Friday, October 6, 2017

GABF: Thursday Session

Ahhh, Thursday. The most civilized of the GABF sessions. The evening started off with a bit of a somber note as our entry was slowed down just a tad by the addition of metal detectors for the first time. This was, I'd imagine, in direct response to the Vegas shooting. While I have never seen the logic of adding security AFTER an isolated incident of idiocy, I don't see the metal detectors as any kind of burden. I'm surprised this wasn't a part of the fest in the past.

This year, festgoers had added bonuses like an expanded Meet the Brewers section with 136 participating breweries, as well as a larger brewpub section with 42 pub represented. This might have been a draw for some people, but most were lining up at stalwarts like Dogfish Head and Cigar City. Toppling Goliath also had long lines all night, thanks to Mornin' Delight BA Coffee Stout and King Sue DIPA. Every year, I pick a brewery to kick off the tasting and Toppling Goliath was my choice this year. I found both Mornin' Delight and King Sue to be underwhelming. Could be the growing pains associated with the gain in popularity. Things got better with Bell's Blackbeard's Bear Hug Stout: rum-barrel aged with cinnamon, vanilla, and coconut. Great stuff. Also, a surprise addition of bottles of BA Expedition Stout. Sorry Albuquerque, we most likely won't get any b.ottles.

Other standout beers were Genius IPA from Highland Park in Los Angeles. Finally some good beer to be had out of LA. Only problem is you can't get to any of the breweries there because of traffic. And you couldn't get anywhere near thee Sam Adams booth when they were serving Utopias. Line down the street. Stupid.

The Brew Kettle was solid as always with El Lupulo Libre DIPA as well as Tunguska BA Imperial Stout. Liquid Mechanics had a rum-barrel aged Coconut Porter that stood out. Lone Pine Tessellation IPA represented Portland, Maine well. Fremont had a long line due to Rusty Nail and BA Dark Star on tap. Dark Star never disappoints.

The booth of the year (century, probably) belonged to Melvin Brewing. Their booth was a bus. An actual bus. They had a DJ spinning old school rap, people dancing, etc. You could almost get a sample poured when they were in between dance moves. Let's stay focused on why we're here please, people. I'm sure they gained a lot of new fans with that booth, as some festgoers are just there to party.

I think my beer of the night goes to Great Notion's Juice Box DIPA. That, or Ripe IPA. Both were really good. The word of mouth had gotten out about them, as the lines were impressive. Not Dogfish Head long, but not every booth has Sam greeting people.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

And It Hasn't Even Started Yet

Come to think of it, maybe I should just go up on Thursday from now on. You'd think, 10 years into my annual visits to the Great American Beer Festival, that I would have some clue by now on how to be prepared physically and mentally for the world's largest beer event. But sadly, I still feel like I have to participate in every event leading up to, during, and after GABF.



And so it was that I found myself in the sea of barely humans gathered in the parking lot of Falling Rock Tap House, where Melvin was hosting the IPA Throwdown, in which you throw down $40 for six 8 oz. pours from the list of 22 IPAs. The format differed from last year's free for all where you were waiting for 10+ minutes to get served and felt compelled to order 6 at a time. In the new format, you could only get one at a time poured into the glass that came with the admission fee. The new format allowed for shorter wait times but also made me feel like I had to drink them fast in case something else I wanted was about to run out. As it turns out, the only keg that kicked while I was still drinking was Other Half Double Dry Hopped Stacks on Stacks and I had gotten that one first. May as well go big. I got smart after the first couple of pours and started pouring them into plastic cups and going back for something else in order to compare and contrast the different beers. Yes, that meant drinking out of plastic cups, but comparing side by side was worth it. I recommend going to an event like this with at least one other person- that way you get to try many more samples, as long as that person isn't a selfish dick. I also ended up talking to guys from Great Heights Brewing out of Houston and shared some samples with them.

So, the list of beers I got to try:

Bissell Brothers The Substance: Looking forward to trying their beer for a long time. Tasted old school. Not impressed.

Berryessa
Cortez the Killer: Looked old school. Tasted new school. Perplexing like a blond stout but it was great.

Breakside What Rough Beast: Touted as PNW meets NE. Another really good one.

Cellarmaker Dank Williams: No haze here. Straight up dankness. Also good.

FieldworkPULP: One of the most talked about, from what I overheard. Loved.

Great Notion Juice Jr: Liked at first but had a strange aftertaste. Underripe.

