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 Appétit 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:

An alternate link to watch within the Ustream platform:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guess I'll Skip Halloween and Thanksgiving... 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 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 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 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 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:

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Albuquerque Hopfest: Drinking to Your Health!

Get you drinking shoes on once again, as the second annual Albuquerque Hopfest returns on Friday, October 16. The event, held once again in the parking lot next to JC's NYPD Pizza, will start the beers pouring at 6:00 pm, though you may enter at 5:30 and stare hungrily at the taps until 6. Then you will have three hours to get your fill of beer poured by seventeen different breweries! I know the Hopfest flyer promises fourteen breweries, but my list has seventeen: Sierra Nevada, Pyramid, Marble, Rogue, Rio Grande, Full Sail, Beamish, Anchor, Murphy's, Boulder, Gordon Biersch, New Belgium, Steamworks, Big Sky, Stone, Left Hand, and Deschutes. That's a respectable list of breweries. Let's hope they bring some exciting stuff. Tickets are $30, which gets you all the samples you want, plus there will be live music from four bands:La Junta, the 2Bers, One Foundation, and Drop Steady Rockers. Um...did I mention beer from seventeen differrent breweries? The best part of all this is that the proceeds from Hopfest go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I'd give $30 just as a donation without expecting anything. On the 16th, you get to drink all you care to (and don't forget about those bands!), and take pride in knowing that you are drinking for a great cause. I'll see you there!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Where've I Been All Your Life???

Man, it's been a few since I last updated, huh? Sorry, but I had to take care of some non-beer related stuff (no jail, not even probation, I promise), and I'm back at the keyboard now. Rejoice.

I know I still have plenty of GABF stories to catch you up on, but I first want to let you know of the October 14 "Ultimate Beer Dinner" at Savoy Bar and Grill (10601 Montgomery, between Morris and Juan Tabo), starting at 6:30. "Ultimate" may be a misnomer because I don't see how it can be an "ultimate" beer dinner without me there. I have already promised my pocket change to the NM Brewers Guild Golf Tournament that goes on a few days after the Savoy dinner. And while the price of the beer dinner is a healthy chunk of pocket change at $65 per person (what do you expect, it's Savoy- that place looks fancy from the outside, I've always said), the beer list is quite impressive. And big, ABV-wise. This is the kind of beer dinner you may want to have a designated driver for: Five courses of beer (and food, if you care), starting off with Big Sky's Smoove Cherry (8.75%)! When have you ever had Smoove Cherry at a beer dinner? When have you had Smoove Cherry, period?? I only recently tried it at a rare beer tasting, myself. And you get that at the "reception" part of the dinner, which is where you get to mingle with the hob-nobbers and eat foie gras! La Folie, Old Boardhead (don't know which vintage), Chico Estate (hops and barley all grown and harvested by Sierra Nevada), and Stone Sublimely Self Righteous all follow, along with dishes that complement each beer. Some of these beers are in double digit price territory for 22 oz. bottles (La Folie goes for $15), so the $65 for all these beers together PLUS five gourmet food courses (at least it smells gourmet; I rode my bike by and it smelled really good) is a good deal! Also, these beer dinners help open the eyes of people who normally would only be drinking wine, and help increase the demand for better beer in Albuquerque, which benefits us all! Show your support for the ABQ beer scene and get stuffed as well! Go to to secure your seat- there are only 27 seats available!

Ultimate Beer Dinner
Wednesday, Oct. 14th - 6:30pm


Prosciutto Wrapped Goat Cheese & Cranberry Chutney

Foie Gras Terrine & Brioche Toast

House Mustard Beef Tenderloin Satay & Melted Brie Cheese

Big Sky Brewing Smoove Cherry Ale

Seated Dinner

Honey-Porter Glazed Baby Back Ribs

organic apple & butter lettuce salad, toasted almonds,

tart cherry-balsamic vinaigrette

New Belgium La Folie Sour Brown Ale

Roasted Kona Kampachi

rosemary-duck confit potatoes, autumn squash,

preserved lemon

Sierra Nevada Chico Estate Harvest Pale Ale

Cheese Cambozola & San Joaquin Gold

red wine pear jelly, smokey crisp flatbread

Full Sail Old Boardhead Barelywine


Three Citrus Crème Brûlé

chocolate dipped pistachio biscotti

Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Double IPA

$65 per person, not including tax or gratuity