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!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

From Beer Stein to Einstein: Drinking Your Way to a Smarter Baby

It's always been said that pregnant women have some strange culinary cravings. A new study suggests that it is acceptable to wash all the pickles and strawberry ice cream down with something stronger that apple juice. The latest Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health published results of a study that followed 18,500 children between 2000 and 2002 who were born to mothers who consumed alcohol during pregnancy. The study found that there is no evidence that one or two alcoholic drinks a week while pregnant will harm a fetus. In fact, tests given to children of women who drank moderately while pregnant revealed surprising results. The tests, measuring the emotional and intellectual progress at 9 months, 3 years, and 5 years of age, found that "brains by beer" babies scored much higher in the tests than babies born to mothers who never consumed alcohol, pregnant or not. The results stayed the same at the 3 and 5 year mark. One can only imagine how advanced our world will become when these kids are in charge someday! For some strange reason, the "drink" size for beer was measured at 8 oz. Hopefully, the beer was a nice Imperial Stout. If you only get to drink half a pint, you moms-to-be have to make it something good. Your future child is counting on you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

They Asked for a BB Gun

But all Santa brought Marble Brewery is this new automated bottling line. Ted Rice told me that this new equipment will essentially allow Marble to double their current production numbers (yay! That means we get Imperial Red in bottles). The automation also ensures consistency in each bottling run. Don't bother trying to get one of these- Marble scooped up the last one Best Buy had for sale, and got a discount because it was a floor model.

Monday, October 11, 2010

From Bananas to Goat Heads: Albuquerque's Beer Evolution

I finally made my first visit to the hallowed halls of the Albuquerque club that made headlines every weekend: Banana Joe's! I imagine they served beer there...seems like a "$1.50 Miller Lite longnecks all night!" kind of place. I never made it there during its heyday. The best part about being there at this time was the fact that this former club of ill-repute has been closed since 2003, meaning I barely had to wait in line to get in, and the dress code was very relaxed. I was visiting the site to get a preview of the future home of Goat Head Brewing, with the grand tour given by the Craft Brewer mastermind of Goat Head, Majin Garcia. The site will be a combination music venue/brewpub, hosting both local and big-name bands from a variety of musical genres. A large stage has already been constructed, though the important work, building a brewery, is just about to begin. Majin showed the first-floor area where the brewing equipment will be placed; a wall separating it from the concert space will eventually be replaced by glass, allowing for a behind the scenes view of the brewing process. The beer will be piped directly from the tanks to the bar, located on a second-floor balcony. The bar area is spacious, giving Majin plenty of leeway to toy with seating ideas.

The biggest draw, aside from Majin's beers, may be the rooftop deck, which will also house a bar. The roof offers a nice view of the downtown shenanigans but with a detached sort of perspective, like watching gorillas at the zoo. The roof also will offer reprieve for patrons who wanted craft beer but didn't realize there was a death metal show that night. Majin plans to have acoustic acts on the roof (probably not death metal ones) during the warm months. This place is still a long time coming but will be a welcome addition to our local beer scene.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Hey you! You like Stone beers? Want to get the 10 10 10 Vertical Epic even before it gets tapped at Stone Brewery? Get your butt over to Kelly Liquor at Mountain Run. They're selling it! Right now! $7.99, about $1.50 more than previous versions, but it's a once a year beer. The Vertical Epic series always have a Belgian yeast, and this year's uses wheat and rye malts along with pale malt. This 9.5% Belgian Strong Pale Als features the use of Muscat, Gewurztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc grape varieties. Not unusual enough? Ok, well they added chamomile to the beer too. So there!

Friday, October 8, 2010

California's Energizer Breweries

We've got two of California's oldest legendary breweries in the new release news today. They just keep going, and going...
First is the 2010 version of Sierra Nevada's Estate Homegrown Ale (formerly known as Chico Estate Harvest Ale). This is the first of the Harvest Ales to reach in Albuquerque, and certainly the most unique: the barley and hops used in the beer were both grown on Sierra Nevada's "estate". Cutting out shipping costs does not equate to a cheaper beer, though. The 22 oz., 6.7% ABV beer goes for $9.99. This year Sierra has switched from its usual (though unusual by industry size) 24 oz. bottle. The ingredents are "organic", which is Latin for "higher-priced". Tried at GABF this year and enjoyed it.

The second California legend to speak of this week is Anchor, who is now distributing their Humming Ale here. Humming is a 5.9% ABV American Pale Ale that borders on an IPA and will appeal to the hopheads out there. This beer was first brewed in 2009, 30 years to the day that they opened a new brewhouse. Anchor doesn't really push the envelope as far as experimental beers, but they keep their beers clean and consistent. $9.99 for a six-pack.
Both beers are available at Kelly's on Wyoming.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Colorado Winds Blow Euphoria Our Way

Sure, there are a lot of happy looking people in our neighboring state to the north, thanks to the medical marijuana boom up there. And though we don't share quite the same laws, Ska Brewing has made sure we can share in the Euphoria. For the first time since they started canning it two years ago, Ska has started distributing Euphoria Pale Ale outside of Colorado. Euphoria is 6.3% ABV, and makes liberal use of Simcoe, one of my favorite hops. This helps result in a beer that packs a healthy 41 IBUs; not surprising from the brewery that brought us Modus Hoperandi.

