Westword Beer Calendar

Saturday, January 13
Lowdown Brewery + Kitchen hosts its fourth annual Barrel Aged Beer Festival today and tomorrow, with eight different barrel-aged beers from Lowdown plus some rare or barrel-aged stuff from Little Machine, Black Project, River North Brewery, Declaration, Spangalang, Banded Oak, Funkwerks, Platt Park, Station 26, Left Hand, Lagunitas, Elevation, Dry Dock, Odell and Ratio Beerworks. The party runs from 2 to 5 p.m.; see the Lowdown website for more details.

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Westword Beer Calendar

Wednesday, January 3
In an effort to do away with the long lines and other issues surrounding bottle releases, Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales is experimenting with a new online lottery for its new bottled beers. For its latest beer, Stargate: Peach Rye | Nectarine Bourbon, interested beer buyers must enter the lottery on the brewery's website today. The brewery's Project Stargate highlights "different flavors and aromas of whole fruit fermented and aged in spirits barrels, which are filled with the brewery’s spontaneous solera sour golden Dreamland. Each year the brewery picks different fruits and spirits barrels, depending on the season, to age its sour golden for several months, imparting unique flavors and aromas into the base beer," Black Project says. The latest one "combines Laws Whiskey House Rye barrel-aged Stargate with peaches and Laws Whiskey House Bourbon barrel-aged Stargate with nectarines together, to produce the most complex, most fruit-forward, and most nuanced sour beer we have ever made.” Winners of the lottery can buy the beer for $22 per bottle and pick it up on January 12.

Saturday, January 13
Lowdown Brewery + Kitchen hosts its fourth annual Barrel Aged Beer Festival today and tomorrow, with eight different barrel-aged beers from Lowdown plus some rare or barrel-aged stuff from Little Machine, Black Project, River North Brewery, Declaration, Spangalang, Banded Oak, Funkwerks, Platt Park, Station 26, Left Hand, Lagunitas, Elevation, Dry Dock, Odell and Ratio Beerworks. The party runs from 2 to 5 p.m.; see the Lowdown website for more details.

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Craft Beer Is Dead — Your Favorite Delicious Style Killed It

In the past two weeks, two well-respected national beer writers have penned articles foretelling the demise of craft brewing. Neither predicted its death based on competition with big beer or on ingredient shortages or other economic factors, though. Rather, they bemoaned the surging popularity of two different styles, sounding the alarms bells and wringing their hands over the future of beer in America.

The first article, “Boom in Sugary Pastry Stouts Shows Craft Industry Forgetting What Beer Tastes Like,” by Chicago Tribune reporter and author Josh Noel (who is writing a book about Goose Island Beer Company selling out to AB InBev) called out so-called pastry stouts based on the prevalence of these sweet, often barrel-aged beers at a recent festival. “After six hours wandering the aisles of the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer last weekend, I have concluded that craft beer is betraying itself,” Noel wrote. “It is forgetting what beer should taste like.”

The second piece, “Hazy Days and Brighter Futures: Are New England IPAs More Than a Passing Fad?” written for Beer Advocate by longtime beer journalist Andy Crouch, was even more gloomy as it took hazy, New England-style IPAs to task. “Craft brewing once defined itself by wide-ranging innovation. Brewers pushed past previously defined boundaries to explore the outer edges of what constituted beer,” he wrote. “Today’s focus on IPA, and hazy, juicy New England IPAs specifically, is the opposite of that age of wonder. Our hyper focus on this new style has rendered beer homogenous and even boring.

“This is the death of creativity, the stifling of craft brewing’s spirit,” he added.

Seriously? Give me a break, fellas.

These articles are just the latest obituaries written by people who don’t like, or are sick of, a particular style, and frankly, this kind of writing is getting old. I imagine that executives at the big beer companies (like Miller, Coors and Bud) were probably harrumphing the same words about craft beer in the early ’90s (and that the big-box stores were saying similar things about online shopping ten years later).

Pastry stouts — which are typically high-alcohol “imperial stouts” that have been brewed with sweet additions like vanilla beans or coconut or even cake or cookies — and New England-style IPAs, which have mild, tropical hop flavors and aromas and a cloudy appearance, are indeed popular, so much so that almost every brewery, good and bad, has now attempted some version of one or the other, or both.

Yes, they are trendy. No, they aren’t killing craft beer. They are invigorating it.

In Colorado, several breweries have made their names in the past few years based on these styles; they include Weldwerks BrewingCerebral BrewingOdd13 BrewingUrsula Brewery and Liquid Mechanics. Others are choosing to focus more and more on them; these include River North BreweryStation 26 BrewingNew Image BrewingFiction Beer Companyand Epic Brewing.

The reasons? For starters, because both styles are fantastic and delicious (in the right hands) and popular among brewers and drinkers. And second, because of that very desire to create and explore what Crouch thinks is gone.

I began drinking craft beer because I was tired of beer-flavored beer — the stuff that smells like a fraternity-house floor on a Sunday morning. The last thing I want is a return to that. To me, this is just the opposite. What these two styles really represent isn’t the death of craft beer, but the continued effort of brewers and breweries to play with flavors and textures and styles and boundaries — and to attract new customers who might like these flavors more than some others. I think it’s marvelous.

But the notion that they are overtaking craft brewing is simply ridiculous. Never before have so many different kinds of beer been available in taprooms and on liquor-store shelves. There's so much choice that even I, a guy who gets paid to study and write about beer, has trouble keeping up sometimes.

Take a look at Seedstock, Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Call to Arms, Wibby Brewing, Hogshead, Grimm Brothers, Black Project, Funkwerks, Prost Brewing, Halfpenny, TRVE, Ratio Beerworks, Beryl’s Beer Company and and many more. I challenge you to walk into these Colorado breweries and to try to find more than a half-dozen IPAs among all of them, let alone a single New England-style IPA.

Even in liquor stores, these two styles make up only a small percentage of what is available. Pastry stouts are expensive to produce, high in alcohol and often hard to find. They make up a niche part of the market for people willing to pay more money for them. Hazy IPAs, meanwhile, can be unstable in packaged form, which is why very few breweries have tried to package them. Relative to other styles — like regular IPAs, blondes, pilsners, wits — they are uncommon.

