Summit Suds: Favorites from Strings, Ciders & Sours
Last weekend, Main Street Station and The Village at Breckenridge shone a spotlight on two lesser-known libations: hard ciders and sour beer. The third annual Strings, Ciders & Sours hosted by Rocky Mountain Events had a wide array of alcoholic beverages, and here is what I think was the best of the fest.
While the name alone may be off-putting to some, sour beers are an old style that gets its name by traditionally being aged or fermented with wild bacteria and yeasts, which impart a tart flavor. Within the umbrella term are subcategories like the salty German gose or a fruity Belgian lambic, meaning there’s a suitable sour for practically any palate.
A premium selection of bottles in the VIP lounge at Sauce on the Maggie allowed people to taste the much-sought bombers of Funky Blender Cherry or Blackberry Fruit Stand from Casey Brewing & Blending — in addition to its golden sour ale aged in Weller Kentucky Bourbon barrels that’s sold exclusively at Base Camp Wine & Spirits in Frisco.
Every beer sampled was stellar, but outside in the general grand tasting area were more approachable beers.
Those looking for a gateway to the world of sours would enjoy High Hops’ Puckerberry, a blackberry sour beer that won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in the gluten-free category in 2018, or Crabtree Brewing Co.’s Raspberry Berliner Weisse. Both were more fruit-forward than sour, with the color and aroma to match. Yet I found Tivoli Brewing Co.’s Strawberry Mint Berliner Weisse more easy-going than the rest. It’s tart and sweet with a cooling mint at the end, making it a great pick for a summer porch or patio.
My favorite sour of the festival, which also happens to be crafted by a Colorado brewery, was New Image Brewing’s Kiwicumber Jalapeno Dyad. As the name implies, they took their popular kombucha-inspired Dyad that’s made with green tea and added kiwis, cucumbers and jalapenos. I first saw the amount of descriptors as a warning flag but I was proven wrong with the first sweet and smoky sip. It was the first pepper beer I’ve had that had the savory flavor and not the intense heat. As someone who rarely eats a burrito unless smothered in green chili, it was a complex and multifaceted beer that hit the spot.
Locally, Breckenridge Brewery poured its G3 cherry limeade, Colorado Core apple blonde ale and a Palisade peach gose while HighSide Brewing had Smoothie Criminal, a sour made with mandarin oranges and lactose. However, it was the Bourbon Barrel Sour Stout from Baker’s Brewery that received the highest marks of Summit’s sours. It tasted like a chocolate cherry tart, even though no cherries were added in the brewing process. Instead, brewery co-owner Cory Forster said the fruit flavor came from the 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Co.’s bourbon barrels and the sour notes likely came from the air of their bakery that often makes sourdough bread.
Though this is a beer column, I couldn’t resist sampling a few ciders. Inside the VIP lounge, I was smitten by Rhine Hall’s La Normande. A mix of apple cider and apple brandy called a pommeau, it was the smoothest drink of the day. It also had a pleasant sweetness that wasn’t overpowering, which was surprising since its 18% alcohol by volume.
At the general tasting, I discovered Tenmile Cider Co., a new imprint of Carboy Winery that makes hard cider in the same cellars underneath Gold Pan Saloon. They beat the competition by default as the only place in Summit County that makes cider. Yet while their dry 6 Chair cider is good, when expanding the scope beyond the county to only Colorado cideries, I found the offerings from Talbott’s Cider Co. to be more up my alley. IPC, a cider made with a variety of hops like an India pale ale, had dry, grassy notes without being bitter. Meanwhile the Apfel Wein has orange peel and coriander similar to a Belgian wit beer.
However, I’m still eager to try out Tenmile Cider Co.’s bourbon barrel-aged cider made with vanilla and cinnamon dubbed The Burn. The company is aiming for it to be released around Halloween.
On the sweeter, in-state side, I would have to go with Della’s Apple Strudel from Fort Collin’s Summit Hard Cider & Perry Co. Like Thanksgiving dessert in a glass, the flavors of cinnamon, clove and vanilla were wonderful.
If none of these convince you to check out the festival next year, many booths, such as Angry James Brewing Co., had their year-round offerings. Or one could find non-sour seasonals, like New Image’s silky smooth Peachra milkshake IPA and Freak Gasoline Fight Accident, a pumpkin spice latte imperial stout made in collaboration with Weldwerks Brewing.
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