Monday, June 30, 2008

You Can't Get Theirs From Here

I tell you, that girlfriend of mine really knows and loves her beer. That's why I knew that when she was going to Denver with her girlfriends to do girly things she would find time to find a beer store and bring back some goodies. And she didn't disappoint!

In exhibit A, or should I say IPA, we have Green Flash Brewing's West Coast IPA (7%). They aren't misleading with that name. This is a true pacific IPA, which means high hop/low malt profile. Some people whine about these kinds of IPAs, "But they're so unbalanced!" Tough. If I want to see balance I'll watch gymnastics. Lots of pine, lots of citrus in this baby. One of my favorite IPAs both in the bottle and on tap.

The next beer is Flying Dog Double Dog. They label this as a "double pale ale", but the style is really a double IPA. It could also be called a barleywine, I suppose. Flying Dog is a Colorado landmark brewery but is in the process of moving all its brewing operations to Maryland. I don't know how this will affect the distribution out here, but in the case of this beer it doesn't matter because we can't get it in New Mexico anyway. It is a 10% hop-heavy beer that still has a good malt base. I suggest drinking it fresh because the hops need to be the star here. I have tried aging one and the sweetness of the alcohol made it less enjoyable than when the hops dominated.

Next we have two beers from Lagunitas Brewing out of Petaluma, California. Lagunitas is always pushing the envelope in every facet of their business, from the higher-alcohol versions of traditional styles to their graphics to the names of their beers. They are a very creative bunch. And we can't get their beers here. I have had many of their creations before but these two are new for me.

Lucky 13 is an Imperial red Ale that is 8.3%. For style refrences, think Gordon from Oskar Blues, Troegs Nugget Nectar, or Dr. Hopgood from Chama River. Though if you have tried all of those you are probably really into beer and don't need a reference for the style.

Gnarlywine is a 9.7 % barleywine ale. What do I do with this one? I want to drink it, but most barleywines do well when they get a little older. Will I have the patience? We will see. Actually, from the number of beers I have meant to let "age" and more truthfully let "rot" in a hot closet, experience tells me I probably won't ever drink it because then it will be "gone". See how logical I am?

You may remember me writing about Victory Brewing and their Baltic Thunder Imperial Porter in an earlier post. We have here another of their releases, the Hop Wallop Double IPA (8.5%). This is a beer I have enjoyed for years now, and it doesn't disappoint-until its gone, that is, and I have to get more from Colorado or Arizona. The beer is very pale for a double IPA but the flavors are no less intense, hop-wise. There is that lack of malt character that is perfect for me. I have found that this is one beer that has a highly discernable difference in flavor (for the good) when you let it warm a bit, so if you can get some, don't drink it straight from the fridge.

Now here's something you don't see everyday, or in my case, ever: an Imperial Hefeweizen. Pyramid Brewing out of Washington state brings us this 7.5% hefe. Wow, 7.5%; that's two whole percent higher than any other hefeweizen I have tried. I'm excited to try it, especially since it has been so hot here lately. I admit I don't go crazy over many of Pyramid's line of beers. Their Thunderhead IPA is ok, but is not my first choice. Their other beers are solid as well, but none have that "standout" quality for me. They were just bought out by Vermont's Magic Hat Brewery, so we will see what shakeup there is in the future.

And here's my personal "star of the show"- Deschutes Brewing's Hop Henge. This is a beer I had been trying to obtain for two years. With each new stellar review I wanted it more and more, but due to limited quantities and distribution it had been impossible to procure. Until now!
Hop Henge is an 8.8% Imperial IPA. That is all I can say about it because I still haven't tried. I wanted to have it last night when my girlfriend got home from Denver but she was still hung over from the trip and knew she wouldn't be able to appreciate it as much. Maybe we will have it tonight. One thing's for sure: If this beer sucks I'm gonna be pissed!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More New Beers-Sort Of

I was surprised to see varities from the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company at Jubilation Wine and Spirits today. Gordon Biersch is a brewery/brewpub chain out of California specializing in German style beers. They make about six different varities that I know of, but the only ones here in Albuquerque so far are the Marzen and the Hefeweizen.

The Marzen is a 5.7% Oktoberfest-style beer that is smooth and fairly malty, with little to no hop presence. I like this stlye and will drink it over an amber ale any day. Except today. I'm not going to drink either of those- I've got some new beers coming to me this evening- but more on that another day.