Both styles are popular right now — and people are lining up for them — but both will eventually settle into their spots alongside the dozens and dozens and dozens of other beer styles out there. Breweries that are good at making them will continue to do so, while those that weren’t as successful will stop. Remember Belgian stouts and Black IPAs? How about Session IPA and Imperial pilsners? And Brett IPAs and fruited IPAs and salty, salty goses? They have all briefly surged in popularity before becoming part of the rainbow.

Some breweries may be following trends. Others may be unsure what they are doing, but for the most part, the brewers and breweries working with these styles have the same mentality as the ones who were feeling their way through the '80s and the '90s, and I'd argue that you could describe them with the same words that Crouch uses to describe their predecessors:

"Craft brewing once defined itself by wide-ranging innovation," he wrote. "Brewers pushed past previously defined boundaries to explore the outer edges of what constituted beer. They based some ideas on long abandoned brewing traditions, conceiving others out of sheer boredom or pure devilish curiosity. The age of extreme was a wild one, where anything could (and did) happen. It was fun, brutish, and, thankfully, a stepping stone on the path to greater beer knowledge."

I hope that age never goes away.

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Here's What You Need to Know About Colorado's 38 GABF Medal Winners

Colorado held steady at the Great American Beer Festival this year, winning a total of 38 medals on Saturday, the same number it won in both 2015 and 2016. And while that doesn't seem like a lot of bling for a state with more than 320 breweries, it's notable because the number didn't decline as it has in previous years (Colorado won 40 medals in 2014 and 46 in 2013) as the competition has increased dramatically.

Also notable: Of those 38 medals, a whopping thirteen were gold, and they represented a very wide range of styles — variety being one of Colorado's strong suits.

A few things stood out. The first is that it is really, really hard to win a medal at GABF in this day and age. The increased number of breweries has meant more competition and fewes chances for breweries since they are only allowed to enter five beers, as opposed to ten in the old days. So the breweries that are winning consistently are not only making great beers, but they're picking their categories correctly and benefiting from a little luck.

Also, aside from Odell's Pro-Am win (see below), none of Colorado's biggest breweries won anything. New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Left Hand, Avery, Great Divide, Boulder Beer and Ska were collectively shut out. Instead, some of the smallest breweries in the state were knocking back gold, silver and bronze.

Here are some wins of note, followed by the entire list:

It's hard not to start with Longmont's Wibby Brewing, which won a silver medal for Moondoor Dunkel in the Munich-Style Dunkel category, because the brewery's Ryan Wibby got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Robin, as they took the stage to receive their medal from the BA's Charlie Papazian. It makes you wonder, as the Denver Business Journal's Ed Sealover wondered aloud on Twitter, what his backup plan was if they hadn't won.

Colorado home brewers swept the Pro-Am category, which is set aside for breweries that want to team up on a recipe with award-winning members of the American Homebrewers Association. Denver Beer Co. and Doug Thiel took gold; Daniel Tomkins and Black Bottle Brewery in Fort Collins won silver; and Mark Boelman and Odell Brewing won bronze. It was a nice nod to home brewing in the state that made it a thing.

Weldwerks Brewing in Greeley won gold for its Medianoche in the carefully watched Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout category. The beer, which was already extremely rare and hard to find, has made a name for itself over the past two years as one of the best barrel-aged imperial stouts in the state. Now it can rank alongside the best in the country. It's a huge win for this very young, very small brewery — one that is primarily known for its New England-style IPAs. But anyone who has tried Medianoche is aware that it shines when compared to similar beers from Avery, Fremont Brewing, Modern Times, Perennial and more.

Funkwerks, which had struggled at the medal table since winning GABF's Small Brewery of the Year in 2012, took home a gold for its saison in the competitive Classic Saison category. The award comes at a great time for Funkwerks, which has just entered into a financial arrangement with Brooklyn Brewery and 21st Amendment.

Brett beers remained a Colorado specialty, as Jessup Farm Barrel House, a tiny niche brewery in Fort Collins, took gold in the Brett Beer category for Fancy Pants, followed by Our Mutual Friend, which won silver for Saison Trystero; OMF had been a collaborator in 2016 on Dreamy Thing, which won silver in the Brett Beer group for Cerebral Brewing. Greeley's Wiley Roots, meanwhile, a frequent collaborator with OMF, won gold in the Mixed-Culture Brett Beer category for Galaxy Dry Hopped Funk Yo Couch.

Greeley represent! In addition to the medals named above (from Weldwerks and Wiley Roots), Broken Plow Brewing, also in Greeley, won bronze for India Spring Honey Cream Ale.

Lone Tree Brewing was the only multiple-medal winner from Colorado, scoring gold for its Mexican Lager (a beer that won a medal two years ago as well) and a silver for Hop Zombie.

A few breweries won medals in their first year of existence, including Cellar West Artisan Ales in Boulder, New Terrain Brewing in Golden and Square Peg Brewerks in Alamosa.

Others that have been in business a little longer won medals for the first time, including Little Machine Beer in Denver, Co-Brew in Denver, Copper Club Brewing in Fruita, Jessup Farm Barrel House in Fort Collins, 105 West Brewing in Castle Rock, and Launch Pad Brewing in Aurora.

The Sandlot returned to form by winning its first medal in two years. Prior to that, the brewery owned the record for the most ever at GABF with 44 medals. It also returned to its silly names. So Long and Thanks for All the Smoked Fish took gold in the Smoke Beer category.

Scroll down to see all the winners.

