Feature

A Beer For All Seasons

Our beer-y taste buds change with the weather—but Colorado’s craft brewers cater to our seasonal whimsies. Here, our top 24 beers: six each for summer, autumn, winter, and spring. 

By
August 2011

SUMMER

  • India Pale Ale
    Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins
    Malt Meter: 5
    Hops Meter: 9
    ABV: 7.0 percent

    The first thing you’ll notice when you crack open a bottle of this IPA is the smell: Mary Jane, and lots of it. Regardless of whether that appeals to you, judging this brew by first smell would be unfair; it’s far more nuanced. The pour produces perfect, pillow foam. The color is a gorgeous amber. The taste is bold and hoppy. And it disappears way too quickly. odellbrewing.com

 

  • Mexican Logger
    Ska Brewing, Durango
    Malt Meter: 3
    Hops Meter: 2
    ABV: 5.2 percent

    Denverites suffer through more than 30 days a year with temperatures above 90 degrees. This is what we drink on those days—and nights. With more flavor than we’ve come to expect from a lager, this can is utterly sessionable. skabrewing.com

 

  • Sweaty Betty Blonde
    Boulder Beer Company, Boulder
    Malt Meter: 3
    Hops Meter: 3
    ABV: 5.2 percent

    Colorado’s take on Hoegaarden, this unfiltered wheat brew has all of the banana-y, clove-y, yeasty goodness of a traditional German style, but without the in-your-face sourness. That means your friend who doesn’t like girly wheats and your aunt who doesn’t like heavy beers will both be happy. And so will you. boulderbeer.com

 

  • Dale’s Pale Ale
    Oskar Blues Brewery, Lyons
    Malt Meter: 2
    Hops Meter: 9
    ABV: 6.5 percent

    Awesome. Period. oskarblues.com

 

  • Colorado Kölsch
    Steamworks Brewing Company, Durango
    Malt Meter: 3
    Hops Meter: 2
    ABV: 4.2 percent

    Kölsch-style beers were born in Cologne, Germany, and are often difficult to find in the States. But thanks to Steamworks, we’ve got an amazing Kölsch right here in our backyard. This light ale has low carbonation, low alcohol, and yet plenty of bright, fresh flavor—which makes it perfect on a hot summer night. steamworksbrewing.com

 

  • Joe’s Premium American Pilsner
    Avery Brewing Company, Boulder
    Malt Meter: 3
    Hops Meter: 5
    ABV: 4.7 percent

    We hate to admit it, but Colorado doesn’t have a great reputation for making stellar Pilsners, or, heck, beers with subtlety. That is, until Avery started canning Joe’s last year. Brewed with German hops and yeast, this beer has a bite to keep the hopheads happy, but a mellow malt aftertaste for the rest. averybrewing.com

 

  • BONUS BOMBER: The Maharaja Imperial INDIA Pale Ale
    Avery Brewing Company, Boulder
    Malt Meter: 7
    Hops Meter: 10
    ABV: 10.2 percent

    Imperial IPAs are often over-the-top affairs, but this brew, part of Avery’s Dictator series, manages to be indulgent yet well-mannered. Our only gripe is that this bomber has such a loyal following that it often sells out—fast. averybrewing.com

 

AUTUMN

  • Silverback Pale Ale
    Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver
    Malt Meter: 5
    Hops Meter: 7
    ABV: 5.5 percent

    Rarely can you combine philanthropy with beer drinking, which is why we dig Wynkoop’s canned homage to Africa’s silverback gorilla (a portion of the proceeds help protect these wild beasts). Brewed with “grains of paradise,” a West African spice that the gorillas eat, this pale ale has a jaunty aftertaste, but is less cloying than most pale ales. silverbackpaleale.com

 

  • Ellie’s Brown Ale
    Avery Brewing Company, Boulder
    Malt Meter: 8
    Hops Meter: 3
    ABV: 5.5 percent

    Avery makes a lot of phenomenal beers, and Ellie’s is one of its best. An amazingly balanced brown ale with a strong malt and nutty chocolate flavor, it lacks the overwhelming sweetness that too often typifies the style. When the weather drops below 50 degrees, we look to Ellie’s to warm us up.averybrewing.com

 

  • Flashback India Brown Ale
    Boulder Beer Company, Boulder
    Malt Meter: 6
    Hops Meter: 7
    ABV: 6.8 percent

