Friday, December 31, 2010

Wake Up Like Me

Left Hand Brewing has sent their new barrel-aged Imperial Stout down our way,and I think they named the beer in honor of the way I feel every morning. Wake Up Dead is the name of this 10.2%, 22 oz. Stout that retails for $8.99 at both Kelly Liquors and Jubilation. I tried this beer last night, and I have to say I didn't get a whole lot out of it. A little thin in the mouthfeel, not roasty at all, a lot of dark cherry taste. I wonder what kind of barrels this beer was aged in- after all, the bottle doesn't specify "Bourbon", "Cabernet", or "Pickle" barrel-aged. It may be more to your liking, so don't write this one off. I personally would go with their Fade to Black instead, this year's version a smoked Baltic Porter.

Also on shelves this week are Deschutes Hop Henge DIPA and The Abyss. I have written plenty about these beers in the past two years, so do a search if you want to read my past writeups. Not much has changed, and I'm feeling lazy on this New Year's Eve. I will tell you that The Abyss is always a must-buy. I will also tell you to please enjoy your New Year's Eve safely and with good beer. I'm not sure what I will be drinking tonight, though I know we will be toasting with the Sam Adams Infinum at midnight at some party. I don't know the people hosting the party or most of the people attending, so I may be huddled in a corner, chugging my stash of beer. If you see me, please say hi. And give me a ride home- I don't feel like paying for a cab.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rain: The San Francisco Treat

Sure, the rain and fog makes the bridge look cool, but I paid good money for this trip so I expected better weather. I wasn't expecting San Diego weather, but I was hoping to walk around San Francisco. Instead, we spent a good part of the second day of the vacation in a Whole Foods and mall in Santa Rosa.

It takes more than organic produce to get me excited, and this Whole Foods has a tap room with 16 beers on draft; eight were dedicated to a Lagunitas tasting happening later that afternoon. They also had a nice variety of beer in the coolers with great prices on the local Russian River beers. And this particular Whole Foods must have known I was coming- they had signs all around the hot food and soup bar that stated, "Please do not take samples. Ask a Team Member for sample assistance." Message not heeded.

The adjoining Coddington Mall was a much better fit to my level of class. This place had buckets all over tho catch the rain leaking in through the crappy ceiling. It was sad an laughable at the same time. I made eye contact with the poor employee in the empty hot tub store, his look imploring either, "Kill me, please!" or, "Bring me some of them Whole Foods samples!" We decided that the mall was not the best place to spend a vacation, and headed back south to San Francisco.

The plan for that night was a visit to the famous Toronado bar on Haight St. Since we had such good luck with the Travelodge in Santa Rosa, I figured that booking a room at another would be a great idea, at least for the reason that it was the closest hotel to Toronado. And it wasn't a bad walk to the bar, even though it was raining on us the whole time. I was too excited at the prospect of the Toronado, jumping around in puddles like I was Gene Kelly. The bar was fairly crowded when we arrived in our soggy state, but we grabbed a table across from the taps. The draft lineup was a bit disappointing for a hop head like myself, though the Drake's Jolly Roger Imperial Red on tap was excellent. Many of the other taps were dedicated to Winter Warmers, though I did get the rare opportunity to drink a draft Avec les Bons Voeux, and at the happy hour price of only $8.50 a glass! And the taps may not have been all I could have hoped for, but I would have been happier sleeping on a couch there then what awaited us...

The picture really tells you all you need to know about this shithole excuse for a hotel, but I'll tell you more anyway. It's cathartic. The TV had twenty channels, four of which were PBS, one C-Span, one public access, and one City College Educational Access channel. But who can watch TV when the power in your room has gone off NINE times in two hours??? And who needs TV to entertain them when you've got a downstairs neighbor guest outside her room screaming because her crackhead boyfriend overdosed or drowned in the toilet or whatever else brought the ambulance in the middle of the night. Apparently, he was ok at that time. Not sure what happened to him around dawn, when his girlfriend woke me up with her banging an yelling at her door because he wouldn't/was too dead to let her back in the room. For 40 minutes, all I could hear was, "Mike! BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM!" on her door. That went along well with the deluxe "Heat fan" in our room that really did wonders for my sore throat and cold. As in I wonders how I survived this night. We swore off cheap hotels forever, vowing to make entire meals out of Whole Foods samples if that is what it would take to stay in nicer places. But that was before day 3 of the trip...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to All

Except my friends eating at Chinese restaurants today. You know who you are. Hopefully everyone has the proper Christmas cheer picked out to drink today. I decided to go with Midnight Sun's CoHoHo! Imperial IPA, brewed with brown sugar, honey, and juniper berries. Sounds like a good choice. If it sucks, I'll just dump it and break out something else. Nothing like a holiday to give me an excuse to open beers I have been saving for no good reason. As always, I thank you for reading, and I hope you have/have had a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

San Fransicko, Day 1

Hello again, all you happy people. Sorry for the excessive absence. A combination of this trip to San Francisco and catching a minor bug had me feeling less than motivated. That's even less than my normal state of "less than motivated", which means I have been just about comatose this week. So. There's the Golden Gate Bridge, which means we were able to actually leave the San Fran airport. They don't make it easy on you. We had to the train and go allll the way around the airport to get to the rental car section, only to get fitted with a Kia Rio: Lawnmower engine, no power anything edition. Then we had to drive all the way through the actual city to reach the bridge, which wouldn't be a bad thing since it is such an interesting place, but the first day's destination couldn't wait: Russian River Brewery!

Long hailed as one of the greatest breweries in the country, Russian River sits about an hour north of San Fran in the city of Santa Rosa. It's a pretty drive between the two cities, one that even a Kia Rio couldn't ruin. Once we got into town, I was once again reminded why it is wrong to book travel accommodations while drunk. My careful planning involved booking the closest hotel in walking distance to the brewery, in this case the Travelodge, aka the Kia Rio of the hotel industry. Whatever, a motel where we were bound to use just to pass out that's less than a half-mile walk to Russian River seemed ideal. However, I accidentally booked us at the town's other Travelodge, which is a 1.8 mile walk. So off we trudged down Santa Rosa Avenue, passing scenic auto mechanic shops aplenty along the way.

The walk rewarded us in the end, though! We arrived at the bar during the busy happy hour but managed to grab a couple of front row bar seats anyway. I wasted no time in putting Omar the bartender to work, getting us a sampler of all 16 beers on tap that day. Those guys must get sick of constantly filling orders of samplers for beer tourists like us, evidenced by Omar's response when we ordered ours: "Nothing would give me more pleasure", he replied sarcastically. I liked him. The sampler included sours galore, aged in chardonnay, cabernet, and pinot barrels, and also one brewed with pluots, which I believe is the dog of Disney fame. Met some nice locals, and drank plenty of Pliny the Elder, Russian River's heralded DIPA. Picked up a growler of Pliny for good measure. Dropped over $100 at the bar, which makes that economy hotel choice look pretty smart after all. And we took a 1957 Chevy cab back to said hotel. Who knew that this budget motel would turn out to be one of the nicer ones we stayed in during the trip? It only gets worse from here! To be continued...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Marble's Got a Present For You

No, this picture is not a screencap of the new Laverne and Shirley show. What you see is a behind the scenes look at the bottling of this year's Marble Reserve, the brewery's most limited release. This highly anticipated beer is a blend where half of the beer spent months maturing in bourbon barrels. Creator and brewer Ted Rice says the 9% beer can't really be pegged into a certain style, but describes the finished product as an amber to brown-hued brew that captures and accentuates the vanilla and oak characteristics from the barrel aging. The proud papa is personally numbering and signing each of the (only!)1956 22 oz. bottles produced. The bottles will have wax around the cap and should be on local shelves (and for sale at Marble) any day now! Expect this extremely rare treat to retail for around $12, but don't expect it to be around long!

Monday, December 13, 2010

To Infinum and Beyond!

But with the price tag for this new beer, you may have to save up a little while before you can afford the beyond part. Samuel Adams and Weihenstephan, purportedly the world's oldest brewery, have teamed up to create a new beer, Infinum. An expensive beer. A 10.5% ABV beer that may be a good New Year's Eve replacement for those of you who don't want champagne (me). The beer is described as champagne-like. Hope that it tastes more like beer than Korbel, considering I spent $20 bucks on it. The beer has also been described (by the eager guy at the beer store) as, "You like Belgium style (sic) beers? It's kind of like that, but not really." Well, I'm sold!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Like Portland, But With Sun

Ugh. What a night. First, there was Mel Pearson's annual Holiday Beer Tasting, which Ted Rice and Marble Brewery were gracious enough to host this year. Attendees brought Winter/Christmas/Rare/Whatever beers and shared the love. Ted tapped a fresh batch of Marble Reserve that had just come out of the wood. Only thing that was missing was mistletoe- though the only thing that would want to touch my lips is a breathalyzer.

Next, it was on to the pre-opening night at our city's newest brewery: La Cumbre. The fruition of former Chama River brewer Jeff Erway's dream is coming true as I write this, as the brewery is now open for business. Located at 3313 Girard (off of Candelaria), La Cumbre offers seven beers on tap (with cask beers in the future) in a two floor setting. I sampled all the beers last night, and then some. It was free, after all. I'm not just taking a dainty sip off a five ounce taster and calling it a night. Highlights for me were the Elevated IPA and the South Peak Pilsner.

Here's the brewer himself, begging me for a taste of my samplers. No way, La Cumbre! We as craft beer lovers are in a great position in Albuquerque, as breweries are opening up even as our economy sucks. Marble, Chama River,ABQ Brew Pub, Hallenbrick, Turtle Mountain, La Cumbre, soon the re-opening of Il Vicino; and future breweries Nexis, Bas Ass, Goat Head, with even more on the horizon. Please be sure to support your locals. While there is direct competition between all of them, they are all passionate about craft beer and proud of their products. Let's reward ALL the brewers' hard work. I think I will do my part by giving growlers of local beer as Christmas. Underage people will just get the empty glass.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How Much Land Does a Man Need?

I was in my local Smith's grocery store and gravitated over to the beer section. Nice selection for a grocery store, with Odell IPA, Ska Modus Hoperandi, Stone varieties, etc. But damn, looks like AmBev is now the "Official sponsor of Smith's beer section!" or something. Look at how much space that Bud Light is getting. I understand that it is America's number one selling beer, but save a little room for my Four Loko and Tequiza. How does Premier Distributing have the manpower to stock that much of their product in that many stores in town? I envision a 24 hour a day chain gang scenario where Premier has the entire population of Los Lunas as slaves in the freezing cold and snow, loading case after case of Bud Light into trucks.

Ok, this is just plain wrong. But they can't be stopped. Bud Light is now being sold as a "Micro brew". Whatever you say, masters! Any attempt to rebel will result in deportation to St. Louis to work at a bottle-washing facility. I'm nervous just writing this...and why is there a herd of Clydesdales coming down my street???

Friday, December 3, 2010

Colder But Warmers

I'm already sick of the cold weather. I don't understand my friends who welcome the season of numb extremities. Give me those summer nights when you can leisurely stroll around Nob Hill, not the winter nights where you have to mummify yourself and run from bar to bar. At least we get the Winter Warmer beers to counter the dreariness of these gray skies. And what's with the no sunshine? That's one thing I always liked about living here. It could be cold, but that constant sunshine allowed you to do things outdoors. From the looks of today, I may as well be in Buffalo, NY. Only thing that's missing is dirty slush. And a pro hockey team. I blame global warming and WikiLeaks. Pictured are just a sample of the Winter Warmers you can choose from this year. Let me think...I left out Hibernation from Great Divide, Jubelale from Deschutes, and Old Jubilation from Avery. I only got this picture because most were close to each other at Kelly Liquors. I'm not walking around the store grabbing beers and setting up a damn photoshoot, especially when my phone was the only photo equipment I had. I also left out the classic British import, Samuel Smith's Winter Warmer. Classic, but also bottled in clear glass. Get that one soon, before it starts tasting like blood pudding. Ew.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Double Black Attack

The Black IPAs have been increasing their presence on our local shelves, with Hop in the Dark, Sublimely Self-Righteous, Dogzilla, and Pitch Black having all shared cooler space. But none have been as big as the latest release in the Odell Mountain Standard Reserve series, Double Black IPA. This 9.5% beer was brewed with hops grown in Colorado, a state not known for a hop-friendly climate. The beer works, though. Odell knows their way around hoppy beers, and they don't let the roasted malts dominate. You will still taste the malt presence (the Black part of the name), of course, but the hops (Double IPA part of the seeing how this works yet?) still come through. The end result is a harmonious blend that makes Reese's jealous. This 25.4 oz. Mountain Standard Reserve release is not as pricey as previous beers in the series: $12.99 at Jubilation, $14.99 at Whole Foods on Carlisle.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I Got Lucky at Kelly's Last Night

And you can too! As long as you are 21 or older, Kelly will let you get Lucky for only $6.99. Try matching that price with the going rate on Central Avenue! Kelly Liquors on Wyoming is the first to carry the new Lucky Bastard from Stone Brewing. Lucky Bastard is a blend of Arrogant Bastard, Oak-Aged Arrogant Bastard, and Double Bastard. That's so many Bastards, even Wilt Chamberlain would be proud! The resulting beer comes out to be 8.5% ABV. Stone says this is a one-time brew, so get Lucky while you have the chance. Otherwise, you may find yourself sober and trolling Central for he/she's at 4 am.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You Think Homeless People Have it Bad??