Kane Mosaic Punch: Peaches and mangoes added during fermentation. It worked. Really good.

Lawson's Finest Mosaic IPA: Not Lawson's finest effort. Pass.

Modern Times Perfect Talon. Not perfect at all. Looked great, just too fruit heavy.

Singlecut
DDH Workers Are Going Home: I wanted to love it but I ended up dumping it.

The VeilIf You're Drinking This It's Too Late: One of the best. Back for seconds.

Other Half
DDH Stacks on Stacks DIPA: Also one of the top ones. Great beer.

WeldWerks Extra Extra Juicy Bits: takes the good Juicy Bits to immortal status. Possibly my favorite.

And the nightcap: I walked inside because I saw more than one person with a stout-like beer and thought, "Something good was tapped!" Just Fremont's Rusty Nail BA Imperial Stout. Just what I needed to end the night!

And so I sit here, a few hours before the first night of three sessions of the Great American Beer Festival. 800 breweries. 4000 beers. That's over 1,333 beers a night if I want to get to them all. Starting to come around now. Feeling alive. I'll let you know tomorrow how I did.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Imaginary Savings Account

I can't help myself. I guess I'm addicted to beer, if that is even a thing. You see, if a new beer hits local shelves, I find myself buying it no matter what. Take Bell's Two Hearted, for instance. I bought a six-pack knowing full well that I don't really care for it, I've been to the damn Bell's Eccentric Cafe and didn't even think to order it, even though I could have it straight from the source.
So I wasn't about to let a $13.99 four-pack of 12 oz. cans keep me from buying it when I saw it at Jubilation this weekend. That's right: a 7.3% ABV IPA selling for $13.99. What is this, a Green Flash beer?? They're flying off the shelves here, huh? No, it is from the hotbed of IPAs, Oklahoma, where Prairie Artisan Ales has taken a break from barrel-aged stouts and farmhouse ales to bring you Imaginary Friends, their first canned IPA. Is it worth $14? I don't know, are you rich? If so, buy some. Once is all I can (barely) afford.

Friday, September 15, 2017

This Could Be Rio Bravo Someday

Wow, so this is the kind of clout you have when you're one of the big boys of brewing. Bell's Brewery celebrates its New Mexico launch with no less than 9 events around the state today. From Taos to Las Cruces, stores and bars are hosting Bell's tastings and tap takeovers. Locally, Kelly liquors on Juan Tabo has a tasting from 4-6, as does the Total Wine on the west side. They will also make you feel like a criminal if you try to leave without buying anything, rest assured. Craft Republic, formerly the broke ass Fox and Hound, hosts four Bell's taps from 5-8. Sister Bar has a Bell's takeover with the standard Bell's lineup but with the added bonus of the new Kiwi Club Gose. And we know everyone loves those Goses.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

For Whom the Bell's Tolls

It tolls for thee. Yes, you! You've been asking for it for years, and now you've finally got it. Kalamazoo's finest, Bell's Brewery, will be filling up the beer shelves and taking over taps at stores and bars near you this week. Maybe Jubilation can get rid of the 10 or so facings of Golden Road and put Bell's there instead. They deserve it, right? After all, they have the NUMBER ONE RATED IPA, don't they???
Well, that's a big "sort of".

Yes, Zymurgy magazine readers voted Bell's Two Hearted Ale the best beer in the world, unseating perennial winner Pliny the Elder. Zymurgy magazine readers are a hard nut to crack when it comes to being a newer beer trying to make a name in the world. These older homebrewers are set on the classics like Anchor and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Classics for sure, and beers that have earned the recognition they get. But let's face it: Pliny hasn't been the beer I'd choose as the best in the world for years now, and I was a Pliny fanboy. Made multiple trips to Russian River, spent hundreds on bottles and growlers. Worked the parking lot trailer at Falling Rock and thought, "Cool, I'm pouring Pliny!" each time I filled a glass. And now Two Hearted unseats Pliny. Cool. It's a good beer. Maybe you'll think it's the best ever. And maybe some Zymurgy readers are still driving Oldsmobiles and grumbling that Teslas are just a flash in the pan.

