Friday, December 30, 2011

Santa Fe's Dark Side

What, you say? Santa Fe doesn't have a dark side. In fact, the city has an abundance of people who proudly strut their stuff around the Plaza while wearing their Southwestern technicolor dreamcoats and decorate their Subarus with bumper stickers in all the colors of the rainbow. Thankfully, Santa Fe does have some people who are still living on Earth, namely homebrewer John Rowley, who collaborated with Santa Fe Brewing's Tony Cordova to create the new Black IPA. I have written before that the style is not one of my favorites, as I usually end up thinking how much better the beer would be without the roasty malt flavor. However, I got a chance to try the Rowley/Santa Fe version and was very pleased with the beer. Though the color fit the name, the hops were the star, with maybe a hint of chocolate malt coming through. Not a surprise, I guess, considering that the recipe uses Columbus, Simcoe, Amarillo and Citra hops and is 92 IBUs. This 7.1% ABV beer will not be on the shelves in Albuquerque, as it is an experimental first run batch, so put on that turquoise belt buckle and trek up to either Santa Fe's Tasting Room or Eldorado Tap House, where the beer is available on tap and in bottles.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's On the Cheap

Throwing a New Year's Eve party rather than dealing with drunks on the road and "complimentary champagne toast at midnight!" at the bar? Generous enough not to make it a BYOB but don't want to serve up $19 bottles of Sam Adams Infinium to people who are just going to be puking it all over your carpet later?

Kelly Liquors on Wyoming, as usual, has some decent craft selections at deeply discounted prices that should please your partygoers. Widmer's X-114 IPA, the first release from their Rotator series, is on sale for $8.99 a 12-pack, or even cheaper at $16.99 a case. Since they only come in 12-packs at Kelly's, I guess that means if you bring up two 12-packs to the register you'll get the discount. These beers are on sale because they were brewed back in July, but look at it this way: it is beer for your guests, not you, and you can theme the party as "a look back at the year in beer".

Also discounted is the Montana Mixer, a 12-pack of four different styles from Big Sky. For $8.99, your guests will enjoy having the variety of Moose Drool Brown, Trout Slayer Wheat, Big Sky IPA, and a mystery beer, determined by the season when the 12-pack was released. Since these 12-packs are $5 off the regular price, you may get Summer Honey or even last year's Powder Hound Winter. It's all part of the New Year's fun, and I hope you all have a happy and safe one.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

California Day Two

So, you'd think that after all these years of traveling, I would be able to plan things out a little better. Even though the first part of the day depended on how long it would take to get our bottles of Beatification at Russian River, I still thought we would have plenty of daylight to do the coast drive. And we got our bottles at RR way faster than expected (the whole batch sold out by 11:20am!), leaving us plenty of time. Right?

We made it from Santa Rosa down into San Francisco without any problem, until I realized that the city founders didn't build a magic road for me that went directly to the coast. This meant stopping on the side of the 101 with cars zooming by way too close while I retrieved the map from the trunk. Yes, I actually brought the trusted Rand McNally US Atlas with me. It's nice having the phone with the GPS and everything, but sometimes it helps to have the bigger picture of where you are in relation to the rest of the state that the map gives you. After a few minor detours we were headed towards the coast. Thanks, Rand.

What I didn't take into account nearly enough was how damn early the sun sets at this time of year. By the time we were here in Monterey, it was somehow already 4 and the sun was due to set at 4:45. We couldn't even go on the famed 17 Mile Drive around the peninsula because they close the road near sundown. I didn't mind not having to pay the $9.50 fee to get on the drive.

And though it was close, my madman driving through Monterey and Hwy. 1 got us to the scenic Big Sur area just as the sun went down. However, I was soon wishing that they closed that road at sundown as well- as any of you who have done the drive can attest to, that road is damn near treacherous in the dark. I was not doing any madman driving once it got dark, I assure you. More like a white knuckle steering wheel grip while I did 20 mph through the twists and turns for hours, sure I would make a wrong move and put us over a cliff.

By the time the road straightened out, I wasn't interested in finding any breweries, just some pizza and a hotel. We ended up staying in Pismo Beach, famous to me because of that Bugs Bunny episode when I was a kid. And we were fine without visiting any breweries because we had picked up a growler of Pliny the Elder that morning. Pliny really does wonders to get rid of the stress of a long drive!

Next: Hooray for Hollywood

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How's That Weather?

I hear that mother nature isn't smiling so kindly there on you Albuquerque folk. Guess I picked a good time to be here in sunny California! And though I am typing this from balmy San Diego right now, the trip started up in Santa Rosa (north of San Francisco), so we actually had to deal with temperatures in the 50's! And we wouldn't have even had to deal with such low temperatures if it weren't for those lousy early beer releases. See all those people in the picture? They were patiently waiting for Russian River Brewing to open at 11 am- though I took this picture around 9:45. We had gotten there at 9 am and were still parked somewhere around 30th in line. Some had shown up in the 7 o'clock hour. All this madness of waking up early and standing in near blizzard temperatures (seriously- I had to keep switching my Starbucks from one hand to the other to avoid a chill) was for the first release of Beatification in two years.

