Tag Archives: Upslope Brown Ale

Striking Craft Beer Gold in Boulder (The Front Range Series)

Park lands and cycling trails, winter sports, an interesting mix of people, a college town vibe, the Flatirons, three hundred days of sunshine a year, and, of course, world-class craft beer. What’s not to like about Boulder, Colorado? Last time, I checked out a few breweries and brewpubs (such as Twisted Pine and the Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery) within walking distance of one another. This set of impressionistic musings picks up where the last one left off, and explores some of Boulder’s breweries reachable by bicycle or car.

Avery Brewing Co.

Innovation is alive, well, and thriving in the shadow of the Rockies. Not far from the place where rivers of generic beer brewed with pure Rocky Mountain water and High Country Barley rise, veteran Front Range craft breweries like Avery continue to challenge our conception of beer.Avery - NewFacility (averybrewing-com) Avery first opened its doors way back in 1993, and demand for its stable of year-round offerings like Ellie’s Brown Ale, White Rascal Wit, and Out of Bounds Stout continues to grow –– so much so that Avery just celebrated its Grand Opening at its new 96,000 square-foot facility in the Gunbarrel district of northeastern Boulder.

But those solid year-rounds and more limited hefty offerings like The Reverend, Rumpkin, and The Beast aren’t the main reason to head straight to the source. No, a journey to Boulder gives you the chance to try beers that don’t make it beyond the taproom walls, beers like IPAs dry-hopped in accordance with the season, caffeinated variations on the stout theme, and one-and-done beers from the Avery Ermita barrel-aged sour series. As with any brewery that is constantly experimenting, what I tasted when I visited might not be what you get to taste.

The rich and full-bodied Fall Day IPA came infused with Colorado spruce tips, adding a beguiling fir needle aroma to the tangerine-grapefruit hop signature. A supple wall of clean but caramel-toasty malt supported a subtle coniferous character well integrated with citrus zest and mango.Avery - Samplers (averybrewing-com) A compelling IPA, to be sure. Out of Mind Stout blends in Ozo’s Organic Coffee Toddy for a café au lait-style stout that showcases roasted malts and various shades of chocolate and dried fruit (prune-fig). Baking spice (clove-cinnamon) mingles with a warming, Kahlua-like alcohol presence, and the beer finishes dry and bitter –– a tad to bitter, perhaps. I really enjoyed this stout, but found myself wanting just a bit more roundness and smoothness on the palate.

If you like American brown ales, chai, and autumnal spice mixes, the rich and russet-coloured Bhakti Chai Brown will be right up your alley. The initial aromas and flavours of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom in this unique and satisfyingly off-dry beer yield gently to toasted malts and just a hint of citrus. For something heading in a completely different direction from Avery’s chai brown, try a glass from the Ermita series, which has now stretched over eight editions. When I visited, the Ermita I tasted was a blond Brettanomyces-fermented ale aged in neutral wine barrels and infused with key limes. Hazy orange-gold like liquid caramel, this whimsical yet complex sour layered a restrained tropical fruit Brett character and citric-sour aromas over a bed of fresh grain and light brown sugar scented with clove. Key lime bursts forth on the palate, a touch of oak fills out the waifish body, and a coconut-mango sweetness tames the citrus-sour character before the key lime reasserts itself in the pleasant bitter-lime finish. A playful drink with plenty of surprises.

Servers at Avery are extremely knowledgeable. Samplers served in elegant flutes go for between $1.50 and $6. And the new location offers a food menu –– a nice improvement over the previous location on Arapahoe. Cider-brined rabbit and waffles, anyone?

Asher Brewing Company

In a town with as progressive a flair as Boulder, you’d almost expect to find a handful all-organic breweries. Not so. In fact, Asher Brewing Company was the only one-hundred percent organic brewery in the entire state of Colorado when it opened in late 2009.Asher - FrontRangeCan II (Organic-Soul-Imaging) If environmental awareness forms the bedrock of Chris Asher’s brewery, Asher is just as concerned that you walk out of his taproom satisfied with the beers you’ve just drunk. Asher’s Kölsch-style beer, the Green Lantern, is clean and crisp, hitting the sweet spot of hoppiness for the style. Hopheads will enjoy the floral-citrus explosion of the weightier Greenade Double IPA. Asher also sees to it that a steady stream of seasonals run through the taps. Asher Brewing Company is tucked into a cul-de-sac in the Twin Lakes Tech Park located in the Gunbarrel area of northeast Boulder. Even if the area is off the beaten path, the views of the mountains at sunset more than compensate for the trip out. (See my “Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company” for a longer article on this environmentally-conscious brewery.)

Upslope Brewing Company

Like many breweries in the Front Range area, Upslope is located in an industrial park a short remove from the center of town. And like all these breweries located in seemingly out-of-the-way warehouse units, Upslope draws in the crowds. Upslope shares other elective affinities with its Front Range neighbours as well: a healthy concern for the environment.IMG_9307 Matt Cutter, Upslope’s co-founder, uses a compressed-natural-gas van for deliveries, and recaptures as much of the water he uses from the Arapahoe Glacier as he can. (Indeed, “snowmelt” is listed as the first ingredient on all of Upslope’s packaged products.) Upslope is also near a busy bike path, so you can park your car and get some exercise before you tuck into their beer.

After an afternoon wandering around in the mountains west of Boulder, Upslope’s crisp and deftly crafted beers made for a refreshing early evening taproom session. The full-bodied and floral-spicy Czech-style Craft Lager set the tone, and the pepper- and coriander-spiced Wit with citrusy wheat and crisp slate notes added a bit more zing to the lively conversation that was unfolding at the bar. The Original Pale Ale features the Patagonian hop, an Argentinian-grown Cascade that Upslope began using to weather the hop shortage of 2008. Toasty honeyed malt, marmalade, and tropical fruit (papaya) predominate in this effervescent beer, opening out onto traces of marzipan, fresh oats, and a mild citrus-grapefruit spiciness not unlike some white wines.Upslope Brown (upslopebrewing-com) Upslope also brews a slightly smoky and delightfully pecan- and hazelnut-accented Brown Ale that, as I noted in between snippets of conversation at the taproom, was “one of the nicer browns I’ve had.” A half year later, I picked Upslope’s Brown Ale second (behind none other than Sam Smith’s Nut Brown) in a blind tasting of brown ales for my “Brown Beers Get No Luvin’” six-pack.

Since I last visited Upslope, the brewery has opened a second taproom location in Flatiron Park to keep up with demand, and has begun packaging some of its limited edition beers (such as their Thai-Style White IPA, Christmas Ale, and Foreign-Style Stout).

Crystal Springs Brewing Company

Tom Horst and family had been brewing popular beers out of their garage for several years in Sunshine Canyon, a scenic drive into the mountains west of Boulder.Crystal Springs - Logo (large) It wasn’t until October of 2013, though, that this Boulder High School music teacher with a Ph.D. in percussion moved their nano-sized Crystal Springs operation into a new and larger-capacity facility on the other side of Boulder.

The name of Horst’s brewery pays tribute to an earlier, pre-Prohibition incarnation of Crystal Springs that was first opened by two German brothers on a site overlooking Boulder Creek. Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company did not survive Prohibition, but Horst is bent on assuring that the legacy lives on in his latter-day reiteration of the brewery, even if that legacy no longer involves cutting blocks of ice to keep the Bock cold.

Speaking of Bockbier, alas, Crystal Springs’ Wuerzburger wasn’t yet on tap when I stopped by just before their Grand Opening, but I did get a chance to sample a few of their other flagship beers.Crystal Springs - Bottle (historical) Solidly in the American brewing tradition, South Ridge Amber amber derives its fullness from crystal and Munich malts, and features a liberal sprinkling of Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, and Zythos hops. The Summertime Ale started life as a seasonal offering, but quickly became popular enough to merit year-round production. It has all the delicate fruitiness of a German-style Kölsch, with pear and citrus notes combining with a peppery spiciness reminiscent of Cabernet Franc. (“Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer” incorporates some of Boulder’s brewing history and lore.)

Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery

Just seventeen miles into the hills out of Boulder along the winding Highway 119, roughly-hewn Nederland provides one of the more stunning backdrops in the region for a pint of beer. Nestled among a row of frontier-era facades, Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery greets you with the soothing wood smoke scent of barbeque and winter fires long before you’ve found the sign above the door. Purple and green walls and a cathedral ceiling suspended over a fireplace create a laid-back ski lodge vibe. The space is bathed in natural light during the day, with a garage door-style opening bidding you to spend some time on the terrace in warmer months contemplating the dense pine forests rising up the mountain on the other side of town.

When it comes time to sample the wares, the “brew-ski” is your best bet. The brew-ski is just as you’re probably imagining it –– a ski with beers on it–– and comes with four of whichever house brews are on tap at the time of your visit, along with a guest beer.IMG_9306 For tasting notes, check out my “Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque,” which includes a brief history of Nederland and its off-beat annual Frozen Dead Guy Days. Wild Mountain’s house brews are hit-and-miss, but the smoked and grilled wings are sublime. And you won’t be disappointed at all by the scenery.

Postscript: If you’re a homebrewer who has just moved to the area, or if you’re into all things fermentable (kvass, yogurt, kombucha, and the like), check out Boulder Fermentation Supply opened up recently by Adam Kandle. I first met Adam at Upslope when he stopped in on his way back from the hills with a backpack full of prickly pears for mead.

Related Tempest Articles

Boulder: Craft Beer at the Foot of the Mountain (Northern Front Range Series)

Craft Beer in the Mile-High City: Colorado’s Northern Front Range Series

Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Milling Against the Grain: Grimm Brothers Goes All-Germanic

Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque

Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company

Images

Avery new facility and sampler: Avery Brewing Company

Asher can with mountain: Courtesy of Asher Brewing Co. and Organic Soul Imaging

Upslope interior: F.D. Hofer

Upslope Brown: Upslope Brewing

Crystal Springs logo and bottle: Courtesy of Crystal Springs Brewing Company

Wild Mountain sign: F.D. Hofer

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Brown Beers Get No Luvin’: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.2)

Raise your hand if brown beer is one of your all-time favourites.

… … …          … … …          … … …Newcastle_Brown_Ale_6-pack (WikiCommons-LokkoRobson)Just as I expected: not too many hands.

Brown beers get no luvin’. Maybe it’s our infatuation with IPAs and IBUs. Maybe it’s brown beer’s vaguely middle-of-the-road status: Brown ale has precious little in common with a lager, Pils, cream ale or Kölsch, and doesn’t quite match the intensity of most porters and stouts. Brown ale ranges in colour from dark amber to chestnut to copper-brown, sometimes even dark brown. But other beers that aren’t subject to the brown beer stigma share these characteristics as well, like some pale ales and old ales.

Some English bitters flirt with the outer edges of brown––no less brown than a Sam Smith Nut Brown, which is actually of the dark amber persuasion. Many barleywines exhibit varying hues of brown as well, and guess what? They don’t suffer from any image problems whatsoever. And then there’s all those lighter-coloured and less intensely-hued porters. Doing just fine too. Brown beer loses out because it’s called Brown Beer. I mean, can you really call a beer “Back in Brown,” or “Fade to Brown,” or “All Cats at Night Are Brown”? WritingDifference (www-press-uchicago-edu)No. “My Brown Cardigan” might be as good as it gets. If that fails, name the beer after your (brown) dog.

But is this a mere hue and cry over colour? It’s more than that, I think. The colour spectrum of brown beer shades over into a hybridity of aroma and flavour as well: not quite pale ale, not quite porter. We’re at a loss when confronted with a brown beer. Are brown beers malty or hoppy? Full-flavoured or a well-choreographed ballet of moderate levels of malt and hops? Sessionable? Dry or slightly sweet? All of the above? Brown beers may well be the quintessential “undecidable” beer style. Which is, perhaps, why we decide against it when the choices at our local bottle shop or taproom are so vast.

