Monday, August 22, 2016

Hopfest Ticket Party Tonight

From its humble beginnings in the parking lot next to NYPD Pizza, to a parking lot behind O'Niell's, to Isleta/Hard Rock/Isleta again, Hopfest has become arguably the best beer fest in New Mexico. But what about the one at the zoo that time, you might say. But most likely not. Some fests are better (much, much, better) than others, and Hopfest has stood out to me for a number of reasons: The number of breweries represented is unmatched, with breweries I forgot still distribute here. For instance, Durango Brewing. How often do you see their stuff in stores? Also, thanks to Pueblo laws, the pours are more generous. No complaints here!
I will miss the "Extreme" part that was introduced last year, with the BMX freestyle show, but I won't miss the massive dust storm that kicked up in that area.
The VIP area is sweet, like you're hanging out in a fancy spa (because that's my kind of place) with hard to find beers.
You can get a discounted room and drink/gamble the night away at the Isleta hotel casino.
At 9 years old, this is a fest that has all the kinks of a brewfest ironed out.

There is a ticket party tonight at Quarter Celtic Brewpub. And here is the info on it, directly copied and pasted from the email. Hey, I'm going away tomorrow. Lots of laundry to do.
1. Join Coren at Quarter Celtic Brewpub on Monday and get 10% off GA & EH tickets, no online fees, & a FREE Hopfest Pint Glass - Monday Aug 22nd 5-8pm. Quarter Celtic has a Hopfest Special - 1/2 order of Fish & Chips and a pint of beer for $9. Also, it is Mor Buck Monday - $4 pint of Rye IPA or 13 oz Imperial GFE. Look for Coren with the Hopfest Tee.

2. Not available at that time? Head over to Tractor Brewing Co. to purchase your tickets, and skip the online fees. Bring cash = no fees, pay with a card = $1 fee.

3. Buy your tickets online from the comfort of your own couch (beer of choice in hand). Save 5% on GA or Extra Hoppy tickets with the code COUCH valid through 8/26.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Best Beer Value Out There?

"Best beer value" is a subjective term. You could argue that something like Bigfoot Barleywine is the best value, considering the high ABV and Sierra Nevada's pricing. Or the New Belgium 12-packs. The freshness of a local six-pack could factor into what you consider beer value, sure. The macro 30-packs have a place in the argument, but I'm looking for something with more body. There's an argument to be made for Who You Callin' Wussie, Stone, errr. Arrogant Brewing's rare attempt at a lager. I think "Wussie" is spelled "wussy", but since the beer is in 16 oz. cans, they went for the longer version of the word. I thank Fast Times at Ridgemont High's Damone for introducing the word to me in the first place. And for selling me those Earth, Wind, and Fire tickets.

Anyway, Arrogant Brewing does a fine job of the German Pilsner style, albeit with a few Stone-like touches, such as a higher than usual Pilsner ABV of 5.8%, and 47 IBUs to boot. That's Pale Ale ABV, but the taste is decidedly Pilsner. The best part of Wussie may be the value. A six-pack of 16 oz. cans is selling for as low as $9.99! 16 oz. cans! That's 96 oz. of beer at Natty Light prices. Who needs a job when you have Wussie available?? And I was this close to working at 7-11.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Post IPA Challenge Rambling

A few thoughts on recent beer events:

So, Boxing Bear won the IPA Challenge. And they deserved it. Not sure if Justin Hamilton replicated the 5,000 hop IPA from the previous challenge, but whatever he did, it worked. I blindly chose it at both the Rio Bravo event and the final at Tractor. There were some contenders, to be sure, but Boxing Bear's was above the rest. Good for them- partner Kevin Davis was always happy to help with homebrew problems while running Southwest Grape and Grain, and Brewmaster/co-owner Justin Hamilton is well-liked by the other brewers.
I don't get some of the internet chatter of a few saying this year was an overall sub-par collection of IPAs. I think it was a solid field and three or more could have won- though I was surprised to see Three Rivers near the top. I don't recall their IPA standing out, but I'm glad they placed near the top. Parity.
Tractor needs to turn up the AC when hosting that many people. I felt like I was in a Baptist church in the old south. And the sweaty look doesn't go well with being on TV. Yeah, there was indeed local news coverage of the challenge. Looks like we made it, as Barry would sing. And "being on TV" for me means seeing the back of my head, so only the gang over at the truck stop would have recognized me.
A well-run event overall, even if Castro did call during President Gozigian's speech, asking him to wrap it up already.

