Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Widmer- a Great Value and Oh, The Beer's Good Too?

Let's face it: when you hear of a brewery such as, oh, let's say Widmer, releasing a new IPA, you probably don't get very excited about it. And I totally understand. Broken Halo IPA was a nice entry level IPA back in the day, but mostly because you could get a 12-pack of it for cheap. And their Rotator IPA series had so many variations coming out that you couldn't keep up with which was the newest/freshest one. But it may be time to give the Widmer IPA line another shot, now that they have released Upheaval IPA, their first true West Coast Style IPA. A promising hop lineup that includes Chinook, Simcoe, and Nelson, along with 85 IBUs, was enough to pique my interest. 7% ABV falls in line with popular versions of the style. And the price- $6.49 at Total Wine (possibly more at other stores, though I haven't found it at other stores) makes it one of the best IPA deals out there. Yeah, it's Widmer. Don't hold that against them. They've brewed an IPA that you may find comparable to ones that cost $3 more per six-pack, and that's admirable considering today's rising craft costs.

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Beer Friday

Well, Lobo fans. A sad day, to be sure. At the very least, you can drown your sorrows with one bracket winner, Brewing News National IPA Champion Project Dank. Anyone else notice how anytime there is any kind of IPA competition, whether it be GABF, World Beer Cup, or this latest IPA Championship, La Cumbre and Fat Heads are always competing at the end? It's high time these two breweries collaborated on a beer.

Look who's canning! Utilizing a mobile canning service, Kelly's Brewpub is now canning their Amber Ale (4.7%) and a new Session IPA, which is 4.8% ABV but purports to have 87 IBUs. Beginning March 31, you can try both of these styles, and you probably will be over that tough loss by then. Which is good, because it would probably take a lot more than a 4.7% beer to make you feel better about it. Expect to pay $7.50-$7.99 for the Kelly's cans, which will be available in stores around town.

What can you say about this DIPA that hasn't been said before? Stone graces us again with Enjoy by IPA, this one being Enjoy By 4.20.14. Perfect timing, as we all know what you'll be enjoying on that day. At over 9% ABV, this may be just the beer you need to drink today. And you can- it's in stores right now. Put down that noose/gun/can of gasoline and start enjoying life again with the pep that only alcohol can give you.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pygmy Owl: Small Ones Are Sweeter?

It's official: craft beer is IN. God help us all. If you need evidence, just look to the latest statistics from the Brewers Association, which today announced that craft brewers saw an 18% increase in total volume and a 1.3% increase in craft's share of the total U.S. beer market (total $ share is up to 14.3%...does that mean we pay double for craft beer? I may have to start buying Hamm's). Statistics are great, unless you are talking about a college class you are taking. And I don't need statistics to tell me craft is hot; I can just look at the latest trend: breweries emulating each other to come out with their own version of the latest "hot trend"- yup, we have them in the craft industry now too- session IPAs. My last post focused on Stone's Go To IPA, and today's brings you the newest wildlife themed beer from Big Sky: Pygmy Owl. Joining Scape Goat, Powder Hound, Brush Tail, a bear, an elk, a trout, a horse, and some poor skinny doggy looking thing named Bobo on a Big Sky beer label, Pygmy Owl is a 4.2% ABV, 30 IBU Session IPA. 4.2%, the same as the Guinness Draught you might be drinking right now. Spotted at a surprisingly quiet Total Wine on the greatest of drinking days. And as far as Session IPAs go, small ones are not sweeter, as the alcohol content just doesn't allow for it. But I felt compelled to throw in a line from the Judy Blume classic Superfudge. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Go To Your Happy Place With Stone's Newest IPA

To keep myself in my perpetually positive state of mind, I like to find things to be thankful for on a daily basis. Today, for instance, I am thankful for the Session IPA style. While I'd love to just sit around and get wasted on 9% and up ABV DIPAs at night, it makes for a groggy and unpleasant experience having to deal with stupid idiots the day after. So enter Go To IPA, a real gem of a beer from Stone Brewing Co. Go To joins Founders All Day IPA and Lagunitas Daytime IPA at the very top of the Session IPAs (loosely defined by me as an IPA under 5% ABV). Go To is 4.5% ABV and 65 IBUs- but doesn't have the super bitter bite that brings down many Session IPAs. Go To captures the fruitiness of a good modern IPA, and somehow smells a lot like Stone's 9.4% Enjoy By while keeping the low alcohol. Low alcohol usually equates to an easier morning after, which allows you to keep thinking happy thoughts throughout the day, just like me. Go to Whole Foods on Carlisle, where stacks and stacks of Go To are on display

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Not So New But New Faces in Old Places

