Raspberry and pumpkin ... Molasses and peaches ... Black tea and strawberries ... Black cherry and clementine.
A summer shopping list?
Ding-ding-ding! (As in, yes.)
I attended said inaugural event this past Saturday, in which eight area breweries (from as far away as Lone Tree, Castle Rock and Pueblo) were broken into four brackets to face off. For example, Phantom Canyon Brewing Company competed against Kevin Baity Kraft Beer with the black tea and strawberry challenge.
Click the photo below to see a very brief slideshow, or click here.
After sampling at our leisure, we were told to vote for our favorite beer in each category by placing a bottle cap (handed out upon entry) inside the respective brewery's jar. Each pour was numbered one through four, so it was a blind judging, with winners announced at the end to reveal which brewery was behind which number.
Here were round one's winners:
pumpkin and raspberry — Shamrock Brewing Company (defeating Pikes Peak Brewing Co.)
peach and molasses — Rockyard American Grill and Brewing Co. (defeating Yak and Yeti Restaurant and Brewery)
black tea and strawberries — Phantom Canyon Brewing Company (defeating Kevin Baity Kraft Beer)
black cherry and clementine - Lone Tree Brewing Company (defeating Rock Bottom)
Which means, according to organizer Eric Steen, sometime in mid-May (date yet to be announced), we'll see the this followup face-off for round two, with the following challenge ingredients:
Lone Tree vs. Phantom Canyon — Honey and Pineapple
Shamrock vs. Rockyard — Almond and Ginger
My personal favorite beer of the day was Lone Tree's entry into the black cherry and clementine category. It very much had a Belgian profile, with a nice, light wheat-y yeasty body, showing off more of the orange citrus of the clementine than the cherry. Brewing toward a Belgian style with orange as a challenge ingredient makes perfect sense, since so many Belgians include the orange (and often coriander) accents anyway, some even being served with an orange wedge commonly, like Blue Moon.
Second to that, I rather enjoyed Rockyard's entry to the molasses and peach category. The fruit showed up strongly in the nose but in balance within the brew, which otherwise hit high IBU's. I'm guessing it would register as an IPA or high-hopped pale ale outside of this challenge. It also had great clarity, which surprised since the molasses element left us expecting a darker beer.
On that note, I did ask Steen whether each brewery had to use the same quantity and style of inputs, like fresh versus concentrate, etc. He said that as long as they used the ingredients in some way, they could basically do whatever they wanted, leaving the battle open to more creativity and, perhaps, interpretation.
I'm not sure about my fellow judges, but for my part, I voted to give credit to the usage of the challenge ingredient, but the beer also had to be drinkable in the end and pleasant. Nobody wants an overly sweet or entirely one-note drink that otherwise lacks texture, bite or whatnot.
Cheers to Steen and co-organizer Grant Goodwiler of Brewer's Republic for creating this fun and interactive local beer event, which highlights the talents of our area brewers and lets us beer aficionados geek-out in our own little hoppy way.