Unless you are a Level 7 beer geek with your own private Huggy Bear who will give you the word on the street, there will always be beers, breweries or events that will go unnoticed for years before you hear about it through the hop vine. And then, after you have drunk that A+ beer or toured that new brewery or attended that brew event, you wonder how your beer life existed back in the Stone Age.
That is my bad segue into talking about my first visit to Stone Brewing’s Winter Storm. A week-long celebration of everything that Stone has ever brewed. And I do mean everything. 37 taps of Stone beer. Granted, the laws of supply and demand mean that beers like the reclusive StoneWall or the collaborative Kona coffee, coconut, macadamia beers were tapped out by the 2nd day. But there was plenty to choose from. Vertical Epics from 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009. Three years of Imperial Russian Stouts. The Bashah that was created with BrewDog and much more.
When faced with such a cornucopia of choices, I go the taster route. This way allows me to try different styles of beers or try beers that I have never had and might not see until the next Winter Storm. I started with the AleSmith-Mikkeller-Stone collaborative Belgian Triple. It isn’t super Belgian-y and had some pilsner qualities to it. Next up was the 2009 Double Dry Hopped Double Bastard. This one fooled me completely. The aroma was a light floral hoppiness. Then I took a sip and it was a pure blast of hop bitterness. Once my tongue recovered this became my favorite beer. Third was the BrewDog bashah. This was initially sweet but the more I drank the more sour and cherry flavors came to dominate. I saved the 06-06-06 Vertical Epic for the finale. Unfortunately, this beer has mellowed into a puddle of porter without any bold flavors.
Two other things to keep in mind. You can also buy and share a bottle as well. This is the place to get bottles of AleSmith or Alpine or Mikkeller. Stone has a fabulous selection and the mark-up isn’t bad. Second, the food is terrific and locally sourced. I have had the beer mac ‘n’ cheese before but even the salads can fill you up. Plus you can get yours with a hop vinaigrette.
The Storm ends this Saturday but you can always mark it down on the 2011 calendar for the 5th edition. Who knows what beer they will pull out of the back room for next year?
That leads me to my second bad segue. Your homework is to start your own beer cellar. When you are out getting beer for the weekend or dinner pick-up an extra bottle of beer that will age well. Typically higher alcohol beers like barley wines or barrel aged concoctions. Strong Double IPA’s might work too. Find a cool and dark place to hide them in so that they won’t “accidentally” get opened and then wait. If you have more patience than me, in a few years you can have quite the stash of beers. Then you can throw your own version of a Winter Storm.
The beer of the week is the latest and greatest from New Belgium. Ranger IPA is a bit of a departure for the brewers from Colorado. It is a soft and floral style of IPA with a good amount of bitterness but it won’t scald the tongue like a Double Bastard would. This would be a great starter IPA to introduce those new to beer to complex flavors.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.