Friday, July 30, 2010

Arrivederci, Il Vicino Tap Room

Wow, look at that empty room. Seems like yesterday that there were a hundred people packed around all the brewing equipment, using empty kegs as seats and judging samples at the 2009 NM IPA Challenge. And on the eve of this year's challenge, reigning champion Il Vicino will be closing the doors of the Tap Room. They will be staying open till 9 tonight, so get over there and pay your respects. There is no more Wet Mountain IPA, but they still have their other regular lineup, along with Bohemian Pilsner and Exodus IPA, a Citra-hopped IPA brewed especially for the end times of the Tap Room.

The growler in the picture is Exodus, my third time getting it filled with that beer, as a matter of fact. And my last ever fill at this location. You will still be able to get your Il Vicino beer fix while they move into their new location at 2381 Aztec Rd NE. The Il Vicino restaurants will be serving Mendicino beers during the transition, which they are hoping to have completed by September. They will also be defending their title tomorrow at the IPA Challenge, which for some reason is only from 12-3. How am I gonna get my drink on in only three hours? Oh well. This isn't about me- it's supposed to be a celebration of/farewell to the Il Vicino Tap room. Thanks to Brady and Doug for their years of making excellent beers at that location, and let's hope the new space is ready soon!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ode to "The City Disappointing"

Anyone else hate Santa Fe? I do. Not so much the city itself, but the people who live there. I have been a lot of places, but I have never met a more rude, self-absorbed, and just straight up weird city of people. I don't think the city itself is that nice, either. The Plaza is touristy, restaurants are overpriced, and there's no tall buildings. What kind of state capital doesn't have a big building or two? Jefferson City, maybe. But Jefferson City doesn't exactly rate high on my list of coolest capitals. So what does Santa Fe have that is appealing? I guess Blue Corn Brewery's beers, though I only drink them at beer fests. I tried to enjoy an IPA at the location near the Plaza after paying $6.00 for a half mile cab ride (I'm not lazy- I just didn't realize I was that close), but when you are the only customer at the bar and the bartender stays at the other end of the bar and does the crossword puzzle, it is hard to feel welcome. Kinda a microcosm of Santa Fe itself- you know there has to be something good about being there, but someone is always ruining it for you.

I guess you can count Santa Fe Brewery as one of the good things about the city- at least they took all the criticism about their old IPA and reformulated the beer. And now they are canning it- the first brewery in the state to do so. Happy Camper IPA, 6.6% ABV, comes in a NM-centric designed can: that's a Zia, folks. I believe the Zia represents a diner. The design is cool, and the beer isn't bad either. Though it could use much more in the way of floral notes, it does not lack bitterness and is not an unpleasant experience. Unlike some things. Jubilation has it, $7.99 a six-pack.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Rogue by Any Other Name...

Don't get too excited when you see Rogue's "new" Brutal IPA in area stores. Like many of Rogue's beers (Jazz Guy = American Amber Ale, as does Sea Otter; Sharktooth Ale = Oregon Golden Ale; Whale Ale = Dead Guy; and so on), this is not a new beer; rather, it is a new label for a readily available Rogue product. The Brutal IPA is actually just the Brutal Bitter, a beer that Rogue had described in the past as an Imperial ESB, but the line is kind of blurry and the beer has also been pegged as an American IPA. It does have 59 IBUs, though I don't know of many American IPAs that use Maris Otter malt. If it is an IPA, it is a single hop version, with Crystal the only hop variety used. At the very least, if you buy the beer with the Brutal IPA label rather than the Brutal Bitter label, you know you are getting the freshest version of whatever style beer it is. $5.99, only at Jubilation so far.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guess Who's Not Coming to Dinner?

