Thursday, December 31, 2009

Merry New Year!

I was sitting here contemplating this past year, ticking off the good and bad things that happened and figuring that I would be smart if I kept it only to beer related things. After all, I had a heck of a beer year. I got to take two trips to Philadelphia, one of the great beer cities in the country, home to Monk's Cafe, Standard Tap and the Foodery, which may be the best (and most expensive) seller of single bottles in the country. I also visited Boston and the 112 tap Sunset Grille. Made the journey to Munster, Indiana, of all places, for the one day release of Dark Lord Imperial Stout and it turned out to be the best party I ever went to. I got to see Chicago, from Wrigley to the architecture to the bars to the food to the liquor stores and to the bars some more. I went to the Great American Beer Festival, all four sessions in fact, and tried 187 different beers. While I couldn't even think about an IPA for about two weeks following the fest, I am still glad I was a part of it. Back home in Albuquerque, I enjoyed meeting so many of you at Hopfest, Septemberfest, and the NM IPA Challenge. Thanks for all your words of encouragement. I hope this new year brings you cases of joy and kegs of great memories!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Boring Beer Week Doesn't Have to Mean Boring Beer Writing

But in this case, I'm afraid that's exactly what you're getting. I have been scouring the stores, looking for anything to jump out at me. The only thing that came close was when one of the Korean guys at Kelly Liquors popped over from another aisle, hoping to catch me shoplifting. I know that place gets some shady people that you'd normally encounter outside a 7-11, but I don't think I look that uncouth. Maybe the Kelly's folks know how much I make from this site and know that I should be shoplifting my beer.

There may not be anything new, but there are good deals to be had. Whole Foods is selling six-packs of Sierra Nevada Celebration for $5.99, down from the usual $7.49. If that isn't cheap enough for you, Trader Joe's is trying to get rid of a glut of Summer Brew and Oktoberfest, selling both for $3.99 a six-pack. And if that isn't cheap enough, you can always go to Kelly Liquors and see if you can outwit my Korean friend there.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

No Christmas Brews Gives Me the Christmas Blues

Hello? Anyone read the previous post that has been up for days and days now? About buying me a Christmas beer?? I guess you all have been too hung up on buying presents for family and other unimportant stuff to give me a second thought. Luckily, I have my own family around to buy me beer related items. While I didn't get an actual beer, I did receive a ring that doubles as a bottle opener, a cool HTML related Hefeweizen glass, and a sweater. The sweater is beer related because I wore it the rest of the day and spilled beer on it that evening.

But those beer presents don't matter. For maybe just that one day, beer means very little. It's more the fun of watching young family members open their presents with an excitement that rarely makes it to adulthood, and knowing that their terrible teen years are coming all too soon. Or spending time talking to older family, just like I have on so many other holidays, taking for granted that they will always be there to share a hug or a handshake on Christmas. I am lucky to say I got to experience all of that this past Friday. I hope you too were surrounded by loving friends and family on Christmas. And if you are Jewish, I hope you enjoyed your Chinese food.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Wouldn't Mind One of These...

You know, it is the season for gift giving. Though I'm not surprised none of you have sent me any holiday beer, I just wanted to remind you that it isn't too late! How about one of these Odell beauties new to town:

First we have the Bourbon Barrel Stout, one of the fancy cork-topped limited releases that Odell introduced in place of the imperial six-packs. This 750 ml offering was made public back in August, but our batch must have been hand delivered from the folks in Ft. Collins, CO, since we are just now getting it. It's the same old story for us here in Albuquerque, but since this is a 10.5% ABV stout, the age can't hurt it a bit. Fresh bourbon barrel aged anythings are usually too hot when fresh anyway. $14.99 gets you this nice Christmas time sipper to give to me.

You say I deserve something pricier? No, really? ME? Ok, then, why don't you go big and get me Woodcut #03, the third (duh) release in the Woodcut series. The "Woodcut" stands for the fact that all the beers in this limited series are aged in oak barrels. Pricewise, if Woodcut were an ice cream, it would be considered super premium. A 750 ml retails for $25.99 (!!!), but you know I'm worth it! #03 is an 11% ABV American Strong Ale, described by Odell as a "Crimson Ale", its color coming from the Crystal, Cara, and Munich malts used in the brew.

I am eagerly anticipating your gift, and I thank you all in advance!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Doctor is OUT!

Jeff Erway (a.k.a. Dr. Hop), Head Brewer at Chama River, is leaving the brewpub at the end of the year to start his own brewery. Details are fuzzy right now, even to Jeff, but he is this close to signing a lease on a building in the industrial area north of Candelaria. He plans to make the facility a full production brewery, and he is looking at canning his beers rather than bottling, making his the first local brewery to use cans. Can you imagine March Hare IPA in a can? This is going to be an exciting time for local craft beer enthusiasts, though Jeff says he doesn't expect production to actually begin until July 2010. Until then, he will be playing businessman, dealing with the banks and suppliers and investors and the city of Albuquerque. Sounds like a great time. Over at Chama, current Assistant Brewer Justin Hamilton will be taking over and hopefully keeping the standard of quality that Jeff set. Get over to Chama before the year is over and get your last kegs and growlers of Jeff Erway-brewed beer, say your farewells to him, and oh, if you've got an extra $150,000 to contribute to his effort, I don't think he'd turn you down!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It May Be Too Late

But I thought I'd let you know that Life and Limb, the collaboration between Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada, is available on tap at Two Fools Tavern. Or it was last night. I heard this past Friday that O'Niell's had two kegs of it and Two Fools had one. It took a mighty effort to remove myself from the couch, but I was able to finally leave the house last night and meet up with friends at O'Niell's. My procrastination was my downfall, as the bar had run out of Life and Limb earlier in the day.