Not only does Albuquerque have an influx of new breweries opening in the coming months (or years, as dealing with the city when it comes to all things ALCOHOL has me thinking we are governed by Quakers), we also have former assistant brewers making the move to head brewers. Zach, the tireless toiler at Il Vicino, will be making the jump to head brewer at Chama River Brewing Company. Congratulations Zach, but please don't try to turn Jackalope IPA into a Wet Mountain clone. Something along the lines of Exodus would be swell.
Former assistant at Chama River, Tim Woodward, will be heading west- all the way to Turtle Mountain Brewing Company, where hopefully he can provide consistency to a product that can be very good at times. I'm sure he will make his mark over there. Good job, Tim. Make some beers that will get me to drive all the way out to that godforsaken part of the world, would you please?
Finally, she's not the first female head brewer ever to lead a New Mexico brewery (anyone remember who that was?), but she's the only one in Albuquerque: Kaylynn McKnight will soon be putting her own touch on Nexus beers, as former head brewer Manuel is heading back to California. Though her place may seemingly be more suited to the kitchen, Kaylynn promises to leave the chicken and waffles recipe alone. But seriously, she's worked hard under Jeff from the start at La Cumbre and brings quite a skill set with her to her new position. I'm excited to see what she will bring to Nexus.
It will take a little time for these brewers to make their mark as they get familiar with their new systems, but there's sure to be some good beers coming from all of them. Congratulations again to all of you!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Not Available to Married Men

Tired of drinking all those flavorful IPAs and Stouts? Looking for a beer that you and the bros can pound over beer pong or foosball tournaments? Leave it to Australia to brew up some of the least flavorful beer you could imagine, and now you can get it right here in Albuquerque! We have been wisely chosen as one of only six states (so far) that has the demographic that could sufficiently appreciate Good Head Beer, a 4.6% ABV Premium Lager style beer. Good Head may be a good change for those of you who like something easier to drink as the weather turns warm, and the price is right for this type of beer- $4.99 for a four-pack of 16 oz. cans.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Land of Lupulin

Illinois may be known as the Land of Lincoln, but Goose Island wouldn't mind if you thought of Illinois as a haven for IPAs. Lincoln himself probably wouldn't mind either, since most people probably think of Illinois as "where Obama's from...either there or Kenya". Goose Island has gone so far as to name their new DIPA "The Illinois", though after drinking it I'm reminded more of an east-coast style DIPA- heavy on the malt. There is plenty of hop presence (Chinook, Cascade, Citra, Meridian in the hop bill) and 95 IBUs to boot, but the malt makes for a very drinkable DIPA, especially when you consider that it is 9% ABV. Goose Island isn't a major player in the IPA battle, but they never had to be. The Bourbon County lineup was enough for me to love them, though they have won many awards for their English-style IPA. The Illinois is definitely an American version of a DIPA, but I suggest you drink it fresh...and you can, as the version to hit shelves here (Jubilation, Total Wine) was bottled 2.7.14, and retails for around $10 a four-pack.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

You Have to be Scholastic to Spell Stochastic

...but you don't have to be scholastic to drink it. You should be well-versed in bitter IPAs, however, for the new Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA is as bitter as the project itself is pretentious. Or seems pretentious, I should say. "Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA seems natural in its cohesive perfection, but it is a beer birthed from iterations both numerous and varied." That's an actual quote from the press release. I had to consult an Ivy League professor to decipher the entire release, but here's what the project seems to boil down to: It's beer releases for brewing science nerds, and for those who want to learn the science involved in the beers they drink. It's a product of Stone Brewing Co. (claimed to be brewed by KoochenVagner Brewing Co., but that's just a play on Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, founders of Stone), a brewery that already has enough quality product out there but wants to go beyond what others are already doing. They want to bring the science to you, going so far as to hire famed crime scene detective Lincoln Rhyme, who brings his gas chromatograph to dig deep into the brewing process to discover off-favors and why they occur in your beer. I didn't detect any in Grapefruit Slam, which combines Centennial, Chinook, and Magnum hops along with hand-zested grapefruit peel in this 8.2% ABV, 95 IBU DIPA. Jubilation has the 22 oz. beer for under $10, a bargain when you consider that the budget for research into the project is higher than NASAs. But then again, who's isn't these days? Look for future releases from the Stochasticity Project in coming months.

