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Vail Daily reviews a beer fit for a Russian czar

Vail Daily staff reportsnewsroom@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado
Vail DailyVail Daily reviewer says of Samuel Adams Imperial Stout that anytime you see "imperial" in a beer's name, that means the brewer has decided to put more of something into the mix.
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Those of us in Colorado’s Vail Valley old enough to remember the start of the American craft-brewing revolution will recall that Samuel Adams Boston Lager used to be pretty exotic stuff. Jim Koch’s upstart company helped bring us to where we are today, with brewpubs in towns all across America, and an embarassment of happy, hoppy riches in liquor store coolers everywhere.I bring this up because Sam Adams these days has been successful beyond imagining. You can’t watch a televised sporting event without seeing a commercial for Boston Lager. And, although Koch’s company still brews a tiny, tiny fraction of what the big boys do, the TV exposure makes it seem positively mainstream.But while Boston Lager is the company’s bread and butter (or malt and barley, if you will), there’s still a hard-core group of small-batch brewers at the Boston Brewing Co., and they regularly turn out beers like this Imperial Stout to prove their loyalty to the craft.The average Boston Lager fan probably won’t like this. It’s so dark, light won’t pass through it. And this isn’t a beer that rewards those who drink their beer ice-cold straight from the bottle. It needs to be poured into a glass and allowed to warm up a little bit.If you do that, this beer rewards the drinker with flavors of dark chocolate and coffee – although, thankfully, the coffee isn’t really pronounced.Any time you see “imperial” in a beer’s name, that means the brewer has decided to put more of something into the mix. In this stout – Boston Brewing says this an homage to the English stouts brewed for the Russian czars – the more is malted barley.As our weather somewhat suddenly changes from summer to fall, the season is also changing for our beers. On a night when Eagle-Vail saw snow off and on all day, a couple of these made the chill far more bearable.You can find this beer at Avon Liquor.Scott N. Miller, Daily Staff writer

Portugal’s House of Dow is best known for its port, which it’s been making for longer than we’ve been a country. Why not, they figured, take some of those excellent, well-established grapes and make a more traditional red wine? Don’t ask me what to call this bottle – it’s a mega-blend more along the lines of a Meritage or a Bordeaux and it contains grape varieties most of us have never even heard of: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Tingo Cao and Tinta Amarela. There won’t be a quiz, but do try to remember “Vale do Bomfim”: It’s a nice, dry to medium red with plenty of fruit, berry and oak with a full bottom and a tart top. Even better 24 hours after I first pulled the cork, this elegant bottle mellowed into a very drinkable wine with a touch of smoke, good spice notes and a lot more complexity than most wines in its price point.This is no doubt a bottle that will age well as the tannins settle. Now, it’s a comforting red to settle down with as the nights turn colder and a richer wine is in order. Or, at this price, buy a case and sit on it for a few years. Either way, keep an eye out for more wines from Portugal’s Douro Valley.You can find this wine at Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards.Alex Miller, Summit Daily editor

I often go back and forth on my opinions about rieslings. I tend to like the dryer versions more overall, but there’s also a time and place for a sweet riesling as well. The 2008 Cupcake Riesling is the perfect complement to its winemaker’s vineyard, Cupcake Vineyards. The wine is sweet, but not too sweet, and its thickness is just right. Some sweet rieslings can have the consistency of artificial pancake syrup, but not this one.The grapes were harvested in late October, giving them a lot of time to mature on the vines in Yakima Valley, Wash., located near the Cascade Mountains. Washington has more than doubled its planting of riesling grapes in the last 10 years, putting its acreage of the grape above that of California.If Cupcake Riesling is any indication of why Washington has jumped on the riesling bandwagon, it’s a good one. At $13.99 a bottle, the quality and complexity of this wine tastes like it belongs in a much higher price range. There’s peach, apricot and citrus notes – just enough to give the sweet wine a little acidity, but not too much that it overpowers the creamy, smooth texture. Riesling is a food-pairing dream – dry rieslings, like sauvignon blancs, pair well with a variety of summer and fall dishes. Sweet rieslings are great year-round – from spicy Asian dishes to steaks and seafood, the wine drinks well with just about anything. Cupcake released the 2008 riesling last April and it’s ready to drink. The wine will get you praise if you bring it to a dinner party, and you’ll praise yourself if you end up simply drinking it on the porch on a sunny fall afternoon.Visit http://www.cupcakevineyard.com for more information. – Lauren Glendenning, Daily staff writer


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