Previously, on Total Ales, I drank Pliny the Younger, yup. Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
I remember being sat in my Dad's kitchen as I was coming to the end of another trip to the wonderful town of Fort Collins, Colorado. I'd just written a little introductory post about this trip over the pond which I took back in February and was explaining to Dad how I planned to write short, brief yet informative posts about all the beery mischief I'd gotten myself into. Predictably I've been about as succinct as a Presidential re-election speech but thirteen posts and over 15000 words later and here were are at the end of this particular journey. To be honest I could probably write another two or three posts about my last 48 hours in FoCo but it feels like it's time to wrap things up and I feel that the best way to do this is by simply reminiscing over some of the best beers I had during the twilight of my stay.
No-Li Born & Raised is a stunning IPA
My favourite place to grab lunch in Fort Collins has always been the incredible Choice City Butcher & Deli and their beer menu is never short of stunning. There we bumped into Josh and Joe from Verboten Brewing who we had brewed with the day before, I enjoyed a buffalo burger paired with a Utah Sage Saison from Utah's Epic Brewing. The sage flavours were really in your face but complemented those funky Belgian yeast esters nicely, I also had another stonking hangover and this certainly abetted my recovery.
Later that afternoon we popped in for a few tasters at Fort Collins' biggest brewery by some distance, New Belgium. It was a Friday afternoon and so the tap room was buzzing with people queueing for their growler fills. Highlights here were the exceptional Dig pale ale, which I reviewed when I was in Colorado this time last year and the Heavenly Feijoa Tripel which is one of New Belgium's 'Lips of Faith' limited release beers. The bartender was impressed that I not only knew what a Feijoa was (it's a funny looking green fruit from New Zealand more commonly known as a Pineapple Guava with a sweet yet faintly medicinal taste) but had been to New Zealand and eaten one freshly picked from the tree. The tart and slightly herbal fruit quality from the Feijoa really complimented the dry, estery, slightly waxy body of the Tripel, it was beautifully balanced and it was a treat to see this interesting fruit being used in an American beer.
A trip to Fort Collins is never complete without another visit to the tap room at Odell Brewing and for some reason my Dad was determined to make me try all twenty beers they had on offer during the course of my stay. Highlights earlier in the week had been Amuste, an imperial porter aged in Tempranillo barrels with must (the wine equivalent to wort) from Colorado grown Tempranillo grapes and of course their indomitable IPA but tonight the highlight was an absolutely beautiful sour pineapple beer called Pina Agria. It was literally like drinking the freshly fermented juice from the bottom of a can of some tinned pineapples, it was mouth puckeringly sour and yet slightly sweet and incredibly drinkable for it's 7% ABV. My Dad just doesn't get sour beers and didn't get on with this beer at all but I can't get enough of them and this might just have been one of the best I've tried so far.
On my last night in town Dad and I went out for Mexican food and it's here where beer goes out the window and I attempt to drink a couple of Margaritas and still have the legs to walk to the taxi rank afterwards. When we do finally get home we open a bottle of Oil Man, an 11% ABV barrel aged Imperial Stout from Elevation Brewing who are based in the Colorado town of Poncha Springs. This is apparently a very sought after and highly regarded beer and as a result my Dad's local bottle emporium were only allowing one bottle per customer. Personally I found it a little bit lacking in the mid-palate, don't get me wrong I thought it was a nice enough beer with notes of bourbon and oak mingling with molasses and burnt sugar but it was like there was an empty void in the middle where more body and flavour should be, perhaps it was a beer that needed to lie down for a couple of years before it would be at it's best but as we only had the one bottle I guess we'll never know.
The trip finished with a visit to Funkwerks
We follow up Oil Man with an absolutely stunning IPA that we brought back with us from the Northwest (courtesy of Laurie, thanks Laurie!), Born and Raised from Washington's No-Li Brewhouse. Born and Raised manages to reach the same heady heights as some of my favourite IPAs with flavours of mango and grapefruit mingling with a digestive biscuit like malt backbone. I'd definitely say this sits alongside IPAs from the likes of Odell, Deschutes and Lagunitas as one of my favourites and I'd jump at the chance to drink it again.
On my last day in town we had an hour to kill before we headed to the airport and so after I'd carefully packed several bottles into my suitcase, including a highly coveted bottle of Firestone Walker Parabola Imperial Stout, we headed to Funkwerks for a few tasters. I first visted Funkwerks Brewery shortly after it had opened on one of my earlier visits to the Fort and so wanted to see how they had come on, especially seeing as they had only gone and won a load of gold medals at last years Great American Beer Festival. Funkwerks specialise in only one kind of beer, Saison and boy have they mastered the art of brewing this style. My Dad and I work our way through a platter of different takes on the style, each similar and yet slightly different but all clean, rounded and well balanced. I particularly enjoyed the summer fruit qualities in the Montagne and was both impressed and perplexed by the single hop Polaris Saison. Polaris is a new hop from Germany that has been developed from Cascade but it has a unique flavour that for a few moments I couldn't put my finger on but soon it hit me, it was like sucking on a Foxes glacier mint. There were hints of citrus in the background but it was the mint leaf quality in this hop that really shone through in this beer, one to watch out for.
We stopped for a burger en route to Denver International Airport and I enjoyed my last beer of the trip, a delicous New Belgium Ranger IPA (god damn these guys need to start exporting this beer to the UK as soon as they can) which had the usual bucketfuls of passionfruit and mango, I was glad I had another bottle packed away in my suitcase. I sat in the car and marvelled at the sheer volume of beer drinking I had squeezed in over the last eight days, I had in fact tried 107 different beers over the course of my vacation and y'know what? I bloody well felt like I had too.
I nearly drank myself to death in the Mayor of Old Town on more than one occasion, I went to Portland, Oregon and got the flu before driving all the way to Walla Walla, Washington. I drank both Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger for the very first time but hopefully not the last, I brewed a beer with the lovely chaps at Verboten Brewing, I visited the smallest commercial brewery I had ever seen and I hung out with some old friends as well as making some new ones. Most importantly though, I had a brilliant time with my biggest beer geek pal, my Dad and I'll be heading back to FoCo in October when he is having very big birthday party... which just happens to be on the same weekend as the Great American Beer Festival...