Brewery Review: Breckenridge Brewery

I had a couple friends come up to Vail a couple weeks ago, for their spring break. On one of their days here, we took a trip to Breckenridge, for a change of scenery and slopes. This had the wonderful side effect of giving me a chance to visit Breckenridge Brewery and do a bit of a YB&D rundown of the beers they had available at the time.

Before we could visit the brewery, however, I had to survive the slopes, which turned out to be a slightly more difficult ordeal than one would assume, being that I’m on them every day…

After an incident involving a tree, copious amounts of blood loss, a ski patrol-led toboggan ride and a quick jaunt to the E.R. (I’ll save you the gore from the pictures; this is a beer site, not a snuff blog. Needless to say, my nose was picking up iron notes, not from the beer…), we finally arrived at Breck Brewery. I had been to this place twice before, both times, with Tim. The first was our first night in town, on vacation about a year ago, and the second was a few days later, during their ‘Ladies Night’. This fantastic creation involves unlimited drafts of any of their beers at no charge for those of the fairer sex, and a flat $5 cover to get the same, if you possess a Y chromosome: Score.

"I am a monument to all your sins."

When we arrived this time, however, we were in the Apres-ski/Happy Hour deal, featuring all of their brews (except the DIPA) for $2. I almost felt like I was back at Grizzly Peak… To start off I tried once of their rotating beers, the Baldy Brown. After about half of my pint, I realized the lack of blood in my system was having a significant effect on my tolerance, so I wisened up, and went with a full flight of the 8 beers on draft. Had I not, I felt I wouldn’t have been able to try more than one more brew without serious issues, like ‘staying awake’. My notes follow:

Baldy Brown

Hazelnut and Grape notes in the nose, with little hop character. Lighter malt flavor than I was expecting considering the style and color. Vanilla notes and I wasn’t sure if I picked up a few esters in the mouth as well. The mouthfeel was a bit fluffy for a brown. I was expecting something with slightly more weight.

Vanilla Porter

Noticably more hops here, but more in the mouth than nose. Very similar to the brown, just a bit -more- of everything, especially the vanilla. Though heavier than the brown, it seemed, again, lightweight for the style, who knows, maybe I’m just out of touch…

Breck Light

Being that BB is in a tourist town, and gets a lot of non-beer enthusiasts through its doors, they need to cater to more general crowd, and I think this is it. Honey notes in the mouth and nose. Low malt character. A light earthy hop aroma with a slightly hoppy finish.

Trademark Pale

Nice dose of floral hops in the nose. Malt blends well with the hops in the mouth. Maybe a little fructose in there as well. Nothing bad to say about this one.

471 IPA (DIPA)

Strong hit of floral and citrus hops in the nose. Also: Alcohol -both in the nose and mouth, including a little bit of a burn. A little diacetyl as well. Finished very hoppy.

Avalanche Amber

Slightly sour flavor, possibly from lactic acid addition? Earthy hop flavor but not as present in the nose. The malt flavor also was very pronounced. Tasted very dark, much darker than that color. My favorite of the night.

Oatmeal Stout

Pretty high carbonation for a stout, IMHE. Got a lot of nutty malt flavor, particularly almond. Warm cherry notes in the finish. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the only ‘cherry stout’ I’ve tried, but the flavors go well together. I’d like to experiment at some point.

Agave Wheat

Honey in both nose and mouth, agave nectar tastes exactly like honey but sweeter, so: go figure. On my note card I have ‘hops and bitterness – good pairing’ I must assume this means at this point the bloodloss/alcohol was getting to me, and that I meant to say the honey and bitterness paired well together. The rest of the notes I have on this are pretty difficult to read… Maybe next time.

Review: Avery The Czar Imperial Stout

I’m bunkered down in my apartment during Snowprah Winfrey 2011. Like any good northern kid, I have my supplies ready for a blizzard. I had a choice between a barley wine, imperial stout and imperial black ale. It’s a big storm, so I decided to go with the biggest beer in my fridge, Avery Brewing Co.’s The Czar Imperial Stout.

I’ve tried two other bombers from Avery Brewing Co. The Kaiser was very good and made me think, “I should really try more beers from Avery.” Then I tried The Reverend, which made me think, “Maybe I should slow my Avery roll…” The Czar will serve as the great tie breaker.

The company itself describes the beer:

Behold the stunning crimson hues through the inky blackness. Inhale the noble Hallertau hops, spicy and floral. Savor the flavors redolent of English toffee, rich mocha, sweet molasses, candied currants and a hint of anise. We highly recommend cellaring additional bottles, as the Czar will continue to mature and become denser and more complex with age.

