Thursday, October 31, 2013

Santa Fe Brewing Hosts a Fancy Food Truck

What gives? First, you write about a cider. Then you write about food in Santa Fe. I thought this was supposed to be about the "Albuquerque Beer Scene", not Apple Juice Weekly. And I don't want to read about uppity foodies, I want to read about uppity beer geeks.
Yeah, well, it's been slow on the beer release front. And a dry-hopped cider is...kinda cool, maybe?
Well why not write about Hopfest? How come I didn't even see you there?
I admit, I missed NM's biggest beer fest this year- I was sick. And as much as I enjoy Hopfest, I'm not standing in line while delirious with fever just to get a sample of Abita Amber. Not happening.
I'm also not driving up to Santa Fe to taste food made in the Four Seasons Taste Truck, but I know some of you out there might be interested in this: Yes, the Four Seasons hotel chain that few of us can afford has gotten in on the food truck craze. Foie gras from a food truck? From anywhere? No thanks. But you foodies out there can get a sample of what four star dining is like while still wearing your skinny jeans. The main reason I'm writing about this food truck is that its arrival coincides with the release of Santa Fe Brewing's winter seasonal, the Black IPA. On Saturday, November 9 from 2-6, the brewery will be hosting a party to celebrate the release, complete with music, games, fire eaters, unicyclists, biker gangs, linen napkins, and the guy with Mickey Mouse ears who sits out in front of Anodyne. The Four Seasons Taste Truck will be there, making Santa Fe the last stop on its 8 city tour. Come out and turn your nose up at that Motel 6 food truck you used to go to. The Four Seasons Taste Truck: No bedbugs!

Friday, October 25, 2013

New Beer Friday

One of New Belgium's finest creations, Le Terroir, has been re-released in area stores. With mishmash styles like black Saisons and White IPAs being the norm these days, you probably won't bat an eye at the fact that Le Terroir is a dry-hopped Sour. But when this beer first came out, it was a revelation, thanks to the use of Amarillo hops. The Amarillo hops somehow turn out to create a perfect fruity balance to the sour side of the beer. Glad to see New Belgium chose to bring back one of their successful recipes rather than making a new beer with a fruit only seen before in dried versions at Trader Joe's. Expect to pay $14-15 for a 22 oz. bottle.

It's the time of the year that beer geeks have been saving up their pennies for: to buy a bottle of Odell Woodcut. One of the priciest annual releases at around $20 for a 750 ML bottle, Woodcut is now on its 7th version- and probably the one I'm most excited to try: a Russian Imperial Stout. As with all Woodcut releases, the beer is aged in new oak barrels. Expect to get notes of vanilla, toffee, maple, and chocolate out of this one. Also expect to catch a healthy buzz, as Woodcut #7 is 12.5% ABV, and, according to an Odell brewer, "Our biggest beer yet." Pick this one up at Jubilation and other fine stores. You might want to save this one until after the weekend, as you have to be in shape for Hopfest tomorrow.

Friday, October 18, 2013

New "Beer" Friday

Scoff if you must...and I wouldn't blame you, but there are beer-loving people out there who just can't imbibe anymore due to a gluten intolerance, and I feel it necessary to inform them of a "beer-like" option that may give them a taste of the good old days. Yeah, it's a cider. I'm not ashamed to write about it. A little uncomfortable, maybe, but look- this cider is different: It's dry-hopped, just like your favorite IPAs, and not with Fuggles or Styrian or East Kent Golding. It uses the tried and true American Cascade variety. In fact, rumor has it that this Woodchuck Dry Hop Cider has IBUs that rival Elevated IPA. Now, that's just a rumor, that I started, but feel free to pass it along to your Celiac challenged friends. The Woodchuck Dry Hop is part of their Cellar Series, with future releases including a Maple Bacon Cider and a cider blended with Mott's apple juice. "Finally, a Cider With Apples!" is the tagline for that version. Rumor has it. $5.99 for a 22 oz. bottle.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Great New Mexico Beer Fest

As you probably know, I just got back from the Great American Beer Fest- still have some things to write about that, but I wanted to take a minute and remind you that there are still tickets available to New Mexico's largest beer fest: Hopfest, held at Isleta Resort and Casino, or as I like to call it: Hard Rock Casino. I bought the Isleta Hard Rock jacket, I'm going to call the place what I want.
Hopfest takes place on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 2-6 pm. From 2 to 3 is the Extra Hoppy Hour, with limited admission for that extra sampling space, and tickets selling for $35. If you're feeling like a high roller and have a leather Hard Rock jacket, consider the $50 VIP ticket. VIP gets you into the Extra Hoppy Hour and the special VIP area where special beers will be pouring on the hour, with food pairings like beer candied bacon and chocolate truffles. Just want to go to the regular ol' fest and sample around 170 beers from 62 breweries? A $25 tickets gets you in at 3.
This is a big beer fest as far as the amount of beers available, and from someone who has been to many around the country, I can tell you that it is very well organized event that does a great job showcasing both local and national breweries. And the option of staying right upstairs after the fest makes this one even more enticing. I've done it before, and though I can't recommend the after fest hotel room bottle share as the smartest idea for a "frequent sampler" like myself, you certainly can do so. The festival floor allows for a good amount of drinking space, and the bands won't drown out your beer talk. Please invite me to your bottle share.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Late With the Breaking News

