Summit Suds: Getting sweet and sour at Pug Ryan’s Brewery
Pug Ryan’s Brewery in Dillon is one of the oldest breweries in Summit County, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a few new tricks up its sleeve. Since 2017, the brewery has been helmed by John Jordan after he left Breckenridge Brewery’s Littleton campus. This fall, the brewery has tapped three unique beers that are all worth trying.
Reluctant Sour Project No. 4 Peach Sour
Jordan said he would never brew a sour beer back when he and his wife, Judy, acquired the brewery. That has changed ever since sipping on the renowned sours from Cantillon Brewery in Belgium, and the fourth entry in Pug Ryan’s Reluctant Sour Project was recently released. The first in the project, called Never Say Never Sour, was a light Berliner weisse. The second, named Sour Outage, was born when a blackout happened while creating a dunkel lager and the team had to get creative in salvaging the brew.
The following cherry sour was the first of the series to be canned and paved the way for the peach sour to be canned in a limited batch, as well. Jordan used Colorado ingredients such as peaches from Palisade, malt from Monte Vista’s Proximity Malt, Hallertau hops from Paonia’s High Wire Hops and ale yeast from Denver’s Inland Island Yeast Laboratories.
About 75 pounds of peaches were used per 15 barrels, giving the refreshing golden beer a fruity aroma. The peach flavor isn’t as strong as a Creamsicle dessert beer or a milkshake India Pale Ale such as New Image Brewing’s Peachra, but there is enough sweetness from the fruit to cut the tartness from the lactobacillus bacteria. At 4.5% alcohol by volume and 6 International Bitterness Units, it’s perfect to enjoy with the last of the season’s harvest before the nights get too long.
For those chillier evenings, grab a snifter of Pug Ryan’s Barley Wine. Some of Jordan’s favorite styles are dark and rich German dunkels and dopplebocks, so last October he brewed a barleywine aptly named Barley Wine.
Surprisingly, this doesn’t taste like any barleywine I’ve had before. At 9% ABV, it’s more mellow and lacks the hefty dark fruit profiles of figs and plums. Yet it is still pleasant because, though not made with actual honey, I picked up a hint of the sweet substance, likely from two-row honey malt used in the grain bill.
It doesn’t look like barleywine either. Similar to the taste, it has a cloudy honey appearance rather than a deep amber or brown. Combining the two senses, it could almost be mistaken for a mead.
Barley Wine has a clean finish on the tongue and doesn’t linger or burn like other high-alcohol beverages. Still, one should be careful as the high ABV could easily sneak up on someone.
Barrel Aged Azanox Olde Ale
In my opinion, the best option for the blustery weather is the barrel aged version of Pug Ryan’s Azanox Ole Ale.
According to Jordan, because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau doesn’t allow for the word “strong” to be used on beer labels, this 7.4% ABV beer was cleverly named Azaonx. (Tip: say the name aloud. It should be pronounced like “as an ox.”) When aged for a year in a Breckenridge Whiskey barrel that first housed port, it goes up to around 7.9% ABV. Funnily, it tastes heavier than the Barley Wine even though the ABV is lower.
Though I didn’t taste last year’s version that was aged in a regular barrel, I think the port had a decent influence on the brew. On the nose I got the smells of apple and cherry skins, like I opened up a fresh jug of dark, unfiltered apple cider.
My palate followed my scent and I found dark malt while notes of raisin and cinnamon make it reminiscent of Christmas, almost like a spicy mulled wine. Pour this for the holidays, and you’re set.
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