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Thursday, April 25th 2013
Germany is well known as one of the major brewing cultures of the world. Archaeological evidence suggests that the tradition of brewing in Germany may date as far back as the bronze age, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. While the original inhabitants of that part of Europe were tribesman with no written history, artifacts dating back to 800 BC have been found with traces of beer like residue. The first written evidence of brewing in the area that is now Germany comes from the Romans around 100 AD, referring to a fermented drink made from barley, which was considered inferior in comparison to Roman wine. However, as the Romans settled the area, it is believed that they took up the tradition of brewing due to the difficulty of shipping wine to the region. The remains of a Roman brewery were found near Regensberg, Bavaria in 1978 that had all of the facilities needed for 'modern' brewing, where barley was actually mashed instead of the ancient rudimentary practice of fermenting loaves of bread.
Irish monks, inspired by St. Patrick, began spreading to the continent in the 6th century, and gradually began expanding and developing brewing techniques. They are credited with the discovery of using hops as a bittering agent in beer. A Benedictine Abbey was founded in the year 724 in Weihenstephan, and obtained a brewing license in the year 1040. This is considered the oldest continually operating brewery in the world.
As the monastic breweries became successful and more powerful, secular interests began to notice and take up brewing. However these secular brewers were not at skilled as the monks, and as time went on, they began using non-traditional and strange ingredients such as "soot, oxen bile, tree bark, poisonous mushrooms, potent herbs and powerful spices" (Horst Dornbusch, in The Oxford Companion to Beer) to increase production and cover up off flavors in their brews. Monastery brews were known to be a healthy and nourishing alternative to the unclean waters of the middle ages, but the poorly brewed secular beers were more likely to make people sick.
Two different events occurred to improve the quality of Germanic beer. While the balance of power in the south was strongly influenced by the feudal culture coming out of the power center of Italy, the northern areas were more remote. Those in the north began to become powerful through shipping and trading. Cities like Hamburg, Cologne, Bremen and Hannover increased their influence by opening trade with the Baltics. This competition for trade led the northern cities to band together in the 13th century to form a protective trading association which became known as the Hanseatic League, free of trade barriers and tariffs. Soon beer became one of their most important commodities, and production of beer increased dramatically in port cities. By 1526, Hamburg boasted over 500 breweries, and about half of the workers in the city were involved in brewing. This competition for profit led to higher quality beer.
However, in the established feudal society of the south no such profit motive existed, and the breweries continued to use inferior ingredients and techniques. Eventually Duke Wilhelm IV decreed that beer could only be made with 3 ingredients: barley, hops and water. This decree occurred on April 23rd, 1516, and is know as the German Purity Law, or Reinheitsgebot. However, this in itself was not enough to clean up the beer. During the warmer summer months, airborne microbial infections would get into the open fermenters, often ruining the beer. As the science of the day did not correctly understand the cause of this, Wilhelm's successor Duke Albrecht V decreed a new law forbidding any brewing between April 23rd and September 21st. This resulted in Germany becoming mostly a lager beer culture, as only the bottom fermenting lager yeast could make beer during the colder winter months.
The Thirty Years War broke out in 1618, the first in a series of European wars that lasted roughly a century. During that time Europe lost about half of its population, and most economic activity, including grain farming was curtailed or halted. The Hanseatic League dissolved in 1669. Commercial brewing came to a halt. It took decades for Europe, and the brewing industry to recover, only to be set back again by the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800's. However, during the peace that followed for the remainder of the 1800's, major advances in science, technology and industry brought corresponding advances in Germany's brewing techniques. New tools and equipment were invented, such as the thermometer, the hydrometer, indirect fired kilns for malting and copper brew kettles. Refrigeration, pasteurization and filtration all enhanced the quality of Germany's beer, and advances in microbiology enabled brewers to isolate pure yeast strains and reduce spoiling. New and expanding railroad networks served to transport the beer to places that were previously unreachable.
Many of Germany's classic beer styles were developed during the 1800's: Paulaner's Salvator Doppelbock came out in 1835, Schumacher's Altbier in 1838, Dreher Brewery's Vienna Lager in 1841, Spaten Brewery's Marzen in 1841, Pilsner Burgher Brewery's Bohemian Pilsner in 1842, Spaten Brewery's Oktoberfest in 1871, Spaten Brewery's Munich Helles of 1894 and the precursor to the modern Kolsch beer in Cologne during the 1890's.
Brewing in Germany prospered through the 20th century, despite two world wars. By the 1970's, Germany had become the second largest beer producer in the world (the U.S. was first) with about 2500 breweries. Germans had become the most prolific beer drinkers in the world, topping out at 151 liters per capita in 1976. Most of this beer not only came from within Germany, but was from local breweries serving local markets. Germany's beer industry was far more decentralized than in the U.S., where major corporate breweries dominated the scene. Germany's largest producer, the Radeberger Group, only produced about 15% of all beer nationally.
However, the last three decades have seen a major decline in Germany's beer production and per capita consumption. While the Bavarians of southern Germany still consume as much as 155 liters per capita, consumption in other areas has plummeted, with the wine growing regions only averaging about 69 liters per capita. Germany now ranks fifth worldwide in beer production, well behind top producing China; and even behind the fast growing markets in Brazil and Russia. The number of German breweries has fallen to around 1300. Some blame the decline on younger Germans who seem to have moved toward wine and cocktails. Others note that Germany's brewers have focused too much on pilsners, which, despite their high quality are difficult to distinguish from each other. Pilsners make up over half of the beer produced in Germany. Weissbiers are still popular in the south, but other German styles make up a very small portion of the beers produced. The German brewing tradition is in danger of fading into the modern corporate world of mass produced lagers. The craft beer revolution is only just beginning to hit Germany, and a recent wave of brewpubs and artisanal breweries offers hope that the German brewing industry can be revitalized.
German Beer Styles:
Altbier: A crisp, full bodied beer, usually around 4.8% ABV, with a copper-brown color, a malty or nutty flavor and a crown of laced white foam. It gets its name from the word Alt, meaning old, because it is brewed in a style older than the newer cold fermenting lagers. Instead, Altbiers use a specialty yeast that is fermented at temperatures that are warmer than lagers, but cooler than ales. The beers are then aged in lagering tanks for up to two months, giving them a mellow and clean taste. The style originated in the area around Dusseldorf.
Bock Beer: A high gravity (6.5% ABV and up) beer that originated in the northern German city of Einbeck. Most bock beers are bottom fermented lagers that tend to be full bodied with a slightly sweet and fruity malt characteristic.
Doppelbock: A strong (over 7% ABV) beer, originally introduced by Paulaner with their Salvator beer. These beers are bottom fermented lagers, and are usually reddish brown with a toffee or bready taste, with just enough hops to balance the sweeter finish.
German Pilsner: A crisp, light-bodied bottom fermented lager, golden in color with a distinct bitterness and exhibiting a floral hoppiness. While the style is credited to the Czech city of Pilsn, the brewer who introduced these pilsners was the German, Josef Groll, who was the first brewmaster at the Czech brewery. German breweries began brewing the style in the decades following its introduction in Pilsn.
Helles: Meaning "pale" in German, helles beers are straw colored, and less hoppy and bitter than pilsners. They exhibit a clean, bready malt flavor, and average around 5% ABV.
Kolsch: Originating in Cologne, Germany, Kolsch is a top fermenting ale that is bright yellow in color and has a pronounced hop bitterness. Brewers in Cologne came up with it in response to the pilsners that were coming out of southern Germany. The ABV is around 4.8%.
Marzen: Meaning "March". This style was developed in response to Duke Albrecht V's decree that no beer could be brewed during the summer months. This beer was brewed during the month of March, and stored (lagered) during the summer months for consumption in the fall. It is an amber colored lager with a full body and an ABV around 5-5.5%. It was originally introduced at Oktoberfest in 1841 by the Spaten Brewery in Munich.
Rouchbier: Or "smoke beer", can be made in any style, but is generally a medium strength lager that is brewed with smoked malt. The style originates from the area around Bamberg, Germany; a fantastic old medieval city. Many beers may have exhibited a smokiness prior to the advances in malting and kilning during the 1800's, but the folks in Bamberg are famous for continuing the smoky tradition.
Weissbier: Or "white beer". This is Bavaria's classic style and must be made with at least 50% malted wheat. These beers are usu'lly unfiltered and have a high degree of yeast sediment in them. Known outside of Germany as "Hefe-weizen" (German for "yeast wheat"), this beer is actually one of Germany's only top fermenting beers. The style is known for its phenolic attributes, which give the beer notes of clove, banana or even bubble gum. While many will add a slice of lemon to this beer, that practice does not come from Germany, where they find that the lemon overpowers the beer's delicate aroma and the lemon oil destroys the foamy head on the beer.
Most of the information presented comes from the utterly fantastic book: The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Garrett Oliver of the Brooklyn Brewery, copyright 2012.
West Vail Liquor Mart
Wednesday, April 3rd 2013
Pairing food and wine really brings out the best of both. A lot of wines and food can be accentuated with the right match. Spring is a time that always gets me outside enjoying the weather and coincidently matches up with Rose release time! A cheese and fruit platter is a great option for the spring. Here are a few classic pairings worth exploring.
Bieler Rose 11.99(dried fruits and nuts) Rose is so versatile. I have been drinking a lot of Rose lately and it really does compliment so many foods. Some classic pairings with Rose would be minimally prepared seafood, cheeses, dried fruits, grilled meats… really does well with a lot. The Bieler Rose is “Made in the traditional Provencal way. Direct to press within two hours of picking so very limited skin juice contact to emphasize freshness over density. We select from five hillside vineyards surrounding the city of Aix en Provence. Fermentation is in stainless steel and concrete tanks. Lees are stirred during and after fermentation to add some body. Five years ago when we started producing in Coteaux d’Aix the growers we were working with had very little cinsault planted, a grape that we think is important in a proper rosé blend. Finally some of those new vineyards have matured and the blend is now 15% cinsault. Over the last few years we have also been steering the winemaking and blending to maximize complexity over power” http://bielerpereetfils.com. I believe this wine is great with dried apricots, pistachios or any other fruit and nut mix. Great acidity and fresh fruit flavors marry brilliantly.
Nic Feuillatte Brut 39.99(Triple crème Brie) Champagne and Brie is a match made in heaven. The creaminess of the cheese is complimented by the toasty, bready flavors of the champagne. A real treat. The Brut is composed of 20% Chard, 40% Pinot Noir and 40% Pinot Meunier. “Delicate on the palate, characterized by finesse and elegance. Impressive aromatic breadth, creamy texture, appealing freshness, a fruit extravaganza.” http://www.nicolas-feuillatte.com/en/the-collection/the-must-have/brut I paired this wine with “Fromage d’Affinois.” This is milder triple crème brie. This pair is a really lovely combination.
Jolivet Sancerre 26.99 (Chevre) usually things from the exact same area go hand in hand. This wine and cheese are both from the Loire Valley and truly are one of the perfect pairings. The chalky minerality in this 100%Sauvignon Blanc combines perfectly with the goat cheese. “Boucheron” Loire France is a pungent goat cheese that really is a classic example of chevre. Not much to be said about this pairing… you just must try it.
Get out there and eat some cheese and drink some wine.