Luckily, Two Fools still had the beer on tap! I wasn't too surprised, as Two Fools has never really been a hotspot for craft beer nuts. They have a decent selection, but don't carry any beers that get me excited. They have a great little pub atmosphere, and people rave about their food. F all that, just give me the Life and Limb! The serving size is 10 oz., which is all you really need considering the 10% ABV. I had two. And $5.00 a glass isn't bad considering the rarity of the beer- New Mexico got three kegs, total. And it may all be gone if you don't hurry over to Two Fools now!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Albuquerque's Kegnoscenti Converge

I had the pleasure of being invited to hobnob with some of Albuquerque's finest beer writers, brewers, and drinkers Friday night. The gathering was held at a secret North Valley location, so secret that I couldn't find the place. You ever try finding a house in the North Valley? There are no street lights, the houses are all dark...maybe its was all part of the plan to keep the nosy beer nellies away. When entering the meeting place, I first noticed the large group of beer elite wearing sinister-looking hooded robes. I then noticed the food table with some nice homemade pretzels and an assortment of cheeses, complete with toothpicks so you didn't have to get your hands all over the individual cubes. Very sinister.

Part of the admission requirements included a sacrifice of beer from my fridge, so I gave up a Sly Fox 2007 Christmas Ale and Voodoo Love Child, a Tripel with raspberries, cherries, and passion fruit. My gifts were added to the beer manger and we began the tasting. Due to the secrecy of this gathering, I can't divulge the details of the night (secret handshakes, the "What's Under my Robe?" game), so I will just give a rundown of the beers we tasted: Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza, Sly Fox Christmas, Deschutes Jubelale, Great Lakes Christmas, Breckenridge Christmas, Big Sky Powder Hound, 08 Alaskan Smoked Porter, Odell Isolation, Goose Island Christmas, Pike Entire Wood Aged Stout, Rogue, Santa's Private Reserve, Yellow Snow, Hazelnut Brown, '07/'08/'09 Sierra Celebration, Pere Noel, Full Sail Wreck the Halls, Avec Les Bons Voeux, Nice Chouffe, Sly Fox Ichor, Weyerbacher Merry Monks, Voodoo Love Child, Scaldis Noel, Golden Carolus Noel, Delerium Noel, Deschutes Mirror Mirror, Anchor Christmas, Carver Barleywine, North Coast Old Stock, and finally, a homebrewed barleywine that was the best I ever tasted. And I'm not just saying that because that same robe-clad group is standing over me with a bucket of hot wort. And while the hazing to become part of this group rivals that of Skull and Bones or Alpha Beta fraternity, I feel honored to have been invited. Plus I got a nice Trader Joe's wine bag as a door prize.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Nice Girls Swirl and Swish...

Anyone going to Swirl, Swish and Swallow? I don't think I can make it, and it's a shame. Once you get past all the wineries that will be taking up space, there are plenty of breweries to make this a worthwhile event. Marble, Odell, Ska, Kona, Widmer, New Belgium, Breckenridge, and Oskar Blues all will be serving beers. Only 700 tickets will be sold, which should mean lots of elbow room and plenty of time to try all those beers. The $30 event is happening this Thursday, Dec. 10, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. One of the "presenters" of this event is the Law Office of Michelle Baca...wonder if her office will end up defending any drunk drivers caught leaving the event. Ironic.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy Day After Repeal Day!

NOTE: I started to write this on Dec. 5, but an all day trip to the vet caused me to be late.
December 5, 1933. The date that is more important to us than any birthday or anniversary. It is the date on which the United States repealed the Volstead Act, the law that made alcoholic beverages illegal and plunged the country into its darkest days. Ever look at photos from back then? Those people don't look so hot. That's what people in dry counties look like today. So celebrate the 21st Amendment and have yourself one of these new beers!

Marble has finally bottled their DIPA! They have had the approval for the label for months, but were waiting for the new crop of hops to come out so they could do this one right. And do it right they did, as this DIPA starts off with an amazingly green nose, and then the bitterness follows sip after sip. The $6.99 price tag for a 22 oz. bottle is reasonable considering you are guaranteed a fresh beer every time you buy one.

Arguably the best annual Imperial Stout to hit Albuquerque shelves, Deschutes The Abyss has returned. It is a complex beer with an ingredient list that includes Intelligentsia coffee, molasses, and licorice. This came in a close second in our Imperial Stout challenge, and in fact is so good, I bought a case when it came out last year. This year's version has gone up a few dollars, and is now $13.99 per bomber. That may keep me out of the case club this year, but I will get my fair share. As this is a very limited release, make sure you get your share as well.