Well, they do. I can't compare my Thanksgiving experience with theirs. But I do have this tale of woe to share:
This year, Thanksgiving happens to fall on my little brother's birthday, so my mom took the easy way out and decided that instead of cooking, she would let him pick a restaurant for our Thanksgiving meal.
He chose Golden Corral.
Golden Corral, where the South Valley and East Mountain elite meet to eat.
So I was able to have a globetrotting meal of turkey, spring rolls, and alfredo sauce. And cotton candy for dessert. Luckily, I have a second dinner to go to later at an actual house, where the the cooks aren't required to wear hair nets. I will be armed with a growler of Marble's Dark Holiday, though that is more for the other attendants than for myself. Responsible boy has to drive home from Rio Rancho afterwards. To keep with the poultry theme, I am going to open up Santa Fe's Kickin' Chicken Bourbon Barrel Barleywine. I have heard great reviews of the beer, and what better day to judge for myself?
I hope your Thanksgiving is joyous and buffet-free this year!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

99 Barrels of Beer on the Wall

While Marble may not have that many barrel-aged beers sitting in their brewery, they do have an impressive stash. And in the past week they have started tapping these rarities as part of the Archive Release series. They started with a keg of their Reserve, which didn't stand a chance of staying full long. The 2009 Winter Warmer disappeared soon after, and there may still be a chance you can get some of the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout that was put on tap on Sunday. With only one or two kegs of each of these styles, it is a real game of chance as to whether you are going to be able to try all of the releases. That's why I suggest camping out overnight on Marble's patio. I've see a pile of rags in the corner of the patio that may be some hippies who set up camp, waiting for the Squash Blossom Boys to perform when Marble brings back live music in the spring. If you don't have the fortitude to make a temporary home at Marble, don't lose hope: the beers are only served in 13 oz. glasses, meaning there are a possible 153 pours from an Archive Release. What will be the next beer tapped? What am I, the Amazing Kreskin? Could be a Barleywine, could be a Quad. I doubt it will be a Barrel-Aged Raspberry Wheat. Whatever is on tap is sure to make you happy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sierra Nevada's Grand Cru Finale

Sierra Nevada has released the final beer celebrating their 30th anniversary. The series began with Fritz and Ken's Ale, an Imperial Stout. Then came Charlie, Fred, and Ken's Bock. The third installment was Jack and Ken's Ale, which is a Barleywine. In the finale of the anniversary series, we finally get a beer without Ken's name in it: Our Brewers Reserve Grand Cru. The Grand Cru is a unique 78% blend of Sierra's Pale and Celebration ales, and 22% Oak-Aged Bigfoot Barleywine. See? Blending your beers is cool! They may not be blending their beer with Miller High Life, and I don't use the percentage ratio when I blend, but who knows? Sierra and Miller could be in talks for a 31st Anniversary collaboration. $9.99 gets you the 25 oz bottle with the fancy cork and the 9.2% blend inside.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Always the First to Bring You Last Week's News

I forgot to write about Stone's Double Bastard being released in town last week. I was busy planning and brewing my own beer. Next time I'll plan not to be chilling my wort at 2:30 in the morning while drunk. Double Bastard wasn't available everywhere last week. Jubilation was the first store to get it in (maybe they won a contest that rewarded them for carrying the most Stone non-beer merchandise in town), but other stores will have it this week. I've written about it the last two years upon release, and I don't really have much different to say this time around. Check the microfiche for back issues. The only significant changes this year are a jump in price, from $6.99 to $7.99 (though as I said, this was only at Jubilation), and the alcohol has increased from 10.5% to 11.2% ABV. I doubt the extra alcohol will be noticeable, and this beer has always been drinkable whether new or aged. Got my bottle to have fresh; just have to pick some up to throw in storage with the last few years' worth. If you go out searching for this one, you should try Sunflower market first. They always seem to sell Stone's limited release beers the cheapest.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Beer at the End of the Universe

Don't worry, this isn't going to be like an edition of Nova on PBS that sounds interesting at first then puts you to sleep. This will put you to sleep right away. For some reason, I was on the west side of Albuquerque, driving along Unser Blvd. Inexplicably, the road somehow morphed into Universe Blvd., which was much more fitting a name considering the area I was driving through. Have you seen Universe Blvd. around Tierra Pintada? There's like six blocks of houses to the west, then nothing. Just black. The world ends right there. Luckily, there is a new-ish Kelly Liquors to keep your spirits up if you have to be stuck in that part of the Universe.