But anyway, Bell's has a large portfolio of regulars and some great seasonals and specialty beers. While I may not be drooling at the thought of seeing Bell's Best Brown Ale on tap everywhere in town, there are a number of Bell's beers I look forward to drinking. May even pick up a sixer of Two Hearted for old times sake.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mosaic Promise: Made to Be Broken

Founders latest release to hit Albuquerque is Mosaic Promise, a 5.5% ABV single-hopped Pale Ale. The advertising for Mosaic Promise invites you to "Experience the art of aroma". I hate that phrase, hated typing it. I feel like the person who does the voice in the Jaguar commercials would be chosen to voice it if Founders did a commercial for this beer. So does the Mosaic Promise deliver as advertised? Well, yes, if all you're looking to "experience" is the smell. It smells amazing. But the taste doesn't live up to the smell. At 5.5%, I'd expect more body, but the beer comes off as more of a weak Session IPA. I'd actually take Easy Jack or Go To IPA over Mosaic Promise. The artwork is very nice, and if Founders told me to "experience the art of art" with this label I would gladly do so. However, Founders is more likely to tell me to go F myself, as I can't recommend this beer. I know Founders can make great hoppy beers: how about bringing back Double Trouble? Wake me up when Canadian Breakfast Stout gets released.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Benefit at Tractor Brewing

Hops for Harvey, an event benefiting victims of Hurricane Harvey, takes place at Tractor's Wells Park location on Wednesday, September 6 beginning at 3 pm. 24 NM Brewers Guild member breweries donated kegs for the event, where 100% of the proceeds from beers sold will go to help people affected by the hurricane. Remember Katrina in 2005? Did you know that a lot of the people in New Orleans put out by Katrina ended up making a new home in Houston? I don't know how many were hit again, but they had to be asking, "Um, God? What did I do to piss you off this much???" Just an awful situation where people are rendered helpless. I feel that way when the power goes out and I can't charge my phone. This is real tragedy, and kudos to Skye Devore at Tractor for organizing Hops for Harvey, and to the 24 NM breweries who donated kegs. The event goes until midnight.

Friday, September 1, 2017

There Once Was a Man From Nantucket

Rupture, Odell Brewing's latest Pale Ale release, takes me back to the elementary school days when kids would share classical pieces about the girls in France, diarrhea, and one that I never really understood the logistics of, but was unsettled by nonetheless: When you're walking down the hall and your balls hit the wall, it's a RUPTURE! It's a RUPTURE! I still can't figure out how a clothed person could pull off this feat, and the visual of someone trying gives me a headache, but I guarantee you this- I will NEVER stop thinking about it. Odell hurt no balls (that I know of), only whole cone hops, in the making of Rupture. They manufactured a machine that grinds the hops and they say that it essentially ruptures the lupulin, releasing those good oils and science stuff and blah blah blah. They claim to only grind what is needed to brew that day. Like a coffee place grinding coffee beans fresh to order. Or a Subway Sandwich Artist baking that disgusting bread daily. Soft, mushy bread. Rupture is a good beer, though. It has excellent aromatics, is low in bitterness, and has the hop forwardness of an IPA. Six-packs are available at your local liquor store for about $10. Be careful if you're walking there.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Cheddar's Just Got a Little Busier

The sad news in the local beer world today is the closing of Chama River Brewing Company. The mix of fine dining with craft beer worked for a long time, but the increasing number of breweries with a more welcoming atmosphere and led to Chama's demise. I have many fond memories of Chama River, the first of which came when it was still Blue Corn Cafe. This was where I first saw Ted Rice, who went on to found Marble Brewery. He was lugging around sacks of grain and I remember thinking, "Man, that does not look fun." I had fun drinking his Chama creations, most notably the Dangerous Intentions Pale Ale.
The first NM IPA Challenge I attended was at Chama in 2005. Il Vicino won with their Wet Mountain IPA.
I enjoyed the busy but fun discounted Wednesday pint nights, drinking Copper John Pale Ale and Sleeping Dog Stout.
I went to a beer dinner there once. Quail legs. Never again.
I interviewed Jeff Erway there when he was Head Brewer during the early days of this blog. The March Hare, Dr. Strangehop, and Dr. Hopgood ring a bell?
Justin Hamilton and John Bullard both put their time in as brewers at Chama and they're both the better for it, I'd say. Not sure if any of the former servers went on to table waiting greatness at other establishments.
It's a part of Albuquerque brewery history that meant a lot to many of us who have been around the scene for a while, and I'm sorry to see them close. Raise a glass to the memory of Chama River Brewing Company.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Stone is Barely Legal

