Thursday, January 28, 2010


Sometimes you’ll be perusing the shelves of your local beer store, and some random brewery you’re altogether unfamiliar will all of a sudden have their entire lineup on display and for sale. Obviously someone just signed a distribution deal and is now available in your state or locale. What kills me is thinking of the breweries I wish were distributed in my state whom this new brewer’s perhaps scored a deal in place of – in Northern California, good examples of brewers we're missing include Southern Tier, Captain Lawrence, Boulevard, Smuttynose, Surly, Brooklyn, and so on. Now a few of those probably don’t have the production ability to distribute to all markets that desire their beers, and others just want to keep their stuff local for other reasons.

Then there are unheralded brewers like GRAND TETON BREWING from Victor, ID. Their beers all of a sudden showed up in all the better Bay Area beer stores late last year. Who are these guys? Why them? Who are they stealing shelf space from? Wait – what if their beers are good? I decided to buy one and find out. I’ve got this friend, Mark, and this guy just loves him an imperial stout or porter. Crank up the alcohol, make it as black and as coffee/chocolate/roasted as possible, and he’s in heaven. I was in the midst of buying him some of these beers a few weeks ago, and came upon GRAND TETON BLACK CAULDRON. Looked like a dark, evil, scary, high-ABV imperial stout. Aw hell, I reckoned, I’ll pick one up for him and for myself. “I’m darn glad I did”.

Wow! Where did this come from? BLACK CAULDRON is a smooth, medium-bodied, vanilla/cocoa stout that is actually quite approachable. Sure, it’s 8% alcohol, but it doesn’t have that harsh, deep-roasted flavor you get from a lot of these big boy beers (and yeah, I know that 8% is not quite the 10-11% a lot of these clock in at). But more than that – it’s really, really delicious. The balance is incredible, and the tastes are really rich and inviting. A bit of a surprise, and it’s a 12-ounce bottle so it’s not exactly a wreck-the-night, time-to-go-to-bed investment if you choose to drink it by yourself. I want to spread the word about this one. Will you help me? 8.5/10.

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