Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rocky Mountain High

Every craft brewery should have a mixed twelve pack. It just doesn't make sense to not have one: you get to put three to six offerings from your brewery into one package in an effort to turn a consumer on to as many of your products as possible. Plus, you're maximizing the chances that said consumer finds something that they like and would purchase again. If someone picks up a six pack of a particular brewery's IPA for the first time and hates it, the odds of them returning to that brewery to try a different style have decreased greatly. But, if they pick up a mixed twelve pack and hate the same IPA, yet really like two or three of the other styles that are included, then the pack has done it's job and that consumer will likely return to you to purchase the styles they did enjoy.

These mix packs are also a great investment for folks like myself who like to try a lot of different beers but don't want to blindly spend and potentially waste money on multiple six packs in fear that they may not be very good. For example, the Brewer's Lunchbox from the Fort Collins Brewery, which we will discuss in further detail shortly, was a no-brainer: $16 to sample two bottles each of six different styles from the brewery, or I could've spent $50+ on individual six packs for each style. Sure, I would've ended up with a lot more beer from the latter, but what's the point in that if I end up not liking two or three (or more) of the styles?

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: the Fort Collins Brewery out of (you guessed it) Fort Collins, Colorado. They don't provide much in terms of company history on their website (save for the fact that they are expecting to complete construction on a new brewing facility and restaurant slated to open in May 2010, but that is more company future than it is company history), but they do provide what is one of the more unique mixed twelve packs that I've seen available, at least in terms of the styles offered within, which include an American Wheat Ale brewed with pomegranate juice, a Schwarzbier, a Rauchbier, a Red Ale, an American IPA and an American Stout. Here are my brief thoughts on each:

Kidd Lager (Schwarzbier) - A nice deep brown to black color with chocolate, caramel, earth, smoke and perhaps even some brown sugar all balanced quite nicely in the aroma. The flavor is not as sweet as the aroma would lead on but definitely gives off a chocolate vibe and has a nice smoked, burnt finish. This one is very drinkable and is a nice winter, session-type beer.

Chocolate Stout (American Stout) - Pours near black in color with a nice chocolate milk-esque creamy head. The aroma has a mix of slightly burnt malt, a hint of licorice and some cocoa, while the flavor takes on a harsher tone with the burnt malt and what seems to be more bitter than sweet chocolate notes leading the way. A good beer overall save for what was a surprisingly thin mouth feel for a stout.

Z Lager (Rauchbier) - Copper color with a big white head. This one gives off scents of grass, caramel, smoke and some bacon (yes, bacon). The flavor leans toward the sweet side with the caramel playing nicely off of the grass and sometimes floral taste that comes through. Smoke is indeed present but much more subtle than anticipated for the style, which makes this one of the more universally appealing rauchbier's I've ever had. Pretty good stuff again here, but I personally would've liked to have seen a tick more of a hearty smoke presence in the flavor.

Rocky Mountain IPA (American IPA) - Hazy copper color with lots of web-like residue clinging to the glass...nice. The aroma is an excellent blend of pepper, pine, fruit juice, bread and earth and the flavor is similar, but sweeter and juicier, with a bit of fruit shining though amongst the pine notes. Hops lead for sure but don't overpower or distract. The finish takes on a bread-like taste with a tiny bit of the pepper coming through. Big thumbs up for this IPA.

Major Tom's Pomegranate Wheat (American Wheat Ale) - Slightly cloudy darker golden color, with passable but faint wheat, grain and pomegranate characteristics in the nose. The flavor thankfully steps it up a notch from the aroma, with the wheat and pomegranate coming through much more pronounced for a taste that's sweeter and that has more pep in it than expected, yet also provides a slightly dry bread flavor at the finish. Not bad overall but nothing memorable. Decent across the board with no major flaws. Tasty yet unimaginative, I'd say.

Retro Red (Red Ale) - A nice crisp ruby color with a soapy beige head. The aroma leads with caramel and slightly burnt malt and is complimented by some darker fruit and juicy hops. This continues in the flavor with even more roasted burnt malt throughout, some smoke in the middle and hops mostly noticeable at the finish. Another nice job by Fort Collins. Hearty and sweet, and I really dug the subtle smoke flavors that came out at times.

The big winners here for me were the Kidd Lager and Rocky Mountain IPA, with the Retro Red lagging not too far behind those two. I definitely see regular purchases of these in my future, and I'd be happy to drink all six styles again. I'd say the Brewer's Lunchbox is definitely worth checking out, as there is something in there for everyone, and there's a good chance that you'll find at least one beer (and hopefully more) that's to your liking...

Hopback, beer, Fort Collins Brewery, Colorado, Retro Red, Red Ale, Major Tom's Pomegranate Wheat, American Wheat Ale, Kidd Lager, Schwarzbier, Rocky Mountain IPA, American IPA, Z Lager, Rauchbier, Chocolate Stout, American Stout, Brewer's Lunchbox,