Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Total Threat to Local Liquor Stores

Hey, westsiders. Looks like you've finally got something to brag about. Albuquerque's first Total Wine and More is now open over there in that mess of stores near the Cottonwood Mall, in the former Borders location. Shelves filled with alcohol is much more purposeful use of retail space than one filled with books, I've always said. Read blogs, not books.

The first thing upon entering the massive liquor store was the kiosks of mini bottles. Silly Total Wine and More...don't you know this is Albuquerque? You might as well put up a sign saying, "Steal me!" There were too many corporate types there for me to grab more than a handful of Midori and Yukon Jack. That's right, many of the Total Wine higher-ups came to town dressed in their best 3-pieces. I didn't really talk to any of them. I find that as soon as I say, "Well, I have a blog" their eyes dart around looking for someone to save them.

Besides, I wanted to see what their beer selection was like. Pretty impressive, especially the prices. At least a dollar cheaper on most six-packs than other places in town, and only $7.99 for La Cumbre Elevated IPA! There were also beers that were making their New Mexico debut (not sure if other stores will get them). I noticed beers from Diamond Knot, Flying Fish, Humboldt, Scuttlebutt, Pike, and Clown Shoes (picked up their Luchador en Fuego, a chili spice barrel aged Imperial Stout). Most of the offerings are not refrigerated, and I was surprised that bottle dates showed that not every beer was the freshest released, so keep an eye out for older beers there.

Nice spread, huh? I must say, the Total Wine people were very generous with all the free catered food and Gruet sparking wine pours. Also nice were the gift bags with the $10 gift cards in them. Since this is a chain store and is new, of course the people came out in droves. But I don't think the crowds will dissipate anytime soon- the beer selection is very good and the wine and liquor sections go on forever. It's definitely a store worth checking out.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

New Mexico Cup Runneth Over

People love beer fests. I don't know if it's actually the beer or the chance to get their pictures taken wearing huge sunglasses and a hulu skirt while holding a tambourine, but they come out in droves. And so they did for the first New Mexico Beer Cup at the Albuquerque Convention Center. This event was more that your typical fest- ticketholders were given the opportunity to vote for the best beers in several categories. Also judging beers were local celebrity types (TV's Tom Joles, 104.1 The Edge's Baxter, Domino's Pizza's The Noid, etc.). There was also a professional judging event held Friday, where the really serious tasters could concentrate without being around people who were having fun.
I always wonder if we are reaching the tipping point of too many fests with the relatively small population we have in Albuquerque, but the New Mexico Cup showed that people will still come out if there is good beer to be had. Sure, there was wine there as well, but I don't think anyone came for that. Tasting highlight of the fest for me was the Ember IPA from Bosque Brewing. When it came to the judging, Il Vicino walked away with a ton of awards, including the coveted Best of Show for the BA St. Bob's Imperial Stout. Congratulations to all of the winners!

People’s Choice

Lager -Tractor Brewing Company Mann der Damn Lager
Pilsner, Kolsch & Light Hybrid -Tractor Brewing Company Pilsner
Belgian & Wheat -Sierra Blanca Brewing Alien Wheat
Pale Ale - Santa Fe Brewing Company Happy Camper
Other – Il Vicino Brewing Company Dougie Style Amber
Red - Marble Brewery Marble Red
Porter - TIE
Nexus Brewery Chocolate Porter
Bosque Brewing Olde Bosky
Stout- Il Vicino Brewing Company Dark & Lusty Stout
IPA -Il Vicino Brewing Company Wet Mountain IPA
Imperial Styles - Marble Brewery Imperial Red
Specialty - Marble Brewery Oaked DIPA

Celebrity Picks

Lager -Tractor Brewing Company Mann der Damm Lager
Pilsner, Kolsch & Light Hybrid -Nexus Brewery Cream Ale
Belgian & Wheat - Sierra Blanca Alien Wheat
Pale Ale - TIE
Tractor Brewing Company
Sierra Blanca Brewing Company
Other – Il Vicino Brewing Company Dougie Style Amber
Red - Marble Brewery Marble Red
Porter - Bosque Brewing Olde Bosky
Stout - Tractor Brewing Company
Broken Bottle Brewing Company
Il Vicino Brewing Company
Imperial Styles - Marble Brewery Imperial Stout
Specialty - Santa Fe Java Stout

