Beer Man

Is Red Swingline Colorado's defining beer? Trinity Brewing will release six versions in July

When Trinity Brewing founder Jason Yester created the recipe for Red Swingline, a hoppy IPA that is also cheek-puckeringly sour, his goal was to make something "signature American." But in doing so, he may have helped to pioneer a style that beer drinkers in the rest of the country will eventually associate specifically with Colorado.

In July, Trinity will release six versions of Red Swingline as part of project that was designed to show how different yeasts and bacteria can affect a beer and what the difference is between the increasingly popular "sour" and "wild" ale styles.

See also: TPS Report, Oh Face: Trinity Brewing bringing its funky beers to Denver

Sour ales are brewed with bacteria like Lactobacillus, giving them odd or unusual sour flavors. Wild ales are brewed with Brettanomyces yeast, and although they can also have tart or funky characteristics, they are not considered to be sour beers.

"There is a lot of confusion among consumers, writers and even about what an American sour is and what American Wild is. This project is a way of trying to get a level of education for everyone," Yester says. "That's the main point."

But the project will also bring more attention to Red Swingline, which became one of the brewery's most highly rated beers shortly after it debuted in late 2012 -- and was named by Draft Magazine as one of the top 25 beers of 2013.

"I look at Red Swingline as being the most defining beer of my career," Yester says of the beer and of the style, which he calls IPA Primitif.

"I am very much an American brewer, but I am keen on brewing Belgian-style beers, and I wanted to do something American with big fruity hops, but that also used microbes and barrels and old-school Belgian techniques...And I love Milton, too." (Red Swingline is named for the character Milton's stapler of choice in the movie Office Space.)

"It's been really fun to showcase how different these styles are. It's dramatic. I've truly been blown away," he adds. "Some taste nothing like the others."

Red Swingline itself comes in at 4.1 percent ABV, making it a "session" IPA, but it also has a very high hops count -- about 100 IBUs. Brewed with coriander and tangerine zest, it is then aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels for six to eight months with Brettanomyces yeast and Lactobacillus as well as three kinds of hops: Mosaic, Citra and Amarillo.

Four of the other five Red Swingline variations also come in at 4.1 percent ABV and 100 IBUs (the fifth is a double IPA with a higher alcohol content). Yester achieved that degree of hoppiness by adding the Lactobacillus before boiling the wort and adding hops -- something that is necessary in order to keep the IBUs high.

Here's a rundown of those five variations:

Session Swing Fermented with an English ale yeast, this "session" IPA is the base beer for all of the others. It is brewed without any wild microbes, fermented in stainless steel and dry hopped.

Swing Se Pliser This sour variation was brewed only with Lactobacillus (no Brettanomyces) and aged on individually dry-hopped French Oak Chardonnay Barrels. 4.1 percent ABV; 100 IBUs.

Easy Swinger A wild IPA, this one was brewed only with Brettanomyces (no Lactobacillus) and aged on individually dry-hopped French Oak Chardonnay Barrels.

Passion Swing Here, Red Swingline was brewed without wild microbes or bacteria and aged with passion fruit in stainless steel tanks, rather than barrels. "We are recreating the flavors of Swingline, but using fruit to do it rather than microbes," Yester says.

Double Swingline This version was brewed with twice as much hops and then aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels with Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces yeast, and then dry-hopped in each individual barrel. It weights in at 8.2 percent ABV and 150 IBUs. "I love double IPAs, and that beer is amazing right now," Yester says. "I don't know if we will brew any of these again, but if we do, my vote would be for this one."

Earlier this week, beer blogger Josh Howard of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Beer speculated as to whether Trinity, along with Crooked Stave and other Colorado brewers, had created a new style, Colorado Wild IPA, that will be associated with this state in the same way that West Coast IPAs are associated with California and Oregon. The discussion has since spread on social media and in the blogosphere.

Yester likes the idea, but he wrote on Facebook that it is very difficult to create either a wild or a sour ale with high IBUS and that his brewery has to engage in some tricky methods in order to make it work. So, the style may not become that popular.

Although the beers won't be released in bottles until July, Trinity has tapped a few of them early, especially the ones that don't need to age in barrels. When all six are ready, will release a new one each week for six weeks in advance of Trinity's sixth anniversary. They'll be sold in 375-ml bottles across the Front Range.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes