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Beaujolais Forever

by: Maxine Hendry

Fact: wine professionals love Beaujolais.

Curious why? Continue reading to learn a bit about this classic wine and understand why it enjoys such universal adoration among wine professionals (even if it’s a polarizing choice for many consumers).

First off what is it? Is Beaujolais a grape, a place, or what? It’s a place, a rather large area in France that produces distinct styles of wine primarily out of one grape: Gamay. This varietal is a thin-skinned grape that yields light-bodied, aromatic red wines that are lower in tannin and higher in acid. The grape is a cousin of Pinot Noir, and the wines can be similar in flavor.

Do they only make reds? No. You can find Beaujolais Rosé made from Gamay and there is also Beaujolais Blanc, which is made with Chardonnay or sometimes Aligoté. But 98% of their production is Gamay, so it is mostly red.

Where is it located? Beaujolais is situated in the middle of Eastern France sandwiched between Burgundy to the north, and Rhône to the south. Grapes have been planted here since the 7th century, but it was only as of 1936 that Beaujolais was awarded Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status. The region is about 34 miles long and 7-9 miles wide. The soil here is granite and schist in the north, and marl in the south. That soil is what gives these wines wonderful mineral character.

What does it taste like? Wines made from Gamay are typically light in body with attractive fruit flavors of berries combined with floral and earthy nuance. In Beaujolais specifically, you’ll find the wines taste reminiscent of cranberry, raspberry, and tart cherry fruit complimented by floral aromatics like violet, and earthy notes like potting soil, mushroom, forest floor, and smoke. The wines are dry, fruity, and refreshing. Depending on where it’s from in the region, you’ll see variation in style and flavor profile. Part of Beaujolais’s distinctive flavor profile comes directly from the wine making technique used by many producers called carbonic maceration. This is a really cool process where the berries are not crushed first, but put into a sealed tank with carbon dioxide that permeates each intact berry to stimulate fermentation. Basically the alcohol ferments inside the whole berry and is crushed later. This process creates wine with lower tannin and wonderfully fruity character, plus it’s ready to drink quickly. Not all Beaujolais is made using this technique, but many are fully (or partially) made using carbonic maceration, so it’s important to understand how this process affects the flavor. So, what does it taste like? Delicious, fresh, fruity, earthy, and sometimes funky.

How do I pick a bottle? The real key to understanding this often misunderstood region is being familiar with their classification system. The wine labels will help you decipher between the different classes, like Beaujolais-Villages, Cru Beaujolais or Beaujolais Nouveau. By understanding this simple system of how the wines are categorized, you can easily find a bottle that fits all your needs. This map might help you understand visually how the wines are organized.

Beaujolais Nouveau: perhaps the best known type of Beaujolais, it’s a light, very fruity style that became popular stateside in the 1970’s. It’s made with a special fermentation technique (carbonic maceration) that enables Beaujolais Nouveau to be drinkable wine just weeks after harvest. That precociousness comes at a cost though, the wines are not designed to last much longer than a year. It was made to celebrate the bounty of harvest and is always released on the third Thursday of November. Its rather infamous reputation stems from the fact that it is so light, so fruity, and needs to be consumed quickly. It lacks complexity and structure but is very crushable. There are a few giant producers that dominate the market like Georges Duboeuf, with their colorful labels and aggressive marketing. This style of Beaujolais is why most people want nothing to do with the region at all. There is nothing wrong with this style of wine, but you won’t find those here at Mr. B’s.

Beaujolais AOC: the most extended appellation that can be used in any of the 96 villages and refers to all basic Beaujolais wines. A great place to start, these wines are fruity, simple, and very drinkable. These wines have higher yields in the vineyards, and a minimum alcohol of only 10%. They are going to be much better quality than Nouveau and should cost between $12-$16. Pick up a bottle of this for an easy, casual red you can enjoy any night of the week. It will just simply says “Beaujolais” on the label and the maker, with no mention of the grapes or much else.

Beaujolais-Villages AOC: here’s your intermediate category that covers 39 villages with better potential quality. It’s about a quarter of the production here, so Beaujolais-Villages wines aren’t hard to find. Because this area of the region is hillier with more schist and granite soil, it is said to have better quality for growing grapes, and imparts more mineral character to the wine. These wines should be consumed young, within about 2-3 years of harvest. You can expect to pay between $14-$20, so it’s a bump up in price and quality from standard Beaujolais. And it’s another great wine for any night of the week. Look for labels that say “Beaujolais-Villages” on the front.

Cru Beaujolais: this is the highest category of classification in Beaujolais and is reserved for the 10 best areas/villages in the foothills of the mountains here. They are all situated in the north area of the region, where there is exceptional granite and schist soils. Clarification: in some areas of France, like Burgundy and Alsace, the word Cru refers to an individual vineyard; but in Beaujolais, the word Cru refers to an entire wine-producing area. Again, there are 10 “crus” of Beaujolais, and here you’ll find stricter maximum yields of grapes to protect quality and the wines are fuller in body, darker in color, and can age a great deal longer. You will also see more expressive styles showing additional layers of earth, spice, funk, and mineral nuance. These wines rarely say Beaujolais on the bottle, and you will see it listed by what cru it is from (listed below). Expect to pay $20-$30 for a majority of Cru Beaujolais, but some can cost up to $40+.

The 10 crus are (from north to south) Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly. That is how you will see them labeled, with no mention of the word Beaujolais, or the grape, Gamay. Each “cru” has its own personality and characteristics. We will talk more about that below.

Saint-Amour: “The Romantic” is the most northerly area and sees almost a quarter of its sales during February due to its popularity during Valentine’s Day. There are two styles of wine in this appellation: light and easy drinking on one side; more serious on the other due to soil variation. But don’t call Saint-Amour a fickle lover! Both styles have refined tannin that are fantastic with lighter cuisine such as herb roasted chicken or sauteed mushrooms.

Juliénas: “O.G.” this cru dates back 2000 years to the time of Julius Cesar, hence the name. It’s the oldest cru that’s best aged 5-10 years. The wines here can vary more because of diverse soils, but tend to be on the weightier side with dark red fruit flavor and subtle earthiness. Try it with coq au vin or grilled tuna steaks.

Chénas: “Worth the Chase” because this area is the rarest cru and the most difficult to find, so it’s more elusive. So sometimes Chénas plays hard to get, but hunting one down is worth the trouble because they’re easy to love and sometimes Burgundian in style. Sturdier structure with a lovely mineral intensity that develops with age. It’s fuller-flavored and fuller-bodied, ages well, and matches with spice rubbed pork, smoked meats and umami-driven veggies.

Moulin-à-Vent: “Top Dog” has the body, age-ability and structure that reign supreme. That’s why this is known as the king of the crus. Lower yields of concentrated berries offer a robust and relatively tannic style that can age sometimes 50 years! While the cru is named for a windmill that dominates the hillside, the most notable thing about this area is its pink granite soil. Boeuf Bourguignon, anyone?

Fleurie: “Flower Child” is not as powerful, but makes up for it with wonderfully charming floral elegance. It’s the pretty princess of these parts because of its lighter style and aromas marked by rose and violet that leave a lasting impression. Try it chilled! And try it with tarragon chicken or oven roasted salmon.

Chiroubles: “The Intro Cru” is a great way to transition from standard Beaujolais! Not because it’s lesser quality, but because it’s the lightest cru of the bunch. This is because it has the highest elevations and therefore coolest temperatures. It’s the gateway to drinking cru so feel free to think of Chiroubles as the marijuana of Cru Beaujolais. Also think of it as perfect for picnics, and ideal with 2-5 years of age.

Morgon: “The Overachiever” is another serious cru with more body and structure, second only to Moulin-à-Vent. It’s the second largest cru and has a good amount of quality producers taking advantage of the granite-centric soil. It’s a more tannic style that ages extremely well (and pairs wonderfully with roast duck). Be mindful its character becomes much more apparent with a bit of cellaring!

Régnié: “The Newbie” is the youngest cru, which was elevated in 1988, thanks to the hard work of the winemakers and growers. Its supple but lively style is like combining the fresh fruit of Brouilly with some of the structured body of Morgon, with a touch of spice that is great to drink young. Especially with pork rillettes or a nice Camembert.