This Kelly Liquors is only a couple of months old and is nice and bright, with craft beers greeting you on the left side of the store as you walk in. There are three coolers of beers that are almost all dedicated to the $9.99 make your own six-pack deal; beers like New Belgium and Full Sail. Another cooler offers beers like Ska, Stone, and Rogue for a more expensive $12.99, too rich for me but this is the last beer you can get west of the Mississippi... or until you get to Route 66 Casino. But why would you want to do that?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Marble Makes its Mark

Just a quick update: The latest edition of Draft Magazine lists our very own Marble Brewery's From the Wood as one of the "Top 25 Beers of 2010"! Congratulations to Ted, Daniel, and all the people you see hard at work back there in the brewhouse!

Beer: It's What's for Dinner

When the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra throws a fundraising dinner, they know better than to call on the cheapo wine snobs!
Gather your pennies and reserve your seat for Saturday, November 20, when O'Niell's Pub in Nob Hill will host a dinner to benefit our New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. The $75 ticket gets you four courses of food and SIX courses of Odell beer! Celtic Tiger Salad, Lamb Stew, Sirloin Steak, and Chocolate Celebration cake will pair up with Odell favorites 90 Shilling, 5 Barrel Pale Ale, Easy Street Wheat, Cutthroat Porter, the seasonal Isolation Ale, and the new and highly anticipated Mountain Standard Reserve Double Black IPA! I'm thinking about dressing as a busboy just so I can sneak in and try some of that. Where's a good busboy uniform store in this town? The dinner begins at 6 pm, and Odell rep Ryan Bogart will be on hand to talk about the beers while you drink them. Sounds like you get the better end of that deal. Visit to purchase your ticket to this very worthy event. The Reader's Digest writer in me wants to end the story with, "A beer dinner to benefit the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra? Now that's music to my ears!", while the me in me tells the Reader's Digest writer, "Shut UP, idiot! JUST. SHUT. UP!!!" That's better.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The shopping center at the southeast corner of Eubank and Montgomery ranks near the top of my least visited list. I don't clean enough ton need the services of the vacuum cleaner/ sewing machine repair shop, and I'm not old enough to eat at Long John Silver's yet. But I did swing by the area today after a tip from my friend Tony Calder. Seems there's a new brewery going in next to Lucky's Lounge, another place that doesn't draw me to that shopping center. In fact, after stopping in Lucky's to inquire whether they had any info on the new brewery, I think Lucky's should be renamed "Lucky if You Make it Out Alive". Bad Ass Brewery is the name of the new place, and you can read about it at Though it seems to be a small operation, it looks like it has some potential- at least from the beer names. With beers like "Tar Baby", "European Whore", and "In the Bush", how could this place not be a success? I am waiting to hear back from the owner and will get you an update on when you can expect your first European Whore. In the meantime, get yourself some fried clam strips from Long John Silver's.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Our Special Time of Year

I don't have many holiday traditions that I keep. One of the two I'd say I stick to the most is watching one of the less traditional Christmas movie on Christmas Eve, like Bad Santa. Haven't picked one out for this year- any suggestions? The other holiday tradition I keep involves buying Anchor Brewing's Our Special Ale, drinking a couple, and putting the rest away to age. I just picked up this year's version at Whole Foods on Wyoming. I only have bottles going back to 2006, and I think it would be near impossible to collect every edition of this holiday release- the beer has been coming out since 1975, way before they even invented Christmas. The recipe changes slightly every year, and so does the label artwork. Each year a variety of tree is depicted on the label, and this year's is the Ginkgo Biloba tree. Larry King will be pleased. The beer is a Winter Warmer that goes a little light in the "warmer" category, at only 5.5%. Our Special Ale retails for $10.99. I wonder how much it went for in 1975.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'd Say It was a Pretty Good Night

Central Waters Brewhouse Coffee Stout, Drake's Imperial Stout, Peche Mortel, Stone 2009 Imperial Russian Stout, 2009 Boulder Obovoid Imperial Stout. That wouldn't be a bad night of beer tasting. But those are the beers that didn't get opened on Saturday night at my house, where I hosted an Imperial Stout tasting.

