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!