    This beer blows our minds every time we crack a new bottle, because it’s a complete mashup of flavors—one doesn’t expect a hoppy brown ale. It’s the kind of beer that will persuade dark beer lovers to try IPAs and hopheads to go to the dark side. boulderbeer.com

 

  • Modus Hoperandi IPA
    Ska Brewing, Durango
    Malt Meter: 6
    Hops Meter: 8
    ABV: 6.8 percent

    When it comes to India Pale Ales, Colorado brewers tend to take the Wal-Mart approach to hops: the bigger, the better. This isn’t a problem—we love hops (see 471 IPA). But sometimes, we want a more subtle, nuanced IPA, and when we do, we pick up a sixer of Ska’s Modus Hoperandi. Sure, it’s hoppy, but it has enough malt that it’s not a one-note beer. skabrewing.com

 

  • 471 IPA
    Breckenridge Brewery of Colorado, Denver
    Malt Meter: 4
    Hops Meter: 9
    ABV: 9.2 percent

    Many of Breck’s beers tend to skew malty, but not its small-batch double IPA. Blasted with four types of hops (including Centennial, one of our favorites), 471 is a bitter, but remarkably balanced beer—especially considering its 9.2 percent alcohol content. That’s about twice as strong (and 471 times as good) as the swill that Budweiser calls beer. breckbrew.com

 

  • Cutthroat PORTER
    Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins
    Malt Meter: 7
    Hops Meter: 4
    ABV: 5.1 percent

    Cutthroat—so named for Colorado’s state fish, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout—pulls off the neat trick of being both strong and smooth. This brew has notes of coffee and bitter chocolate on the nose, and with a moderate ABV, you can knock back a few of these at a company party without embarrassing yourself. odellbrewing.com

 

  • BONUS BOMBER: Fresh Hop Pale Ale
    Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver
    Malt Meter: 4
    Hops Meter: 8
    ABV: 6.1 percent

    Every fall, farmers harvest hops, the little leafy cones that impart bitterness to beer. Some of these fresh “wet hops” go into special batches of beer, like this American Pale Ale that’s hoppy without being bitter. It’s a shame that it only comes around once a year. greatdivide.com

 

WINTER

  • Winter Warlock Oatmeal Stout
    Bristol Brewing Company, Colorado Springs
    Malt Meter: 8
    Hops Meter: 3
    ABV: 6.0 percent

    Not quite as sweet as Left Hand’s Milk Stout, and not quite as bombastic as Great Divide’s Yeti, Winter Warlock offers a beautiful middle ground when it comes to wintry stouts. Each batch is brewed with 100 pounds of flaked oatmeal, and the result is a roasty, drinkable brew with notes of toasted coconut. It may not sub for your McCann’s Steel-Cut Irish Oatmeal, but it’s pretty close. bristolbrewing.com

 

  • Old Jubilation
    Avery Brewing Company, Boulder
    Malt Meter: 8
    Hops Meter: 3
    ABV: 8.3 percent

    This isn’t a beer you’ll want to drink every day (although it’s plenty good enough to do so), but it is a brew that feels perfectly suited for the holiday season. Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus…frankly, we don’t care what you celebrate. When you do, stoke the fireplace and serve Old Jubilation, a strong, reddish-amber ale brewed with five specialty malts. Your guests won’t be disappointed. averybrewing.com

 

  • Rocky Mountain IPA
    The Fort Collins Brewery, Fort Collins
    Malt Meter: 5
    Hops Meter: 7
    ABV: 6.3 percent

    Sometimes, usually during the depths of winter after the holidays have come and gone, we need a little reminder that spring is on the way. When that time comes, we reach for this IPA, a floral brew that brings to mind wildflowers, grapefruit, and warm weather and lets us transition from our ski boots to our Chacos. fortcollinsbrewery.com

 

  • Milk Stout
    Left Hand Brewing Company, Longmont
    Malt Meter: 8
    Hops Meter: 2
    ABV: 6.0 percent

    Milk? In your beer? Well, sort of. Milk stouts, like Left Hand’s version, use lactose, a sugar that comes from milk, in the brewing process. The result is a slightly sweet yet bitter treat, like a dark cup of coffee with a little bit of cream. Warning: As much as we love this dark brew, we don’t recommend drinking it with your cereal at seven in the morning—wait for cookies before bed. lefthandbrewing.com

 

  • Odell Red
    Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins
    Malt Meter: 6
    Hops Meter: 6
    ABV: 6.5 percent

    A quintessential winter beer (it’s only available on shelves from January to April), this red provides an ample malt backbone to support the bright, but not overdone, hop flavor. And instead of a pale IPA or a dark stout, its ruddy color looks, dare we say it, celebratory. odellbrewing.com