Brother, can you spare 450 dimes? That, plus tax and tip, will buy you a five-course dinner paired with Left Hand Brewery's beers. The dinner, being held at Seasons (2031 Mountain NW), is taking place on August 5th at 6:30. I won't be there, citing my usual stance of not mixing a full stomach with beer (remember: food before drink = never drunk!), but you might be interested in some Halibut Cheek Tempura. Halibut have cheeks? The menu spans the globe stylistically from P.F. Chang's to Cracker Barrel: lettuce wraps paired with Polestar Pilsner and pork chops paired with 400 Lb. Monkey IPA. Other beers in the dinner are Juju Ginger, Widdershins Barleywine, and Imperial Stout. There's other food too, if you're into that kind of thing, and Left Hand's Chainsaw is used to make a beer broth in one dish and Milk Stout demi-glace for another. You can reserve online at

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Marble Sells Out!

And we are all the better for it! Marble has made a deal with Albertson's and their beers are now available at the supermarket giant's stores here in Albuquerque. Of course, the "sell out" title of this story is tongue-in-cheek, as this is nothing but good news. How many cities can you visit where you only have to go to the grocery store for some of the best brewed local beers? I've never liked that sell out thing anyway. Remember when The Shins allowed McDonald's to use "New Slang" in their commercials and dirt bags abound with rants about how their favorite band was selling out? I've always said that people who call other people out for trying to make a living off their hard work are people who are still living in their parents' basements. The only Marble beers I have seen at Albertson's so far are the IPA and Red, and at $8.99 is priced about a dollar higher than at most beer stores. Albertson's is open till 11, however, unlike all the beer stores, so you can still get your late night fix of your local favorite.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Oh, You English are SO Superior!

Little earlier this year, but no less welcome, Stone releases their "Emperial IPA". That is not one of my spelling errors, though I know I have many. I'm a great speller but a horrible typist. The "Empirial" pays homage to the United Kingdom, and probably Princess Diana too, since America loved her so much. The 8.9% ABV beer is made using all English ingredients, except for the water. That comes from Mexico, or something like that. I have heard that Stone used dissolved salts in the water to mimic the great brewing water with high mineral content of Burton-on-Trent. Stone also uses English East Kent Golding, Bodaceia, and Target hops in the beer. I usually don't get excited about English-style IPAs. Left Hand 400 Lb. Monkey, Sea Dog IPA, and Shipyard, among many others, have left me with a not so bitter taste in my mouth. But I tell you, when I had it on tap at Stone last month, it really stood out. That was almost a month ago, of course, and we will see what time and temperature have done. I imagine it is still great, and will be opening one tonight. Stone has kind of become a monolith of the beer scene, so when I hear people talking them up I get annoyed in the way I do when I see a 13-year-old in a Nirvana t-shirt. But they still make some great beers. $6.99 for 22 oz; all the cool stores have it now!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer's the Slowest Season, But Come ON!

Once again, I have to apologize for the lack of updates on the site. It's not like I have had anything better to do; It's jut that there is nothing new and exciting in stores. Summer is typically the season with the least amount of beer releases, save for a few unexciting light, lemon-ish wheat beers, but that doesn't stop the wanting. I know the city largely becomes a ghost town at this time of the year. But Some of us don't go to Elephant Butte for the summer, and we want more from our beer than "something that goes down easy on a hot day at the "beach" ". And we don't want to spend the summer swimming in other people's pee, so we stay home and drink good beer. I would imagine that many people who don't drink good beer feel the same about swimming in pee, but I don't hang with that type of person so am only speculating about that.

The one new beer worthy of mentioning is Marble's new Citra Pale Ale, using the Citra hop that rivals Simcoe for my favorite in terms of smell and taste. And what else matters, really? The 5.6% ABV beer drinks so easy, you could take a growler down to Elephant Butte, sit on a rock, and enjoy it while staring at the pee-swimmers. I only wish one of th local breweries would use this hop and make an IPA or Double IPA with it. Kern River's Citra DIPA was easily the best I tried out of some amazing DIPAs at Stone's Hoppy Father's Day. What do you say, local brewers? Anyone wanna make an "ABQ Beer Geek Citra DIPA"? Bet it will be the best-selling beer you ever make!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Second Most Important IPA Challenge

Thanks to Jerrold Baca, I have the dates and places where this year's NM IPA Challenge. You know the one, involving IPAs from most of the breweries all around New Mexico. This is a three-day event, with the first being on Tuesday, July 27 at High Desert in Las Cruces. Thursday the 29th will be hosted by Santa Fe Brewing, and the important one is at Chama River here in Albuquerque on Saturday, July 31. Starting time looks to be at noon. Last time Chama hosted in 2005, they poured the bers on that little patio outside. I don't know what their plan is for this year, but they better be prepared: I really bring the crowds. Sometimes the Bloods, sometimes the Crips, sometimes the Shriners. Last year, Il Vicino took the crown with their Hopgoblin IPL. Brewers tend to bring out their big guns for the challenge, and with Jeff Erway out this year, the field is even more wide open. See you there!

