Monday, September 28, 2009

Local Boys Shine at GABF!

I have to jump around in my coverage of the Great American Beer Festival to give you the exciting news from the awards ceremony:

First, Rio Rancho homebrewer Ben Miller has won the Samuel Adams Longshot competition with his Mile High Barleywine. Longshot pits amateur brewers across the country (over 1,000 this year)against each other in a quest to find the most talented, of which we just happen to have one of the best right here in New Mexico. For his accomplishment, Ben gets his Barleywine bottled and included in the 2010 Longshot Mixed Pack, which is available nationwide. Or should be. We were skipped over in the 2009 distribution, but we damn sure should get it in Albuquerque this time!

As great a start Ben had on the day, by the end of it all other homebrewers may have either bowed before him, or just quit entering competitions against him. This is because the GABF judges deemed Ben and Chama River brewer Jeff Erway's Herbal Joe's Columbarillo IPA the GOLD Medal winner out of the 72 entries in the Pro-Am Category! So two huge awards for Ben before 1:30 pm. All I had done by that time was spend $3.75 on a soft pretzel.

Jeff Erway wasn't finished for the day, either. Chama's Sleeping dog Stout won a BRONZE in the Oatmeal Stout category. This beer has deservedly won multiple awards over the years, including the Abqbeergeek Blackout Stout Challenge. While the prestige gained from winning our website's challenge is high on most brewers' lists, I imagine Jeff was quite proud of this achievement as well. Notice his brother Kevin(pictured in the background) holding a Gatorade bottle. I was going to make fun of him here for drinking something other than beer at a festival with the most beers in the world under one roof. I was, until I remember that I was clutching Starbucks coffee for the majority of the awards ceremony. Hey, I'll admit that the GABF separates the big and little dogs when it comes to prolonged beer drinking, but I had to cover the event with a semblance of sobriety.

Our parade of champions from New Mexico concluded with Il Vicino taking a SILVER medal in the Aged Beer category for their St. Bob's Imperial Stout. I took a picture of the projection screen at the ceremony because there was nobody from Il Vicino there to accept the award. From what I understand, Il Vicino ownership decided to let the volunteers at the GABF do all the serving without a brewery rep on hand. Though it is normal for volunteers to staff the booths and do much of the pouring, it is nice to have the opportunity to talk to the people who actually brewed the beer you are trying. It is also nice for the brewers to go to Denver, show off their wares, and hit the events going on in town. Maybe the Il Vicino guys earned a trip to next year's event with their medal here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

2009 Great American Beer Fest- Night 1, Part 1

I wanted to call it "Albuquerque Takes on the World", but since this fest is for U.S. breweries only, that title wouldn't fit. So here you have it- the generically titled, but no less exciting, "Great American Beer Fest 2009- Night 1"!

With the ever-so-helpful Media Badges around our necks, we were able to circumvent the line that snaked around the entire convention center, and go through the media/brewers entrance. Not being in the public line meant we did not get to participate in "The Wave", but we all have to make sacrifices now and then. Also, getting in a different entrance meant getting in earlier than the public, so it gave us a chance to walk around and get a feel for what our Albuquerque brewers had to do to get ready for the onslaught.

For instance: here we have Jeff Erway, obviously frightened at the thought of what he is about to face. Nah, Jeff has been through this for five straight years, and I would imagine that the only thing that scares him about the GABF is the mornings after serving all night, with a good amount of those servings going to himself.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brewers Love That Free Food!

It's true! Put a nice spread out and watch the brewers flock like ants at a picnic. Their only natural enemies are the wannabee journalists like myself, who will stand elbow to elbow with them in a fight to empty the chafing dishes first. That was the case Wednesday night at Wynkoop Brewery, where the annual pre-GABF Brewers' Gathering took place.

Thanks to Jeff Erway of Chama River, Jenn and I were able to partake in the event, along with a few hundred others who quickly packed the three floors of Wynkoop. Free beer from twenty breweries, including Deschutes, Avery, Green Flash, and Alesmith, among others, were being poured almost as fast as I was trying them. It's only the first night, I told myself; take it easy. Well, it was easy; easy to drink all those wonderful beers!