Finkel & Garf

Gold Medals
F-Town Amber
Copper Club Brewing, Fruita
American-Style Amber/Red Ale

Fancy Pants
Jessup Farm Barrel House, Fort Collins
Brett Beer

Galaxy Dry Hopped Funk Yo Couch
Wiley Roots Brewing, Greeley
Mixed-Culture Brett Beer

Just Another Pretty Face
Doug Thiel and Denver Beer Co
Pro-Am

Medianoche
WeldWerks Brewing, Greeley
Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout

Mexican Lager
Lone Tree Brewing
American-Style Lager or Malt Liquor

Oatmeal Milk Stout
Finkel & Garf Brewing
Sweet Stout or Cream Stout

Punjabi
CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing, Fort Collins
English-Style India Pale Ale

Plum Creek Sour
Rockyard American Grill & Brewing, Castle Rock
Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer

Razz Against the Machine
Little Machine Beer, Denver
American-Style Fruit Beer

Saison
Funkwerks, Fort Collins
Classic Saison

So Long and Thanks for All the Smoked Fish
Sandlot Brewery at Coors Field, Denver
Smoke Beer

Waverly Tulip
Square Peg Brewerks, Alamosa
Historical Beer

Silver Medals
Black 28
Cannonball Creek, Golden
American-Style Black Ale

Hilltopper’s Pride Kentucky Common Ale
Ironworks Brewery & Pub, Lakewood
Historical Beer

Hop Zombie
Lone Tree Brewing
Imperial Red Ale

Lemon Rye,
105 West Brewing, Castle Rock
American-Style Wheat Beer

Lichtenhainer
Daniel Tomkins and Black Bottle Brewery, Fort Collins
Pro-Am

Make Hay
Cellar West Artisan Ales, Boulder
Specialty Saison

Moondoor Dunkel
Wibby Brewing, Longmont
Munich-Style Dunkel or European-Style Dark Lager

Patio Pounder
Twisted Pine Brewing, Boulder
Session India Pale Ale

Peacekeeper
Launch Pad Brewery, Aurora
Session Beer

Pilsner
Dry Dock Brewing, Aurora
German-Style Pilsener

Roswell: Grudge
Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, Denver
Experimental Beer

Saison Trystero
Our Mutual Friend, Denver
Brett Beer

Suntrip
New Terrain Brewing,
Golden, Belgian-Style Witbier

Woods Monk
Odyssey Beerwerks, Arvada
Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer

Bronze Medals
Fifth Anniversary Tequila Sour
Loveland Aleworks
Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer

Blackberry Table Sour
Baere Brewing, Denver
Berliner-Style Weisse

Downhill Kolsch
Elk Mountain Brewing, Parker
German-Style Koelsch

Dunkel
Pug Ryan’s, Dillon
Munich-Style Dunkel or European-Style Dark Lager

Eluxansis
Mark Boelman and Odell Brew Team, Fort Collins
Pro-Am

Farmhouse Saison
Co-Brew, Denver
Specialty Saison

Hefeweizen
Gordon Biersch Brewery, Broomfield
South German-Style Hefeweizen

India Spring Honey Cream Ale
Broken Plow Brewery, Greeley
Herb and Spice Beer

Little Red Cap
Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Loveland
German-Style Altbier

Mountain Series: Maibock
Breckenridge Brewery
Bock

Woody Pils
Bull & Bush Brewery, Glendale
Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer

Five Denver Foods Made With Beer and Beer Ingredients

As ticket holders for the Great American Beer Festival gear up for three days of beer saturation, it's easy to see why beer is on our brain. But those who can't make it to the annual extravaganza of fermented beverages should consider eating their hops instead...or at least nibble on tasty snacks that are either inspired by beer or made with the stuff. These five items can all be taken to go, and offer the chance to try Colorado beer without stepping inside the Colorado Convention Center, or a bar, this weekend.

Beer-Inspired Pickles
As part of The Real Dill's Briners & Brewers series, owners Justin Park and Tyler DuBois paired with Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project to create the ultimate beer cuke. Enter Colorado Wild Sage Pickles, a marriage of cucumbers with the same herbs and ingredients that flavor the Crooked Stave's Colorado Wild Sage Brett Saison. Like the beer, these pickles feature lemongrass, sage, hops, lemon and a dash of malt to help give them a slightly spicy, tart and mouth-watering quality. They taste like someone marinated a cucumber in a glass of the beer, minus the alcohol. While the pickles are sold out on the Real Dill's website, there might still be a few floating around at retail stores. Or keep an eye out on the website for new beery pickles in the series.

Dry-Hopped Coffee
Coffee and beer? You usually don't see these two things together unless it's as a hangover cure or strong breakfast stout, but Phil Goodlaxson at Corvus Coffee decided to add hops to a recent batch of cold brew. "It’s kind of an interesting story about how that came to be," says Goodlaxson. "I was doing a lot of beer events early on, and for one of the South Denver beer fests, I decided to make something more 'beer-y' on a whim, and so we went to a local homebrew store and bought some hops, dry-hopped some cold brew and ordered a stamp to make some pretty basic labels for the bottles." Now anyone can try the stuff by heading to one of the Corvus Coffee shops (1740 South Broadway or 4925 South Newport Street) or seeking it out at some of the city's finer markets. "It was something I was planning on doing only once, and it led to what is now a million-dollar cold-brew business," Goodlaxson says. "I may never have bottled cold brew at all if it wasn’t for that original hopped coffee."

Beer-Infused Ice Cream 
Every year, Sweet Action Ice Cream doles out a handful of beer-infused ice creams in honor of the Great American Beer Festival, and this year is no different. The full list of flavors that owner Chia Basinger is making at his Baker-neighborhood shop hasn't been released yet, but in 2016 he whipped up Butter Pecan Maple Porter made with Renegade Brewing's Pancakes Maple Porter; Vegan Colorado Peach Ale with Copper Kettle Brewing's Peach Golden Ale; and Honey Nutmeg Sour Red with Black Project's Voodoo Sour Red. Get the ice cream in a cone or take a six-pack to go. Also whipping up great beer ice cream is Gerry Kim at Frozen Matter in Uptown. Take a pint of the Milk Chocolate Stout (made with Left Hand Brewing's Milk Stout) home, or stay for a beer float, which can be made with any ice cream. It's the best adult soda-shop treat ever.

