The Drinkable Week: Pikesville rye whiskey, New Belgium Brewing Co.’s Denver project & Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest in July

On the latest edition of the Drinkable Week: The rye-naissance continues, New Belgium looks to create a Denver destination and Sierra Nevada goes Bavarian.

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  • Bourbon and Irish are not the only beneficiaries of the worldwide whiskey renaissance. Bourbon’s close cousin, rye, has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance of its own. Rye volume was up somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent last year and has grown nearly 400 percent over the past decade. The surge has seen distillers large and small ramp up production on whiskeys made from the spicy grain. The latest product comes from Kentucky’s Heaven Hill, known to bourbon fans for Elijah Craig, Evan Williams and Henry McKenna. Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey is distilled in Heaven Hill’s Bernheim distillery in Louisville, matured for six years in its rickhouses in Bardstown and bottled at 110 proof. It’s rolling out this month in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, with planned national distribution in the fall and a suggested retail price of $49.99 for a 750-millilter bottle.
  • New Belgium Brewing Co., which is based in another Colorado city, Fort Collins, announced this week that it is opening a 10-barrel pilot brewery, located on the ground floor of Denver’s The Source Hotel, located in the city’s River North District—RiNo to the locals. New Belgium will also be barrel aging on the eighth floor of the hotel, in a rooftop lounge called the Woods. The lounge will also feature a pool and roof deck with stunning views of the mountains and downtown Denver. It’ll of course serve New Belgium brews paired with all sorts of small plates. It’ll house a total of 50 oak barrels, which will help the brewery expand its sour beer portfolio. But don’t expect to be hanging out there when you get to the Great American Beer Festival this fall as it’s not expected to open until about the first quarter of 2017.
  • In just a few weeks, stores will be flooded will fall seasonal beers—if they’re not already (that’s another issue). Among the releases this year will be the Oktoberfest brew that’s the result of a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and 600-year-old German brewery Brauhaus Riegele—now in its 27th generation of family ownership. Last week I was lucky enough to be among the first to taste the beer at Sierra Nevada’s new brewery in Mills River, North Carolina. Riegele’s top brass joined Sierra Nevada father-and-son leadership team Ken and Brian Grossman at the Oktoberfest unveiling, which was complete with Bavarian-style oompa band.

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