the sweet/spice of a deep and rich mole' sauce.  Drinking this beer was a deep and warming experience.  Sexi Mexi is strong and bold and if I ever encounter it again I will have a full glass, it was very good. Ching Ching was also sitting on the tray begging to be tried.  I missed this beer at GABF and I am really kicking myself for not trying it there, Ching Ching took home a bronze medal in the American-style Sour category in 2011 and that is a category special to all New Belgium co-workers (think Le Terroir).  Ching Ching is a tart Berlinerweisse spiced with hibiscus and pomegranate.  Looking at the taster glass on the tray Ching Ching looks like pink champagne, very light in color, vaguely turbid, bubbly but little head to speak of.  I sipped this beer and was blown away.  It was markedly sour with a punchy and crisp flavor, the pomegranate jumped out to sweeten the tongue and fine bubbles of carbonation tickled the back of my nose.  It finished dry and clean and really made me want more (and more) Ching Ching, so I bought a bottle that will make an appearance at the next classy bottle party that requires my attendance (send me an invite).  We also sampled some food at BBC.  Alas, they didn't have soft pretzels either but at this point we were to hungry to be picky, fries with mustard and some dip of the spinach/artichoke variety was consumed and I relaxed with a big glass of Outback (which is an Old Ale and a very good beer) for the pairing.  After plates were cleared and beers were finished we headed towards home, happy, satisfied and ready to relieve the baby-sitters.

    This trip to Bend was a great one and if you ever find yourself there drink some beer, you will not regret it (at all).


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  • Prickly Passion Saison, some history (and some drinking)

    Onward and upward my friends, it's time to talk Saisons.  French for season, Saisons were originally brewed in Wallonia, the southern (and French-speaking) region of Belgium.  These beers were brewed during the autumn/winter in the farmhouses and stored over, aged past the spring, until the migrant pickers showed back up for the next, late summer harvest.  At the end of the previous season's harvest, whatever was grown, be it barley, wheat, etc... that stuff was gleaned from the fields thrown into a mash tun, once boiled off, the yeast of the day would take over. This was way back in the olden days when the water wasn't safe to drink, so the land owners would offer Saisons to the pickers to keep them healthy and invigorated for the harvest.  It is said (on Wikipedia (un-cited, naturally)) that the pickers were entitled to 5 liters of beer per workday to fend off dehydration and fatigue as well as to pack on some much needed calories.  Saisons were originally brewed to be in the low single digits of ABV (like 3%-ish) so no one would be stumbling around the fields looking for their sickle, but strong enough that a hearty smile could be seen on every picker's face.  These beers were different from farm to farm, farmhouse to farmhouse.  Phil Markowski (in Garrett Oliver's The Oxford Companion to Beer) says these beer makers were farmers, not brewers so "the fact that they were not sold commercially is reason to believe that these Saisons were probably made with little mind too repeatability"(711).  The traditional malt bill and hop profile of Ye Ol' Saisons can be seen in this vein too, Phil goes on to state "with the unpredictability of the growing season and the practice of crop rotation it is probable that these brews were made with varying amounts of different grains such as barley, wheat, rye, and spelt.  In years hops were scarce, herbs and spices were likely substituted"(711).  Although the total flavor package of classic Saisons is a little unknown, one thing that is widely assumed is that a delicate, funk (bordering sour) was likely present, and this flavor profile is what has carried Saisons over into the modern brewing age.

    Like sands through the hour glass so is the history of Saisons.  That low digit ABV has climbed steadily, most breweries that offer a Saison these days are living in the 5% to 9% ABV range, as no pickers need to stay sober for the harvest (the Farmhouse Grisette, a sessionable Saison from Breakside Brewery in Portland, OR is a lower ABV and excellent exception (thank you boys, that is a special and delicious beer)).  Complete with Saison dedicated breweries (like Fort Collins own Funkwerks) the current day in American Craft beer is chocked very full of these lovely farmhouse ales.  Here at New Belgium we made our first Saison back in the middle 90's and have made more than one other over the ensuing years, which brings us to the latest edition of the New Belgium Lips of Faith family, Prickly Passion Saison