* * *

It’s still quite busy here in Tempest Land. While my more involved writing projects sit on the backburner to make room for my brew kettle––I’ve been catching up on homebrewing projects all week––here’s another Saturday Six-Pack for your enjoyment.IMG_1854 If Saturday’s too far off and/or you live in the U.S., drink these eminently autumnal beers with your Thanksgiving dinner.

Last time, I pulled together a selection of beer styles that I drink less often than other styles. This time the rationale’s similar, the only difference being that I actually drink my fair share of brown beer. I’m going to assume, however, that brown beers aren’t what many a beer drinker would bring to a gathering of like-minded beverage enthusiasts. For the purposes of this six-pack, I have bracketed out other styles that are brown in colour and sometimes in name, such as Oud Bruin, Bock and Doppelbock, and Munich Dunkel.

* * *

Since not all of us are brown beer aficionados, what can we expect from these beers?

If you’re a porter fan, you’ll be interested to learn that the contemporary English mild ale (sometimes called “dark mild”) is likely one of the beers that made it into early porter mixes. Indeed, some contemporary versions are reminiscent of lower-gravity brown porter. Today, “mild” refers to a relative lack of hop bitterness; historically, however, the term was reserved for younger beers that had not yet developed the sourness of aged batches.

Around the turn of the twentieth century, breweries began bottling a slightly sweeter rendition of this ale as an answer to the growing reaction against vinous vatted porter and milds that went south all too quickly. English brown ales of this sort are generally split into sub-styles along geographic lines. Southern English (or “London-style”) brown ales are darker, sweeter, and lower in alcohol than their northern counterparts. Brown ale originated in London, where the calcium carbonate- and sodium chloride-rich water favoured the production of darker styles such as porter, stout, and dark mild. Perhaps due to the cultural influence of the capital city, this southern type of brown ale came to be brewed throughout England. As is the case with mild ales, London-style browns are beers that you hardly ever see in North America, unless you happen to be judging at a homebrew competition. The style is also becoming increasingly rare even in Olde Albion.

But brown ale lives on as a style associated with the northeast of England, even if what we now call Northern English brown ale or, simply, nut brown ale, debuted on the opposite end of England in Cornwall. This is a nutty and biscuit-like beer ranging in colour from dark amber to reddish-brown, and one that is drier and has less caramel character than its London-style relative to the south. The hop notes are more pronounced than in a Southern English brown, but not so much as to overwhelm the nut-and-biscuit malt profile. Roast notes make an occasional and subtle appearance in these styles as well.

As I’m sure no one will find in the least bit surprising, North American interpretations of the style are, generally, hoppier and maltier. As per the BJCP Style Guidelines, American brown ale “can be considered a bigger, maltier, hoppier interpretation of Northern English Brown Ale or a hoppier, less malty brown porter, often including [a] citrus-accented hop presence.” My favourite American brown ales have a distinctive barley tea-like character––mugi-cha, for anyone who has had the pleasure of drinking this cold barley tea on a sultry summer day in Japan––and a roasted accent that falls between bitter-sweet chocolate and coffee.

*The Newcastle Brown Ale website suggests a serving temperature of 38-40F (3-4C), but in my experience these beers do much better at cellar temperature. If you drink them cool or cold, you won’t get any of the subtle malt characteristics that only come into their own around 50F (10C) or higher. This is particularly the case with English examples you might come across.

Ellie’s Brown Ale (Avery Brewing Company, Colorado). Pleasant roast malts predominate but don’t overpower the dark chocolate in this pecan-brown beer with russet highlights.Avery - Ellies6pk (averybrewing-com) The aromas are earthy, with just the slightest hint of licorice. On the palate, a residual maple sweetness counters a chocolate-accented roast character intertwined with malted milk and toffee. Hops play a supporting role, contributing an almost eucalyptus-like herbal-medicinal touch and a smoothly bitter undertone.