Salami Laced With Ale
Wine has been used in charcuterie for decades, so it was only a matter of time before someone started using beer to flavor cured meats. You can taste this pairing in the Colorado Sour Ale Salami coming out of Elevation Meats in Denver. Made with Trinity Brewing's Seven Day Sour, the pork-based salami offers meat and beer lovers a tasty marriage of two great products. To try this delectable blend, look for it at specialty shops around town or order online; you can visit The Preservery and Culture Meats & Cheeses to sample before you buy.

Beer Brats: Coming Soon
For a while now, Jensen Cummings of Brewed Food has been working with the folks behind Tender Belly to create a line of beer-spiked brats. The process has been slow, and the team is still trying to perfect it before packaging and selling the meat on the market. "Our IPL [India Pale Lager] brats are not available for retail just yet, and we have only been sampling and testing in very few select accounts," says Stephanie Duffy, Tender Belly's sales manager, in an email. "They will be ready to share with the world soon."

Until then, we can only salivate over what's to come. 

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For Epic Brewing, Everything Changed in the Time It Took to Brew a Single Beer

It’s stunning how quickly things are evolving these days in the craft-beer industry: styles, trends, rules and regulations, even the packages that beer is sold in. Breweries are bought and sold; they change names, change focus and change addresses. One day a beer maker can be on the top of its game, and the next, it can be left behind, wondering where everybody went.

The pace of change caught Epic Brewing off-guard on September 1, when news broke that The Commons, a well-loved Portland brewery, would close its doors at the end of this year; its space will be taken over by San Diego's Modern Times, which is opening a new outlet in Portland. Founded in 2011 by Mike Wright, the Commons had grown quickly from its original garage into a 10,000-square-foot showplace of a brewery and tasting room, gathering accolades, attention and lots of debt along the way.

What’s the connection to Epic? “We were literally chopping up honeydew melons and adding them to the foeder when the news popped up on my phone,” says Epic national sales director Darin McGregor. “The melons were for a collaboration beer we were making with the Commons.”

Common Interests, a sour ale brewed with Oregon red winter wheat and Colorado honeydew melons, will debut next week, during the Great American Beer Festival, on tap at the brewery and around town. But rather than being a celebration of the ties between Epic and the Commons, it will serve as a tribute to the Portland brewery and a reminder that things can change a lot in the time it takes to brew a single beer.

The collaboration began last summer when Epic’s brewers flew to Portland to see friends at the Commons, in particular star brewer Sean Burke, who had been with the Commons since 2011. Burke then flew to Denver to plan the project at the Evergreen home of Epic founder Dave Cole, and returned to Oregon ready to go. In the meantime, Epic brewers Kevin Crompton and Anthony Biaz got to work on their side of things.

Epic had just acquired two huge wooden barrels, adding to its already brag-worthy collection of foeders, which are typically used to aged sour beers. “We thought of this beer the moment we got them,”McGregor says. “It will be the first one to come out of them.” Once brewed, the beer was emptied into the foeders and allowed to age for months. But in June, Burke, who had been with the Commons since 2011, left suddenly and without public explanation. That news came as a surprise and a bummer for Epic, which also began having trouble reaching anyone at the Commons, McGregor says.

In late August, Crompton and McGregor drove to Rocky Ford — a melon-growing region east of Pueblo — to pick up 4,000 pounds of ripe honeydews. A few days later, they set up an assembly line by the foeders to disinfect the melons, rinse them, slice them open, seed them and chop them into cubes, McGregor says.

That’s when they heard that the Commons was closing. “We are not upset. We are empathetic. A lot of breweries are having a hard time making the ins and outs balance. I think that is what this beer represents. It’s hard to even complete a collaboration because of how quickly the sands are shifting," McGregor says.

Something similar happened to another Denver brewery five months ago, when Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales got the news that Anheuser Busch InBev, the makers of Budweiser, had purchased sour specialist Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Black Project was in the midst of two collaborations with Wicked Weed at the time, one in Denver and one in North Carolina.

AB InBev has bought ten formerly independent breweries over the past few years and used them to leverage sales. Because of the corporate giant’s business practices, Black Project, like many other independent craft breweries, doesn’t support AB InBev or its subsidiaries.

“In Denver alone, we've seen several instances of highly aggressive, predatory and what we consider to be unethical practices,” Black Project wrote on its blog in May. “We truly believe that AB InBev intends to systematically destroy American craft beer as we know it. We don't personally buy, seek, trade or acquire any of their products for this reason, and we've been known to encourage our friends to do the same.”

As a result, Black Project decided to dismantle its half of the collaboration, blending the beer that was supposed to have been a part of it with another beer in order to make something different. The brewery also asked Wicked Weed to take Black Project’s name off the version of the collaboration that was aging in North Carolina.

Although that situation is very different from what happened to the Commons, the point is the same, McGregor says: A lot can happen in the time it takes to make a single sour beer.

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Westword Beer Calendar

Colorado's biggest little beer festival returns to Breckenridge for the second time on January 4 to 6, 2018, with some upgrades and improvements. Tickets for the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival go on sale today at 10 a.m. at bigbeersfestival.com — and they will sell out very, very quickly. Here's a quick rundown.

The main event is the commercial beer tasting, $75, on January 6 at Beaver Run Resort; breweries from all over Colorado and the nation showcase their biggest best beers here and often set trends for the upcoming year. In addition, there are three food-and-beer pairing events over the course of the weekend. One stars the beers of Adam Avery of Avery Brewing and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head; the second highlights Jeffrey Stuffings of Jester King and Cory King of Side Project; and the third will bring together rising stars Jeremy Tofte of Melvin Brewing and James Howat of Black Project Wild and Spontaneous Ales.

Beyond that, there are seminars and presentations galore for professional brewers, homebrewers and those who just want to learn more about beer and brewing. There will also be a large number of parties, side events and beer tappings in and around Breckenridge. (Bring water. Bring so much water.)

Festival co-founder and organizer Laura Lodge says the fest will keep its same basic structure, with some tweaks. "One change, the most highly requested change, was to create a central meeting place within Beaver Run Resort," she says about the fest's primary location. "So we are going to create a 'pop-up Falling Rock' in the central area by the pool, hot tubs, arcade.... There we will have some tastings Friday afternoon, music at night, our own bar selection, and lots of space to gather and visit."