500 B.C. A number that makes one think back to the classic film Caveman, starring adequate Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. It's also the name of the DIPA from Humboldt Brewing Company, available now in stores for around $8 per 22 oz. Since Firestone Walker contract-brews the beer, I had high hopes- up until I took my first sip. "Tastes old", I said. Glanced at the mirror. "Looks old", I said. Looked at the bottle, noticed the 9/27/13 bottled on date. Five months doesn't a bad DIPA make, but it can change into a beer that isn't necessarily what I'm looking for in an IPA-DIPA. I want more of the bright, punchy hop flavor that a fresh bottle can give you. If you like a sweeter DIPA, the age on 500 B.C may just please you. Total lapse of any kind of sense on my part not to have looked for a bottling date while in the store. Beer geek, indeed.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sample Stone at Sister

Sister, the Central Avenue spot with probably the nicest looking bar in town, will be hosting an evening of Stone Brewing Company's beers. $12 gets you:

Five tastes and one 10 oz of your choice of:
2012 Red Wine Barrel-Aged Double Bastard
Matt's Burning Rosids Imperial Cherrywood-Smoked Saison
2013 Double Bastard
2013 Old Guardian Barleywine-Style Ale
Ruination IPA

That's only $2 more than the $10 I paid just to get in the place last night, where I still had to pay for a beer, and left before the act I paid to "see" had even gone on. And trying to get a cab after that? Forget it! But the $12 you spend tonight will be well worth it. Ride your bike to Sister, though. There can't be more than like three cabs to serve the entire city.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Poor Man's Parabola

People may be divided over having big-box liquor retailer Total Wine in town, but there's no denying the fact that they are the sole reason we get to try beers from (off the top of my head, so forgive me if I forget some) Flying Fish, Scuttlebutt, Diamond Knot, Pike's, Reel, and Humboldt. Humboldt Brewing Company is the one famous for having a hemp ale (before Colorado totally one-upped them and made it legal to get high and chug a beer at the same time. Or something like that). The best of their lineup, I do believe, is their Black Xantus Imperial Stout. Though the company has undergone ownership changes in the past few years, the beers are still contract-brewed by the good folks at Firestone Walker. A great brewery, and one that was supposed to have begun distributing in Albuquerque by spring, though this has been pushed back till fall. At least. Don't hold your breath- just grab a 22 oz. Black Xantus, seen at Whole Foods for $14.99- though I bet you can get it cheaper. Black Xantus has always made me think of a lighter version of Firestone's incredible barrel-aged Imperial Stout, Parabola, though with more coffee. Black Xantus spends six months aging in bourbon and wine barrels and is infused with Jobella organic coffee. All the things a growing stout needs. 11% ABV, so enjoy your body's battle between the alcohol and caffeine.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ed's Back. Heaven Help Us.

Those of you who are fortunate enough to have been drinking beer for years may have a memory of Ed's Cave Creek Chili Beer. It may not be a fond memory, but it may exist. It disappeared from distribution here, and some feel that was for the best. After all, a beer with an actual chile (I'm spelling it the New Mexican way) pepper resting in the bottom of each bottle is an interesting novelty item to view on the shelf, but ingestion caused indigestion. And burning mouth, for hours. Sound tempting? Now you can try an updated version, now known as Original C Cave Creek Chili Beer - Cerveza Con Chili. The name has changed, but the chile pepper remains. It's now brewed in Mexico, where all good beer comes from. And its back in our stores- in Jubilation, for one, where you can buy a single bottle for $1.89. And a single bottle should be plenty.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Maybe This IPA Thing Is Catching On

The folks over at the Boston Beer Company (Jim Koch in particular) had for years talked about the IPA style in a way that made it seem as if they were above it all. So many breweries made serviceable versions, why waste R+D time on one when they could use that time to come up with Cranberry Lambics and Scotch Ales? To be fair, the Sam Adams line has brought us Whitewater IPA and the Latitude 48 line of IPAs, but now they are getting serious, with Rebel IPA- their first true "West Coast Style IPA". Hint: "West Coast Style" is the good kind of IPA. The kind people will buy. Word is the BBC people are getting aggressive about having their share of the IPA market, so much so that Lagunitas chief Tony Magee took to Twitter claiming that BBC was deliberately targeting his tap space in bars in order to replace Lagunitas beers with Rebel taps. Ah, the craft beer business- where everyone who gets into it is just out to fulfill their passion of brewing good beer and money is only an afterthought. It's nice to romanticize the craft movement, but after lifting sacks of grain and filling and lugging kegs for 14 hours a day, a brewer's rugged individualist spirit starts to sag...but sure can be boosted by a having a bank account comfortably in the black. But enough cynicism about "craft beer" (for now, I've plenty stored up for later), let's examine this Rebel IPA. 6.5% ABV, fine, maybe a tad low compared to what many breweries are shooting for nowadays but not every IPA has to be on the verge of being a DIPA. 45 IBUs, way low, you sure this isn't an APA? Hop bill: Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe, Amarillo, Chinook. Yes, I believe successful West Coast Style IPAs have been made with those ingredients. Price: $8.99 per six-pack (at Jubilation), right in line with the other Sam Adams beers- thankfully they didn't try to match the higher price points of some other IPAs. But can they match the flavor? And will your favorite Blue Moon tap at Holiday Bowl be replaced by Rebel IPA? Time will tell.