Saturday, February 27, 2010

Time to Update the Wardrobe?

Thanks to Martini Mike ( for informing me (and sending a picture) of one that slipped under my radar: Sierra Nevada's Hopstar. Hopstar is a draft-only release, born of Sierra's Beer Camp, where brewers, journalists (where's my invite, Ken Grossman? We shared an elevator ride at GABF, remember?), restaurateurs, and industry people are invited to create a recipe good enough to be released to the public. Hopstar is a 7.5% ABV IPA brewed with Chinook, Amarillo, Magnum, and Simcoe hops. Though I haven't had it yet, those hops should make for a good drinking IPA. I haven't tried the beer yet because it is on tap at Seasons, where a meal costs more than my shoes. And since I only own jeans and t-shirts, I feel wrong in bring the patrons of a nice place like Seasons down with my shabby presence. Maybe I can rent some nice slacks and stop in for a pint sometime. I'll make a night of it- I'll dance at Sauce and smoke cigars at Imbibe. I'll get complimentary bottle service because of my slick slacks and shiny shoes. I'll be one of the beautiful people, if only to get one taste of Hopstar!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Bargain and Oh No, Not Again

First, the good news. Jubilation has cases of Bridgeport Ropewalk Amber Ale on sale for $14.99. Cases, I say! Ropewalk regularly retails from $6.99-$7.99 a six-pack around town, so this is a stellar deal, while it lasts at least. Not sure how many cases they have, and was afraid to ask why they are selling it so cheap. I'm not the biggest Amber Ale fan ever, but I find this to be a nice beer to switch to after drinker heavier beers. Water would probably be a smarter switch, but I don't have that kind of willpower. But Ropewalk isn't a killer, at 5.6%, and is a solid beer- especially for $14.99 a case.

Oh, Sunflower Market. I tried to break off our "strictly beer" relationship back when you were ripping off the public with your Stone "sale". However, you still send me love letters every Tuesday, complete with pictures of beer to lure me in. And this latest transgression is nowhere near as bad as the one with Stone, but it is no way to win me back. You advertise Boulder Beer 22 oz. bottles as two for five dollars. That's a decent sale. Mojo and Hazed and Infused usually go for $3.50 per 22 oz...but wait- why is there a picture of Mojo RISIN' Imperial IPA in your ad? For one, that beer is usually $7.99, and two, you don't even carry that beer! This is just like what you did when you advertised the Rogue beers on sale. I knew you'd never change!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rogue Grows Hops and Harvests the Money

I'll be damned if those folks in Newport didn't get me again. I promised myself that I wasn't going to pay more than $5.99 for any Rogue beer again. Nothing really against the company, but some of their beers are expensive more because of the packaging than what is inside. And mom always said that it's what's inside that counts. She also said I was a rotten kid, but that's a topic for another time. Right now it's best if I drink those thoughts away with one of these new Rogue beers that I picked up. First is the Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager, which immediately becomes more expensive just because of the name. But don't turn away from the fanciness of the name; it is just a play on vineyards who grow all their own ingredients. Like Sierra Nevada before them, Rogue has also used ingredients grown on their own land to craft a unique beer. The Dirtoir is in the Schwarzbier style, a flavorful and, as the name more than suggests, black lager that pours like a stout but has the body of a much lighter lager. It has a significant hop addition that give it 35 IBUs, but the dark malts are the star that make this 6% ABV beer. $7.99 (I broke my promise to myself, but jeez, these guys turned into farmers to make this one) at Jubilation.
The second new Rogue beer is also a play on the homegrown theme, this one the John John Ale. You Dead Guy Ale lovers out there will enjoy this one, as Rogue takes their biggest seller and ages it for three months in Rogue's own whiskey barrels (the whiskey is also called Dead Guy, but I don't want to confuse the slow learners out there, so just remember: beer---aged in whiskey barrels---good combo). The ABV stays about the same as in the original, at 6.4% ABV, but takes on flavors of vanilla and oak. And a higher price tag: $9.99 for a 22 oz. bottle. Or roughly $30.00 a six-pack! And yes, I bought one. Rogue took the time to pour the beer into an empty wooden barrel; I took the time to buy one. Barrel aging and marketing can move mountains, or at least get me to open my wallet.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Those Brits are SO Refined

Aside from maybe Benny Hill, the typical British person is well-educated, well-spoken, and just an all-around better person than the typical American- or so I heard a lady in the store tell another customer yesterday. Is she right, I wondered; could I be the only one who falls asleep watching BBC America? Are soccer hooligans actually just drunk American college students? Is blood pudding the most disgusting thing ever? The British connection to today's beer post is Left Hand's newest offering, 400 Pound Monkey. It is a British-style IPA, which means a more, well, refined style of IPA. If you think of an American IPA, you think of a brash, loudmouth jock, like that American figure skater guy with the ruffly outfits who holds a teddy bear while waiting for his scores. Or maybe there is a better example out there, I don't know. But while American IPAs are over the top in bitterness, British IPAs tend to be keep a balance between the malts and hops. And the Left Hand version falls very much into the British category, with the main hop used in the beer being the Boadicea variety. Boadicea hops are largely bred in Suffolk and were cultivated with much trial and error by the UK Hops Research Institute, among others. I bet that lady in the store would love this beer. She could sip it out of her Waterford crystal goblet. She could dip her english muffin in it. You could too- don't be afraid of the style. Sometimes we Americans could use a little refining. And teddy bears.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Just In Time for Lent

Now that Fat Tuesday has come and gone, our local distributors finally get us the best of the Abita beer lineup, Jockamo IPA. Now you KNOW I enjoy a nice raspberry wheat beer as much or more than the next guy, maybe with a little Sprite mixed in for some extra spritz, so Abita's Purple Haze is a staple in my fridge. But if an IPA is my only choice, then by gosh I will do my best to drink the whole thing. Jockamo is 6.5% ABV, with a caramel tinge, moderately other words, a good gateway IPA for those of us more in tune with the fruit beer offerings. I like that they have the best by date clearly printed on the six-pack and on the bottles. And now that this is available in Albuquerque, I guess I can finally drink the bottle of it I have- marked best by 4/12/08. Yum.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting Dumber But Drinking Younger

Some people think I may take my love for beer a little too far sometimes. Planning out each stop on a cross country road trip in order to visit a good beer bar? Check. Flying to Indiana for a beer release? Guilty. So what is wrong with driving 500 miles to Denver to drink from one of the very few kegs of Pliny the Younger? See, the other things are explained easily enough: you have to stop somewhere on a long road trip. As long as you are not traveling 600 miles to a bar one day and 35 miles to a bar the next, it makes sense. And the flight was only to Chicago, not Indiana, though I did have to rent a car and drive to Indiana. And this beer is only bottled for a one day release. After that, you have to trade for it or get reamed by someone on ebay. So having done those things, driving to Denver for Pliny the Younger, a beer that is so rare, you can't even get it in bottles. And good luck getting a growler; the only place that will fill them is the brewery that makes it, Russian River in Santa Rosa, CA. But I was too late for that: the brewery itself ran out on the day it was released! And a very few bars around the country are receiving kegs of this elusive beer. So since I have the chance, I figure I owe it to the internet to get up there and taste what is currently rated the #1 beer in the world by members of