Since I vowed to take it easy, we moved onto the Falling Rock Tap House to keep the trend of not taking my own best advice alive. We met up with the New Mexico contingent of Jeff Erway, Brad Kraus (Blue Corn), and Daniel Jaramillo (Marble), who were busy drinking any Russian River beers offered. I followed their lead and drank some Pliny the Elder and Temptation, and watched all of Denver eventually fill the bar as the night grew later. When I had to push people away just to take a breath, I knew it was time for us to leave. It wasn't even 10:30 yet, but we headed back to our hotel anyway. After all, we had to take it easy on the first night.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Just Arrived in Denver...

for the Great American Beer Fest! What a ride up here- it was snowing like crazy outside of Colorado Springs, raining everywhere else. Luckily it is clearing up now in Denver. We are on the top floor of our hotel, and should have a nice view of the Rockies once the clouds disappear. We have a Brewers Dinner to attend at Wynkoop tonight (Wednesday), and the fest starts tomorrow! I will post as many updates as I can whenever I am seeing straight!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Septemberfest was Sehr Gut, Danke!

I always knew that those two years of German I took back in high school would eventually pay off. I had the chance to take Spanish, but thought, "When would I ever need that?". Smart guy.

Marble held its second Septemberfest on Saturday (sorry for the guy who bet it was the seventh annual), with festivities kicking off at noon. Jenn somehow talked me into not going until 2, and it was hard for me to concentrate on anything beforehand. I could barely eat lunch, though I knew I had to face the event on a full stomach. With 11 breweries (no Abbey Brewing- they must have been home, praying for us) pouring 45 beers, this was not your typical kids' beer fest.

We arrived via our safe ride (i.e. family) at 2 as planned, at which point I left Jenn in the dust, with faint cries of, "Why the HELL don't you wait for me!!!???" barely registering in my ears. I stopped short when I saw the chain link fence surrounding Marble's parking lot- was this a Swine Flu quarantine? Once I saw people happily going through the entrance I felt safer. This was Septemberfest, after all, and the patio wasn't going to be enough to hold all the people. And they have to have a boundary, lest the drunk, dancing hippies spin out of control into the street. So I ended up feeling more like one of Hogan's Heros once I passed into the fenced-in area. The beers were being poured under tents on the perimeter on the lot, with the rest of the space used for seating, which was already half-full upon our arrival.

The samples were filling up as well, as the brewers and volunteers were working at a rapid pace to keep up with demand. The samples were being served in one-ounce portions, cups so small that even a steady hand would have a hard time not spilling every other drop of beer. I personally would have gotten pissed off after and minutes and would have been drinking samples as fast as I was pouring them. That would lead me to become even more pissed off because once I was drunk, there would be very little chance of those cups getting filled properly. See, there is a good reason why I don't volunteer for these events. Knowing your limitations is very important.

I felt like we got there at the hottest time of the day, and I was wishing that I had followed through on my threat of wearing a half-shirt. After hitting up Il Vicino (and saddened to find out that Elsa's Hop Elixir had already been tapped and finished- thanks, Jenn) for some Schwarzbier and Doppelbock to start things off German style, we took respite under Marble's tent for some From the Wood #2 and Albuquerque Sour. Between a few Wood and Dopplebock samples, with a generous portion of Second Street's IPA and Cream Stout tossed down as well, the strong beers were beginning to take an early effect.

So we moved on to try a much talked about, and much needed, lower-alcohol Atomic Blonde Pils from Blue Corn. I also had the pleasure of talking to two of the legends of the beer community, Brad Kraus (pictured, at left), and Stan Hieronymus (pictured, right). Brad was brewing in Albuquerque way before it was cool, having been the head brewer at the old Rio Bravo Brewpub back in 1996. Anyone remember that place, on Central near 6th. It has been a number of things since, like a dance club that closes every other week because of a shooting or stabbing. Brad has also brewed for Santa Fe and Wolf Canyon, and is a certified Master Beer Judge. Now you get to taste his wares at Blue Corn, and his Atomic Blonde was a welcome refresher that you can get at the brewery anytime. His Green Dream Harvest Ale is a seasonal that was available at the event, and "green" is an apropos word to describe it. It smelled green in a way that would have had Nancy Reagan close the event down, had she smelled it. That's my great description. I should have asked Stan Hieronymus for a better description- after all, this is the man who wrote Brew Like a Monk, the definitive guide to brewing Belgian styles, and co-authored The Beer Lover's Guide to the USA. He also is a frequent contributor to All About Beer magazine and other publications. And he lives right here in New Mexico. See how lucky you are? You've got Brad, Stan, and, uh, me- in your own state!

