Vail Ale with Altitude column: Craft beer is all about the pursuit of flavor
Ryan Summerlin July 15, 2014
If you go ...
Who: Eric Wallace, head brewmaster and founder at Left Hand Brewing Co.
What/When: Meet the Brewmaster on Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. in Fireside Bar; Small Plates and Craft Beer Pairing on Saturday starting at 6 p.m. in Atwater on Gore Creek.
Where: Vail Cascade Resort, Vail.
Cost: Friday is free; Saturday event is $35 per person.
More information: www.vailcascade.com or 970-479-7014.
VAIL — Craft beer is flavor driven. The pursuit of flavor inspired my partner Dick and me to start Left Hand Brewing 21 years ago. From Day 1, we have been committed to improving beer quality and the beer drinker’s experience. We take pride in our collection of innovative beers combining traditional and modern methods, from our true-to-style Polestar Pilsner to our revolutionary Milk Stout Nitro.
We have always encouraged consumers to drink beer from a glass to experience the beer’s full character and aroma. During the years, Left Hand has improved the glassware we use in our own tasting room, using style-appropriate glasses to optimize the beer drinking experience. I knew from my own palate the difference drinking from an appropriate glass made on aroma and taste.
In the spring of 2013, German glass manufacturer Spiegelau released a completely new glass designed specifically for IPAs, jointly-developed by venerated breweries Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada. My interest was immediately piqued. After I requested a glass sample and noticed the immediate effect on our own 400 Pound Monkey IPA and IPAs from other breweries, Spiegelau approached us with the idea of developing a stout specific glass, given the popularity of our Milk Stout.
WORKING WITH DARK BEER
During the years, Left Hand has received wide acclaim for our Milk Stout, Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout, Black Jack Porter and Fade to Black series, so we have a good number of dark beers to work with. To experience the enriched roasty flavor and complexity of these beers in a custom designed glass was an opportunity we could not refuse.
Led by Spiegelau and joined by Rogue Ales, the process of designing the stout glass spanned several months and miles, involving a series of tasting workshops. We tested dozens of glass shapes with a variety of dark beers to find the best glass for them. Our team of brewery experts narrowed the selection to two glasses and Spiegelau sent back six final hand-made prototypes, varying by several millimeters in height, bowl width, angle and capacity. After much deliberation, both Left Hand and Rogue Ales separately and unanimously determined that the Prototype “C” Stout glass delivered the optimal taste; aroma and mouth feel to enhance stout beers.
The resulting stout glass is a milestone for the style and the craft beer drinker. Made of ultra-pure quartz, the thin yet resilient glass walls maintain proper beer temperature and transmit true beer color. The open bottom glass base and internal shelf drives aromatic foam upward, continually recharging the beer foam. The voluminous conical bowl amplifies aroma and provides ideal flow to the mid palate, improving the taste and mouth feel of the stout.
Many first time users have reacted in astonishment when tasting our Milk Stout from the stout glass versus a shaker pint glass, not believing that the same beer is in each glass! When drinking Milk Stout from the stout glass, the roasted, cold press coffee notes come at you launched by an olfactory cannon, while the creamy java and milk chocolate flavors hit your palate. It is a hedonistic experience. All the delightful complexities and aromatics always present in Milk Stout are enhanced by the new serving vessel. Glassware that directly impacts beer flavor is yet another step toward our goal and Left Hand Brewing is proud to be a part the project.
Eric Wallace, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, lives in Longmont, is the founder and owner of Left Hand Brewing Company, past president of the Colorado Brewers Guild and a board member for the Brewers Association.