So we arrived at Falling Rock Tap House at 3:30, an hour and a half before the scheduled tapping. You never know how many people are going to show up for an event like this, so it is best to claim your spot early. We got a great table and talked to Falling Rock owner Chris Black for awhile. After gearing up with some greasy food, Chris finally made the announcement that he was tapping the first of only three five gallon kegs. Or one regular keg total, minus .5 gallons. And the crowd had increased in size x 50 from what we had seen when we first walked in.Chris gave a thanks to those of us who had made the trek all the way from Albuquerque and then commenced with the pouring. There was a frenzy of people up at the bar, waiting for their precious drops of Pliny. We just waited calmly at the booth we snagged and our server delivered us each three 8 oz. pours- at seven bucks a pour. Was it worth it? After all the hype, after all the driving, after all the waiting? Well, I don't have the words to describe a beer this good, especially after drinking four half-pints. Yeah, it was so good, I ordered another after only taking a couple of sips of my first. And that was a good thing, since ALL THREE kegs kicked by 5:35. Thirty-five minutes of manic pouring and it was over, though I made my 32 oz. last for at least two hours. Taking that last sip was almost painful, though the aftermath may be worse tomorrow. Whatever; it's Fat Tuesday, and last year I thought it would be a good idea to make Hurricanes. A year later, I still haven't touched a drop of rum. But I will long to have another glass of Pliny The Younger. So rather than having learned to temper my lust for great beer, I found that a stupid trip like this is one of those rare things in life with no regrets. Next year's Younger can't come soon enough!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Hello to you, the happy couple. Congratulations on staying together through both the full and empty glass. Today is the holiday created just for the two of you- so what are you going to drink to celebrate it? You're not going the commercial route with the wine or champagne, are you? You need to stay true to yourselves, just the way you've stayed true to each other- by pounding those beers! My choice for you on this special day is Rogue's Chocolate Stout. You have to incorporate the chocolate thing somewhere, so where better than actually in the beer? That way you don't even have to deal with bothersome food interfering with your nice Valentine's buzz. The only other beer I could think that would be worthy of this day is Yards Love Stout, but that is only available in the Philly area and you don't want to be there now. 46 inches of snow in the past week does not sound romantic in the slightest, so stick with the Rogue. It is a 22 ouncer, perfect for sharing with that special someone. Bring two straws.
I'm not forgetting all the single people out there, either. Bitter is the keyword for you on this hateful holiday, so my first suggestion is once again a beer from Rogue. Brutal Bitter, a hopped-up ESB from the Oregon brewery, fits the bill nicely. But you say you are REALLY tired of the deluge of heart decorations and Whitman's samplers and goo-goo eyes couples are giving each other? You need something to make your brain hazy from these sorrowful visions, and I suggest Moylan's Hopsickle IPA. 10% ABV, too many bitter, bitter IBUs to count, this beer will make you forget the ones that got away and concentrate on the beautiful brown bottle in your hand. Forget a glass- you will only end up throwing it. Drink straight from the bottle, and embrace the bitterness until the alcohol makes your eyes go all goo-goo on themselves.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Give Your Enemy a Shiner

...and then buy them a beer. Spoetzl Brewery seems to come out with a new variety of Shiner beer every month or so, yet I never give them much attention. Maybe it is because they let me down on my first try of one of their beers, Shiner Bock. It was long ago and not so far away, I think at the Giant at San Mateo and Osuna, that I purchased my first Spoetzl product. I saw Shiner Bock in the cooler, and was happy because I was really into bocks at the time. Of course, the bocks I was into were pretty strong ones, such as Dock St. Illuminator and Ayinger Celebrator, but I was not prepared for the watery letdown that was Shiner Bock. You'd think that a bock beer available at a convenience store would have clued me in a little bit, but clues usually need to punch me in the eye before I become aware. So back to present day, and Spoetzl has released their Winter beer, Shiner Frost, which is of the Dortmunder style. I think of a Dortmunder as the Amber Ale style of Germany. Not from the color, as it is a yellow lager, but from its "in the middle" kind of taste. Not as malty as a Munich Helles and not as hoppy as a Bohemian Pils, but stronger in alcohol than either of those beers, something to please the rugged coal miners in the area where the beer originates. That may have been fine for the time, but most Winter Warmers are of a more hearty breed these days, so I'm not sure that the 5.6% ABV Dortmunder fits the bill here. But it has to be better than that first Shiner Bock.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I'd Rather Swim in the Rio Grande

I told you about Eel River Brewery being the latest to slither into New Mexico. Some more of their beers are now available: Triple Exultation, which is not in the Triple style at all so don't be fooled- it is actually classified as an Old Ale; California Blonde, Amber Ale, IPA, and Acai Wheat. All the beers are organic. Organic and one made with the Acai berry. Beer so good for you, I'm surprised these aren't just marketed under the Whole Foods label. After all, the six-packs are all going for a Whole Foods-like $9.99 each. Nothing against the company, as I am happy to have another brewery joining the New Mexico beer portfolio. I think it is the name Eel River that turns me off a bit. I don't like to swim in rivers or lakes. Too many slimy things lurking around in the murky waters that I can't identify. I'll take a wave pool with nice clear water and a thousand kids peeing in it at the same time over a river with eels sliding up my shorts.

I know Deschutes has had their Red Chair IPA out for a good while now, but for the first time you can get it in six-pack form. This is not an over the top IPA by any means (and I love over the top IPAs almost as much as I love the Stallone classic arm wrestling movie Over The Top), not with seven different types of malt in the brew. And the hops used do not add a discernible bitterness. But having said all that, something about the 6.4% ABV beer makes it quite drinkable, and at $7.99 it is not overpriced.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Plethora of Potent Potables

After a dry spell, some welcome new beers have hit the shelves. It's about time. I thought I was going to have to resort to reviewing Olive Garden's beer selection.

