As 2015 comes to a close, we’re once again asking leading figures on the Colorado beer scene to reflect on the past year and look ahead to next.
This next installment in our 5th annual Beer In Review features Brandon Boldt, head Brewer at Odd13 Brewing in Lafayette and also newly announced co-founder of Primitive Beer, a sour beer side project he and his wife Lisa Boldt are in the process of creating. Odd13 scored a big win with a silver medal in the competitive Pro-Am competition in the Great American Beer Festival, brewing homebrewer Mike Froehlich’s recipe.
Now, on to Brandon’s picks:
Favorite beer of the year: Picking my favorite beer is like picking my favorite child — really difficult as I don’t have any kids. Nevertheless, as the type of consumer who tends to buy a different beer every time I shop, my most repeated purchase has been Prairie Artisan Ales’ Funky Gold Amarillo. This dry-hopped sour ale has an incredible balance of farm funk, lactic sour, and tropical/citrusy interplay between the hops and brettanomyces that allow this beer to be both supremely quaffable yet contemplative.
Colorado brewery of the year: I’m going to redefine this question to “which brewery do you most wish you could drink every day (and all your beers are free)?!”. The answer to this question would have to be Casey Brewing and Blending. No elaboration necessary, Troy Casey and his beers speak for themselves.
New Colorado brewery of the year: Identity is seldom formed in a year, even for niche breweries, which makes selection in this category particularly difficult. That said, I’ve been most excited by the openings of four new breweries, which all happen to be in Denver. Call to Arms has more than exceeded the initial hype associated with these well-respected brewers starting an exciting new venture. CTA has consistently crushed hops with the Hamiltonian Pale Ale, has cleanly dabbled in the process of kettle souring, and is experimenting with open fermentations. Spangalang Brewery and Ratio Beerworks have also been able to cleanly rock textbook styles and have shown some interest on the “fringe” as well. I’ve been blown away by Spangalang’s Cucumber Gose (collaboration with The Real Dill) and Ratio’s Strawberry Berliner Weisse (one of the few strawberry beers I’ve had that actually tasted like the fruit). Lastly, and not by rank, opening with only eight weeks to spare in 2015 is Little Machine Beer. Brewing on a Colorado-manufactured brewhouse with an emphasis on Colorado grown/sourced ingredients is pretty cool, but brewing those same beers well is even cooler!
Colorado brewery to watch in 2016: Atom Brewing Company. After nearly four years of preparation and experimentation, Jeff Porn (yes, that is his real name) has a pipeline of barrel fermented/aged beer developing in his compact Erie fermentory. Following the model of brewers like Troy Casey (Casey Brewing and Blending), Chad Yakobson (Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project) and Cory King (Side Project), Jeff is producing his wort on a third-party brewhouse and toting the “feed” back to his facility for inoculation with a range of microflora. Jeff is a brewer with many connections to the industry and a taste for the wild. He plans to offer an array of open-fermented rustic ales, American coolship ales, and other oak-borne offerings. In other words, more great style-defying mixed fermentations from oak fermenter to facehole! I really just needed an excuse to say facehole.
Most notable craft beer news or trend of 2015: Possibly eclipsed by the billion dollar murders and executions (American Psycho, 1991) are the exciting and evolving style trends of 2015. If you haven’t heard, sour beers are the bomb dot com. The rate/technique of souring (e.g., quick sour vs. aged sour) produces widely different results and 2015 witnessed an explosion in popularity of all types of sour beer and other mixed fermentations. The acceptance of sour beer by mainstream consumers is evidenced by:
Increased production volume (I’m looking at you Gose, fruited Berliner Weisse, and American Brett Beer)
Experimentation with traditional techniques (incorporation of koelschips at a number of CO breweries and the release of world class wild and spontaneous beers by the likes of Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales)
The growth of artisan yeast labs like The Yeast Bay, Inland Island and Bootleg Biology (offering a range of non-traditional fermenters, laboratory work, and strain banking to both homebrewers and professionals). While many sour styles have existed for hundreds of years, experimentation by American breweries with souring bacteria and wild yeast has only really developed in the last couple decades. In other words, the fun has just begun!
Craft beer trend to watch for in 2016: Hops are back baby! While hops have not and will not go out of style, new brewing techniques and cultivars will allow them to be incorporated into beers like never before. One particular area of research that has gained support by the craft beer community pertains to the biotransformation of hop compounds, such as “hop glycosides,” during fermentation. Not only are new techniques gaining notoriety for IPAs/APAs, but some of these methods are likewise being incorporated into mixed fermentations. On the clean side of the aisle, I anticipate hop-stars like Comrade, Cannonball Creek, Four Noses, and Station 26 will continue to push the limits for hops in Colorado. I also predict that many breweries getting comfortable with mixed fermentations will start to incorporate hops and new-age hopping techniques, standing on the shoulders of giants like New Belgium, Crooked Stave, and Casey Brewing and Blending.
Here are previous entries:
Troy Casey from Casey Brewing and Blending.
Lauren Salazar from New Belgium Brewing Co.
Darren Boyd of Spangalang Brewery.
Andy Parker of Avery Brewing.
Nick Nunns of TRVE Brewing.
Drew and Leah Watson of Hops and Pie Pizzeria & Craft Beer Taproom.
David Lin of Comrade Brewing.
Matt Thrall of Left Hand Brewing.
Eli Kolondy and Tony Rau of Odell Brewing.
Jesse Brookstein of Call to Arms Brewing.
Tommy Bibliowicz of 4 Noses Brewing.
Sam Scruby of Upslope Brewing.
James Howat of Former Future Brewing Co.
Brian O’Connell of Renegade Brewing.
Bill Eye of Bierstadt Lagerhaus.
Mike Lawinski of FATE Brewing Co.
Jason Yester of Trinity Brewing.
Patrick Annesty of River North Brewery.
Thomas Barnett of Fort Collins Brewery.
Ro Guenzel of Great Divide Brewing Co.