Friday, April 29, 2011

An Early Morning Start to a Dark Lord Day

Mornings aren't really "mornings" if you never actually slept, I've decided.

In preparation for this year's Dark Lord Day, the one day release of the infamous Imperial Stout produced by Munster, Indiana's Three Floyds Brewery, we decided to book the 6:10 am Southwest nonstop flight from Albuquerque to Chicago. In years past, we had always arrived at Midway Airport around 3:50 pm, meaning we got to sit through miles of red lights and third-biggest-city-in-the-country-rush-hour traffic before hitting the short interstate drive to our destination in Munster. This year, we bit the bullet and did the early, early flight. I couldn't sleep because I was more excited than when I took my first group shower in gym class.

The trade-off for my sleep deprivation was the chance to hit up five Chicago area beer stores and get to Three Floyds for some pre-Dark Lord Day beers. We got to drink Dreadnaught DIPA, Arctic Panzer Wolf DIPA, Zombie Dust Citra hop Pale Ale (more like an IPA), Founders Double Trouble DIPA, and to get a little variety in our drinking, Dogfish Head Red and White, a Belgian Wit with orange peel and pinot noir concentrate. By the time we left, there was a line outside Three Floyds waiting for seating, as eager as prom couples waiting outside Olive Garden. So at least the early morning rise allowed us to beat the crowds at the brewery.

Now, back at the hotel, my plan is twofold: staying up to drink more beer and finding the room party where I will get to try some hard to find beers that Dark Lord Day attendees will be sharing tonight. I'm on the edge of being delirious but at least I'll have a good excuse for being boring. I'll try to keep the updates going as we continue into Dark Lord Day and a Chicago visit.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This One Time...At Beer Camp...

I don't have the fondest memories of summer camp days. I didn't get to go to a specialty music camp or anything fancy. I got stuck going to one where we basically just sat around and sweated all day. The only memory that sticks out is the time I cried because the camp counselor wouldn't let little fat boy me get a second slice of pizza at lunch. But kids have it much better these days- they can go to Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp and learn to make all kinds of beers. Sierra has released a 12-pack comprising four favorites from different camps. Juniper Black Ale is an 8% ABV, 61 IBU beer made with Magnum hops. California Common (think Anchor Steam, but with a higher ABV) is 6.5% ABV. Weizenbock is 6.8% ABV and uses Sierra's Kellerweis yeast. Finally, a Double IPA based on the Beer Camp Ghidorah DIPA recipe rounds out the mixed pack and is 8.2%. I haven't had a chance to try any of these yet, but I will tonight. Hopefully I won't feel like I wasted the $19.99 I spent on this pricy 12-pack.

Samuel Adams has a new 12-pack as well, one that features some tweaking of its Latitude 48 IPA. The mixed bag of IPA, which is officially named Latitude 48 Deconstructed, contains two of the original version, along with two each of these single hop varieties: Ahtanum (fairly mild hop), Zeus (almost interchangeable with Columbus hops) , Hattertau Mittlefrueh (they used to make a great Imperial Pilsner with this noble hop), East Kent Goldings (not my favorite hop by far), and Simcoe (one of my favorites). This 12-pack goes for $16.99. Both are available right now at Jubilation.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bock it to Me

Public transportation is under-utilized by all but the smelliest of people here in Albuquerque. I wish I could say I took advantage of the bus routes that go right by my house, but I just complain about my car's mpg and gas prices and getting stuck behind buses when I drive. But on Saturday, May 21, I may actually leave the car at home and let the city do the driving. Not on a bus, but on the Rail Runner train, which conveniently has a stop in Santa Fe just about 1/4 of a mile from Santa Fe Brewing Co., host of the 2011 BockFest. The event starts at noon and goes till 6 pm, with eight regional breweries taking part. Marble, Santa Fe, Tractor, Second Street, Rio Grande, Blue Corn, Chama River, and Turtle Mountain will each be pouring a Bock beer and other styles as well. Patrons can cast a vote for their favorite Bock of the fest and the brewery with the most votes receives the Bock trophy to display in their pub. There will be free shuttle transportation from the Rail Runner station to the BockFest. Tickets are limited in order to allow for plenty of sampling time with minimum standing in line time. Tickets cost $15 for the fest and are available at participating breweries and also online at Music will be provided by Albuquerque's hottest oompah band, Die Polka-schlingel. To get a taste of what this band is about, visit, where you can purchase their CD for only $18.25! What a bargain, right? Come on, think of what you paid for that Radiohead album...this band will grab you by the schlingel and won't let go! The world tour of music continues with reggae-ish Crazy Fool and Cajun-ish Gumbo Project.

