Every third Thursday at Pinot, we put away our wine glasses  and get out the beer steins.  This month, we explored “The Beers of the West”.

We started with the only lager in our line-up, Chatoe Rogue’s Dirtoir Black Lager (Portland OR) because lagers are usually lighter and don’t ruin your palette for what comes next.  Not that our palettes were ruined by this tasty treat!  Dirtoir at 6% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) drinks like a stout, with notes of coffee and chocolate.  It was a heavy way to start the night but, intrepid troopers that we are, we carried on to our first ale, the classic Stone’s Arrogant Bastard.

Founded by two L.A. music biz guys in the ’90’s who since moved to San Diego, Stone’s was Beer Advocate’s “All-time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” for both 2008 and 2009. Stone has grown to be somewhere between the 10th and 6th largest craft brewery in the US (depending who you ask).  We laughed over their bottle copy as we enjoyed this smooth 7.2% IPA:  “This is an aggressive beer.  You probably won’t like it… You’re not worthy.”

We then travelled back up the Coast to Sonoma wine country, the home of Lagunitas’ Lucky 13 Large Red Ale.  Beautifully balanced, refreshing and delicious, no one could tell it carried a whopping 8.65% ABV and 77 IBU’s ( a measure of hoppy bitterness).  All agreed it was their favorite sampling of the night, and we’ll all be looking for it in stores.

For the ending, something a little different, from a place you wouldn’t expect to be producing great beer: Salt Lake City.  It was a smoked porter, which we saved till the end for fear its smokiness would dominate the palette.  It was tasty and malt-forward, and the cherrywood-smoked malt didn’t turn out to be so oppressive after all.

The brewery was Epic, in business just since 2008 but already producing some keepers. Their batches are limited and this bottle was labelled “1 out of 1800.”  With so many teetotaling Mormons in town, we wondered how a brewery could survive.  We were fortunate to have a Utah native in the room, who defended her home state saying the laws changed just a couple years ago.  In fact, she seemed a little weary of combating this common misconception about her apparently not-dry state.  This bottle of Smoked Porter was ample proof that things have progressed in the Mormon state..

Next up for our Thirsty Thursday beer class in August, we’ll return  to the very special, unique and flavorful Beers of Belgium.  Hope you’ll join us!