Professional Judging

Lager & Light Hybrid
1. Tractor Brewing Co. Man Der Damm Lager
2. Nexus Cream Ale
3. Il Vicino Brewing Company Dark American Lager
1. Sandia Chile Grill German Pilsner
2. Il Vicino Brewing Company Pigtail Pilsner
3. Tractor Brewing Company Pilsner
Belgian & Wheat
1. ABQ Brew Pub Summer Saison
2. Marble Brewery Abbey Darkness
3. Il Vicino Brewing Company 28M American Wheat
Pale Ale & ESB
1. Sierra Blanca Brewery Sierra Blanca Pale Ale
2. Santa Fe Brewing Co. Happy Camper IPA
3. Sandia Chile Grill ESB
1. Il Vicino Brewing Company Slow Down Brown
2. Il Vicino Brewing Company Sasquatch Scotch
3. Il Vicino Brewing Company Dougie Style Amber
1. Il Vicino Brewing Company Irish Red
2. Il Vicino Brewing Company Odin’s Imperial Red
3. Tractor Brewing Company Farmer’s Tan Red Ale
1. Santa Fe Brewing Company State Pen Porter
2. Il Vicino Brewing Company Baltic Porter

1. Marble Brewery Oatmeal Stout
2. Il Vicino Oatmeal Stout
3. Il Vicino Brewing Company Dark and Lusty Stout
1. Rio Grande Brewery Rio Grande IPA
2. ABQ Brewpub Experimental Hop IPA
3. Bosque Brewing Ember IPA
Barleywine & Wood-Aged Beers
1. Il Vicino Brewing Company St. Bob’s Bourbon Barrel Aged
2. Marble Brewery Marble Reserve
3. Santa Fe Brewing Co. Barleywine
Sour & Specialty
1. Santa Fe Brewing Co. Lambic
2. Il Vicino Brewing Company Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout
3. Marble Brewery Old Bruin

Best of Show Beer
Il Vicino Brewing Company St. Bob’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bigfoot on a Two Year Whiskey Binge

Subscribing to my theory that barrel aging makes everything better, Sierra Nevada took its already great Bigfoot Barleywine and aged it in Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, and Heaven Hill barrels. Just drinking those liquors on their own sounds pretty good right now. The beer I'm drinking tastes good but I'm not getting drunk enough. Typing isn't even a challenge yet. Sierra Nevada had the patience to age Bigfoot in those barrels for almost two years before unleashing it to you in honor of Bigfoot's 30th anniversary. The normally hop-forward beer makes an expected moves towards a sweeter beer, as well as packing a stronger punch. Barrel aging brings the ABV from 9.6% all the way up to 11.8%, so you might want to share this with a friend. Or drink the whole bottle and do some Jack shots and pass out and wet the bed; you're your own boss now. Barrel Aged Bigfoot is packaged in 25.4 oz. corked and caged bottles. I saw this at Kelly's on Wyoming for $13.99 though prices may vary around town.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Move Over, Russell Stover

What do your Valentine's Day plans look like this year? Will you be making googly eyes at your special someone across the fondue at The Melting Pot? Or will you be eating fish n'chips alone at the mall food court, making googly eyes at the Hot Dog on a Stick girls? While I also think the latter option sounds like more fun, I will probably be taking part in a third option: drinking the new Russian Imperial Stouts from Widmer Brothers Reserve series. First we have the Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout, made with the addition of red raspberries in the fermentation process. It's like drinking one of those fruit-filled chocolates, but without having to consult the diagram of which chocolate is which. Plus it makes you drunk, at 9.3% ABV. And then there is the also 9.3% ABV Chocolate Russian Imperial Stout, made with cocoa nibs all the way from Ecuador. Normally, one would have to travel to a Cost Plus World Market to find such delicacies.
These beers are like a meal in a bottle, so you don't have to take the significant other out for a fancy dinner- hand them a bottle and let the fun begin. If they protest, run by the mall and grab some Bourbon Chicken samples. I'll be there with my fish n' chips.

Friday, February 1, 2013

New Beer Ryeday for You Easy Ryeders

Fairly slow on the new beer front...but hey, what do you want? You got a major player in Lagunitas last week. No, that doesn't mean that Dogfish Head is soon to follow, so don't hold your breath for that one. Would you be happy if I told you there was a new rye beer available? Would you rush out of the house to go get it? Already gone? Or already asleep?
Keeping in mind that not everything has to be extreme, Bridgeport Brewing offers you Smooth Ryed Ale. It's got a picture of a motorcycle on the label. No sign of the rider. He and his ladyfriend are probably in the Suck, Bang, and Blow bar doing a quick shot before heading up to Sturgis or whichever Godforsaken town the next Bike Week is taking place in. Smooth Ryed Ale is brewed with caramel and chocolate malts along with a 10% rye addition. It is hopped with Centennial, and is 6.3% ABV. I want to open up a denture store in California and call it West Coast Chompers. I saw this beer at Kelly's on Wyoming, and it's probably still there, so hop on your hog and go pick some up before the Super Bowl liquor store frenzy takes place.