Tuesday, April 19, 2016

There's Waldos'

Waldos' Special Ale is so named for the Waldos, a group who would meet at 4:20 daily in search of a secret garden said to be near Point Reyes. As you can guess by the time, they may have been partaking in a semi-legal substance to enhance their mood during the quest. Waldos' Special Ale may not have the same medicinal properties as the unnamed other, but Lagunitas promises it to be the "dankest and hoppiest" beer they ever created. Over 5 lbs. of hops per barrel were used to make the beer, and it certainly comes through in the initial smell, something I have found to be lacking in many of the Lagunitas offerings. And the taste comes through just as strong, with tropical juice dominating the taste. The 100 IBUs, which barely meets the minimum standard for the average craft beer drinker nowadays, are hard to detect, showing once again why IBU count may be the most useless stat when it comes to tasting a beer (besides maybe SRM). The alcohol is present but nowhere near overpowering, especially considering the fact that the beer is 11.5% ABV. And that is my one complaint with Waldos'; I want to drink more than one of these delicious beers in a sitting but I know the next day I'll be paying for it. That fact notwithstanding, I think this is one of the best Double IPA releases this year and a steal at $11-$12 a six-pack! And while finding Waldo may be a craze that has passed, except in Halloween outfits, 3-D magic puzzles are making a comeback (as soon as we get tired of adult coloring books).
To paraphrase Jay in Mallrats, "What you need is a Waldos' Special Ale and I guarantee you'll be seeing a sailboat, an ocean, and maybe some-"...you know the rest of that line. Hopefully.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Let's Get 3 Tart-ed in Here

With many apologies to Angelo Orona, here finally is my short, swwweeettt write-up of Tart at Heart 2, or as Angelo originally told me, Tart at Heart 3...which led me to that headline. When Angelo later corrected himself, it was too late. The wheels had already been set in motion so the headline stays, and will be just perfect for next year's event! At one point, it felt like it was going to be next year before I got around to writing about Tart at Heart. I was planning on doing it, but went off to New York on a whim. After getting tired of paying $8 for an 8 oz. pour of beer, I came back, ready to write. So, hopefully there are still tickets available. And it's not like Angelo and Kevin McCallister (co-organizer) haven't been getting plenty of press on the event. I even saw a full-page writeup in the Venue section of the Journal about it. So I'll just give my quick rundown: $45 tickets may remain (VIP sold out early), admission at 2 at Sister. Event runs till 6, but feel free to stay until they start charging a cover for a band you don't care about. Fun fact: I once paid a $5 cover there because I was in the mood for the Project Dank they had on tap. It was world music night. Fastest I ever pounded a Dank. Unlimited tastings this year, folks, so be sure to Uber or ride that bike. 10-12 beers are exclusive to the fest or making their debut there- nice work procuring those rare kegs, guys. And portions of the proceeds benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, so it's not like these guys are out to make a killing off you- they're just two guys who are serious about good beer and want to share it with you. I'll gladly take some barrel-aged Narwahl from Sierra Nevada (seen that on tap in NM ever? Nope!), or some New Belgium Oscar Single Foeder Sour, from their Love series (first time a Love beer has made it to a NM bar). Laguntias makes a surprise visit to the sour side with a sour wheat ale, which, of course, they dry hopped. Local breweries are represented, with the last keg of Cumbre's Apricot Saison, Marble's Saison Brux, Boxing Bear's Black and Blue Tart, Ponderosa's Berlinerweisse, and Blue Corn's Braggot aged in Santa Fe Spirits apple brandy barrels w/ local apricots and brett all representing. Get your last minute tickets at Jubilation, Kelly Liquors on Juan Tabo, and Sister.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Albuquerque: Doing at Least One Thing Right

With Albuquerque's charming combination of poverty, drugs, crime, and some seriously fucked up people wandering the streets (anyone notice the guy who patrols Central between 1st and 5th with his pants around his knees? I mean, I know a little sag is kind of a fashion thing for some, but he puts SO much effort into holding his pants at that height, and he can barely shuffle from one empty store front to the next. You'd think he'd get tired of it and move on to some suspenders or something), it's nice to able to say we are the best at something. And no, I'm not talking about that recent report that named Albuquerque "one of America's greatest cities", thanks to the well-respected "real estate news" ( and it turned out we were in 41st place. Yay.); I'm talking about March Madness! Talking Lob..oh. March Madness, that is, in the form of the Brewing News and their annual National IPA Championships, where , for the second year IN A ROW, Bosque Brewing's Scale Tipper once again was named the best IPA in the country. Not only was this the second straight win for the Albuquerque brewery, it was the third straight year that an Albuquerque brewery won the competition (La Cumbre's Project Dank was the previous winner). No longer will these meaningless crappy internet sites be able to make us click through a painfully slow-loading slideshow so we can see Albuquerque listed as one of "America's Most Underrated Beer Cities"! Jokes aside for the moment, hiring John Bullard was the best decision the Bosque folks ever made. The entire brewing community respects the guy as he is as down to earth as they come and is a hell of a brewer. Congratulations to him and the Bosque team.