 

  • Yeti Imperial Stout
    Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver
    Malt Meter: 10
    Hops Meter: 7
    ABV: 9.5 percent

    This is one beastly brew, and Great Divide has capitalized on the clever moniker with all sorts of Yeti-themed merchandise, including, yes, a Yeti “I Believe” baby onesie. But you don’t build a mini empire (Great Divide also offers four seasonal variations) without a stellar product, and the flagship is everything a true imperial stout should be: big, bold, strong—and, like its namesake, just a little bit frightening. greatdivide.com

 

  • BONUS BOMBER: Le Terroir
    New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins
    Malt Meter: 4
    Hops Meter: 5
    ABV: 7.5 percent

    With a name that means “of the earth” in French, you might think that New Belgium has taken up wine making. Not so: This American Wild Ale (a sour beer) is complex thanks to wood-barrel aging, and is a delicious alternative to dark winter ales. newbelgium.com

 

SPRING

  • Ranger India Pale Ale
    New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins
    Malt Meter: 5
    Hops Meter: 8
    ABV: 6.5 percent

    Fort Collins’ New Belgium Brewing has risen quickly in the brewery world on the back of crowd-pleasers like Fat Tire and Sunshine Wheat—it’s now the third-largest craft brewer in America. We’ll add Ranger to that list of favorites, as an eminently approachable IPA that’s lovely, floral, and drinkable. Bottle, can, or draft beer: We dig it. newbelgium.com

 

  • Mothership Wit
    New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins
    Malt Meter: 5
    Hops Meter: 4
    ABV: 4.8 percent

    Miller calls High Life the “Champagne of beers” (yeah, we think that’s a little ridiculous too), but lately we’ve been thinking that this light, drinkable, and effervescent brew ought to have that title. Refreshing, with notes of orange peel, corriander, and yeast, this is an ideal brew for the changing seasons. newbelgium.com

 

  • St. Lupulin
    Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins
    Malt Meter: 5
    Hops Meter: 7
    ABV: 6.5 percent

    We’ve asked the folks at Odell to brew this baby year-round (right now, it’s available in late spring and summer). With a hoppy nose that hints at fresh-cut grass, this extra-pale ale lies somewhere on the spectrum between a pale ale and an IPA. And although we don’t think the 2011 batch is quite as perfect as last year’s edition (we’re nit-picking here, folks), this brew simply makes us happy. odellbrewing.com

 

  • White Rascal
    Avery Brewing Company, Boulder
    Malt Meter: 5
    Hops Meter: 5
    ABV: 5.6 percent

    Although it’s similar to New Belgium’s Mothership Wit, the White Rascal is a bit lighter on the spices and has a little more heft—all while being a brew one can drink quite a few of (trust us, we’ve sessioned the Rascal). Drink it when it’s just warm enough to open the windows, but not so hot you need to turn on the A/C. averybrewing.com

 

  • Regal Pilsner
    Breckenridge Brewery of Colorado, Denver
    Malt Meter: 5
    Hops Meter: 5
    ABV: 7.0 percent

    Double Pilsners are one of the toughest beer styles to get right. A brewer needs to balance an inherently light-style beer with a cranked-up alcohol level. The good folks at Breck, though, seem to walk that fine line with ease: Their Regal Pilsner is a little sweet and a little hoppy, with a full mouthfeel. It’s one of the finest double Pilsners we’ve tried—ever. breckbrew.com

 

  • ESB Special Ale
    Ska Brewing, Durango
    Malt Meter: 6
    Hops Meter: 4
    ABV: 6.3 percent

    When we’re in the mood for more than two beers, we can’t session an IPA that blows our taste buds away. Instead, we turn to this English-style ESB (an acronym for extra special bitter, which makes the name of this brew redundant—but, hey, we’re editors). Drink it cold, as us Yanks are wont to do, or let one warm a bit, and pretend it’s coming from a wood cask in a London pub. skabrewing.com

 

  • BONUS BOMBER: Apricot Blonde Ale
    Dry Dock Brewing Company, Aurora
    Malt Meter: 2
    Hops Meter: 0
    ABV: 5.1 percent

    If a beer can be described as “pretty,” this one is gorgeous. Normally, we shy away from fruit beers because of their cloying, perfume-y aftertaste. But that was before we tried Dry Dock’s homage to apricots. Drink this stunner in the late spring. drydockbrewing.com