Big Sky's latest is Bobo's Robust Porter. I'm guessing that Bobo is the inbred looking 4-legger depicted on the label. Where I'm from, Bobos are cheap K-Mart brand shoes. As in, "Yo, your mom make you wear those bobos because that's all she can afford?". Classy kids we were, and things have only gotten classier on my end, huh? Bobo's Robust Porter is 6.2% ABV, with a coffeeish taste ala Pipeline Porter from Kona, though not as pronounced. $7.99per sixer.

Red Hook has got a new Spring offering, this one in the Nut Brown style and dubbed Mud Slinger. With a name like that, I'd expect it to be released during Fall elections. I don't know much about the beer. Never been super excited about that style of beer, honestly. 5.2% ABV, also $7.99 a six-pack, and should be available everywhere.

Hop Henge, the largest IPA Deschutes Brewing offers, is back for another year. 95 IBUs, 8.75% ABV. Deschutes uses over three pounds of Centennial and Cascade hops per barrel, but for some reason uses crystal malt in the brew, and I don't love that in a DIPA. I do like the beer, and the $6.99 price tag is more than fair for a limited release like this one. I have only seen it at Jubilation so far, but it usually makes its way to the other liquor stores.

A pricier, though much rarer beer in these parts, is Raven's Eye Imperial Stout. This is the first beer to make it to New Mexico from Eel River Brewing out of Fortuna, California. Raven's Eye retails for $9.99 per 22 oz. at Jubilation and is 9.5% ABV. I haven't tried it yet, haven't had much from Eel River, really. I tried their organic IPA a couple of years ago, and was not blown away. Will Raven's Eye be better, or will you say, "Nevermore!", Damn, that was lame. That's the best I could come up with? I'm such a hack. My only excuse is that, at the moment, I am face with an overabundance of sobriety, which inhibits the creative process. I'll try to avoid this condition in the very near future.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sunflower Strikes Again: Serious Food, Serious Ripoffs

Ok Sunflower, I gave you the benefit of the doubt a few weeks back when your ad for Rogue beers pictured the XS Imperial Series beers, but the ones on sale were the usual 22 oz. versions. I figured someone from the ad department made an honest mistake. I forgave you, which I know must have meant a lot to you. But I'm afraid we may have to part ways after your latest transgression, which is a blatant attempt to ripoff my fellow Albuquerque residents- the same people who religiously click on my Google ads and bring me upwards of eleven dollars a year. So I feel I have a moral obligation to call you out on your latest ad featuring Stone beers: two for $10. This wouldn't be so bad, were it just the Ruination IPA on sale. After all, that one usually goes for $5.99 in most stores. But when I came to see your beer section today, I felt shocked and cheated by what you were doing. You have ALL the Stone beers listed at $6.49 regular price, and on sale at $5.00 apiece. Arrogant Bastard, IPA, and Smoked Porter regularly priced at $6.49? The same beers that cost $3.99 EVERYDAY EVERYWHERE else in Albuquerque? Ok, maybe Albertsons sells Arrogant Bastard for $4.29, but that is a far cry from what you are pulling. Trying to fool people into thinking they are getting a good deal on beer, when in fact you are scamming the same people who support your business? Well, I'm not falling for it, and neither is my reader. We are both done with you. Don't call, don't send fliers. We're DONE, I said!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hopelessness Springs Eternal

I don't know why I do it to myself. I've been around long enough to have visited a few chain restaurants. I try to stay away, but every now and then I get sucked into for a birthday or as a punishment for myself. But I'll admit, today I walked into Buffalo Wild Wings for the first time, and it was of my own free will that I did so. My free will also allowed me to walk out in under a minute. You see, I became curious after seeing the commercials for Buffalo Wild Wings that are on all the time. I even paused the commercials to see the shot of all the beers on tap. Looked intriguing at the time. But in real life, it became excruciating. Maybe that's a little harsh, but it was certainly a disappointment. Twenty taps stood in front of me (well, the Blue Moon tap hung limply, reminding me of my own predicament), yet none of the beers spoke to me. Actually, I think I may have heard the Sam Adams Noble Pils whisper at me to kill it, but I could have just been inhaling the smell of hot wing sauce too deeply. The other taps were all the big boys and the breweries they are in distribution partnerships with. The lone IPA was Red Hook's Longhammer...enough said. So once again, though I should have known better than to even give it a chance, I walked into, and soon out of a chain restaurant feeling ripped off, This time I didn't even have to spend any money to get that feeling. But I will never get that time back.