Nick, Wine Buyer
Wednesday, April 3rd 2013
What makes wine pink? The most traditional and in my opinion the only way to add coloring to your wine is through skin contact. Initially all wines, even red grapes, produce juice that runs clear. There are three major ways to produce rosé wine: skin contact, saignée and blending. Skin contact is probably the most common and traditional. For rose, the skins are allowed contact typically for one to three days. They then press the must and get rid of the skins for the remainder of fermentation. Saignee, is a French term for essentially bleeding the wine. When a producer wants to intensify his or her red wine they will “bleed” some of the wine in the early stages of skin contact to concentrate the volume of juice for the red wine. The early pulled juice is fermented separately and boom; you got rose. Blending is not the most fashionable and desired method of producing rose. It is simply mixing red and white wine, already fermented, to get a pinkish hue.
Although they produce rose nearly everywhere they produce wine. I would like to discuss a few from what I believe to be the top rose producing regions currently; The South of France, Spain, and the United States. Three wines, three different produces and three different grape compositions all to produce the gateway to summer… rose.
France. Chateau D’Esclans “Whispering Angel” (24.99)
When talking about rose the Provence region of France is probably the most notable. The Chateau is located on elevated land outside of Marseille near the ancient Roman town of Frejus. The soil is a complex blend; lower elevations are comprised of gravel and sand. The higher elevations are a combination of chalk and clay. The wine is made from grenache, cinsault, mouvedre mostly. This is a very typical blend of grapes from this particular region. The wine is hand harvested and carefully de-stemmed and soft crushed at a cool temperature to avoid additional coloration. It’s fresh, clean and dry with great acidity. A real crowd pleaser, in my opinion; what rose should be.
Oregon. Van Duzer Rose (16.99)
This Rose is made from 100% pinot noir. This is considered a dry rose with a few tannins showing through, but plenty of acidity. The soils are primarily uplifted marine sedimentary loams and silts, with alluvial overlays and a base of uplifting basalt. Van Duzer sits in a unique location just south of Mcminnville and actually has an area called the “Van Duzer Corridor” named after them. This corridor pushes dry winds into the area from the coast helping cool the grapes because of its low elevation. Strawberry, watermelon and mineral flavors dominate this porch pounder.
Spain. Muga Rose (16.99)
Composed of 60% garnacha, 30% viura and 10% tempranillo this dry rose is allowed 12 hours of maceration with the skins. The soils in this part of Rioja are a calcareous clay and alluvial. The wine ferments for 25 days in 1000 liter wooden vats and then kept there for 2 months before it is bottled. Peach, pear and cherries slightly green (not ripe). Great acid, great wine…enjoy
Nick, Wine Buyer
Wednesday, March 27th 2013
The Cicerone Certification Program is a course of beer study founded by Ray Daniels in 2007. Daniels is a beer author and judge, and is well respected in the beer community. He is a member of the Senior Faculty of the Siebel Institute of Technology, America's oldest brewing school, and author of Designing Great Beers (Brewers Publications, 1998) and Best of American Beer and Food (Brewers Publications, 1997)
The word cicerone was originally used to describe a person who conducts museum or sightseeing tours. Daniels has coined it to describe someone who leads others through the world of beer. In some ways it is the beer world's answer to the sommelier. While classically, sommeliers should possess good knowledge about all alcoholic beverages, the term has become increasingly associated with the wine world, and many trained sommeliers do not have a good knowledge of beer. The Cicerone Certification Program is trademarked, and is generally considered by those in the beer industry to be the standard certification program for beer knowledge.
The program is comprised of three levels of certification: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone and Master Cicerone. The basic Certified Beer Server level can be completed over the internet, and is comprised of questions revolving around knowledge of beer styles, production, serving beer and proper storage. The Certified Cicerone level is much more intense, requiring knowledge of the history of beer, technical aspects of brewing, tap systems and their operation, a deeper knowledge of beer styles, beer flaws and off flavors, as well as tasting and pairing of beer with food. The Master Cicerone Certification delves even deeper into the brewing process and requires superior knowledge of all aspects of beer. The tests for these levels of certification must be taken in person, and are offered at various times and places around the country each year. These tests are comprised of written questions, essays and tasting skills.
How does this pertain to you? Well, if you have any interest in beer, or if you work at all in the beverage industry, the Cicerone program is a great place to learn. The website, cicerone.org, and its links to other related pages offer a wealth of beer knowledge that can aid someone with even a mild interest in beer. Topics covered range from how to properly wash a glass so that it is "beer clean" to the basics of malt and beer brewing. Learn how to properly store your beer, and find out what causes off flavors or a skunky taste in your beer. Learn about the myriad of hops available today, how to maintain and clean tap lines, find descriptions of beer styles from around the world or begin to explore the art of beer and food pairing. Even if you don't plan on becoming a Certified Cicerone there is much that can be learned from the site, and you can focus on the aspects of beer that interest you, without having to learn everything there is to know about beer. Try the 60 question Certified Beer Server test to see just how much you do know, and what areas you may want to learn more about. Whether you are just beginning to get into beer, or have been sipping the suds for decades, the Cicerone Program is a great place to round out your knowledge.
Sunday, March 3rd 2013
Original settlers in America used the native corn to make the first beers, which were all warm fermented ales. Brewing grew along the east coast as the population centers grew. Lagers were introduced to the American brewing scene in 1840 by John Wagner, who procured bottom fermenting lager yeast from Bavaria and began brewing in Philadelphia. During the middle of the 1800's millions of immigrants came to the U.S. Many came from Germany and Ireland, big beer drinking countries. The middle to late 1800's were a heyday for brewing in the U.S., and lager style beers made up the vast majority of the beer produced, and breweries began experimenting with adjuncts such as corn and rice to lighten the beers, and to hedge against any possible shortages of barley. While breweries in the east had the larger population centers and a solid head start, brewers in the Midwest eventually outpaced those in the east. In Milwaukee, men such as Frederick Pabst, Joseph Schlitz, Carl Best and Frederick Miller all became very influential in the brewing business. In St. Louis, Adolphus Busch married Eberhard Anheuser's daughter Lilly, and went into business with Anheuser; and, spurred on by friend Carl Conrad who had tasted the crisp lagers in the Czech town of Pilsn, began brewing Budweiser. The brewers in the Midwest are credited with a strong entrepreneurial spirit that advanced new technologies in brewing to help them ship their beers throughout the U.S. Midwestern brewers are credited with bringing such advances as artificial refrigeration, pasteurization, automated bottling lines and refrigerated rail cars to the U.S. brewing scene. They brought experienced European scientists into their state of the art labs to help advance brewing techniques. By 1910 there were 1498 breweries in the U.S.
However the late 1800's also saw a growing opposition to beer in the U.S. Starting around 1850, the temperance movement began in the United States when Maine passed a prohibition law. Within 5 years, 11 other states followed with their own prohibition laws. Over the next few decades various temperance organizations sprung up, and eventually coalesced into the Anti Saloon League (ASL) led by Wayne Wheeler. By 1902 the ASL had offices in 39 states and territories. The brewing industry did not take the movement seriously, and by 1909, 46 million Americans lived in dry territories. Unable, or unwilling to band together to fight the temperance movement, almost 500 breweries went out of business between 1909 and 1919. The U.S. Brewers Association finally reacted in 1913, sponsoring the National Association of Commerce and Labor, which was primarily made up of grain and hop farmers, glass and bottle cap manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and saloon keepers. The organization turned to the National German-American Alliance, a group dedicated to preserving German culture, for help and support in fighting against the temperance movement. However, when the U.S. went to war against Germany in World War I, the association with this alliance actually hurt the Brewers Association.
Prohibition began in May of 1919. Some breweries were able to stay afloat by making things such as near beer, ice cream and other products. Organized crime began making alcoholic beverages, and a violent era ensued. Prohibition was repealed in 1932. By 1935 there were only 703 breweries in the U.S. Over the next 45 years beer consumption rose in the U.S., but the mass production of beer resulted in a consolidation of the number of breweries in America. By 1978 there were 89 breweries in the U.S., owned by less than 50 companies. The Midwestern breweries were able to take over the national market by mass producing beer cheaper than the smaller urban breweries. Mass advertising and television spread the word about such beers as Budweiser, Miller, Pabst and Schlitz, further entrenching them as top national producers, and leading to the reduction in the number of breweries overall. Light lager style beers ruled America.
Things began to change in the 1970's. Fritz Maytag bought the failing Anchor Brewery in San Francisco, and revived the traditional Anchor Steam Beer, a lager fermented in open vats at higher temperatures like an ale. Jack McAuliffe was intrigued by the beers he encountered in Scotland while in the Navy, and opened the New Albion Brewery in Sonoma, California upon his return to the U.S. in 1976. This is credited as being America's first "microbrewery." New Albion only lasted 4 years. Other early "microbrewers" were men such as William Newman, who opened the Newman Brewing Company in Albany, New York in 1979. Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi opened the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, California 1982. On October 14th, 1978, Jimmy Carter repealed prohibition era legislation that outlawed the brewing of beer at home, and home brewing and subsequently the craft beer movement in the U.S. really began to take off.
According to the Huffington Post, as of December 13th, 2012, there were 2751 breweries operating in the U.S.
The Brewers Association was established by Charlie Papazian in 2005 through a merger of the Association of Brewers and the Brewer's Association of America. It is a not for profit trade group whose stated purpose is to "promote and protect small and independent American brewers, their craft beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts." The Brewers Association defines a craft brewery in 3 ways:
Small: Annual production is 6 million barrels or less.
Independent: Less than 25% of the brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.
Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.
The Brewers Association is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, and sponsors the Great American Beer Festival, considered by most to be the largest and most important festival featuring only American beer. The Brewers Association works toward distinguishing craft brewers from the large corporate breweries that are trying to gain market share by imitating the craft movement. The Brewers Association is currently supporting a bill in the House of Representatives called H.R. 494, the small brewers and expanding work force act:
Under current federal law, brewers making less than 2 million barrels annually pay $7 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels they brew, and $18 per barrel on every barrel thereafter. The Small BREW Act would create a new rate structure that reflects the evolution of the craft brewing industry. The rate for the smallest brewers and brewpubs would be $3.50 on the first 60,000 barrels. For production between 60,001 and 2 million barrels the rate would be $16 per barrel. Any brewer that exceeds 2 million barrels (about 1 percent of the U.S. beer market) would begin paying the full $18 rate. Breweries with an annual production of 6 million barrels or less would qualify for these tax rates. (Source: Brewers Association press release of 2/7/2013).
On the other side of the beer business in America are the large domestic breweries, mostly now owned by corporations. Two major corporations now control well over half of the market share of beer sold in the U.S. They are Anheuser Busch/InBev, and Miller/Coors. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, ABI controls about 48% of the current U.S. beer market, while CNN reports that Miller/Coors controls another 29%.
ABI was created in 2008, when InBev, makers of European brands such as Becks, Bass and Stella Artois successfully completed a hostile takeover of Anheuser-Busch. The company is run by Brazilian born Carlos Brito, whose first order of business was to consolidate these worldwide breweries, and to cut corners wherever possible. Beck's and Bass are now brewed in the U.S. InBev has consolidated the buying of their ingredients such as hops and beechwood for aging, and many question whether the beers they currently produce taste the same as the original versions. Currently InBev is trying to buy out Mexico's Grupo Modelo, brewers of Modelo, Corona and Pacifico. The U.S. Justice Department has filed an anti-trust suit to prevent the sale, claiming that if it goes through, InBev and Miller Coors would control between 75% and 80% of the beer sold in the U.S. Many believe that InBev would next turn its sights on acquiring Miller/Coors.