The beers that we did try: 2008 Terrapin Coffee Oatmeal Stout, Bell's Expedition Stout, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Victory Storm King, 2006 Avery Mephistopheles, 2009 Port Older
Viscosity, Dark Horizon #2, Allagash Fluxus, Brewdog Rip Tide, HaandBryggeriet Dark Force, Mikkeller Black #2, 2008 Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, 2008 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Brew Dog Tokio, DFH World Wide Stout, 2008, 2009 Port Santa's Little Helper, Ballast Point Sea Monster, 2005, 2007 Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, 2008 Deschutes The Abyss, Gooose Island Night Stalker, 2009 Lost Abbey Serpent's Stout, Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout, Hoppin' Frog BORIS the Crusher, 2009 Big Sky Ivan the Terrible, 2009 Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, 2008 Schlafly Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout, 2008, 2009, 2010 Three Floyds Dark Lord, Surly Darkness. Oh, and homebrewed Imperial Maple Stout from Goat Head Brewing's Majin Garcia and Chocolate Imperial Stout from Sam Adams Longshot winner Ben Miller. Thanks to those guys and also Michael, Gabe, Mel, and Stan for bringing beers to share, and to everyone else who came and made it a great time...and ensured that I will be eating leftover brisket until next year's stout tasting!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kool and the Gang's Favorite is Here!

Just spotted at Kelly Liquors on Wyoming: My first sighting of 2010 Sierra Nevada Celebration! Celebration is Sierra's annual Winter release, though instead of making a spicy Winter Warmer, Sierra sticks to the good ol' American IPA style. Since it's Sierra Nevada, of course you are getting your Cascade hops, along with Chinook and Centennial. 65 IBS and 6.8% ABV may not make this a Winter Warmer in style, but you'll be feeling pretty warm after a few. The beer holds up surprisingly well over time, I've found. At Mel Pearson's Christmas tasting last year, I thought the 2008 was drinking better than the 2009. But you should definitely try it fresh. The price is reasonable at $7.99.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Things are a Little Slow...

But I gotta type something, dammit! The next great American novel isn't coming from this lame-brain, so I guess I will have to go with this latest Blue Moon release: Winter Abbey Ale. Sigh. Abbey ale my ass. Throw some Belgian candy sugar in a beer and it becomes a Belgian classic, I guess. To be fair, it is a new recipe this year, and I haven't tried it yet. But it stays at the same 5.6% ABV as previous years. Coors folks say it "Conjures up images of a snowy cabin in the woods". To me, it conjures up being stuck at a crackhead motel in Bayonne, NJ during a snowstorm and this being the best choice of beers available at the ShopRite down the street. And in that situation, I wouldn't have a problem with the $7.99 price tag. I'm sure the beer would be just fine. Keep this around to wow friends who don't know better and tell them you are sharing some "Belgian Abbey Ale" with them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

There Will be no Thanksgiving

Please, do not attempt to adjust your bifocals. The photo looks the way it does because my phone is a horrible photographer. I know the cliches about Christmas coming earlier and earlier are old jokes, but listen: a local radio station has already started with the 24 hours a day of Christmas music- the day after Halloween I thought that didn't happen till the day after Thanksgiving. While I can do without that, I have no problem with the Christmastime beers coming out now. Full Sail's Wreck the Halls is available at Jubilation, and you can shop there without worrying about Christmas music being played! Wreck the Halls is a hybrid Winter Warmer/ American IPA that packs 68 IBUs, thanks to the generous amount of Centennial hops added during the brewing and dry-hopping. 6.8% ABV; retail about $5.99. Or you can turn on the radio. I think the choice is clear.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Santa Fe Chokes the Chicken

Santa Fe Brewing has taken their Chicken Killer Barleywine and aged it in bourbon barrels for nine months, giving birth to Kickin' Chicken. Kickin' ups the ABV from Chicken Killer's already substantial 10% up to 12%. I think the labels are printed wrong, though. They call the beer "Kickin Chicken", without the apostrophe after Kickin', though they spell it right on the description on the side of the bottle. This shouldn't affect your enjoyment of the beer, unless you have some serious punctuation hangups. I resolved mine through counseling. I haven't tried this beer yet, but I am already a fan simply because of the price: $4.99 at Mountain Run Kelly Liquors! A 12% ABV beer for that price is unheard of...wonder if it was mispriced? I wasn't about to question the price, especially since that is the same location where they wouldn't sell me a beer for the price marked on the bottle. Things have improved greatly there since then.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Schwarzbier is the New Black

One of the classic examples of the Schwarzbier, or Black Lager style, has arrived in Albuquerque. Kostritzer Schwarzbier is a great choice when you want to drink more than ten beers but don't want to feel loopy. Though only 4.8% ABV, it is flavorful with roasted malts and a smoooove mouthfeel. It comes from the home of the Schwarzbier: Germany. I drank it my first night ever in Germany, though at the time I didn't know of the beer. Very happy to see it available here. $3.49 for a 16.9 oz. bottle, seen at Kelly Liquors at Mountain Run.