Heimat House has closed. German food is a tough sell in this town, even if you have the best German beer menu in the state. If it's not sushi, Vietnamese, or a chain restaurant, it's going to be quite the battle to get customers- unless, maybe, you take that schnitzel, smother it in red and green chile and a ton of cheese and serve it with dried up rice and bland refried beans. That seems to work everywhere. And on the chain restaurant note, anyone catch the piece in the Sunday Journal about things Albuquerque needs? Apparently, Ruby Tuesday is one of them. Yes, the lackluster chain that stands out from other chains because it has a salad bar. Hopefully you're reading this on your phone and shaking your head...while waiting for a table at the Cheesecake Factory.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Firestone Walker is Here. Oh Good.

Everyone excited for Firestone Walker's release in New Mexico today? I bet. Someone asked me the other day if I was excited about FW moving into town. Well, as you can imagine, Mr. Excitement has mixed feelings about the whole thing...
For starters, yeah, FW does have a great portfolio of beers. Union Jack, a multiple GABF Gold winner, is a classic IPA. Easy Jack Session IPA is the best of the style. Their barrel-aged beers are legendary (Parabola, Sucaba, etc.). So without trying to piss on everything (since it comes naturally), here are my concerns:

I'll miss the chase.
Traveling for beer has been one of the things that actually does excite me, and FW was always one of the brands I looked forward to drinking while on out of state excursions. So being able to walk into Jubilation for a sixer or Nob Hill for a pint does take away some of the fun of drinking Firestone Walker beer. Same thing happened with Founders, same thing happened with Ballast Point (I like the way all those colorful can boxes look together on store shelves, but I'm not spending $14 on a six-pack of it. Not with FW in town). And I know I'm not the only one who feels that way- show up at the next bottle share with an out-of-town IPA and you will feel appreciated. Show up with an Anderson Valley Hop Ottin or other locally-available shelf IPA, and I'll personally escort you to the door.

Also, there is the freshness issue to consider. Will we, as a still small craft community with a slew of great local beers, be able to support the buying of one brand enough to ensure a flow of the freshest of that national brand, such as FW? I've had a hard time finding fresh FW in Chicago, which can be understood considering that even though the beer geeks make up a higher percentage of the population than your average city, there are many more brands available than here. More great choices, more likely you'll find some beers sitting around longer. Plus, the distance from the brewery has to be considered. However, I have also had trouble finding fresh FW while in L.A., and that's not so far from Paso Robles. So, let's hope the local distributor has a plan to keep the freshest hoppy offerings from FW in stock. That 9.5% Double Jack DIPA can fall off quickly.

I doubt we're going to have a chance to find fresher Firestone Walker than tonight, at the release party at Nob Hill Bar and Grill. Starting at 6, you can try 15 or so of the finest FW offerings, including Stivo Pils (collaboration with Russian River), 19th Anniversary, Bretta Weisse, Parabola Wookey Jack, all the other Jacks, Pivo, DBA, and so on. Tomorrow, Jubilation will be hosting a tasting event for the packaged beers, and will pour DBA, PAle 31, Easy Jack, Union Jack, Pivo Pils, and Luponic Distortion #2 from 4-6.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

NM IPA Challenge: Only the Strong and Smoked Survive

With the first round of the NM IPA Challenge being an elimination round, one thing was certain: there were sure to be a number of bad beers. In the past, this was certainly true, even when there were only 14 breweries total to judge, let alone 28. But many NM breweries stepped up to the point that there weren't any "immediately spit the beer onto the floor" IPAs. So there's that.
Rio Bravo welcomed a full house of lupulin-crazed drinkers, including a man donning a pretzel necklace to help fuel him through the 28 oz. of beers he was served. The Rio Bravo space proved to have the perfect combination of factors to make for a successful event: plenty of seating and five minutes or less from my house. And the NM Brewers Guild people have been doing this for so long, there were no hitches when it came to getting the beers, aside from a lot of foam. Someday, someone will perfect the jockey box. Maybe Tesla. Or Kia.
The beers were divided into two trays of 14 beers apiece, so if you came with a friend, you might have gotten a taste of all 28. I talked to a few people who had tried both, and the consensus was that the tray with 1-14 had the better IPAs. I felt that way as well- in fact, I believe that directly contributed to Quarter Celtic's 24 votes. They were the standout beer from that group, but I don't know that they would have fared as well in tray 1. Newbie Starr Bros. was second in tray 2 with 17 votes, as they showed up with a respectable offering. Local favorite and reigning champ Bosque Brewing was third with 13, but I can't say their beer stood out at the time. Same with Marble, who only ended up with 6 votes. Santa Fe's newest IPA was entered but only got 3 votes. Should have saved some of that Western Bloc for the challenge! The real surprise in tray 2 was Chili Line out of Santa Fe, who brought a smoked IPA. Flavored or gimmick IPAs usually don't fare well in the Challenge (Eske's, anyone?), but Chili Line's smoked IPA got 10 votes and will go on to the finals. I could get all BJCP about the style guidelines for IPAs and how dare they enter this but who really cares? People liked it enough to vote for it.
Tray 1 started strong from the beginning, with La Cumbre in slot 1, and they gained 13 votes. That tied with tray 1 surprise Taos Mesa, who I had as a close second in my final decision. I ended up going with top vote getter Boxing Bear, who came away with 33 votes. They may be hard to beat this year. Stalwart Canteen (albeit with Zach in charge of brewing for the first time) tied for the lead with 33. A disappointment this year was Chama River. The beer tasted a little off, something I haven't encountered when trying beers at the brewpub.
A good experience overall, and a great job by the Rio Bravo staff checking on everyone and clearing tables. The two rounds outside of Albuquerque always bring out surprise votes (are Farmington palates that much different? Yes.), so you never know who will be near the top come July 23. See you then at Tractor for the finals!

