Ok, I’ll have to admit it: I’m not that into IPAs. I know some of our readers are yelling blasphemy, and even more have moved to grab pitchforks on their way to assemble a mob. Still I submit an unwavering “meh”. Not to say I dislike them, I just don’t get excited by them anymore, ergo “meh”. When I cracked open Founders Dark Penance, it was largely in the hope that I would have something new to look forward to on the hoppy side of things.
After popping off the cap, I get hit with this floral smell, and I start to get excited. I grab one of my snifters and begin to pour. The label does not lie, it does carry the appearance of black, but I catch some variation to chestnut brown at the bottom of the glass just above the stem before the minimal head dissipates. As I lift up the glass to the light I see more brown towards the edges of the glass. This is an excellent example of color density, and great indicator that I will be tasting something a little more sweet than roasty in the malt profile. I am intrigued, and of course move to smell it more in depth.
There is no mistaking it- this is most definitely an IPA, and with 100 Centennial and Chinook IBUs at that. I get the pine and citrus characteristic of the hop varieties used, but what I once thought of as floral, I now realize is the malty sweetness mixing with the hop aroma. Caramel and dark chocolate goodness mixed with Melon skin, Orange pith and Pine blend to make what I took to be floral. To be honest, it smelled kind of like spring despite its near black color and creepy Victorian portrait on the label.
A quick swirl in glass shows good alcohol legs and a viscosity that strikes me as a little thin. The taste was not a blend but a total shift. A shift from pleasantly sweet chocolate, molasses, and caramel, to those typical American IPA flavors of pine and citrus with a lot of bitterness. A complete flip-flop from sweet to citrus and bitter happens with every sip. The Crystal Malt and Midnight Wheat Malt do what is expected of them and thicken up the mouthfeel, but I am surprised the wheat malt did not help with the head retention a bit more. It’s not really important, as the combination of these malts is all about those caramel, chocolate, and mild coffee flavors without any bitterness. Remember, Founders set out to make a balanced IPA, so they needed the malt to be sweet. The hops can handle the bitter, and in a way that only comes from American hop varieties.
Dark Penance is a refreshing spin on the IPA genre. Pleasantly sweet up front and piney bitterness towards the end it makes for a unique showcase of hop flavor while still offering something else to look forward to each sip. It should be released soon this quarter, so be sure to pick up several over the quarter. At about $12.00 a four pack it seems it will be an excellent value, considering that a $12.00 four pack is roughly the equivalent to a $6.00 bomber. So with a price like that for an Imperial Black IPA, and one from Founders no less, where can you go wrong?
Since that first sip of Quakertown Stout nearly 4 years ago, many of us have dreamt about visiting a Denton-based Armadillo Ale Works brewery. Currently, Bobby Mullins and Yianni Arestis are brewing out of Deep Ellum Brewing Co’s facility in Dallas, TX. So the excellent and GABF Gold Medal Winning beers, like Quakertown Stout, are brewed and distributed from Dallas. But come late spring of 2015 expect their new Denton facility to house everything. “I wanted to wait and announce the new location at the end of North Texas Beer Week, but the information slipped out a little early.” says Arestis.
The 40,000 square foot building at 1512 Interstate 35W in Denton will house Armadillo Ale Works for years to come. Originally the pair was looking at properties near Denton’s Downtown District, but just couldn’t find anything large enough to handle future expansion.
What’s in store at the new location?
-A 5,000 square foot Special Events Room with bar and possible stage. You’ll be able to book this room for private parties, company gatherings and possibly catch some great music. The bar will serve the full line of Armadillo’s brews (flights included).
-A 5,000 sqft Taproom and Office Area.
The Taproom will be open daily from 5pm-10pm (Mon-Sat). You’ll be able to try all your Armadillo favorites and possibly firkins or limited batches that may never make it out to your favorite bars and bottle shops.
-The 10,000 sqft production area.
In this area will be; the 30 barrel brew house, the fermentation tanks, a giant cold house and packaging line. “We’ve ordered some of the equipment already and the rest shortly. Bobby is flying out to look at the canning line next Tuesday.” says Arestis. This size build out will give Armadillo a production of more than 10,000 barrels a year. Planning for the future and purchasing larger equipment now will allow Armadillo to expand easily and quickly in the future. Expect tours of this new brewing area to run every Saturday from noon-3pm.
-The remaining 20,000 sqft of this mammoth building will be available later when Armadillo is ready to expand beyond its beginning capacity. “The current brew space could grow to 40,000 barrels a year. That’s at a Real Ale or Saint Arnold’s level,” Arestis. It may be a while before we see the brewery expand into this remaining area, but again, Mullins and Arestis have planned for the easiest future growth possible.