Beatification is one of Russian River's most sought after sours, chock full of brettanomyces, pediococcus, lactobacillus, and sacchromyces- all the things a growing boy needs. It's too bad that the beer release only allowed for two of the coveted bottles per person. Also too bad is the $16 per 12.6 oz. bottle...doesn't Russian River care that I still had a lot of trip left and lots of beer to buy? At least the small release meant there was still plenty of trunk space left.
Next: why I shouldn't plan trips.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Solstice Blackout

It sounds kind of sinister, doesn't it? Solstice Blackout...but I assure you, the latest of Il Vicino's events is really just a celebration of the darker beers, not a gathering of teenagers who think being pagans or wiccas is cool. Solstice Blackout consists of sampling glasses of five different dark beers: Sweet Sanderine Porter, CDL (Cascadian Dark Lager), Schwarzbier, Dark And Lusty Stout, and Passtout, an Imperial Stout. You get all of these beers for $6.00, plus a score sheet where you get to give the brewers feedback on which you liked best. The event starts at noon on Saturday at the Il Vicino Canteen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

No' Ryely IPA

I'm a sucker for the Widmer releases, no matter how big a part InBev plays in their distribution. their discontinued Broken Halo IPA was a great buy when it was available. The Rotator series of IPAs has been a little hit or miss, with the X-114 and Falconer's only entered into consideration for purchase because of the good 12-pack price point. I got that little "ooohhh" feeling when I saw the latest Rotator release to hit our shelves, O'Ryely IPA. Then I saw the September 27 bottling date and I got that other "ooohhh" feeling. Took awhile to get that one to us, eh? Maybe it is because the new Chipotle restaurant has only been open a week but has sold more burritos than Widmer has sold Rotator IPAs in six months. The distributor has to try to sell out the current stock before releasing another one, even if it is a better IPA. The combination of rye malt and Nelson Sauvin hops sound like a good mix for this 50 IBU, 6.4% ABV beer, but we will have to see how time treated it. I first saw this at Smiths at Academy and Wyoming for $8.49, though keep an eye out for 12-packs at a better price.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Happy Anniversary, La Cumbre!

It couldn't have been a better year for Jeff and Laura Erway, who opened La Cumbre December of 2010. In their first year of business, they have built a brewpub that has produced enough IPA to warrant new equipment, won two golds and a silver at the GABF, and, most importantly, amassed a loyal group of pub regulars who devour the beers that Jeff and brewers Kaylynn McKnight, and Nathan Zerbe make. Albuquerque craft beer lovers are lucky to have La Cumbre as a destination. I plan to make it my destination on Saturday, as they will be tapping the special anniversary DIPA. See you there.

Hey, You On the Scooter!

Gimme a sec to catch my breath; I had to walk kind of fast to catch up with you. I just thought that you might like to know that your favorite brewery, Ska, has released a beer to honor one of your favorite bands, The Toasters. Yup, in honor of the group's 30th anniversary, Ska brewed up Shebeen Black IPA. I imagine that it must be named after a song or album, though you would know better than me, right? I've yet to start trying to polish up on my ska music knowledge. Perhaps the next time 97.7 changes formats it will become a ska station...yeah, I think the odds are pretty good on that one. Anyway, I won't keep you, as you're probably on your way to meet up with other scooter riders so you can terrorize the streets as you roam in your packs. But stop b y Jubilation on the way, where this Black IPA is selling for $6.99. Get an extra one to drink before the Jan. 23 Toasters show at the Launchpad.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Out of the Red, Into the Double Black

Thank you, Odell Brewing. I have picked up way too much beer lately, and lower beer prices aren't exactly the trend. However, with the re-release of Odell Mountain Standard Double Black IPA (formerly Mountain Standard Reserve), I feel like I can buy this and and a couple of six-packs to boot. The first Mountain Standard release was in 22 oz. bottles, and sold for $10.99. The second coming of the Mountain Standard is in four-packs of 12 oz. bottles, and is the same $10.99- more than twice the beer at the same price. More beer, and better reviews as well; I have heard that this release of the Imperial Black IPA style, with roasted malt and native Colarado hops, is better than the original. Get this 9.5% ABV beer at the Whole Foods on Carlisle.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Your RDA of Fruits and Fresh Hops

New Belgium sends a couple of new beers in their Lips of Faith 22 oz. bottle series: Fresh Hop IPA and Prickly Pear Saison.
The Fresh Hop IPA made use of Amarillo, Centennial, and Cascade hops from Washington State's hop harvest...from a couple of months ago. Fresh is relative, I guess. Just look at the food you can buy at Ross, meant only to be given as a gift and re-gifted, but never meant to be consumed. Let's hope the Fresh Hop IPA is better than any of that. The IPA is 7% ABV, is 70 IBUs, and sells for $6.19 at the Kelly Liquors on Juan Tabo.

Looking for a beer with a fruit other than lime in your beer (and a fruit beer other than Bud Light Lime)? New Belgium's Prickly Passion Saison adds passion fruit and prickly pear to the delicate Saison style. No longer will you have to trudge to Whole Foods for $10 worth of fruit to throw in your Jack LaLanne juicer to mix with your Saison Dupont (or your Bud Light). This 8.5% ABV Saison is selling for $9.29, also seen at the Juan Tabo Kelly Liquors.

All I Want For Christmas...