Left Hand has always made solid beers, though I never got too excited about any of their offerings. Recently, however, they have been releasing more interesting concoctions, though we weren't lucky enough to get them here. Their newest release, Fade to Black, is making the trip down I-25, and should be a big seller. The beer is a Foreign Export Stout, a style of beer that isn't well represented here. This style features a more robust overall flavor than a traditional stout, and is also higher in alcohol. The Left Hand Version is 8.5% ABV, and at $8.99 per six-pack is one of the best bargains in town. One thing Left Hand has always done right is keep their prices reasonable, and I highly recommend Fade to Black.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Trader Joe's Vintage Ale 2009

Trader Joe's Vintage Ale, the grocer's annual foray into the world of Belgian style beers, is now available at the two Albuquerque locations. At $4.99 for a 750 ml bottle, this is the most affordable Belgian style beer out there right now. The beer, which is described as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale though I couldn't tell it from a Dubbel, is made by Unibroue for Trader Joe's and is always a big seller. I thought the beer was a little thin on the mouthfeel, but the flavor is there, along with the expected high carbonation from the bottle conditioning. There was a LOT of foam, so much that I almost dumped the beer into a decanter to get rid of some of the bubbles. This beer makes a nice gift for people who think they are getting something really fancy when they see the bottle. And the beer is said to age well; I wouldn't know because I still haven't opened my aged '06, '07, or 08. For five bucks you could do way worse!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Your Money or Your Life and Limb!

So you say you've been wanting Dogfish Head beers in New Mexico for a loonngg time, huh? Well, how much are you willing to pay? I ask because Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada have teamed up to produce a unique beer that will put a bigger dent in your wallet than a Vegas call girl (so they tell me), but I guess that is the price we pay to have Dogfish grace our shelves. This American Strong Ale was brewed at Sierra Nevada using Sierra's homegrown hops and barley, and maple syrup from Dogfish owner Sam Calagione's family farm in Massachusetts. No wonder the beer costs $14.99 for the 24 oz. bottle- have you seen the prices on maple syrup these days? Mrs. Butterworth weeps! The two breweries mixed their house yeast strains in the beer, and the beer is carbonated by adding Canadian birch syrup, reportedly the first beer to bottle condition a beer in this way. Finally, bittering is provided by the fairly new (in hop years), increasingly popular, but still not often seen Bravo hop. So maybe all these ingredients do add up to make this a special beer that is worth the high price tag. In any event, you'll feel better about yourself if you spend the money on Life and Limb rather than Susie from The Strip. Trust me.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Really???

An 8.2% ABV "Grand Cru" version of Blue Moon's Belgian White? Why not? MillerCoors sees their market share eroding thanks to the efforts of small craft brewers and the increasingly beer savvy public, and the big boys decide to carve a niche in the "extreme" category. But the $11.99 retail price is keeping me from buying one. It's like Hyundai making an $80, 000 sports car- it may be just as fast as a Porsche, but I'm going with the Porsche on name alone.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Beers

Happy Thanksgiving. If you have yet to get your beer for the day, fear not. All local liquor stores are open so you don't have to face those relatives sober. Lots of new beers have been popping up in the area.

Not a new beer, but new packaging for Rogue's Yellow Snow IPA. A cool growler to have and a decent IPA inside, but at the $16.99 price I think I would buy from one of the local breweries and save a few bucks. But if you are reading this on Thanksgiving and the breweries are closed, this would be a good beer to bring and share over dinner.

Come to think of it, this is not a new beer either. Waayy back in the day, Anodyne used to carry Rogue's Mogul Madness, a 6.25% Winter Warmer that leans heavier on the hops than many Winter beers (68 IBUs). I don't know if Rogue stopped making this for awhile...I know they released it as a reserve beer in other states but I haven't seen it here in forever.

Hmmm...not sure if Lucky U is the best name for this IPA from Breckenridge. If you are expecting something along the lines of an English IPA, you will probably be pleased with this 6.2% ABV beer. Even though there are seven hop varieties in the beer, the flavors are a bit subdued. I got to try a preview of this beer during the GABF Denver Media Tour, and I wasn't blown away. But if you want a beer that isn't going to overpower your turkey dinner but still want to taste the beer, this might be a good choice for you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our Challenges Go To 11

This past Saturday evening we hosted an imperial stout challenge. Yes, I know, you should have been invited. After all, you have been faithfully reading my stupid rants all this time. I'm sorry I couldn't invite you, but you see, I only had one bottle of some of these beers and wouldn't have had enough to go around if you were there. Trust me, I didn't even want most of those people to be there, but I either owed them money or they invited themselves, and I didn't have the guts to tell them no.

I didn't have a set amount of stouts for the tasting- I just kept going deeper in the fridge and found more and more stouts. Along with the two Marcus brought over, we ended up with eleven imperial stouts. That's one more than other websites' imperial stout challenges, which only go to ten. And it's a hefty amount when you consider that most of these beers are at least 10% ABV, but the pours were only three ounces each. And the three ounces were plenty, judging by how silly we all were by the end of the night. It's a good thing those people I didn't want to invite all brought food (one brought a bread made with stout) because those imperial stouts on an empty stomach could have landed me a headline in the Albuquerque Journal. And not one that says, "Local Beer Blogger Brings Joy to All".

I'll spare you the tasting details; it was mostly arguments about the various tastes people got out of the beers. I wasn't even really listening; I just wanted these people to leave already so I could enjoy my beer. This was a blind tasting where each beer was put in a numbered cup and tasters rated the beers on a five-point scale. No one knew which beer they were rating, so there was no bias towards any big name or reputation. All are highly regarded beers and (except for one) the scores were pretty close, as it should be with such good beers. The results are as follows:

11. Victory Storm King (0.79)- When you can't even average one point, you know something is wrong with your beer. When one of the taster's comments is, "Smells like my flip flops", you know you shouldn't have invited the idiot who wears flip flops when it is 30 degrees outside.