    As the name suggests this beer is spiced with prickly pear and passion fruit and has been top-fermented with our house Saison yeast.  The fruit is present, some sweet-tanginess is prevalent in the nose while the tongue is rich and earthy.  The malts in the beer stand up to hug the spicing and the overall profile is one to be savored.  Glowing amber in color and not really any hops to speak of, but at 8.5% ABV this Saison is not to be trifled with, the heat from the alcohol warms the belly and the funk warms the soul.  The Saison yeast gives the beer a (not very) subtle punch to the underbelly of sour.  While not a sour, the funk of Prickly Passion Saison is strong enough to be reminiscent of wild beers.  Sip-able and strong, full and rich, Prickly Passion Saison is paired best with a bold cheese or maybe, a fully marbled cut of meat.  22oz bombers only and going fast

    As always the availability of this beer will be short lived (like all Lips of Faith), but the distribution should be wide enough through our markets for you to find some, and it is on the shelves now.  Check the Libation Locator for more details (sorry Texas, the Locator doesn't work in the Lone Star State (we didn't want to mess with Texas)).

    On that note, I'm going home.


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  • Fresh Hop IPA, Part 2

    Following up Kenny's, Fresh Hop IPA, part one post from Tuesday is going to be a challenge, but I think this is Juicebox's time to shine.  So let's get right after it.

    Let me introduce Fresh Hop IPA, Part 2-

    It was a Sunday Morning, I was sleepy and hungry but alas, duty called.  I had been calling over to the Brewhouse all morning trying to get an ETA for the hops arrival and I was finally told (after much pestering) that the first brew had been mashed in at 10am and the hop truck was south of Laramie, Wy (which, by all mapping standards, is pretty close).  I grabbed the camera and cruised over to the brewery.  The plan was that a few of us would be needed and needing to show up at the designated hour to unload the reefer truck and hand carry the bags and boxes of fresh hops up to the hatch on the lauter tun, which would be used for hopbacking purposes.  When I looked at that truck full of hops my back started hurting and my hands got really chapped (I am, some how, allergic to actual labor) but with the help of some trusty co-workers we started carrying stuff and I felt instantly better, as a box of fresh hops looks heavy, but in reality, it's not that bad.

    The fresh hop bill went like this, a whole bunch of wet Amarillo, then a mess of wet Centennials, and finally a large helping of wet Cascades.  As we carried we had to make sure that the boxes that were being pulled off the truck were, in fact, the right boxes.  We had enough fresh hops for four brews, but we wanted to leave the hops for the later brews in the cooling air of the reefer truck, so planning as we were lifting was required.  But no big deal, Alex (the maiden of fresh hop logistics) was on hand, she directed and we carried.  Upon getting all the boxes up to the top of the lauter it was only a few minutes before the dumping had to commence.  The 6 of us lending a hand started to goof off (as expected) and we decided to fresh hop a few Blue Paddles to sip on as we were waiting.  Now Blue Paddle is one of my favorites.  It's a pilsener with the nice refreshing bite of hops, not to much, just a subtle bitterness.  Someone thought it a grand idea (it may have been me) to unload a couple wet hops from the boxes and toss them into a globe glass of Paddle.  Now I understand that no heat was going to be applied for alpha-acid extraction and the time frame of stuffing a couple hop cones into a beer and then drinking said beer would not be enough time impart much hoppiness in a cold environment either, but I figured it would at least make a good picture and then we could drink the beer (a win-win in my book).  And look, the picture came out pretty cool and almost everyone finished their hop-floating Blue Paddle during our goof off time. 

    As we were tipping back the final sips of our first beer break we got the charge. Someone yelled "pour them hops into that hatch" and everyone jumped into action.  Bag after bag, box after box of fresh, 18 hour old Yakima-born wet hops were poured right into our Colorado-located lauter tun.  Again, as Kenny described in part one, the brew would be mashed in, lautered, boiled and then sent back to the lauter tun where a bed of fresh hops would be waiting for the hot and steamy wort.  We were pouring these hop flowers in the lauter tun just as the boil was just finishing.  It was only going to take 10 or 15 minutes to soak in that hoppy flavor in the lauter (turned hopback) so our window (as with the rest of this project) was pretty small.  We were dumping as fast as we could to build that beautiful (and comfortable looking) bed of fresh hop flowers.  The lauter tun has a big rake in it that is normally used to keep the grain bed level during right when the rake got firingits normal duties, but during the fresh hopping segment of the brew the rake was employed to level out the hops and it worked great. The rake was spinning and the final couple of boxes were poured in and we locked the hatch.  Soon after the hatch was closed and lock the freshly boiled wort came flooding in.  It was a sight to see, all steamy and green and awesome.  It was also really funny to step back and watch six grown adults all fighting over the view into a very small window, it was like a bunch of kids at Disney World shoving at each other to get a better look through the glassy bottomed boat.  It really was beer making at its finest and I was happy to be there. 