The competition between the large brewers and the small craft brewers has led to a blurring of the lines between the two. Many breweries that began as small craft breweries, such as Leinenkugel, Goose Island and Kona are now owned by the corporate giants, and those beers are not necessarily brewed in their original hometown breweries anymore. The big breweries have also branched out by opening smaller brew houses that produce beers that imitate the smaller craft beers, in an effort to regain some of the market share that the craft brewers have been steadily chipping away at. Coors has A.C. Golden, which produces Blue Moon and Colorado Native. Anheuser Busch/Inbev produces Shocktop and has been coming out with newer craft style beers under the Budweiser label. This has led to a campaign by the Brewers Association to call attention to the trend, which they call Craft vs. Crafty.
But the surge of new breweries and beers continues to be driven by the small craft brewer and home brewers. At the other end of the spectrum of the large corporate breweries are the nanobreweries. These are basically one step up from home brewers, with very small production ability, usually around 10 gallon batches, brewed in garages and basements for the enjoyment of very few local neighbors. Of course these nanobrewers dream big, hoping to one day duplicate the success of the craft brewers before them. Did you know that Sam Calagione, founder of the highly successful Dogfish Head brewery started as a nanobrewer?
West Vail Liquor Mart
Much of the information on the history of beer in the U.S. comes from the fantastic book, The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Garrett Oliver.
Other sources include:
The Brewer's Association web site: www.brewersassociation.org/
Bloomberg Businessweek - The Plot to Destroy America's Beer: www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-10-25/the-plot-to-destroy-americas-beer
CNN - Bud, Corona don't mix, Justice says: www.cnn.com/2013/01/31/us/justice-beer
Slate - How nanobreweries are revolutionizing the American beer industry: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/drink/2012/12/nanobrewing_how_tiny_beer_making_operations_are_changing_the_industry.html
Saturday, February 23rd 2013
Chardonnay… To Oak or not to Oak?
With the question constantly being asked I thought to do a comparison.
The two major chardonnay producing regions, for our store’s purposes at least, are Burgundy and California. Both areas produce chardonnay that will see plenty of oak and both produces wines that essentially see no oak treatment. There are a myriad of variables that contribute to the flavor profile of a particular chardonnay, but we will focus on the three main ingredients that lend themselves to flavoring chardonnay.
Soil type, fermentation and oak treatment.
William Fevre Champs Royaux Chablis (21.99)… Chablis is a region that some keep separate and some include in the wine region of Burgundy. It is the northernmost part of Burgundy if you do include it. These wines traditionally tend to be done without oak, ageing in stainless steel tanks or concrete tanks. This particular wine is comprised from grapes grown on a chalky, marl and marly limestone soil. The soil is filled with minerals and old oyster fossils, being that it is an old seabed, which gives the wine a very mineral character. This wine is gravity fed during vinification, which avoids pumping the wine. The wine sees a brief press to separate the solids and liquid and finally a light settling on the lees which allows alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation to occur naturally. It then matures for 8-10 months in a stainless vat, 10% is matured in French oak. Citrus and mineral flavors dominate this wine creating a very fresh and supple flavor.
Domain Jomain Bourgogne Blanc (24.99)… Although the winery is located in Puligny Montrachet , this particular Bourgogne is sourced from the entire Burgundian area (2.5 hectares that they own. The soil is composed of various types and depths of limestone mixed with marl (clay); Marl is loosely defined as calcium carbonate containing variable amount of clay. They vinify using a pneumatic press. The wines then move to individually determined combination of new, second, and third-year barrels. They never use more than 25% new oak. Then the process of batonnage of lees during period of malo-lactic fermentation is performed. It is then racked, fined and returned to barrel in spring after harvest and bottled with minimal or no filtration.
Morgan Metallico (22.99)… The Morgan winery is situated in the Monterey wine appellation. The soil type in this particular region is a mix of sand and shaly loam. (loam is a combination of sand silt and clay in relatively even proportions). It is hand picked and when it arrives at the winery, the grapes were whole-cluster pressed. After pressing, the juice was cold tank fermented. The wine was not allowed to go through secondary malolactic fermentation and sees no oak aging. It has notes of Pear, lemon, crisp and fresh with relatively high acidity for chardonnay.
The infamous Sonoma Cutrer (26.99)… The Sonoma coast chardonnay is picked from soils made up of sandy clay loam. The wine is hand picked and cold pressed and then aged sur lie for 9 months in French oak. 85% of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation. The wine is split the way they do oak treatment. The breakdown is 20% new French oak, 23% 1 year, 15% 2 years, 15 % 3 years and 27% neutral. This wine has a yellow apple, nuts and spicy character.
To oak or not, that is the question…
Enjoy the chardonnay regardless.
Nick, Wine Buyer West Vail Liquor Mart
Saturday, January 19th 2013
The 13th annual Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival wrapped up recently for another year at Vail's Cascade Resort. The sister and brother team of Laura and Bill Lodge have built this into quite an event, such that some very well known brewer's from around the country consider it a do not miss. From Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione out of Delaware to Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing/Lost Abbey in California, to Alaskan Brewery's Geoff Larson, top notch brewers from around the country have come to recognize this festival as one of a kind. Even breweries that do not distribute in the great state of Colorado feel it's worth their while. Bell's Brewery out of Michigan was represented, even though you can't buy their beer within hundreds of miles of our happy valley.
The festival presents a great mix of beer events over a 3 day span. Brewmaster dinners were offered Thursday and Friday nights, with double beer pairings each night. Avery and Dogfish Head shared Thursday's pairings, while Dry Dock and Firestone Walker took the honors Friday night. The nationally recognized Certified Cicerone program presented a workshop Friday morning, and offered their exam on Friday afternoon. The Cicerone program is the brainchild of Ray Daniels, and is akin to the Sommelier certification for wine. It teaches a curriculum that ranges from draft systems and tap lines, to beer styles from around the world, to subjects such as off flavors in beer and how to pair beer and food together. Friday evening offered a fun beer and cheese pairing competition between four breweries. The brewers from Altitude Chophouse and Brewery, Wits End, Coronado and Alaskan breweries each chose a beer and a cheese to match, and let the group of attendees vote on which was the best pairing. Brewer Shawn DeWitt of Coronado Brewing took home the prize for the second year in a row. Saturday offered more seminars during the daytime. Geoff Larson and Ro Guenzel of Lefthand Brewing put on discussion of smoked beer. Matt Brynildson from Firestone Walker Brewery held a seminar on oak aged beer, and Steven Pauwels from Boulevard Brewery held a seminar on Belgian beers. The seminar on hops, led by All About Beer Magazine's Daniel Bradford was a special treat. Brewer's Nick Ison of Sierra Nevada, Cam O'Connor of Deschutes, and Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing/Lost Abbey each chose one of their hoppiest brews and broke down the hops in the beer. The attendees got to smell and smash up each of the hops in the featured beers to see how they play together to create the overall hop profile for each beer. It was especially interesting to hear how the brewers felt that the individual notes in each hop came together in harmony in their creations. Dozens of homebrewers got in on the act and competed in the homebrew competition, with over 15 styles represented.
Finally came the big event on Saturday afternoon. Three and a half hours of open tasting on some of the biggest, baddest beers on the planet. Avery's Rumpkin, a 16% pumpkin beer aged in Gosling's rum barrels, poured by Adam Avery himself...no problem. Sam Adam's 29% Utopias, a blend of aged beers and perhaps the most expensive beer per ounce in the country (the 5 gallon keg was said to be worth $6000!)...here you are. Dogfish Head was well represented with their eclectic mix of unique and off centered ales. Most of the big boys in craft brewing were there, and the list reads like a beer lovers Christmas list: Allagash, Anchor, Bells, Boulevard, Deschutes, Firestone Walker, Flying Dog, Green Flash, Great Divide, Lagunitas, New Belgium, Ommegang, Oskar Blues, Shmaltz, Sierra Nevada and Stone were all there. Belgians? How about Orval, St. Feuillien's, Westmalle, Dupont, St. Bernardus, Rochefort and La Trappe. Small up and coming breweries? Dry Dock, Funkwerks, Roadhouse, Grand Teton and our valley's own Crazy Mountain and Bonfire Brewing were all in attendance. My favorite? Three Barrel brewing out of tiny Del Norte in southern Colorado puts out the most unique and mouth watering barrel aged sour beers I have ever tasted! And I'm normally a hoppy guy. Due to the large crowd watching Bronco's game, which aired in the foyer area of the festival, there was actually quite a bit of elbow room available in the tasting halls.
During it all the lounge at the Fireside Bar at the Cascade Hotel served as the informal social center for the festival, and poured a seemingly endless variety of unique craft beers that were donated by the various breweries in attendance. For those that couldn't attend any of the organized events, you could still get a great feel for the festival by just hanging out in the bar.
The festival takes place during the 1st or 2nd weekend in January every year, depending on when the holidays fall. Keep an eye out for announcements for next year's festival, which should come out during August or so. Mark your calendar and make every effort to attend. You will not regret it!
Monday, December 24th 2012
The late fall and holiday season is an exciting time in the beer world. As the weather turns colder and the days grow shorter, people begin to forgo the fruity, lighter wheat beers and shandies for heartier brews that offer something special in flavor, and perhaps the warmth of a little extra kick in strength. Just as it might not seem very refreshing to drink a dark, malty 9% ABV beer while lounging in the August sun, a wispy 4.8% wheat beer just may not cut it when trying to get warm around a December fire after a big day on the slopes. And that's one of the great things about beer. It can be made to suit almost any taste or situation, and its ability to be adapted is limited only by the imagination of the brewer.
The tradition of heartier, stronger and often spicier brews can be traced back to ancient traditions based around the winter solstice. Cultures in Northern Europe celebrated the solstice as Yuletide, and brewed special beers for the occasion. Medieval England celebrated with a drink called "lambswool", a Christmas Ale made with roasted apples, nutmeg, ginger and honey. Later came "wassail", a Danish influenced tradition of hot ale that spread throughout England. Originally a general toast to your health, wassail became a popular tradition during the Christmas season in England, and is associated with caroling and holiday celebrations. Wassail and other traditional winter warmers were ales meant to be consumed warm or hot. They were either lightly hopped, or not hopped at all, as hops do not stand up well to being heated. Instead a variety of spices were used to offset the malty sweetness of the beers, and to give them their unique flavors suitable to the colder winter weather. One British tradition was to float toast on top of the hot ale for added flavor. And so the practice of brewing a special beer for Yuletide and Christmas became common from home brewers to commercial brewers and monasteries as well. Spices such as nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, higher malt content for a fuller body, and higher alcohol content, are the hallmarks of these special holiday offerings.
The homogenization of the beer industry worldwide during the middle of the 20th century was not a good time for holiday beer. The consolidation of commercial breweries, popularity of lighter, mass produced lagers and decline in the number of home brewers contributed to make holiday brews seem like a thing of the past. Wassail just wasn't cool anymore. But as the craft beer revolution that began in the late 70's brought a renewed interest in beer styles and brewing traditions, the proliferation of Christmas and holiday beers has had a resurgence. Anchor Brewery in San Francisco came out with their "special ale", otherwise known as Anchor Christmas in 1975. Coors has been brewing its Winterfest since 1985. Belgian style beers lend themselves particularly well to holiday beers, as added spices go well with the candied sugar and wild yeasts already prevalent in their styles. Give the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale or Delirium's Noel a try. Today it seems like most breweries offer some kind of holiday beer or winter seasonal. Some favorites here in Colorado are Breckenridge's Christmas Ale, Avery's Old Jubilation, New Belgium's Frambozen, Odell's Isolation Ale and Hibernation Ale from Great Divide. Upslope Brewery began brewing a Belgian double with secret spices, weighing in at a hearty 8.2% for the holidays this year. And holiday beers are not just limited to Christmas brews. The Schmaltz Brewery of New York and San Francisco celebrates the Hanukah Season with its own gift pack of special releases, complete with menorah.