Everything is coming together for this outstanding brewery. Earlier this month Armadillo’s Quakertown Stout won a Gold Medal in The Stout Category at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival. Since that win and the demand increase, the Armadillo team has been rushing to keep our favorite DFW spots full of Quakertown, Greenbelt, Brunch Money and Wundermelon.
We’re very excited to introduce, Jester King / Live Oak:
…(or Kollaborationsbier for short) — our collaboration with Live Oak Brewing Co. in Austin, Texas! Live Oak is the oldest brewery in Austin, and the maker of some of the best German and Czech-style beers in the world. They are among the handful of breweries that inspired us to make beer in the first place, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have had the opportunity to work with them.
Kollaborationsbiermittschechischemhopfenundwilderbakterienhefekombination literally means “collaboration beer with Czech hops, wild yeast, and bacteria” in German. The inspiration for the beer came from two sources. First, we really wanted to make a beer with Live Oak, which again, is a brewery we love. Second, another hugely inspirational brewery for us, along with Live Oak, is Brasserie De La Senne in Brussels, Belgium. De La Senne makes one of our favorite beers called Taras Boulba, which embraces principles of subtlety, restraint, balance, and full attenuation. Its elegant combination of European malt character, hoppiness, dryness, and yeast aroma and flavor sets a benchmark for what beer can be. Coincidentally, one of the few American beers reminiscent of Taras Boulba in terms of its malt and hop character is Live Oak Pilz. We knew that to truly make a beer worthy of claiming inspiration from Taras Boulba, we’d need to turn to our friends at Live Oak for help!
In making Kollaborationsbier, we brewed a low gravity wort at Live Oak with Head Brewer Dusan Kwiatkowski. The wort was prepared using a traditional decoction mash, beginning with undermodified pilsner malt and then working it vigorously by separating out a portion of the mash, boiling it in the kettle, and then returning it to the mash tun. This creates some really tasty malt flavors in the wort that cannot be achieved through other methods. We then added a few hefty doses of Czech hops to the boil for a firm bitterness and floral, spicy hop aromas and flavors. After brewing and cooling the wort, we racked it into portable tanks and drove it from east Austin to the outskirts of town in the Texas Hill Country whereJester King Brewery is located, transferred it into one of our fermentation tanks, and inoculated it with our unique mixed culture of brewer’s yeast and naturally occurring wild yeast and bacteria. The beer fermented to complete dryness (0 degrees Plato or 1.000 specific gravity) and was naturally conditioned through refermentation in kegs, casks, and bottles. Kollaborationsbier is 4.2% alcohol by volume and 42 IBU. It was brewed using only City of Austin water, malted barley, and hops and fermented with brewer’s yeast, wild yeast, and bacteria.
Kollaborationsbier will be released at Jester King Brewery on Friday, October 24th when our tasting room opens at 4pm. We’re also excited to announce that onSaturday, October 25th at Noon, we’ll be joined by Live Oak owner Chip McElroy and Head Brewer Dusan Kwiatkowski. They’ll be bringing a cask of spund Helles Rauchlager with them for our tasting room! Kollaborationsbier will be available by the glass at Jester King Brewery. We’ll also have bottles available for sale (3,300 bottles available, 750ml, $12, limit 2 per customer per day). For the first weekend of bottle sales (October 24th through the 26th), only 1,000 bottles will be available. The art for Kollaborationsbier is by our own Josh Cockrell.
I’ve been to my fair share of beer fests. Therefore, I thought I had an idea of what to expect from America’s largest craft beer event. But I didn’t truly understand the utter immensity of The Great American Beer Fest. Let me help explain it with stats. Big Texas Beer Fest, with its ruckus noise, staggering selection of beer and immense crowd had 106 breweries with 416 beers to serve to about 6,000 beer drinkers all in one day in 2014. GABF, in its 32nd year, had more than 3,500 different beers from 710 breweries that served 49,000 attendees in 3 days. That means our largest local festival, even with its colossal size, could fit 8 times into GABF based on beer selection and breweries in attendance!! Those of you who know and love Big Texas Beer Fest, like I do, hopefully now understand that if it is that large, Great American Beer Fest with its three decades of growth and non-hindering state laws is that much larger. (Side note: with time and participation from the Texas craft beer community, state laws on craft beer could be amended and Big Texas Beer Fest could be even better. Hell! It took GABF 10 years to achieve the numbers Big Texas Beer Fest reached in 3 years! But now I’m just rambling and preaching the needed changes in Texas alcohol legislation. Let’s move on.)
