A coalition of fourteen Colorado brewers are getting ready to release Buddha Nuvo, one of the most expensive, most unusual beers ever made in Colorado. A Belgian-style saison, the beer was designed around the brightly-colored and exotically-shaped Buddha's Hand fruit, along with grains of paradise, 175 pounds of pumpkin and five strains of yeast. Then it was moved to French oak chardonnay barrels and aged with the souring yeast, brettanomyces. Finally, it was primed with Colorado honey and allowed to carbonate in the bottles.
It will be sold in select Front Range liquor stores in 750 ml bottles for $40 a pop. But as project leader Jim Stinson says, "Man, if you'd tasted it, you would know it is worth it."
Stinson, brewmaster at Rockyard Brewing in Castle Rock, and Jason Yester, the owner of Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs, came up with the idea for the collaboration "one fateful night" when Jason stopped by Rockyard on his way back from another brewery, Stinson says. "We sat down and had a beer and started shooting the breeze."
They decided to call on other Colorado breweries that are experienced with different aspects of making saisons, a group that Stinson calls some of the most progressive in the state. They included: New Belgium, Ska, Funkwerks, Crooked Stave, AC Golden, Elk Mountain, Strange, Black Fox, Pumphouse Brewery and Rock Bottom.
The beer was brewed on February 11 at Rockyard, with representatives from all fourteen brewers on hand. "I had eighteen or twenty guys here, all doing something. They brought ingredients, they brought barrels, they brought expertise. Some guys cleaned, some guys stirred," Stinson says. "Something that is really unique in the brewing industry is that we'll all get together and share our secrets. You won't get a bunch of chefs or a bunch of welders doing that."
For example: AC Golden brought three kinds of specialty yeasts; Chad Yakobsen of Crooked Stave supplied the oak barrels; and Gordon Schuck from Funkwerks provided his bottling line, which he had to take apart and reassemble at Rockyard.
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About 25 percent of the proceeds from sales of the beer will be donated to the Colorado Brewers Guild, which represents the interests of craft brewers. "They have done a lot in the past couple of years to protect the brewers against the big liquor lobbies and the groceries," Stinson says.
In all, the Buddha Nuvo coalition made ten barrels, which translate into about 135 cases; each champagne bottle was signed by Stinson and Yester and then capped with wax made from broken crayons that had been used by kids at Rockyard's restaurant. The beer, which is a hefty 12 percent alcohol by volume, can be cellared for years.
To see pictures of the brewing and bottling, go to the Focus on the Beer blog run by Eric Steen; to read an e-mail thread between Yester, Stinson and the rest of the crew, go to Rockyardbrewing.wordpress.com.