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In honor of the 30th annual Great American Beer Festival, delivering "the biggest selection of American beers ever served" through Oct. 1 in Denver (sold out inside a week), Bryce and I went sampling some special regional releases for this week's column. You know ... to get in shape for Friday. (See our IndyBlog and tweets @BryceCrawford and @MatthewSchniper for coverage.)

As those who love the wild spirit and artisan virtue of craft brewing, it's so wonderful to know that while overall U.S. beer sales fell 1 percent by volume in 2010, craft brews grew 11 percent by volume, according to Brewers Association figures. With Colorado ranking No. 4 in the nation for breweries per capita (one for every 46,620 people at last count), we're undisputedly a brew-loving people. (Beer) God love us.

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Trinity Brewing Company

1466 Garden of the Gods Road, 634-0029, trinitybrew.com

Though Trinity says its Peche Noir ($5/pint) offers the flavor of dark malts, brown sugar, grains of paradise (a West African, pepper-like spice) and hints of fig — all "aged on fresh peaches" — I just got a lot of roasted-tasting malt; hugely in the nose, and just as big once swallowed. The grains of paradise were mild enough that, using the grinder provided, I fed a few more into my glass for some punch.

If there's any peach to be had in this dark-mahogany colored saison, it's from a small, back-end, taste-bud-tightening dryness. Overall, the Peche is fine for folks interested in a fairly pleasant, low-carbonation brew. Otherwise, the pale, mead-like Libidinous ($8) — sporting heather tips, juniper berries and ginger-y honey notes (though neither ginger nor honey is an ingredient) — is far more impressive. — Bryce Crawford

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New Belgium Brewing Co.

500 Linden St., Fort Collins, 888/622-4044, newbelgium.com

From New Belgium's explorative Lips of Faith series comes Kick ($5.99/22-ounce bomber), a collaborative brew with Seattle's Elysian Brewing Company, with which New Belgium shares a proprietorship license. (Each can brew specialty beers for the other, according to New Belgium media rep Bryan Simpson.)

Weighing in at a hefty 8.5 percent ABV, Kick is described by the brewery as a "harvest season sour." Cranberry and pumpkin ale (75 percent) is blended with barrel-aged beer (25 percent), creating an opaque, orange body. The cranberry's citric tartness is evident in the nose, follows through strong in the flavor, and merges beautifully with pumpkin spices into the mild sour. We've experienced legions more face-pucker than this.

It's a pleasant beer, even if we couldn't detect the advertised "taste and texture of pumpkin."— Matthew Schniper

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Bristol Brewing Company

1647 S. Tejon St., 633-2555, bristolbrewing.com

Not only does Bristol's Local 5 Ale ($4/pint) benefit the Colorado Springs chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters labor union, but it also benefits Bristol, in a roundabout way. The mash used to make the brewery's Old No. 23 barley wine is reused a second time for this "community ale."

The result is a hoppy, 5-percent-ABV ESB, with a citrus-y nose, sporting Cascade and Goldings hops. It reminds me more of Bristol's Red Rocket than the ESB brewed for the Golden Bee's 50th anniversary, and contrary to its description, I got almost no malt from it.

Still, like most things from BBC, it's eminently drinkable, and makes a fine addition to the brewery's repertoire. Plus, it goes to help those who, as the website says, "run toward the fire, not away from it." — Bryce Crawford

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