This is the perfect night for an imperial stout, and I might get to work from home tomorrow, so I’m in a good mood to try this. Here’s hoping that Avery can win this round!

The Czar Imperial Stout

The Czar Imperial Stout - 11.69% ABV and 70IBUs

Appearance: The beer pours dark, opaque brown with a couple ruby flashes if the light hits it the right way. There was a huge, fluffy caramel head that laced down quickly. A thin layer of foam is fighting the good fight still now.

Aroma: I’m getting a roasty, malty sweetness, almost syrupy. There’s also a stone fruit and slightly spicy note underneath the sweetness.

Taste: A surprising amount of hop bitterness on the initial taste.  Lots of acrid, roasty notes early in taste. In the middle, there is a nice caramel/toffee sweetness. It finished with some spicy hop notes and warming alcohol taste.

Mouthfeel: Thick, chewy and syrupy. There’s not a lot of carbonation, but there’s enough to keep it from being completely overwhelming. It coats the mouth and leaves a pleasant lingering alcohol tingling.

Overall: This is a very easy drinking giant beer. It has a lovely, complicated flavor that warms the body and perfectly compliments this ridiculously horrible night. Avery wins this round and is sitting at 2-1.

Recipe: S’More Stout

Believe it or not, this is not our first time making a s’more beer. Last year, Tim’s girlfriend requested it, and, always up for a challenge, we gave it a go. It turned amazingly well considering our experience and the all the flavorings we introduced.

When thinking about s’mores, we tried to abstract the elements away to their essential flavors. For the chocolate, we used baking cocoa powder mixed with lactose. For the graham cracker, we used some biscuit malt for a breadiness and cinnamon. Finally, the marshmallow is kind of tough. We just figured most marshmallow’s have a vanilla flavor, so we used extract. We decided on the base of a stout because that malt profile can stand up to those flavors and keep it a beer as well as the acrid flavors being appropriate for a s’more made over a campfire.

Like I mentioned, the biggest problem was a grittiness from the cocoa powder. This year we tried to fix that. We made a tea out of the cocoa, lactose and cinnamon stick. We brought this up to a boil, stirring almost constantly. We tasted it on the way through, and by the end, most of the grittiness was gone. Hopefully, it will stay that way through fermentation. One final change is that we had some honey left over from our mead, and we used about half a pound added in at the tail end of our boil to add into that graham cracker profile.

Mash

  • 6lbs Maris Otter
  • 1.5lbs Biscuit Malt
  • 1lb 60L Crystal
  • 1lb CarafaII
  • 1/2lb Special B
  • 1/2lb Flaked Oats

We mashed at a higher temperature (between about 156-160ºF). It mashed for quite a while as we took the free time to head out for a run.

Boil

  • 1oz Fuggles (60 minutes)
  • 1oz Fuggles (30 minutes)
  • 1/2lb Honey (15 minutes)
  • Irish Moss (15 minutes)

In a second pot we mixed a bit of wort, half a pound of lactose,  cocoa to taste and a cinnamon stick. We let that boil down as our main boil went. Original gravity: 1.058.

Fermentation

We used Wyeast 1335 (British Ale Yeast II). We don’t want it to ferment too low, so it will stay a sweeter, desert stout. We’re looking for a Final Gravity between 1.017-1.020. We’ll let it set in secondary for a few weeks before we keg.

Recipe: Beat the Irish Stout

Apologies for the lack of posting. We’ve been bad bloggers.

Second in the Football Series 2010, this Irish Stout serves as the theme beer for Notre Dame (The Fighting Irish) and UMass (the country’s largest Irish population per capita). It’s based on a modified version of the Sullivan Irish Stout, my 2010 birthday beer. It’s a little lower gravity, and hopefully a bit better balance.

Grains

  • 8lb Maris Otter
  • 1/2lb 120L Crystal Malt
  • 1lb Chocolate Malt
  • 1lb Black Patent
  • 1/4lb Roasted Barley

We had a long mash at about 170, lasting about an hour and a half. Coming out of the mashing tun, our runnings started jet black (and thick), eventually tailing off to dark brown.

Hops

We added hops in several additions, starting at 60 minutes with 2oz of Williamette, then 1/4oz at :45, :30, and :15. After the cold break, we added the final 1/4oz.

Yeast

After cooling to about 90F, we transferred to our carboy, and added Wyeast 1084 (Irish Ale Yeast). After a few days, it seemed like it hadn’t started, so I bought White Labs WLP004 – which I didn’t have to use, because it finally got going on its own.

Tasting Notes

Standard stout. Not strong alcohol or hops flavors. Tastes like we maybe should have tried to ferment it down a little more (still a too-malty flavor). In all, a very good beer, but not our best effort.