Thursday (Day 1)
On my first visit to the festival on Thursday, I entered and set off with a plan (Check out the GABF app. In it, a beer drinker can find his/her favorite breweries, the beers the brewery brought along and soo much more)…That plan was quickly dashed. Rocked by the noise of around 16,000 people, the large (almost 300,000 square foot) room and my excitement over every brewery that I hadn’t tried (and some I never knew existed), I began trying any beer in easy reach. The couple I tried were delightful and I realized a brewery invests in the time, travel and expenses to pour at GABF because their recipes are worth it.
That’s probably why I next found our local craft beer leaders; Community Beer Co,
Peticolas Brewing, Armadillo, Four Corners Brewing, Lakewood, DEBC, Karbach, Buffalo Bayou, Real Ale, Oasis, 512, 903…(I apologize to our other local buddies not mentioned here. I have to stop because this list would engulf the entire article. Check out Lee Knox’s article on the amazing Texas turn out at GABF) My point is this, Texas has so many talented brewers and breweries that are willing to invest the time, manpower and money to pour at GABF because their beers are that well planned and brewed and sought after. (Again go read Lee’s article on Texas because I’m moving on.)
For the remaining 2 hours of that Thursday I meandered about with no real path. I saw some old friends (like David Walker of Firestone Walker, George Esquivel from Four Corners, Yianni at Armadillo, Jamie and Aric of Community, Bailey the #1 Real Ale peddler and Craig Bradley at Lakewood) and tried some great and new, but mainly familiar beers. I guess my evening spent sticking primarily with the beers and breweries I know and love, and venturing out only a couple of times to try new tastes, was my way of adjusting to this massive and wholly unknown sea of brewed delights. Despite my having an interactive map on my phone, the festival felt like a large black sea. I wasn’t sure which way to swim or what booth to approach.
Friday (Day 2)
I started Friday morning right, with some food. Sam Adams (Boston Beer Co), and founder Jim Koch, were hosting a brunch to announce the winners of their Longshot Homebrew Competition and showcase some of this year’s new beers all paired with an awesome meal at Marlowe’s in downtown Denver. (For the full rundown, check out Ben Webster’s article on the brunch.)
After a quick jaunt up to New Belgium Brewing, in Fort Collins, and my stomach full, I headed to The Denver Convention Center because I had a media pass! (I was like Charlie bounding down the street with his Golden Ticket!) I arrived early and beat many of the brewers and all the drinkers to the booths. Inside the fairly empty convention hall, I stopped at some manned booths, talked with a couple of brewers, but mainly got a visual for the entire festival’s layout. (Again check out the app so you, at least, have an idea of how the aisles were laid out.)
When the bagpipes sounded (as they did at the start of each session), I knew the flood was coming and I started in with the plan. I began on the East side of the room and tried cool beers from regional breweries with highlights from; Four Fathers, Hailstorm, Hamburger Mary’s (out of Chicago) and Hoppin’ Frog. Everything that tumbled down my gullet was great, as expected. Next I hit the brew pub area and drank samples from Apple Blossom, Black Sky, Fate, Black Star (out of Austin) and Yak & Teti (later I’d return to hit up the other side of this aisle because all the tastes in this area were so thrilling and Joe and the boys from Pinthouse Pizza were over there).
Trying more brew pub beers would come the following day for I had to head to the Mid-Atlantic area to finally drink some beer from a few chaps I met on my arrival night in Denver. Jailbreak Brewing sports 2 brewers from Dogfish Head (like our very own Jeremy Hunt at DEBC), Ryan and Clay led by a one of the largest wine nerds (of his own acclaim) not on the West Coast , Justin Bonner. The highlight of their beers was Dusk till Dawn, a stout with chocolaty coffee deliciousness that just floated across my tongue. I then dropped by DC Brau, a brewery that has much
social media buzz, to sample their top beers. Co-founders Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock brought along some excellent brews, but their top was On the Wings of Armageddon, an imperial IPA. On the Wings of Armageddon was their dedication to the 12/21/12 end of the world fiasco. (I say fiasco because, clearly, this long planned event never happen.) I’m not a hophead by any means, but I would’ve seen the end of the world in 2012 with this beer in hand because the hop bitterness, while aggressive, wasn’t unpleasant.
Next I headed north to 3 Floyds and The Great Lakes Region. Patrick at 3 Floyds poured me out some tasters of fantasticness. The best of the bunch was 3 Floyd’s Blot Out the Sun, a black as night imperial stout that pays its homage to Charles Montgomery Burns and his fateful plot that almost ended in his death. I, of course, had to get a couple of tastes of Zombie Dust, their year round pale ale that is as complex in its hop tastes as any great IPA. Another tasty surprise on The Great Lakes aisle was Forbidden Root, a smaller brewery that touts its botanical ingredients as a return to an old way of brewing. Operations Manager BJ Pichman poured me some Forbidden Root, a 4.2% abv root beer that reminds you that it’s not just any old root beer soda with a little hop bite.
