“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.
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!
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.
Fort 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.