There will also be a festival app this year, sponsored by DigitalPour, showing all of the beers at the commercial tasting, the location of the breweries, and real-time updates.

Big Beers was founded in Vail but moved to Breckenridge in 2016. Now in its eighteenth year, it is considered to be one of the best small beer festivals in the nation — not just because of the beers that are poured and its location at a ski resort, but also because brewery owners and celebrities show up in person to mix and mingle.

Westword Beer Calendar

Paste magazine, which must have ten refrigerators in its office, has released yet another ranked list of craft beers, this time focusing on wild and sour ales — a difficult task that it describes as "venturing into a quagmire of conflicting styles and sub-styles — you’re just hoping to find your way out again, when all is said and done."

But when Paste did find its way out — ranking the top fifty beers out of 143 that it tried — ten Colorado beers came with it, including the one in the top spot: Black Project's Peacemaker, a blend of two spontaneously fermented beers that were aged in bourbon barrels that had also been used to age Colorado cherry wine.

The result is no surprise, as Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales has been building a name for itself nationwide over the past few years. In fact, Paste recounted the reaction of its own staff like this: "It was telling that while looking over all of the beers that were arriving for this tasting, multiple tasters pointed toward the Black Project label and said something to the effect of 'I’ve been hearing a lot about these guys.'" As for Peacemaker, they said it was "unique from pretty much anything else in the entire tasting."

The other beers to make the top fifty were Crooked Stave Petite Raspberry in fifth place; WeldWerks Brewing Peach Climacteric at eleven; Avery Brewing Apricot Sour in fifteenth place; Dry Dock Brewing's Maurea and Astraea at 22nd and 41st, respectively; TRVE Brewing's Ostar at 23; Upslope Wild Christmas Ale at 25; Epic Brewing's Sour Brainless on Peaches at 27; and Crooked Stave's Nightmare on Brett at 29.

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Black Project Wants Beer Drinkers to Share the New Roswell Super-Fruited "Lambics"

Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales doesn't make the usual beers, but the brewery's latest creations are a little more unusual than, well, usual. This Saturday, the brewery will release five different fruited versions of Roswell, a lambic-style sour beer that was brewed, fermented spontaneously and barrel-aged over the course of about nine months; the beers were then re-fermented on a ridiculously plentiful five pounds of fruit per barrel.

To make Roswell, Black Project cooked up fifteen barrels (about thirty kegs) of base beer last fall and then cooled the batch overnight in an open-topped vessel known as a coolship. During the night, the wort (or unfermented beer) collected wild yeast and bacteria from the air, which began the fermentation process. The liquid was then aged in oak barrels. Last spring, brewery owners James and Sarah Howat selected barrels with the least amount of acidity — so that the beers would have a dry flavor and mouthfeel — and separately added the fruit; they then used the same wild yeast (which was collected from the original fermentation) to re-ferment the blend of beer and fruit.

The five variants — raspberry, blackberry, cranberry, guava and apricot — will be available in bottles to the public this Saturday, July 22. Each 500-milliliter bottle will cost $20, with a limit of three per person (though that might be lowered to two, depending on the demand). On Sunday, a sixth variant, blueberry, will be available for pours in the taproom but not sold in bottles; all six versions will be available to drink in the taproom that day, as well.

Beers like these are known as lambics in Belgium, where brewers have a centuries-old tradition of using airborne yeast and microorganisms to ferment the beer, giving them sour, wild or funky aromas and flavors. U.S. brewers are only just beginning to experiment with the style and are often hesitant to use the world "lambic," out of respect for the style's regional origin.

Over the last few weeks, the Howats have been heavily promoting Roswell with a series of cool videos and Facebook posts that tie the beer to Roswell, New Mexico, where a UFO supposedly landed in 1947. Black Project regularly names its beers and events after planes, rockets and other aerospace-related technology — going so far as to announce its releases with mysterious coding, as if they were secret government projects or undercover operations. Roswell has been no exception.

But the publicity was unnecessary: A line will form around the block on Saturday — with the first few people arriving in the middle of the night and sleeping on the sidewalk — just as it always does for a new Black Project release, and the beer will sell out within a few hours or less.

Even with only 420 bottles available for sale to the public, this will be the brewery's largest-ever release, about double that of previous releases — thanks to a recent expansion that saw the addition of 140 new wooden barrels, more space next door to the brewery and the brand-new coolship.

Since there are six versions of the beer, they will be highly sought after and heavily traded following the release. Traders, lambic lovers and beer geeks from other states, and even Canada, have said they are flying in to try to score some Roswell, and there are others looking to acquire it from people who have promised to pick up bottles, even though that likelihood is far from certain, James says. "People are already trading them online," he points out.

And while the demand is flattering to the Howats — and also encouraged by their stealthy marketing — they also want people to actually drink the beer rather than trade it as a commodity. As a result, James and Sarah are planning to handle this release a little differently than what they have done in the past.

For starters, they are only going to allow people to buy two (or possibly three bottles) each, meaning drinkers won't be able to collect an entire set. While limits on bottles are nothing new, the Howats are hoping that this will encourage people to open their bottles with friends so that they can try all five bottled variants (and stick around to sample the blueberry version at the brewery).

"We want to get this into as many hands as possible," Sarah explains. "The idea is that we want people to get out of their house, get together and share it with each other."

They will also tell people on release day about a contest in which Black Project will award several special bottles of Roswell to people who do the best job — with pictures and a story — of using social media to demonstrate how they are sharing the beer with like-minded drinkers. The awards will be for the funniest social-media share, the most creative and most adventurous. And the special bottles to be awarded? The elusive blueberry Roswell, which won't be for sale to the public.

The bottle release takes place at 2 p.m. on Saturday; Brewed Food will be on hand to pair the beers with Tender Belly bratwursts served on pain de mie buns with kimchi, gochujang mayo and a side of Hop Ash potato chips (first come, first served). The official names for the six variants of beer are: MOGUL | Apricot; MAJESTIC 12 | Blackberry; HIGH DIVE | Cranberry; BLUEBOOK | Guava; GRUDGE | Raspberry; and SIGN | Blueberry.

