Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 New Mexico IPA Challenge Dates Released

Ok children, please get out your calendars, and open them to July. Now cross out the 25th, because you will not be available to your work or family. No spreadsheets, no mowing the lawn (do people do that here?) you will be attending the New Mexico IPA Challenge at Il Vicino's Tap Room. The Challenge is a three day event, held at different brewpubs around the state. The first will be at Three Rivers in Farmington on the 21st, followed by Blue Corn in Santa Fe on the 23rd. Saturday the 25th is Albuquerque's day to decide who's IPA is the best. Format stays the same as in previous years. The competition is a blind tasting, with 3 oz. pours from each brewery to sample. Once you decide which you like best, you get a pint of it served in a commemorative glass. Last year's glass was pretty nice, too, though I use 2007's as my everyday drinking glass.
Il Vicino's Tap Room (4000 A Vassar Dr., off Comanche between I-25 and Carlisle)hosts the event for the first time. If you've ever been to the Tap Room, you may wonder just where they are going to fit all these people! There is room inside for about 6 people, and the patio maybe another 20. I hear they are going to close off the parking lot to allow for all the traffic. Good move- now if they can somehow find a way to block out the sun. Drinking outside in the July heat with minimal shade can do interesting things to a person, and though it may be entertaining, it is not always healthy. Bring sunscreen, a hat, water, maybe a canopy...EDIT- talked to Jake at Il Vicino. He says there is going to be a tent. I didn't ask what kind of tent, but I assume it will be a big one. If it only a two person tent, I am willing to play 7 Minutes in Heaven with any of the brewers just to get some shade. Jake also told me that they are probably going to get the event started around 12, a few hours earlier than in years past. Price has stayed at $15 for the last couple of years, but I don't have a confirmation at this time.

I'm excited to see who has the best IPA this year. I have attended since 2005 and there have been different winners each year. 2008 saw Chama River get top honors, 2007 was Turtle Mountain, 2006 Chama River (yeah, I know, Chama won twice, but Ted Rice was head brewer at the time), and 2005's winner was Il Vicino. So Albuquerque has swept the last four years running. Could this be the year for High Desert, or Three Rivers, or one of the other great New Mexico breweries? See you on the 25th to find out!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Guess I Spoke Too Soon

I wrote earlier this week about new beers in town, but the day after I posted it, a couple of even newer beers arrived! First up is Rogue's latest "beer that used to be brewed under a different name"- Captain Sig's Northwestern Ale. This Red Ale used to go by the name Captain Sig's Deadliest Ale, but was changed before we ever got it in New Mexico. Maybe the "deadliest" part was scaring people away from the beer. Or maybe it was just the price- $7.99 a bomber. For a beer that is only 6.2% abv, the price is way too deadly.

Remember how sad you were when Sierra Nevada discontinued their Wheat beer? Yeah, me neither. But if you were among the few mourning the "loss" of the brand's only wheat beer, here's a pick-me-up for you: Kellerweis Hefeweizen has taken its place as a new year-round release. At 4.8% abv, the beer is a welcome addition to summer drinking choices. I tried it and liked it fine, but at $7.99 a sixer I think I would still go with Trader Joe's Hefeweizen. No offense to those Sierra die-hards out there (and there are surprisingly many. They are probably gathering in the streets to come get me right now).

Monday, June 22, 2009

New Beers, Week of 6/22

A few beers worth noting this week. First up is Trader Joe's latest, Summer Brew, a Kolsch style beer. Kolsch beers are rare in this part of the country; in fact, I can only think of one other available, and that is one that Shiner makes annually. The style originated in, and is a specialty of, Cologne, Germany. It is what I'd refer to as a "delicate little ale", as it is very light in color, body, and flavor. Fellow beer geek Andreas (who lived many years in Germany) tells me that the style is served in tall, thin (delicate)glasses in Cologne. The TJs version is 4.8% abv, which makes for a sessionable Summer drink. I thought it was ok, but my buddy Solis thinks it tastes like Bud Light. Too bad, I like Miller Lite better. Good price for the Summer Brew at $5.99 a six-pack.

Less Summery, but packing a big punch, is Left Hand's Imperial Stout. I wrote last week about the return of Left Hand's Milk Stout, which had disappeared from the area for awhile. I don't know if the Imperial Stout was ever in Albuquerque stores. Though it may not be the most timely introduction, a 10% stout is always welcome no matter what the season. Kelly's has this beer on the shelves at $5.49 for a bomber bottle, but who knows? I have brought beers up to the counter that were listed at on price but rang up for more on the register. But if you can get it for that price, it is a steal.

Another beer style that you don't get here often is Scotch Ale. You can get Mc Ewan's here, and Sam Adams makes one that you get in a mixed pack, though full six-packs of just Scotch Ale pop up now and then. Kelly's Brewpub on Central Ave also makes a beer of this style. Full Sail has brought Keelhauler into the mix as part of their Brewmaster's Reserve series. I've found this style to be a "love it or hate it" type, mostly to the band-aid like flavor that dominates many of the versions. Keelhauler is 6.8% abv, and priced right at $4.49. That's one thing I really like about Full Sail- they could label something as "Brewmaster's Reserve" and hike the price to 8 or 10 bucks, but they keep things reasonable at $4.49. Then again, not many people would pay 8 bucks for a band-aid.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

They Must Have Read my Last Post

And gotten scared of the competition from Albertsons, because Jubilation has expanded with a new, Albertsons-sized beer cooler. The assortment of beers in the cooler is reminiscent of a supermarket's selection as well. The door coolers along the south wall still hold the beer geekish varieties of 22s and six-packs, but the new open cooler has more of the everyday sixers, and a lot more 12-packs than they used to carry. Of course, I'd like to see nothing but craft beer on every wall, but this is a sound business decision. More people are buying the Corona, Stella and Bud brands than anything else. And Jubilation is not getting rid of all the beers we love; in fact, the huge new cooler makes room for more crafts in the doors...though I do wish they would get rid of the Great Divide Hercules that was bottled in November 2008. Don't buy that unless you want a DIPA with all the hop flavor faded to nothing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Our New Beer Hotspot- Albertsons???

