Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: America
Showing posts with label America. Show all posts
Showing posts with label America. Show all posts

Sunday, 15 May 2016

New Belgium Brewery

Neither of us have ever been keen cyclists, but after two trips to New Belgium during our time in Fort Collins we might just be tempted to dust off and re-oil our bikes (currently decaying in the cellar).

On our first trip to the brewery we met with Spokes Model and long serving employee Bryan Simpson in the tap room over a generous pour of their flagship amber ale Fat Tire (5.2%) and he ran us through some of the history of Fort Collins' biggest craft brewery. Established in 1991 after a cycling trip to (Old) Belgium frequenting many of the beer bars and Brasseries the country has to offer, husband and wife team Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan aimed to emulate some the beers on their garage brew kit. And so New Belgium was born.

The original brew kit

As we travelled through the state of the art facility, one of the largest craft breweries in America, we were struck by the sensitivity for tradition in the brewery as well as the want to push forward and produce modern American beer, all against an ideology of environmental care and sustainability. From the original brew kit from humble home brew origins, to the highly polished stainless steel four vessel brew system with steam recollection, to the traditional oak vats used to produce their sour beer next door, to the ultra-modern lab with stir-plates and Erlenmeyer flasks of beer samples. This approach of modern brewing technology coupled with traditional European techniques allows New Belgium to produce one of the biggest ranges of quality beers of any brewery we've been to.

As the tour continued we headed into the foudre forest, an absolutely beautiful room with more than 64 10,000l repurposed wine vats used in the making of slow sour beer, intermingled with a selection of whisky casks from Denver distillery Leopold Brothers, and a climbing wall. All the foudres are filled with one of two different base beers lovingly named Oscar and Felix, the first a black lager and the other being a golden ale. As we stood chatting surrounded by wood we were offered a glass of La Folie (GABF 2001 Gold Medal), an utterly delectable Flanders Red style sour beer with a blend that has been acidifying for anywhere between one year to as much as three. The tartness is reminiscent of apples and peaches, with a light yet lingering oaken texture toward the end. One of the best beers we've ever drunk, and in the most perfect of settings to try it... the heady aroma of the room is the sort you can conjure up just from thinking about it.

The final section of our tour through what is affectionately referred to as the Thunderdome - a frankly enormous bottling line and relatively smaller canning line which took in all around 4 minutes to stroll across. The continuous rattling of glass and clunk of machines highlights the scale of New Belgium's output (as if 64 oak vats of beer weren't enough to do that), capable of 700 bottles a minute with only a hand-full of people operating it. Slick.

We finished up in back in the tap room with a glass of La Terroir, created with the aforementioned Felix as the base then dry hopped to add a layer of complexity, that buoys all the other layers of sour freshness. Another contender for lifetime favourite beer for us both, and impossible to pick which we loved more between La Terroir and La Folie. We brought a bottle of each home just to re-test this theory but still just concluded that both were astounding.

Us with Bryan and Chris from the New Belgium team!

We spent a good couple more hours in the taproom, working our way through the New Belgium core range along with specials including their collaboration with Ben & Jerry's - a 6.3% salted caramel brownie brown ale which was SO up Laura's street (and she got to to try the ice cream the following day too). We massively enjoyed chatting to all of the staff we met, every single one of whom was bursting with enthusiasm for the company they all feel truly a part of (which indeed they are, the company being 100% employee owned). Bryan also told us a story of how Neil Fallon from one of our favourite bands, Clutch, had a go on Bryan's guitar while the band were involved in creating a collaboration beer. Bryan might just be the coolest man we've ever met.

We had such a brilliant day that for Laura's birthday we decided to return, where we joined on the general tour. This followed the same format as the first but was slightly less in-depth but still relaxed and informative. This one included a go on the brewery's helter skelter!

There have recently been a number of rumours regarding the future of New Belgium and the likelihood of it being bought out. We asked Bryan on our first trip who vehemently denied that this was a possibility. Our tour guide on the second visit was a little more vague, which could suggest that it has been mentioned throughout the company but is still by no means a certain. But as the brewery is an employee owned company, it would be hoped that their votes and opinions would be taken into consideration before making a decision with potentially a huge impact on their future.

With a second site in Asheville, North Carolina, having opened earlier this month, it will surely be the case that New Belgium's reputation as a progressive and far-reaching brewery can only increase. Although the brewery prioritises the American market and hopes to sell in every state as a priority over growing export, we are hopeful that before too long we will start to see their beer on our shores!