Looking for a gift for the beer lover who has everything? Well, I guarantee they don't have this fancy gift basket from Marble Brewery. The package includes a Ritzenhoff geen-u-wine crystal logo goblet, dark chocolate almonds from the local Chocolate Cartel, and the brand new, very, VERY limited release Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout. The gift baskets will retail for $25 and will only be available at three places: Marble Brewery, Jubilation and Quarters on the west side of town. While the shopping locations are limited, at least you won't have to go to the mall, where you know you'll just end up circling the Hickory Farms display for samples and taking a nap in a Brookstone vibrating chair. Plus, you buy a gift basket, you'll be satisfied knowing that you're buying that special someone a gift that that will actually enjoy for a change.

The baskets will be available starting Thursday, December 1, also the day of the release party for the Imperial Stout at Marble Brewery. From 5 to 6, draft pours of the beer will be available to mug club members only. After that, it's open season, but there are only a few kegs of this 11% beer. Individual bottles of the stout will be available for sale so you can treat yourself to an early present or two.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Better Than a Cask of Amontillado

Poe little me, having to drink Bridgeport's new Imperial Porter, Raven Mad. This 7.5% ABV beer returns from the Rue Morgue after being retired in 2008. It has the enticing mix of aging 50% in whiskey barrels and 50% with oak, and a price tag that won't leave you weak and weary like many of the other "Imperial" style releases lately: $5.99 for a 22 oz. bottle. I picked this up at the Kelly Liquors on Wyoming.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blink and You'll Abyss It

This is hard for me to do. My instincts (probably all the way down to my DNA) are telling me to keep this to myself. But I feel it is my duty as an official blogger (and I am proud to say I can be in the 2011 edition of "Who's Who: Bloggers" as long as I pay a $120 handling fee) to tell you that Deschutes The Abyss is here...for now. NM was only allotted a miniscule amount this year, meaning you better get your butt out there and buy this 11% ABV Imperial Stout, partially aged in bourbon barrels and with added molasses and coffee. This is a seasonal release that I look forward to, so telling you was especially hard. Remember, this is from a guy who hates sharing so much that I drunkenly ordered a pizza and had the delivery guy meet me down the street so I could smuggle the pizza inside and sneak bites so I wouldn't have to share with the guys hanging out at my house. Get your Abyss right now at Kelly Liquors at Mountain Run, Whole Foods on Carlisle, and Jubilation, retail around $12.99. And get me some pizza.

The Secret of Bigfoot Revealed

The 2011 release of Bigfoot may have happened months ago, but there are still many cases around at local stores. That is a good thing (Bigfoot, being a Barleywine, ages great, unlike me). Here's a better thing: Kelly Liquors on Wyoming still has about eight cases, and the price has dropped from $11.99 to $7.99 a six pack. It isn't often that a beer meant to be aged will get a price reduction, so take advantage of this sale while there are still some six-packs left.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I'll Be Taking These Hop Huggers...

And whatever cash you got.
From sporadically-seen Durango Brewery, we have two new releases: Winter Ale and Hop Hugger IPA. The Winter Ale is of the traditional Winter Warmer variety (think Great Divide Hibernation. No, forget that, they don't distribute here anymore. Think Odell Isolation, or some other -tion). ABV is 6.3%, and is selling for $6.19 per 22 oz. bottle at Kelly Liquors on Juan Tabo.
Hop Hugger IPA is a reformulated version of Durango's outdated IPA from years past, when a 5.5% ABV IPA was acceptable. The new recipe utilizes six hop varities and ups the ABV to 7.5%. A six-pack is $9.49, also at the Juan Tabo Kellys. The store also has magnums of Mikkeller Red/White Christmas beer (Imperial Red/Belgian Wit cross) and some other interesting items in the coolers. Dodge the Steel Reserve and Almaden wine buyers and check out their selection.

A Sale to Drool Over

Doesn't seem like there's a whole lotta love for Brown Ales in this town. Neither Marble nor La Cumbre, two of Albuquerque's most popular breweries, carry a Brown in their regular offerings. But there have to be a few Brown Ale fans reading, and this is for you:
Head over to Kelly Liquors on Wyoming, where you can get a whole case of Big Sky's biggest seller, Moose Drool Brown Ale for only $9.99! A $2.50 six-pack probably isn't sounding too bad right now, even for those of you who don't like the style, huh? Of course, the beer is selling so low because it is past its freshness date, but these are canned beers, meaning the beer doesn't deal with lightstruck issues that will affect bottled beers...talking about you, Newcastle Brown Ale.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Green Flash,one of San Diego's many hop-centric breweries, now has their beers available here in Albuquerque! Jubilation has Le Freak, West Coast IPA, Hop Head Red, Imperial IPA, and Double Stout. Great brewery; very excited to have them in Albuquerque!

Eleven! Eleven! Eleven!