From American style lagers to spicy Belgian's to barrel aged stouts and porters, there is no shortage of seasonal holiday beers for you to try. So stop on in and treat yourself to a little something special for these cold winter nights. You deserve it!
Wednesday, December 19th 2012
Bordeaux wine is one of the great wine regions of the world. Bordeaux is located in the Southwest of France where the Gironde River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Although it can sometimes feel intimidating, like all other wine regions in France there is a clear system to understanding. Bordeaux is really one of the original blending regions. Unlike Burgundy, Bordeaux allows for a winemaker to really change his or her cuvee from year to year using multiple varietals. The reasons for these changes are because of the different ripeness levels one desires to achieve with each varietal. Bordeaux is one of the very vintage sensitive wine regions of the World and luckily we have had two very excellent vintages back to back with 09 and 10.Although they do grow quite a bit of white wine in Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon primarily) we are going to focus on the red wine production.
There are five classic red Bordeaux grapes that are allowed to be grown: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc.
Bordeaux is primarily split into two main sides; Left Bank and Right Bank (Gironde River) and within these two sides there are many different communes
Right Bank- Pomerol, St. Emilion, Bordeaux Superieur, Cote de Bourg and Cote de Blaye- These wines tend to be Merlot driven.
Left Bank- Haut Medoc, Medoc, St. Estephe, St. Julien, Margaux, Pauillac, Graves, Sauternes- these wines tend to be Cabernet driven. (Graves/Sauternes is mainly focused on white and dessert style wines)
Unlike Burgundy with its negociants, Bordeaux wine production is done from single properties or Chateaus. Some Chateaus are obviously situated better than others. So in 1855 the French wine lawmakers categorized the best into 5 distinct Grand Cru groups called growths. 1st growths, 2nd growths and so on… if you didn’t make the cut in 1855, sorry. Haven’t reclassified anything since; by the way Pomerol and St. Emilion did not even make it into the discussion so they did their own thing a little later on.
Here are some wines currently available from the distinguished 09 vintage…
Ch. Teyssier- Wine has been here since the 1700’s. It is one of the larger Bordeaux producers with the 2009 vintage yielding over 15,000 cases. Recently the estate has changed ownership and the new team has transformed the wine and the estate. They have renovated the estate, vineyard, winery, barrel cellar, and the approach; taking a more modern stance on the wine. Eighty-five per cent Merlot with the remainder being met by Cabernet Franc, the wine originates from the communes of Saint Sulpice de Faleyrens and Vignonet. Most of the soil type in these regions is sand which is common on the right bank of the Gironde. The wine now can be approached young, out of the bottle but still possesses potential to age. $44.99
Robert Parker POINTS 89-91: This is a big production cuvee of 15,000 cases from a vineyard whose terroir is not considered to be particularly good. Consequently, it is always fascinating to see how much character proprietor Jonathan Maltus is able to extract. The 2009 Teyssier possesses a dense ruby/purple color as well as smoky barbecue notes intermixed with creme de cassis, black cherries, and earth. Ripe, generous, and medium to full-bodied, it should drink beautifully young yet age for 10-12+ years.
Ch Beaumont- Beaumont is located in the Haut-Medoc on the left bank of the Gironde River. The wine is composed of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. It has a production of about 42000 cases. This region of Bordeaux is famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon and the Garonne Gravel Ridges that make up the soil are assumed to be some of the best in the world for this varietal. The 2009 vintage was fruity and dark, absent of some the herbaceous notes that can sometimes be associated with wines of this region. Ripe tannins allow for a smooth finish and this wine can be enjoyed now or cellared for 10-15 years. $29.99
Clos des Moiselles- This is a great little Cotes de Bourg, which is northeast of Bordeaux itself. There are a lot of value driven wines coming from this region and Bordeaux Superieur. This wine is composed of 45% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec grown on clay and limestone soils. This wine is dark and ruby in color and is a wine meant to be enjoyed sooner than most Bordeaux style wines. With a touch of oak ageing this is a great alternative to Bordeaux being that it is ready to drink and value driven. $19.99
Sunday, December 2nd 2012
Finding the wine you want!
Sometimes picking out a bottle of wine can be very intimidating. Let’s say you don’t necessarily drink wine regularly or you may be visiting someone who seems to be very particular in their wine choices. Just settling for a good label or consistently going back to a wine you feel comfortable with is just not fun or beneficial. You will never put your finger on exactly what you like if you do not try, try and try. Sometimes you will fail, but that is part of the process. You are constantly dialing in on the flavor profile that pleases you the most. Wine knowledge is exponential, the more you know, the more there is to know.
Here at the West Vail Liquor Mart we have our wine separated in a few different ways. All of our domestic wine (California, Oregon, Washington, etc.) is split up by Varietal. For those of you who are not familiar with the term varietal, it is just referring to the type of grape used to make the wine. For example; Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir are all types of varietals. All of our international wine is separated by region. Chilean wine is in the section labeled Chile, Australia with Australia. A lot of the New World wines (Australia, New Zealand, South America, U.S.) have the varietal listed on the label. Most Old World wines (France, Italy, and Spain) do not necessarily list the type of varietal, which can make these wines more difficult to discern. Specific regions in these Old World wines tend to have guidelines which require them to use certain varietals in certain regions. For example; Burgundy is a region in France and Red Burgundian wine is made with Pinot Noir, White Burgundian wine is made with Chardonnay. So we also try and separate the wines by region as well; that way you know what general flavor profile is offered. The French wine is broken up into Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace, Rhone, etc. The Italian and Spanish wine is generally broken up by region as well.
So none of this really helps you find the wine you were thinking of. How do you even know what type of wines you really like? This goes back to the intimidation thing. A lot of wine terminology can be difficult and quite frankly stops people from going any further. You may know you like Chardonnay and hate Pinot Grigio and that is how you always make your decision; always Chardonnay. But why not try some Grenache Blanc, or maybe try some White Burgundy (which is Chardonnay!). Wine is not made to be academic; it is made to be enjoyed. One of my favorite things about drinking wine is choosing it. The process that goes into making a decision about what wine to drink is fun. Some questions I ask myself are: Will I be eating with this wine? If so, what kind of cuisine? What is my price point? Not all of us can drink top shelf wine every evening. Producers realize that and make a ton of great affordable options. I have really been enjoying wines from the south of France, the Languedoc to be specific, and Spain recently. I feel that there is a lot of great quality for value prices coming out of these regions. If you are a California Cabernet drinker and have become frustrated with some of the pricing, why not branch out and try some Malbec or Cabernet from Chile or Argentina. Our staff at the West Vail Liquor Mart is very knowledgeable when it comes to wine so please use us to help you. As I have educated myself on wine I have found many gems along the way. Like I said the more you know, the more there is to know. Please do not be afraid to ask a question or try something new.
Enjoy the process,
Nick, buyer W.V.L.M.
Saturday, December 1st 2012
December is upon us, and the anticipation for the real winter to begin is becoming unbearable for many. However, the beer world keeps chugging along, and is in full winter holiday mode. Here is a list of the new and seasonal products now in stock in West Vail Liquor's beer department. Stop on in and help quench your thirst for winter weather with our new selections!
Holiday Gift Sets:
Boulevard: 4 twelve ounce bottles (Double Wide IPA, Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, Long Strange Trippel and 6th Glass Quadruple) with a nice glass goblet. $19.49.
Chimay: 3 eleven ounce bottles (red, white and blue labels) with the classic Chimay chalice. $19.99.
Gulden Draak: 6 bottles (330ml) of pure Belgian bliss along with a special goblet. 10.5% ABV. $41.99.
Gulden Draak mixed set: 3 bottles of Gulden Draak and 3 bottles of Gulden Draak Quadruple along with a special goblet. 10.5% ABV. $41.99.
He'Brew: 8 different bottles of beer, plus a tasting glass and candle set. $29.99.
Lindemans: One bottle of Framboise and one bottle of Pomme (apple), each 375ml, along with a festive fluted glass. $14.49.
Petrus: Well known for their stand out Belgian sour ales. This set contains an 11oz bottle each of: Blonde, Double Bruin, Goulden Tripel, Speciale, Oud Bruin and Aged Pale. $41.99.
Sam Smith: The classic Yorkshire Brewery. A 17oz bottle each of their IPA, Nut Brown and Oatmeal Stout along with a British pint glass. $10.99.
Alaska Winter Ale: Made with spruce tips for a truly unique alpine flavor. 6.4% ABV. $9.99/6pk bottles.
Anderson Valley Winter Solstice: Rich, complex and slightly sweet. 6.9%ABV. $11.49/6pk bottles.
Avery Old Jubilation: A bold and malty warmer from one of our favorite breweries. 8.3%ABV. $10.99/6pk bottles.
Bear Republic Racer X: A big double IPA. Zoom Zoom! 8.3% ABV. $9.49 for a 22oz bottle.
Boulder Never Summer: Dark caramel malts and lots of hops are featured in this beer from Colorado's oldest micro-brewery. 5.9% ABV. $9.49/6pk bottles.
Breckenridge Christmas Ale: A Colorado favorite! 7.4% ABV. $9.49/6pk bottles, or $18.99 for a 5 liter mini-keg. Great for parties!
Bridgeport Old Ebenezer: Bridgeport was not a scrooge with these ingredients. A rich, malty brew. 6.4% ABV. $8.99/6pk bottles.
Colorado Cider Company Old Stumpy: A premium cider aged in chardonnay barrels. 6.95% ABV. $14.99 for a 750ml bottle.
Delirium Noel: One of our most popular holiday beers. A Belgian treat! 10% ABV. $14.49 for a 750ml bottle.
De Rank Pere Noel: An exceptional Belgian ale brewed with spices for the holidays. 7% ABV. $16.99 for a 750ml bottle.
Deschutes Abyss: The legendary barrel aged stout is back in very limited supply. 11.1% ABV. $14.99 for a 22oz bottle.
Deschutes Jubelale: A festive winter brew from the northwest. 6.7%ABV. $8.99/6pk bottles.
Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin: A delicious oatmeal stout from the award winning California brewery. 5.5% ABV. $9.99/6pk bottles.
Full Sail Wassail: A true winter warmer at an affordable price. 7.2%ABV. $7.49/6pk bottles.
Gouden Carolus Noel: A favorite seasonal Belgian holiday beer! 10.5% ABV. $22.99/4pk bottles.
Great Divide Hibernation: A malty beer indeed! 8.7% ABV. $10.49/6pk bottles.
He'Brew Jewbelation Sweet 16: 16 malts, 16 hops, 16% ABV. Wow! $9.99 for a 22oz bottle.
Huvila Arctic Circle Ale: A unique beer from Finland. Rich and hearty with a slight touch of spruce. This beer is something a little different and delicious! 7.3% ABV. $9.99 for a 17oz bottle.
JK Scrumpy's Winter Solstice Cider: One of the most delicious items we have! Taste the goodnes...it won’t last long. $6.9% ABV. $9.99 for a 22oz bottle.
Lagunitas Brown Shugga: A new staff favorite. This slightly sweet brown ale is yummy! 9.9% ABV. $10.99/6pk bottles.
New Belgium Snow Day: Made with Midnight Wheat. Lighter bodied than many of the winter seasonals. 6.2% ABV. $8.99/6pk bottles.
New Belgium Frambozen: A brown raspberry ale. Now this is the way to make a fruity beer! 6.5% ABV. $10.49/6pk bottles.
New Belgium Lips of Faith: Coffee/Chocolate Stout: Lots of coffee in this one! 9% ABV. $7.49 for a 22oz bottle.
Odell Isolation Ale: A malty winter warmer. 6.1%ABV. $10.99/6pk bottles.
Odell Friek: An oak aged ale with cherries and raspberries. Great to share with dessert. 6.5%ABV. $18.99 for a 750ml bottle.
Odell Mountain Standard: A big rich double black IPA. 9.5%ABV. $10.99/4pk bottles.
Ridgeway Bad Elf and Criminally Bad Elf: Two British holiday selections exhibiting the classic English biscuit and malt flavors. The Criminally Bad Elf is the same recipe as the famous Thomas Hardy ale. Bad Elf: 6% ABV. $6.99 for a 17oz bottle. Criminally Bad Elf: 10.5% ABV. $8.49 for a 17oz bottle.
Ridgeway Lump of Coal: A bold, toasty stout, and way better than an actual lump of coal in your stocking! 8% ABV. $7.99 for 17oz bottle.
Rogue Santa: A hoppy holiday offering from the Oregon brewery. 6% ABV. $7.49 for a 22oz bottle.
Rogue Yellow Snow IPA: A crisp, hoppy IPA in the west coast style. 6.5% ABV. $14.49/6pk bottles.
Sam Smith Winter Welcome: Let's get this winter rolling! 6% ABV. $4.69 for a 17oz bottle.
Sierra Nevada Narwhal: A big Imperial Stout. Yum! 10.2%ABV. $9.99/6pk bottles.
Sierra Nevada Celebration: A fresh hop delight! 6%ABV. $9.49/6pk & $16.49/12pk bottles.
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale: An ale brewed with spices from one of Belgium's most famous abbey breweries. 10% ABV. $14.99 for a 750ml bottle.
Straffe Hendrik Heritage 2011: A special release quadruple ale, aged for over a year in oak barrels in the cellar of this historic Bruge brewery. Rare and ageable. $28.99 for a 750ml bottle.
Stone Double Bastard: Double the recipe, double the goodness! 11.2% ABV. $8.99 for a 22oz bottle.
Upslope Christmas Ale: A Belgian double style ale brewed with spices from the Boulder brewery. 8.2% ABV. $3.99 for a 16oz can.
Budweiser Project 12: Bud put out a challenge to its brewmasters to come up with something different, and this mixed 12 pack has the top four resulting creations. Some nice variations on your traditional Bud! $15.49/12pk bottles.
Brunehaut Amber: They say it's gluten free, but you wouldn't be able to tell the difference from a standard Belgian Amber. Tasty! 6.5% ABV. $13.99/4pk bottles.
Crabbies Ginger Beer: Unique and super refreshing served over ice. Imported from Scotland. 4.8%ABV. $10.99/4pk bottles.
Crazy Mountain Boohai Red Ale: The newest offering from our local brewery features New Zealand hops in a classic red ale. 6% ABV. $9.99/6pk cans.
Crazy Mountain Cara de Luna: The boys and girls at the brewery got their bottling line working, and this is the first in their series of 22 ounce bombers. A surprisingly smooth black ale. 5.5% ABV. $4.49 for a 22oz bottle.
Crazy Mountain Hookiebob IPA: A bright hoppy IPA with a nice bitter finish. 6.7% ABV. $4.99 for a 22oz bottle.
Elevation Apis IV Quadrupel with Honey: A nice big Belgian style from the little town of Poncha Springs, CO. 10.7% ABV. $10.49 for a 750ml bottle.
Full Sail LTD #6 Lager: A hearty dark lager with notes of coffee and chocolate. 7% ABV. $7.49/6pk bottles.
Magic Hat - #9, Circus Boy & Heart of Darkness: One of the east coasts favorite breweries is finally shipping to Colorado. The apricot lager, hefe-weizen and stout each comes in a 6 pack at $8.99.
Rogue Old Crustacean Barleywine: A big strong beer in a unique ceramic flip top 750ml bottle. 11.5% ABV. $19.99.
Rogue Roguenbier Rye: Rogue's newest offering in their Grow Your Own series, where the ingredients come from their own farms. 6.6% ABV. $7.49 for a 22oz bottle.
Sam Adams Hop Tour: A mixed 6 pack with two bottles each of the Noble Pils, Lattitude 48 IPA and Whitewater Wheat IPA. $9.49/6pk bottles.
Sam Smith Organic Chocolate Stout: Rich, foamy and chocolaty. An adult milkshake! 5% ABV. $3.99 for a 17oz bottle.
Shocktop End of the World Midnight Wheat: A dark version made with Midnight Wheat, chocolate malt, chili and spices. 6% ABV. $8.99/6pk bottles.
Straffe Hendrick Tripel & Quadruple: If you are looking for something special, this could be for you. Two fantastic brews from De Halve Maan Brewery in Bruges, Belgium. The Tripel is the best I've ever had! Each is 11.2% ABV. $21.99/4pk bottles.
Sunday, November 25th 2012
Wines of the Loire Valley
The Loire wine region spans from the Atlantic coast near the city of Nantes along the Loire River to just southeast of Orleans in North/Central France. There is actually 87 little sub appellations in the Loire. Its winemaking history dates back the 1st century and these were the most esteemed wines in France during the high middle ages. The Loire is pretty far north, almost on the boundary of where grapes can be grown; but the river provides a few extra degrees; making pretty ideal conditions for some of these cool climate varietals.
Regions within the Loire Valley; coordinating grapes and characteristics:
Sancerre and Pouilly Fume-
White- Sauvignon Blanc mainly (If you see wine labeled Pouilly-sur-Loire the grape is probably chasselas) Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre is probably the most recognized wine of the Loire region. Traditionally Sancerre has a little more racy acid; grapefruity flavors while Pouilly Fume is a bit more full bodied and rich in texture. The two areas are on opposite sides of the Loire River about 16 km apart. Limestone soil interspersed with silex flint give these Sauvignon Blanc’s a unique flavor profile.
Red- Only white wine is produced in Pouilly Fume but Sancerre produces white, red and rose. Pinot Noir is the grape used in Sancerre Rouge. These are usually pretty light pinots with characteristics similar to Burgundian Pinot Noir.
Chinon- Cabernet Franc! Some of the most distinct and famous Cabernet Franc regions of the world! The wines raspberry hues are accented by good fresh red fruit flavors and dominated by a distinct touch of graphite. The wines of Bourgueil are Cabernet Franc as well but tend to be a touch bigger; firmer tannins. Traditionally served chilled?
Muscadet- Melon de Bourgogne? This is the westernmost region of the Loire, buts up to the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Loire. Melon de Bourgogne has no relation to the Muscat grape. These wines are a great pair with shellfish, arguably one of the best shellfish regions of the world. The wines are light and fresh and tend to be bottled sur lie: Straight from the tank, no fining or filtering. This gives them a bit of a fuller body and really accentuates the freshness. Yum.
Vouvray/Touraine- Chenin Blanc, S.B., Gamay... little Chard, little Pinot, little Malbec. This is probably the most diverse region within the Loire. Vouvray is definitely the most recognizable and is made exclusively Chenin Blanc. The range from sweet to bone dry and should be labeled as such on the bottle. Touraine is primarily known for gamay (red) and Sauvignon Blanc.
Saumur- Sparkling wine? Located around the town of Angers, the Saumur region is known for their rose’s made primarily from Cabernet Franc and Anjou Blanc made from primarily Chenin Blanc. Believe it or not Saumur, the Loire Valley, is the third largest sparkling wine producing region in France. Most of the sparking wine is made from Chenin Blanc, rather than Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir.
If you are thinking of getting of the beaten path with your French wine selections, the Loire Valley offers multiple options to fit any palate. Enjoy.
Nico, Buyer, West Vail Liquor Mart
Tuesday, November 6th 2012
West Vail Liquor Mart's Thanksgiving wine suggestions to complement your special dinner.
Pinot Noir: A traditional favorite and pairs nicely with most flavors.
- Migration $39.99
- La Crema $24.99
- Van Duzer $17.99
- Pinot Project $14.99
- Mark West $11.99
Syrah/Shiraz: This red easily pairs with the flavors of the holiday meal and adds intensity and peppery notes.
- Landmark $29.99
- Molly Dooker $25.99
- Milbrandt Syrah $14.99
- Woop Woop $13.99
Zinfandel: A heartier red with deeper flavors that works well with turkey and side dishes.
- Seghesio Sonoma Zin $22.99
- Cline Ancient Vines $15.99
- Gnarly Head Old Vine $12.99
Pinot Grigio: A light, crisp white wine known for its delicate flavors. It works well with the heavy, buttery flavors.
- Elk Cove $18.99
- Santa Margherita $25.99
- Van Duzer $13.99
Chardonnay: A perennial favorite with many meals. Can be crisp and acidic or buttery and creamy.
- Kistler $74.99
- Chalk Hill $44.99
- Ferrari Carano $24.99
- Simi $17.99
- Milbrandt $12.99
Riesling: This wine can be moderately sweet or bone dry. Great with any dish that has a little spice.
- Donnhoff Estate $19.99
- Dr. Loosen $14.99
- Kung Fu Girl $14.99
- Milbrandt $12.99
Gewurztraminer: A white wine that can be dry or sweet. It pairs nicely with flavorful side dishes and also desserts.
- Weinbach $27.99
- Trimbach $24.99
- Chateau St. Michelle $11.99
Champagne & Sparkling: A bubbly sparkling wine that works well as a starter or with dessert. Pairs easily with most foods.
- Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut $54.99
- Nicolas Feuillatte Brut $39.99
- Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir or Brut $19.99
- Domaine Ste. Michelle $14.99
Dessert wines: A special offering after a big meal or in place of dessert. Also a nice gift for the chef.
- Loosen Erdener Auslese $35.99
- Dr. Loosen Beerenauslese 187ml $24.99
- Mad Cuvee 500ml $24.99
Visit West Vail Liquor Mart at www.westvail.com or 970-476-2675 or 2151 N. Frontage Road, Vail CO
Wednesday, October 31st 2012
A recent trip to Birmingham, England gave me a great opportunity to explore the beer culture there, and to learn more about the history and current state of British beer. The tradition of brewing in Britain is as important to the history of beer as that of Belgium and Germany. Britain is famous for two things in the brewing world: ale, or more specifically cask ale, and the British pub.
Cask Ale is the heart and soul of British beer. Unlike bars in America, where kegs are received in serving condition, and poured through taps that use carbon dioxide, British pubs serve beer from casks that mature in their cellars. Traditionally secondary fermentation happens in the casks. Carbonation occurs naturally, and beer is not refrigerated or pasteurized. Cask ale is drawn to the taps through hand pumps, so no CO2 is used at all. Therefore it is important to have a good cellar master who knows how long to mature the beer in the casks and when to begin serving it. Traditional ales are typically between 3.6% and 4.5% ABV (alcohol by volume).
British pubs are iconic and known for being cozy "2nd homes" where people gather for communal drinking and socializing. Ales are traditionally the drink of choice, and each pub is unique in its own way. One of Britain's main tourist attractions are its pubs.
The history of beer in Britain began with Anglo Saxons who colonized the islands and brought beer with them in the 4th century. Brewing became wide spread in homes, which eventually led to ale houses and on to the public houses or pubs. Originally ale was the term for un-hopped beer. Flemish immigrants brought hops with them and these drinks were distinguished from ale and called beer. Over time the terms became interchangeable as almost all contained hops. Monasteries helped spread the craft and standardize the brewing process. But after the monasteries were wiped out by Henry the VIII, Britain's history of beer took a different course than that of Belgium. As was the case throughout Europe, beer in Britain was seen as a source of clean water, safer than the often contaminated water from rivers during the middle ages, and also as a source of nutrition. A source of British pride, beer was considered an important way of making the population strong and healthy.
The Industrial Revolution brought larger breweries into play as the city centers grew, and the departure from the tradition of small local brewing began. Competition helped lower prices and increase the idea of large scale brewing. During this time breweries were pioneers in steam power, coke smelting, microbiology, and the growth and streamlining of transportation systems. The main style of beer enjoyed during the Industrial Revolution was porter, deriving its name from the porters that carried goods throughout London. Harwood's brewery in London is credited with perfecting porters. Strong porters became known as extra stouts, and Arthur Guinness brought this style back to Dublin, perfecting the Guinness stout. Whitbread, Truman and Barclay also were famous for brewing porters during the mid 1800's.
IPA's (Imperial Pale Ales) began as a tiny fraction of the beer market in Britain. They were originally intended for the growing British empire in India, and were made hoppy and strong to survive the long voyage to India, which also conditioned the beers. George Hodgson's brewery in London was the first to produce these beers for the East India Company to export. But a falling out with Hodgson led the East India Company to approach brewers in Burton on Trent, who had a good reputation for producing sweet Burton ales for export to Russia and the Baltic region. As the Russian market dried up, brewers in Burton on Trent concentrated on brewing IPA's. Samuel Alsopp copied Hodgon's ales, and it was discovered that the combination of minerals and salts in the Burton water, filtered through layers of gravel, was superior to the water in London for brewing, and produced a much better beer. The brewing of IPA's in Burton on Trent took off, and it became one of the most important brewing centers of the world during the 1800's. IPA's eventually became popular in Britain itself after the glass tax was repealed in the 1850's. Drinking through glass allowed the Brits to see the impurities in the porter style, and gave rise to the popularity of the clearer IPA. But the IPA's in Britain were initially expensive and hard to get, as they needed to be matured for long periods of time in order to replicate the conditioning that took place on the ships to India, and could only be brewed during the cooler months when wild yeasts were less active. Advances in microbiology and refrigeration allowed increasing amounts of the beer to be brewed for the masses in Britain. When the taxation reforms of 1880 came into place, and beer began being taxed based on its original gravity, the ABV of beers plummeted and weaker pale ales, also known as bitters became the beer of choice for the working man. The common thread of all of Britain's beers, from porters and stouts to India Pale Ales and eventually the weaker bitters, was that they contained live yeasts during secondary fermentation, which gave the beer natural carbonation, and complexity and depth of character. The lager revolution that swept the rest of Europe during the late 1800's, and eventually the world throughout the first half of the 20th century, was resisted in Britain; partially due to the fact that refrigeration in Britain was slower to establish itself, and also out of a strong sense of national pride in their traditional ales.
By the 1960's, lagers dominated the world scene, and although they were still not widespread in Britain, the Brits became increasingly familiar with lagers as air travel increased, and they became more familiar with the beers they saw overseas. Heineken began large advertising campaigns in Britain during the 1970's, and the breweries in Britain started merging into larger outfits that began to steer away from the traditional cask ales toward mass produced, filtered ales that were pasteurized and used CO2 instead of the natural carbonation. By then there were 6 big breweries in Britain that dominated the scene and were increasingly brewing beers other than the traditional cask ales that were the backbone of Britain's brewing history. Much like in the U.S., small independent breweries were quickly becoming a thing of the past. The large breweries dominated the pub scene, each owning its own string of pubs in which only their beer would be sold.
In March of 1971, four men from the northwest of England got together to form an organization called CAMRA, in an effort to battle back against the domination of the big breweries. CAMRA stands for Campaign for Real Ale, and real ale was defined by the group as being "beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide." During its early and intermediate stages, CAMRA was seen as having an almost militant attitude toward brewing and acceptable ales. Its members were often looked upon as beer geeks who were behind the times out of touch with the hip new lager scene. The negative image persisted through the 80's and into the 90's. Around the turn of the millennium, the Progressive Beer Duty was passed to give tax breaks to small breweries. This, combined with the boom of the craft beer scene in the U.S., has started a new revolution in British brewing, bringing back small independent breweries that combine a reverence for the tradition of cask ales with the innovation of the times. U.S. hops and wood barrel aging have become increasingly common, and currently Britain has a thriving craft scene of its own. CAMRA no longer holds the negative image it did during the 70's and 80's, and today CAMRA is seen as an important part of preserving the heritage of cask ales as well as traditional British pubs, while at the same time helping to promote the newer small breweries and beers that have sprouted throughout Britain. Freehouses, pubs that are not owned by major breweries and are allowed to sell whatever beers they please, have become increasingly common.
Today's beer scene in Britain is thriving, and there are many pubs that serve traditional cask ales which are inspired by the new trends in modern craft brewing. Some contain American hops, others are barrel aged, and many come from new small breweries that have sprouted in the last decade. Most still are comparatively low in alcohol, in the 4% to 5.5% range ABV. Ales are still hand drawn, and the glasses fill with an explosion of bubbly beer that quickly reduces to an inch tall head, resulting in a creamier mouth feel than many carbonized American counterparts. The beers are served at cellar temperatures, mid 50's degrees Fahrenheit, and the warmer temperature brings out so many unique flavors. In general, bready and biscuit flavors prevail, with a touch of sweetness that is balanced by a hoppiness that is not as over the top as the new breed of American ales. Unlike some well known American lagers, these ales do not have to be super cold to taste good and refreshing. A visit to a specialty beer store was one of the highlights of the trip. We found a good selection of Belgian, German and even some familiar American beer, but the seemingly endless variety of bottle conditioned beers from Britain was fantastic, and really emphasized the healthy state of the craft beer scene there. Soon we were back in the pubs. Sitting back on a cushioned chair in a cozy British pub, sipping unique hand drawn ales, and taking in the sights and sounds of the local crowd is something that all beer drinkers should experience at some time in their lives.
The main styles of beer (all ales) that Britain is famous for bringing to the world are:
Pale Ales: A wide category ranging from light summer ales, to fruity and malty ales to the bitter IPA's.
Bitters: Mid brown in color and well balanced between citrus and biscuity notes with a dry finish.
Porters and Stouts: Dark in color with roasted, chocolate or coffee flavors.
Milds: Dark, but low in alcohol, exhibiting mocha flavors but still light and refreshing.
Old Ales and Barleywines: Strong, over 7% ABV and often aged for complexity.
Much of the information on the history of beer in Britain was gleaned from the amazing book: The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Garrett Oliver. It is a must have for anyone wanting to learn more about beer.
West Vail Liquor
Tuesday, August 14th 2012
One of the questions we get here at West Vail Liquor Mart is whether we have a particular beer available at room temperature, rather than cold in our cooler. The question often comes from someone who plans to travel with the beer or is in a situation where the beer will not be kept cold for a while. Maybe it will sit in a car while the person is at work. We have actually had customers refuse to buy beer unless it is warm. The theory is that allowing beer to go back and forth from warm to cold causes skunking and other off flavors, which leads to this discussion on storing and aging beer.
According to the web site craftbeerusa.blogspot, Possibly the most widely circulated and believed myth surrounding beer is with regard to temperature. Fluctuations in ambient temperature do not adversely affect beer any more that any other foodstuff. Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and editor of The Oxford Companion to Beer puts it this way: Much has been made of the idea that rapid temperature changes will ruin beer, but this is not generally a real concern.
Most of the beer brewed in the world is intended to be consumed right out of the brewery and is not meant to be aged. It is at its best when young and fresh. Some beer, such as stronger brews with higher alcohol content, can be aged. In either case, proper storage of the beer is important. According to Garrett Oliver, Whereas aging is a practice designed to confer specific benefits upon beer by applying conditions that will produce positive changes over time, storage is largely concerned with preventing negative change over shorter periods. Proper storage will preserve a beers shelf life and help it reach the customer in peak condition.
The biggest enemies of packaged beer are heat, light and oxygen. Beer, like food, lasts longer if it is kept cold. Heat speeds chemical reactions, thus making beer and food age faster. The longer it is kept at a cool temperature, the longer it will last. Going back and forth from cold to warm will not affect the taste of the beer, just like it will not affect the taste of a sandwich, but the longer it is left at room temperature, the shorter its shelf life will be. Most breweries recommend that their beer be kept cold, and encourage retailers to rotate the beer displayed at room temperature to keep it from aging too quickly. Excessive heat will cause a beer to age very quickly and therefore should be avoided.
The skunky taste that some mistakenly associate with repeatedly warming and cooling beer actually comes from exposure to light, or more specifically, the chemical reaction that occurs when light comes in contact with the hops in beer. According to The Oxford Companion to Beer, Certain compounds in hops are light sensitive and when exposed to strong light a photo-oxidation reaction takes place, creating the intensely flavor-active compound MBT one of the most powerful flavor substances know to man. It is a smell and flavor resembling that of a skunks spray. Beer in this condition is commonly said to be light struck. Strong sunlight can produce the reaction in a matter of minutes. Bright fluorescent lights produce the reaction over a period of days and weeks. This is why most bottled beer comes in brown bottles, as the darker bottle keeps out more light. Beer that comes in green bottles or clear glass is more prone to becoming skunky. Cans keep all light out and are therefore the best at preventing skunky flavors. Some breweries have begun chemically altering hops to reduce this reaction. These chemically altered hops are called tetra or hexa hops, and are said to be less susceptible to becoming light struck.
The third enemy of beer is oxygen. Oxygen can react with many compounds in beer to affect it negatively. Beer that has been oxidized will become stale and taste leathery, papery or have a wet cardboard note. Oxygen works hand in hand with temperature to degrade beer. The warmer the temperature at which it is stored, the higher the rate of oxidation. A beer that has a shelf life of 4 months when kept cold may only have a shelf life of three months or less when stored at room temperature. The risk of oxidization is another reason some breweries are canning their beer, as the sealed cans prevent any oxygen from getting in. Pry off bottle caps can let small amounts of oxygen in and twist off caps allow even more oxygen to come in contact with beer. Some breweries go so far as to seal the top of their finer bottles of beer with wax to prevent oxidation.
While most beer is meant to be consumed right away, some beers will take on added depth and complexity when aged. This can be true of a maltier beer that is higher in alcohol, of Belgian style beers such as lambics that rely on wild yeast for their unique flavors, and for other bottle conditioned beers. A higher hop bitterness can also be a factor, as the hops work to preserve the beer, but that fresh hop smell and taste will fade and take on a tea-like quality over time. Generally darker beer with higher levels of residual sugar will age better, however that is not always the case. Beer with wild yeast such as a lambic, and bottle conditioned beers such as a Belgian trippel, where the yeast is left in the bottle to continue to work its magic will also take on added qualities over time. There is no hard and fast rule, and many consumers will experiment by buying two bottles of a certain beer, drinking one now and saving the other to see how it tastes after being aged. Unlike wine which has a cork that can dry out and is thus set on its side to age, it is generally agreed that beer should be stored upright when cellared. This allows the sediment and yeast to collect at the bottom of the bottle where it can be left when the beer is poured. Cellared beer should be kept at temperatures around 52 to 55 degrees, and should be kept in a dark area.