Sunday, 7 February 2016

Following our American dream... an introduction

We have just spent a week in one of the great brewing capitals of the US. Fort Collins, in the north of Colorado, is a true beer destination, with an ever increasing number of craft and micro breweries and a population which is truly passionate about their beer. Many of the breweries are brewpubs, with welcoming tap rooms to serve their range of beers. Having visited eight breweries and a multitude of bars around the city and beyond during our time in FoCo, we found the perfect environment to embrace everything great about the American craft beer scene.

We'll be posting about many of these incredible places over the coming weeks, but in the meantime here's a few photos by way of introduction to some of our favourites...

Downtown Fort Collins

House beers at Black Bottle Brewery

Choice City - a butchers and delicatessen... with 36 beers on tap

Flights at Fort Collins Brewery

New Belgium's enchanting foudre farm

CooperSmiths Brewpub

Barrel house at FunkWerks

The Mayor of Old Town has 100 beers available on tap

Majestic Odell's

The Tap n Handle... this became one of our regular haunts!

Equinox Brewery mid-snowstorm

Nice little brewkit at Zwei



Sunday, 6 July 2014

US Craft Beer Night at BrewDog Sheffield

In celebration of Independence Day, I headed down to shiny new Sheffield BrewDog last week. The brewing techniques and styles of beers created by BrewDog are clearly heavily influenced by our pals across the pond and so it was a great setting in which to sample some American delights from a variety of craft brewers.

We were warmly greeted by the staff and seated at a table covered in little nibbles and a giant American flag. Cool. Without further ado the first beer was presented to us: Stateside Saison from Stillwater Artisanal ales. Going straight in with an ABV of 6.8%, this was surprisingly easy to drink, perhaps on account of having the lowest bitterness rating of the evening (20-35 IBUs). It was plain to see that this evening was going to be all about the hops! This beer had a lovely fruity and slightly floral aroma, with tropical fruit sweetness on the palate.

The second offering of the night was Hop Devil, an American IPA from Victory Brewing Co. I'd actually sampled this on keg the week before, but the effect from the bottle was somewhat punchier, and also had a more reddish hue than the pale ale I'm sure I drank last time! The bitterness of the hops was the overwhelming flavour, but this was coupled with a spiciness that lingered on the tongue for ages. Not quite my thing, but none-the-less a good beer that's a great example of the style.

Next we moved on to Oskar Blues Deviant Dale's IPA - an American Double IPA, making this a "souped up" version of their Dale's Pale Ale. Oskar Blues is one of a growing number of breweries choosing to can their beers rather than bottle them, to avoid any "skunking" (spoiling of the beer caused by the infiltration of UV light). I really enjoyed this beer - it had enough hoppiness to make me suck my cheeks in but this was still nicely balanced with a malty sweetness. With an IBU rating of 85 and at 8% ABV, it was a signal that this was time to move on to the big guys!
After a quick break and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or two, we returned to our tasting with a bottled version of another drink that I've previously sampled on tap: the excellent Shipwrecker Circus, an American style barley wine which is a collaboration between Oskar Blues and Brewdog itself. I loved this beer from the keg and from the bottle it was just as good. Barley wine is perhaps my favourite style of beer and the characteristically high ABV (the Shipwrecker Circus comes in at 10.5%) makes it a perfect sort of beverage to finish off an evening (although on this occasion we had two more to go!). Almost syrupy in consistency with a beautiful rich sweetness reminiscent of liquorice and caramel, with a raisin-like fruitiness that lifts the flavour above being sickly. I loved this beer - my favourite of the night.

What we thought was to be the last beer was Clown Shoes - Chocolate Sombrero, a 9% imperial stout brewed in Massachusetts. My aversion to all things clown-based means that this isn't a brewery I've typically gone for, but this was probably a lesson in how not to judge a beer by the label. Another very enjoyable drink with huge notes of roasted cocoa on the nose with a tiny suggestion of chilli. On the taste this was deliciously chocolatey and full bodied, alongside a maple syrup sweetness. The little hit of chilli came through at the end but was delicate enough not to overwhelm the palate.
An observation from the lovely Claire that the Chocolate Sombrero had a hint of banana to the flavour and the guys at BrewDog just couldn't resist giving us a taster of their Abstrakt 14 - "the closest to banoffee pie you'll get in a beer". This was a dream of a beer, definitely tasting like a good pud and an ideal finisher to the evening alongside a Reese's peanut butter cup (the only downside to this being that I now have a slight addiction to them...)

The evening was a great introduction to a variety of big, brash and bold American craft beers, and the knowledge and passion of the team at BrewDog was refreshing. An entertaining and informative night all round!

Stay classy, America.

Laura x