Friday, February 19, 2010

Beer of the Week (Vol. XLIII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the fine Americans at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you strike gold as you watch others experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

The question of which state sits atop the craft brewing hill is one likely to elicit passionate and lively debate among American beer lovers. As I've noted previously, Michigan's prowess in this area cannot be underestimated. California fields a craft brewing bench that's wide and deep, although given the state's relative size--geographic and population wise--that probably is to be expected. Washington and Oregon both have and storied craft brewing histories and when taken together as the Pacific Northwest, it's difficult to imagine another region of the country besting them. But when it comes to one individual state standing alone, the arguments for Colorado's claim to the craft brewing crown are difficult to refute.

In terms of both quantity and quality, Colorado ranks among the best. New Belgium Brewing's Fat Tire may be the best known craft beer from Colorado, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to Fat Tire, New Belgium brews a number of other quality craft offerings. And the list of other Colorado craft brewers is lengthy. Avery, Boulder, Breckenridge, Fort Collins, Great Divide, Left Hand/Tabernash and Odell are breweries that immediately come to mind. Plus Colorado has a slew of brew pubs throughout the state and again it's not just the quantity, it's the quality. The ones that I've had the opportunity to visit are among the best in the country, pairing good food with great beer.

The Colorado brewing scene is not just concentrated in the larger areas either. You can often find breweries and/or brew pubs in some of the smaller towns, especially in the mountains. Places like Idaho Springs with a population just under 2000. Home to our beer of the week, Pick Axe Pale Ale from the Tommy Knocker Brewery Company. In case you're curious, there's more to the meaning of the name than merely what the fevered imagination of Stephen King has brought us:

The Knocker, Knacker, Bwca (Welsh), Bucca (Cornish) or Tommyknocker (US) is the Welsh and Cornish equivalent of Irish leprechauns and English and Scottish brownies. About two feet tall and grizzled, but not misshapen, they live beneath the ground. Here they wear tiny versions of standard miner's garb and commit random mischief, such as stealing miner's unattended tools and food.

Their name comes from the knocking on the mine walls that happens just before cave-ins--actually the creaking of earth and timbers before giving way. To some of the miners, the knockers were malevolent spirits and the knocking was the sound of them hammering at walls and supports to cause the cave-in. To others, who saw them as essentially well-meaning practical jokers, the knocking was their way of warning the miners that a life-threatening collapse was imminent.

Plain brown bottle. Main label and neck label both feature Tommy Knockers. The brown, black, and tan main label shows one wielding a large pick axe while his partner appears to be dancing a jig. The neck label has a Tommy Knocker knocking back a beer.

Beer Style: English pale ale

Alcohol by Volume: 6.2%

COLOR (0-2): Orangish amber. Very cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Hoppy with a slight metallic scent. 1

HEAD (0-2): Off-white. Good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Mostly hops with sweet malt and light citrus flavors. Medium bodied and drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Dry smooth finish with a hint of metal. 2

OVERALL (0-6): A nice little pale ale. Doesn't stand out that much, but it's very solid. It reminds me a lot of another pale ale that I just can't quite put my finger on. Possibly Smuttynose. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

By the way, there's a free tasting of Naked Grouse scotch at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits tonight from 4pm-7pm.

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