Buyer Beware: Jubilation had listed Deschutes Hop Henge as being a "new item" on their Facebook page, though what is in the cooler was released in 2015. Late 2015, mind you, but 2015 nonetheless. And here I looked at the hop bill and thought they decided to use the exact ones as last year (recipe changes year to year). Nope. Says clear as day "2015 Release", but I was too dense to notice. Not a bad tasting DIPA with some age on it but I thought other dense people might want to be warned.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Randumb Thoughts on the Beer World Today

I've been doing a lot of sitting back and watching the whole local/national craft beer phenomenon unfold lately. Here's a few thoughts:

Alcoholic sodas are a bigger threat to shelf space than 18-packs of Bud Light. The Coney Island and Not Your Father's line of sugar beers have a place, but I wish it could be at the supermarket only. And now you have Henry Weinhard getting on board, with national prime time commercials, so you can be sure that you'll have plenty of hard sodas in your face for some time. They may eventually take up more useful space than ciders currently do.

And those adult sodas have started to bleed into craft beers as well. Maybe the popularity of Grapefruit Sculpin is partially to blame, I don't know. But the way that beer exploded certainly influenced other brewers (Sam Adams Rebel Grapefruit, Ska Modus Mandarina), and now the Ballast Point lineup has more fruit than an Edible Arrangement: Mango Even Keel, Pineapple Scuplin, Coconut Victory at Sea, Watermelon Dorado...
And Green Flash just released a Tangerine version of Soul Style IPA, which to me tastes like someone added an Emergen-C to an IPA. How about we let the modern day fruity hops do their job and leave the additives to Monsanto?

"Have you checked out Starr Brothers yet???" NO. NO. Right now, in my mind, it's not a brewery. It's a restaurant. I don't rush out to try the latest green chile cheeseburger washed down with a beer from another local brewery. Wait, are we talking about Starr Brothers or Stumbling Steer? At least Starr Brothers actually has the equipment to brew with, so they aren't likely to meet the same demise that the Steer did. And their menu looks interesting, but I'll hold off until I can drink something they make. I look forward to it.

Let me ask you all a question: What new breweries are making beers that excite you/make you want to return? I'm withholding judgement on the new crop until they get a grasp on their systems and get things where they can say, "This is the beer I wanted to make." I love that there are breweries that took a chance on locating near or on Central Ave, "Where business go to die". Sidetrack feels like it could be nugded into a space in Greenwich Village in NYC. Until you walk out and realize that this area needs some love. But it's a start. I love the large windows in Boese Brothers and even the flashing countdown on the walk/don't walk signal. I feel like I'm in a live Edward Hopper painting. I like that they've added the option of ordering a beer flight to their menu. I don't like that they have 4 oz. glasses (for the flights), but don't allow you to order an individual 4 oz. beer. Why would you not?

Lastly, thumbs up to Canteen, who have brought back Zach Guilmette as Head Brewer. Canteen was going through a stagnant period, and Zach already has made some changes for the positive, such as brewing a DIPA as his first beer, with Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic, and Topaz. Canteen had been without a DIPA for how long? And Zach knows better then to throw a ton of Cascade in and call it a DIPA. Also: he eliminated the Bloody Beer from the Canteen. Yes! Get that shit outta here and focus on making great beer again!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Some New Beer Releases Worth Your Money

So many new beers to choose from at the local stores that I don't know where to begin. Not that it matters, as you're probably inundated with "Beers of the World" box sets that well-intentioned friends or family piled on you since you are known to love beer so much. Hope you enjoy those Tsingtaos and Negra Modelos!

