12 Can’t Miss Beers – Vail Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines


With the 15th Annual Vail Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines firing up tomorrow, it’s time to start planning out all those seminars and events to attend. For the first time in its 15 year history, the program (including the beer lineup) has been released ahead of time and there’s 60+ pages of glorious beers to drool over and get excited about.

We’ve combed through the list and picked out 12 beers we’re looking forward to trying this weekend. Most of our selections are beers we’ve never had and don’t expect to be able to sample in the near future. In other words, don’t expect to find any of these sitting on a store shelf in the near future. A few we’ve previously had and just love too much to pass up.

All beer descriptions come directly from the Vail Big Beers Program. Check it out for yourself and start mapping out your weekend.

Casey Brewing & Blending, Glenwood Springs, CO – Grape Fruit Stand: This is our Saison refermented with fresh, whole Palisade Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Former Future Brewing Company, Denver, CO – Black Project #2 – Jumpseat: The second release from our side-venture, Black Project Spontaneous Ales. This beer is a modern take on the traditional sour beers of Belgium. When we made Black Project #1 – Flyby (2014 GABF Bronze Medal in Experimental – Wild Ale ), we intentionally left about 30% of the beer behind (and thus maintained the completely wild coolship collected microflora). We then brewed a completely different recipe and added it to the remaining beer (without adding any other yeast) in a modified solera system. The result is light in color and body and features delicate but extremely varied complexity created by this mixed fermentation. A skilled taster will notice notes of tropical fruit, a controlled but assertive acidity, subdued malt character, and layers of other flavors continuing to appear as the glass is consumed.

Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago, IL – Bourbon County Brand Stout Templeton Rye: A big bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, same recipe as BCS original, but with rye added. Aged for 2 years in Templeton Rye barrels. Rich and complex, with bourbon notes, vanilla, leaf tobacco, toffee and chocolate. This is from the brewer’s secret stash.

Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, CO – Prince of Tartness: Dark sour ale made from 25 different types of malt inoculated with Brettanomyces. 8.2% ABV.

Hogshead Brewery, Denver, CO – Divine Right Russian Imperial Stout: Cask conditioned year old RIS so named after the Russian Imperial Court’s firm belief that they ruled by “divine right,” this RIS is a recreation of Thrale’s (later to be bought by Barclay Perkins and then Courage) first recipe to be sent to Catherine the Great. With earthy chocolate, dark sweet fruit, and whisky notes, this 9.4% abv oily elixir finishes with considerable bitterness and roast (90 IBUs). Taste this and think of those early Baltic days or drink two and forget you read this literature.

Lost Abbey Brewing Company, San Marcos, CA – Veritas 014: The 14th edition of the Veritas series it starts with initial notes of tart cherries and dark fruit, a big oak character and funky Brett throughout.

New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO – Blackberry Barley Wine: The darker the berry, the sweeter the barley wine—that’s what we thought when brewing our newest Lips of Faith release, the first barley wine in New Belgium history. Blackberry Barley Wine channels the elegant spirit of a classic English barley wine, but with a kiss of blackberry to elevate the sip beyond convention. A deep wash of caramelized sugar and toasted bread, courtesy of Caramel Munich malts, adopts subtle laces of floral, fruity berries for a pairing as proper as sipping snifters beside a crackling fireplace. Warming, rich and complex, curl up to a pour of Blackberry Barley Wine this winter and toast to the finer things in life. 50 IBUS, 12% ABV.

Odd13 Brewing Company, Lafayette, CO – 12/13/14 Strong Belgian Sour Ale: Collaboration with 12 Degree Brewing. Odd13 prides itself on the portion of it’s portfolio that is wild, sour and funky. 12/13/14 is all of those things. The grain bill is roughly that of a Belgian Dubbel. It was soured for 2 days using Odd13’s house blend of lactobacillus strains to a Ph of 3.7. It was then boiled to kill the lacto, and fermented with a blend of the Westmalle yeast strain and 2 strains of brettanomyces. The result is a moderately tart, delightfully funky Belgian-style strong ale. 8.38% ABV.

Powder Keg Brewing Company, Niwot, CO – Lettre Rouge: Cabernet Barrel aged farmhouse ale. Bright in color, aroma and flavor! Citrus rind and hibiscus added in the kettle and primary fermented with 3 select Brettanomyces strains and our house saison strain. Aged 4 months in first-use Cabernet barrels. 6.4% ABV.

Renegade Brewing Company, Denver, CO – Depravity Imperial Peanut Butter Cup Milk Stout: Feed the desire and give into Depravity, an annual brew that causes frenzy to the Renegades. It started as a post-Halloween creation, just months after opening, when surplus peanut butter cups were purchased and put into an experimental stout. When people living 70 miles away started calling this small, new operation to get their hands on a growler or a glass, it was clear that this was more than just a fun experiment. Depravity has become an annual tradition. A limited amount is released on December 31, when a crowd forms to get their first taste of this year’s brew. 11% ABV.

Roadhouse Brewing Company, Jackson Hole, WY – Saison en Regalia: 2014 GABF Silver Medal winner in Belgian Style Fruit Beer. Our Sacred Creed Saison that we age with peaches and apricots. A perfect balance between a classically, dry Belgian style Saison that has nice fuity esters and a subtle herbal and spicy character. The fruit comes in with a hint of sweetness but turns to a pleasant tartness as this beer finishes nice and dry. 34 IBUs 6.5% ABV.

Samuel Adams / Boston Beer Company, Boston, MA – KMF Grand Cru: Kosmic Mother Funk is an ale originally fermented with a Belgian yeast, which undergoes a secondary fermentation in Hungarian Oak barrels. This release has been aging for over 2 years in our barrel room in Boston. This beer has notes of dark fruit, cherry with a slight cocoa, and vanilla. These bright flavors are balanced by a very tart and slight balsamic flavors. It finishes tart, and sweet, with hints of molasses and figs. 6.5%.

Have fun up there, Safe travels, and Stay hydrated.


By: Mark Robinson

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