Friday, April 22, 2011

New Beer Friday

A good Friday to you, my friends. We have a couple of new beers in town this week. Batting first is TNT from Left Hand Brewing. TNT is a 7.8% ABV Weizenbock...or at least that's what Left Hand says. The beer tastes more like a Rauchbier because of the strong smoked malt flavor. That's not a bad thing unless you are trying to win a medal in the Weizenbock category. If you like smoked beers and have $6.99 burning a hole in your pocket (which would go right along with the smoke in the beer) then head to your nearest liquor store- everyone is carrying Left Hand stuff. For some reason they are becoming the darling of local "sometimes craft beer lovers", just like New Belgium was the past few years.

You say your life just isn't the same since Marble ran out of its Citra Pale Ale? Yeah, things are tough all over. Jesus wasn't having his best day around this time a few years back. Maybe Widmer can get your spirits rising again with X-114 IPA, the first release in their Rotator series of IPAs. It only uses two hop varieties, Alchemy for bittering and Citra for everything else. I've only seen this 6.2% ABV IPA in 12 packs at Kelly Liquors on Wyoming but it should be available in six-packs around town as well. The 12-pack was selling for $14.99.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Mormons are Coming!

The saints are marching in and setting up camp in Albuquerque liquor stores. Spotted at Kelly liquors on Wyoming was an entire shelf dedicated to Utah beers: Wasatch Devastator Double Bock, Polygamy Porter, and Summerbrau Lager, along with Squatters IPA and Hop Rising DIPA. I have had the 9% ABV Hop Rising a few times and it is a good DIPA, not quite world-class but pleasant and not too pricy at $9.99 a sixer. When I think of the Polygamy Porter, I don't think of the actual beer but rather the t-shirt, which is very popular for men who like to wear sandals and go grocery shopping. I can't explain this phenomenon, but men wearing this shirt in grocery stores outranks men wearing the shirt to beer fests by at least a 4 to 1 ratio. And I usually spot them at our local (John) Smiths stores. Hmmm. Don't wait for latter days; get these Utah beers at their freshest.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Beer Week's End Gives me the Blues (and Brews)

Hope you get the same feeling. Though all the week's festivities are ending, the grand finale is a doozy. Or it can be, depending on how many of the over 100 beers you sampled at the Albuquerque Blues and Brews festival Saturday.

Ticket holders lined up at Sandia Casino to form a line that would have seemed daunting were it not for the fact that the entrance was well organized. Multiple volunteers at each station taking tickets and handing out wristbands, programs, and taster glasses.

The many hands made for a quick entry to the fest, where 33 breweries awaited the eager crowd- and there certainly was a crowd. The first (hopefully annual) Albuquerque Blues and Brews was a sellout. Lines weren't a problem at this fest, as there were no punchcards to be scrutinized. Festival goers were free to get their fill of as many samples as they liked.

And the samples weren't poured out like the last drops from a sippy cup. The beer flowed in generous but sensible portions that allowed people to take time to enjoy their beers without having to jump to the nearest line for a refill. The volunteers were well versed on the beer they were pouring, so people new to the craft beer scene weren't left thinking, "I tried a dark and a light beer at that booth".

It was nice to see that the brewery without a home, Goat Head Brewing, had a buzz about them even though they haven't yet sold a beer to the public. Their Hop Sodomy DIPA was a heavy hitter that made for the perfect start for my own tasting at the fest. Will somebody please give this brewery a good deal on a space that will allow us to drink their beer on a regular basis?

Sandia Casino was the perfect host for Blues and Brews. The event space was much nicer than I remembered, probably due to the fact that even though the room was crowded with people, the layout of the event allotted a tremendous amount of breathing room. And what better backdrop could you ask for than the Sandia Mountains?

Way to come out all week and show that we truly do have a thriving craft beer scene here in Albuquerque, all you New Mexico folk. It was great to see how excited everyone looked while waiting for the entrances to open at Blues and Brews today. I'm proud of all of ya for supporting the scene. Then again, I'm proud of my supermarket plastic shopping bag collection, so take it for what it's worth. But I have to tell you that there is a bag in that collection from the defunct Furr's local supermarket chain, as well as Publix, Bi-Lo, A&P, Super Fresh, so many more! Can you feel my pride?? I hope you had the fun at all the Beer Week events and at today's Blues and Brews. Let's make this an annual thing!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Better Stock up on Those Avery Beers...