Brouilly: “Mr. Laidback” is always a good choice because its friendly and crowd-pleasing style is juicy, fruity, and enjoyable young. It’s also widely available because it’s the largest cru, so tracking some down shouldn’t be a challenge. Keep some around because it pairs easily with mid-bodied meals like stir-fry chicken, stuffed turkey, broiled cod, or mushroom pizza.

Côte de Brouilly: “Big Brother” has all the fruity elegance of baby Brouilly, but with extra meatier character, and it pairs just as well with food. This area sees a little more sun and has better drainage, so the wines are a bit more ripe, serious, and ageable compared to Brouilly. It sits in the center of Brouilly situated on an old volcano! Best with 4-6 years of age, try with seared duck breast, beef stew, rack of lamb or Comté.

Now that we’ve explained what Beaujolais is, where it comes from, what it tastes like, and how the wines are classified, you can start to understand why they are held in such high regard. It’s because the wines are undervalued, delicious, exciting, drinkable, plus they pair wonderfully with food. Most wine connoisseurs love Burgundy, and Beaujolais is a close alternative for a fraction of the price. There is also a strong movement of natural wine making in this region producing wines of exceptional quality. Maybe part of the reason wine geeks love Beaujolais is because it fell out of mainstream fashion years ago and is generally misunderstood by the average American. And it’s also true, wine pros can get pretty defensive when consumers are quick to write off wines of Beaujolais as insipid fruity swill.

So there you have it; Beaujolais is full of great values and exciting styles, plus it’s been misjudged and under-appreciated by the masses. Numerous producers have developed a cult following because of their small but very passionate fan base. And, many people draw similarities between Beaujolais and its more famous, more expensive beloved northern neighbor, Burgundy…which hasn’t hurt.

The Brouwerij Boon Tradition: An interview with Karel Boon

By: Tim Jerding

Tradition constitutes a large part of the human experience. It is created and nurtured by families, communities, and cultures. If neglected, it becomes history.

By the 1970s, the Lambic tradition was under threat from modernity; the consumer base became more accustomed to pale lager and had developed a taste for back-sweetened Lambic. (I’ve heard interviews where Belgian brewers blame American influence and Coca-Cola for this sweet tooth trend in Belgium. It makes sense.) Traditional geuze–a blend of one to three year-old Lambic that is bottle conditioned like Champagne–was going out of style.

Frank Boon purchased Brasserie R. De Vits in 1978 with a vision to maintain the Lambic and geuze tradition. It was a vision against the current, against the market demands, and it was one of a passion for geuze, that most beautiful and nuanced beer style that remains in existence today thanks in large part to Mr. Boon’s (and other producers such as Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen) efforts. In recent years, Lambics have been the major influence on the development of the “sour” beer culture that has played a huge role in the American craft beer market.

Four decades after his purchase, Boon houses the largest volume of Lambic beer in the world. Boon’s beers have won gold medals in six consecutive World Beer Cups. His early dedication to blending and bottling Geuze kept Lambic’s chin above water, and now he’s rightfully recognized as a hero in the beer world.

In March, we featured Brouwerij Boon as our brewery of the month at Mr. B’s. I exchanged a few emails with Karel Boon, son of Frank, in regards to him and his brother Jos growing up at Boon, the state of beer, and their roles carrying the torch of Boon onward. Below is that exchange.

How old were you when you first drank Lambic? How did it go? Did you enjoy it?

This may shock some people, but I was definitely younger than 4. There wasn’t even an age limit on drinking beer yet back then I think here in Belgium. We pretty much always drank Lambic at the dinner table in the evening. Our parents would give us a glass of it, cut down with water. The older we got the less water was added and at some point we were even allowed to drink more than one glass. I’m quite sure I enjoyed the beer. They say the first encounter is always the most important one and look, now I’m taking over my father’s brewery together with my brother. I think that must have been a great first encounter. Unfortunately, I was too young to remember today.

The Boon name has become synonymous with great Lambic. What was it like growing up in a Lambic brewery and how has your role evolved as you’ve matured? How will it continue to evolve?

I often compare it to the idea of a farmer’s family living on their farm. We’ve always lived next to the brewery. From my bedroom I could walk in my pyjama’s into the brewery without going outside. Today our parents still live there but my brother and I live about a minute away from the brewery. Growing up at the brewery it seemed quite normal to have this thing in your life. We’ve always been in contact with Lambic beer, but also other breweries, other brewers, other styles of beers etc. During weekends and the summer it was normal to work at the brewery, back then, cleaning bottles from labels that wouldn’t go off in the machine; sorting brown and green bottles (as we recycle them in Belgium); repainting the red mash tun in the brew house; cleaning up the warehouse; cutting out weeds between the tiles outside; helping to clean casks; at a later age help at beer festivals. It literally becomes part of your life this way. Not to say that I haven’t had other interests, but in the back of my head I always wanted to continue in the brewery, together with my brother Jos. It’s simply such a large part of our lives. We’ve never been forced to work in the brewery, but what our father understood was that for many reasons you need to live right next to the brewery, but mainly to (1), keep an eye on everything because it’s 24/7 follow-up and (2) the family gets involved and it can become and stay a family business. There’s so much know-how, the feeling, the philosophy that needs to be passed on that it is almost only possible through family generations. My brother Jos and I both had our own interests. His more towards the production and bio-chemistry behind beer and for me it’s more about the people around the brewery and the people who drink our beers which is why I take on our sales and some marketing. We’ve started as kids with helping cleaning the bottles and scraping the floor, learning the importance of detail and care. Now we’re here. The brewery is growing thanks to the popularity we and other Lambic producers have created. So the brewery is becoming a larger structure with more people working in it which requires more organisational skill than before. But in the end the main idea stays that we just want to make great Lambic beers where at the end of the glass you can say: “Ah, that was great. Give me another one of that.” And at the same time have fun trying to improve the beers, the taste and make some new creations now and then.

Wow. Sounds like a wonderful and noble life. It’s obvious that the finished product in the bottle is great not just because of method, ingredients, etc, but also because of the passion you all exude and the choice you all have made to commit your life to the creation of these wonderful beers. The analogy to the farm is interesting to me because of the farmhouse tradition in beer. Most breweries in the US don’t have those relationships, but there is a small trend where breweries stateside are focusing on local ingredients and having relationships with the growers of those ingredients. I get the sense Boon, and most Belgian brewers, have always valued those relationships and quality of ingredients. How close of a relationship does Boon have with the growers of the grain, hops, and fruit that goes into the beer? How are your own fruit orchards going and what is the long term goal with growing your own fruit?

Well, the analogy with the farm, from my perspective, has more to do with the fact that we’re a family business, we live right next to the brewery, on the same land. I’m sitting in my office writing this to you now at the brewery, on a Sunday. I think that says it all (haha). However, we don’t grow our own ingredients. The ingredients of the beer are obviously of tremendous importance. The connotation that ‘grown locally’ is necessarily better for the product is not always true though. It really depends on what you need from the ingredients to make your beer great and then which ingredients have those components to make it so. Of course if it’s local, it’s a plus. You’re less on the road with the raw materials and the quality chain is shorter so it’s even easier to follow up. Our relationship with the producers that supply us is very close though. You need a good relationship to stay updated on harvests, qualities and so on. So not all our ingredients come from Belgium. From our experience and tests, the best malt or wheat or hops for Lambic can’t be found in Belgium today, unfortunately. Our cherries are currently harvested in Poland, handpicked. However, we’re currently working with Belgian cultivators as well as the local governments to create fields here in our province where we can grow cherries of the “schaarbeekse” family. We’re currently doing tests with 28 different schaarbeekse varieties. We have created and bottled 28 different Oude Krieks with these 28 varieties to check which variety gives the nicest flavours etc. (We often do such tests of which bottled never go into the market). Then we also have to look at which variety can be used to have decent yield when harvesting. Ideally, we can use the best variety for flavour and find a way to harvest them so there’s a high yield. The idea is to create hedges, like with grapes for wine, to harvest automatically using the same machines from the wine-makers. It will take a few years before any harvesting will really be possible, but we’re doing this properly so we can create Schaarbeekse cherries that are ideal for Oude Kriek and that are affordable. Soon we’ll actually release “Oude Schaarbeekse Kriek Boon” which is a first test with one of these cherries, harvested in Belgium, at real-life scale. And I think I can say this Oude Kriek will be limited now, but more similar things will probably follow as we’re only just starting.