Well, maybe in a pinch, but they certainly have stepped things up, at least at the Candelaria and Eubank location. Though surrounded by the looming stacks of Budweiser and Coors Light, craft beer still shines through on shelves in the Albertsons liquor department. Stone IPA, Sam Adams Imperial Stout and Imperial White, Big Sky and Left Hand mixed 12-packs (and the Left Hand includes Milk Stout, which was unavailable here for the last couple of years), and a small selection of bombers. The bombers are quality, though, with Arrogant Bastard, Juju Ginger, Widmer's Double Alt, and Unibroue's Maudite. So while this may be a baby step towards what our speciality liquor stores carry, it is still a step above the choices most supermarkets carry, and much better than what liquor stores in Mississippi carry!

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Casket for the Cask

Raise your glass and say farewell to cask-conditioned Fridays at Oniell's Pub. Though a good idea, people in this town would rather wait for approval from a doorman to get inside the velvet ropes at Imbibe or Sauce rather than drink good beer (the gentlemen pictured are the type I am thinking of, though I snapped it in Chicago's Millennium Park). And that's ok, everyone,s got their own thing, but my thing is beer and I say we need more of a beer scene here. I always think that I want to open a craft beer bar after seeing how well some do in other places, but I just don't think we are ready. Places that brew their own do great here, but rotating tap places don't get the love.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It Pays to go Local

When we finally mustered up the energy to leave our hotel room and hit the bars, we found ourselves faced with a tough choice: visit the Applebee's near our hotel, or drive 15 miles to check out the newest great beer bar to open in Philadelphia in the past 6 months: Local 44. Hmmm...signature cocktails served in a garage sale atmosphere or 20 taps of the best craft beers served in...who cares! With a tap list like they had, I would be happy to drink the beer in the most piss-infested subway stop on the Broad Street Line. Thankfully, Local 44 has fully functioning bathrooms as well as a welcoming atmosphere, and the bartender was an added bonus.

When we lived in Philly a few years ago, our neighborhood had NO bars that had any craft beers, unless you consider Heineken craft. Plus the atmosphere at the Triangle Tavern (Cher dance hits blasting out of the jukebox) and Big Charlie's Saloon (closed-circuit TV horse race betting) just weren't our thing. Of course, now that we have moved away, there are a number of choices in our old stomping grounds, but back then we would always end up at McGillin's or Moriarty's. Moriarty's is where we became familiar with, and then friends with a regular bartender there, Nathan. He always took prompt care of us, which is important to a guy like me who starts shaking when his beer gets less than half full. So it was a pleasant surprise when we saddled up to Local 44's bar and Nathan was behind the bar there! We enjoyed some Russian River Blind Pig IPA and casked Victory Hop Wallop DIPA and caught up on things with Nathan. The crowd was friendly too, which can be a rarity in some Philly bars. Sometimes you find a place that has good beers but Patsy Cline will be blaring over the speakers and the patrons all stare morosely into their glasses. Not so at Local 44. Mark this place down as a must visit when you are in Philadelphia.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I've Got a Fever...

And a clanging cowbell will only piss me off. What I have is Philadelphia fever, and not the kind that Elton John sings about, either. Wait, that was Philadelphia Freedom. It sounds like he says fever to me, but Jenn says it's just because I am stupid. Probably true but either way, the song sucks. Anyway, I need to drink some Philly locals and beers that can't be had in Abq, and Philadelphia has some of the best distribution in the country. And though we have a city full of bars to choose from, since we got up at 5:30 this morning and just checked into our hotel here at 9 pm, going out on the town just isn't happening. At least tonight. Tonight we are hitting the "Wet Bar" in our hotel sink and starting fresh tomorrow. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fairest of Them All? Not in Price!

The best of the Deschutes beer releases comes from their "Bond Street" series, which includes Hop Henge DIPA, Black Butte XX Imperial Porter, and The Abyss, which all were distributed for the first time in Albuquerque this past year. Mirror Mirror is the last of the Bond Street beers to make an appearance here, and with much hype surrounding it. It is an adult version of their popular Mirror Pond Pale Ale, meaning that the recipe has been amped from a 5% yawner up to the point that this is a barleywine, and 11% abv to boot. Sneak this into an Isotopes game for a nice Summer sipper! Mirror Mirror is priced like a big beer, at $11.99 a bomber. Ouch. This hobby is getting too damn expensive for me. I'm gonna start collecting toothpicks. I haven't tried the beer yet, but will probably drink one soon and age another for a few years. Either that or I will put it on display next to the Hope Diamond. I should have aged the Black Butte XX I had, but was too eager and drank it young. That's ok, I have a friend who has one and know exactly where in the fridge it lays waiting for me...don't leave the house! Don't even sleep, cause I'm coming for it!