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Guy Walks Into a Liquor Store...

And walks out with a growler! In other areas, this may not warrant the excitement that goes along with a !, but here in New Mexico, we haven't had that luxury like they have in other states. But new legislation passed allows New Mexico liquor stores to set up growler fill stations, much like ones you may have seen in other states. And it's about time, considering that four years ago I was choosing which beer to fill up a growler with at a damn Piggly Wiggly in a podunk town in South Carolina. And the time I was driving through Alabama 15 years ago and found a convenience store where people were filling up empty gallon milk containers at a set of taps. To be fair, the first time I ever encountered a self-checkout at a supermarket was at a Winn Dixie in Alabama, so maybe they're more ahead of the curve than I'd expect to give them credit for. And the place in the photo is the Charleston Beer Exchange, which has also offered growler fills for years in a state with a more religious anti-drink slant than NM. But let's be happy we've finally got the legislation passed through, and will have many more choices when it comes to take-home draft beer in this town. Expect to see rapid changes at your local retailer- Jubilation's Adam Auden tells me they are in the process of setting up an 8-tap growler fill station, and says, "We'll be focusing on non-local beers not available in package, but I will rotate some local draught only stuff through from time to time". And that makes sense, considering that you can hit up your local brewery for whatever fill you need of theirs. So can you imagine the day when you walk in Jubilation, or Kelly's, or Smith's, and walk out with a growler of Parabola? Dreams really can come true in New Mexico!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Founders Tap Takeover and Drumroll Pleases

Nob Hill Bar and Grill, they of the upscalejoint.com website (a name that might keep me from checking the place out if I were visiting from out of town...upscale??? Hell NO! But it turns out that the only time I don't want to be there is after 10 on a weekend night, when suddenly the place transforms into a Vegas dance club) is hosting a Founders tap takeover on Tuesday, featuring a number of favorites from the Grand Rapids, MI brewery. Mango Magnifico, Sumatra Mountain Brown, Devil Dancer Triple IPA, All Day IPA, 2015 and 2016 KBS, and ReDANKulous will all be on tap.
I know I lauded both Founders' ReDANKulous and Jubilation in the same post the other day, so now allow me to bash them both a bit: Founders, I was excited for ReDANKulous, but this batch is a malty mess. If you are expecting a malt bomb, I guess this is the beer for you. But I gave a recommendation based on the hoppy goodness that was previous batches. I can't imagine this current one would come anywhere close to winning a GABF Gold. And Jubilation, I applaud the fact that almost all of the beer you sell is kept refrigerated, and I am sure it is a distributor decision and not yours, but I hate to see the stacks of Devil Dancer displayed out on the floor. That stuff has a window of, oh, a week where it tastes like it could be a "Triple IPA" before it tastes like a Barleywine. Can you please sell all the Devil Dancer and ReDANKulous and get that Double Trouble in already??