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Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales will unveil a project that has long been in the works: Roswell, a "Lambic-inspired, spontaneously fermented ale that is barrel-fermented, barrel-aged, and then re-fermented with high levels of one of six different fruits," the brewery says. The beer was made with an idea that Black Project calls super-fruiting, in which as much fruit as possible is packed into the brews, "while still calling the end result a beer." In the future, Roswell will be made once per year "during the late spring from a lambic-inspired wort" brewed the previous fall. "This gives us a beer that has all of the depth of flavor but with a lower acidity than it would have after spending a summer in the barrel — ideal considering the amount of acidity naturally present in the fruit." Black Project will release five of the variants in bottles today, although people in line (and that line will form in the middle of the night, with customers sleeping on the sidewalks) will only be able to purchase three bottles, in order to encourage sharing (this may be lowered to two per person). The Roswell beers are Apricot, Blackberry, Cranberry, Guava and Raspberry. A sixth version, Blueberry, will only be available for on-site consumption; all six versions will be available for on-site consumption on Sunday, July 23. All will be sold in 500 ml bottles that are available for $20. Brewed Food will be on hand to pair the beers with Tender Belly bratwurst with a pain de mie bun, kimchi and gochujang mayo, with a side of Hop Ash potato chips.

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The Jailhouse Craft Beer Bar on East Main Street in Buena Vista is celebrating its first anniversary with a mini beer festival and live music from 2 to 6 p.m. Baere Brewing, Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, Cerebral Brewing, Elevation Beer Company and Melvin Brewing will be pouring during the fest. Live music will start on the outdoor stage at 3 p.m. with Boulder-based rock band Augustus, followed by Denver-based bluegrass band the River Arkansas at 6. The Jailhouse recently extended its liquor license to include the lot next door, which houses an outdoor stage called the Watershed BV – a shared community space – where all the live music will take place. There will be food from the Bearded Lady food truck, and the Jailhouse will be open before, during and after the fest, with service as usual and a special selection of beers filling its ten taps.

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Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales will tap Radio Flash at 4 p.m. The mixed-culture saison "starts with isolated microbes from our spontaneous solera using a method to inhibit souring bacteria, allowing the coolship captured yeast that has matured in the solera for over three years, to produce unique aromas and flavors," Black Project says. "Although it's not sour, the solera yeast creates an amazingly complex and nuanced profile that is light, refreshing, and incredibly expressive with notes of hay, lemon, and pepper."

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At 4 p.m., Black Project, at 1290 South Broadway, will release the latest variant in its Shadow Factory super-fruited sour-beer series made with with 100 percent wild-caught microbes. "We start with a special all-wheat base designed for high levels of fruiting," Black Project explains. "The beer is then fermented in a solera using a mix of coolship-caught microbes and house-foraged wild strains. After the beer finishes fermentation, we add pounds of boysenberry and blood orange into our stainless-steel tank to re-ferment." All of the Shadow Factory beers are made with more than three pounds of fruit per gallon of beer, which adds tartness as well as additional alcohol.

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Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales will tap Gambit, a beer that was named to support the Brewtography Project's successful Kickstarter last year, at 2 p.m. "We loved the beer so much that we decided to re-brew it and re-launch it," Black Project says. "The base is almost Flanders-red style, but without acetic acid, and with a moderate amount of ruby red grapefruit zest added. The result is incredible. The flavors are complex, the acidity of the beer balances well with the grapefruit flavors, and the aroma is positively candy-like, with the base of this beer giving it a bit more complexity due to the darker malts and higher gravity."

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Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales is releasing Peacemaker, a new spontaneous "solera" blend at noon. Part of the brewery's experimental series, the beer is a blend of two base beers: a 100 percent wheat brew and a golden ale made with pilsner malt. "Both beers were brewed on Black Project’s four-barrel system and then cooled in the brewery’s coolship, a custom-built, twelve-barrel copper vessel designed to cool wort overnight while inoculating with wild yeast and other microbes from the air," the brewery says. "Once cooled, the wort was transferred to stainless-steel totes, where it aged and fermented for eight to twelve months." For much, much more information on the beer and recent changes at Black Project, go to the brewery's Facebook page.

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Ten Boozy Highlights From This Year's Denver Passport

Time's rapid march toward Memorial Day means tha one of our favorite drinking deals is back for a fifth year. The Denver Passport just went on sale, offering two-for-one drinking deals at 68 different Mile High establishments. Hit them all between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day and you'll save more than $350 on booze. Not bad considering the Passport costs just $25. Here's the catch: You've got just a short window to score yours. Two Parts, the events company behind the deal, says it's likely to sell out this week.

The Passport aims to serve as a road map to Denver drinking, and to lure you into establishments you haven't yet patronized. Deals come from breweries, distilleries and bars in neighborhoods all over the city, and they give you access to cocktails, beer, wine and whiskey. Here are ten highlights that we think make the Passport especially worthwhile this year, though our aim, of course, is to let no page in the Passport go unstamped. Pick up your Passport via the program's website.

Adelitas Cocina y Cantina and Palenque Mezcaleria — The Fortaleza Coin
Adelitas and Palenque were our Best Bars for Agave Spirits in this year's Best of Denver, and the Fortaleza coin is a great way to sample an introduction to what's on offer at these spots. Then move on to the rest of the cocktail list, which consists entirely of drinks made without agave syrup or processed sugars.

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales — IPA
Black Project was once a special project from Former Future, but its popularity was such that it replaced the brewery whence it came. The South Broadway brewery specializes in wild ales, letting its yeast cultures evolve naturally from batch to batch, which means you'll find some of the more unique beer currently being brewed in Denver. After your IPA, taste something sour or barrel-aged.