10. Southern Tier Oat (3.1)- The huge amount of oatmeal may have made this stout too smooth. There just wasn't a whole lot of flavor in this one.

9. Avery The Czar (3.28)-This 13% stout was a little strong for most of the tasters. I'm all man and can take a little alcohol, so I gave it a 4.

8. 2008 Stone Russian Imperial Stout (3.52)-I thought this would fare better, as it has had more than a year to mellow the 11% ABV. A couple people thought it was too sweet, and one likened it to a Good and Plenty candy.

7. Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti (3.61)-This was the favorite of two tasters who don't know what they are talking about. It was very good, with hints of chocolate rather than overwhelming chocolate, but there was still a sweetness that kept the overall scores lower.

6. 2006 Rogue Imperial Stout (3.75)-The oldest beer in the tasting wound up in the middle of the pack. It still had a surprising alcohol bite but was also very flavorful.

5. Chama River Anastasia (3.83)-The only local representative in the tasting, Chama scored well but most people commented that the beer would do better with more age on it. I have another bottle, so we'll see if that is true. It's pretty great right now, but good luck finding any.

4. Southern Tier Mokah (4.02)-This mix of Southern Tier's Jahva coffee and Choklat chocolate stouts was sweet in a good way, but I don't know if it belonged in an imperial stout tasting. It is great for what it is.

3. Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout (4.1)-This beer is only sold one day a year, and was my highest rated beer of the tasting. Maybe I unconsciously realized that this was Dark Lord, and thought about how much it cost to fly to Chicago, rent a car to drive to Indiana, pay for the hotel, and buy the beer, and scored accordingly. Everyone else liked it too, though.

2. 2008 Deschutes The Abyss (4.27)-This is one of the top rated beers on BeerAdvocate and Ratebeer, and its placing here is no surprise. Most people commented on the nice coffee flavor in the beer.

And the winner is...

1. 2008 Schlafly Imperial Stout (4.3)-Who? Scoring the big upset is this underrated brewery out of St. Louis, who had the overall favorite beer of the night. The beer is aged in Jim Beam barrels, which adds to the flavor but did not overwhelm like some bourbon aged beers do. My second highest rated beer of the night, but I could certainly go either way between this and Dark Lord. Thanks to Marcus for bringing this one- I will be hounding him to pick up more when he visits Missouri in December. And congratulations to Schlafly for taking top honors in this tasting of much prestige, but they should take it with a grain of salt. After all, look who some of the judges were. I would much rather have had you there. Maybe next time, huh? There will definitely another challenge- I still have Full Sail Black Gold, Goose Island Bourbon County, Founders Breakfast, Port Older Viscosity, and more...

Your invite is in the mail!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kelly Liquors Cranks Out Another

Though I kind of ranted about certain aspects of Kelly Liquors' business practices in my last update, I can't deny that they are an important part of the Albuquerque beer landscape. Though their beer's freshness can be questionable at times, they have an extensive selection of craft beers and prices are fair. So I was actually kind of excited Wednesday evening to visit Kelly's latest location, in the Far North plaza at San Mateo and Academy.

Inside, I had to first walk past aisles of wine to get to the beer coolers, which take up almost half of the wall space of the store. I counted thirty doors dedicated to beer. The large selection is sure to put a dent in the Sunflower Market's (located in the same plaza) beer sales, but there wasn't any "Whoa!" moment when looking at all those coolers. There is a cooler of mix your own six packs, which right now is 3/4 empty. Usually, those single beers become that way because others from the six-packs have broken, so I guess they haven't stocked enough yet to have a big singles inventory. There is also a mostly empty area of shelves that will hold unrefrigerated beer where I noticed two beers I had never seen before in New Mexico; two that I didn't even know were available here: Rebel from Czechoslovakia and Kostritzer Schwarzbier from Germany. I won't be buying either of those because they are both priced at $13.99 a six-pack! I don't know about the Rebel, but I have had Kostritzer in Germany and while good, it is not worth $13.99. Another overpriced rarity that this Kelly's carries is Sam Adams Utopias, the world's strongest beer. At $179.99, it is also one of the most expensive. And the bottle is only 24 oz.! So stop by this Kelly's location to pick me up a Utopias, but otherwise, you may as well stick with your current beer store.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No Country for Old Beer

Why, why don't all breweries follow the lead of Anheuser Busch? I'm not talking about the taste of the beer, but rather the practice of putting a bottled on date on the label. I could fill a keg with the number of beers that I have spent money on, only to find that the beers were old. Old is a relative term, and in many cases can even be a good thing. Just yesterday I bought a 2006 Rogue Imperial Stout, and was happy to do it. Other imperial stouts and barleywines from the past are hiding in my refrigerator as I type. So when I say "old" I am referring more to the pale ales and IPAs, which suffer greatly from long stints on the retail shelves, and even a couple of months of age are easy detected when it comes to these styles. SKA Brewing is the latest addition to those who state the date on their beers, and there are others who do it, but not enough. Some breweries label the dates cryptically, with something like "3189" printed on the bottle, meaning the beer was bottled on the 318th day of 2009. Others' like Big Sky, have a best by date on the bottles. Mission St., a Trader Joe's private label beer, prints the bottled on dates on the case, which doesn't help once the beers are out of the box and on the shelf. I saw one case of the pale ale about to be stocked that had a May bottled on date. Yuck. While in Denver for GABF, I talked a bit with Brian Dunn, founder of and head brewer at Great Divide Brewing. Great Divide is one of the breweries that gets it, and clearly labels their bottled on dates. I told Brian of some sightings in Albuquerque stores of Great Divide that was past its prime. He asked me to email him with the name of the offending retailer and he would take care of it.

