Beer for the Weekend - Santa Fe Brewing

Santa Fe Kriek - coming to KC this summer
There's loads of breweries around town that are easy to forget about for one reason or another. Some just make mediocre beer, others don't put a lot of effort into KC with local reps at festivals and events, and others just don't have an endless stream of limited releases that get all the press.

Santa Fe Brewing definitely falls into that last category. Up until recently, they haven't released a lot of specialty beers in the KC market, but they've always had a very solid lineup of year-rounders, and always show up to the events and fests around town. They even did a special KC-only collaboration a couple years ago with events for homebrewers and craft enthusiasts alike.

Now I'm as guilty as anyone for ignoring the great beers that are always available on the shelves, so it's always good to get a shot in the arm of some specialties to remind me of the regulars. So I was pretty excited when Santa Fe sent me over a couple of their beers to sample including two of their new sours. I got the elite tasting team together (complete with toddlers now) to give them a try.

And don't take our word for it either--Santa Fe is going to be at both the festivals tomorrow, so go hit them up, try the Barrel Aged Sour Porter, and definitely pound a couple Java Stouts while you're standing there.

The Sours

Barrel Aged Sour Porter - Group Score: 4.0/5

Availability: Limited release early 2015--should still be some on the shelves in KC (22 oz. bottles)
Alcohol: 6.7% abv.

This beer has a light, clean sourness reminiscent of a berliner weisse, but has a little hint of funkiness as well. The dark malt character is there just enough to round out the tartness, and I think the barrel aging helps to round out the harsher sourness as well. It's a sour beer that I could drink all day--doesn't pucker you up too much, but just keeps the beer crisp and light. The only complaint from the group was that the beer is a little one-dimensional, with the bugs wiping out a lot of the original porter character. But as long as you're expecting a sour beer first, with a light dark malt/roast character, then you'll love this beer.

Kriek...those bubbles!

Kriek - Group Score: 4.7/5

Availability: Limited release this Summer (750 ml bottles)
Alcohol: 8.5% abv.
Bugs: Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces, Sake

I don't know how they did it, but Santa Fe managed to brew just about the best kriek I've ever had. The tart cherries really come through on the aroma along with a big huge funky character. Wet hay, musk, and forest floor all came to mind. The beer is super sour, but not to the point of it being undrinkable. They got right to that tipping point and then dialed it back a notch. The flavors match the aromas, with cherry and lemon flavors. The beer's got a huge carbonation to release all those aromas, and it looks great too. They really nailed this one. 

The Year Rounders

State Pen Porter - Group Score: 3.4/5

Availability: Year Round (12 oz. bottles)
Alcohol: 6.4% abv.

This was a divisive beer for the group--the beer had a fan club...and then the other half of the group. The fan club average score was 4.1/5, but if you averaged the other half of the group, the beer got a 2.8/5 score. I have a feeling that it has something to do with the name--I really wouldn't call this a porter. It's a solid beer, clean and smooth, with all the characteristics of a brown ale--lots of rich malt, toffee, chocolate, biscuit aromas, and a great malt/hop balance. What it doesn't have are those robust and bold roasty characters and the high hops most people expect from a porter. So buy it as a brown, but don't buy it as a porter. And if you love brown ales, then this is a great one.

Happy Camper IPA - Group Score: 3.8/5

Availability: Year Round (12 oz. cans)
Alcohol: 6.6% abv.

Happy Camper was one of the group's favorites. It hits everything I want with an every-day, classic American IPA. It's got a big fresh hop aroma of citrus, pine, and floral notes with a low sweet malt aroma to balance The hops are strong on the flavor, but not harsh or over the top. Again, there's just enough malt and sweetness on the flavor to balance out the hops and keep them super smooth. This is just a great, easy drinking, classic IPA.

Happy Camper IPA.YUM. 

Black IPA - Group Score: 3.6/5

Availability: Year Round (12 oz. cans)
Alcohol: 7.1% abv.

The Black IPA is another solid IPA from Santa Fe. It's got a similar hop profile to the Happy Camper with a stronger pine character and some low roasty malt aromas. It's got a more bitterness from the hops and dark malts, but lacks the fresh hop aroma of Happy Camper. So if you want more bitterness but also want that fresh hop aroma, just make a make a black and tan with the two. (How have I never thought of this before??)

Java Stout. Breakfast Beer. Sort of.

Imperial Java Stout - Group Score: 4.0/5

Availability: Year Round (12 oz. cans)
Alcohol: 8.0% abv.

If you're going to try one year-round Santa Fe beer, make it this one. This is one of those rare coffee imperial stouts that has a lot of flavor, but is still incredibly drinkable. It has a huge chocolate, dark roast coffee, and roasted malt aroma with some light hops in the back. The flavor is all roast, sweet malt, and coffee, but is well balanced and not cloying at all. The balance keeps the beer really drinkable. In fact, they're so drinkable that I was actually hitting these up for breakfast beers until I realized they were 8% ABV. Try having two 8% ABV beers before noon and see how you feel!

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