Avery Brewing, makers of The Maharaja, The Czar, The Reverend, The Kaiser, The Beast, etc., now have a new one for us in New Mexico: The Shaft. From Avery's website (and made known to me by beer writing legend Stan Hieronymus,, comes this press release I could do without:
"Beginning in April 2011 beer shipments will be ceased to Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Tennessee. Avery Brewing Company hopes to re-enter these eight states at some point in the future once production capacity can catch up with demand. The brewery is also leaving several partial state markets, including: Northern California (Bay Area and Sacramento), Eastern Arkansas, Upstate New York (outside of New York City), Central Florida (Orlando area) and Wisconsin."
So it goes. Avery blames the rapid growth of the brewery, as sales are up 75% for the first quarter of 2011 and the brewery says they just can't keep up production to serve all those markets. Fair enough, and the blow is softened as it isn't like New Mexico is being singled out as the only state being denied Avery beers. But it still feels like one step back for our state that seems to be becoming more aware of and excited by craft beers. Luckily, none of our fine New Mexico breweries will be ceasing production anytime soon, so keep on supporting them! And if you feel the need to get out of town for a few days, Avery is only 475 miles away from Albuquerque.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ohhh No. You're Not Done Drinking Yet!

People like us, we aren't just ordinary social drinkers who order a Michelob Ultra just so we have something in our hand while we socialize at the bar. We are "In it to win it", which in our case means getting a good craft beer and being perfectly happy enjoying its company without having to hear about so and so's baby throwing up for the first time. In other words, we go out for the beer! I found myself winning again tonight while enjoying a Left Hand Fade to Black Smoked Baltic Porter at Two Fools during Left Hand Brewery's event on this 5th day of ABQ Beer Week. Thursday evening promises to be a marathon of beer with events at four Nob Hill area establishments. O'Niell's will have another Left Hand event in case you couldn't make it out tonight. Monte Vista Fire Station will host the Deschutes Dissident tasting, and they may possibly pour another Reserve Series beer...The Abyss, please? Two Fools isn't done pouring, as New Belgium will be there with a special brew that isn't available here yet. Finally, Imbibe will host a free co-tasting between Colorado breweries Breckenridge and Ska. If a taste isn't enough (and with us, is it ever???)buy a pint of one of the brewery's beers and you get to take the glass home. I doubt that the "glass" you get is one of those generic bar pints so you should be able to take home a logo glass to put alongside all those Marble glasses you have stolen over the years. See you everywhere on Thursday!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Marble Gets Swanky for Beer Week

Notwithstanding the motley crew pictured here, Marble's Beer and Cheese pairing event attracted over 100 of Albuquerque's high-fallutin' hob-nobbers, the kind of people you usually see pictured in the Albuquerque Magazine socialite section. There was even jazz music playing softly in the background as participants "noshed" (that's the word really annoying people use instead of "ate food"). Marble's contribution to the first ever ABQ Beer Week included five beers paired with five cheeses, none of which came from a package of 24 individually wrapped slices. I'm talking Goronzola Dolci and aged raw milk gouda types of cheese. More importantly, I'm talking five beers, four of which aren't available on Marble's everyday tap list. Tripel, Abbey Strong, Double IPA, Barleywine, and Imperial Stout all paired with a cheese that best complemented the beer. My favorite beer was the 11.6% Barleywine, though someone stole my Stilton so I can't say how that pairing was. I can say that I shouted questions from my side of the velvet rope to the cheese nibblers and beer sippers and all responses were amazingly positive. It was an expertly run event by Ted and the whole Marble crew; many thanks to them for hosting. The third day of ABQ Beer Week is now in the books- have you come out to support our local beer scene yet? Go to and see what's on tap for the rest of the week!

Friday, April 8, 2011

There Can Be Only One

For your Friday drinking pleasure, I submit to you Bridgeport's Highland Ambush. This 6.8% Scotch Ale was aged in Maker's Mark Bourbon barrels, adding oak and vanilla to an already complex flavor. I found this at the Kelly Liquors on Wyoming for $6.99 per 22 oz. bottle. No plans for the evening? Rent Highlander, sip some Highland Ambush, and enjoy Queen's best soundtrack performance. Yes, I'm ranking it higher than their Flash Gordon soundtrack. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Every Day is Like Beer Day