It's 11.11.11, the numerologically significant day for the neurologically impaired, and also the day that Stone Brewing releases Vertical Epic 11.11.11. The series started with the 02.02.02 release, a Witbier. Since then, releases have ranged from a Belgian IPA to a Belgian Porter, but they all have a Belgian yeast as their base. This year's has a New Mexico twist, but it doesn't involve anyone named Walt or Gus: The beer is brewed with Hatch Green Chile! That's right, the same chile that you waited/wasted half the day to get roasted at Sunflower Market because they had it for cheaper than the other stores. While Stone gives credit to using Hatch Chiles, the chiles are listed as the Anaheim variety, which I guess are the same peppers? I don't really have a clue. I usually think of the "Big Jim" variety when I think of Hatch Green Chile, but "Anaheim" doesn't make me question my sexuality as much, as I never have to say, "I just got done munching on a Big Jimmy!"
Whatever the variety, the chiles are our own NM chiles, and a key ingredient in the 9.4% ABV beer, along with cinnamon. Sounds interesting! It kinda sounds like taking a chile relleno that uses cinnamon in the batter and dipping it into a Belgian beer...but I sure hope it doesn't taste quite like that. In any case, it is always worth trying out the unique Vertical Epic annual release. I got mine at mt local Kelly Liquors on Wyoming, though it should be showing up all over today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Beer Glass for the Klutzes

How often do you find yourself in this situation: drunk and blindly stumbling around the house, having a good ol' time, when your brain forgets about that beer glass in your hand and smash! Party's over. You've lost that souvenir glass from that fest in Oregon, one that can never be replaced. You pick up the pieces of the ruined glass from the floor, your tears mixing with the blood from your lacerated fingers.
Why subject yourself to this, day in and day out, when you could be using a Silipint? Leave the souvenir beer glasses in the cabinet where they were meant to be and try out this pint glass made entirely from silicone. I got one to try out and was initially skeptical, as the glass had a faint rubbery smell upon unpackaging. But after a run through the dishwasher, that smell was gone and I was enjoying my beer out of it. Forgot I was drinking out of a silicone glass after a minute or so. Never forgot I was holding a glass, but if I had, it would only have taken a few sheets of Bounty (the quicker-picker-upper!) to clean up the mess.
Caution: Since the material is so pliable, you may not want to use the glass while watching your favorite football team disappoint you, as it would be easy to squeeze the Silipint in frustration and give yourself a beer shower. Other than that, I give it a thumbs up. You can check out the product at

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Beer Friday

There's a plethora of new beers for you to try this weekend. First up, four new Samuel Adams beers that don't bear any resemblance to the typical Samuel Adams offerings. These are all 22oz bottles with ingredients from around the globe. There's Vixen, an 8.5% ABV Chocolate Chili Bock using Asian cinnamon, Mexican Chiles, and Ecuadorian Cocoa Nibs. Next is the Griffin's Bow, an Oaked-Blonde Barleywine. What? Blonde Barleywine? Aged on toasted oak, Griffin's Bow uses Zeus and Nelson Sauvin hops and is 11.5% ABV. There is also Third Voyage Double IPA, an 8% ABV beer using UK and New Zealand Cascade and gold old USA Simcoe hops. Finally, there's Tasman Red, a 6.7% ABV "Red IPA" that uses Topaz and Galaxy hops from Tasmania. All of you proud New Mexicans out there with Tasmanian Devil tattoos will be sure to buy this one. I found all of these at Kelly Liquors on Wyoming at surprisingly affordable prices, considering how much beers have skyrocketed in price for limited releases. Red IPA is $4.99, Bock and DIPA $5.99, and Barleywine $6.99.

Now onto a beer that is not-so reasonably priced: Anchorage Brewing Company's Bitter Monk. Anchorage is the brainchild of former Midnight Sun head brewer Gabe Fletcher, and is a brewery we don't get regular disribution from. Any, to be more precise. But this beer was a special order for the folks at Kelly Liquors on Juan Tabo, and is the only place you will find Bitter Monk, a Belgian DIPA with brettanomyces. I guess that is why it is selling for $16.99 a 25.4 oz. bottle! Yeah, it's pricy, but Fletcher has always made great beers and this 9% ABV, 100 IBU DIPA may almost be worth the price. Call it an early Christmas present to yourself.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

There's Silverton in Them Thar Hills!

If you attended the recent Hopfest, you probably noticed the Silverton Brewery's table. I think they had about fifteen people representing the brewery, along with enough schwag to put a radio station promo at Rich Ford to shame. It's no surprise that Silverton made their presence known at Hopfest- the owner is a New Mexico native and is excited to now have Silverton Brewery beers in Albuquerque stores. Bear Ass Brown, an English-Style Mild Ale (Gold Medal winner at the 2011 World Beer Championships), and Ice Pick Ale, an IPA, are both available at Jubilation. We don't have a whole lot of Mild Ale choices in these parts, and this 4% ABV version is actually on the higher end of ABV for the style, so drink responsibly. The Ice Pick IPA uses Summit, Cascade, and Palisade hops and is 6.4% ABV. Both of these beers retail for $9.99 a six-pack.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Let It Snow?