Call to Arms Brewing Co. — Any Core Pint
The owners of Call to Arms set out to create a neighborhood pub, and the busy taproom often has the slightly unruly and energetic feel of a beloved local hangout: You might spot a book club meeting, an impromptu band practice and a first date, all in one night. Core pints, as Call to Arms explains, rotate, and might include anything from an IPA to an oatmeal porter to a saison. You can upgrade to a more expensive pour, but your free beer has to be from that core line.

Cerebral Brewing — Core Beers
Cerebral's beers range from fairly traditional to pretty wild, but the brewery especially shines when it comes to hazy IPAs and barrel-aged stouts. Summer is the perfect season for IPA, and Cerebral's Rare Trait IPA is a core beer included in the passport deal. Graduate to one of the others on tap, or explore the rest of the lineup, which rotates frequently.

Colt & Gray — Drinks From a Bigger Boat
Ste. Ellie — Neo-Classics

The Passport is already built to share, but Colt & Gray is upping the ante by offering shareable drinks at a two-for-one value (hence, Drinks From a Bigger Boat). When you're done, head on down to Ste. Ellie and have a neo-classic, which bar manager Kevin Burke describes as drinks from the modern cocktail era — the strawberry-and-bourbon-infused Kentucky Buck, for example, or the Penicillin, which matches Scotch with lemon, ginger and honey.

Fort Greene Bar — Cranes in the Sky Cocktail
Tucked into a moody space along the main Globeville strip, Fort Greene serves up well-crafted cocktails and a hip vibe, and it remains relatively underrated, which makes it a great place to while away an evening. Your Passport gets you the Cranes in the Sky — a blend of Lee Spirits dry gin, Cardamaro, orange curaçao, floral bitters and soda water, garnished with an orange twist.

Hearth & Dram — Bartender’s Choice
Whiskey anchors the drinks program at Hearth & Dram; the bar stocks more than 300 varieties, which pair with a menu centered on wood-fired cooking. After your bartender's-choice cocktail, work your way through bourbon and Scotch options, or choose something from the cocktail menu, where you'll find more whiskey, but plenty of other spirits as well.

Laws Whiskey House — Flights
Tasting-room hours are limited at Laws Whiskey House; the doors are open for short, irregular windows Thursday through Sunday (see the Laws website for exact times). Planning a visit for a taste or two pays off, though, as it gets you access to this distillery's core bourbon and rye plus interesting experiments, like a wheat whiskey and a single-barrel bourbon chosen by the farmers who supply the ingredients. Taste them all in a flight, then pick up a bottle of your favorite to take home.

Sarto's — Aperitivo Hour Drinks, Drafts, Wines by the Glass, Spritzes and Season Cocktails
Sarto's is probably the best place on this Passport for pleasing a crowd, since it's offering a variety of two-for-one options. We'd head straight for the spritz section; the Italian restaurant makes one of the best Aperol spritzes in town, and its Campari Americano is nothing to sneeze at, either.

TRVE Brewing Company — Pints
TRVE bills itself as a heavy-metal brewery and carries its bold persona into its brewing, putting out innovative beers with names culled from the same musical genre. Don't miss the mixed-culture offerings, made in the Acid Temple on the west side of town, which is dedicated to sours, wild ales, barrel aging and funk.

By the way, Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs have their own versions of the Passport. Boulder's gets you access to places like Arcana, Pizzeria Locale and Upslope; the Fort Collins booklet takes you through Elliot's Martini Bar, Funkwerks and New Belgium; and in Colorado Springs you can land at spots like the Blue Star, Bristol Brewing and the Whistle Pig.

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If you loved Former Future Brewing — which is now called Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales — and its steampunky, penny-farthing cyclist logo, then head to Black Project today for some throwback merch. "Former Future Brewing Company will always hold a special place in our hearts, the boxes of old merchandise — not so much," the brewery says. "So we are getting rid of all of it, for free. Come down...and buy a pint, and we will let you pick from a random assortment of shirts, growlers, hats and other merchandise that is taking up space at the brewery."

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Craft Beer Bars Cutting Off Wicked Weed, Other AB InBev-Owned Breweries

The news came as a shock to beer lovers in Colorado yesterday. Wicked Weed Brewing, the five-year-old North Carolina-based superstar in the world of craft brewing, revealed that it had become the tenth independently owned craft brewery to be consumed by Anheuser Busch InBev, the maker of Budweiser and Bud Light Lime.

Just ten months earlier, just before the Great American Beer Festival, Wicked Weed had made its splashy debut in Colorado, hitting the market with almost all of its rare and highly sought-after beers, from barrel aged stouts to IPAs to sour and wild ales. Craft beer bars across the state held huge tap takeovers, while liquor stores moved other beers aside to make room for Pernicious IPA, Coolcumber, Oblivion and French Toast.

But several of those bars say they will no longer put Wicked Weed on tap, or any of the beers made by the breweries that have sold out to AB InBev. The others are: Goose Island, Breckenridge Brewery, Elysian Brewing, Blue Point, Karbach, Golden Road, 10 Barrel, Four Peaks and Devil's Backbone.

"We will not be purchasing any more Wicked Weed beers to be sold at Freshcraft," says Jason Forgy, who owns Freshcraft with his two brothers. "We do have a few kegs that we have already purchased squirreled away that we will tap and sell however. This is a difficult decision for myself, my brothers and our management team. The people from Wicked Weed have been great to work with and we truly wish them the best. They also have made some pretty great beer and I would think that they will continue to do so.

"We made the decision not to financially support AB InBev several years ago and this acquisition has not changed our position," Forgy continues. "We believe that where the money that we spend when purchasing beer goes is important. We have and will continue to focus on supporting independent craft brewers."

"AB does not need our money. We are happy for the founders of Wicked Weed, but will not support AB," adds Drew Watson, co-owner of Hops & Pie, which will tap six remaining kegs of Wicked Weed, but none after that.

"We do not plan to purchase any Wicked Weed in the future," says Mark Slattery of First Draft. "We do have a — somewhat unspoken, but not bothered for it to be public — policy to not purchase anything from AB-Inbev. We also do not purchase from Miller/Molson/Coors. We are 100 percent U.S. craft all of the time."