Has Odell ever had a mass-marketed American Pale Ale? Their 5 Barrel Pale Ale could kind of stand in for one, but I think the public's need for hops has pushed away that English-style and compelled Odell to create Drumroll American Pale Ale, their first year-round release in two years. 12-pack displays are already up at Whole Foods. Get your nitrite and nitrate-free hot dogs and some American Pale Ale for the upcoming holiday. The beer is easy drinking, and definitely leaning towards Pale Ale category rather than Session IPA, though you do get pleasant tropical notes from the hop bill. Nice. It's the first beer Odell has produced that comes in cans only- hello, future of beer.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Clown Shoes Were Made For Drinking

For years now, Clown Shoes beers were only available in NM at Total Wine stores. Dark days, indeed. But now you can actually get Clown Shoes refrigerated, as Jubilation is now carrying the Massachusetts-based contract brewed beers. I tried fresh (it's true!) bottles of Galactic IPA and Space Cake DIPA and was pleasedwith the product Clown Shoes is making these days. Or having made for them, I should say, Much like "Brooklyn" brewery Sixpoint, Clown Shoes is still facing the stigma of contract brewing. It has worked just fine for Mikkeller and Evil Twin for years, but some breweries are still looking for the craft community's respect. Just make a solid product and I'll buy the damn thing.

ReDANKulous is one of the best Imperial Red ales I've had on tap, and we now have fresh bottles in town. The GABF Gold medalist from Founders is available in four-packs, again at Jubilation. I'm not trying to be a fanboy of the place, but I just can't stress enough how happy I am to see the number of people they have available to help shoppers at any time I go in. It could be 15 minutes before closing on a Monday evening and there will be like six employees ready to answer questions and offer suggestions. I know not all small, local businesses can afford to operate this way but they are certainly still the model for the way I wish businesses could be.

Is taking over your own taps with your beer still considered a tap takeover? If so, then call it a Chama River tap takeover at Draft Station on the 18th (Chama River and Draft Station both being part of the Santa Fe Dining Group, of course). The first 15 beers that most recent Head Brewer Andrew Krosche created when he joined the ever-rotating list of brewers at Chama will be featured, and it's quite the variety of styles, from Gose to Kolsch to a raspberry ginger beer, in case your mom wants to tag along.

Lastly, a thank you to Mitch Steele for helping Stone Brewing Company achieve remarkable growth in his 10 years there with innovative styles and a high-quality product. He will be leaving at the end of June to pursue his own brewery. When he first joined Stone after long working for Anheuser Busch as brewery operations manager, there was an uproar akin to back when people thought Obama was going to take away their guns when he became president. And now we have a world of uproar and overreaction regarding everything, so thanks, social media. But back then, people thought Stone was selling out and trying to become the fourth to the Big Three. No, the Arrogant Bastard didn't become watered down, beachwood-aged, or renamed America. And yes, Mitch Steele had a number of notable successes, particularly the Enjoy By series. So good luck to you Mitch, and I hope to see your beers in Albuquerque soon.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Beer week: Saturday, 6.4

I probably should have written about this before the June 2 entry deadline: Ponderosa is hosting a sidewalk chalk contest on Saturday from 11-5. $100 gift card to the winner, a mug club membership for second, and a $20 gift card for third. I guess spaces are limited so they had to do an early cut off date. Sorry if you are interested but are just finding out about the event. Anyway, come out and support your favorite...sidewalk chalk artist...

Barrel-aged beers are the theme of the day at Tractor, where they will be pouring Scotcholate Scotch Ale, Luna De Los Muertos, and Barley Wine. A flight of 12 oz. pours is $12. They will also be selling bombers of these beers for $15, limit 3 per person.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co will be bringing Five Hop IPA, Bigfoot Barleywine, and Hoptimum Imperial IPA to Nob Hill Bar and Grill at 5.

Tractor Brewing Wells Park hosts Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico presents Beer & Bands for Better Sex Ed: an evening of entertainment, activism, and music! You know me, all about the activism. Whatever it takes to keep dummies from having little dummies. Mike Judge was so so so right. This $15 fundraiser will benefit sex ed programs in New Mexico, and there's a lot going on. Music from Le Chat Lunatique, Albuquerque Aerialist Collective, Cali Shaw, Keith Sanchez, Desert Darlings Belly Dance, and Leftover Soul. Doner Kebab, My Sweet Basil, and Pop Fizz provide the eats. The event begins at 5:30.

Another worthy fundraiser, this one for the animals I care about. Watermelon Mountain Ranch can always use your help, and Marble's Westside tap room will host a "Yappy Hour" from 3-5. Raffles, a pet photographer, plenty of adoptable puppies, and beer!


Friday, June 3, 2016

Farewell, Firkin

It's sad to see a brewery close, but especially during Beer Week. Sorry to say Firkin is no longer in business. It was located in a a nearly hidden spot in around the so-called "Brewery District", so unless you were headed for the place you would be unlikely to stumble upon it. The competition is rough these days, so anyone who plans on opening should have their A-game beers dialed in and ready to go. The public often will only give a place one try and be quick to pass on a bad review. I hope the folks who put it all together come out of it ok.