The Hefeweizen (5.4%) is quite the authentic German hefe clone. It is a perfect beer for the Summer, when super hoppy IPAs or rich stouts can be too hard to swallow but lawnmower beers seem too tasteless.

Both of these beers are selling for $7.99, which brings me to the point of this story. While the labels of these two beers may be new here, the beers inside the bottles have been with us for over two years now.

Trader Joe' s has a line of beers that is private-labeled for them by Gordon Biersch. They have the Hefeweizen and the Marzen, which goes by the "Vienna Lager" moniker at Trader Joe's. They also have a Dunkelweizen and a Bock.

So the beers are essentially the same, but the price is a killer $5.99 at Trader Joe's, compared to the $7.99 you'll pay for the Gordon Biersch label. I think I will deal with the crowds at Trader Joe's and save myself a couple of bucks. Plus they have free food samples at Trader Joe's.

Speaking of free samples, Gordon Biersch is also brewing beer for Costco under the Kirkland label! I hate going to Costco so I can't tell you if they are being carried here yet, but I know that a deal was in the works earlier this year.

Wow, three different labels for the same product. Sounds like the kind of thing Rogue does. Let's just hope Gordon Biersch doesn't start using ceramic bottles for their beer!

Friday, June 27, 2008

New Beers

I stopped in Kelly's today and noticed that there are some new beers in town.

Abita Brewing, out of Abita Springs, LA (that's Louisiana) brings us Abita Amber, Turbodog, and Purple Haze.

The Abita Amber is an amber lager, as opposed to the usual amber ale. I haven't had this in a few years but I remember it to be a basic amber, probably good for this time of year.

Turbodog is a brown ale that is a little over 6%, and is a pretty decent beer. I remember drinking this on Christmas day in Lafayette, LA after I broke a tooth a few years ago.I would buy this more often than the amber if they were the only two choices.

Purple Haze is a raspberry wheat beer. I can't recommend this beer one way or the other because I don't really go for that style of beer. It will probably go over well with people who are into fruiter beers.

Abita recently introduced an IPA into their lineup, the 6.5% Jockamo. I have a bottle but haven't tried it yet. I guess we are only getting the biggest sellers from Abita, but maybe we will se it here in the future.

Abita has a beer that I have only seen on tap, Andygator barleywine. I drank this a a starter beer one night in Louisiana. I asked for something local and they had this, so I went with it. I didn't know when I ordered it that it was a high alcohol beer (8%), but I sure did enjoy it. I enjoyed the many Hurricane drinks that followed too. Damn, I want to go back to New Orleans.

Santa Fe Brewing has released the second in their line of beers celebrating their 20th anniversary, "Sangre de Frambuesa". My Spanish isn't so good, but I think it translates into "Framboise". My French isn't so good either, but I think that translates into "raspberry".

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Strangers in Out Town

This site is focused on the happenings of the Albuquerque beer scene but I figure it doesn't hurt to throw out some info as to what they drink on the other side of the tracks.
A sophisticated guy like me knows sophisticated people who jet set around the country on a whim. One of these people I know recently went to Pennsylvania, and I knew they would be glad to bring back some beer, space permitting. I wasted no time in tracking down the local beer store so I could place my order.

I went to to see what beers they had. Frontier is bar with a small but extremely well stocked beer store attached. Their website is excellent for finding exactly what you want beerwise. They have up-close pictures of every beer in their coolers. I can't tell you how many times I have done research before traveling so I could find good places to buy beer, only to come up empty. Recommended places often don't have a website, and if they do, the focus is on the wine and liquor selections. I end up going to one of those places and it is a macro beer fest with maybe a six-pack of Samuel Adams in the corner. Frontier does it right. I got in touch with the beer guy there and he set aside a few select bottles for me.

So now I am staring at my new babies: B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Imperial Oatmeal Stout from Hoppin' Frog Brewing in Akron, Ohio. I think this will be the first Ohio-based brewery I have beer from. This beer is 9.4% and should be a real treat later in the year. If I drink it in this weather I think I may melt. I want to try it badly but I want to do the beer justice.

Next we have Southern Tier's Tripel release. To be honest I really wanted their Unearthly Imperial IPA but it wasn't available so the guy at Frontier threw this in instead. We'll give it a whirl. Southern Tier, out of Lakewood, NY (I don't know where that is either) is known for making high-gravity beers, and this 9.0% Belgian is no exception.