    As soon as the hop soak was done and the wort left the lauter it headed for the chiller before going straight into the cellar for the yeast pitch and brew one was done.  We all high-fived.  As the high fives were going off the unmistakable sound of barley filling the wet mill filled our ears.  That sound meant the next brew was starting and it was only a few more bits until the next load of boxes needed to come upstairs for the fresh hop dumping and the reality hit... we were going to be doing this all day.

    The time frame dubbed "several weeks later" is now upon us and Fresh Hop IPA is on tap towers and store shelves in markets abound, but what does this beer taste like.  Well it is an IPA, and a bold one at that.  The nose is full of orange peel and a fresh, woods-i-ness that can only come from American hops.  It has strong, sharp bitterness in flavor and a bold, enjoyable bite on the tongue.  This is a great beer, and  very drinkable at 70 IBU's. Fresh Hop IPA is strongish at 7% ABV and has that wonderful greenness of a good fresh hopped beer.

    Overall the process to make a fresh hop beer on a big scale in Colorado is difficult, but not impossible.  Inspiration, hard work and the love of hoppy beers were all driving forces to bring this beer to you.  Was it worth it?  Drink some, and you tell me...


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  • NEW BEER! Another Seasonal Addition for Winter

    New Belgium has a new winter seasonal, it's called Snow Day.  It is dark and hoppy and perfect for the coldest of months.   The tough news to take on the NBB seasonal front however is the hiatus that 2Below is going to take, two years off the shelf to make room for Snow Day.  But fear not good people, the newest of New Belgium offerings is a true delight, so good in fact I drank one this morning and wrote a review just for you.  I figured with Snow Day beginning to hit the shelves over the next few weeks you should be armed with the knowledge required of an informed consumer. 

    Let's start with the bottle picture, pretty isn't it?  That label shows off a winter-wonderland-like-vision of the Mothership and the amazing (and amazingly huge) window into Brewhouse One.  It also shows just how much snow can pile up in your imagination when you're thinking about the perfect beer for an unexpected day off.  This label is another Anne Fitch gem.  Anne has been painting labels for us since our co-founder Kim Jordan knocked on her door looking for Fat Tire and Abbey bottle art 20 years ago, and she nailed it again.  The winter season also marks the yearly cap change (visible in the photo), once the days start to shorten the white replaces the red, and it always makes me long for pond hockey season.  Then the red cap comes back in spring and it makes me pine for bike camping.

    I popped the bottle open and poured the beer into it's neighboring globe glass.  Snow Day pours dark, like very dark, black in fact. The black beer builds a strong, walnut-hued head.  The foam was very sturdy and did want to dissipate (like at all).  The aroma was strong, I only had to tilt my head slightly towards the glass to start picking it up.  On the nose the hops are very present.  This beer has Cascade, Centennial and Styrian Golding hops and the spicy tones were complimented by the Pacific Northwest (of America) hoppy-citrus punch, creating a full, round hop-o-sphere to take through the nose holes of your face. Upon first sip I was taken aback with the unexpected.  Looking at the dark color of Snow Day I was expecting a strong, roasted bitterness.  I was fooled.  The darkness in this beer comes from a new brewing malt called Midnight Wheat, it imparts a blackness to the color but does not give the burnt, acridity found in a lot of darker beers.  This wheat malt lends a good (almost) sweetness as well as that easy, smoothness found in a good wheat beer.  The sweetness in this beer bordered on the edge of chocolate (maybe coffee too) and these flavors were launched into flavor orbit when considered along side the hoppy bitterness also found in Snow Day.  The mouthfeel was pretty easy, very crisp and more refreshing than I would expect from a winter beer.  The finish had a subtle dryness, just enough to leave the palate feeling clean, but not sucked of it's moisture.  I enjoyed the sample sips so much I went back for more to the same end (the end is yums-ville (and we all have tickets for the ride)). 

    This beer is winner.  I too will miss 2Below, but I am really excited about Snow Day.  The hole in my heart left behind by 2Below caesura will be filled (beyond capacity) with Snow Day and fun winter activities (like pond Hockey).  This beer should be available soon (assuming you live within our distribution area) if it isn't already.  So get out there my friends and start embracing winter.



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