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Bold new beers from Crown Valley

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Among new breweries attending the 2011 Savannah Craft Brew Fest will be Crown Valley Brewing Co. of Ste. Genevieve, Mo.

You might remember Ste. Genevieve from the stories about last year’s flooding in the St. Louis area. When it’s not under water, Ste. Genevieve is a beautiful, rural community with a rich history.

Crown Valley came into being as a winery. In fact, it’s the premier winery in Missouri, a beautiful, rolling property with a large and elegant tasting facility. Wines are produced from native grapes like Norton, as well as from more traditional varietals like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec – imported from grape growing regions of California.

With lots of acreage and an eye on opportunity, the Crown Valley folks soon added beer production to their repertoire. I recently tasted several of the brewery’s products and found these to be of special interest.

For me, great beer is about character. Crown Valley Big Bison Ale packs plenty of character – and plenty of flavor – into a 12–oz. bottle. This is Crown Valley’s take on Belgian–style Dubbel, full–bodied and rich with notes of raisin and plum. This beer style has roots in a variation of Trappist witbiers of the 1830s – and has evolved into a beer with a rich, malty backbone, slight hops bitterness and a long, sweet finish.

More great character comes from Crown Valley’s Black Cabin Smoked Ale. Again, this is a beer style with roots in the Old World – Germany’s Rauchbiers – and a decidedly heavy footprint in the modern world of craft beer. The flavorful, smoky undertones of this beer are enhanced by chocolate and smoked malt sweetness.

India Pale Ales are among beer drinkers’ favorite styles. Again, the roots of IPA run back in time – to the era of British colonization of India. Beer – an essential commodity for British nationals in India – spoiled on the long sail around the Horn of Africa. Brew masters discovered that adding additional hops acted as a preservative and added refreshing citrus notes to the beer.

Crown Valley Wooden Nickel IPA continues the heritage, although the trip from Ste. Genevieve is a far less perilous journey for the beer. This IPA – at an easy to handle 5.6 ABV – pours a dark honey brown color. The full–bodied beer incorporates a trio of hops to enhance this beer’s citrus and floral bitterness.

This year’s Savannah Craft Brew Fest Grand Tasting, Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, features more than 150 beers from more than 50 American craft brewers.

The International Experience, planned for Sunday, Sept. 4, at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, will showcase 43 beers from around the world, accompanied by matching ethnic cuisine and live entertainment. For full details, ticketing information, a variety of related events and more, go online to www.savannahcraftbrewfest.com.

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