Beers worth mentioning in the latest wave of releases include Santa Fe's Adobe Igloo. This Winter Warmer style takes the traditional malt-forward beer and New Mexicanizes it with the addition of local red chile. Cacao nibs are also added to round out the 6% ABV beer. It comes in their best designed can yet in 6-pack form and retails for around $8.99. If you're looking for a nice winter ale, I'd suggest picking this up. There is also Upslope Christmas Ale on shelves now, but that is more of a Belgian-style spiced dark that in goes for $13.99. You have extra cash? Get both. Singles kind of guy? Whole Foods on Carlisle puts pretty much every new beer they get in the singles cooler. A nice way to decide if I like Modus Mandarina enough to buy a sixer.

Founders Imperial Stout has been a go to for Michigan folk during the cold months, so basically from October-June. You can now get this here in Michigan-like Albuquerque. The 10.5% ABV Imperial Stout stands out as one of the more bitter Imperial Stouts on the market. No, it's not barrel-aged. No, it's not KBS. But hey, it's a quality Imperial Stout that you don't have to wait in a damn line for and it's reasonably priced at $11.50 a four-pack. It's on tap right now at Nob Hill Bar and Grill right now as well. More Founders goodness can be found at Anodyne, which is stocking All Day IPA cans. It's a great beer to drink while beating friends at pool. Did you win because you are drinking a 4.something % beer while your opponent is downing Jack and cokes? In my case, most likely.

I was so psyched to see Jubilation got in Avery's long-awaited Vanilla Bean Stout that I ran out (in driving form) the day after Christmas to buy it. Unfortunately, they were closed. I wasn't upset at the fact that they were closed, as I think having to work the day after a holiday flat out sucks. So good on them. Total Wine is hit or miss with new releases, and of course they didn't have any. So I had to continue east to where that Goliath storm was wreaking the most havoc. It was evident how much worse the roads were the further east I went, though I only drove to Kelly Liquors on Juan Tabo. Wasn't like I was going over the Donner Pass. Was the Vanilla Bean Stout, 10.8% ABV and aged in bourbon barrels beer worth my death-defying 8-mile drive? Well, it's hard to say. I think that their superb barrel-aged stouts that preceded this one may have had me expecting too much. It's got a lot of vanilla flavor, not artificial tasting like other vanilla beers out there (Hi Breckenridge. Enjoy your new masters). But the Vanilla Bean Stout could use a bigger body and more barrel to match the vanilla. I think Avery realizes this isn't up there with the small format stouts they released in the past, like Uncle Jacob's and Tweak, as this beer comes in a 22 oz. bottle yet is priced the same as those 12 oz. stouts, at $12.99 a bottle. It is also slated to be a year-round release. We are also seeing the second release of Pump[KY]n, their barrel-aged Imperial Porter with pumpkin spices. This year's is 15% ABV, as opposed to last year's 17.22%. I think you can still catch a buzz, though you may get a cavity or two as well. I find this to be much lighter bodied and overspiced compared to the previous version. I think it's still worth picking up, even at $12.99 per 12 oz. bottle. Oh, and Avery's best release of the year, Raja DIPA, is on tap at Nob Hill! Full of earthy southern hemisphere hops, this baby brother to Maharaja was one of my favorites of GABF 2015. Hopefully we'll see the cans here as well. They've only been available in Boulder for three months now, so have patience.

And those Beers of the World packs will make a great re-gift next year!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Shelf Space Gets Even Tighter...

...and that isn't because of the big bad InBev and their nefarious plots to keep all craft off the shelves. No, it's because after years of rumors, Firestone Walker will be making their way to New Mexico stores and bars in January. The makers of the popular Union Jack IPA, Parabola Imperial Stout, Double Jack, etc. are some of the most respected brewers in the world, so this is a welcome addition. The only thing that remains to be seen is how often we get fresh Firestone. Some cities that receive Firestone see the IPAs sit on shelves for months and months. With the great IPAs being brewed here, I could see Firestone being overlooked after the initial hype dies out, but I hope that isn't the case.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Stone Doesn't Care What You Think

