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


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!