Another beer on the dark end of the color spectrum, but nothing like a Black Lager, is Rogue's Double Chocolate
Stout. This is an 8% Imperial Stout based on Rogue's popular Chocolate Stout and certainly lives up to the chocolate part of its name. This is a good one to share, as the chocolate is a little too much for me, at least, to finish a whole 25 oz. myself. Great for chocolate lovers, though, and at 50 IBUs will not overpower with bitterness. Sweet is definitely the star in this one, which was also spotted at the Mountain Run Kelly Liquors. This is Rogue, so don't be surprised at the $13.99 price tag. Just skip paying to eat out and buy this beer. Drink half the beer for dinner and the other half for dessert.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Harvest Collection Sent 12-Pack-ing

My hands are getting tired from writing about all the Samuel Adams seasonals that seemed to be released every week. Sorry if you are getting tired of reading about them. Didn't the fall Harvest Collection come out just a few weeks ago? Out with the new, in with the newest: Samuel Adams Winter Classics. I thought you might find it interesting that the Winter Classics 12-pack includes (aside from the reason I always pick up the mix: Holiday Porter and Old Fezziwig) Chocolate Bock. You may remember seeing the Bock in big, fancy bottles and selling for $14.99 each awhile back. Now you get to try the same beer, along with five other styles (Winter Lager, Boston Lager, White Ale, plus the Porter and Fezziwig) for around $12.99. I first saw this at the Smith's at Wyoming and Academy. Be the first kid on your block to have it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

As If You Need Another Reason

Meet Crown, the amazing Golden Retriever. Now, if you are a regular reader on this site and reside in New Mexico, you know you don't need any more incentive to spend time at Marble Brewery. But as the weather gets chillier and you find yourself thinking, "Hmmm, do I feel like hanging out on Marble's patio tonight?", the answer is yes, if only just for the chance that you might see Crown, who is a regular at Marble. He will hold this pose for as long as his daddy tells him to. The dog has more willpower than I do, that's for sure. I was ready to snatch the beer up off Crown's nose and chug it myself.

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Releases: Old Standbys on Steroids

Redhook is one of those breweries that has always made solid beers but rarely strayed from the ordinary. Their Limited Release Series, however, delivers us beers that stand up to the bigger releases from the sought-after craft breweries. Redhook's twice-yearly Limited Release series brings us the latest (and a rarely brewed) release: Eisbock. The Eisbock style is made by freezing the beer and scraping off some of the water, laving a much richer finished version. This isn't Icehouse, that's for sure. Redhook's version is a 9.4% ABV beer that retails at $7.99 for a 22 oz. bottle. Another Pacific Northwest brewery making good-old standby beers is Widmer. Broken Halo was a fixture IPA in my fridge, along with the Hefeweizen for warmer weather drinking. Widmer's Brothers' Reserve series ups the game with beers like Cherry Oak-Aged Doppelbock, Prickly Pear Braggot, and now the third release in the series, Barrel-Aged Brrrbon. N0, I didn't make one of my many typing errors when spelling the beer's name. The beer is a base of the Brrr Winter Warmer that spends four months in Kentucky bourbon barrels. The finished product comes out to be a 9.4% ABV Warmer Winter Warmer! This 22 oz. special release retails for $12.99.

Odell, a brewery that is always attempting new, has come out with Woodcut No. 4, obviously the fourth release in the Woodcut series. No. 4 is a Double-Marzen, a rarely brewed style and a good choice for this very limited series. What sets the Odell version apart from the other few breweries that attempt this style (Avery's Kaiser comes to mind) is the fact that it manages to attain an 11% ABV without becoming overly sweet. A DIPA can usually mask sweetness with the hop addition, but a Double-Marzen does not have that luxury. And Woodcut is the only brewery making the style that ages it in oak barrels. This gives the beer cedar notes that I haven't experienced in any beer except Cigar City's Humidor; good company to be in! The 25.4 oz. beer is quite expensive at $23.99, but there is a reason it was my most tasted beer at Hopfest. A nice special occasion beer; buy one to drink on Christmas Eve.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Octoberfest, We Hardly Knew Ye

There is barely a hint of fall in Albuquerque yet, but Samuel Adams is already skipping on to the winter seasonal beer. Sam Adams Winter Lager is back in its 21st year of being brewed. This year, there are some changes to the brew: cinnamon, orange peel, and ginger have been added to this wheat bock beer. Those spices are the same ones used in the Old Fezziwig Ale, available only in the Samuel Adams winter 12-packs. Hopefully the Winter Lager captures some of that same flavor, because Fezziwig is one of their best beers. The ABV is 5.6% this year. I seem to remember it being 6% and 5.8% in previous years, so spices aren't the only change to this beer. You should be able to find Winter Lager everywhere beer is sold.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Marble's Leaves Are Changing Color