Monday, July 5, 2010

2010 4th of JulIPA Challenge

Have a hoppy 4th of July? We sure did at the Abqbeergeek compound. Pictured here are the nine selected IPAs for this year's event. Last year we did thirteen beers, but felt that was a bit too many so cut it back this year. Here's how it worked: it was a blind tasting of the all the beers by the oh-so sophisticated-palated participants. Beers were judged on a scale from 1-5 overall. I didn't bother with different judging for color, smell, mouthfeel. That's just too much for me to calculate when all is said and done. Besides, IPAs range in color from straw to caramel to black, so it turns into a what's your favorite color contest. And mouthfeel? That sounds dirty.

What you don't see in this picture is anyone eating the burgers I bought for the event. That's because I picked the cheapest, gnarliest burgers to grill (Flanders brand)and it turns out one of the main ingredients is beef hearts. Not to mention the color of the meat ranged from straw to caramel to black. And don't even ask me about the mouthfeel.

Let's get to the results. I can't take the thought of another hearty meal. I do have to say in advance that last year's number 4, Turtle Mountain IPA, is not represented this year. Sorry. My one friend who lives near there could not make it this year, and I was too busy pouring beer from bottles into growlers. You try filling 18 growlers and cooking up Flander heart and driving to Rio Rancho.
9. Abita Jockamo IPA: 2.2
I judged this way higher than the other drinkers. I know it isn't a coveted IPA but i liked it.
8. Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA, 2.9
This is a popular IPA but I think it varies in batches from good to just bitter tasting.
7. New Belgium Ranger IPA, 3.2
Not too surprised at this ranking.People like or hate Ranger.
6. Il Vicino Wet Mountain IPA, 3.3
Well, that's too bad. Local Il Vicino doesn't fare that well this year. I gave it a 4.1.
5. Ska Modus Hoperandi, 3.6
Modus is very popular in town right now, but I feel it could be just a little less malty.
4. Chama River Jackalope IPA, 3.7
Wow, last year's winner goes down. And i wasn't the biggest fan initially because it need time to warm and open up. Some may not have waited long enough to rate it.
3. Moylan's IPA, 3.8
Two people gave this a 4.75, which I thought was too high. it had the best finish of all the beers.
2. Odell IPA, 3.9
The inaugural IPA Challenge winner. This may have been the favorite smelling beer, though I don't know how you could judge the smell when barbecued beef hearts are competing with hops.
1. Marble IPA , 4.3
Local favorite comes through with the big win! Every year, one IPA stands out to me in our challenge, and this one made me look in the mirror and say, "ARRRGGGHHH! I HATE MYSELF!"
Wait, that is a different issue I have. This was the one that rose above the rest, and I gave it a 4.8. great smell that did not disappoint in the mouthfeel. A great local success story gets another notch in its belt. Congratulations to the hard working crew over at Marble Brewery!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

And how will you be celebrating on this most festive beer drinking holiday? Gonna do any themed drinking today? Let's see, what would be appropriate to drink today? Of course, it has to be American beer. Samuel Adams maybe? Um, Pabst Blue Ribbon, with the red, white, and blue can- that looks better than the beer inside tastes? Too bad we don't get Dogfish Head's Red White and Blue here, but that beer, which is aged in pinot noir barrels, may be hard to stomach on a 90+ degree day such as today. Better off with the Pabst. I will be having my annual 4th of JulIPA Challenge, pitting the best IPAs available in Albuquerque against each other in a blind tasting. I'll let you know the results soon. Enjoy your least more than the guy on the left in the picture. Who is he anyway, a Kenyan diplomat?