With the constant updates from friends on social media posting their thanks, it got me thinking about the things in life that I’m thankful for — family, friends, powder days and beer. I’m probably missing a few items in there, but that hits most of the bases. The more I pursue my love of craft beer, the move I gravitate toward limited-edition, seasonal offerings, many of which have spent time in barrels or percolating through other tasty flavors.
Start a new tradition with your Thanksgiving meal this year by picking up a few bombers or filling up a growler at a local brewery to accompany your feast. Your guests will applaud your creativity, and beer pairs much better with your day-long marathon of football games than a bottle of wine.
Bourbon Barrel-Aged Porter:: Gore Range Brewery
Aged for more than seven months in Bourbon oak barrels from Breckenridge Distillery, the makers of Breckenridge Bourbon, this beer nabbed a gold medal in the 2013 World Beer Championships. The championships are hosted by the Beverage Testing Institute, which does reviews for All About Beer magazine and published the results in September, according to Gore Range Brewery brewmaster Jeremy Pluck.
Along with the heady smell of bourbon, this dark beauty is rife with aromas and flavors of dark chocolate, fig and pepper.
“I think the flavors work well together — the bourbon flavor you get from the wood works really well in combination with the chocolatey flavors that are often present in porters, which come from a roasted malt called chocolate malts,” Pluck said.
This is a beer (5.8 percent alcohol by volume) to sip and savor as you tuck into dessert — try it alongside the Brewery’s decadent homemade bread pudding.
“People definitely seem to enjoy it, it’s a really flavorful beer and it goes down smooth,” said Megan Boone, a server at the restaurant.
Gore Range Brewery is open Thanksgiving Day, from noon to 8 p.m. While the beer isn’t available to-go in a growler due to its limited supply, you can score a pint at the restaurant for $7 (or $5.50 during happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m.). “We’re most of the way through that batch and I’m not sure when we’ll see it again, so if you want to try it, you should get in here while we have it,” Pluck said.
— Caramie Schnell, High Life Editor
Rocky Mountain High Pumpkin Pie Ale:: Crazy Mountain Brewery
Skip the pumpkin pie and proceed straight to this festive pumpkin beer. This burnt-orange colored ale was brewed with more than 200 pounds of Colorado-grown pumpkins along with cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg — but its flavors aren’t overpowering.
“It’s a lighter-style pumpkin beer,” said Claire Plunkett, the director of events and sponsorships for Crazy Mountain Brewery. “Sometimes pumpkin beers can get really heavy tasting and overly spicy but this one is a very well-balanced pumpkin beer. It’s really good, I’ll be really sad when it’s gone.”
But when it is gone, you can switch to the recently released Bridge Street Holiday Ale, which we’ve yet to try but expect to be just as good.
Crazy Mountain Brewery’s tasting room is closed for Thanksgiving, but will reopen on Friday. A growler refill of the pumpkin beer is $15.
— Caramie Schnell, High Life Editor
Friek :: Odell Brewing Co.
Odell Brewing Co. released its tart and tasty Friek on Nov. 23, and it should arrive in our mountain distribution areas just in time for Thanksgiving. Friek is a hybrid of a Lambic-style Kriek and a Framboise, made with Colorado-grown cherries, fermented with wild yeast and aged in oak barrels. The beer is then blended with fresh raspberries from a local Fort Collins farm just before it’s bottled.
This is the fourth year Odell has put out Friek, and despite the cherries and raspberries, it isn’t overwhelmingly fruity — a sweet-tart beer that still tastes like beer. It’s an awesome and surprising brew to put out for guests, or cook a bit into your cranberry sauce to give it an extra kick.
“This time of year is the perfect season for Friek,” said Kailey Schumacher, Odell tap room manager, in a news release. “It pairs so well with many holiday dishes and adds unique character to traditional recipes when cooking with it.”
Uncle John’s Chile Autumn:: Breckenridge Brewery
Breckenridge Brewery, over in Summit County, has a couple of small-batch beers on tap at the moment that would accent a holiday feast, but unfortunately, only one is available for take-out. The first, the Pumpkin Stout, is a relatively low alcohol by volume barrel-aged wonder, but there were only about 15 gallons of it left at press time, so the brewery wouldn’t let it leave the building. Try it on tap while you can, if you can, because it’s dark and delicious.
The other Thanksgiving-worthy brew is the Uncle John’s Chile Autumn, a slightly nutty dark ale aged with roasted Colorado green chilies. This beer is a deep, rich brown, almost black, with a slightly spicy nose, chased with full dark ale flavor and a last-minute hit of spice from the chilies. The beer comes in at 6.5 percent alcohol by volume, which puts it on the high end of the sessionable range, but you’ll want to drink it slowly to appreciate its craftsmanship. There’s about 80 gallons of this one-off beer left at the brewery, which may sound like a lot, but it’s guaranteed to go quickly by the snifter or growler-full.
Woodcut No. 7:: Odell Brewing Co.
I normally try to avoid putting two beers from the same brewery in a list like this, but the Woodcut No. 7 is just too good not to include. This Russian Imperial Stout is the seventh beer in Odell’s Woodcut barrel-aged series, which began in the fall of 2007 when the brewery received its first shipment of toasted oak barrels from Canton Cooperage in Kentucky.
Each beer in the series has been carefully crafted on Odell’s pilot line and bottle conditioned in cork-and-cage bombers, and No. 7 happens to be right up there with some of the best barrel-aged beers I’ve tasted.
This beer pours thick and dark, with a rich, chocolatey nose. The stout picks up some slightly sweet, toasty notes from its time in the American oak, along with bits of vanilla and a nutty hue that the brewery describes as hazelnut. No. 7 is pretty easy to drink, despite being a big boy at 12.5 percent alcohol by volume, and it’s complexity really shines after you let it warm up in your hands a bit, rather than drinking it straight from the fridge.
No. 7 is pretty easy to drink, despite being a big boy at 12.5 percent alcohol by volume.