I have another Hoppin' Frog release, Mean Manalishi Double IPA, but I won't be aging this one.In fact, I'm surprised I didn't open it as soon as I got it. It is 8.2% and has an astounding 168 ibus! Yes I know all you beer science people out there will say that the human palate can't detect when ibus get over 80 or 90 or whatever but hey, just the thought of it!

Victory's Baltic Thunder is the last of my 22 oz. gems. Victory is based in Downingtown, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. The beer has a rich history. There once was a brewery in New Jersey called Heavyweight Brewing. They made some cult classics, with their Perkuno's Hammer Imperial Porter being the most popular. They went out of business a few years ago, to the dismay of many beer enthusiasts around the country. Victory has since brewed Baltic Thunder, a semi-clone of Perkuno's Hammer, in tribute to Heavyweight. The Baltic Thunder is 8.0%, and will be joining B.O.R.I.S. for a few months of aging. I actually have some Heavyweight beers in my collection, including Perkuno's Hammer. I'm thinking about trying both the Perkuno and Baltic Thunder on the same night.

Finally, we have the less glamorous but historically relevant Yuengling (pronounced ying-ling. Don't let anyone tell you different). Yuengling is recognized as America's oldest brewery, having been established in 1829. Can't get beer from PA without getting some history in a bottle. I have a case of their "Premium" beer, which is to say the closest thing to a Budweiser that they make. It is only 4.4%, which makes it good for the summertime drinking. They also make Traditional Lager (their biggest seller and a decent beer), Porter (a little thin but drinkable anytime) Light Lager (who cares) and Lord Chesterfield Ale (pale ale with a bit of hop bite and good drinkability).

That will conclude our side-trip away from the dusty, sun-baked roads of Albuquerque to the humidity-riddled streets of Pennsylvania. I hope you enjoyed our trip, and welcome home.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lucky Me

Looky what we have here...Albuquerque's very own Marble Brewery has started bottling their delicious IPA and I was able to get my hands on some!

The label gives us the info that Columbus, Amarillo and Centennial hops are used in this beer. No complaints there. I remember when Ted Rice made a great single hop IPA with Columbus hops back when he was at Chama River, and am glad to see he hasn't forgotten about them. The Centennial hops are immediately present in the nose, which is one of my favorite traits in an IPA.

Let's hope Marble can get some heavy-hitting distribution for this beer so the rest of the country gets to see that New Mexico can produce a great bottled beer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Take Me Out to the Beer Game

A summer night spent at a baseball game has always been one of my favorite things. Throw a couple of beers into the mix and it gets even better. But what if you have become used to drinking beer that has a little more, uh, "flavor" than the offerings at a typical ballpark?

I paid a visit to Isotopes Park this past week and did a little investigating to see what a pain in the ass craft beer lover like myself would think of the beer selection at this Triple AAA mecca.

I wasn't on the lookout for anything like a double thick cappuccino stout or a Moylander's Hopsickle Imperial IPA; there is a time and place for those beers but at a ball game I want refreshing, not overwhelming.

My first sighting was of a little stand that had, for some, everything ever offered in the world of beer: Bud, Bud Light, and the new local favorite, Bud Light Lime. Both the Bud and Bud Light were offered on draft as wellas bottles. I guess the limes were clogging up the draft lines so no Bud Light Lime on tap.

Of course the Isotopes Amber had to be featured at a few different stands throughout the park, though didn't see many people ordering it. I believe this beer is the same recipe as the old Duke City Amber from the former Assets Grille. The beer is now being brewed at Sierra Blanca's facility in Moriarty. Kind of weird to think how ten years ago you could buy local beers from Assets and Cabezon in bottles. Hard to dig up any of those today.

Usual suspects were abound at "Bottled Beer", and big names like Foster's and Heineken (ironically, in cans) as well as Corona were available. Finally approaching the craft beer level were Fat Tire , Sam Adams Boston Lager, Newcastle and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I would probably go for the Sierra 8 out of ten times, but my second choice would probably be the Heineken keg can. Something about a cold Heineken on a really hot day does for me what a Coors Light does for other inbreds.
What I'd like to see is more of the local beers offered. Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia has the right idea; just check out their selection:
Flying Fish Extra Pale Ale, Dock Street Amber, Victory HopDevil, Yards Philly Pale Ale, Troegs Sunshine Pils, Sly Fox Pikeland Pils, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, and Stoudt’s American Pale Ale. All of those beers are brewed in the greater Philadelphia area. Yes I know DogfishHead is a Delaware beer but the ballpark is ten miles from the Delaware border so I am counting it. Sure, the Bud/Miller/Coors lineup is available at the park but what a way to support the local brewing scene and hopefully start a trend that will spread to parks at both the major and minor league level.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Wallet Can't Take Much Mooorrre