The day was winding down, but the crowds kept on coming. Feeling a second wind, we shuffled over to get some beers from Farmington's 3 Rivers Brewery. The Mother's Milk Stout and Double Barrel Amber (imperial amber) were my favorites. At Santa Fe, The State Pen Porter and Yippee DIPA stood out, the latter surprisingly so because that beer was brewed only once, and has been out for a long time now, at least in IPA years. But the beer was still hop-forward, and Santa Fe was selling the 25 oz. bottles of Yippee and State Pen Imperial Porter for $5.00, half off the normal rate. Great deal, though I heard the price went up as the night went on. That's a good strategy, because as we drink more, we are tempted to spend more or do things we normally would not. For instance, I found myself drinking some Rio Grande Pancho Verde green chile beer.

I thought maybe I had been drinking too much when I spotted the guy wearing the lederhosen. Then I figured I wasn't drinking enough. He was real, all right. Must have read the previous post and wanted in on the haute couture action. At that point, I really wished I had done the half-shirt thing. I also wished for a Dr. Strangehop, and some Chama Red, and some Chama Oktoberfest, and how's about some Awakened Dog Stout (Sleeping Dog with a pound of Ethiopian coffee in the brew). And I had them all- this is Septemberfest, where all your dreams come true, and a man in lederhosen brings you the beer on a silver platter. I also got to try Turtle Mountain's Hoptimus DIPA before the keg kicked. Then I think I remember an Il Vicino Wet Mountain IPA pint somewhere. Then I stopped thinking, I think.

Before I knew it, Septemberfest was over, and the place was being dismantled like a prohibition-era bar with a tip that the feds were wise to it. That was our cue to hop in a cab and head home (and what a coincidence- the driver was the same guy who drove us home from the IPA Challenge. I'm sure we've made a great impression both times). I think to truly appreciate one of these fests, you need to look beyond the beers and appreciate how much work all the brewers, brewery workers and volunteers put into the event. Everyone who was a part of this did a fantastic job, and I thank you for making it a great day for us!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

They Say Lederhosen, I Say Half-Shirts

Ok gang, I know you have been waiting for information on Marble's Septemberfest. I wanted to get you more specifics from Marble earlier, but things have been hectic over there this week. In fact, I got a text from Head Brewer Ted Rice- turns out he has been in Germany right now, and will be getting home this evening. But Marble's Jeff Taylor was able to come through with info, and here's what we've got: You probably know the basics of the fest already:
Saturday, Sept. 19 at Marble Brewery
Noon-8 pm
$20.00 fee
It should be a heck of a party. Just the fact that I will be there makes it a party though, right? I'll wear a half-shirt, "beer goggles" brand sunglasses, and a hardhat that holds two cans of beer. Once you get that lovely sight out of your heads, think of this: Il Vicino's Doppelbock, Schwarzbier, Rye Pale Ale, and Elsa's Hop Elixir. Or Chama River's Octoberfest, My Nightly Pils, Dr. Strangehop, March Hare, and casked Jackalope IPA with DeSmet hops. And that is just what two of the TWELVE breweries are bringing. I don't have info on what every brewery is bringing, but here is the rest of the participants, with beers offered in parentheses: Abbey Brewing (No info, but I only know of one beer they make-Monk's Ale); Sierra Blanca (Alien Amber); Rio Grande (IPA, Pancho Verde Chile, Outlaw Lager); Santa Fe (Hefeweizen, Pale Ale, State Pen Porter, Yippee DIPA); Turtle Mountain (Hoptimus DIPA, Independence IPA, Ol' Brown Eyes, Oktoberfest, American Wheat); 3 Rivers (Papa Bear's Golden Honey Ale, Atomic Pale Ale, Mother's Milk Stout, Double Barrel Amber); Blue Corn (40K Wheat, Pale Ale); Second Street, Isotopes Brewing, and, of course, host Marble Brewery will all have multiple beers for you to sample. The best part...UNLIMITED SAMPLES!!! Though I'm looking again at what all these breweries are bringing, and I don't know how I will be able to drink more than just a few of the samples! If that wasn't enough to get you downtown, you also get two pints, and a souvenir glass to drink them out of.

