Beer Man

California's Fifty Fifty Brewing brings its high-end Eclipse beer to Denver

Fifty Fifty Brewing out of Truckee, California, is the latest out-of-state brewer planning to see if there is room in Denver's crowded craft-beer market for another name.

But Fifty Fifty will take an interesting tack, initially distributing just one beer here, its most sought-after, most expensive product: Eclipse, an oak-aged imperial stout. The beer is only released in limited quantities and only once a year.

"It is just Eclipse for now, but that is because we are so small," says brewery owner Andy Barr. "We are in the process of expanding, and it will happen within 2012. When we do, other regular beers of ours should be available on a continuous basis, however, in relatively limited supply as we will still be tiny."

Eclipse (not to be confused with Eclipse Black IPA from Greeley's Crabtree Brewing, which just hit the market in sixteen-ounce tallboys) should start showing up on shelves here this week, and at a retail price of between $28 and $30 for a 22-ounce bottle.

Neither Barr nor Fifty Fifty head brewer Todd Ashman is shy in their belief that the beer is worth every penny.

"Eclipse is a phenomenal beer, but it is also an incredibly expensive beer to produce," notes Barr. "All the way from the raw ingredients of Totality, to the best barrels, to the high-touch process involved. We have made a commitment to produce the best, most interesting, most innovative beer we can produce with our incredibly limited infrastructure. Eclipse is the most high-profile result to date."

"Eclipse is not a beer for everyone, but for those who seek it, they will more than pleased," Ashman adds. "For those who have the luxury of having that much money to pay for a bottle of a barrel-aged beer, we thank them. Obviously there are some well-established breweries in the state of Colorado, and we are not looking to take anyone's market share. We just want to be part of the mix, and we felt that by adding ourselves to the mix at that price point, our product would show well amongst its company."

In addition to Denver, Fifty Fifty is bringing Eclipse to Chicago and Philadelphia, three cities where "there is a great craft-beer awareness," Ashman says.

Eclipse is made by taking Fifty Fifty's Totality Imperial Stout and aging it in oak bourbon barrels for at least six months. Different batches are aged in different kinds of barrels and marked by different-colored, hand-dipped wax tops. A coding guide to the seven batches can be found on the brewery's website.

Fifty Fifty has sent approximately four hundred to five hundred cases to the Denver area; if sales go well, the brewery hopes to distribute its Donner Party Porter here next year.

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan
and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes