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A Community Christmas

Christmas is coming early to Community Pint, thanks to Firestone Walker.

The California brewery is taking over 10 of the Spokane craft beer bar’s taps for a Christmas party Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., along with two selections each from Fremont and Georgetown.

The “green” beers in the Firestone lineup include:

– The STiVO Keller Pils collaboration with Russian River.

– DBA (Double Barrel Ale), a cask-fermented English-style pale.

– The flagship Union Jack IPA.

– The latest in the Luponic Distortion series of IPAs using experimental hops, the new No. 008.

– Mocha Merlin coffee oatmeal stout.

There also are five more exclusive “red” selections:

– The Sour Opal interpretation of a traditional Belgian gueuze.

– Krieky Bones sour cherry Flanders-style red.

– Velvet Merkin bourbon barrel-aged oatmeal stout.

– The barrel-aged Pacific Gravity Weizenbock strong wheat beer.

– This year’s XXI Anniversary Ale barrel-aged blend.

Along with full pours, three different four-ounce taster packages will be available: Rudolph (four green pours, two red) for $14, Dasher (six green, four red) for $24 and Blitzen (nine green, five red) for $30. That will continue through Sunday, as supplies last.

Also look for Georgetown’s Chardell chocolate coffee stout and Hansen Brothers imperial black IPA, plus Fremont’s Winter Ale and Lush IPA.  

Fill up on Fremont

Fremont takes center stage Saturday as Coeur d’Alene’s Filling Station on 5th celebrates its second anniversary.

Eleven beers from the Seattle brewery will pour for the all-day party beginning at 11 a.m. at the combination growler house/gastropub, most at pint prices of $5 or less.

“It’s been a great year. It’s been fun,” owner Keith Carpenter says. “We want to give back to everybody.”

The lineup includes some of the usual suspects: Summer Ale, Wandering Wheat, Session Pale and The Sister imperial IPA.

Then things get really interesting. There’s also Summer Ale infused with blackberries and mint, Wandering Wheat with pineapple and coconut, and Interurban IPA with Thai basil, ginger and lime.

Toss in a pair of cask-conditioned firkins: the newer Lush IPA with Citra and Mosaic, tapping at noon, followed by Interurban dry-hopped with Chinook at 3 p.m.

And for good measure, add both the 2015 and 2016 vintages of Coffee Cinnamon B-Bomb barrel-aged winter ale.

“I don’t know how I’m going to make it all day,” Carpenter jokes. “I’ll have to take a break and go hike around Tubbs Hill.”

There also will be prize giveaways including special Fremont bottle packs for the customers who kill the firkins. Blow the Interurban and get the 2013 and 2015 First Nail imperial stout with licorice and smoked barley, and this year’s barrel-aged Rusty Nail version; the Lush slayer receives last year’s bourbon barrel-aged Dark Star imperial oatmeal stout plus its coffee and Spice Wars variants.

Most of the action will take place up front in the adjoining Collective Kitchen restaurant, with live music by Gabe Green from 6 to 8.     

The headline for Year Two was the doubling of the beer and cider tap count to 50 in March, with 25 added in Collective Kitchen (operated by Carpenter’s half-brother, Jason Rex) in addition to the original row in the back bar.

A cooler was added around the same time for sour and barrel-aged bottles, to drink there or to go. Each Thursday, four selected bottles are featured at 20 percent off; with any bottle purchase during the following week, you get a raffle ticket for a free bottle drawing the next Thursday.

Fruits of a new year

Counterclockwise, from top left: Fremont has already released its spring seasonal Lush IPA; New Belgium’s IPAs are moving under a new Voodoo Ranger label; Sierra Nevada is introducing an orange version of its iconic pale ale; Full Sail's latest Pub Series offering is a papaya-infused IPA.

Brewers are welcoming 2017 with an array of new beers designed to satisfy the growing thirst for fruitier flavors. Among the offerings from Western breweries that should start showing up on local taps and store shelves soon:

• Fremont is flouting the calendar with the launch of its new spring seasonal Lush IPA (7 percent alcohol by volume, 80 International Bitterness Units), brewed with fruity Citra and Mosaic hops over a pale and honey malt body. It replaces the previous 77 Select session IPA.

This past Monday’s release party at the brewery will be followed by similar events at select locations around the region next Wednesday, including Manito Tap House. Along with the straight beer, those will feature variants with extra Citra and Mosaic infusions plus a cask-conditioned version.

