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Beer Guzzler

Cooler weather brews


You've got to love the weather here in Boise. One day it's sunny with a high in the mid-90s--the next day the mercury can't push past 70. It's the tail end of summer and that usually means a roller coaster ride of warm weather one week with frost warnings the next. What's a beer lover to do? I say go with the flow.

Breweries are always pushing up the release date of their seasonal offerings. The Oktoberfest beers have been with us since the beginning of August, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the first winter brews rolling out around Halloween. A couple of micros have already brought out special releases well suited to the shifting weather.

Idaho's own Grand Teton Brewing Company has brought out a cellar reserve, bottle-conditioned beer in a litter bottle with a silk-screened label and a wax-dipped swing-top ceramic closure. The 2005 Baltic Porter is made in a style that can trace its roots back to England's Imperial Russian Stout. Apparently, on a visit to Britain, Catherine the Great developed a taste for London's stouts. The Barclay brewery bottled a particularly strong one designed to survive the long journey back to her court. Eventually, Baltic breweries emulated the style, referring to it as a porter. Grand Teton's version is a rich, dark ale with sweet roasted malt, smooth chocolate and coffee flavors backed by subtle anise. A serious brew with a serious price ($10.99), it's the perfect choice for a cool autumn night.

A bit on the lighter side, Lagunitas Brewing offers up Nuevo Noir, their take on a Belgian-style brown ale. It's a bit lighter in color than one would expect, an amber-hued golden brown, with a creamy coffee-colored head. Sweet fruity aromas blend together with a light touch of spice and roasted nuts. In the mouth, the emphasis is on creamy malted caramel flavors with just a hint of soft hops and a nice velvety texture. Finishes sweet but not cloying--remarkably well-balanced considering the absence of any real hop bite. A good transitional brew that will set you back just a shade over three bucks for a 22-ounce bottle.