So recently I was at a Kelly Liquors in Rio Rancho and stumbled upon some Great Divide relics. The first fossil I encountered was a Hercules DIPA with a bottling date of December 23, 2008. An eleven month old DIPA is nowhere as cute as an eleven month old baby, trust me. And I didn't have to even check the date on the Titan IPA- it was the version in Great Divide's old packaging, which changed almost two years ago! What makes it even worse is the fact that this location (4300 Rockaway, off of 528 in Rio Rancho) hasn't even been open long enough to have these beers sitting around so long. This means that Kelly's is shipping their old beers around to their different locations, in hopes of squeezing out every last cent from their customers- who cares how it tastes??? This should come as no surprise, as this is the same company that takes those combination liquor bottle/logo glass gift sets apart so they can sell the glass seperately for an extra buck. But it still bugs me that these people don't give a damn about you or me or anything not green and spendable. I emailed Brian about this Kelly's and he got right back to me. He had informed his wholesaler and had them go and pull all the offending dates off the shelves. Good on him for caring about the integrity of his product. I guess it is in all our best interests to continue to drink local beers like Marble, who doesn't label the bottled on dates, but whose beers don't stay on the shelves long enough to get old.

Friday, November 13, 2009

November Spawned a Monster

Good old November. You can always count on it for Thanksgiving, fallen leaves, Christmas commercials galore, and everyone's timeless favorite: the release of Stone's Double Bastard. The bigger, badder brother of Arrogant Bastard is a 10.5% ABV beer that blurs the line between American Strong Ale and Barleywine. It has a huge citrus hoppiness that is slightly tempered by the massive malt presence. And to Stone's credit, it is worth mentioning that the beer has not increased in price in the last three years; $6.49 is still the going rate. Kelly's on Wyoming was just getting their shipment in when I arrived, so there will be plenty available for the Thanksgiving festivities. For extra November fun, chug one of these at Thanksgiving dinner and start a discussion with your parents about how it's their fault you turned out the way you did!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Burque's Bottled Bourbon Barrel Beer

Marble continues to expand thier bottled beer portfolio with the release of the 2009 Reserve beer. This 9% ABV ale was aged for eight months in bourbon barrels, and we're not talking Crystal Palace or Banker's Club bourbon, either. Marble went with barrels from high-end bourbon distiller Woodford Reserve, who's bourbon costs so much, the closest I will ever get to taste is by drinking this beer. I believe Marble's Ted Rice and Jeff Taylor worked overtime emptying the Woodford Reserve barrels themselves, so thanks them next time you visit the brewery. The use of the expensive Woodford barrels correlates to a higher price point for the Marble Reserve, which retails at $12.99 per 22 oz. bottle at Jubilation. It's a once a year beer that will age well, so scrape your pennies together and stash a few for special occasions. The Reserve is also available at the brewery and selected retailers, so don't go looking for it at 7-11. Only go there for your Crystal Palace and Banker's Club fixes. Look out for 22 oz. offerings of Marble's Oatmeal Stout, Brown Ale, and Amber Ale in the coming weeks!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Odds and Ends

Did any of you watch the Stella Artois World Draught Master Competition that I wrote about awhile back? I had my money on the American, but the winner turned out to be a woman from New Zealand. Avril Maxwell wowed the crowd and the judges and took the crown for 2009. Part of her prize is a twenty country tour, where she will visit bars as a Stella Artois brand ambassador. The downside is that the bars are all Coyote Ugly and Hooters franchises, and she must pull a double shift at every bar.

For those of you who didn't attend the Deschutes Jubelale art show at O'Niell's Event Space on Monday, you missed out. Not only did we get to see the great artwork from years of Jubelale lables, we also were treated to free food- hot food at that, with covered silver holding trays and sternos and everything. It was like being in one of those luxury boxes at a sporting event, only instead of sports we had a wall full of art. I can live with that trade-off, as there was plenty of Deschutes on tap, including the Obsidian Stout on nitro draft, which was a rare treat. I also enjoyed the Inversion IPA (where have you ever seen that on tap in ABQ?), and the just released Jubelale 2009.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

O'Niell's > The Louvre

You ever get dragged to one of those pretentious art shows, the kind where Santa Fe types sip their precious wine and critique the paint splotches hanging on the walls? I haven't, because I hang out with the right people, but there are plenty of movie scenes depicting fancy artsy gatherings and I know it's not my thing. But O'Niell's is hosting an art show that is more to my liking. The show, on Monday, Nov. 2 from 6-8 pm, features the Deschutes Jubelale label artwork from over the years. No live human torture, no blood thrown on paintings of Jesus. Just beer labels, 22 in total, each one designed by a different Oregon artist. O'Niell's will also have four Deschutes beers featured on tap: Nitro Obsidian Stout, Green Lakes Organic Ale, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, and Black Butte Porter. No Jubelale, interestingly enough. Maybe that's Deschutes' attempt at artistic irony. Come make your own interpretations and enjoy the Deschutes taps with us!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stella's 9 Steps: It Sure Beats 12 Steps

