In honor of National Beer Day today, I give you our latest trip to a brewery — this time in Vail, Colorado. We sat down at the aptly named Vail Brewing Company for a couple hours last week, and were loathe to leave, and not just because there was a snowstorm brewing outside. It was their second birthday, and they had great live music, a charming atmosphere and, above all, some interesting and tasty beers. Here they are, in no particular order.
(From left to right)
Down River Brown – 5.5% ABV – 22 IBU – 40 SRM
This was super drinkable, and had a nice malty flavor with almost no hops (though a higher IBU than I would have expected). Not a huge amount of flavor overall? But it was nice to sip. I liked this more than the PiC.
Us and Them English Ale – 6.0% ABV – 40 IBU – 14 SRM
This was also very nice. Caramel notes, with more hops but still sweet. I generally like ESBs so I’m biased, though the PiC actually liked this more than me. A little dryer than usual, perhaps? The hoppy bitterness lingers longer than I would like, but it’s overall very nice.
Brother From Another Udder Stout – 5.9% ABV – 29 IBU – 40 SRM
This had a very strong coffee smell, but no taste of it — thankfully. Really nice and thick, with a silky texture. The PiC described it as smoky and burnt, which I agree with. We asked the bartender, and it’s an oat chocolate vanilla milk stout. Many adjectives, but it at least made the name make sense.
(From left to right)
Hut Trip Winter Warmer – 5.7% ABV – 18 IBU – 27 SRM
This was number one on both of our lists. It had a really interesting smell, of chocolate and cinnamon, but really didn’t taste that way at all. It was a Very nice. Interesting smell, chocolate and cinnamon. It was made with vanilla black tea, herbal chai, and cinnamon, and you could taste the chai especially. Colorwise, it was dark for a warmer, but I think that’s because of the tea?
Hot Mess Blonde – 5.5% ABV – 22 IBU – 4.5 SRM
Like the raspberry blonde (below) without the raspberry. It was a little sweeter and rounder, and also a bit wheatier which doesn’t really make sense. It was much better without the fruit, and it was our third choice overall. There was a touch too much hops, perhaps, but that’s me being a wimp about bitterness.
Pink Vail! Raspberry Blonde – 5.4% ABV – 4 SRM
This was good! But still number six for us. It wasn’t super fruity, and had some nice hoppy notes. Very easy drinking, with a twist. The PiC wished there was a little more raspberry, but I was okay with it — almost just an aftertaste.
In February (no, not during Mardi Gras, which I personally think is a good thing, but it’s up to you…) the PiC and I took a trip down to New Orleans, along with my brother and his wife — no code names there, otherwise that would start to get very confusing. We had a lot of different beverages throughout the trip, which I’ll go through in a later post, but this entry will be a continuation of my “drink many tiny beers at a brewery” series.
On our last day in New Orleans, we walked down to the NOLA Brewing Company space and had a flight of eight of their beers. They had a lot more than that, but we were but humans and could not really sample everything.
The brewery is down by the river — the mighty Mississippi! — and has a nice outdoor patio, as well as some indoor spaces with games, ping pong, and more. Sadly, there’s not so much of a river view (more of a warehouse view) but you know it’s out there somewhere. There were two bars, one upstairs and one downstairs, and then there was also a delicious barbecue window (McClure’s), with about 7 different sauces you could try. We had their mac and cheese and it was amazing, though we were also slightly inebriated so who knows. The brewery was within walking distance of our bed and breakfast, in the Garden District, which was very convenient, as the public transportation in the city left a lot to be desired. It was nice when we didn’t have to rely on a bus that was probably going to be 20 minutes late.
Anyways, we picked the 8 beers that we expected to like the most out of their offering. At the time we went, they had a ton of IPAs and other hoppy brews, so our choices were somewhat limited. We had also already had the Irish Channel Stout, which otherwise would have immediately made it onto our list. It was also good (more on that in the later post).
Flambeau Red Ale
This was a little bitter, an little sweet, mostly tasted like a pretty typical red ale. Hoppy, but not in a terrible way.
Very golden and blonde in color. It was nice looking, but tasted like nothing. It has a little bit of a fruitiness to it, and smells like honey — orange or clover were our thoughts. There was also a nice sweetness and it wasn’t hoppy at all. (What’s the word for not hoppy?) Could have drank this for a while, but probably wouldn’t want to.
This was an earl-grey-infused version of their more classic Rebirth APA. And, it tasted pretty similar to what you would imagine that to taste like. The hops blended really well with the tea flavor, and I actually liked it (score another one for APAs!). I feel like APAs are the gateway IPAs — the hops don’t linger as much and so you can keep drinking after more than one sip. There was a clear bergamot aftertaste, in fact almost an aftersmell. If that’s a thing. But, just like 3D in a movie theater, it’s cool at first but you know you’ll forget about the bergamot by the end of drinking a pint. Pretty mild overall, but a nice drink.
