The Beer Nut: What's brewing for 2008?

Norman Miller

It's shaping up to be an exciting year for beer in 2008, with breweries from the around the country stepping up and brewing new and unique beers.

Some breweries will be bringing back old favorites, while others will change recipes of beers they already brew. Others will expand production, making some hard-to-find beers not so hard to find.

The former Heavyweight Brewery in New Jersey was known for making big, unique high-alcohol brews but, unfortunately, the brewery closed a couple of years ago.

But Victory Brewing of Downington, Pa., is teaming up with Heavyweight brewer Tom Baker to brew a new version of the popular Perkuno's Hammer Imperial Porter, which will be called Baltic Thunder.

Baltic Thunder will be similar, but not the same exact recipe, Victory President Bill Covaleski said. The new beer will be 8.5 percent alcohol by volume compared to the original's 8 percent. Victory will also use black-eyed peas rather than Roman beans to help get the beer's dark color.

"We were always fans of Tom's beers, his Baltic porter in particular," said Covaleski. "After he chose to close his brewery and his Baltic porter vanished from the shelves, we were left thirsty for that beer. So, to quench our own thirst and that of consumers, we worked with Tom and shared his notes and thoughts on the style."

Baltic Thunder should be in stores next week, and will be sold in 750-ml bottles.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery of Rehobeth Beach, Del., has two new beers on tap for 2008.

The first will be Palo Santo Marro, which was only available at the brewpub. Brewer-owner Sam Calagione said this will be a 12 percent alcohol brown ale aged in Palo Santo wood from Uruguay.

The wood is typically used in incense, but several South American wineries age their wines in barrels made from Palo Santo wood. He said the barrels will impart caramel and vanilla flavors. Four packs of Palo Santo Marro will be on shelves in February.

The second new Dogfish Head brew will be Theobroma, which means "Food of the Gods." This beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments in Honduras, and will be brewed with chocolate.

"This is the oldest known chocolate alcohol drink drank by man," said Calagione. "That's going to be pretty darn unique brew."

Theobroma will be available in August, and will be packed in 750-ml bottles.

Stoudts' Brewing Company of Adamstown, Pa., will have a busy 2008, brewer Carol Stoudts said.

The brewery will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. It will bottle the Smooth Hoperator for only the second time, and it will be available outside of Pennsylvania for the first time. Stoudts said it is a double bock brewed with an experimental, non-traditional bock hop. It should be in stores in February and again in September.

Stoudts will also bring back 750-ml corked bottles. The brewery has recently purchased a new corker, which will allow the use of large bottles for specialty releases. Some beers to be released in the large bottles will include the Brewer's Reserve Series, which features a new beer every six weeks. They will include an imperial pilsner, a Belgian-style brown ale and a smoked beer.

Also this year, Stoudts will start aging some of their higher alcohol beers in wood to see how the flavors change. The first will be Fat Dog, an imperial stout, and a limited batch of 750-ml bottles will be sold in Massachusetts.

Clipper City Brewery of Baltimore, Md., will start an organic line of beers under the Oxford label. The first two releases, an amber ale and raspberry wheat, will hit stores in March.

Stone Brewery of Escondido, Calif., will continue with their theme of releasing a new anniversary ale and a new entry into its Vertical Epic series.

The Vertical Epic 08.08.08 is scheduled to be in stores on Aug. 7. No word on what style it will be, but the Vertical Epics tend to be Belgian-influenced ales.

The 12th Anniversary Ale will be in stores in July. Again, no idea on style, but the 11th Anniversary Ale, a black India pale ale, was fantastic.

Founders Brewing Company of Grand Rapids, Mich., more than doubled their capacity in 2007, so a lot of their beers that were hard to find may be a little easier to get your hands on.

The new brewery will allow Founders to bring back its porter, which the company's vice president, Dave Engbers, said is robust and sometimes is confused for a stout. It will be available in April.

"It was one of our tried and true beers, but when we were having capacity issues, it was one of the beers we took out of our portfolio. We're happy to have it back," he said.

The other returning beer will be the imperial stout. If this is anything like Founders' other stouts, it will be fantastic. This should also be in stores in April.

The Backwoods Bastard, a 9.2 percent ABV Scotch ale, will also be easier to find. Engbers said the brewery plans on brewing much more of this beer than the 230 cases produced in 2007.

One beer that will be disappearing will be the Black Rye, a rye-style beer.

"That may be reintroduced in 2008 with some changes and a higher alcohol content," Engbers said.

Avery Brewing of Boulder, Colo., will brew a new batch of Collaboration...Not Litigation in 2008, to hit stores in March. The 15th Anniversary Ale will come out May 1.

"It's going to be kind of a twisted take on the Saison-style," head brewer Matt Thrall said.

Also in Boulder, Oskar Blues' popular imperial stout, Ten FIDY, will be hitting stores this month. If you've never had an imperial stout in a can, pick this one up.

One New England brewery I missed last week, Allagash of Portland, Maine, will make a couple of changes to existing beers this year. The Victor, a Belgian ale brewed with wine yeast and chancellor grapes, will now be brewed with pinot noir grapes.

The Fluxus, scheduled for a June release, will also be different, but the changes have not been decided upon, brewmaster Jason Perkins said.

Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail or call 508-626-3823.Check out the Beer Nut blog at