I thought you might be interested in this press release I was sent regarding the Stella Artois World Draught Master event, in which bartenders around the world are judged on how well they perform the 9-step Stella pour. 9 steps? Now I know why I don't order Stella- it takes too damn long to get the beer! It should be fun to watch, though. Coverage starts at 3 pm Mountain time today, with links at bottom of page. Here's the release:

On Thursday, Oct. 29, draught masters from 32 countries will descend upon New York City to compete for the 2009 Stella Artois World Draught Master title, commemorating the 10 anniversary of Stella Artois being available in the United States. We’ve created a live stream broadcast so you can join the Belgian beer experience. In addition, you will have the opportunity to do more than just watch, you will have the opportunity to vote for a Fans’ Choice that will be crowned at the end of the event as a special online winner.

The competition recognizes the best bartenders from across the globe for their ability to perform the Stella Artois Belgian Pouring Ritual. This year’s champion will embark on a global quest during which he/she will visit more than 20 different countries as a Stella Artois brand ambassador and share his/her passion and dedication to the craft of the perfect pour.

This is the first time the Stella Artois World Draught Master Competition will be held in the U.S., after being hosted in Leuven, Belgium for the past 12 years. The timed competition will take place in front of an esteemed panel of judges including Food & Wine magazine’s Ray Isle, Bon App├ętit magazine’s Andrew Knowlton, Stella Artois Draught Master, Cian Hickey and 2008 U.S. Draught Master Winner, Anthony Alba.

Below are two links to live stream broadcasts of the competition:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Stella#/Stella?v=app_160720853700
An alternate link to watch within the Ustream platform: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/stella-artois-world-draught-master-finals

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guess I'll Skip Halloween and Thanksgiving...

...now that the Christmas beers have already hit the shelves. And considering the fact that it is snowing today (!), I broke down and bought some Christmas cheer much earlier than I normally would. Goose Island's Christmas Beer is one of only two Goose Island varieties (along with Bourbon County Stout) that sells in New Mexico. In fact, this is the first year the Christmas beer is being sold here (Jubilation, $6.99 for 22 oz.). The recipe changes slightly from year to year, this year's being what Goose Island describes as a "complex brown ale" that will age well for up to five years. At only 5.7%, you better make sure that the beer is kept at a constant cool temperature. Goose Island suggests cellaring the beer, but houses with cellars in New Mexico aren't plentiful. I'll keep mine in the fridge, and I'll make room in there for Odell Isolation, Sierra Celebration, and Great Divide Hibernation. All of those Winter beers are in stores now, even before it's time to throw away that last rotted out jack-o-lantern.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

HallenBrick Opens Doors!

Well, technically, door, as there is only one, but anyway, HallenBrick Brewery(3817 Hawkins, west of Jefferson between Osuna and Paseo)is now open for business. The brewers of Green Zia IPA (third in the NM IPA Challenge) had a soft opening last week, so only those in the know (celebrities, politicians, people you see in Albuquerque Magazine) were aware that the bar had begun serving. I stopped over there this week to check out the latest addition to our local beer scene.

The brewery is located in an industrial area that owner/brewer Scott Hallenbeck described as "A place you would only come to if you needed a part for your vacuum cleaner, until now". Scott and partner Jeff Brick have turned one of those typical industrial spaces into a surprisingly spacious and inviting atmosphere. The bar has room for twelve or so patrons, as well as three four-top tables, along with a couch for lounging/passing out.

One of the things that makes this brewery's bar unique is that the majority of the taps are from other breweries. Of the eight beers on tap during my visit, there were two each from Il Vicino, Turtle Mountain, and Marble, with one Santa Fe tap and one HallenBrick, an American Stout. I had a sample and it had so much flavor I mistakenly thought it was an imperial stout, but I was informed the stout was only around 5% abv, which means I could drink more than one without getting in trouble. There were no Chama River beers on tap but Scott told me that he had kegs of Rio Lodo Brown and March Hare ready to tap once current kegs kicked. That is something that will be exciting about this bar- there will always be something different to try each time you visit, and always something from New Mexico. And HallenBrick may always be the least represented. As shown in the picture, Scott and Jeff are making beers in very small batches! You could call them "artisnal brewers".

Whatever you call them, be assured you will be seeing them whenever you are at the brewery, as this is a two person operation right now. They are the brewers, bartenders, and bouncers all in one. Their hours of operation are 12-7 Monday through Friday (though they will stay open later on Fridays if there crowds dictate it), and tentative hours of 12-5 Saturday and Sunday. They are in the process of shopping for a TV for the bar, and there is talk of getting the NFL Sunday Ticket, though they are not trying to become a sports bar, Scott assures me. They have already hosted live music from Rex Warren, and plan to have more live acts on Fridays in the future. Check out Hallenbrick.com for updates, and visit Jeff and Scott in person and try all the best beers New Mexico has to offer!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hopfest Brings Us All Closer Together

I had planned on writing about Hopfest over the weekend, but I just now was able to work my way through the crowd there and get home.

The promise of almost twenty breweries serving up their latest and greatest beers drew a diverse crowd to the second annual Albuquerque Hopfest. When we rolled up before six, there were already two lines reaching the end of the block, one line for the ticket holders and the other for the have-nots who would be able to enter after the rest of us.