Aside from the beers at Boon, can you talk about two or three beers that have made a special impression on you?

There’s definitely some specific beers that have made an impression on me, aside from our own beers. Style related; Growing up, my father used to drink stouts sometimes. As a kid at about 6 years old I would sip from his glass to taste and I always knew it was “a stout.” Of course, compared to most other beers this was easy to spot. But it always stayed with me that that was probably when I really realised that beer could be many different things. So today I’m also still a big fan of stouts. However, I stay quite classic in this style. I’m not looking for 999% coffee or chocolate flavour with a beer that has a syrupy texture. Given that I’ve been somewhat trained by my father to detect off-flavours, it’s not always easy to find a new beer (or wine) that I 100% enjoy. But because there are many breweries in Belgium that have built up great know-how about beer, you don’t have to look far here. So there’s beers you’ll often find in my fridge like Westmalle Tripel, Saison Dupont, Gouden Carolus Classic, Orval, and a bunch more.

Boon beers were the first proper Lambics that I ever had. Their influence on the modern beer culture in America is obvious–first with controlled fermentation sours and now with more and more stateside breweries utilizing spontaneous fermentation. But working on the retail side, I’ve noticed that a healthy percentage of our “sour” beer customers have not had your beers nor heard of them. Have you spent much time in the American market? And what are your thoughts? What do you see as the future of Boon consumption in an ever evolving market?

In 2 years, I’ve been in the USA twice now together for a total of about 22 days traveling around to visit the beer scene, so far in 6 different states. It is crazy to see how much beer is out there. It looks like there’s more than can ever be drunk. Now on top of that are indeed many sour beers. From my perspective, there is quite simply so much beer, so many brands, so many labels out there, that it is incredibly difficult for a random individual who likes to buy some special beers to actually grasp the origin of this entire movement and to come to the conclusion to try a Belgian beer, not an American one. Because there’s so much beer in the US, I think that to many we’re just ‘yet another beer brand’ while in fact, if it were not for my father, there would be maybe only one museum left to talk about how Lambic beer used to be made and one or two other large breweries who would use the names “Geuze” and “Lambic” to sell non-traditional sweetened or filtered derivatives. Without him we would not be talking about “Oude Geuze” or “Oude Kriek”. The distinction with “Oude” (or “traditional”) would not have been made, creating even more confusion about real Lambic beers towards consumers. Just looking at our beer bottles and the labels of course, who could guess this story. But I feel it is relevant and needs to be told. To be honest we’re not big fans of the name “sour” beer because if there can be “sour” beer, there could be “sour” wine. But that’s what we just call vinegar. So we prefer to refer to our beers as “Lambic” beers. Sourness is part of the flavour, but it is not the main point. So already we notice that the copies of Belgian Lambics are now being called “sour”, often because they turn very sour indeed and because it seems many Americans seem to like this strong sourness. Compared to some of those very sour beers, our beer appears not sour at all. So there’s a huge challenge already to explain what our beer is about. (I refer you to my previous answer where I said, “We just want to make great Lambic beers where at the end of the glass you can say, ‘Ah, that was great. Give me another one of that.’”) It’s not only about sourness. With Lambic beers, it’s about brewing a beer with a lot of care for raw materials, the installations you’re using and so on, that, by ageing slowly, obtains delicate and complex flavours thanks to the wild/brett [brettanomyces or “brett” is a strain of wild yeast that creates delicious funk and acidity] yeasts from our region. Then as brewers it’s our task to use these Lambics, to blend them, and create complex but balanced Oude Geuzes or fruit beers by fermenting the fruit, e.g. cherries, with young Lambic. But to get this message across is an immense task when there are literally tens of thousands of other beers with brewers that are talking about their beers. It is difficult to say where we’re headed. The US market is quite different from the Belgian one and rapidly changing. I suppose there is currently a large boom, a bubble even, of breweries and beers. I feel, however, that some people are just going back to the ‘easy drinking’ beers or beers that are still special, but not destroying their taste buds. So I hope that those people can come across our beers to discover that this is what the Boon beers along with many other Belgian beers offer. The USA is also a more keg-oriented market than Belgium which is why we also decided to create a version of Geuze Boon on draft, Geuze Boon Sélection. This is something that is less traditional, an innovation within the geuze tradition perhaps, but thanks to current technologies perfectly possible. The Geuze Boon Sélection is a blend of old and young lambics, re-fermented in keg. We keep the kegs at the brewery at least 4, sometimes 5 months to give them time to re-ferment. With this I hope we can introduce many Americans to the Geuze style who would otherwise not choose for bottled beers. My preference though will still go to bottled Oude Geuze as it is the most refined.

Wow. Karel, what you’ve observed and discussed here is an acute analysis of the beer culture in the US. There is certainly a saturation of beer and a huge emphasis on over-the-top flavors. With that approach, nuance can be lost. Having said that, there are definitely breweries taking a more artistic approach to their beer (try Blackberry Farm, Casey, and New Glarus–all some of my faves). I kind of view the market and culture as an immature one; we’re a lot younger over here. Prohibition killed all the breweries in the 1920’s and now we’re like over excited teenagers trying to drink the latest and greatest. I think over time as the culture matures here, a nuanced approach to brewing and flavors will become more appreciated and beers such as yours will be the standard for what people want. And people will be innovating within those nuances, rather than beating you over the head with a certain flavor.

I think you’re right it has to do with the maturity of the market today. A lot of ‘testing’ we’re seeing in the USA are things we actually have read about in old beer books from Belgium and Germany. But you probably have to go through that stage. So a lot of things are still waiting to happen. By the way, New Glarus’ beers are some of the few that really had a good impact on my perception of American beers and the future of the American beer culture. I was able to taste some of their beers when I was in Milwaukee. That was a very pleasant discovery!

A very big thank you to Karel for participating in this little blog. Needless to say, the future of Boon is in good hands.

Station 26 Brewing: Growing On Its Own Terms

by Tim Jerding

Last month, we featured centuries old Brewery Rodenbach here on our blog. Today, we visit with Justin Baccary, owner and founder of Denver’s freshly five-year-old Station 26 Brewing. I often think how such a wonderful time it is to be beer drinkers: we’re able to enjoy both world-class beers from masters such as Rodenbach and explore new companies that are putting out fantastic products such as Station 26, among the countless other young companies across the country. Even elder statesmen like Anchor and Sierra Nevada are young compared to our European counterparts.

Station-26-EXTERIOR

The beer culture in this country is so adolescent and ambitious, it’s both thrilling in the moment and thrilling to think about the future. Station 26 is a fine example of a company operating in a thoughtful and intelligent manner in our market. First of all, and most important, the beer is good and consistent. Their focus on self-distribution and a small footprint creates a sense of community and a commitment to that community. Which in turn creates loyalty between the brewery and those consuming their product. Everyone wins. I exchanged an email with Justin recently in which we discuss beer, business, and the future. The following is that exchange.

What were some of your early inspirations that motivated you to get into the brewing business? Were you originally in the brew house at Station 26?

I moved to Colorado 11 years ago and immediately started exploring the craft beer culture across the state, and I can still picture the 750 ml cork and caged bottles of New Belgium’s La Folie that I used to buy in their taproom. Like a lot of brewery founders, I started home brewing as a hobby. I started in my kitchen then graduated to a larger all-grain setup in the backyard. Eventually I quit my finance job and took a brewer job (and the associated pay cut). My motivation to open Station 26 was to create a beer focused “third space” for the Park Hill and Stapleton neighborhoods, which at the time lacked a brewery to call their own.

In the early days of S26 I helped out in the brew house but our brewers have always been better at making beer than I was, so I have always focused my time on doing what I do best – creating the vision for what Station 26 can and should be and leading our growing team on that journey (plus all of the boring but necessary things that all small business owners do on a week to week basis, like paying bills).

