coasterbeer-5“Brewer’s Lunchbox” is a sampler 12-pack from Fort Collins Brewery in, you guessed it, Fort Collins, CO. Fort Collins seems like a great place to go for beer… you have this brwery, New Belgium, O’Dell’s… yum!

My “lunchbox” contained 2 each of Major Tom’s Pomegranate Wheat, Rocky Mountain IPA, Kidd Lager, Z Lager, Retro Red and Chocolate Stout. My first sample of a Fort Collins beer was at 2008 Beerfest in Kansas City and I’ve been eyeballing this sampler at Lukas Liquors ever since, so I finally bit the bullet the other day and bought it.

So far, I will say that every beer I’ve had from my “lunchbox” has been a gusher! They must all be bottle-conditioned beers because when I pop the top I lose about 1/4 of the beer as it explodes all over the place! Once things calm down, what’s left in the glass is pretty good beer.

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The Chocolate Stout was my first Fort Collins beer. It’s about 5% ABV and has a strong chocolate flavor from the malt, with a nice roasty component and a touch of hops. I think bringing this up to around 55-60 degrees will give you more of the flavor you’re looking for. This pairs well with good quality vanilla ice cream and especially with chocolate desserts!

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The Z Lager was next on the list. I had no idea what to expect, and obviously didn’t read the label, as I was surprised that it is a smoked beer. At about 5.5% ABV, the Z Lager is in the style of a German rauchbier, a style that dates back to 16th century Bamberg. Rauchbiers are made from malts that are dried over a beechwood fire, giving the malt a smoky flavor. The only other rauchbier I’ve had is New Holland Brewing Company’s on-tap-only Rauch Hatter, a smoked version of their IPA, Mad Hatter. I’m not the hugest fan of smoked beers in general, although I’ve never paired one up with food, which I think would be a good idea. That said, I like the flavors in Z Lager, and I think they’d pair up well with some good Kansas City barbecue.

l104008-10222003-880Fort Collins’ Retro Red is a 5% ABV red/amber with a surprising flavor profile. I generally steer clear of “amber” beers as the style is so widely varied and, in my experience, often contains mediocre selections. Retro Red is a nice, full-bodied and well-rounded beer, though. Tettnang hops give Retro Red a nice hop aroma and slight bitterness while crystal malts provide a nutty and toasty flavor reminiscent of the Goose Island Nut Brown Ale I’ve been drinking lately. Retro Red would go great with a variety of foods, and the carbonation is enough to help scrub the palate of some higher fat dishes, too. This would be worthy of keeping a 6-pack of in the fridge.

Finally, the only other beer I’ve had from the lunchbox is the IPA. I was not terribly impressed by this IPA, but in all fairness I was drinking it from the bottle at a party last night, so before I pass judgment on Rocky Mountain IPA, I feel like I should do it justice by devoting some time (and at least a glass!) to it at a later time.

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