So for most of the beer that we sell at West Vail Liquor, we recommend that it be refrigerated and consumed in a relatively short period of time in order to enjoy it as the brewer intended it to taste. Letting beer go back and forth from warm to cold without extremes will not harm the beer, but excessive heat and light will. We strive not to order more beer than we can sell in a relatively short period of time, and we rotate our beer for freshness. We keep as much of our stock as possible in the cooler, and rotate our display stacks of beer into the cooler regularly in order to preserve the shelf life. And we have a great selection of beer that can be cellared as well. Please let us know if you ever have any questions about the beer we sell. We love it as much as you do!
West Vail Liquor Mart
Thursday, July 5th 2012
Summer is a great time to enjoy a wide range of refreshing seasonal cocktails.
Experiment on yourself or a close, trusted beverage consultant before serving to party guest. Listed below are a few of our favorite tried, true and trusted recipes.
Mount Gay Mojito
Easy to make, easier to enjoy.
Shake 6-10 mint leaves in a glass with ice
Add 4 parts Mount Gay Silver Rum
Squeeze 1 whole lime
Add 1 TBSP Sugar or Agave Nectar
Add 1 part Mojito Mix (we like Freshies or Master of Mix)
Shake well and top with club soda ;
Garnish with a mint sprig and you are off to the islands.
Grey Goose Cosmo
-Trendy, Refreshing and Dangerous
3 parts Grey Goose Orange into a cocktail shaker with ice
Add 1 part Cointreau
Add 1 part Cranberry Juice
Squeeze ¼ lime
Shake well, strain into a martini glass & garnish with an orange twist;
Delicious sophistication at home.
-Heaps of great Marg recipe’s but this one always hits the mark
4 parts Espolon Silver or Reposado in a cocktail shaker
Squeeze 1 whole lime
Optional Add 1 part marg mix (Freshies)
1 part Citronge Orange Liqueur
1 part agave nectar
Shake well, pour over ice into a salt rimmed glass and garnish with a lime;
Baja beaches in the backyard
Dark & Stormy
Easier than a broad reach in the bay
1 part Goslings Dark Rum over ice
3 parts Ginger Beer (not ginger ale!)
Squeeze a lemon wedge;
Let someone else take the helm and get ready to make another
Wednesday, July 4th 2012
There's a new beer in the Valley. Well, not really because Kevin Selvy, the owner and brew master of Crazy Mountain Brewery, had been brewing his recipes in Avon long before he moved to his new location in Edwards. He only had two varieties on the market at the time; his flagship brew Amber Ale and a Wit (Wheat), and they were only available on tap in local bars and restaurants.
Before Christmas, Kevin opened his brewery which proudly produces his high quality hand crafted beers. This brewery also claims the title of the highest elevation brew canning line in North America, and we are honored to have this Amber Ale on our shelves. It was in everybody's mouth, the fever; they made the mountain go crazy. Customers came in the store thirsty for the highly noticeable blue can on a green holder which is 100% recyclable. Our first batch of Crazy Mountain was gone in less than two days!
In his small Edwards location, Kevin is able to manage space and build his brewery into welcoming neighborhood-style bar that has a single wooden picnic table covering the majority of the tasting room. For only 4 dollars a pint, you can try one of the 6 different styles that are available only at the brewery: Saison, Pale Ale, Winter, Belgium, IPA and Stout. And of course, the Wit and Amber Ale are also available.
If you are a hop head, the IPA is the one that you need to go for. Floral up front, a hint of malt and bitter in your palate, (87 IBU), this beer is an explosion of hops with a long finish. I also really enjoyed the Winter Ale; this one had more malt notes to it. The caramel and hops at the end are not heavily charged. It is a great balance.
Crazy Mountain beers are on the hoppy side. Selvy throws 20 pounds of hops in his Amber Ale on a 17 & a half barrel brewing system. This brown colored ale is nutty and crisp in your palate and finishes bitter, (27 IBU).
Or, stop by the West Vail Liquor Mart for a 6 pack of Crazy Mountain Amber Ale at $9.99.
West Vail Liquor Mart
Wednesday, July 4th 2012
West Vail Liquor Mart provides their expertise in planning and beverage selection for specials events and weddings.
Planning: Let us help you with a recommended mix of beer, wine and liquor. We'll discuss your guests, menu, hours, theme and special requests.
Other items: We can also provide ice, mix, soda, bottled water, lemons, limes, keg taps, keg tubs and more.
Venues: Donovan Pavilion and Eagle-Vail Pavilion allow you to purchase your beverages and spirits from West Vail Liquor Mart. This will save you considerable dollars over hotel and restaurant liquor prices.
Delivery: We offer free delivery to private residences and venues. Your beverages will be delivered at your preferred time. Cold items will be cold so they will be ready to serve.
Returns: We will accept any returned beverages purchased at West Vail Liquor Mart within 4 days of your special event. The items must be unopened and resellable.
Let us help make your next event special and memorable!
Monday, July 2nd 2012
What is organic wine?
Organic winemakers don't use chemical fertilizers. Therefore, the grapevine is forced to develop a more extensive root system in search of nutrients. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the root system, the more flavorful the grape.
The wine adheres to national standards, certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA.
Organically Grown: The grapes were grown organically.
Biodynamic: A nature-attuned agricultural method that predates the organic movement by several decades. Increasingly popular for growing grapes.
Another way of saying that nothing is wasted in the process. Byproducts are used as compost.
Some of our favorite organic wines at West Vail Liquor Mart:
Our Daily Red $9.99
Santa Julia Malbec $9.99
Luzon Verde $10.99
Cono Sur Cab/Carmenere $11.99
Cono Sur Pinot Noir $11.99
Bonterra Wines-all varietals $14.99+
Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc $22.99
Frog's Leap Chardonnay $29.99
Laurie at West Vail Liquor Mart
Monday, July 2nd 2012
I think people always wonder how important vintage (year) really is when they are drinking wine. Some may think this is taking it too far and deliberating between vintages might be over their head. Oh, that is just for wine snobs, it does not matter to me that much. Maybe some do look into it a little too much; but most not enough. There are definitely some wine regions that are affected heavily vintage to vintage (Oregon, certain regions in France, etc.) and some not as much (California, South America, etc.). This is a very general statement and of course you can have consistency from the first and bad years from the second, but I would definitely pay attention to the first a little more.
For example, the 2007 vintage in Oregon. Although there were some producers making some good wine, the vintage as a whole was not so hot (not a weather reference!) This is what Patricia Green said about the 2007 vintage in the Willamette Valley, Of the eight vintages we have farmed, harvested and bottled here at Patricia Green Cellars this will likely be the most difficult one to WRITE about. Why? Well, it was far from a textbook vintage, no doubt many of you have seen an unusual number of Oregon Pinot Noir Roses on the market and maybe have experienced some less than thrilling Pinots from the vintage. It is always easy to write that whatever you have to sell is the best vintage ever or the best vintage since… but there is a line you can cross where people simply do not believe what you have to say if it runs to much counter to their actual experiences. There is no question that the 2007 harvest was tough. It rained and it rained more than just a little bit at times when we really do not want it to rain at all. There were sleepless mornings when at 3:30 AM you lie there wondering why you ever put your life, beliefs and financial future in the hands of Mother Nature. The first 26 days of October (we finished picking on the 26th) were some of the most gut-wrenching and harrowing days we have spent deciding what to do and waiting to pick fruit that we have endured in a long, long time. It was definitely a tough vintage that ended with a lot of wine Willamette produces would not want to represent their region. If you see a smoking deal on your favorite producers pinot, you might want to take a closer look at the vintage. It is not that anyone is trying to rip you off, it is just that their confidence in their wine from that vintage might not be there. If a sale looks too good to be true; it probably is.
Now let us look at the 2008 vintage. Great ratings from Parker to Spectator, a perfect growing season, and a really psyched group of winemakers. Michael Etzel, of Beaux Freres said, "Everyone seems to be interested in Oregons 2008 vintage. Wine Spectator is rumored to have given it a 100-point vintage in the next edition. It all began with the growing season of 2008. The flowering was just right. Not too good and not too loose and we're guessing, about a 50 to 60 percent success in the flowering, which produces nice small clusters that are loose enough to allow berry expansion. Finished cluster weights were 85 grams, unlike 2007 with cluster weights of 135 or so. The growing season was moderate, not too much heat, rain or cool days. This permitted the grapes to get fully ripe seeds, stems and the skin of the grape. The week of Sept. 1, we had rain all weekend. Then the warm fall season began. The rain was just enough to give the plants that shot in the arm to carry on the ripening process. We began picking young vines on Wednesday, Sept. 29. Everything was picked by Oct. 18. Ferments were native and behaved very well. They aged well and now, two years later, they are showing what a good childhood will do for later development."
When a winemaker has a great growing season it is easy for him or her to make better decisions. In Oregon you really have to worry about rain during harvest, like what happened in 2007. When you are concentrating on saving your grapes, it is hard to focus on making spectacular wines. But when nature aligns; it does all the work and decision making for you. It is easy to make the right choices because the perfect grapes do not make bad decisions. It is easy to notice the difference when tasting 2008 vs. 2007. Like I said, I have had some good 2007s but almost every single 2008 I have come across I have liked.
When people ask me what is good wine, I usually respond; if you like it then it is good. What you like and what I like may be completely different. But there is something to be said about unanimous liking or disliking. If 2008s are all the craze; check them out because not everyone can be wrong. You can kill yourself trying to buy only wines with the top scores and coming from the best vintages. By educating yourself, you can really help your wine buying decisions and hone in on what you will really enjoy.
West Vail Liquor Mart
Thursday, June 28th 2012
Fruit and Soil
When it comes to white and red wines, there are quite a few distinctions in every variety and the regions the grapes have been raised. Both varieties can express a character in wine purposely to tell the climate conditions in which the fruit was developed and its territory.
Scenario: If I would like to travel around the world and make my first stop in a state in which the US offers a variety of climates that is volcanic for the soil, California would be the state. The wines from this region have a fruitier characteristic such as cherries, strawberries, plums, etc., which does not mean the wine maker adds this type of fruit in the process of fermentation. The wine is telling us where the grapes were grown by the color, aroma, and flavor.
The color in a wine has always been produced by aging and by the skin of its fruit. Therefore the weather has been exposed from hotter regions so it will show a red and somewhat dark orange color blend almost giving the impression of a red sunset in the desert.
In Europe, wines have a different character than New World wines because most of the soil has clay, limestone (a layer of sedimentary rock), etc. that gives the wine from this region a mineral characteristic and earthy notes offering more sophistication and elegance as well as fruit notes that are present. Just think about when it rains on the ground and then water makes contact through your nostrils, that is earth and this term can also be used to describe some wines that make the same wonderful effect.
At West Vail Liquor Mart we carry wines from most regions across the planet and our staff has being trained to help you choose the wine that you are looking for any special occasion.
West Vail Liquor Mart
Monday, September 12th 2011
This German style of beer, originally from Munich, is also refereed to as Marzen. Because it was brewed during the cold month of March left to ferment and stored in cellars through the summer, it was usually consumed during September and October.
This Bavarian lager has an average alcohol content of 5%abv which is a bit stronger than its cousin from Vienna (beer). Color can range from golden yellow to dark orange. It has a slight toasty flavor from a small percentage of Munich malt in the grist, with a full body and it’s lightly hopped with local noble varietal like Hallertau and Ttnanger to create a balance with malt flavor and smooth bitterness.
Handcrafted beer is also taking a position in this market and breweries like Sam Adams, Leinenkugels, Avery and Left Hand from Colorado are duplicating this German style over American soil.
At the store we also carry German Oktoberfest beer from Paulaner, Spaten and Hofbrau.
I like to pair these beers with dishes with any kind of grilled pork (sausage) or red meat.