I'll drink a good Scottish beer any day. 60 Schilling, 90 Schilling, Wee Heavy, I like 'em all. Some people get too much of a 'band-aid" flavor, but I don't really have a problem with that. Ok, the Scotch Ale at Kelly's Brewpub on Central tastes like something Johnson and Johnson concocted but other than that, I'm good. Oh, and I didn't agree with the guy I talked to at a bar one night who held up a Belhaven Scottish Ale and said, "You see this beer?" Yeah. "Well, this is the best beer in the world! You know why???" Because it is on special tonight? "Because its Scottish!!!" Great, one of those guys who still goes around talking like a Scottish person. That never gets old. Whatever blows your kilt up, buddy.

Well we have a new beer from Scotland here in town: Brew Dog Brewing's Punk IPA. Punk IPA? That's right! Just put on your old Anarchy t-shirt, pop in a Circle Jerks cassette and start drinking!

But wait...this beer may say punk, but the price says yuppie: $11.50 for a 22 oz. bottle! And this is no high gravity beer, either, as it is only 6%. I can't do it. I can't let myself pay those prices for a beer. If someone wants to donate one to me, I'll take it. Or if I want to really be punk, I'll sneak one into my studded leather jacket while the clerks aren't watching.
Chumbawumba would be proud.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Throw Another Harvest Ale on the Barbie

Following the success of their Harvest Ale last fall, Sierra Nevada introduces Southern Hemisphere Harvest ale to Albuquerque. The idea behind these "harvest" beers is to use the fresh whole hops during harvesting season rather than concentrated hop pellets.

These particular hops were harvested during the fall season (our spring) in New Zealand. Why New Zealand? I guess somebody at Sierra must have been pretty impressed with Steinlager. Fresh hops or otherwise, I have always found Sierra Nevada beers to be cut from the same cloth- Cascade hop overload. Internet beer forums are full of people fawning over everything Sierra makes, but I can't find it in my tastebuds to join in on the lovefest. I will bow my head and admit that if so many people love it, my opinion should not be taken as a guide to life. Especially by me. Hell, I still buy all their new releases so what does that tell you?
So my intent was to give a review of the beer. I was at Kelly Liquors on Juan Tabo and Eubank when I spotted the beer. I brought the beer, tagged at $2.99, up to the register. The kindly owner rang me up and said, "$4.26, please."

I showed her the price tag but she just shrugged. I asked if she wasnt going to honor that price and she just shrugged. I just shrugged and left the store without the beer.

Right- I still haven't tasted it. I could write a review here, but you may be better off reading other sites for reviews of the beer. Just a hunch.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ten Fidy for Ten Ninety-Nine

Those guys over at Jubilation are big, big fans of beers from Oskar Blues. They were responsible for getting Gordon here in New Mexico, and now have brought in Ten Fidy imperial stout. Four-pack cans are going for $10.99, which may seem crazy for four cans of beer but will probably end up being at least two bucks cheaper than anybody else in town. And people are willing to pay for it.
Even with rumors of distribution problems and no Dale's on the shelves elsewhere, Jubilation has stacks and stacks of their beer. I guess that's how they were able to negotiate such a "reasonable" price point.

I tried some Ten Fidy last night and can tell you that this is a big, big beer. It weighs in at 10% after all. Oh, I get it now...10%; TEN Fidy. Sometimes it helps me to work things out on paper.
The beer pours so dark and oily that next time I am just going to stab a hole in the side of the can and watch it glub glub into my glass. The mouthfeel is very smooth, almost like an oatmeal stout though I don't believe there is any added. I got a little licorice in the taste, though I feel the flavors will come through over time. Right now, the beer has a little too much alcohol for me. In fact, my girlfriend and I split one rather than each having one. I'll see how it tastes in six months or so. I never tried to age a canned beer before so it will be interesting.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I Eat my Words and Drink Everything Else, Part 2

Let's see, we were talking about Wet Mountain with simcoe hops. I wish they could keep this on tap at Il Vicino all the time, especially since I had to gulp it down because I was afraid the rest of the casks would be gone before I got to try them. Sure enough, the next on the list, Three Rivers Scotch Ale (which I believe was their Hopscotch, an 8% scotch ale) was kicked when I went to try it. Hey, I just noticed something in the above picture: there is one girl, but there are two purses. Which one of those guys brought a purse???

