Words & Deeds

No wimps! 2 new dark, whiskey-barrel-aged Idaho beers — in summer?

Go big with Payette Brewing Co.’s Imperial Pistolero Porter, left, and Mother Earth Brew Co.’s Four Seasons of Mother Earth: Summer.
Go big with Payette Brewing Co.’s Imperial Pistolero Porter, left, and Mother Earth Brew Co.’s Four Seasons of Mother Earth: Summer. mdeeds@idahostatesman.com

Mike Francis, founder of Payette Brewing Co. in Boise, knows the common line of thinking: “Who drinks dark beers in the summer?”

“I contend that people drink cold-brew coffee. They eat chocolate ice cream,” Francis says. “What’s the difference between that and a cold, dark beer?”

At a time when many beer drinkers are sipping refreshing lagers on a beach, local breweries Payette and Mother Earth Brew Co. of Nampa have released new 22-ounce bottles of imperial porter and stout.

They’re dark; they’re big. They’ve been awakened after sleeping for months in whiskey barrels.

To a guy like Chris Baker, head brewer at Mother Earth Brew Co. in Nampa, a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout on a hot July evening is more than just a reasonable proposition.

“Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean I stop eating dessert or anything like that,” he says. “You kind of get some of those flavors that make it more for pairing with some of your desserts, some of your richer foods.”

PAYETTE IMPERIAL PISTOLERO PORTER

▪  Porter aged in whiskey barrels, 8 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), $12, 22-ounce bottle

Pistolero, Payette Brewing’s year-round porter in cans, clocks in at 6 percent ABV. Imperial Pistolero bumps up the octane slightly. It spent six months in whiskey barrels from High West Distillery, which is near Park City, Utah. High West has seen its popularity surge among craft whiskey enthusiasts in the last few years. “You can’t even get High West barrels anymore,” Francis says.

Payette released a limited batch of Imperial Pistolero last year on tap. “We really liked it,” Francis says, “so we said, ‘Let’s do it again and throw it in bottles.’ ”

Imperial Pistolero is a straight shooter. The mouthfeel is easy and smooth enough for summer, and you get lots of chocolate. You get barrel. You get a bit of alcohol heat. It’s yummy.

“I think the chocolatey flavors in the Pistolero pair well with vanilla-y, bourbony flavors that come out of the barrels,” Francis agrees.

The plan is to bottle Imperial Pistolero every year as a summer companion to Bourbon Barrel Aged Twelve Gauge Imperial Stout, which is released annually on Black Friday.

“It offsets our Twelve Gauge nicely as far as time of year,” Francis says. “Twelve Gauge is a little higher (in alcohol), has a little more roastiness and a little more coffee and a little more bitterness. Whereas the porter is a little more chocolatey flavors.”

Drink now or cellar it? “Have one now. Have one later,” Francis says. “It’s ready to drink now, but I know it will develop over time.”

FOUR SEASONS OF MOTHER EARTH: SUMMER

▪  Russian imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels, 10.5 percent ABV, $13.99, 22-ounce bottle

Mother Earth’s Four Seasons program is based around four annual, ever-changing brews, which coincide with each season’s equinox. The latest release, Summer, is a mixture of three stouts aged three, six and nine months in bourbon barrels. Baker then blended down the alcohol level with a splash of Mother Earth’s Cali Creamin cream ale (sans the vanilla) and Fantasy Island coconut brown ale.

Brewing this beer was an exercise in “pulling out more of those coconut and vanilla notes of the barrel and being more on the caramel malt side,” Baker says. “It’s a little more approachable stout in the summer.”

It’s super rich and super dangerous. There’s a lot going on in this beer. Definite coconut. Dark chocolate. Is that marshmallow, too? (Obviously not, yet this beer is almost like a soft, bourbon-kissed smore.) Um, how can this seem like it has virtually no detectable alcohol burn?

“That’s my favorite thing about barrel aging in general,” Baker says. “I can drive the beer 100 different ways. ... Add a little bit of this and try it. Add a little bit of this and try it. I have a biochemistry degree. I love the process. I love all this stuff. This is what it’s about.”

Drink now or cellar it? “Always cellar it,” Baker says. “It’s going to make it better. It’s fantastic now, but it will improve. All those components that I added together just got added together before it got bottled.”

Come! On! Beer geeks need to torture themselves and wait? “My recommendation is to buy one to drink now, buy one to drink later,” Baker concedes with a laugh.

Idaho brewery wins gold at U.S. Open

When it comes to beer competitions, you’ve obviously heard of the Great American Beer Festival. Probably even Idaho’s own North American Beer Awards.

But the U.S. Open Beer Championship? Possibly not. Based in Ohio, it’s the only major competition to allow winners of National Homebrewers Association competitions to go head to head against pro breweries.

Whatever the case, it sounds pretty cool to say you medaled at the U.S. Open Beer Championship. So congratulations to Grand Teton Brewing Co. of Victor, which took home gold in the American Brown Ale category for its excellent, long-running Bitch Creek Extra Special Brown.

More than 6,000 beers were sent in from around the globe for blind tasting. Grand Teton was the only Idaho brewery to emerge with honors. Boise beer drinkers should note that regional favorites Barley Brown’s of Baker City, Oregon, and Melvin Brewing of Alpine, Wyoming, both picked up multiple awards.

Barley Brown’s won gold in American Dark Wheat for its Shredder’s Wheat, bronze in Strong Scottish Ale for Twisted Whisker Scotch Ale, bronze in American-Style Black Ale for Turmoil and bronze in International Style Pale Ale for Hand Truck Pale Ale.

Melvin — which took second place overall in 2016 at the U.S. Open — this year won gold in Triple IPA for Lambda, and bronze in Belgian Dubbel for Dub Sack.

Rogue rolls back to Boise

Oregon-based Rogue Ales, which rolled into the Treasure Valley for five days of promotional activities in April, plans to return this month.

“Rogue Nation” president Big Al Jorgensen will celebrate the release of Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout from 3 to 6 p.m. July 29 at the Boise Co-op, 888 W. Fort St.

You’ll be able to sample Rogue beers and buy Rolling Thunder, which spent nine months in barrels previously used to age Rogue’s Dead Guy Whiskey.

One-liter bottles will cost $24.99. Big Al will be happy to sign them.

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