Upon entering, we were given 4 oz. tasting glasses and a roll of 24 drink tickets, which came as a surprise to me, as I hadn't heard of any limit that went along with the up to $35 admission fee. I was a little put off at first, but then I did the math (ok, I got Texas Instruments to do the math) and figured: 24 samples at 4 oz. per sample = 96 oz. of beer. That equals 8 12 oz. bottles of beer per person, which at $35 about equals what you are going to pay per beer at a bar, plus the money goes to a great cause. And after looking around at the crowd, I was glad there was a limit to the amount of drinks per person.

See, there are plenty of beer fests that happen in Albuquerque, but they are always supported by the same faces, people who are more into the craft beer scene and are there just as much to taste the great beer as they are to get drunk from them. Doesn't make them better people, but they are a familiar bunch. At Hopfest, there were many, many, patrons who just wanted to get messed up, which is fine with me. The problem that seems to come along with that is some seriously bad attitudes that often lead to fights, so I was wary, especially as the crowd grew. I am happy to report that, even though people were shoulder to shoulder as the night grew older, there were no incidents to speak of. For those who frequent anywhere in Albuquerque where there is the powder keg combo of many people and much alcohol, you know this is no small feat. Further proof that good beer equates to good moods.

Well, there was ONE thing that ticked me off- at the Deschutes table, there were three girls at the front of the line who were doing shots of beer and getting refills, not making way for others to sample. A few of us were waiting patiently for them to get their fill. Actually, those of you who know me know I have very little patience for anything, especially when it comes to waiting for beer. So I went up to them and said, "OK ladies, that's enough. There are other people in line." Apparently, I think that because I wear an Abqbeergeek.com shirt, people will obey my orders. All I got was a shrill, "We're doing the SPECIAL!" from one of the girls. I guess the "special" was doing shots of each of the Deschutes offerings and yelling "Woooo!" after each one. They did eventually slink off, probably late for a promotion at Imbibe. If you go to a beer fest, get your sample, step away, and enjoy. You can always get back in line.

But what about the beers, you ask? Too many to count, and not enough time to try them all! I started off with Sierra Nevada's Octoberfest, a beer that only is available in kegs, and only a few of those make it to Albuquerque. I wish they would bottle the Octoberfest, as it is probably the best of the American versions on the beer market. Sierra, the main brewery sponsor of the event, also brought their Wet Hop Harvest Ale, Pale Ale, and Anniversary IPA. Big Sky introduced this year's Slow Elk Oatmeal Stout, which just hit the local stores.Rogue was pouring their Yellow Snow IPA, and I meant to visit their table at some point in the night, but forgot!

I may have been too busy at the Steamworks booth, where I tried one of my favorites of the night: Nitro Conductor Imperial IPA, which, as the name suggests, uses nitrous instead of CO2 (think Guinness) to carbonate the beer, and a creamy Double IPA is the result. Another thing in Steamworks favor is that an actual founder/owner of the company was on hand to talk up his beers. Oskar Blues was a popular destination, and they certainly get the award for most visible booth! It didn't hurt that they were pouring Gordon Imperial Red, either. Utah's Uinta Brewing had a few of their bottled beers on hand, with the Belgian style Monkshine the standout beer, in my always humble opinion.

Marble was a popular choice throughout the night, possibly because they brought their fantastic new beer, Imperial Red. This 8.5% beer had me throwing Marble my roll of tickets like they were beads at Mardi Gras, only with a more lasting reward in return. Chama was stationed right next door, making for one-stop shopping between the two local representatives. Though both Chama and Marble were popular throughout the fest, I'd say the longest lines all night belonged to Left Hand, surprisingly enough. If asked before the fest began, I would have guessed that New Belgium would have that distinction. I would have put money on it. I think maybe the fact that they didn't have "Fat Tire" pasted on their tent kept people away. Some folks seem to think that the company itself is called Fat Tire.

The success of the second Hopfest should certainly ensure a third next year. It would also have earned a larger venue, perhaps including the entire parking lot next to JC's NYPD pizza. But even though this year's event was crowded, everyone I talked to said they had a great time. The lines to get beer were never too long, and most people were cordial and just excited to try new beers. And that is what makes a beer fest like this so important to me. The more people we turn on to craft beer, the more voices we have calling to get great craft beer in Albuquerque. Thanks to all the Hopfest organizers, volunteers, and participants for making it an enjoyable night!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tonight's Main Event: The Rock Battles A Monster!

Lawyers for Hansens Beverages, maker of Monster energy drinks, have sent a cease and desist order to Rock Art Brewery, Morrisville, VT, (read the letter at http://www.rockartbrewery.com/uploads/Monster_Letter.pdf) saying Rock Art's barleywine, "Vermonster", infringes on the Monster name and may cause confusion.
To total morons, yes.

To those with brain function out there (and I include all of you reading this, though make no claim for the writer), it is just another silly Goliath corporation taking advantage of a David, in this case the seven employee Rock Art Brewery. The rumor out there is that Monster eventually wants to get in the alcoholic drink business, but even so- Rock Art makes craft beer distributed to craft beer bars and stores in five states. A Monster energy/alcohol drink will most likely be popular in those clubs where people dress up and wait in line in hope the doorman will think they are cool enough to enter. Let's be real- a 10% barleywine and an energy drink cocktail are never going to share space on the same bar? So why is Monster doing this? Will Monster be targeting the Monster.com job website next, or perhaps Monster Cable, maker of HDMI cables? Not likely. Don't think for a second that the main focus of litigation is just a product with "monster" in it to these people. They find companies who are vulnerable in the wallet, and hit them with the full force of their legal might! That is why Monster's legal department hasn't gone after Ben and Jerry's, who make a Vermonster ice cream, and also happen to be owned by the giant corporate conglomerate Unilever! It doesn't matter if the smaller company will never affect the bottom line of Monster or Hansen's one cent, it is just muscle flexing in hope that the smaller company will have to cave in just to stay alive. Rock Art OWNS the trademark to the Vermonster name, yet Monster still is willing to fight a battle that ultimately will lose in court (as predicted by five different trademark lawyers).