Just because it is November 1 does not mean Christmas music should take over a radio station. But 95.1, "Albuquerque's Lite Rock station", is playing nothing but Christmas music through the end of the year. I guess it's no big loss, as their idea of lite rock is basically just pop hits and nothing like the great smooth jazz stations, of which we have NONE. I'm still lamenting the loss of them. They helped me think.
So...Christmas music...colder weather...Snow Day! New Belgium's Snow Day replaces 2 Below as the winter seasonal. While 2 Below was an ESB, Snow Day is a Winter Warmer that combines Midnight Wheat Malt along with Cascade and Centennial to create a hoppy (55 IBUs) beer that is balanced by the chocolate and caramel from the Midnight Wheat. This 6.2% ABV beer is available everywhere because it is made by New Belgium.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

I know a lot of you did the Halloween party thing on Saturday night and are leaving tonight for the kids, but for the dedicated out there I thought I'd tell you about this new cider.
Yup. I'm writing about cider, probably this one time only. Add it to your bookmarks. Me writing about cider is as frightening as looking around and realizing how many formerly thriving businesses are now just buildings for the Spirit Halloween company to use temporarily. The reason I'm giving cider any print is because this is the new Pumpkin Cider from Ace- you know, the people who make that Pear Cider that your friend who can't stand beer brings to parties. Since I've already given the lowdown on all the local pumpkin beers available in town, I thought I'd throw this one out there. It sounds interesting; maybe not enough for me to buy it, but I'm sure you know someone out there who will enjoy it on this Halloween night. It should be at all the local stores, but I first saw it at Kelly's on Wyoming.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Another Pumpkin Beer, Of Sorts

Raise your hand if you aren't getting enough fenugreek and birch bark in your diet.
I thought so. Good news- you can find those ingredients, along with yams, lemon verbana, and of course pumpkin in this newly released Pumpkin Ale. This collaboration between The Bruery, Elysian, and Stone is dubbed La Citrueille Celeste de Citracado, naturally. It's what I would have called it. The breweries involved seem like a good mix to pull off this kind of beer: Elysian is known for making a million pumpkin styles, The Bruery uses many unorthodox ingredients in their beers, and Stone is, well, Stone. Years of solid beer and a very successful brewery. I spotted this at Kelly Liquors on Wyoming, where a 12 oz. bottle is selling for $3.99.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Marcello's Hosts the Belgians

Though wine is still the popular choice for pairing with fancy foods, Marcello's Chophouse (2201 Q St Suite B
ABQ Uptown Center - Louisiana Blvd @ Indian School Road NE) has been advocating the craft beer/food pairing for some time. I never wrote about them because I don't have a nice black shirt to dine in like the guy in the photo.
This Saturday, Marcello's is hosting a Belgian beer tasting from 12-2 pm. For $25, you will be treated to Delirium Tremens, Kasteel Rouge, Kasteel Tripel, St. Louis Framboise, and Ichtegem's Grand Cru, as well as some light appetizers. Maybe they will have someone playing the house piano softly in the background while you sip your Belgian treats. Maybe one of you will get drunk and bang out "Crocodile Rock" on the keys. I sure hope not, but who knows?
This event will only be open to about 25 people, and reservations are required. Call 837-2467 to save your spot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Beers Abound in Albuquerque

With Halloween just a few days away, it is appropriate that our locals are showcasing their Pumpkin beers on tap. Il Vicino has the Punk'n (not to be confused with the Uinta beer of the same name). Marble just tapped their Pumpkin Ale on Monday night. La Cumbre has Witch's Tit, a Pumpkin Ale that at 7.5% borders on imperial status. Chama River has their popular annual release Pumpkin Drublic, the darkest of the local Pumpkin releases. Turtle Mountain will be tapping theirs soon. And today, Il Vicino will be tapping a cask of their Pumpkin style beer using sugar pumpkins and chiles. That one won't last long!
As far as national releases, I have bemoaned the lack of the quality of the distributed Pumpkin beers in Albuquerque. However, we are getting Shipyard's Smashed Pumpkin for the first time. This is a 9% Imperial Pumpkin Ale that retails for $6.99, seen at both Jubilation and Quarters liquor stores. If a 9% beer is a little much for a weeknight beer, the Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale is a solid choice.
If you plan to get a local Pumpkin beer, don't procrastinate- these beers are all made in limited batches and will be gone before you know it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hopfest Was So Much Better Than the Camera On My Phone

If it was up to me, beer fests wouldn't start until about 8 pm. But since Hopfest was starting at 2, I had to rush to wake up, get all my stuff together, and head out to the Hard Rock Casino Hotel. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, which isn't great but still beats the camera on my stupid phone. Therefore, all you get is this blurry photo of Boar's Nest Brewery's booth, but that's appropriate. They had one of the consistently long lines of the day, showing that people are still excited for new beer even with the influx of breweries here in 2011. Lines were not a problem, as generous pours were allowed because of the fest's location on Isleta Pueblo property, letting people enjoy a beer from one brewery while they waited in line for another. The fest was too large for the main room so there was a second tasting room inside the casino, as well as a great outside spot where a third area was set up (as well as a third stage for musical acts- felt like I was at Lollapalooza but with good beer). VIP ticket holders had their own fourth area with special pours like Santa Fe Bourbon Barrel State Pen Porter and plush chairs for that post-tasting nap. Highlights for me included Goose Island Matilda, Widmer Nelson Imperial IPA, and Goat Head Brewing's The Maple's Shade Imperial Stout. Another highlight was the Dukes of Ale homebrew club's table, where they poured Ben Miller's IPA (best IPA I tasted), Saison, Gruit, something I forget because I don't have my notes, and the Duke's people's choice award winner Milk Stout, brewed by Mike Griesmeyer. The best non-beer highlight was the amount of both volunteers and Hard Rock employees who contributed to making the fest run smoothly. The water stations were so well attended to that I felt like there should have been a tip jar. Hydration is severely underrated, so the attention paid to this area was appreciated.