What total production will you hit this year and what are your 5, 10, and 20 year goals for the company in regards to production? With the market so saturated in Colorado, and a customer base that is seemingly always looking for the new thing.

We’re celebrating our Fifth Birthday this month and we’ll do close to 7,000 BBLs in 2018. That’s about 6,000 BBLs more than my original business plan called for. We don’t have specific volume goals for 5/10/20 years out, but we’re planning another big growth year in 2019.

While it is true that some consumers only want to drink new beers (note to them: you can drink the same beer more than once!) I believe there’s still power in flagship beers. 303 Lager, Tangerine Cream, and Juicy Banger IPA are consistent, high-quality beers and we know that consumers reach for them regularly because sales of all of them are growing every month.

Our long-term vision at Station 26 is to be one of the go-to breweries for beer drinkers across the state. There are still a lot of drinkers that don’t know Station 26 in the Denver area, and that percentage increases the further you get from the brewery, so we’re focused on making great beer and getting it into the hands of more and more Colorado craft beer fans!

I really love how you self-distribute and understand you’ll be using a distributor for your grocery sales starting in the new year. What are your thoughts on the changing laws and how do you see it effecting your business? Do you foresee self-distributing long term? Do you think you’ll begin distributing other breweries?

I believe beer sales in chain stores was inevitable. While there’s been some grumbling about the implementation of chain sales, I think the compromise that was struck back in 2016 was better than the alternative (immediate sales everywhere without a phased-in component).

We’re still a small team and there’s no way we could handle delivery and merchandising at all of the chain stores ourselves, so we teamed up with a distribution partner that will handle chain business for us. We will continue to self-distribute to all of our existing accounts, both on- and off-premise. We really love self-distributing beer and have no plans to stop doing that any time soon. We’re one of the largest self-distributing breweries in Colorado, and I believe our distribution platform is a competitive advantage for us. We interact with retailers and consumers more frequently than breweries who partner with a wholesaler. We can also be more flexible than other suppliers – we regularly deliver to our key accounts outside of their scheduled delivery day, sometimes in personal vehicles on weekends if necessary!

We currently don’t distribute for other breweries but we have been approached about it and it’s definitely something that we’ve considered. We’re still growing our wholesale business rapidly so that’s our focus for 2019 but I learned a lesson a few years ago so I never say never…

It’s really too soon to say at this point how grocery store beer sales will impact Station 26. We’ll be in a few dozen stores on January 1, and we’ll take it a month at a time. The reality is that no state has done what Colorado is about to do – I think breweries, wholesalers, existing retailers, chain stores, and beer drinkers are all curious to see what happens.

What are some classic beers that really do it for you? Conversely, what new breweries are making beers that have made an impression on you?

I made a comment to my wife the other day that I could probably drink only Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Coors Banquet for all of 2019 and get by just fine, so I’ll say those two classics. On the new breweries side, I don’t get out as much as I used to but I really enjoy the beers that Woods Boss and Liberati are putting out right now. Liberati in particular is doing something that no one else is, both on the beer side and the food side of things, and to me it’s exciting to see entirely new things in a beer scene that can at times seem very repetitive.

A special thanks to Justin for partaking in our series. Happy new year, all.

Rodenbach: Beauty of the Past, Present, and Future

by Tim Jerding

In the middle ages, before humans knew what yeast was, fermentation was viewed as a magical occurrence. Some viewed the products resulting from said fermentation (yogurt, bread, alcohol, miso, kimchi, etc) as sacred. Beer would ferment in open-air vessels that allowed the wild yeast and bacteria in. It was brewed seasonally, and most to all beer was certainly sour. Some styles, such as Lambic, retained this tradition of wild fermentation and seasonal brewing. Others faded away or evolved into the “cleaner” beer styles we know today.

The methods at Rodenbach Brewery of Roeselare, Belgium fall somewhere in between the modern brewer and the traditions of the Lambic brewers. They are known for their Flander’s Red ales–a style they created in the 19th century. Like Lambic beers, the Flander’s style is sour and goes through extensive fermentation and aging in oak vessels, but unlike Lambic, the fermentation is controlled via a pitched culture of yeast and bacteria.

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One row of the oak foeders at Rodenbach.

Each beer in their lineup is gorgeous and carries with it a similar, nuanced thread. They pair incredibly well with food (especially roast duck with cherry sauce like I had last night), and currently we are featuring Rodenbach as our brewery of the month here at Mr. B’s. Rudi Ghequire, brew master and employee of Rodenbach since 1982, was kind enough to participate in our interview series. The following is our exchange.

It’s not often in our world that the person or company that creates a certain thing, like a beer style, remains the most revered product in that category. Rodenbach created the Flander’s Red in the 1800s, and it’s still the best. Can you describe the process in the beer’s creation and how that has evolved over the decades?

First of all, thank you. The brewing method at Rodenbach goes back all the way to the early middle ages, and we still follow those philosophies very strictly and meticulously. Because we don’t use hops in the origin of the beer, we’re able to preserve it longer, which is very similar to how winemakers preserve their wine in wood barrels. We use standing oak foeders to age our beer, which gives Rodenbach its distinctive characteristics. In the end, our beer is aged with all the complexity and refinement of a fine wine…but has all the refreshment of a beer. Because of this, we often refer to Rodenbach as “the missing link between beer & wine.”

What were your early inspirations to brew, and where did you get your professional start?

I’ve always been fascinated by life sciences and biology, and it had a big impact on my life. Of course, it didn’t take long to discover and appreciate my love for beer. So as I started learning more, I was attracted to the main ingredients in beer – and particularly, yeast. Yeast is fascinating to me – it’s a small living thing that creates even more beautiful things, one of which is beer.

My professional start began in 1982 at the Rodenbach brewery, which has had an enormous impact on my life and appreciation for yeast – and beer. So much so that I now also make my own bread, cheese & yoghurt.

When and where was the first time you drank Rodenbach, and what was your impression?

I have to thank my grandmother for this. She was always a big fan and introduced me to Rodenbach when I was a child. I enjoyed it so much more than typical kids drinks like Coca-Cola and lemonade. Naturally, once I was able to purchase and drink it for myself there was no going back. And in the area where I grew up, Rodenbach was – and continues to be – a very popular drink.

What led you to work at Rodenbach?

As above, my love for the product began at an early age so I’ve always been enamored with the brewery. In 1982, I learned that the Rodenbach brewery was looking for a purchaser for raw materials as well as assistance with packaging, maintenance and investments. I was so happy to get the job, and I spent many hours working at the brewery in the office learning as much as I could. I was there so much that in 1984 I moved into the brewery’s apartment with my wife and children and spent two years learning everything I could.

Can you describe your process of sampling foeders and choosing each for the different variations–Grand Cru, Vintage, Fruitage, Alexander, and Caractère Rouge–of Rodenbach?–what you’re looking for, how they taste at different ages, why certain flavor nuances work with your different beers, etc.

It is hard to describe our daily work in just a few words. Just like being in a winery, the wine maker is always busy every day, week and year. There is very little down time.

In our case everything begins by starting with the finest raw materials, then the fermentation with our own yeast strain and finally for us the most interesting part is the maturation on wood to create the various flavours in our beers. What we’re looking for is perfection in balance. And that always takes time – which is why we age our beers to the perfect maturity level.

Every Rodenbach beer has his own character & taste profile – and every foeder has its own nuances as well. Getting it right takes a lot of patience and time, but we feel it’s well worth it.

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The lineup.

Your beers are classic. Your beers are perfect. The addition of Fruitage to the lineup was a great move. Leading a brew house so steeped in tradition, where do you innovate from here? Do you feel the need to innovate? What’s in the future for Rodenbach?

Thanks again – we’re very proud of all our beers. Fruitage is no small feat – to make something so approachable & delicious, while still maintaining the quality you expect out of Rodenbach was certainly a challenge.

At the brewery, we’re constantly innovating – but it’s not always in the form of new beers. Maintaining the quality of our product requires constant innovation, but we also strive to make our beers even better than they were before. For us, we will always put an enormous amount of attention on balance – both in terms of taste and flavor. A properly balanced beer is the key to our blending process.

