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.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Beer Week: Wednesday, 6.1

June 1st, and it feels like I've hardly played any golf this year. When picking golf buddies, make sure to find ones without any adult jobs. Try to find the Johnny Manziel types. Maybe they'll pay for your greens fees as well.

Rock and Brews hosts another big Ballast Point tap takeover, with this one featuring a keg of barrel-aged Victory at Sea Imperial Porter. Tapping scheduled at 6.

Another tap takeover is happening right down the street at Billy's Long Bar. Billy's has been kind of quiet this year in Beer Week event involvement. But they will welcome Alaskan Brewing and a multitude of Alaskan beers on tap, also at 6.

Nob Hill Bar and Grill welcomes Ska Brewing and kegs of barrel-aged Dementia and Bump and Grind Coffee Stout. I have to admit, I haven't tried Bump and Grind, and that's not anything to do with Ska. It's just that as a notoriously anti-day drinking person, I can never find a good time to drink coffee beers. You should though. Event starts at 5.

Uptown Sports Bar. Now that's a place I haven't been to in a long time. Maybe tonight I will visit for the rare appearance of a keg of Alpine (with un-improvements by Green Flash) Nelson. They've done a decent job at trying to re-create the distinct Nelson look and flavor after a few disastrous attempts.
Ask a Certified Cicerone and bad beer tasting at Tractor- yet another 6 pm event. This event allows you to talk to Cicerone Skye Devore about study tips for taking the Certified Cicerone exam. The whole Cicerone thing really took off after years of it being pushed...surprised how many bars around the country are hiring based on people having the cert, though I guess it's a better way of hiring for a serious craft beer bar than on looks. I have neither the cert nor the looks, yet I manage to scrape by. Skye will also be guiding folks through bad taste by opening cider, errrr, off-flavor kits to add common "off" tastes to beer (think diacetyl, acetaldehyde, and other unspellable words) to help you identify what makes that bad beer so bad. $5 for the bad beer tasting, free for the Cicerone study tips.

Mother Road achieved what few other Arizona breweries have up to this point: a good IPA. Unfortunately, we can't seem to get any cans fresher than March 7 here, but you can hopefully bug the Mother Road people about that at the Mother Road tap takeover at The Grain Station, starting at, you guessed it, 6 pm. Mother Road will also bring a firkin for your drinking pleasure.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Beer Week: Tuesday, 5.31

Back to a full Beer Week schedule of events now that Blues and Brews and Memorial have passed. Starting off, we have another cheese-centric pairing, this one at Tractor Wells Park with Cheesy Street. Trays of 4 mini grilled cheese sandwiches paired with Tractor beers will be available beginning at 3. $13 fee for this one. And to the first person who can tell me what movie that picture is from gets a beer from my collection. Email, Facebook message, whatever.

Hitachino, Coedo and Miyazaki Hideji. Those are not the newest Street Fighter characters, though they sure do pack a punch! Ha.
Jubilation hosts a free tasting from these Japanese breweries on Tuesday from 4-6.

Rio Bravo gets in on the Taco Tuesday craze by offering $1 tacos from Mariam's Tacos along with $5 flights that include DRB IPA, Randy's Red, German Sommer, and Pilsner, beginning at 5:30.

An all fancy beer dinner at Ponderosa. The place is still cranking out beer even though a number of brewers have come and gone. I hope they can keep going, and this $45 beer dinner ($40 for mug club members) sounds like a good one: Sour Saison with Charcuterie Plate, Crosscut K├Âlsch with Scallop Salad, Red Rye Lager with Wild Mushroom Risotto and Braised Lamb Shank, and Chocolate Stout with Pot de Creme. 7 pm.

A Kill the Keg event at brat haven The Grain Station! Upslope and Santa Fe Brewing go head to head beginning at 6. Whichever brewery's keg is emptied first wins. The other brewery is just the wurst.

Two Fools continues to get in special kegs for the week. Today features Oscar Worthy Coffee from New Belgium's Lips of Faith series. A foeder of dark sour Oscar was blended with 50 lbs. of The Bean Cycle's coffee. The keg will tap at 4. For those of you who are saying, "Who the f### gets off work at 4? By the time I get there, it will be gone! Why do all the tappings start so early?" I AGREE. In fact, I may be the only one saying this. But I know there are a lot of you in the service industry and other occupations where you work later in the day but are really into beer and would like to take part in these events. I'm going to lobby for some later tap times in the future.

Go taste some bad beer at Albuquerque Brewing Company! Head Brewer Carnie will host a talk about and tasting of off flavors in beer. That way, next time you notice something tastes not quite right at a brewery, you can bring it to the attention of the brewer. They will be sure to take it in a non-defensive manner and thank you profusely.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Beer Week Memorial Day Events

Happy Memorial Day, and another happy Beer Week day. Red Door combines a special Beer Week event with a fundraiser for those we are honoring today. From the Red Door folks themselves, "Please join Red Door Brewing Co. and the Rio Grande Patriots for our inaugural fundraising event to sponsor The Folds of Honor Foundation. Of the one million-plus dependents adversely affected by deployments, nearly nine out of 10 do not qualify for federal scholarship assistance. Since 2007, the Folds of Honor has carried forth this singular, noble mission. To close the gap, providing educational support to spouses and children of America's fallen and wounded soldiers. Over 80% of funds go directly to recipients. Red Door will be donating 20% of sales and representatives will be on hand to accept additional donations. Come on out and be a part of something great." The event goes from 12-4.

Rio Bravo will be honoring vets and current enlisted military by giving them $2 off pints. Also, Rio Bravo barrel-aged Belgian Strong Ale and barrel-aged Porter will be tapped at Two Fools at 4.

Memorial Day cornhole tournament with the folks from Upslope Brewing at Rock and Brews from 2-5. Come out and play the game with the worst name ever and drink some pretty good Boulder, CO beers. Maybe win a keychain.

Santa Fe Brewing Co's Albuquerque Taproom will be featuring a firkin of white tea chardonnay sour today at 2. Bring your own watercress sandwiches.

Keeping with the theme of "Cheesiest Beer Week Ever", Albuquerque Brewing Co. will host a cheese, beer, and boards event from 6-8. The boards involved are not of the skate kind, which is probably for the best. Beer can have the dangerous side effect of making grown men think they can still pull off the tricks they used to do when they were riding around on their Powell Peralta Mike McGill model board (and they weren't very good at it back then, either). The boards for this event are board games, a much safer way to pass the time while drinking. And I'd like to take this moment to admit that I was wrong about Empire Board Game Library. I saw that place open in Nob Hill and thought there was no way a concept like that could last, but they are packed every time I pass by. People are having fun without alcohol...who knew such a thing was possible?