Come post-fest time, we still hadn't had our fill of beer despite the 150 beers available at Hopfest. As always, we were well-prepared, as were some other attendees, so we took over The Goat Head hotel room and started the second party. Turtle Mountain's Nico Ortiz brought some Dogfish Head Chateau Jihau and Pure Hoppiness (neither pictured since he showed up a little late, most likely from trying to keep the tradition of getting kicked out of every hotel he stays in after a beer fest). Fueled by all those beers, we moved on down to the casino floor, where we won a modest sum at the 21 tables. And as long as Hopfest attendees shied away from the casino, everybody must have left feeling like a winner. Everyone seemed to have a fantastic time, with craft beer introduced to a multitude of people who had no idea there were so many choices out there. Here's hoping they will become converts and support our ever growing craft beer scene.

Friday, October 21, 2011

New Beer Friday

Man, this one again? I still have a bunch of bottles from last year, and so do the liquor stores. No matter, this 10.5% big brother to Arrogant Bastard ages just fine, thank you. And the price has stayed about the same for years, too, at $6.99. Thanks for not price-gouging, Stone.

Rogue releases their first Pumpkin Ale that I can remember with Chatoe Rogue First Growth Pumpkin Patch Ale. I don't really know much about it other than I paid $8.99 for it at Kelly Liquors on Wyoming. In-depth reporting there, huh? Have a great weekend, and hope to see you at Hopfest tomorrow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Survey Says...

Hey, got a minute to help starving college students? Wait, these aren't the ones skipping classes (and showers) that their parents pay for to go slam on bongo drums at "occupy" protests. These are students from the prestigious UNM Anderson School of Management, where people are learning to be part of the 1%. They are also doing a survey of craft beer drinkers, I guess as part of some market research project. I try to stay away from school related things after multiple unsuccessful attempts at "the old college try", but I did take the survey. You should too. Don't be scared off by the first question, which asks how much you drink per week. I saw that and said, "Oh great, one of those surveys!", but it isn't the kind that makes you feel bad about your habits. Check it out at

Sunday, October 16, 2011

GABF Friday Fun

If you absolutely must get out of bed the morning after the first night of GABF, the Media Luncheon is a good reason to do so.
We left our hotel and made our way over to the lower, lower level of the Marriott Hotel, which I'm pretty sure is near the center of the Earth. The table held an impressive display of glassware that would be used to serve our TEN courses of beer paired with six courses of food. Our table mates included beer writers Pete Brown, Tim Webb, and Stan Hieronymus. It felt like the time I thought I was cool working at All-American Burger until fast food legend Brad Hamilton came in and took over the fryer from me.

The fare was a cut above the menu at All-American Burger, starting with the first beer, served as a "Welcome Craft Beer" before the first course: TAPS Fish House and Brewery's Belgian White. The first course of a Carpaccio Beet Salad with fennel, green apples, goat cheese and bacon was so good I didn't even miss the dressing that sat in a gravy boat, unnoticed. I initially felt cheated, then I just felt stupid. Then I drank The Chuckanut Vienna Lager and McKenzie Saison pairings and forgot about it- until now, where I am chugging Hidden Valley Ranch. You may be reading this at work, with vending machines being your only source of sustenance, so I'll skip describing all the courses (I'll just showcase the photo of the grains of paradise seared lamb loin with ginger forbidden rice with apricots and cranberries). I'll also tell you that the theme of the luncheon was GABF medal winning brewpubs. This was a great idea, as smaller brewpubs win a large percentage of GABF medals but are often passed over by fest goers who are looking for more celebrated breweries. We only need look at our local brewpubs for examples of breweries that should never be skipped. In fact, Scott Metzger, Founder of Freetail Brewing (who's Bandito Sour we enjoyed with our "American Artisan Cheese Plate", sorry) told the story of how he made the decision to take the risk of starting his brewery while drinking at our own Chama River Brewing Company.

We bridged the gap between the 2 pm end of the Media Luncheon and the 5:30 start of the Friday GABF session with unofficial beer courses 11, 12, etc. The Friday session at GABF has the same amped-up energy that a local bar does during a Friday happy hour. That is to say, more people looking to get drunk as heck because they don't have to get up for work the next day, and that's not a bad thing at all. Even though I was being good and sampling slowly, there is always that background roar of thousands of people enjoying the best craft beer in the country that urges me to hit every brewery (and brewpub) that gets in my way. GABF has so much more going on, though- from free massages (the "happy ending" is that you get to go sample 2,378 beers after your massage is over, I was embarrassed to learn), to celebrity chefs teaching beer/food pairings, to beer book author signings, to the coolest exhibit at this 30th anniversary of GABF: a recreation of the scene of the first 1982 GABF, held in 1982, with an area the same square footage as the first serving beer from the same 22 breweries at the initial fest. That small area was just a dot on the map of the 2011 fest that took up the entire Colorado Convention Center floor with 466 breweries, and it put into perspective just how far this fest and American craft beer have come.

