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?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

2017 NM IPA Challenge

One brewer told me, while commenting on the 2017 NM IPA Challenge, "I thought there were a lot of solid beers this year, unlike last year." Funny, I thought the same thing, only I thought that last year. This year, I thought there were mostly middle of the road IPAs along with some roadkill IPAs. But first:

The location- Steelbender. Plenty of room to sit, at least at the late time I arrived. However, waited over 20 minutes for a tray when there were only 8 people ahead of me. The delay? Not enough plastic cups. They were waiting for servers to collect finished trays so they could wash the plastic cups and reuse them. Hey Brewers Guild, up everyone's dues by 5 cents and stockpile enough for the next 10 IPA Challenges, ok? Those things aren't going to go bad.

The pours: I was lucky(?) enough to get a generous tray but I saw another tray just before mine that had half of what I got. I would have been a little miffed had I been that customer if they had seen me with my Big Gulp tray.

The beers: Started out very promising. Number 1, which turned out to be Quarter Celtic's, was very solid. Then it went onto a bunch of meh: 2, Ponderosa was bitter, 3, Boxing Bear, was ok, 4, Second Street, was decent, 5, Starr Bros, sucked, 6, well, turned out I got 2 of number 5, so I got double suck. Tried someone else's number 6, Bow and Arrow, and got a Belgian beer instead of an IPA. Yeah, that'll win. 7, Marble, didn't stand out. 8, Steelbender, wasn't very good. 9, Blue Corn, and 10, Tractor, got a "Nah" and a "No" in my notes, respectively. 11, Picacho Peak, wasn't bad but I got butter out of it. 12, Canteen, was finally another good one. 13, La Cumbre, was my favorite but had a poor showing overall. 14, 377's first IPA Challenge beer, was surprisingly decent. It got an "Ok!" in my notes. You can see I take intricate notes in my judging process. I can now understand why 377 got a lot of votes at the first event at Duel. I initially figured it was ballot stuffing but no. 15, perennial favorite Bosque, had a good entry, but...

Boxing Bear repeats with a 104-101 victory over Bosque. I'll be honest, that Boxing Bear entry wouldn't have placed in my top 5. And I picked Boxing Bear last year, so it's not like I dislike their beer. Just not my choice this year. On my choice of La Cumbre as the winner, a prominent brewery owner said, "Finally, someone with half a brain!" There may have been only 30 of us half-brains who voted for them, but exceptional people are never part of the masses. That's why we're exceptional.

Friday, July 28, 2017

GABF Public Ticket Sale Looms

And here I thought tickets were impossible to come by back when you had to physically wait in line for them. I lined up overnight for tickets one time: waited all night in a sketchy city for the Ticketmaster location to open, only to find that this one wasn't open on Saturdays. Rushed down to another part of the city, where a department store had a Ticketmaster office hidden on a forgotten upper floor. Stayed up all night for mediocre seats. But all that has changed with the internet. Now you can (have to) be ready to click on tickets the second they go on sale, like I did for a beer release recently. One second, tickets not yet available. OK. Next second, tickets available: choose quantity. OK, I choose, click on NEXT. Sorry, this item is no longer available.
What.
The.
F.
It was available for all of five seconds, then gone. That's the reality of online ticket sales now. And it will be a struggle to get those GABF tickets in an age where everyone has discovered craft beer. They'll wait online so they can then wait in line to get into a place where they will line up over and over again to try beers. And you know what? IT'S SO WORTH IT. You know me. I don't get excited about much. But the feeling when you walk into the exhibit hall and hear the bagpipers and the buzz of all the other beer freaks there and there's all that wonderful beer waiting to be discovered...there's nothing like it!

So when the public sale begins on Wednesday, August 2nd at 12 EST (that's 10 am here in Albuquerque, you know), be on Ticketmaster and hope for the best. 3,800 beers are waiting to meet you.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

New Bears and Birthday Bears

If you were tired of only seeing April-dated cans from the Firestone Walker Leo Vs. Ursus series, well, aren't you the spoiled little thing? It's not THAT old, and still within the window that most breweries allow for an IPA/DIPA. Some breweries date their hoppy offerings as being good for 6 months, which I find absurd. And I'll admit to being one of the spoiled consumers who doesn't want to buy a 3 month old IPA, though I find the beers which use a light malt base (Like Firestone Walker's use of Pilsner malt in the Leo Vs. Ursus series) to hold up over time better than, say, a Great Divide Hercules. So now we have Adversus, the follow-up to the home run that was Fortem, the original in the lion vs. bear series. 8.2% ABV, only 55 IBUs (remember when people were crazy about IBUs!), and hopped with six varieties: Citra, Mandarina, Azacca, Cascade, Ekuanot, and Simcoe. Is it in the same class as that delicious Fortem? Well, it's worth trying. And Jubilation has single cans available so you don't have to commit to a whole 4-pack. If you don't like it, I bet you can find some fairly fresh Fortem out there. And speaking of Jubilation, it looks like they're almost down to the end of their stock of LAST YEAR'S Lagunitas Sucks. They're selling the December 1st, 2016 brewed beer in the singles section. Just so you know.

Happy 3rd to Boxing Bear! I stopped by there yesterday and found it to be as busy as it was when they hosted the IPA Challenge, which was plenty busy. Tried their long-awaited New England style Eastern Standard IPA. Found it to be very good as a beer, but didn't quite have the look of feel of standard bearers Other Half, Tired Hands, or Monkish. Also tried the 11.1% ABV TKO Triple IPA, the beer brewed specifically for their 3rd Anniversary. Kind of reminded me of the excellent Waldo's Special Ale, with a massive tropical hop presence and sweetness from the high ABV. This is one I plan on drinking fresh. Bottles are available for $15. Boxing Bear continues to crank out quality beers with an emphasis on IPAs. I like that.