Boffo Brown Ale (Dark Horse Brewing Company, Michigan). Deeply hued dark chestnut brown with mahogany highlights, the aroma of this beer doubles the appearance to suggest that we’re nearing porter territory. The complex malt character shines, with dark chocolate and cocoa-dusted dark cherry mingling with baking spice. Fig jam makes an appearance, with a sprinkle of ground ginger mixed in. All of this quickly crests into a Campari-like bitterness, leading to a lingering finish reminiscent of a high-end cup of cocoa.

Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale (Samuel Smith Old Brewery, England). The crystal-clear and beautifully hued dark amber liquid in your glass announces fine things to come. Sam Smith’s tell-tale earthy-licorice-anise aroma pervades a finely-orchestrated combination of toffee and apples with a touch of vanilla that is almost cream soda-like.SamSmith AngelWhiteHorse (samuelsmithbrewery-co-uk) The malt accents fall on biscuit and toasted nuts, with layered dark cherry and hazelnut teaming up with ghee and butterscotch to round out the ensemble. The nutty finish features an appetizing and almost tannic dryness.

Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, California). Roast notes of bitter-sweet chocolate intermingle with floral-pine hops to make this beer the most identifiably “American” of the lot. Like the Boffo Brown, its complexion and aromas brush up against the boundaries of porterdom. Tumbler Autumn Brown is a compelling mix of bright levity and earthy seriousness: a smooth and balanced interlacing of toffee and stewed dark fruit, a whiff of autumn smokiness, and bright flavor hops keep things on the graceful side. The long and beguiling finish is reminiscent of the kirsch-soaked cherries in Black Forest cherry cake. N.B.: As of 2014, this beer is no longer available as a stand-alone offering, but you can still get it as part of Sierra Nevada’s Fall Variety Pack.

Old Brown Dog Ale (Smuttynose Brewing Company, New Hampshire). What’s with all the dogs gracing the labels of American brown ales? Cuddly-looking old brown dog or no, this is one flavourful brown ale––the brown ale, in fact, that convinced me some years ago that brown ales were a style worth a second look. If Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog looks almost identical to Sam Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, it is to fruitiness what Sam Smith is to nuttiness. In many ways, this beer reminds me of some Munich Dunkels and Märzens that I’ve had: toasty fresh bread and plum-dark cherry. Layered together with this Munich-like malt character comes a dash of cocoa and bright maple sugar en route to a fruity-bitter off-dry finish.

Upslope Brown Ale (Upslope Brewing Company, Colorado).Upslope Brown (upslopebrewing-com) Upslope’s offering is the most “woodsy” of the beers in this six-pack, and its roasted signature is also one of the most prominent of the beers featured here. Wisps of smoke intertwine with earthy forest floor, cocoa powder, maple sap, and lightly charred coffee before yielding mid-palate to plum-fruit. The dry and moderately astringent bitter finish opens onto an aftertaste of spiced, roasted nuts.

* * *

Even if it’s only Monday, grab a six-pack of these under-rated and inexpensive beers to accompany your Thanksgiving meal, to sip over the coming weekend, or to sample with a group of friends.

What are some of your favourite brown beers? Let us know in the comments.

Related Tempest Articles

Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.1)

Drinking Lager in an Age of Extreme Taste

Further Reading

Jamil Zainasheff and John J. Palmer, Brewing Classic Styles (Boulder: Brewers Publications, 2007).

Michael Jackson, The New World Guide to Beer (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1988).

Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont, The World Atlas of Beer (New York: Sterling Epicure, 2012).

BJCP Style Guidelines, 2008 edition.

Images

Newcastle Brown Ale Six-Pack: Lokko Robson (Wiki Commons)

Cover of Derrida’s Writing and Difference: University of Chicago Press

Witbier yeast starter gone wild: F.D. Hofer

Ellie’s Brown Ale: Avery

The Angel & White Horse Pub next to Sam Smith’s Tadcaster brewery: Samuel Smith’s Brewery

Can of Upslope: Upslope Brewing

© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.