• Mosaic also stars in New Belgium’s revamped roster of hoppy beers under the edgier Voodoo Ranger label. The existing Ranger IPA and Rampant imperial IPA will take on the Voodoo Ranger name with revised recipes, while the new Voodoo Ranger 8 Hop Pale (5.5, 35) is a more potent replacement for the previous Slow Ride session IPA.

New Belgium is shaking up the rest of its lineup as well to stay relevant in an ever-evolving craft beer landscape. Tartastic Lemon Ginger Sour steps in for the former Snapshot tart wheat; Blue Paddle is being reborn as a crisper Bohemian Pilsener; the golden Dayblazer Easygoing Ale is in, while Shift Lager is out; and Citradelic Exotic Lime Ale follows in the bigger footsteps of Citradelic Tangerine IPA, last year's top new beer brand.

• Sierra Nevada is following suit with fruity new tweaks on two of its core offerings. The iconic Sierra Nevada Pale will be joined by Sidecar Orange Pale Ale (after the cocktail of that name, 5.3, 35), while Torpedo IPA gets a new Tropical Torpedo sidekick (6.7, 55) that’s similar to last year’s spring seasonal Beer Camp Tropical IPA.

This year’s spring release is the wheat-based Beer Camp Golden IPA (6.5, 50, rolling out any day now to knock my beloved Celebration off the shelves).

• Full Sail's latest Pub Series entry is a papaya-infused IPApaya IPA (6.2, 58) brewed with malted wheat and fruity Ekuanot (formerly Equinox) hops.  

 Finally, Deschutes is introducing a year-round Pacific Wonderland Lager (5.5, 37) hopped with orangey Tettnang Mandarina.   

Hops are for heroes

Everyone knows that baseball and beer go together like, well, flags and the Fourth. And Homefront IPA mashes all of those together in a most unique way.

The beer, issued each year to benefit military charities, is actually aged over maple Louisville Slugger baseball bats (don’t worry, they’re new, not used). While technically a Memorial Day release, it’s a fitting choice for this holiday weekend as well.

It all started with former Mariners relief pitcher Chris Ray – a homebrewer turned brewery owner – who teamed up with Fremont Brewing for the first, Seattle-only offering back in 2011.

Since then, the concept has spread across the country. This year, in addition to Fremont, nine other breweries participated, from Hawaii’s Maui to Florida’s Cigar City.

All proceeds go to Soldiers’ Angels, which assists active and veteran military personnel and their families with everything from care packages to hospital support. In addition to the donated bats, hops are provided by Yakima’s Hops Direct, malt by Cargill and cans by Crown.

The golden-amber Homefront (6.2 percent alcohol by volume, 65 International Bitterness Units) drinks bigger and richer than the numbers might suggest, with a pronounced maple and hop aroma and flavor. The woodiness from the bats is balanced by piney Chinook hops, an earthy fruitiness from Mosaic and a bit of bitter orange peel.

While probably not for everyone, hopheads and/or the more adventurous might want to check it out and help the cause. It’s a limited release, so look for it at specialty stores (I got mine at Pilgrim’s in Coeur d’Alene).        

Fremont heads for Hills’

Fremont Brewing is coming to town on Sunday for the 36th brewer’s dinner at Hills’ Restaurant and Lounge.

Chef Dave Hill is cooking up a four-course menu that both incorporates and will be accompanied by popular beers from the Seattle brewery, including:

- Pale ale shrimp in phyllo dough with cream cheese, roasted peppers and chives, with Universale Pale Ale.

- Applewood smoked chicken and wild mushrooms in an IPA and herb bread bowl, with Interurban IPA.

- Pork osso bucco in a mandarin orange and ale demiglace with couscous and fresh vegetables, paired with 77 Select session IPA.

- Stout ice cream and strawberry Napoleon, with Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout.

Dinner starts at 6 p.m. Cost is $49, which includes tax and tip; for reservations, call (509) 747-3946.

Eat your Irish: Today also is the reservation deadline for Thursday’s five-course Irish beer dinner at MickDuff’s Beer Hall in Sandpoint.

The menu from Two Lakes Catering includes a kale, beet and apple salad with Tipsy Toe Head Blonde; seared sea scallops with NOHO IPA; petite lamb pop with colcannon mash, paired with Imperial Bourbon Stout; cheddar, root vegetable and stout hunter’s pie, with Irish Red; and plum cardamom and rhubarb crisp with goat milk ice cream, accompanied by a stout/cider blend.

The cost is $40; call the Beer Hall at (208) 209-6700 or stop by between 3 and 8 p.m. to save your spot.

Also keep an eye out for more details about MickDuff’s ninth anniversary celebration coming up on Saturday.