I finished the 2nd day of GABF watching Verboten Brewing (from Loveland, CO) battle 21st Amendment Brewing (from San Fransisco, CA) in The 2014 Brewers’ Feud. This game was an alcohol fueled take on the old Family Feud game show where each brewery’s team had to guess top rated answers from surveyed craft beer drinkers. As the game went on, the participants got more and more relaxed and funnier because the beer was definitely flowing. (Check out the highlight pics on our Facebook Page or go watch the entire, candid mess.) Day 2 finished with a bang and I again headed out into Denver to enjoy the city’s nightlife and…well….craft beer.
Saturday (Day 3)
Saturday began with an abrupt awakening that I had 30 minutes to get across downtown Denver, on foot, to make my way to The Award Ceremony. (To see the Texas highlights go to our Facebook Page or Twitter or check out GABF’s page of all winning medals.) Saturday was split into 3 sessions; The Awards Ceremony, The Midday Members Only Session and The Evening Session. GABF veterans kept telling me Saturday evening was the time to party. Brewers had won their medals and could relax, local Denverites were off of work and the party would be wild. Those veterans were correct. Here’s where I have a little advice in choosing your day to attend GABF, Day 1 is the day to sample craft beer. Day 3 is the day to party! The costumes were donned and drinkers headed out to try some of America’s best craft beer. I tried some great new beers from highlights like Saucony Creek, Single Cut, Cigar City and Mother Road Brewing and visited with some old locals, like Joe from the 2014 medal winning Pinthouse Pizza out of Austin.
I ended Saturday, and my first adventure into GABF, at The Intersection of Brewing and Music discussion that culminated in a jam session with free-style rapping from Sam Calagione and Bryan Selders, of Dogfishhead Brewing, Isaac Hanson, eldest Hanson brother and colab brewer of Mmmhops, Bradley Latham of The Brewers Association, Matt Potts from Destihl Brewing and Kyle Hollingsworth of String Cheese Incident. (Again see the pics on our Facebook Page or watch the entire discussion and listen to the music here.)
What I Learned:
-GABF is a long festival and you can’t try every beer offered. Build a list of the top breweries that friends have mentioned or you’ve heard about and find a couple lesser known breweries around each stop. Sampling some other breweries, along with those that you know, will expand your horizons.
-Stick to your plan. If you go meandering about you’ll miss some top rated beers, but you might, like us, find some interesting and off-the-beaten-path brewers that you may never have found. This suggestion is a toss-up for me. I’m not a strict and regimented person and therefore don’t lend well to planning, but following a plan will ensure you get some of those super rare beers before the brewers run out.
-Check out the extra events going on at GABF. They’re free, there will be beer to drink and you’ll get a hell of a good show.
-If you want an easier flow with less of a crowd, buy your tickets for the first day or even the second day. If you want to party and enjoy the festival as a full experience, be sure to grab tickets for the last day.
Craft beer is about trends.
If you stop and look close enough at the craft industry, you can see the trends come and go, new ones pop up and thrive, and others fade in popularity. This is not something necessarily bad for the craft beer industry. New trends can expose new consumers to craft beer and keep them there for good, long after the trend that brought them there has lessened in adoration. If you go to enough festivals and tasting events, you can start to get a picture of these trends.
Four years ago, I noticed chocolate coming on strong. And then two or three years ago, I noticed a lot more bourbon and whiskey barrel aged beers than I once saw. After the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, I can safely say that the current dominant trend is everything funky. Sours, tarts, wilds, and every style in between.
As someone with a palate more suited to the bitter and sour, this period of the funk is right up my alley. Cake and chocolate have always overwhelmed my palate, but something bitter or sour? I’m at home. However, what’s a bit surprising to me is just how large this trend has become. Compared to previous trends I’ve seen in the last couple years of going to GABF, this is larger than them all.
Although I did notice much more wilds and sours while making my list of breweries and beers on my “cannot miss” list before my trip to Denver, it didn’t quite hit me how popular sours were until I stood in my first line. I noticed several larger lines in the surrounding area of California breweries, for instance. When I asked someone next to me what the line was about he replied “They’ve got sours. If they have sours, they’re going to have a line.” The word sour alone is enough to draw the crowds.
