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.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pick Up a Peck of Peppered Porter

Volume 3 of Left Hand's Fade to Black series is now available in Albuquerque. As with the first two in the series, the beer is black in color. Go figure. Volume 1 was a Foreign Extra Stout (won a gold medal in that category at GABF last year; Volume 2 was a Smoked BalticPorter, and Volume 3 is a Peppered Porter with chile peppers added. The addition of the peppers has it registering on the Scoville heat scale, at 1,984 units- about the same as a Poblano pepper. Fade to Black is 7.2% and about $8.99 at local liquor stores.

Monday, October 3, 2011

First Snippet: Great American Beer Festival 2011

Apologies: computer difficulties kept me from updating the site while attending GABF activities in Denver, and I can only give a very small bit of the first day here. But that may be better than nothing...probably not though.

Well, that's kind of an ominous welcome to Denver, isn't it? But with the GABF, an event that attracts 50,000 people to the city for the chance to try nearly 3,000 beers, you can't blame cab companies for putting the stickers up. And it helped remind me of my pledge to myself for this year's GABF: Don't overdo it this time! Not that I ever found myself throwing up in a cab, but I would certainly hit the beer pretty hard the first night in town, making the rest of the week a fight between catching up on sleep and drinking the daily hangover away. At least we started off this trip right, foregoing the 7+ hour drive in favor of a quick "beverage cart through the aisle and back" 1 hour flight.

Soon after checking in at our hotel we had our first event of the week- Vegan Fest, disguised as a Deschutes Brewery industry gathering. Held at the Hyatt's 27th floor Peaks Lounge, this combination beer tasting/fill your face event is always a nice way to start off our time in Denver. Aside from the meat and cheese pictured, there were sliders and a butternut squash beer soup to go along with The Stoic, Fresh Hop Mirror Pond, and the first tastings of the 2011 Abyss.