Yes, I'm a cranky old curmudgeon. We all know that. But what do you expect when you have a social media world of whiny little pussies and their smarmy sayings like tl/dr? Your attention span is that short that a paragraph has become too much for you to deal with in your important life? And hashtags, while certainly useful for gathering data together, are also tainted by the equally smarmy hashtags such as sorrynotsorry. Hey, I said something shitty about you, but this hashtag makes it funny and therefore acceptable now. Unless you go to college in Missouri. Nothing is acceptable there right now.
So, the rant, of course, has to do with Stone Brewing's latest release, Sorry Not Sorry IPA. This irritatingly named beer no doubt is a reply to all the people who think Stone focuses too much on making IPAs. Personaly, I don't think Stone can make enough of them. Plus they colloborate with lesser known breweries that we may not ordinarily have the chance to try. This latest, a DIPA with peaches, is a collaboration with 4 Hands and Bale Breaker. 4 Hands is one of a number of quality St. Louis breweries on the scene right now, and is probably best known for its variety of stouts. Bale Breaker is a brewery having the luxury of being located in hop heaven: Yakima, Washington. They also have the luxury of coming from a family of hop farmers. It's been rumored that the 7-11 stores there dispense hop slurpees, and it's no surprise that Bale Breaker's best known beer is their Topcutter IPA. Sorry Not Sorry, though listing peaches as an ingredient, thankfully doesn't come off as a can of sweet peaches, which is what I got out of Tree Shaker from Odell. Sorry Not Sorry is more of a straight DIPA, with the wonderful Simcoe hop playing a prominent role, along with experimental hops HBC 342 and 344. Add in some Warrior (a brewery other than Left Hand still uses that hop?) and some Mosaic, and you've got yourself a 9.3% ABV, 70 IBU beer. Refreshing to see a DIPA that isn't trying to tout itself as having 150 IBUs. $8.99 per bomber at Jubilation and other fine stores. Also on tap at Sister right now, but save me some because I can't get there till tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Bastards of Young

Been buying up all the Founders beers since the New Mexico release? Me, not so much. Not a big fan of the Centennial IPA,or Red Rye, though I'd put the All Day IPA as probably second to Firestone Walker's Easy Jack in the Session IPA category. I get more excited for the Founders seasonal releases such as Double Trouble DIPA, KBS (naturally), and the most recent, Backwoods Bastard. Backwoods Bastard is a Scotch Ale aged in bourbon barrels, though I don't get much of the usual Scotch Ale notes, like the peatiness or unpleasant band aid that is especially prevalent in the Scotch Ale at a certain local brewery that is best known for its patio. It's somewhat reminiscent of Marble's Reserve Ale, with an amber hue and less viscosity than a barrel-aged stout or barleywine. Backwoods Bastard has been tweaked a bit for this year, with the ABV rising from 10.2 to 11.6%. A four-pack goes for around $13, and I first spotted it at the Whole Foods on Wyoming.

Anyone else been underwhelmed by Lagunitas lately? Forget that we couldn't get fresh Sucks! here when it was available, or that fresh Hop Stoopid doesn't seem to exist (and you can't decipher the bottled on date without one of those watchmaker's eye loupes), but their IPAs, from Sucks to Stoopid to Maximus to Sumpin' Extra, had a candy-like sweetness that seemed to appear in each of the different beers. But I'm happy to report that Born Yesterday, their Fresh Hop Pale Ale, is the best beer they have made this year. No candy in this one, just fresh Mosaic, Amarillo, Equinox, Simcoe, and Citra (which comes through heavily) that will have you welcoming Lagunitas back as one of the major players in the hop-forward beer category. Hop-forward, as in 11 lbs. per barrel in this beer! And they've switched to a regular old 10/26/15 bottled on dating, so you don't have to get your phone out and look up the Julian calendar to find out when your beer was made. $9 a six pack, bought repeatedly at Jubilation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Test Your Stamina With the Most IBUs Under One Roof

Local craft beer consultant, brand rep, BJCP certified taste buds owner, and all-around good guy Angelo Orona is putting on another craft beer extravaganza at Sister on Saturday, Oct. 17. Sister will open at 2 to welcome Palate Fatigue: A Hop Forward event. Featuring a 20 tap takeover from local and national breweries, this event is sure to have you scraping the hop oils off your tongue by night's end...which may sound unappealing, but it sure beats the heartburn after that last sour beer event Angelo put on. Presale tickets for the event are $35, available at holdmyticket.com If you wait and buy at the door (IF there are any tickets left) you'll be paying $40. And that's quite the fair price, considering that you get unlimited samples of all the beers; 10-12 of which are either exclusive to the event or are being tapped for the very first time in New Mexico!
The lineup consists of:
Upslope Lychee IPA
Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin
Alpine Hoppy Birthday
Santan Moon Juice IPA
Marble Imperial Red
Stone Enjoy By 10.31.15
Santa Fe Black IPA through the Randall (think of your beer being French pressed with fresh hops...)
Blue Corn Triple IPA
Ponderosa India Pale Kolsch
Founders All Day IPA
Founders Breakfast Stout
Bosque Acequia Wet Hop IPA
Evil Twin Yin Imperial Stout
Evil Twin Yang Imperial IPA
Ska Modus Manadrina
Sierra Blanca small batch IPA
La Cumbre NZ Dank
Canteen Dutch Courage IPA
Gaverhopke/Tired Hands Bittersweet Symphony
And a couple of surprise kegs!
I'm looking forward to the entire list, but a couple of my non-local brewery picks: glad to see the Modus Manadrina since I missed trying it in Denver a few weeks ago. I'm a sucker for orange-y IPAs, especially since I have a cold right now and need my vitamin C. Also can't wait to try Evil Twin Yang on tap for the first time ever. And how about the collaboration Belgian IPA between Gaverhopke and Philly area's Tired Hands, who are making some of the most sought after IPAs in the country!
Portions of the proceeds go to Aljaba Casa Hogar Children's Home in Mexico, so you can feel even better about your drinking problem. There were only 150 tickets made available for this event, so get yours quick!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cross San Diego Off the List