Friday, October 14, 2011

You Hear Those Sleigh Bells Ringing?

I'm not hearing them. I'm still biding my time till Halloween candy gets discounted. You can find me at Wal Mart on October 31 at around 6:30, buying bags of half-off Mr. Goodbars. But breweries sure are getting in the Christmas spirit early, as both Anchor's annual Our Special Ale and Full Sail's Wreck the Halls are available at area stores. Anchor's version is a spiced Brown Ale that varies a bit each year. It makes for a nice beer to collect and age for a vertical tasting, perhaps a good beer to share at the holiday table with family who "doesn't really like beer".
Wreck the Halls is an IPA that leans heavily on the caramel malt, though the 68 IBUs aren't overshadowed by the malt. Wreck the Halls retails for $5.99 a 22 oz. bottle and Anchor Our Special Ale goes for $10.99 a six-pack.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hopfest Ticket Party

You still have a chance to buy tickets for Hopfest, Albuquerque's largest beer fest. Come out to Nexus Brewery this Saturday, Oct. 15, where Hopfest tickets will be sold for $25. The ticket gets you admission to the fest, where from 3-6 you can enjoy 32 2 oz. samples from 46 different breweries! If that just isn't enough, upgrade to the extra hoppy hour tickets, where $35 gets you in at 2 pm for an extra hour of drinking and an extra 10 samples.
Sure, you could be lazy and just show up on Oct. 22, the day of Hopfest at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and pay the extra $5 for tickets at the door, but listen- Everyone who buys a Hopfest ticket at Nexus this Saturday will be treated to a free pint of their choice. On top of that, the first 50 early birds get a $25 gift certificate to Casa Verde Spa & Salon. Ooh la la. The fest is going to sell out, so you may as well stop over at Nexus, grab your ticket and free pint and stick around for a couple more pints. And your Hopfest ticket not only gets your lots of great beer (and after looking at the lineup, there are many beers to get excited about), it also contributes to a great cause: the New Mexico Chapter of Make a Wish. See you at Hopfest!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Some More GABF- Thursday

No, this isn't my thrown-up aftermath of a night of Pumpkin beers at Falling Rock. I actually felt pretty good for once after a Brewers Gathering/night of drinking special releases. This is a mishmash of Middle Eastern style food at a regional restaurant called Garbanzos, located in the Denver Highlands area. We took a cab over to the area since we didn't rent a car this year. Garbanzos is conveniently located near Mondo Vino, a great little beer and wine shop. We stopped in just for a "look around", since we weren't checking bags on our flight we weren't planning on buying any beer. But damn...They had the new Barrel Aged Yeti Imperial Stout and Avery Immitus Sour for sale- and the BA Yeti was only $30 a bottle. Glad that Garbanzos plate was only $7 bucks! Oh, and they were also selling beer from Short's, a small brewery out of Michigan that was only distributing their beers in Denver during GABF. Had to pick up some Dogfish Head Punkin too.

So with two bags full of beer, what would be a better idea than walking the 3.5 miles back to our hotel? Upon reflection- anything. I'm surprised I wanted anything more to do with beer that day, but the first session of GABF was starting at 5:30, and I had a job to do. And after seeing all the volunteers in this one section ready to pour for the soon to enter thousands, I was ready to start tasting! We camped out at Kern River for the initial tasting, where they were pouring their Citra DIPA, a beer that was bottled for the first time this year and sold out in many stores the day of the release. We moved on to Cigar City, who had thoughtfully brought Hunahpu Imperial Stout. Then Pizza Port for Pseudo IPA, last year's Gold medal winner. Ithaca Brute Sour. Jackie O's Oil of Aphrodite...wait.
I said I was going to go slower this year. I needed a break.

And this was just the distraction I needed: the Farm to Table Pavilion, a ticket-only affair in the convention center, where chefs were paired locally-sourced foods with world class beers. The foods were a little too sophisticated for me, though. I know people get weak in the knees over duck confit and pork bellies and raw oysters and whatnot, and I know the chefs are very talented and the food looked great- but I was happy just sampling the "beer" part of the pairings: Three Floyds Moloko, Nebraska Apricot, Allagash Black, Real Ale 15th Anniversary...
So much for going slow. Next year I'll take an intermezzo of pizza, please. I've got no class.

Knowing that we still had three more GABF sessions to work our way through, we moved on to Falling Rock for a nightcap. I was sooo happy to see that Falling Rock finally was using the parking lot out front to serve beer from a trailer lended to them by Left Hand Brewing. Here you see them setting up for the weekend. The trailer allowed for more people to be let in and at the same time eased the crush of people at the bar. The trailer served 12 taps with choices like 512 Pecan Porter and Pliny the Elder. We didn't get any beer from the trailer that night; instead we drank vintage Full Sail Barleywines, a 1998 Old Boilermaker (Barleywine aged in bourbon barrels) and older than dirt 1995 Old Boardhead Barleywine. The 98 was the clear winner, as I find I am becoming a sucker for any beer aged in liquor barrels. I don't even have a clue what I paid for the beers; I just hear that they are being tapped and I say, "Yes, please".
So after only about thirty samples at the first night of GABF and a couple beers at Falling Rock, we ended our Thursday night in Denver. Friday was going to be a day full of drinking, and I knew I would need my full 13 hours of sleep.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's Always Sunny at NM Brew Fest

I was prepared to skip this fest.
Not because of any ill will towards the NM Brew Fest, but rather the weather the previous night, when it was cold and rainy, had me ready to see if I could make a day of shopping the sunglasses, cell phones, and brass knuckle belt buckle kiosks in Coronado Mall. Luckily, the weather cleared up to bring a sunny and just a little cool day.