Girl Stout Cookie
I GET IT. It smelled minty and a little creamy, but when I took a sip I thought it was pretty disgusting. Now, it did taste exactly like it was supposed to — chocolate and mint like a Thin Mint — but it turns out that those are flavors I don’t particularly like in my beer. The PiC didn’t hate it, but certainly thought it was odd.
Out Tequil-ya: Sour Ale Aged in Tequila Barrels
The puns keep coming! PiC liked this a lot, though she also likes tequila and sours a lot so that stands to reason. For me, it was still a sour, and so I was conflicted. I actually didn’t mind it so much, and I liked the flavor, but I’d have trouble drinking a lot of it (like any sour, for me.) You could tell the tequila’s influence more at the beginning of a sip than the end. This beer made me realize one thing that might be part of the reason I don’t like sours, and you can see it in the picture up there — they’re often not very bubbly, and that makes it a weird drinking experience for me..
This was ostensibly flavored with maple and other breakfasty things (cinnamon). I didn’t really taste much of the flavoring — it was more just like a brown ale, which is not a bad thing, especially after the Girl Stout experience. Certainly easy to drink and had a nice sweetness. The lack of flavor may also have been the mac and cheese that we got from the place downstairs and started devouring right about the time we tasted this one. I should start a mac and cheese blog. Delicious.
Scary Spiced Stout
While I was disappointed by the slightly misfired pun here — they should have just called it Scary Spice, without the d — I actually really liked this. It was flavored with cinnamon and chipotle, like mexican hot chocolate almost, and the flavor wasn’t overpowering like the GSC. It was also a little bitter, which cut through the flavor in a nice, beery way.
Desire: Raspberry Sour Ale
This smelled like the raspberry syrup I made for the various Jerry Thomas punches. It actually tasted like very tart raspberry juice, which was a nice end to the flight. If someone gave this to me on its own, with no description, I might not even know it was beer. PiC, of course, loved it.
Overall, it was a fun experience. NOLA had some of the first sours I’ve actually liked, and the pun quotient was right where it should be. New Orleans has a lot to offer, either in the drink line or otherwise, and this is a perfect place to take a look at. Next time you’re in town, take an afternoon and check them out!
Over Valentine’s Day weekend, the Partner in Crime and I went to the sleepy, semi-Danish town of Solvang, which was a really nice trip. It’s deep in wine country (the southern part, not the Napa / Sonoma part), and had beautiful scenery, æbleskivers, and an ostrich farm, where I learned that ostriches are weird and emus are basically dinosaurs.
It also had a lot of alcohol. Of course wine, but also beer, spirits, and more. Of particular interest was the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., as I’d had a few beers from there in the past and enjoyed them immensely. We actually found it by accident; we were at Ascendant Spirits (a distillery right next door) and they mentioned it was nearby, so we went up.
They had an indoor tap room, but as it was 85° F or so, we sat outside at a cozy picnic table with a welcome sun umbrella, all on astroturf. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of this. We got two flights of beer, four of their classics, and four seasonal / rotating taps, which were almost all really delicious.
Paradise Rd Pilsner
Very nice, easy drinking. Doesn’t taste like a pilsner to me which is a good thing, because I don’t like pilsners usually. It had a hint of hops, but only enough that you actually wanted to drink it, and it was a welcome bitterness (IPAs and such are too bitter for me, usually).
Danish Red Ale
It was too warm by the time we got to it, but that’s not the beer’s fault. I liked the caramel notes, and it wasn’t too bitter — I almost wish it were a little bit more bitter!
Davy Brown Ale
This is one of the ones I’ve had before. It has a richer flavor, good malty and chocolately notes. Very tasty.
A little coffee-y for me, but has nice flavors, velvety smooth texture, almost creamy. Also, still had a head on it after 30 minutes or so, which was impressive.
THE OTHER ONES
Hüll Melon Saison
A little on the hoppy side, and doesn’t have much flavor to it other than the hops. A little lemon peel flavor too, but generally not that interesting… I liked the pilsner better (a phrase I never thought I would say).
You could drink this for forever and never have any issues with it. Very light, almost like a beer-flavored juice. I wish it had been a little bit more carbonated, but that could have been the heat, as well. Easy drinking!
Mosaic Pale Ale
Tasted like an APA, which it was, and was actually sort of nice — the bitterness didn’t linger too long, unlike some other hops. Very floral aroma. As far as hoppy beers go, it wasn’t so bad — we didn’t love the taste, but we could definitely drink it and not feel sad about it.
A Doppelbock aged for eight months in rum barrels. This was the best. Smells and tastes like caramel. Very sweet, a lot of depth of flavor. Almost syrupy in texture, and 12% which doesn’t hurt either.
Overall, it was a great trip up, and only a few hours from LA. If you’re looking for a weekend getaway to travel, eat, and drink, Solvang is your place. And of course, you can definitely get the beer without even taking a trip, so definitely check it out!