Finally, Stone is old enough to drink itself. The iconic brewery that is as determined to remain independent as it is to making every variety of IPA possible has added another to its portfolio: 21st Anniversary Hail to the Hop Thief DIPA. Stone didn't throw every popular hop into this one, choosing instead to use Magnum, Pekko (which they featured in last year's dry-hopped Old Guardian Barleywine), Hopsteiner experimental 06300 (featured in the Heretic-Stone-Beachwood collaboration beer), and, ok, one popular hop, Mosaic. The finished product is 9.8% ABV and a relatively tame 80 IBUs. So does the choice of hops work in this beer? Well, the taste is classic Stone West Coat Style DIPA, which they are as responsible for creating as Pizza Port and Green Flash. There's a big, big hop punch but also a grapefruit candy-ish flavor that you may love, or it may not be your thing. I don't know. I can see it being a big hit. The price is classic Stone as well: $9 bucks gets you a piece of history, as long as you live in one of the 49 states that carries Stone. West Virginia gets nothing.

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's Hopfest Time Again

Want 10% off Hopfest tickets? Sure you do! Go here and enter the code MONDAYS to save 10%. Only good till midnight tonight! General Admission tickets are only $30 as it is, but those three bucks could buy you a couple of Clif bars to sustain you for the millions of unlimited samples you're going to drink. Or it can be a tip for your Uber driver. Oh, what's that? You're still boycotting Uber? Well, keep banging those protest drums, and remember: righteous indignation is only cool if I'm the indignant one. And I usually am indignant about most things, but I'm excited for Hopfest. I've said before that Hopfest is my favorite beer fest in NM, though the one that was put on at the zoo a couple of years ago has to be a close second, right? Anyone still waiting in line for a beer there?

Hopfest is happening on August 26th from 2-6 at Isleta Casino and Resort, the hottest hangout between I-40 and the Los Lunas Chili's. Over 70 breweries will be pouring a multitude of styles. Betcha can't drink just one. There will also be three stages with seven bands playing throughout the fest. There are additional pay as you go events this year, such as a $10 beer and cheese pairing featuring Marble beers and Whole Foods cheeses. There's also a $10 sensory analysis class offered by Craft King Consulting's Angelo Orona. Learn why your beer tastes the way it does and why you like it. Angelo will tell you. He's not scared. A free event features Chris Jackson, author of Albuquerque Beer: Duke City History on Tap. He'll be signing copies of his book. The book is not free.

The ticket prices are as follows:
$60 for VIP, which gets you an hour of extra sampling plus VIP pours every hour, food pairings, and a souvenir. This is where my money would go.
$40 for Extra Hoppy Hour, which does not mean you have to drink hoppy beers for a whole hour, but rather you have an hour more of drinking than the other entrants.
$30 general admission gets you in the door for 3 hours of glorious beer sampling.

There is a ticket party happening Tuesday from 5-8 at Rio Bravo Brewing, and you can go to either Tractor location to buy tickets as well, just in case you aren't into that online buying stuff. And aren't a human.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

IPA Day

It's National IPA Day. I know for some that's every day. For others, it's all Gose, all the time. AB InBev seems to be pushing the Golden Road and 10 Barrel stuff hard- you can see the stack of 10 Barrel's Apocalypse IPA pictured at Whole Foods for the low price of $10.99. I broke down and bought a single bottle to test out. IF it was good, I would tell you, big bad corporate owners and all. But this beer blew. A few sips and down the drain it went. Happy IPA Day indeed. Know what else I did? I bought a mixed six-pack at Smiths. Really. But it was because they had the Sam Adams Brewing the Dream pack broken down into singles. And since Bosque was one of the featured breweries that took part in the Accion program and subsequently landed John Bullard's face on a Sam Adams bottle, I had to put a couple of those Bosque Desert Kaleidoscope IPAs in the mix, along with the new Stone Hop Revolver single hop (Mandarina Bavaria), two of the 2017 Sierra Oktoberfests, and...a Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA. Haven't rushed to open that one yet. The Sierra was fine. The Stone was fine. The Sam Adams/ Bosque beer was, well...leave it to Sam Adams to dull down a Bosque IPA. Tasted extremely old school, which isn't an indictment, but it certainly isn't a glowing endorsement especially when you taste it side by side with one of Bosque's taproom IPAs. Cool to see the Bosque guys on the bottle, at least: I'll put it next to my Ben Miller Sam Adams bottle. Anybody else still have an unopened one of those?