I don't care what your politics are, and I have nothing against American "big business". If you make a great product, succeed, become a huge business and get rich, more power to you. But to pick on what is essentially a "mom and pop" brewery just because you can is not very American to me. I talked to Rock Art owner Matt Nadeau today and he said that his personal experience with Monster is giving him incentive to expose the fact that this is happening to thousands of other small businesses every year, and he wants to get his story out there in order to get lawmakers to change the trademark system itself. He says ABC World News is interested in the story, and many Vermont businesses have pulled Hansen's products from their shelves in support of Rock Art. We can help here in Albuquerque as well. Show what it truly means to be an American and let the people at Hansen's know that you are not happy with their business practices, and that you will not purchase their products.

Let them know here: http://www.hansens.com/contact

Or call: 1-800-426-7367

Or see if this guy will take your call: Rodney C. Sacks, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Hansen's
(951) 739-6200

FYI: Matt Nadeau, Head Brewer, CEO, COO, CFO, etc. of Rock Art answered the phone himself when I called.

Monday, October 12, 2009

From Dawn Through Dusk: GABF Friday (Part 1)

Though we decided before Thursday's GABF session to take it easy, we still managed to plow our way through a fair amount of samples. That, combined with the fact that our hotel room walls allowed us to virtually share in the lives of the Texans next door, made for a rough Friday morning.

But we had to persevere, as we had a kegful of events planned for us that day. It started with a Media Luncheon at the Marriott, held by the Brewers Association. You can see all the different glassware on the table for the beers served with the different courses. There were also numerous spoons and forks, which is a clue that you are at a classy event. I was so bewildered, I didn't even bother with the silverware. I just used my fingers to eat and used the silverware as noisemakers to let the servers know I needed more beer.

The luncheon consisted of six courses along with seven different beers. The first "course" was a strange but definitely beer themed. It was a mix of Munich and Chocolate malts, as well as Cascade and Saaz hops. We ate the malts to see the contrast of flavors between the two. We were then instructed to crush the hops in our hands and then smell the result. After dislodging the whole hops from my throat that I had already tried to chug before hearing the instructed, I smelled what I can only describe as a cologne I would like to wear for the rest of my life. If you have ever done the hop smushing thing, you know what I mean. If not, I'm sorry, but the Food Network is still working on the smellavision thing.

The real food started coming soon after, with a buffalo carpaccio and Cajun shrimp with corn grits paired with Del Norte Manana Amber Lager and Bend Rocksky Stein Lager. Information on the beers was actually provided by the brewers themselves, which was a nice touch. Rocksy Stein is a collaboration between Bend's World Beer Cup "Champion Brewer" Tonya Cornett and Lost Abbey's Tomme Arthur, and uses a hot rock brewing process that looked like a pain in the ass, from the slideshow Tonya presented. She and Tomme had had to rig a pulley and lug 300 pounds of basalt rocks up a pulley to heat and achieve the flavor in the beer. I can't say if it was worth it for them, but I certainly enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the next course of The Bruery's Hottenroth Berliner Weisse, a delicate beer that didn't overpower but complemented the salad of organic greens with Colorado peaches, macadamia nuts, jicama and white balsamic vinaigrette.

Our "Intermezzo" was a Hibiscus flower granita with fresh horseradish, paired with Estes Park's Raspberry Wheat. If you have an intermezzo at lunch, you know you are big time. The entree(my favorite course) was a beef cheek, marinated for three days in Deschutes Black Butte Porter and then paired with the same beer. Brett Porter, Deschutes' Head Brewer, had us smell the beer by putting a hand over the beer, swirling it, and then sniffing it. He then had us swirl it again and then inhale deeply twice, and it was then that the smells in the beer truly came through. Brett explained that this is how they smell beer during testing at the brewery, and I have been doing it at home ever since. Even my tap water gets a swirl. Our dessert course was a "Black and Tan" of molten chocolate cake and Rogue Hazelnut Brown ale gelato, paired with the sweet Rogue beer and offset by Jolly Pumpkin's Maracaibo Especial Brown. The Maracaibo is a sour ale that showed just how different beers from the same "Brown" category of beers can be.

Julia Herz (Craft Beer Director for the Brewers Association), the brewers, and the Marriott chefs all did a fantastic job in putting the luncheon together and stuffing us media types. The food sure beat any lunch along the 16th Street Mall I would otherwise have had, with five extra courses to boot. And the people who actually brewed the beers there to discuss their creations made for a special experience. maybe the logistics of putting on such an extravagant beer luchcheon was not much of a burden for the locals involved: as guest speaker Mayor John Hickenlooper(pictured, right, along with BA President Charlie Papazian) informed us, "In Denver, Beer is part of our DNA."

Next: The Denver Media Beer Tour