At least I got to try the Dr. Hopgood from Chama River. the Dr. is an Imperial Red/IPA hybrid (in my mind, at least) that reminds me of Gordon from Oskar Blues, but better. And not in a can. I think I loved it, but again was also thinking about trying the last two beers so I had to drink it a little faster than planned. My brain didn't mind too much. Between the beer and the relentless sun, I was getting fried quickly. Thankfully Marble went the extra mile on their new patio and had large umbrellas installed over the picnic tables.
From talking to some people and overhearing others I found that the next beer, Chama's Sleeping Dog Stout with French oak was the consensus favorite. I thought it was nice but can only imagine how good it would be in the winter months.

The final beer was Santa Fe's State Porter, oaked and dry-hopped. I have a bottle of the imperial in my fridge but have never tried it. I thought this beer was great and would have gotten it as my full pint except for the fact that is is a 10% beer. I don't need to have that much fun in the middle of the afternoon.
I decided to have the Dr. Hopgood as my pint, but it had bitten the dust. I went with the Marble Red instead. Speaking of biting the dust, I saw one guy fall down and several glasses shatter over the course of the day. The last glass I saw break was on top of the bar one second and in pieces on the bar the next. It happened right in front of Ryan, the bar manager, who was already looking beat before that happened. after the glass broke, and the beer had spilled over the back of the bar he had this look on his face like, "Somebody, please kill me now!"

What I never saw that day was any fights or even an argument, which is rare for a gathering in Albuquerque. I swear, you get a bunch of people together in this city and you are guaranteed to see people hitting each other. Go downtown on any weekend night if you don't believe me. I guess we beer connoisseurs have a level of class that bely our vintage Schaefer Beer t-shirts.

Congratulations to Marble for throwing their first successful fest and I can't wait for the IPA challenge there next month!

Monday, June 2, 2008

I Eat my Words and Drink Everything Else, Part 1

I know I said I probably wouldn't go to the cask event held Sunday at Marble Brewery, but I thought about it- I could either be hanging out with my girlfriend, or hanging out with my girlfriend while drinking beer.

After securing a ride we made it to the brewery around 1:45. The event had started at noon, and seemed to be at its peak when we arrived. The majority of the crowd was converged around the kegs that were perched on the bar. My earlier prediction of being surrounded by sweaty dudes was looking to be prophetic. I didn't picture most of the sweathogs to be wearing tanktops, so that was an unpleasant twist on things. Even with the mass chaos at the bar, the bartender was quick to notice us and get us set up with the necessary materials (a glass). 15 bucks promised a taste of eleven casks plus a pint of the beer we enjoyed most served in a "commemorative" glass. Of course, the glass was from last year's IPA challenge. Now, it seemed like there were more people at the cask fest than the IPA challenge so they probably could have had glasses made for this event and come out ahead, but I don't know for sure. I'm not going to cry about a glass.

So the first taster was of Marble's Amber. Yup, tastes like Amber. The next, Marble Red, turned out to be a surprise. When I first looked at the list I was thinking, "Ooohh, an Amber followed by a Red! Same beer, different name! The Red actually turned out to have a great hop presence, noticeable immediately in the nose.

Il Vicino was there with a Zwickel, a lager that they added red chile to. It was very light-bodied, with the red chile heat coming on at the end as it went down my throat. I heard mixed reviews from people around me, but I thought they did a great job with the chile, which could easily have overpowered the beer.

Turtle Mountain brought their brown ale, a great smelling beer that was a bit lighter in taste than the smell would suggest. A good brown ale.

Now remember, we didn't get all the samples at once as you do at the challenges, so I had to go back inside with my "buddies" to get each sample. I will say that the lines moved extremely fast and the guys doing the pouring were friendly throughout the event.

I went in to find that the Three Rivers IPA cask was gone. This was about 2:30...told you there were a lot of people there. I moved on to the Marble IPA, which is my beer of choice lately. The casked version features the Centennial hops more than anything else and was a favorite.

Il Vicino was not to be outdone as they had a cask of Wet Mountain IPA with Simcoe hops. I can only imagine what that must have cost to brew as the price of Simcoe is outrageous right now.