We also innovate with our foeders – every time we start or restart a foeder we inoculate it with the best yeast culture that we have in our foeder cellars. As a reminder, we have 294 oak wooden foeders with a total capacity that you can compare with the content of 34,000 wine barrels.

To describe future innovations for Rodenbach I’m inspired by the poet Albrecht Rodenbach who said: “In the present is the past, now what will be.”

When can we drink beers together?

Consider this an open invitation to come to Roeselare – we’d love to have you in-person. Beer is one of those products that brings people together from near and far – and often in unexpected places or circumstance. I hope we’ll have the chance one day soon, but in the meantime I’m raising a glass right now and saying “cheers to the unexpected.”

A very large thank you to Rodenbach and Rudi for taking part in this little blog. Cheers.

Telluride Brewing: Making Beer in Majesty

by Tim Jerding

I moved to Colorado in August of 2012, and was soon hired to work at Bonfire Brewing in Eagle (hey Bonfire!). I wasn’t to begin work until October, so I decided to road trip with my first destination being the San Juan mountain range in the southwest part of the state. The majesty of those mountains and the small towns that were nestled in them left a deep impression on me. Crested Butte, Durange, Silverton, Ourey, and of course, Telluride were all charming in their own right. After two nights of camping, I was off to Utah.

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Telluride, CO

Soon after getting ankle deep in spent grain and dirty kegs at Bonfire, I learned of Telluride Brewing and their Face Down Brown Ale. What a beer! Chocolately, roasty, and something one can keep coming back to. Trying this beverage for the first time brought me right back to my recent visit in the San Juans. These guys made a beer that represented their environment so well.

After several years in the industry, I’ve landed here at the Mr. B’s beer department. My initial opinion of Telluride’s beers remains unchanged, and the folks over there are super kind to boot.

A couple months back (sorry about my delay to publish, Fish!), I exchanged some emails with owner and brew master Chris Fish about the beer business, his beer, and the San Juan mountains. The following is that exchange:

Where, what, and who did you get your initial inspiration to make beer?

My dad exposed me to some imports at a young age like Guinness and Newcastle that really opened up my mind to the possibility of flavors beyond American Standard Lager. I mean beer could have flavor! By the end of high school I was getting my hands on Sierra Nevada, Pete’s Wicked and some of the 1st Bombers from New Belgium. I was hooked! As soon as I moved out of my folks house at 18, I found out that I could go to the home brew store and buy beer ingredients with no ID! I could make my own beer!

How do the San Juan mountains influence what you want to make?

I moved to Telluride for the outdoor lifestyle. The snow, the rivers, and live music are what inspire me! So, I use all of my loves to inspire my brews. I like to imagine what would pair perfectly with things that I love to do. What would I want to drink after a huge back country tour in on my split board? What do I want in my hand when I am rowing my raft?

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You have a solid core line-up. How much experimentation do you do and will Telluride Brewing start distributing some of these experiments?

We do experiment but not enough! Our Brewery has been maxed out basically since we opened! Every time we have added capacity our core line up absorbs it! In the off season we are able to play some but all of that is sold on draft. We have not been able to package our experimental one offs! We need a new brewery!

How much barrel production do you project this year? What are the long-term goals production and distribution wise?

I think we will do about 8000 bbls this year, up from about 7000 last year. Our long term goal is to build a new brewery! We cannot keep up here, and I want to be able to explore and develop new flavors, and get our beer to everybody in Colorado who wants it.

As a brewery that only distributes in Colorado, do you see value in expanding your footprint or do you want to keep it in-state?

It will take a new brewery to even consider leaving the state, but leaving is not a goal of ours at this point. I love being a Colorado-only brewery! It’s much easier to manage and monitor freshness and quality. Plus, Colorado is home!

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Unit Monster–a collaboration beer between Telluride, Marble, and Mr. B’s. It’s an imperial stout aged in Whistle Pig Rye Whiskey barrels on Colorado cherries and vanilla beans.

When will we make Unit Monster 2???

I am ready! It is all in Ted’s hands! We have no capacity up here!

A very big thank you to Fish and the whole Telluride crew.

 

Alternative Lifestyle

by Maxine Hendry

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You’ve been drinking wine from a bottle for most of your life, but have you tried alternative packaging any time recently? If basic brands in big boxes have scared you off, or if wine-in-a-can sounds appalling, it’s time to take another look at what wineries are doing to be more competitive, eco-friendly, and innovative.

One reason innovation in packaging for wine has been improving is because environmental concerns are becoming more important for the average consumer. Packaging also impacts companies because they can save money by being more efficient with materials and transportation. There’s also been an acceleration in demand for portability of products, creating the need for lighter-weight, non-glass packaging. With popularity increasing among consumers, we’re seeing more options from better wineries and improved quality all around!

Now there are more alternatives than ever for drinkers to choose from: wine in can, Tetra Paks, boxes, plastic, and even kegs! If you care much about your carbon footprint, or the environmental impacts from the wine industry, you should check out these unconventional containers. Other benefits include better prices and more convenience. Do we have your attention yet??

There is nothing wrong with glass, aside from it being heavy and breakable. So here is a quick lesson in history: glass has been around for more than 3,000 years, but it wasn’t until the 17th century when newly invented coal burning furnaces enabled glass blowers to create thicker, darker glass which was suitable for storing wine. The bottles were brittle compared to a modern bottle, so transporting wine was usually done in large clay pots, called amphorae, or they would wrap the glass bottles in straw to protect them. Either way, not very a convenient vessel to bring poolside or camping.

If you love your glass bottles, don’t worry – bottles made from glass aren’t going anywhere! At least 70% of the market is dominated by glass 750’s. It’s still the only option you’ll have if you’re thinking about cellaring your wine, too! (Please don’t age your boxed wine.) There’s nothing wrong with glass, we just want to show you that there are other options, especially if you are going to be in the park, at the game, hiking, by the pool, camping, skiing, or anywhere on the go. So here’s a few alternatives to your typical glass bottle.

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BOX WINE:

It wasn’t until 1965 that an Australian winemaker pioneered the concept of boxed wine. The idea, which incorporated a 1-gallon polyethylene bladder fit into a corrugated cardboard box, was being used at the time by mechanics to hold and transport battery acid (Yum!). The original design required the consumer to cut the corner on the bag, pour the wine, and reseal it with a special peg. Then in 1967, an Australian inventor along with Penfolds Wines, patented the plastic, air-tight tap that is still in use today. This type of box wine is known as B.I.B. (bag in box) and generally comes in a size of 3 liters, or 4 regular bottles of wine.

Think what you will, but box wine has come a long way! It was once relegated to the lowest tier on the quality pyramid, often just labeled “red” or “white”. But right now, box wine in the US is booming, and ironically, the “value” boxed wine category (cheapo box wine) is stagnant, the growth spurt is driven primarily by “premium” options. In fact, the premium box wine category is the fastest growing wine package format since 2005. So, there’s plenty more decent options for you to choose from.

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The 2018 US Wine Statistics shows a 15.2% increase in 3 liter bag-in-box and much of this was led by that fancier, premium style. You can find many options here at Mr. B’s such as Casina de Corina Sangiovese which is 100% organic and more complex than any box wine you’ve ever had! It’s a little more pricey, at $39.99, but if you think about it, that’s only $10 a bottle. We also have some excellent, dry pink wine in 3 liter B.i.B. from France, Spain, and the US. Try “From the Tank” Ro by natural wine importing team Jenny & Francois for only $29.99, or Vrac Rosé, another great pink wine from France, only $36.99. We also love the red and pink selections from La Nevera, great Spanish blends for only $21.99. And don’t forget the Colorado-made boxed wines from Kingman Estates, we suggest the Marvelous Red Blend, which is Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, only $27.99.

TETRA PAK WINE:

On to the Tetra Pak: a highly portable and eco-friendly container which was made famous by fruit juice and soy milk. Most people will associate it with children’s juice boxes, but you can find Tetra Paks filled with wine nowadays. It was invented around the early 1960’s in Sweden, and is made from a number of components that are layered together: paperboard (made from wood), polyethylene (a type of plastic), and aluminum. This creates a unique package which keep liquids in, microbes out, and is both lightweight and strong.