The beer was first brewed five years ago as a "joint" venture with, uh, Venture Snowboards, and Venture makes a custom board for Ska each year. This year's is based on the Euphoria label. Ska and Venture, both handcrafted and "homegrown" in the Mighty San Juans, as they say. I assume they don't mean Puerto Rico. The snowboard will easily set you back well over $600, and may give you a broken collarbone or ankle if you actually try to use it. I suggest you go the cheaper and safer route and just buy the beer- it will save you a lot of money. $8.99 seems to be the going price for Euphoria. I first spotted this at Kelly Liquor at Mountain Run, but I believe Jubilation and other Kelly locations have it as well.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sam Adams Harvest Collection

This is not necessarily a new release, but I was out of town when it was introduced in Albuquerque. Reader Jeremy Ray should get credit for writing about it first, but that was on Facebook. And nobody reads Facebook.
The Samuel Adams Harvest Collection is a 12-pack consisting of six different styles, two of which are exclusive to the Fall release: Dunkelweizen and Harvest Pumpkin Ale. I had an opportunity to try the pumpkin beer while away and found it to be pretty darn good, and certainly a cut above the other pumpkin beers we get in Albuquerque. Only problem is that if you want a six-pack of the Harvest Pumpkin, you'd have to buy three 12-packs of the Harvest Collection. The 30 beers you'd have left over aren't bad at all: Boston Lager (consistently drinkable), Irish Red (fine), Black Lager (very good Schwarzbier), Dunkelweizen (like the pumpkin, exclusive to this collection. I admit I haven't had it yet), and Octoberfest (varies a bit each year, it seems. This year it is a bit light in flavor.) I wish Sam Adams would release the pumpkin in six-packs. It wouldn't be the first "collection exclusive" that made its way into its own packaging: Latitude 48 IPA originally came only with the Summer Seasonal Collection but just came out in six-packs, complete with a reformulation of the recipe. The Harvest Collection is available all over town, but I only suggest getting it at the supermarket if it is on sale. The regular price for a Sam Adams 12-pack at Albertsons or Smith's is around $16.99, and the regular price at local beer stores is $12.99-$13.99.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Drinking Beer and Doing Lines

Even though she doesn't read the site (doesn't even drink...are we really related?), I feel the need to tell my mom not to worry about the headline. No, I have not started doing cocaine. I am quite satisfied with my beer hobby/habit, and have to save what money I don't spend on beer for pizza.
The lines I am talking about are the lines for beer at the first NM Brew Fest, held in the Villa Hispana area of the NM State Fairgrounds. I arrived at the event about 12:15, only about 20 minutes later than I had planned. She Who Must Not Be On Time was surprisingly close to meeting my goal. I attribute that to her choice of a tank top shirt. No need to fuss around with time-consuming sleeves.

So when we arrived, the crowds were just filtering in. I was able to start off with Marble's Imperial Red, followed it with their Whole Lotta Wood, then moved onto the other breweries. Marble brought the most impressive and highest gravity beers of the fest. Not surprisingly, it looked as if they had the longest lines of the day as well. Santa Fe Brewing had an impressive display of beer, and were smart to bring six-packs of their beers to sell. I saw a lot of people leaving with sixers of the new Oktoberfest, and it was the first of their kegs to kick.

It did not take long before the lines for the 20 or so breweries represented to back up. This was not a bad thing; more of a great sign that the inaugural event was a success. Not surprising, either- the variety of beers notwithstanding, it was the location that made the event for me. Lots of grass, lots of shade. Plenty of places to pass out. I want to move into Villa Hispana. I think it only costs $879 a day to rent.

Seriously, just look at how comfortable these people are. Besides the beer, there was a nice variety of food for sale- that traveling pizza oven was cool, though I never got around to buying one. A pizza, not a pizza oven. I also liked the touch of people walking around with baskets of soft pretzels for sale, in the Octoberfest tradition. Unlike the actual Octoberfest in Germany, none of the live music acts at Brew Fest sang John Denver songs. Nothing like hearing thousands of Germans singing about country roads and West Virginia in unison.

Keeping with my own tradition, I stayed at the fest until the very end. Seven hours goes by fast when you have combine great beer, great people (very well behaved), and great weather. The weather held up until just after we left the fairgrounds, when the rain started. Luckily, a cab came and whisked us home before we got drenched. Congratulations to Chris goblet, Kevin Hopper, and all the people with the fancy badges who helped make the 2010 NM Brew Fest a success.

Friday, October 1, 2010

That's Low, IQ

"This is not drinking beer in a tented parking lot. This is hanging out with family and friends in a picnic setting amidst a bounty of quality brew, food, and music."
That is an excerpt from Mike English's writeup on the upcoming NM Brew Fest in this week's IQ. Since IQ is the main sponsor of the event, I would expect there to be plenty of hype for it in the issue. But the part that I put in bold and italics struck me as a bit of a cheap shot to another upcoming event, Albuquerque Hopfest. You know, the Oct. 16 event that will be held in a tented parking lot. Or maybe it was a shot at Marble's Septemberfest, another parking lot affair that lacked a picnic setting. Nah, I'm pretty sure that jab was meant for Hopfest. Now, we all know that shots at the competition are a part of business, but this is not the case when it comes to the craft beer business. In no other industry is there a camaraderie like you will find among brewers and breweries, and that has always been part of its appeal to me. So while taking a shot at another beer fest is not a total surprise, it is out of place in this instance, especially for a city like ours with a slowly growing appreciation for craft beer. There is room for both of these fests (and many more), whether they be held in idyllic settings or parking lots. I've written that I would be happy to drink beer in a closet as long as the beer was good, and I meant it. I have, in fact, twice in my life sleepwalked and woke up in closets after drinking too many good beers. I asked my doctor if she thought I had a problem and she replied, "Not as long as you were able to find your way out of the closets." I love that doctor. And I love my local fests- I will be happily drinking at both the NM Brew Fest and also Albuquerque Hopfest, as long as the beer is flowing.