Septemberfest falls on the same day that the Munich Oktoberfest officially taps that first keg of Spaten, and honestly, I would rather be here. Yeah, I said it. I have been to Oktoberfest, and while it is a once in a lifetime experience, it is limited. There are only six breweries that participate, and there is only one style of beer: Marzen. There looks to be around 20 styles represented at Marble's Septemberfest, another factor that proves to me that we are the greatest brewing nation in the world! And it's not just the styles; it's the fact that there will be so many versions of great styles. My count is over 30 beers, and that's without knowing what beers four of the breweries are featuring! Impressive beer list notwithstanding, there will be far less than the million+ people who pack the halls at Oktoberfest. But the crowds will gather, from the four corners of the state and beyond. Marble is ready- they are expanding their outdoor seating, welcome news for any of us who have stood on the patio waiting for a seat, eyeing those people just about to finish their beers...are they getting another? No, they're leaving! Quick, grab that table! Now that should be alleviated a bit, as the seating area will now reach west almost to the grain silo. Unlimited samples (and three bands) may pack the house, but I guarantee there will be less lederhosen clad folks than you'll find in Munich on Saturday, so don't fear. I'll see you all there, resplendent in my mesh Abqbeergeek.com half-shirt. American fashion, baby!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dear CVS: You Have a Long Way To Go

If there is one thing we need more of in Albuquerque, it is big box pharmacy chains. Thankfully, CVS has stepped in and filled that void at Paseo and Tramway, San Mateo and Montgomery, and, as of Sunday, Eubank and Menaul. If shelves of ibuprofen aren't enough to get you in the doors (though on some morning afters, that sounds pretty good), the Eubank CVS sells beer.

But CVS has a long way to go if it wants to catch up with its biggest competitor, Walgreens. Though all the beers in stock are kept refrigerated, which is a plus, the beers are mostly of the Bud/Miller/Coors variety, with some Steel Reserve and Hurricane High Gravity malt liquors thrown in for variety. That is a far cry from Walgreens, where you can get Stone, Odell, Anchor, and Big Sky, to name a few, plus New Mexico varieties from Sierra Blanca and Santa Fe Brewing.

To be fair, CVS does stock beers leaning more towards the craft beer side. They have Sam Adams Boston Lager and Octoberfest, along with Shiner Bock, Blue Moon, Leinenkugel Wheat and New Belgium Fat Tire. Not enough to get you to cross the street yet? Neither will this: Fat Tire sells for $8.99 a six-pack at CVS! You can go a mile down the street to Kelly's on Wyoming and buy 12 Fat Tire beers for $11.99. And the high price trend doesn't stop there. $8.49 for Corona and Dos Equis sixers. $8.49 for Sam Adams. $7.99 for a 12-pack of Milwaukee's Best Ice...well, that's not half bad. But the beer is. I don't expect a convenience store to be world-class in the beer department, but if CVS wants to get a foot in the door that Walgreens already seems to have slammed shut in pharmacy competition, they could at least make an effort.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

NFL 2009! Beers and Tears, Anyone?

I've been waiting for Marble to get me some specifics about their upcoming Septemberfest so I could give y'all some info, but they have been a little slow in producing so that is why there has been a lag in posts the last few days. That, and I have been trying to decide which beer to open for the first game of FOOTBALL SEASON! We always try to start the season with something from the Philadelphia area, home of my lifelong frustration, the Eagles. But which beer is right for today? Do I go with the Victory Storm King? Nah, still too warm for an imperial stout like that. Sly Fox Christmas Ale? I can't; I said I was going to drink that on Christmas and I will. Maybe it's finally time to open that 2005 Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre that has been waiting patiently for me for so long, just as I have been waiting patiently for years for McNabb and the Eagles to win a Super Bowl. While my team may disappoint, my beer rarely does. Enjoy the season everybody!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Vertical Epic: The Numerologist's Delight

09/09/09- The day when the sky turns crimson, the seas boil, and Will Smith must again save the world from malicious aliens. And Transformers. And COBRA. And the Freemasons.

