During the fall season, the beer market gets flooded with pumpkin beers. And the thing is, most of them aren't very good. But the season does call for some variance when it comes to style and Jolly Pumpkin Autumn Fire ($14) is a perfect change of pace. Brewed with chestnuts and spices before aging in oak barrels, the taste is quite the companion for a fall evening, with smooth caramel notes, subtle fall spices, and a touch of tartness. It's quite possibly the best autumn beer that has nothing to do with pumpkins.
Accidents can be costly, especially in the bourbon business. So when Wild Turkey realized they had mistakenly blended small batch bourbon with high proof whiskey, people were worried. But then the Associate Master Distiller tasted the accidental blend and declared it worthy of bottling, and a mishap turned into Wild Turkey Forgiven ($50). Forgiven clocks in at 91 proof and makes no apologies, accident or not. It has a spicy, bold taste that finishes unlike most drinks in its category. All is Forgiven, so track down a bottle because this one time foul up isn't likely to be duplicated.
If you crave hop intensity and prefer a trusted source, The Oracle ($20) from Bell's Brewery certainly fits the bill. This West Coast style double IPA is clean, resinous, and incredibly aromatic. You won't find much balance with this beer, but we aren't complaining, because it's all about the hops, and the 10% ABV packs a wallop as well. A drink that should be in every hopheads future.
When it comes to Scotch whiskies, Johnnie Walker sits in the company of the most well known and best distributed in the world. To fit this description, they have a nice collection of options. Johnnie Walker Platinum ($110) falls in between Blue and Gold in their line, and is the latest release from the Scottish master blenders. Platinum was inspired by the Walker family's tradition of crafting private blends for company directors and special occasions. It was crafted from single malt and grain whiskies and is an incredibly smooth sipper with the subtle addition of the trademark Johnnie Walker smokiness. At 18 years old, it's a mature, exceptional blend worthy of your next significant event.
Most days it's not really appropriate to start out with a Bloody Mary or Irish Coffee — so when you have a taste for the hard stuff, smear on some Puff's Preserves Boozy Jam ($TBA). While all the alcohol cooks off during the preparation process, the flavors of beer, whiskey, champagne, bourbon and wine remain. Seasonal recipes include apple beer chamomile, rhubarb vodka hibiscus, raspberry whiskey chipotle, and blackberry bourbon lavender. Each small batch is made with fresh, local, and in-season ingredients, as well as Colorado distilled or brewed booze.
Summer is winding down in many parts of the US, but that doesn't mean a crisp, refreshing beer isn't on our minds. Mint and cucumber are both regularly associated with refreshment, but rarely are they associated with beer. R & B Brewing Company out of Vancouver, Canada decided to take on this refreshment challenge, and have exceeded our expectations, and enlivened our palates as well. Birra Fresca Cucumber Mint IPA ($8) uses over 200 cucumbers that were sourced locally along with their mint. It's a fresh, clean, IPA to sip on in a comfortable chair as you wave farewell to summer.
FEW Spirits in Chicago, Illinois make drinks that are an homage to the past. And one of their first specialty spirits is no exception. While it's quite common to put a spirit like tequila or rum into oak barrels, the practice was nearly extinct in the gin world. But Few Barrel Gin ($40) is now leading a pack of new barrel aged gins. It gives off the juniper aromas you are used to with a gin, but pours an amber color instead, thanks to the four months it spent in oak barrels. The result is a light smoky smoothness that is unlike any gin you've tasted. As the bottle states, "What once was clear is now complex."
Sipping on a cup of cold brewed coffee during the afternoon sure beats crushing a high fructose corn syrup soda, but it's usually a more expensive and more difficult process. The makers of Cold Bruer ($50) know that, and want to make it easier for you to brew at home. The system features a clean, sleek design which is highlighted during a visually appealing process. Kick the soda to the curb and save the cash from your coffee jar in favor of something that looks good and tastes better.
When you travel the world, the thing most people associate with the great state of Kentucky is, you guessed it, fried chicken. Against The Grain Brewery is based in Louisville, so they know a thing or two about that reputation and have brewed a more than interesting tribute called Kentucky Ryed Chiquen ($12). This unique offering was brewed with rye malt and caramel rye from Germany, and was later placed in Redemption Rye barrels where it aged, soaking up just enough rye whiskey flavors. But don't worry, you won't taste chicken when you drink it, just a smooth barrel aged beer that even Colonel Sanders might have enjoyed, chicken feathers and all (which just happen to come stuck to every bottle).
Usually, when you think of rum you probably wonder what you should mix it with.
Well with Zaya Gran Reserva Rum ($30), you can wonder no more. Zaya is a product of Trinidad and Tobago, distilled from sugar cane juice, and aged a minimum of 12 years in small, oak barrels. By the time it fills your glass the vanilla aromas and the taste bring a remarkable balance of sweetness with a small spicy kick. We set aside our preconceived notions about rum and after tasting this, and are glad we did.
When it comes to big, barrel-proof bourbons, there aren't many that are in the same class as George T. Stagg. After waiting for it to properly mature, Buffalo Trace is releasing a younger version of their award winning bourbon, named Stagg Jr. ($50). The son of Stagg is another beastly entry, clocking in at 134.4 proof, and also happens to be another incredibly inviting spirit. It's unrestrained and unapologetic, with strong oak, vanilla and even some smoky brown sugar flavors that should satisfy even the most hardcore bourbon fanatic. This young buck is poised to grab your attention, and might even challenge his old man for the spotlight.
If you haven't heard of the upstart craft brewery based in Oklahoma called Prairie Artisan Ales, it's about time you became familiar. Prairie has some of the better Farmhouse / Saisons on the market already, and now they've dipped their toes into the Imperial Stout pool. Prairie Bomb! ($8) is a 14% Imperial Stout aged on coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and chili peppers. It's a rich, luscious experience with a faint chili pepper kick on the tail end. This one is as good as it sounds, so you might want to get out in front of stout season and pick up some Prairie Bomb! before it's gone.