Marble is welcoming the Fall season by introducing a new addition to their 22 oz. bottle portfolio with Imperial Red. Don't mistake this 9% ABV for a malty Double Amber; this beer is all about the hops! So hoppy, it makes many DIPAs on the market look like Double Ambers. I have been filling my growlers regularly with this fuel. Nice to know I can just walk over to my local beer store and pick up a bottle if I am too lazy to make the drive to the brewery. Though I have a feeling there will be many trips to Marble in the near future, as they will be tapping their Pumpkin Ale this week! Imperial Red is taking the seasonal spot over from the popular Double White Ale (don't fret, White lovers-Summer is less than a year away), and retails for $5.99.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Goodness! My Guinness is Expensive!

Couple of new arrivals for you. First we have a local-ish beer, Monks Wit', brewed by the monks of...Moriarty. The recipe was possibly developed by the monks of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, but the beer is contract brewed at Sierra Blanca. It would have been nice if the Wit had been released earlier in the year, as it would have made a nice Summer beer. But the temperatures are still in the 70's, and you're going to drink no matter what anyway. May as well give this one a shot. $7.99-$8.99 all over town.

Finally, Guinness has wised up and brought over the one Guinness version that craft beer fans actually want to drink: Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. The Stout has been available outside the states for years, but we received nary a drop in these parts. People have been clamoring for this version because its 7.5% ABV helps deliver a much richer Stout than the 4.2% version. The ABV also drives the price up to $9.99...and that's just for a four-pack. You just have to remember that you're getting more than the usual old Guinness, so buck up and help support this small Irish brewery. Maybe they'll make it big someday.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Like Kids in a Candy Store!

That feeling wasn't exclusively because of the over 100 different beers poured at Albuquerque Hopfest yesterday. I felt more like the kid in the candy store who is being watched like a hawk to ensure he doesn't steal a penny candy. Albuquerque's asinine liquor laws teamed with O'Niell's "We run a bar, but don't want you to actually enjoy alcohol" rules in an attempt to suck all the fun out of the day.

Hopfest attendees were greeted at the gate and given a numbered punchcard that entitled them to 30 one-ounce tastings. They were also given a wristband that was also numbered to correspond with the number on the punchcard. I became number 4769 for the day. The purpose of the numbering system was to have the server check to make sure your card number matched your wristband number, I guess to keep you from passing your unused card punches onto another attendee. Wouldn't want someone to have more than 45 ounces of beer, God forbid!!!

The puritanical rules did not keep people from enjoying their samples at Hopfest. Lines were long but moved very fast, thanks to booth operators who figured a system of having one person check punchcards/wristbands and having another person pour the beer. Servers were also schooled on the beers they were pouring. It was good to see the the Coronado booth server know about the beer and also properly suggest the order of tasting to the people in front of me: the Orange Wit, then the Islander IPA, then the Idiot DIPA.

But back to my rant for a minute. And let me say that none of it reflects on the efforts of Hopfest organizer Marne Gaston or her hardworking volunteer staff. They had to play by the rules, as stupid as they seemed at times. At one point it was just me and the server in the VIP area. I ask for a sample of Odell Woodcut #4, she checks my card and wrist, and pours the beer. It is excellent, and free! Since this is a bottle that retails for $25.99, I ask for another taste. She once again has to check my card and wrist, even though she poured me a sample ten seconds before. This is because a watchful employee of O'Niell's or some Albuquerque agency may not have been looking when she first checked, and just happened to see her pour a second sample without her checking. We could both argue if someone were to challenge the server on not checking my numbers, but do you think the server would be believed? Let's throw all common sense out the window when it comes to regulating beer fests. And let's enjoy the ass-grab pose of the guy in the picture.

I was actually embarrassed and apologetic when talking to brewers from out of state who attended and were surprised and disappointed that they weren't allowed to sample other breweries' beers because of our serving laws. And there were some damn good beers there too: Il Vicino's final kegs of Exodus, Big Sky Heavy Horse Scottish, Sierra's Anniversary Barleywine, Second St. Imperial IPA, and many others. But the important thing is the people who paid for the tickets enjoyed themselves, and everyone I talked to was having a blast. So even though O'Niell's and city laws tried, they could not crush the spirit of Albuquerque craft beer lovers. Next year's event will bring more breweries, more people, and more good times for everyone. Albuquerque's beer revolution cannot be stopped!