Upon entering the fest, we headed for the VIP area, where we were greeted with dishes from Chef Shawn Weed, who had prepared a number of courses incorporating different Odell beers. Chocolate cupcakes made with Odell Cutthroat Porter and topped with a peanut butter frosting, anyone? No? Shoulda shelled out the extra bucks for the VIP tickets then. The VIP tickets also got you a Whole Foods bag filled with...not much, really. I appreciated the free beer token for Turtle Mountain along with a temporary tattoo with the brewery's logo, but the menu for Bailey's on the Beach and various flyers for other businesses didn't do much for me. The VIPs were treated to an Odell booth pouring their solid regular lineup along with an Oktoberfest beer available only at the Fest and at Odell's tap room in Ft. Collins, CO.

There was another area partitioned off (not to be confused with the VIP area, please) where Whole Foods had a tent that housed pours of Smoked Porter and IPA from Stone Brewing Co. More Odell beers were poured in the same area: Myrcenary DIPA and the expensive ($25 a bottle) Woodcut #5. Nice touch by the Odell rep to break out the really good stuff for the fest.

The popularity of the fest equated to longish lines but they moved quickly. I think people here are finally catching on to the idea that you don't get to the front of the line and set up camp while trying everything. And there was plenty to try, from Blue Corn's Pumpkin Ale to Chama's Amarillo Pale Ale to Il Vicino's 2007 St. Bob's Imperial Stout to La Cumbre's GABF multi-medal winning beers (more on that when I finally update the GABF trip). The worst lines of the day were in for the one men's and one women's bathroom on the event grounds. There were other bathrooms outside the fest grounds but it didn't seem like anyone wanted to get too far away from all the beers. A special thanks to the workers at Expo NM for making sure the bathrooms stayed clean and stocked- at one point, a worker stood handing out paper towels to patrons but he wasn't expecting tips. Here's a tip for you: if you skipped out on this year's NM Brew Fest, please put it on your calendar for next year. It is a fun, well-organized fest in a great location.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Almost Free-For-All

Just a quick note of what the Kelly Liquors on Wyoming has for cheap deals right now:

Big Sky Trout Slayer Ale: $9.99 a case

Boulder Planet Porter: $9.99 a case

Paulaner Hefeweizen: $9.99 a case

That's some cheap beer right there! Of course, for that price you know you aren't getting these beers at their freshest, but it's not bad to stock up on to give freeloading guests.

GABF, Part 2

They knew I was coming, and they baked me a cake. Me and I don't how many brewery people were treated to the great spread that Wynkoop Brewery put out for their annual Brewers' Gathering, a buffet both of food and hard to get beer. This year had the addition of a "Sours Suite" where they poured the Allagash/New Belgium Vrienden, Strange Brewing's Kriek, Nodding Head's Berliner Weisse, and Black Folie, a mix of La Folie and Black Raspberry Mead. Aside from that, the highlight was Three Floyds Marshmallow Handji: Dark Lord RIS aged in brandy barrels with vanilla beans. Rare.

I've never seen a harder keg to tap than a keg made from a pumpkin. The last stop of the night was to Falling Rock Tap House, where they were hosting an Elysian Brewery pumpkin takeover, with ten different Pumpkin beers to try- including a beer fermented inside a giant pumpkin. This was a beer you had to have a ticket for, which I did. This allowed me the privilege of being in a crush of people who waited for half an hour while organizers used a variety of power tools to try to get the darn thing tapped. You can see how happy Falling Rock owner Chris Black is after finally getting the beer flowing, but he wasn't nearly as happy as I was: I had left my beer at the table so I went without that whole time.

Here is poor Paul, a server who was stuck with the task of keeping track of all the Pumpkin beers we ordered. We were with Majin and Turtle of Goat Head Brewing and we kept Paul busy with all our orders, as we are all big fans of the Pumkin beer style. Just look at Turtle's face- she's about to snatch that whole tray from Paul. I think Paul was still recovering from our visit in February and all my Pliny the Younger orders, but he did a great job as always. We ended up getting The Great Pumpkin (Imperial Pumpkin Ale), a Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner (like drinking pureed ginger, which we don't do for a good reason), Mr. Yuck (Pumpkin Sour), Saison of the Witch (Pumpkin Saison- very good), Dark O' The Moon (a Pumpkin Stout), that beer poured from a pumpkin, which I'm glad I waited all that time for, and Coche De Medianoche (weird: guajillo chiles, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, pumpkin seeds, and cumin- lots of cumin. Like someone opened the wrong side of the spice container and poured way too much). Finally, a cask of a Stone/Bruery/Elysian concoction of yams, sugar pumpkins, fenugreek, and lemon verbana, which somehow came together to make a very good beer with a very long name: Le Citrueille Celest De Citricado.

And that was a whole day in the life of a beer fest trip without a beer fest written about yet. That's next.