The dedication to funky beers has even created another festival during GABF week in Denver called ‘What the Funk?,’ now in its second year. This festival on a much smaller scale is exactly what you think it is: sours, tarts, barrel ageds, and funky beers for as far as the eye can see. Interestingly enough, this was the only festival in Denver that you could sample Jester King. Though my schedule did not allow me to attend this festival, I am making sure that I’m there front and center in 2015.
I want to stop you if you feel that I’m comparing the growth of sours in the US craft industry to any sort of bubble. The crowds are there for the sours. The crowds are growing for the sours. The areas of the country with the best wild yeast available are seeing huge growth and their beers are becoming more and more sought after at festivals and through private beer trading. Jester King’s bottle releases are becoming more and more of “must” events for Texan beer drinkers. Breweries like The Bruery are separating their wild yeast operations from the rest of the brewery, both out of internal infrastructure necessity and out of sheer supply/demand from today’s craft drinkers.
I didn’t even realize my own love of funk until I landed in Dallas and looked over my rankings of beers I tasted at this year’s GABF. Out of the top 5 beers on my list, there were 2 sours and 2 wild ales. My only hope for the near future is for Dallas area breweries to take a stab at one or two. The market is there. I promise.
Lee Knox is the Travel Contributor for Beer Drinkers Society
Founders Brewing is rolling out their Black Rye, “a dry-hopped dark ale brewed with copious amounts of rye malt.” Black Rye is a retired recipe of Founders’ from 2006 “it was available for less than a year, but it developed a cult following. And the brewery decided to reach into their recipe vault and bring it back for 2015.”
“Because of how quickly the craft beer enthusiast community has grown, most people drinking craft beer and even Founders beer today have never tried Black Rye,” said Dave Engbers, co-founder and vice president of brand and education at Founders Brewing Co. “Officially, this beer is a re-introduction. But for most, it’s a new Founders beer.”
Founders says “Black Rye is a perfectly balanced blend of German- and American-grown hops, premium 2-row barley and heavily kilned rye and wheat malts.” Black Rye is a craft beer that doesn’t fit in any category. The unique combination of ingredients and flavors will have you debating in which category it belongs.
“Black Rye is one of those beers that we kept coming back to in our conversations about new releases,” said Jeremy Kosmicki, Founders’ brewmaster. “There are so many craft beers out there, but this one has its place because there’s nothing else quite like it.”
“Black Rye will kick off the Founders’ seasonal calendar in 2015, with availability from roughly January to March, dependent on distributor shipments. It will be released in the brewery’s taproom on draft and in bottles as of January 2015. Founders’ other seasonal releases in 2015 will be Rubaeus, from April to September, and Breakfast Stout, from October to December. The brewery’s full 2015 availability calendar will be announced later this year.”
From Jester King:
We’re excited to announce that when our tasting room opens this Friday, October 10th at 4pm, we’ll be releasing our second blend of Omniscience & Proselytism — our barrel-aged, wild beer refermented with strawberries. For our second blend of Omniscience & Proselytism, we sent mature, sour beer aged for months in oak barrels into a foudre filled with several hundred pounds of strawberries. We then allowed the wild yeast and bacteria in the beer to referment the sugars in the fruit to complete dryness. The result is a tart, dry beer with interesting flavors and aromas from the fruit, as well as the yeast and bacteria. We don’t add fruit to flavor filtered and/or pasteurized beer to make a “beer cooler”. Rather, we ferment the fruit in the same way wine grapes are fermented to make wine, so that the finished beer is something greater than the sum of the parts.
Unlike our first blend of Omniscience & Proselytism, which used local strawberries, this blend used strawberries from Oregon. We prefer to use local ingredients whenever possible. However, the quality of our beer comes first. Regardless of the source of strawberries, we continue to only use fresh or fresh/frozen fruit. We do not use fruit concentrates, extracts or flavorings in our beer.
Omniscience & Proselytism was brewed with Hill Country well water, barley, wheat, and hops. It was fermented with our house blend of microorganisms consisting of brewers’ yeast and naturally occurring wild yeast and bacteria we cultured from the land that surrounds our brewery in the Texas Hill Country. It is 5.3% alcohol by volume, 3.2 pH, and has a finishing gravity of 1.002 (0.5 degrees Plato). It is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and 100% naturally conditioned.
Our first blend of Omniscience & Proselytism, released in October of 2013, was only available by the glass at our brewery. Our second blend will be available to go in 500ml bottles, as well as by the glass. Aside from a few special events, Omniscience & Proselytism will be exclusively available at Jester King Brewery. Roughly 3,000 bottles are available, and the bottle limit (500ml, $16) is one per customer per day.