For the beer lovers, 09/09/09 means the release of Stone's Vertical Epic, a 22 oz. only annual release that varies yearly in style. The Vertical Epic line started 02/02/02, and will culminate 12/12/12, after which the world will end. The 02 and 03 versions have sold for hundreds of dollars, as people have been trying to fill their collections in order to do a vertical tasting of all the years, or make some big bucks by selling the collection to a crazy person. The beer is always a variation on a Belgian style- 07/07/07 was a Belgian Strong Ale, 08/08/08 a Belgian IPA. This year's is described as a Belgian Porter, which should be quite interesting as Porters are uncommon in the Belgian beer genre. The beer starts with the usual Belgian ingredient of candy sugar, then goes Stone-like with the addition of six different malts (including chocolate), vanilla bean, and tangerine peel. It is finished off with aging on French oak chips. The result is a 8.6% beer backed up with 50 IBUs, and should be a big seller throughout the year. Kelly's, Quarters, Jubilation, Whole Foods, and Sunflower all will have the beer at varying prices. I paid $6.99 at Jubilation. Vertical Epic 09/09/09- As Will Smith would say, "Welcome to Earth!"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Marble Grows Up

Having already cornered all six-pack beer sales in Albuquerque, Marble Brewery has decided to go after the bombers as well. They have released their best selling IPA and new Double White in 22 oz. bottles. Marble's Jeff Taylor tells me that they actually have labels for all beers in their regular tap lineup, and the plans are to bottle all of their beers once new equipment has been procured. I guess it's hard to push harder when you are already brewing beyond capacity, huh? Marble also will release their Double IPA once the new crop of hops arrive. Jeff says they are awaiting the new hops in order to "Make a super-dank Double IPA". I like the way you think, Jeff. So far I have only seen the 22s at Jubilation, but Jeff tells me Whole Foods has them as well. $5.99 gets you one of these bombers. Nice knowing all you other brands!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Plenty of Pours, Plenty of FORE!!!!!s

It's that time of year! ARE YOU READY FOR SOME....golf??? Well, sure you are!!! The 2nd Annual New Mexico Brewers Guild Golf Tournament is taking place on Saturday, October 17. Desert Greens Golf Course (10035 Country Club Ln. NW) is hosting the tournament this year. Do they know what they are in for? I imagine a scene like caddie's day at the Bushwood Country Club in Caddyshack! The shotgun start (each foursome starts on a different hole) is set for 1 pm. Good, you can still drink your fill the night before and be ready for more come tee time. And there will be more! The $90 per golfer entry fee includes range balls, greens fees, cart, burgers/chips, and best of all, BEER from our local breweries! But act fast, as the fee goes up to $100 come Oct. 1st. So you are free to enter on your own, or get three of your best duffers to sign up with you as a team for $360. I'm in for sure!

videoI just have to get Marcus (featured in video) and a couple other secret weapons to cough up the fee. The tournament really looks to be a day worth remembering- prizes and awards will be bestowed, and contests will be featured as well. Hopefully the contests will be the "Closest to the pin" kind and not "Chug a pitcher of Hopgoblin IPL and drive your cart into a pond". For all you CEOs reading this (c'mon, you're not all swirling the ice cubes in your scotch like in the movies- you love great beer too!), sponsorship of various levels is available. Get your name out there and come golf at the same time. think of this scenario: You are on the 9th tee, and the client you are golfing with says, "Hey, that's your company's banner!". You look over and say nonchalantly, "Oh, yes. I sponsor this tournament. This is my hole.", and proudly whack a 280 yarder down the center. What a feeling. I wonder if I can sponsor the port-a-potties. Or at least a tree for guys to pee on.

This tournament is being held to get a world class Beer Festival launched in New Mexico in 2010 and keep it going yearly. YOU can help make this happen. Let's all put us on the beer map where we belong! To get an entry form, download from my link at: http://rapidshare.com/files/275371336/Entry_Form_Draft_3.doc | 41 KB. You can also get it from your local brewery or download at www.nmbeer.org , the website of the NM Brewers Guild. You can mail or directly deliver your payment (cash or checks only, no credit cards, deadline Oct. 7) to: NMBG Golf Tournament c/o Il Vicino Brewing Co. 4000-A Vassar, NE Albuquerque, NM 87107 To contact Tournament Director Jake Skinner (of Il Vicino fame) with questions, email him at NMBGgolf@live.com or call him at (505)263-4349. I'll provide the broken clubs. See you there!