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It’s an affordable way to package many food and drink items, plus the carbon footprint is about one-tenth of an equivalent glass bottle. In relation to cans, Tetra Paks take up 21% less space and weigh less. The product-to-packaging ratio is said to be 96% product and 4% packaging, compared to glass bottles, which are 71% product to 29% packaging.

The biggest criticism of the Tetra Pak is that it’s rather difficult to recycle. There are many layers of material used, which need to be separated, and not every recycling facility is able to do this. For that reason, the company estimates that only 25% of Tetra Paks are recycled globally. (But glass is way easier to recycle, and the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 28% of glass Americans buy makes it into a recycle bin. Go figure.)

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So check out a Tetra Pak! This container was intended for early consumption wine, so it wasn’t designed to sit in your cellar. Drink these within 6 months of purchase! They are generally available in 500 ml and 1000 ml (1 liter) sizes for wine. Check out Italian Fuori Strada, an organic 100% Sangiovese from Tuscany. An entire liter for under $15! We also offer Liberty Creek Merlot and Chardonnay in 500 ml for less than $5. Don’t forget, we also sell sake in Tetra Paks, like Tanuki, which comes in 900 ml and 3 liter for a great price. Just don’t forget to flatten the carton before recycling!

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CANNED WINE:

Also how can you forget about cans?? There’s a plethora of options for canned wine in all different styles and sizes. We’ve seen them in the market for the past couple of years now, with new innovations and styles popping up continually.

The success craft breweries have had putting their beer into cans has inspired winemakers to do the same. Many winemakers were drawn to the fact that cans are infinitely recyclable and leave a small environmental footprint. Not to mention the process has become more streamlined–canning equipment developed for breweries is small and portable enough to fit in wineries easily. Cans are a lot less breakable and also do a great job at keeping light and other impurities out. It’s the most sustainable of all materials: it can be recycled, turned into a new can, and returned to store shelves in less than 60 days. Consumers seem to agree: according to 2018 US Wine Statistics, the growth rate of wine in cans is up 49%.

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One of the first pioneers of this trend has to be Francis Ford Coppola, who put Sofia bubbly in 187ml cans almost 15 years ago! The aim was to create a striking, hip package aimed at younger drinkers who would like to enjoy one glass of bubbles without opening an entire bottle. Another early adopter was Denver’s own Infinite Monkey Theorem, as they have been canning wine since 2011. They’ve seen lots of success, appearing on the shelves of Whole Foods and on airplanes. Lately, we’ve seen major success with Union Wine Co’s Underwood wines in a can.

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As consumers have gotten on board with this style, several wineries were unable to even meet the demand for some of their best selling canned options, like Underwood’s super popular canned Sparkling Rose, which sold out before 4th of July even happened. So, it seems this trend is here to stay and we can look forward to many more new and exciting choices.

Don’t be shy about trying cans, boxes, tetra paks, and even keg wine. Chances are you’ll find a style you’ll like, save money, and enjoy the convenience of light-weight packaging for all your needs. As summer pool time is winding down, there’s still plenty of reasons to try alternative packaged wine like hiking, camping, skiing, boating, biking, gardening, and picnics. Enjoy!

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Red Wine for Insanely Hot Weather

by Maxine Hendry

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Fellow winos — what wine do you drink when it’s 94 degrees outside? It’s easy to suggest a crisp, cold white or pink wine, but sometimes you just feel like a red. And that’s okay. There are some fun possibilities for drinking red during summer’s heat, which won’t “blow out your palate” and also pair well with warm weather fare.

So, what red wine matches nicely with the excessive warmth we’re having? Full-bodied, high alcohol options will usually fatigue your palate and leave you more lethargic than refreshed. Fortunately, there are countless wines that won’t leave your taste buds defeated during the 90+ degree temperatures on the horizon for the next month or two.

Remember these tips: sticking to wines with lighter body, lower alcohol, and less tannin with fresh fruit profiles will be your best bet. Stay away from fuller-bodied, oakier wines with higher alcohol levels and more tannin – they are much less refreshing. You can also give reds a slight chill in the fridge which adds a nice, refreshing quality.

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How can you tell if the wine is lighter? Well first off, just look at the color of the wine. If you can’t see through the wine in its glass, chances are it might be a little heavy for summer. Wine can be lighter or heavier bodied naturally, or intentionally. Certain grapes are characteristically more subtle. Grapes with thinner skins will yield a less tannic wine, and when from a cooler region, they will usually have lighter body and more acidity. The flavors will be a little less heavy-handed too: wild fruit is complemented by notes of flowers, earth, herbs, and spices; and the flavors are not weighed down by heavy use of new oak aging.

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Lots of tannin can be mouth-coating and dense tasting, and that will weigh down your taste buds and totally overpower delicately flavored foods. The higher acidity in a red is good for palate cleansing and increasing the “refreshing” factor of a wine. It also means more tart fruit versus ripe fruit flavor, which is generally more appetizing when it’s blazing hot outside.

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If that sounds like the opposite of everything you know and love about red wine, don’t worry – there are “lighter” red wines that still pack lots of personality, flavor, and complexity. They are just more drinkable than some of their heartier cohorts. It’s like comparing a meal of grilled chicken on arugula to shepherd’s pie. Just as we eat lighter meals when it’s hot outside, we can also drink lighter wines. And since a lot of summer meals will have lighter flavors and fresher ingredients, matching them with a wine that enhances those qualities will make the best pairing. So, simply said, lighter wines better complement the food and agree more with our palate during hotness. Just imagine a light French Pinot to a big Argentine Malbec. Right now, something that’s lithe with more energy sounds much more quaffable.

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Okay so which wines are lighter bodied? We’ll list some general grapes and regions you should check out, and why.

For a quick, basic go-to, Pinot Noir is always a great (but obvious) choice for a summer red! It’s usually medium-to-light bodied, lower in tannin and balanced with alcohol. The flavor is usually soft and easy to like with cherries, berries, exotic spices and earthy undertones. If you like flashier styles, Central Coast California Pinot Noir is always a safe bet. Expect to pay anywhere from $15 to over $50 for solid choices from Monterey and Santa Barbara. My favorites are from Sta. Rita Hills. (like Ampelos for only $32.99!) If you like the classic, more refined styles, there are plenty of options from France you will love. We have options from Burgundy at all price points but we also have excellently priced gems from Languedoc like organic Moulin de Gassac Pinot Noir only $13.99. And we feature plenty of choices from Williamette Valley in Oregon. If you want to try something a little different, I would suggest you try a Pinot Noir from New Zealand! They are delicious and a little more spicy/savory. If you usually love big California blends and such, might I suggest Sineann’s Pisa Terrace Pinot Noir from Central Otago in New Zealand for $25.99.

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For the category of Pinot Noir, there are many options for you to try besides France, California, and Oregon too — try a funky one from Germany like Koehler-Ruprecht Pinot Noir ($21.99); or maybe a natural wine from Italy, like Movia Pinot Noir ($54.99); an Austrian like Höpler Pinot Noir ($22.99), one from New Zealand like Paper Road Pinot Noir ($23.99), or even a peppery South American one like Chilean Terrapura Pinot Noir ($11.99). They’re all a little different, and all definitely perfect for this nice weather. Try them with meals like garlic roast pork tenderloin with mustard cream sauce, wild mushroom bruschetta with goat cheese, grilled eggplant with pine nuts, vegan enchiladas, glazed ham with sweet potatoes, Chinese spiced pork lettuce wraps, or different types of simple pizzas and pastas.

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On to some non-Pinot Noirs you might be over looking, which include many great wines from Italy. Try reds made from the varietal Barbera, from the Northern Italian region of Piedmont. This grape makes a likable red you can find at many price levels that’s slightly fuller than Pinot, and usually less earthy and without oak. We have Iuli Barbera for $19.99 and Tiamo Barbera for $11.99. Both are organic and very tasty. Also hailing from Piedmont, there are 3 exotic varietals I know you would love if you could try one: Grignolino, Freisa, and Ruché. They are very uncommon but really charming. Schiava from Alto Adige is another great red for picnics and warm weather, if you can find it. A Northern Italian wine you will enjoy and can actually find at most shops, including ours, is a young red from Valpolicella. The wines, made from blends of native grapes, including Corvina, are lovely with a slight chill and served with cured Italian meats, mild aged cheeses, dried fruit, roasted chicken or duck with polenta, different types of pizza, lighter pasta dishes, and anything with ham. There are also a few red grapes from Sicily that might be of interest, including Nerello Mascalese and Frappato. They can be done in a style that’s great chilled and served with summer BBQ’s featuring grilled meat or seafood, vegetables and rustic side dishes. We have options for both at the store!