I used to love visiting San Diego. Great beaches, great weather, bars, food...but I realized the main reason I returned there again and again was for one thing: Alpine Nelson. But I don't need to wait for the Southwest Click N' Save alerts anymore: Nelson is here. Along with Hoppy Birthday and Duet, as evidenced by the horrible picture I took when seeing them at Jubilation. We can thank Green Flash for getting them here (about the only thing worth thanking Green Flash for lately) after their acquisition of Alpine. We've seen the random keg of Hoppy Birthday and Duet in town since the move, but none of those telltale Alpine labels. Walking into a store and seeing those babies on the shelf suddenly had me back in San Diego...until I walked outside and didn't see palm trees. Or an ocean. Just a Walgreens. So I may still venture back out to the coast, but for now, I'm happy to be able to drink their finest here in Albuquerque.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

OB Finally Tries an IPA

For years, Oskar Blues offered hoppy beers but was on the fringe of having an IPA in their lineup: Dale's Pale Ale, while satisfying to hopheads, still had that telltale Pale Ale taste. G'Knight (Gordon) also did the job but is an Imperial Red. And Gubna, so over the top at 10% and relying on Summit hops exclusively, had OB fans divided on whether it was a good DIPA or garbage. Considering the fact that Gubna has undergone a reformulation, it seems that those of the garbage opinion were winning out, though I always liked the Summit hops. Deviant Dale's came along, and though touted as an IPA, I can't get past the fact that it is 8% ABV. That's beyond IPA to me, Brewer's Association guidelines be damned. One might have thought that Oskar Blues might go the way of Left Hand, saying we don't need to make an IPA (and when we do, it's not going to be good). But finally, in 2015, OB debuts their version of a modern IPA- and made with Australian hops: Ella, Vic Secret, Enigma, and Topaz. And it works. Not an over the top IPA, at 6.4%. Not overly bitter. Very drinkable. And not overpriced, which was an argument people had against poor ol' Gubna. Look for a sixer to run from $9-10 at your local store.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sorry Kumar: Hopfest is going Xtreme!

We've seen Hopfest evolve over the years, from the first two in what was then the Al's NYPD Pizza parking lot (think about the size of that spot, and imagine trying to have a fest there now), to O'Niell's parking lot and the overbearing eye of some of the "pour police" (where a rep from Coronado got thrown out of the fest for sampling beer from another booth), to its rightful home, Hard Rock Isleta Casino Hotel and Resort. This year's takes place on Saturday, August 29 from 2-6. Isleta is a great venue for a fest, where you get to sample beers from over 70 breweries situated both indoors and out. The indoors part is important, meaning there are actual restroom facilities with running water and soap and the guy with the blue jar of combs and the mints and so on. It also means you can enjoy a beer in the NM sunshine, then realize after five minutes that beer and direct sunlight makes for an early nap, so you can head back in for some air conditioning, maybe a couple of hands of 21, then back to sampling from over 200 beers. 22 of the 70 breweries serving at the fest are local, so you can grab samples of familiar favorites as well as exploring national offerings. Cider and spirits makers will be serving as well. Psst: the pours are more generous when fests are held at places like Sandia or Isleta. If you feel the need for a break, take in one or more of the 7 bands performing throughout the day on 3 stages. New for this year is the BMX Xtreme stage, where performers from Stuntmasters Action Sports will perform at 2:50, 4:00, and 5:30. My BMX freestyle repertoire consists of a shaky endo at best, but I do still have a 'Goose that can bunnyhop the curb. Tickets are still available for Hopfest by clicking here. Hope to see you all there!