Beer Week: Friday, June 3

A light day for the most part, with multiple beer samplings at the Total Wine stores and Jubilation.

Santa Fe Brewing Company's Albuquerque Taproom will debut their spicy Saison, dubbed Lemon Skynyrd, evoking thoughts of the opening notes of Freebird. Unfortunately, it also brings to mind the sounds of Sweet Home Alabama and Daughtry's awful version of Simple Man. Looking forward to the beer, but if they play any of that crap I'm out!

Welcome newcomer Palmer Brewery to Beer Week. Imbibe will hosts the release of M.W.A. (Malt With Attitude), an 8% Malt Liquor made with New Mexico blue corn. A step up from the regular corn used in Malt Liquor, in which case the beer could have been called Monsanto With Attitude.

The NM Brewers Guild presents the Beer Premiere, where 15 NM breweries are pouring beers never before released to the public. A great concept at a very nice location, the National Hispanic Cultural Center. $35 dollars gets you unlimited samples, a stemmed glass, and a matanza-style pig roast courtesy of M'tucci's.

Art Fight at Tractor Wells Park! This art event does not include Sports Illustrated style body painting, so I won't be there. I do like where the money is going, however. Local artists will be creating pieces live while you drink your Tractor beer. Paint, Pints, and Pups is the theme. The pieces will be auctioned off at the end of the event, with proceeds going to Babes and Bullies and People's Anti-Cruelty Association/Albuquerque Animal Rescue. Event goes from 7-10.

The former Stereo Bar (now Mezcal Tequileria) hosts a tap takeover with Upslope Brewing at 6. I neglected to mention the Odell tap takeover that happened on Thursday, where there were lots of good beers (The Meddler, Friek, Russian Pirate, Tree Shaker, etc.). I hope Upslope represents well there.



Thursday, June 2, 2016

Beer Week: Thursday, 6.2

Bourbon County on tap! Twice a year, if we're lucky, Bourbon County Brand Stout gets tapped in Albuquerque: around Black Friday and during Beer Week, and Nob Hill is usually the host both times. They will be tapping it at 6.

Barley Room is an unexpected host for some Ballast Point beers all day Thursday. Sea Monster Imperial Stout, Mango Even Keel Pale Ale, and Calm Before the Storm Coffee Cream Ale will befuddle the crowd.

Cazuela's will host an unusual but welcome event: a tap takeover with beers from New Mexico breweries outside of Albuquerque. That should be pretty cool! They open at the ungodly hour of 8 am, so you can start early.

M'Tucci's Italian Market and Deli will be tapping Santa Fe's Western Bloc IPA at 11 am. Normally, I wouldn't highlight a tapping of a beer that is available at the home tap room and other bars around town, but I enjoyed this beer so much at Sister on Wednesday night that I had to feature this event. I love the look the wheat gives this beer. Reminds me of Tired Hands HopHands.

Red Door hosts their 2nd Annual Food Truck Battle beginning at 2. Multiple food trucks will be pairing a dish with a Red Door beer. Pay as you eat/drink. The competition is purely for fun, so you probably won't see someone from one food truck shooting BB's at another truck's propane tank.

Hand-rolled cigars from Imbibe, chocolates from Chocolate Dude, and barrel-aged beers from Rio Bravo, all in the same cavernous building! Rio Bravo offers $10 flights of barrel-aged Porter, Stout, Belgian Strong Ale and Barleywine paired with Chocolate Dude treats starting at 5. Imbibe will do the custom cigars from 4-6.

Bow and Arrow releases their Wild Rice Pale Ale at 4, the latest in a series of pales with different star ingredients. Will this one be beachwood aged as well???

Battle of the Beer Geeks? Huh. Must have misplaced my invite. Again. For the third year in a row. Anyway, you get a flight of 5 beers from 5 teams who brewed their recipes with guidance from Tractor brewers. Vote for your favorite and receive a pint of it as well. All this for $10. The fun starts at 5.

Marble Brewery and Torino's at Home are pairing up for a beer dinner at 6. Some tickets still remain. $45 per person.

Ponderosa releases Saison Petit Souris on tap and in bottles at 3 today.

Sierra Nevada makes sausages. I did not know this. Beers and mustards weren't enough. O'Niell's in Nob Hill hosts a Sierra sausage tasting along with all the Beer Camp beers on tap at 6.