Standing in front of the beer cooler in Colorado, the Napa Valley of Beer, can be a little overwhelming. Okay, it can be a lot overwhelming.
There are dozens of styles -- from IPAs, stouts and sours to Belgian saisons bocks and barrel-aged brews -- from a confounding number of breweries. And then there's the packing: six-packs of bottles, four-packs of bottles, six-packs of cans, twelve-packs of cans, 22-ounce bomber bottles, 750 ml bottles and more.
But you've got to start somewhere. So here's a list of seven brand new beers (listed in no particular order) that have just been released for the first time or will be within the next week or so. Try some of them this spring or try them all. You'll be glad you did.
1) Mountain Livin' Pale Ale (available) Crazy Mountain Brewing, Edwards Six-pack, cans This is the second packaged beer that has become available from Crazy Mountain. It follows the brewery's Amber Ale, which we named one of the top new Colorado beers of 2011. Mountain Livin' is a crisp pale ale with a nice tropical, pineapple-y hop taste. Take it camping.
2) Brett Dream (available) Funkwerks Brewing, Fort Collins 750 ml bottle This saison is similar to many of Funkwerks' other Belgian-inspired beers, but it's spiced with "wild" brettanomyces yeast, giving it more complexity. The brett doesn't add a sour flavor so much as it does a slightly funky note.
3) 72 Imperial (available) Breckenridge Brewing, Denver Four-pack, bottles 72 Imperial is a a double chocolate cream stout made with dark and milk chocolate from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Not quite as chocolatey as some other beers on the market, it is nevertheless big and bold. Formerly only on draft, 72 is the second beer Breckenridge has bottled in four-packs.
4) Shift Pale Lager (April 2) New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins 16-ounce tallboy cans New Belgium is rolling out all of its marketing strength for Shift, a beer designed specifically to be packaged in sixteen-ounce tallboy cans and on the brewery's brand-new multimillion-dollar canning lane. Shift is named after the New Belgium's policy of allowing employees a free beer after each shift.
5) Shenanigans (first week of April) Odell Brewing, Fort Collins 750 ml bottle A tart, almost bitter beer that was aged with brettanomyces yeast in oak barrels, Shenanigans Oak Aged Crimson Ale is a red beer with dried fruit-like flavors. It was designed on Odell's five-barrel brewing system and will be released after a party this weekend.
6) Smoke Jumper (available) Left Hand Brewing, Longmont 22-ounce bomber bottle One of Left Hand's edgier beers, Smoke Jumper combines a love-it-or-hate-it campfire flavor (I love it), brought about with smoked malts, with sweet porter notes. This is the first time in three years that Left Hand has released Smoke Jumper, the official beer of the National Smokejumper Association.
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7) Uncle Jacob's Stout (April 7) Avery Brewing, Boulder Single, 12-ounce bottles The second in a new line of yearly barrel-aged beers from Avery (Rumpkin was the first), Uncle Jacob's Stout is going to be a monster: aged for six month in bourbon barrels, it weighs in a 17.4 percent ABV. It's named for a distillery-owning ancestor of brewery owner Adam Avery.