Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

GABF: The Year of Extreme Beer

By William Brand
Friday, October 12th, 2007 at 9:57 am in Uncategorized.

GABF: The Year of Extreme Beer

DENVER – The idea of “extreme beer”, brews that push the edge, higher in alcohol, higher in malt or hops or whatever have been around for a few years. Sam Calagione, co-founder of Dogfish Head Brewing, Milton, Del., even wrote a book about it.

But this year at the Great American Beer Festival, extreme beer’s come into its own. It’s everywhere and the lines of people waiting for their 2-oz. samples are long in front of the famous extreme breweries like Dogfish, Russian River,Santa Rosa, CA, Pizza Port, Port Brewing, Temecula, CA., Avery Brewing, Boulder, CO. are very long.

Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, the GABF sponsor, says extreme beers and seasonal beers, special brews released each season of the year, have revitalized and even saved breweries.

Gatza said for example, Great Divide Brewing here in Denver was languishing. Then they began creating bigger, stronger beers, aging them in wood and releasing them in large .22 oz. bottles. Sales took off.

I was in there yesterday and sample one: Aged Yeti***+. Aged a year in oak whiskey casks. Wow. A dark brown beer with a nice head of creamy brown foam, it has an intense nose of oak and vanilla and whiskey, maybe Bourbon. Taste is slightly sweet, then there’s a rush of wood and whiskey and vanilla and warming alcohol. Gotta go back there and buy a couple to take home. This beer’s not sold in California, as far as I know.

Many brewers are showing off wood-aged beers, “imperial” beers, beers made with wild yeast. One brewery, New Holland Brewing, Holland, MI., specialized in wild yeast beers, beers brewed using yeast that floats through the air around the open fermenters in their brewery.

Haven’t made it to New Holland’s booth yet, but here’s a few of the “extremes” I’ve sampled:

Firestone, Paso Robles, CA. 11****, a n enhanced blend of 11 different beers of various kinds. More on this after I get a chance to talk to the brewery.

Victory Brewing, Downingtown, PA. Saison***+: cloudy, light lemon color, spicy nose, full, malty taste with a delicious malty nose.

Allagash, Portland, ME. Curiex****,. another pale, lemon-colored beer with a thick head of white, small bubbled foam, a nose of sour wild yeast, but the taste is malty with a full mouth feel and a rush of Bourbon and oak in the finish. This one can be found in the Bay Area and it’s worth the hunt.

Iron Hill, 7 pubs in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Imperial Stout***, big and malty, with a roast malt nose the carries through.

Enuf for now. Gotta go to a beer dinner. Hey, it’s noon, here.

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