It is the season and these delicious brews are here!
Tuesday, June 14th 2011
Lets face it. Most of us are busy during the summer in Vail. Even so, you still want to have friends over for the fireworks, barbecue, pool party, or hanging out in the hot tub. It could be the July 4th holiday, vacation with friends and family, or just weekends in your backyard. So, how do you make your party fun while keeping it easy so you can enjoy yourself, too?
The best answer is to keep it simple. Yes, simple can mean just putting out some wine and beer and calling it good, but to put some pizzazz into your party you really should consider some fun and easy to make summer cocktails. Think about Cosmopolitans and Margaritas. If you stay with these classics you can keep it simple. You can always ask friends to lend a hand by playing bartender during your party (some people love this role), or better yet make a few pitchers of your favorite cocktails before your party. Below are two simple to make classic drink recipes for your summer party in Vail.
If you need help with your beverage alcohol needs this summer please stop in to the West Vail Liquor Mart in West Vail and we will be glad to help. We even sell bartender books, shot glasses, and everything you need to make your summer party in Vail a hit!
3.5 oz Vodka
(Grey Goose, Ketel One, Svedka, or Absolut are quality vodka brands)
1 oz lime juice
Splash of Grand Marnier
Splash of Cranberry
Lime wedges for garnish
1.5 oz Tequila
(Hornitos, Milagro, and Espolon all come in either silver, reposado, or anejo styles)
.5 oz Grand Marnier or Cointreau orange liqueur
.5 oz sweetened lime juice
3 oz sour mix
Note: put in a little Agave Nectar to make your margaritas really stand out.
To make pitchers of these drinks just keep the ratios about the same. Do not be afraid to experiment and add your own personal touches. Have fun!
Thursday, September 30th 2010
The 29th annual Great American Beer Festival took place in Denver the weekend of September 16th -18th, the largest gathering of craft beer brewers and beer aficionados in the country. Over 49,000 people attended, and were offered over 2200 flavors of beer to sample from. What an event! Being a newcomer to the festival, my expectations were guided by accounts of past festivals from friends and co-workers. Get there early, have a plan for what you want to taste, hold on tight to your tasting cup and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it was! I was fortunate to attend the festival with my brother, who had acquired media passes for the weekend for a documentary he is working on. This allowed me to get a great feel for the festival and what goes on behind the scenes throughout the entire weekend.
It's a good thing that they hold it in the Convention Center, because they sure need the space. The room held food booths and tables, a huge t-shirt sales area, a book store, a large stage area with seating for the awards ceremony and multiple displays on kegerators, beer glasses, hops, brewing maps and just about anything else beer related, all surrounding 16 gigantic islands that each housed tasting tables for about 30 breweries, each of which offering anywhere from 2-6 samples of suds. The islands were arranged by region, which helped put the myriad of brewers in perspective. The tasting sessions ran Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:30-10 p.m., along with a Saturday afternoon tasting. Participants are given a 4oz. plastic tasting cup upon entry. At first I wondered “why plastic?” But that question was answered early and often. The sound of the cup hitting the hard floor is quite distinctive, and is always followed by a huge “OH!” from the surrounding crowd. The Saturday afternoon session is a members only session for the Brewers Association and American Homebrewers Association. A real glass tasting cup is provided, and yes, I saw some of those hit the floor as well, with an even louder “OH!” to follow. Each pour was about an ounce of beer, which at first seemed small, but made sense by the end of the weekend with so many different flavors to try.
For the most part, the attendees are beer geeks, and this is their Super Bowl. Almost everyone was wearing a t-shirt or outfit promoting their favorite beer, brewery or style. Costumes, hats and beads all contributed to the festive nature of the event. These folks sure know their beer and breweries! Lines grew quickly for some of the more fabled breweries and brews. The folks at Dogfish Head probably hosted the most consistent line, averaging around 50 people or so throughout the weekend. Charlie Papazian, the author of the Complete Joy of Home Brewing and current president of the Brewer's Association was treated like the Godfather of Beer, as folks approached him left and right for photos and autographs. He also presented the awards to each of the 240 plus medal winners. Bronze, Silver and Gold medals are given out in each of 79 different categories of beer styles. I thought wine was the more complicated beverage with all of its regions and varietals, but I now have my doubts! There were awards for fruit beer, rye beer, bitters, extra special bitters, wheat beer, Scotch ales, smoked beer, barrel aged beer, sour beer, stouts, German style this and British style that, and…well you get the idea. The individual names of the beers are often fun and colorful: Smokey the Beer, Skidmark Brown Ale, Oil Change Stout, Hop Crisis!, Key Lime Pie and What in the Helles? were among my favorite monikers.
And the myriad of flavors did not disappoint! I am a big fan of IPA's, so I devoted Thursday evening to sampling that style, tasting such familiar favorites as Pliney the Elder, O'Dell's IPA and Pizza Port's Hop 15, as well as previously untried offerings such as Russian River's Hopfather, 21st Amendment's Hop Crisis! and Pizza Port's Doheny Double IPA. All were so good and unique, it was hard to pick a favorite. I devoted most of Friday's session to stouts and porters. Maui Brewing's Coconut Porter, Fade to Black from Left Hand Brewery in Longmont and the Night Rider Imperial Stout from Pizza Port Carlsbad were among my favorites. I made several trips back for the coconut porter over the weekend. Saturday's afternoon session was a bit more serious than the previous sessions, as it was a members only session for Brewer's Association and American Homebrewer's cardholders. I saw lots of folks taking notes and acting more like judges than swillers Saturday afternoon. The awards took place during this session, and there was a huge standing room only crowd around the stage. Boisterous cheers popped up around the crowd as various winners were announced. I devoted most of this session to tasting some of the winning beers, as did many others. Lines were long for Short's Brewing's Key Lime Pie, New Glarus' Raspberry Tart, Pizza Port's Revelations and Firestone Walker's Red Nectar. Winners in the Brewery of the Year categories were Blue Moon for large Brewer, Utah Brewers Cooperative for mid-sized brewery and Mad River Brewing out of Blue Lake, California for small brewery. TAPS Fish House out of Brea, California won the Brewpub Group award, and Pizza Port Carlsbad and Pizza Port San Clemente won large and small Brewpub of the year awards, respectively. Colorado was well represented on the podium, with breweries such as Pagosa Springs Brewing Company, Blue Moon, New Belgium, New Planet, Denver's Sandlot, AC Golden, Steamworks Brewing Company from Durango, Dry Dock Brewing from Aurora, Twisted Pine from Boulder, Del Norte Brewing from Denver, CB Potts from Fort Collins, Pug Ryan's from Dillon, Glenwood Canyon Brewing, Ska Brewing from Durango, Mountain Sun from Boulder, Yak and Yeti from Arvada, Boulder Beer Company, Rock Bottom from Louisville, Bristol Brewing from Colorado Springs, Equinox Brewing from Fort Collins, Great Divide from Denver, Dillon Dam Brewery and Lefthand Brewing from Longmont all winning awards. Great showing Colorado!
Saturday evening's session was the most raucous and crowded. I had already done a ton of tasting by then, so I spent my time tasting the few things that slipped through the cracks, but mostly just enjoying the scene. We started by checking out the line, one of the longest I have ever scene at any type of event I have attended. It ran the width of a city sidewalk and stretched beyond the 4 blocks that I could see from standing on a barricade. Our media passes allowed us to bypass this line so we could get inside to shoot film of the eager crowd entering the hall. We also spent some time in the Farm to Table room, tasting beer that had been paired with delicious appetizers prepared by local chefs. The media passes also allowed us to join a tour of the Breckenridge Brewery and Stranahan's Whiskey Distillery, and important side trip as Stranahan's only uses a barrel once when aging whiskey. The used barrels are then snapped up by brewers from around the country for aging beer. Yes, there is a waiting list.
Denver was the perfect host for this event. The weather was sunny and perfect for late summer, and the friendly downtown area allowed us to walk everywhere in the evenings, from breweries to pubs and restaurants, most of which offered specials and promotions to all of the beer devotees in town. My brother and his buddy are very savvy city dwellers from New York, and aren't easily impressed. But both said that Denver and its brewing culture blew them away. Where are all of the people? (compared to over-packed New York), and Is it always this nice here? were common comments, and they were impressed with how easy it was to walk from place to place. Coming from the other end of the spectrum, I was happy to be in such urban surroundings without having to deal with driving and the traffic. Denver is truly a special city for beer lovers, and we are lucky to have it so close by. My first G.A.B.F was a smashing success, and I look forward to many happy returns.
West Vail Liquor Mart
Tuesday, June 29th 2010
It's been a bit more than four years since I moved West from the East coast of this immense land called the United States. One of the things that called my attention to this rugged state is the amount of microbrews in operation that are relatively new and still growing in this country. My curiosity about the world of spirits and beers began when I went to ABC Bartending School in South Beach, Florida in 2002. Although, honestly, I have never seen a larger selection of beers anywhere else besides here, (and high-end liquor stores in New York City).
At West Vail Liquor Mart we carry all hand crafted beers from our state that are bottled or canned and distributed for the public (Avery, Great Divide, Odell, New Belgium, Backcountry, Ska, Boulder, Oskar Blues, Breckenridge). It is really impossible to mention all of the restaurants that have their own brew on tap; the list would go on for ever. But this time I am only going to write about a couple of the Colorado craft beers.
Not too long ago I was at a ski resort still in operation. I'm a very passionate snowboarder, so I ride from day number one, until A-Basin closes. And most of the time on my way back to Vail, I have to make a stop at the Backcountry Brewery in Frisco, to recharge after a long day of adventure in the mountains. If you walk in the restaurant up the stairs, on your left, you'll see their boilers and fermenting tanks. You would be really impressed how small the operation actually is. They always have a Porter, IPA, Amber, Wheat, a specialty beer for each season and a Pilsner (Ptarmigan) on tap. The pilsner is my favorite for this time of year; it has a very light hop aroma, smooth malt flavor and a very crisp and clean finish. Their brews are around 5 to 6% alcohol, but they all taste fresh and full of flavor. So if you're passing by the area, is not a bad idea to stop on Main Street, Frisco to locate the Brewery and get a hamburger or ribs and a Porter (Peak One) to pair it with. They use 6 different malts and 2 varieties of hops to create this creamy, dark and toasty brew.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Fort Collins and on my way back to the mountains. I made a stop in Longmont to visit Nick at Oskar Blues Brewery for a quick tour. These guys really know how to make good and consistent beers. The most particular thing about them is that they began using cans before any other microbrewery in the U.S. by making their hoppy and award winning Dale's Pale in cans in 2002. Their original location was in Lyons before they expanded to a bigger facility in Longmont. Their Lager style beer or Pilsner as they like to call it, Mama's Little Yella Pils, is made with 100% pale malt, German specialty malts and Bavarian hops. It is a beer with full structure and flavor, refreshing, smooth and has a very gentle bitter end. It is exceptional and unlike other mass market Pilsners, this brew is not diluted with corn and rice. It is by far my favorite pick for the summer. And, the fact that cans are a superior container than glass bottles is a plus because these are completely sealed and they are not exposed to oxygen or light. This keeps the beer fresher until you pour it into your favorite glass. Also, cans are welcome everywhere like the pool, hot tub and all over outdoors. They are easier and lighter to travel with. These are a few reasons why Oskar Blues is one of my favorite breweries. It's meant to be here in Colorado.
Beer is our gift from above to enjoy in our lives and nature as well. Drink responsibly and have a great summer.
By Felipe Cueto, West Vail Liquor Mart