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There are also many options from France you might enjoy besides Pinot Noir. Notably, the long-standing summer favorite–Gamay-based wines from Beaujolais. These lighter bodied, fruity, dry red wines are quaffable and pair up nicely with grilled chicken, grilled pork, roasted turkey, quiche, big salads, seafood and hard to pair meals like Chinese food, Moroccan and even Indian! It’s delicious slightly chilled as well. A decent Beaujolais-Villages should cost between $12-$15 and a good Cru Beaujolais from areas like Morgon, Brouilly, or Moulin-à-Vent $20-$30. While Gamay can be simple and fruity, we sell one that has a funkier, earthier style that will totally impress you–Lapierre “Raisins Gaulois” Gamay for $19.99.

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Some other lighter French reds you might like to try, and are easy to find, include varietals like Grenache, when done if a fresh, fruity style. You can find this grape from areas all over South France including simple Grenache-based blends from Côtes du Rhône for around $15, which will be more medium-bodied and spicy but soft and quaffable. In addition to Grenache, look out for other Rhône varietals such as Carignan and Cinsault. They’re all great chilled with grilled food! Likewise, many Cabernet Franc-based wines from the Loire Valley will give you a nice, medium-bodied red with spicy green and black pepper notes. Wanna try something even cooler? Look for red wines from the Jura region, made with the grapes Trousseau or Poulsard. You can find Trousseau in our store for instance; we have a few options from renowned maker Michel Gahier. It’s a lighter-bodied red with a little more tannin than you expect and bright acidity. A unique wine that’s all natural and really fun to drink.

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Speaking of easy to drink (but hard to pronounce), there are a few grapes from Austria you will want to check out for something a little spicier! These fantastic native options include St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch. They are a bit fuller than Pinot Noir, and more peppery than earthy in flavor. Very tasty! Then there’s Zweigelt (pronounced TSVYE-gelt) which is a crossing of Blaufrankisch and St. Laurent, much the same style. I love this grape and it’s not uncommon to find a great bottle for around $15. What to eat with Austrian reds? You’ll love these wines paired with all types of barbequed meat plus Hawaiian or Korean cuisine, pad thai, sausages, pork asado, kebabs, seared tuna, swordfish, and pungent cheeses. You’ll recognize most of the bottles because of their red-and-white Austrian flag topped closures, and often times the bottles come in 1 Liter, which means a few extra glasses to enjoy!

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From Spain you can find soft, fruity, easy-drinking, really affordable Garnacha wines from all over the country $10-$15. And while many Tempranillo-based reds can be earthy, bold, and/or oaky, you can also find enjoyable expressions that are fresh, light and juicy in Joven or Crianza style for $12-$20. Try also medium-bodied, peppery wines made from the grape called Mencia in the Bierzo region for around $15-$20. All of these are great with all sorts of tapas like olives, chorizo, tangy aged cheese or salty nuts, plus chargrilled sausages or eggplant, and other Mediterranean fare.

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Lastly, we should probably mention a few other options you might enjoy that are made domestically. A lot of the grapes mentioned above have made their way to the US and also make wonderful warm weather reds. Aside from California and Oregon Pinot Noir, try soft, juicy styles of Grenache from California and Washington like my favorite, A Tribute to Grace Grenache from Santa Barbara for $36.99. (Or we have their even better priced Land of Saints blend for $19.99. ) Or try any red from Hiyu/Smockshop for something lithe, funky, and incredible — like the Spring Ephemeral Red, which is a gorgeous Grenache blend. We would also like to you remember: not all Zinfandels are huge, jammy oak monsters. One of our favorite wines right now is a California Zinfandel-Carignan blend from female winemaker, Martha Stouman. Not only is it a refreshing 11.3% abv, it’s all naturally made and low in production. We love that, and it’s only $25.99.

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Well thank you for reading and I hope this finds you experimenting a little this summer when it comes to grabbing a red for your next grill out, picnic, or charcuterie plate on the patio. Think outside the box and try something other than your usual Cabernet Sauvignon, you’ll be totally delighted. I know I mentioned it about 9 times already, but try a chilled red — you will be really surprised what 15 minutes in the fridge will do to freshen up whatever choice you make.

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Brewery Ommegang–based in tradition, deliciousness, and technique

Brewery Ommegang is located on a 136 acre farm in Cooperstown, New York, a setting that seems appropriate for the beers they produce. Their focus has always been beers in the Belgian tradition, and that focus is evident in the quality of the final product. Numerous awards at the most prestigious competitions world wide, increasing sales in 46 states plus overseas, and currently featured as brewery of the month at Mr. B’s–what more is left for them to accomplish? (Maybe the Mr. B’s bit is not as impressive). Entering their third decade, Ommegang is not resting on its laurels as new beers continue to be released that are just as impressive as their staples.

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Brewery Ommegang

They are owned by Duvel Moortgat, a company that also owns Firestone Walker, Boulevard, Liefman’s, Achouffe, Maredsous, Vedett, Del Ducatto, ‘T \Ij, Bernard, Bel Pils, and De Koninck. All of these breweries produce beers where the driving force is quality and excellence. Being under the Duvel umbrella allows Ommegang to collaborate and grow with their sister breweries in a way that’s exciting for the beer drinker–i.e. more good beer in the world. I exchanged an email with Phil Leinhart, brewmaster at Ommegang, to talk about where he started, his beer, and Ommegang’s future. What follows is that exchange.

What were your early inspirations to brew beer, and where did you get your professional start?

My older brother who is also in the brewing industry was a big influence as well as the book The World Guide to Beer by Michael Jackson. My first brewing job was at The Manhattan Brewing Company in New York City; one of the first brewpubs in the country. I started there in 1984 just after receiving a BS in Chemistry and attending the MBAA Short Course in Malting and Brewing Science.

What was your experience like working for Anheuser Busch? What made you transition to Ommegang?

I’ve gained valuable knowledge and experience at every brewery I’ve worked, but AB was unmatched. AB had arguably the deepest, most knowledgeable brewing staff in the world. To be able to work beside and learn from some of these people as well as what they did to make a consistent glass of beer was invaluable.

I started my career in brewpubs and small breweries. Despite thoroughly enjoying my time at AB my heart was back in a small brewery. I always respected Ommegang and Duvel and enjoyed their beers. I have a brother who’s lived in the area since 1990 so I met the founders and stayed in touch with the brewery over the years. When the opportunity presented itself….I took it.

After making the jump to Ommegang, what were your goals for the
company and the beer?

#1 was to grow volume by increasing the capacity of the brewery. Although the beers were generally very good, I focused on raising quality and consistency by implementing specific procedures and through capital project improvements.

You and your team make wonderful renditions of Belgian styles. What is it about these styles that inspire you to brew them? Are there any styles you’ve yet to attempt? Any plans to work on Lambic inspired offerings (forgive me if you have)?

Thank You! I think it’s the variety and deliciousness of these types of beers that continue to fascinate us. Our Belgian (and American) Colleagues also inspire us. At some point in the future I would like to explore making sour beers here but we need a separate facility for that. No plans for Lambic at this point….;)

What techniques and methods have you learned from your Belgian counterparts that you employ? Has any particular method thrown you for a loop, you went for it anyway, and it worked?

I would say not specific techniques per se, but I have gained a lot of insight into things like bottle refermentation and using sugar to lighten and dry out a higher ABV beer.

I love the beers that you’ve brewed at Liefman’s (Brunetta, Rosetta, and Pale sour. Am I missing any?). Can you talk about that experience? And do you plan to brew more there?