Unlike Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving, National Beer Day is a holiday with true historical significance. It marks the day the Cullen-Harrison Act was enacted, finally putting an end to our country's biggest mistake (besides not electing Perot/Stockdale, and New Coke): Prohibition. Though the Cullen-Harrison Act only allowed for 3.2% Alcohol By Weight beer at the time, it sure as hell beat drinking a bottle of Listerine. We have plenty of "National This" and "National That" days that I don't really give a second thought to, other than to be annoyed by them. And though National Beer Day may never be quite the drinking day St. Patrick's Day is, any nearly rational reason you give me to drink beer is a good one. I'll certainly be celebrating today. We should consider ourselves lucky to live in an age when we can get darn near any beer we want, at any alcohol percentage, and also can choose between multiple flavors of Listerine.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

IVB Canteen Officially Opens

I dropped into the new Il Vicino Brewery, or as per the official name "IVB Canteen" Monday evening. The Canteen, located at 2381 Aztec, opened quietly, but it won't be long before Albuquerque's beer loving population makes the brewery another destination along with our other great breweries.
There were no marching bands or ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the new brewery, just a no-frills "here we are" opening. I spoke with David, the manager, and Darcy, the general manager, and learned that the new brewery spot will focus on being more of a brewpub with traditional table service, offering gourmet-ish panini sandwiches with ingredients like organic prosciutto, pork loin, mortadella, and arugula. I was lost at "organic", but I'm sure they will be a hit with customers. The makeshift kitchen behind the bar hosts a Berkel meat slicer that looks as if it could double as a James Bond torturing tool. The Canteen has a slew of young servers who David assured me will be just as well informed on the beer selections as they are on the food. We'll see, as the Ipod touch ordering systems each server carries would take me a year to learn without having to memorize beer specs too. Then again, I'm getting to that "Can't set the VCR clock" age technologically. No wonder they hired such young people to serve.

The staff doesn't have too much in the beer department to memorize yet. In trying to meet the demand of the three Il Vicino restaurants around town, the Canteen has only the four staple beers on tap right now: Pigtail Pils, Il Vicino Amber. Slow Down Brown, and Wet Mountain IPA. I was told it will probably be nearly two months before we can see any of Brady's Brewer's Specials on tap.In the meantime, patrons can get their fill in a 10 oz. ($2.75), 16 oz. ($4.00) or 22 oz. glass ($4.75). The Mug Club will be up and running soon, though details are still being finalized. Growlers ($15.00 new, $8.00 refilled) are available, though they will only fill Il Vicino branded glass.

The Canteen plans to be opened from 2-10 Sun-Thurs and 2-12 Fri-Sat, though they may expand the hours to be opened at noon once they get the kitchen running smoothly enough to attract the lunch crowd. Patrons can enjoy an outside seating area, though the views of the surrounding industrial area buildings aren't spectacular. I'll stay inside, counting the days till Brady gets us some Elsa's Hop Elixir and Odin's Imperial Red.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rocky Mountain Low

With all due respect to the late, great John Denver, "Rocky Mountain High" just doesn't fit into this story. Kelly Liquors on Wyoming has another big deal for you: Cases of Fort Collins Brewing's Retro Red and Rocky Mountain IPA, which normally sell for $7.99 a six-pack, are being offered for $14.99 while supplies last. I'll admit that I'm not as excited about this as when Coronado Islander and Idiot were selling for the same discounted price, but the Rocky Mountain is a serviceable at that price. It certainly beats that Colorado beer made with Rocky Mountain stream water...

Cask Fest was Firkin Fun

Another day, another successful NM Brewers Guild event.
Saturday's Cask Ale Festival at La Cumbre was a well organized event, and by "well organized" I mean I didn't have to wait long for a beer, even though the place was packed. Of course, you can't really see that from the first pic I put up here. That was taken at the very beginning of the fest. I have to get to these things early because I have a minor problem with waiting in lines that may only be treatable with a tranquilizer gun.

Cask-conditioned beers from nine New Mexico breweries were pouring on Saturday. I don't have a list of all of them but I will go by memory: Santa Fe Irish Red, Turtle Mountain ESB, Il Vicino Slow Down Brown, Three Rivers IPA, Blue Corn Roadrunner IPA, Turtle Mountain IPA, Il Vicino Wet Mountain IPA, Chama River Sleeping Dog Stout, ABQ Brew Pub (Ben Miller) Oatmeal Stout, Chama River Double Red, La Cumbre Three-Legged Dog TIPA, Marble DIPA, La Cumbre El Negro Imperial Stout, and La Cumbre Mole Mole Malpais Stout with red chile. Standout beers for me were the Chama Double Red, which was more of a DIPA and less of a Red; Marble DIPA, and El Negro RIS. Thanks to all the breweries who made the event possible and to all the pourers who kept glasses full all day.