Beer: Señorita Brewery: Elevation Beer Co. Style: Imperial Porter ABV: 8.4 percent
In a speech delivered to thousands of attendees at this year's Craft Brewers Conference, Paul Gatza told a story about bad beer. It was at a beer festival a few months earlier, the director of the Brewers Association said, where he had gone out of his way to try newer craft breweries and experienced several stinkers. Most of the new guys just weren't up to snuff, quality-wise. There was, however, one brewery that impressed him: Elevation Beer Co.
Now that brewery is coming to Arizona.
See also: Oh, Snap: New Belgium Snapshot
Elevation was founded in the winter of 2012 in the bustling metropolis of Poncha Springs, Colorado (population: 495). The name of the brewery is appropriate for a couple of reasons. First, Poncha Springs serves as base camp for more than a dozen 14,000-foot peaks -- it's literally at high elevation. But the brewery's founders -- Sheila and Xandy Bustamonte, Carlin Walsh and Christian Koch -- also wanted to create beers that were barrel-aged, high-quality, and boundary-pushing -- an "elevation" of what craft beer can be.
Playing off its proximity to some choice slopes, Elevation produces beers grouped together in the Blue Series (home to your more standard American craft beers -- IPAs, porters, etc.), Black Series (beers of a higher alcohol content and bolder flavor designed for experienced craft beer drinkers), and Double Black Series (crazy, funky, intense barrel-aged stuff).
For its Arizona premiere, Elevation sent over four draft options: Apis IV, a Belgian-style quadrupel brewed with caramelized honey; Third Base, a seasonal Belgian tripel; Señorita, an imperial porter brewed with lactose, cinnamon, and Madagascar vanilla bean; and Signal de Botrange, a barrel-aged farmhouse ale. The first three are from the Black Series and the latter from the Double Black -- but the best of them is Senorita.
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Pouring a watery burnt brown capped with a silky head of sandy tan, this zesty imperial porter replicates the flavor and aroma of horchata. In the nose, we get a lovely balance of roasty and sweet, with notes of crumbled dark chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, milk, and a touch of floral hops. It's smooth and subtle, though even smoother and subtler is the flavor: milk chocolate, coffee creamer, cinnamon sticks. Bitter roast is well-balanced with the lesser flavors. Inside the creamy medium body is mild massaging carbonation and a touch of alcoholic heat. For a beer that's 8.4 percent ABV, it's incredibly easy to drink -- dangerously, even -- which may be what earned it a bronze award at this year's World Beer Cup.
Señorita -- and the others listed above -- will arrive in Arizona on Wednesday, May 28, with more draft and bottle options to follow in the following months. Grab some if you're interested in elevating your craft beer game.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.