Lucky Pie Pizza and Jake's Brew Bar in Littleton said they will probably follow suit. "As a small, locally owned business, Lucky Pie has always done its best to support local and small independent breweries. We don't have an official policy but we sure like to spend our money on the phenomenal selection of true craft beer out there, not with giant multi-national corporations who are focused on profit, not on great beer," writes Lucky Pie's Benjamin Smith.

In Buena Vista, the Jailhouse Craft Beer Bar will pour its remaining keg of French Toast for half off later this month, and will then stop serving Wicked Weed as well.

The reasons are best summed up by Jester King Brewing, of Texas, which is one of the strongest innovators in the world of sour beer and a leader in the craft beer community, which posted this note on Facebook:

This has been a difficult day for us. The news that our great friend Wicked Weed Brewing was acquired by AB In-Bev came as quite a shock. As you might guess, we've been getting a lot of e-mails, media inquiries, and online questions about what we think and what it means for Jester King. It's no secret that Wicked Weed has been one of our closest friends in the beer industry. Regardless of what has transpired, we'll always consider the people of Wicked Weed friends, and want the best for them and their families.

With that said, we have some core principles that define who we are as a brewery, and those principles must not be compromised. One of our core principles is that we do not sell beer from AB In-Bev or its affiliates. We've chosen this stance, not because of the quality of the beer, but because a portion of the money made off of selling it is used to oppose the interests of craft brewers. In Texas, large brewers (and their distributors) routinely oppose law changes that would help small, independent brewers. We choose not to support these large brewers because of their political stances, and in some cases, their economic practices as well.

Because of this core principle, it pains us to say that we won't be carrying Wicked Weed anymore at Jester King. We think Wicked Weed beer is some of the best in the world. Their talent, techniques, and patience produces some of the most beautiful beer we've ever tasted. That, combined with their great friendship, is what makes this decision so tough for us. But like we said, our core values must be paramount at the end of the day. We wish Wicked Weed the best, will deeply miss having their beer at Jester King and working with them on collaborations, and expect them to continue to make fantastic beer. Like we mentioned, they'll always have our friendship and we look forward to the next time we can share a beer together.

 

That was followed by this stunning message from Denver's own Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales:

This morning, we received an email from Walt Dickinson, of Wicked Weed Brewing Company, a few minutes before the news appeared publicly, informing us of the big news. When we checked online, our social media feed was flooded with posts about Wicked Weed and ABInBev. Personally, Sarah and I were shocked to learn of ABInBev's acquisition of Wicked Weed, and we still are. We consider Walt and the rest of the Wicked Weed crew to be friends and we are happy for them and honestly wish them the best.

However, at Black Project, we have deep and serious issues with many of ABInBev's business strategies, mission, and overall ethics as they relate to craft beer in America. In Denver alone, we've seen several instances of highly aggressive, predatory, and what we consider to be unethical practices. We truly believe that ABInBev intends to systematically destroy American craft beer as we know it. We don't personally buy, seek, trade, or acquire any of their products for this reason, and we've been known to encourage our friends to do the same.

As some of you may know, and something many people have asked us about today, we have two collaboration beers with Wicked Weed currently in-progress; one beer at our facility and one at theirs. We also had plans, and were looking forward to attending, the Wicked Weed Funkatorium Invitational this July. We had a decision to make - to continue a business relationship with Wicked Weed now that they will be owned by ABInBev, or to cut ties and hopefully remain friends.

For us, the choice is clear. At this stage, we don't feel we are able to have a business relationship with Wicked Weed because that connection, ultimately, is one with ABInBev. Unfortunately, we don’t feel that having any connection with ABInBev is something we can do while still maintaining our mission, values, and core beliefs.

What this means is that we will not be able to lend our name to the unfinished collaboration beer currently aging in Asheville, NC. Additionally, the beer we brewed with Wicked Weed here at Black Project will be blended with other existing aged beer we have on hand to make something totally different which we will not consider a Wicked Weed collaboration. Finally, we will not be attending the Wicked Weed Funkatorium Invitational in July.

We wish the best to everyone at Wicked Weed and we are happy for their success. We know they will continue to make great beers and we hope to remain personal friends in the future.

 

Here are thoughts from several other craft-beer bars.

Walter's 303 posted this on Facebook: "Anheuser-Busch is purchasing Wicked Weed Brewing company. We currently have 2 two taps of aforementioned beer. Mention this post and a glass of "Wicked Bud Weed" is FREE with the purchase of any other beer!" The bar clarified that after that, Wicked Weed would be "gone forever."

Owen Kemp, of Jake's Brew Bar says: "Generally speaking we have rarely worked with InBev from a distribution standpoint. While I suppose we wouldn't necessarily say 'no not ever,' it's probably a lower priority given our stronger existing relationships and support that we receive and try to reciprocate with smaller distributors and even self-distributed local breweries. We're a small business and we definitely appreciate and want to support those folks. It's also a matter that we try to listen to the craft beer consumer on. If we're hearing angst surrounding a certain brewery from our customer base, we're certainly going listen to what's important to them."

Kyle Moyer, owner of the Crafty Fox, says: "Yes unfortunately I'm going to drop them. I have always had a huge stance against In Bev since opening Bogey's and Crafty Fox. We've always been very vocal about our stance against AB In Bev." About the buyout, he says, "Yeah, we were pretty upset about it."

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Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales will tap Tomcat, a Laws Whiskey-barrel-aged, 12-percent ABV imperial stout at 4 p.m. The beer was brewed with "a strain of yeast foraged from our neighbor's apple tree," Black Project says. "Bold, roasty, dry with a smooth vanilla, bourbon and oak finish. This is an experimental stout using wild yeast to create a complex and robust beer that is not sour."

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Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales will tap a new beer, Magic Lantern, today at 4 p.m. The beer is a traditional salted gose brewed with apricots and blood oranges. "Dominant flavors include apricot sweetness and aroma, blood-orange tartness, and a strong saltiness. Apricot and blood orange are complementary, creating a perfect blend of ripe fruit and a tart finish," the brewery says.

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