We did a beer just after Duvel acquired Liefmans called “Zuur”. It’s been an awesome experience visiting and working in a brewery that’s been brewing since the 17th Century and is one of the classic producers of Oud Bruin. I really enjoy the Liefmans beers…. they are well-blended and well balanced with a clean, mild lactic acidity; somewhat of a sweet/sour character. No etched in stone plans right now but we have a few things in mind…

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The beers.

Have you brewed your perfect beer?

Nah…there is no perfect beer that could satisfy all my tastes all the time….:)

Ommegang has established itself as one of the best breweries of Belgian styles not in Belgium. I feel that a lot of craft breweries (especially very new ones) have a hard time establishing an identity in a somewhat saturated market. Ommegang clearly has a strong identity and great company support from Duvel. Where do you all go from here?

We have really stepped up innovation not only along Belgian inspired style beer but also non-Belgian styles. I think we will continue this progression. I would also like to continue to improve quality and consistency by investing in current technologies in in-line instrumentation and processing.

A very large thank you to Phil for taking part in this little blog.

-Tim Jerding

Drink More Rosé

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by Maxine Hendry

Ultra warm weather is here, and it’s officially time to start drinking pink! (Even though we’d like you to know it’s totally cool to drink rosé year round). You’ll want to stop by and check out our selection – we stock many options in different styles and at all price points.

Rosé (rose-ay) is the French name for pink wine, but it can also be labeled as rosado from Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, or rosato in Italy. It can be made still, semi-sparkling, or sparkling and with a wide range of sweetness levels and different flavor profiles.

But do you understand how rosé wine is made? There are three main ways to make pink wine, but usually it is made by leaving crushed red grapes on their skins for a short amount of time.

You see, almost every grape has white juice – there are only two red-skinned grapes that have red juice (Those varietals are Alicante Bouschet and Saperavi FYI). The color and tannin in red wine comes from the juice spending time in contact with the skins and seeds for several days or weeks. With rosé, the skins spend just enough time to extract a pretty pink color which can mean just 2-20 hours. The shade of pink will vary depending on how long the skin contact is for–the longer the contact, the darker the color. That ranges from very pale (“onion-skin”) pink to dramatic shades of vivid purple. The darker color does not always mean the wine will be sweet. However, it is common for darker colored rosés to have more fruit flavor. Try one.

Other ways pink wine can be made is by a process called saignée (“sahn-yay” meaning to bleed), which involves “bleeding” off a portion of red wine juice after it’s been in contact with skins and seeds. Yet another way it’s made is literally mixing a bit of red wine into white wine. Sound like cheating? Well, the practice is generally frowned upon, so it’s relatively uncommon. But surprisingly, that’s how most Rosé Champagne is made!

Most pink wine you’ll encounter here at Mr. B’s will be dry, which means that it is not sweet. It can still be fruity though, even if it’s not sweet, and many of the flavors you will taste in pink wine include strawberry, raspberry, tart or sweet cherry, grapefruit, blood orange, black or red currants, green pepper and tomato. They can be very light in flavor, very full flavored, or anywhere in between. More often than not, the very pale pink wines will be lighter in flavor than the darker pink ones. But we’ll remind you again, a darker color doesn’t guarantee the wine is sweet, it just means it spent more time soaking with the skins. You shouldn’t be scared to try one!

You will find many rosés from France, but there are plenty from other countries like the US, Chile, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Greece, New Zealand, South Africa, and pretty much any country that makes wine!

Styles can vary, but as mentioned, most of the wines you will find at Mr. B’s are dry in style. If you like it really dry and light in flavor, a good go-to is any French rosé from Provence. This beautiful section of Southern France has several areas that make fantastically dry pink wine. Look for labels containing Côtes du Provence, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Coteaux Varois.

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Some examples of French Rosé on our shelves.

But we have many options from other areas of France such as the Loire Valley, Corsica, Languedoc. Don’t forget about those wines.

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More French!

Other areas of Europe make wonderful rosé as well. Check out options from Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Austria!

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European rosé on our shelves.

Of course there’s plenty to choose from domestically, too – we’ve got selections from California and Oregon you’ll love!

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US renditions of rosé.

And don’t forget bubbly! We have a great selection of dry, pink sparkling wines:

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Bubbles.

If you are looking for something sweet, look for the options labeled White Zinfandel and Pink Moscato. Also, there’s the delicious New Age pink from Argentina which is excellent served over ice with lime.

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The sweet stuff.

Okay, enjoy drinking lots of rosé this summer and please let us know if you have any questions. And remember, we can always get you special requests if there’s something you’d like that we don’t sell. Email me–max@mrbswineandspirits.com.

 

A Brief Chat with Kevin and Ryan from Denver’s Baere Brewing

Baere Brewing is a gem among many small craft breweries in Denver. Their focus on small batch, sour beers has cultivated a following and truly placed them in the class of a “brewer’s brewery.” Each batch of beer Ryan and Kevin brew yields only about five kegs worth. Batches that small limit their distribution to only a handful of stores and even fewer draft accounts. We really enjoy supporting Baere and are pleased to be featuring them as our brewery of the month. Last week, I exchanged a couple emails with their founders, Kevin and Ryan. The following is that correspondence.

-Tim Jerding

What/who were your early inspirations to make beer and where did you get your start?

Ryan: I had a friend in college in Fort Collins who made 5 gallon all grain batches at home. I first brewed with him a handful of times before getting a start-up kit from The Brew Hut. It all quickly spiraled out of control from there. Odell and New Belgium beer was obviously everywhere in Fort Collins and definitely helped set the stage for what I liked and what I wanted to brew. Odell IPA is an all time favorite beer of mine. Tank 7 and Saison Dupont were big inspirations for me. Kevin and I met through my wife, also named Ryan, some time ago and quickly found we had a common passion. Eventually the idea of starting a nano-brewery came up and turned into what is now a nearly 4 year old Baere Brewing Company.

 

Kevin: After college, I moved to Denver from Boulder and finally had enough money to consider drinking good beer on a regular basis. I spent numerous hours perusing coolers and shelves at shops around town to try as many new beers as I could find. After a couple years of trying new beers and learning a ton, I wandered into Beer at Home one day and bought a homebrewing kit. I ended up dumping my first beer and for some reason kept brewing. A few years later, Ryan and I met and Baere was born.

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Some of the Baere beers currently on our shelf.

Sour beers are a big part of what you all do. What drove you in that direction? What was your “aha” sour beer moment? Mine was Duchesse many years ago.
Ryan: La Folie was the first sour beer I remember trying in Fort Collins in 2002. It was a fun novelty to try at New Belgium when it happened to be offered in the flights they poured. Transatlantique Kriek came out a couple years later and was equally as interesting to me. Kevin introduced me to the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywine festival sometime early in our friendship which has always showcased the growing number of American sour beers. While we always wanted to have some sort of sour beer program with our Baere-liner Weisse, I don’t think it was until we tasted our first mixed-culture barrel fermented and aged sour that we realized we wanted to make it a big part of what we do.
I like how you all tend to experiment within classic sour styles and make them your own. I.e. The dry hopped Gose or Frambruin. What’s the motivation and inspiration when developing these recipes?
Kevin: I’d say the motivation for these beers is flavor. When we try a barrel, we’re always discussing what would complement it well. Whether that is a specific hop varietal, fruit, spices, or just blending with other barrels. Like most American craft brewers, we never really considered anything off limits so we try to be open to new ideas.

 

What do you project for the growth of your company? How many barrels are you heading for? Do you plan to continue self-distributing?

 

Ryan: We’ve always embraced the idea of slow and steady and taking our time. We try to not be too reactive to the ups and downs of the industry as a whole. We are projecting brewing more than last year, but probably only by 50 – 100 barrels, which is pretty substantial for us as we only brewed 450 last year. It feels like a bit of a scary time in the industry to try to make any sort of big moves and seems a bit like putting the cart before the horse. We do plan on self-distributing in Colorado for at least a few more years.

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The rest of the Baere beers currently on our shelf.

What’s the origin story of your company and the name “Baere”?

 

Ryan: The word beer is thought to originate from the Anglo-Saxon word baere meaning barley. We’ve always been intrigued with the history of beer and it’s role in society. It just felt right!
A big thank you to Kevin and Ryan. Come by on Saturday, June 16th from 4-6 pm for a tasting with Baere.