Thanks, technology! Going into today's 10:30 am GABF Awards Ceremonies I thought that my biggest problem would be getting enough coffee in me to stay awake for the entire thing after another full day of drinking- but no. It turns out that just after Il Vicino won the Gold in the Coffee beer category, I was no longer allowed to upload anything to any sort of social media...a blessing in most cases, but I wanted to bring you all the awards news. And now that I am finally back in the hotel room, I can do that, and thanks to the Crowne Plaza for still providing free internet. I guess that's the trade-off for the sheets that crinkle like paper every time I move.
Marble took a Silver in the German-Style Pilsner category and a Bronze in the Dortmunder category. Their crew, pictured, is not looking at me because I refused to wave my hand at them like a paparazzi photographer at a red carpet event. Also, I was holding a complimentary donut so it was hard to wave and eat at the same time.
La Cumbre won a Bronze in the highly competitive IPA category (252 entries, the most ever in any category) with their Project Dank IPA.
How about Santa Fe's Second Street Brewery getting a Gold for Rod's Steam Bitter in the Amber-Style Lager category? Great for the underdog brewery!
I would call Sierra Blanca an underdog as well but they won a medal last year. Ditto for this year, where their Nut Brown took Silver in the English-Style Brown category.
Blue Corn took two medals: Silver in the American-Style Brown Ale category and coming up just short of their named Gold Medal Stout with a Silver in the Oatmeal Stout category.
I'm sorry that I am apparently still on dial-up in a fiber optics world, but let's hear it for eight New Mexico medals at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Notes From GABF Thursday Session

Memo to the Brewers Association: don't ever go cheap on us and get rid of the bagpipers. They are as much of a mainstay as attendees in costumes, and much more welcome. As loud and crazy as the festival floor gets, people quiet down and make a path to watch the pipers come through.
Started off the evening with Duck Gooze, as did the 25 or so people lined up ahead of us and million behind us. Wasn't blown away but that often happens with a beer of its hype. Wish I could try it in a blind tasting.
Had a ticket to the Farm to Table Pavilion, where chefs pair dishes with beers. Fancy chefs (recognized a former Top Chef contestant), fancy beers, fancy food. Surly Darkness, Bruery White Chocolate, Cigar City Lacto Guava Grove, etc. Great beers, but I'm an unadventurous eater so the food is kind of lost on me. Chicken liver mousse and raw oysters make me queasy. The fried reuben cheese curd things were great though. And each table had a dessert as well. A nice addition to the fest for people with stronger stomachs than me.
Tried about 55 samples at the fest...that's about the usual for me. 1 oz. of beer goes a long way when so many of the beers are high in alcohol. Standouts were Almanac Pumpkin Barleywine, Alesmith Vietnamese Speedway Stout, Boneyard Hop Venom DIPA, Kuhnhenn Double Rice IPA, Captain Lawrence Rosso E Marrone, and Desthil Sour Strawberry. Award for most ambitious beer goes to Short's Pig Pen, "intensely hopped IPA aged in bourbon barrels with brettanomyces".
Best beer of the night was Three Floyds Permanent Funeral, I'm kind of sorry to say. Sorry, because one of the festival veteran and most popular breweries was ill-prepared to serve its fans. How do you run out of Zombie Dust by 7:30 at a festival that goes till 9:45??? And they were out of everything and their booth empty by around 9. I don't like the trend of breweries tapping certain beers at special times during the fest (Bourbon County Stout at 6, Bourbon County Coffee at 8, Parabola at 6:45, Chocolate Rain at 7:15), but maybe Three Floyds should follow those examples. Or bring more beer. And speaking of Chocolate Rain, The Bruery gets the award for longest line, as people must have started lining up for a taste of the beer 20 minutes before they started pouring, and there were probably 150 people in line.
The night ended with me following people who were following/stalking Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione, who was able to disappear during a diversion created by two guys peeing barely ten feet from the festival exit. Oh, how I love the GABF! Still two more sessions to go.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Great American Beer Fest Begins Tonight

It's become more and more apparent to me that I need at least 12 hours of sleep to prepare for a trip- even something as simple as a one-hour flight to Denver. Even if I do drink enough to actually fall asleep on the eve of a trip, I am so amped to leave that I have a restless sleep and end up stumbling around the airport shops, actually contemplating buying a pair of Beats from Hudson News.
This jaunt to Denver is to cover the Great American Beer Festival for the 5th year, and from the look of downtown Denver on Wednesday, this will be the biggest group of beer geeks in one city in like, ever. To give a perspective: there were almost as many brewery people walking on the 16th St. Mall as there were people asking for money. And the crowd at Falling Rock Tap House was already four deep for beer at the bar at 4 pm, though it did thin out around 7. I didn't stay much longer, I have to admit. It was still the night before the largest gathering of beers under one roof, and I plan to try a respectable amount when the beers pour at 5:30 this evening. The GABF phone app that lets you make a "must try" list of breweries and check off and rate beers will have everyone walking around looking at their phones (even more than usual) and adding beers tried to the database. I'll be one of those fools, I hate to say. I used to carry a little notebook to write down all the beers I tasted, but in the dark ages of 2009 all I could do on my Nokia was play a bowling game, so the notebook was a necessity.
With 3,100 beers from 624 breweries at the GABF this year, I'm not ashamed to say I was in bed by 10 last night to get myself in tip-top sampling shape. Brought a 12-pack of coconut water from Costco, have my milk thistle and ibuprofen handy...I'm ready to do this. Tomorrow may be a different story.

Friday, October 4, 2013

New Beer Friday

Our search for the elusive Triple IPA takes us to New Zealand, where the Green Bullet and Pacific Gem hops grow like USA's America's Cup victories over New Zealand. Nah, I didn't really keep up with that event either, but damn does it look cool on a big TV when you're half-drunk. And the Green Flash release Green Bullet will get you more than halfway with its 10.1% ABV. I'm not really sure where the "Triple IPA" comes into play here. Green Bullet is not as in your face aggressive hop-wise as, say, Avery's Maharaja, and though Maharaja is higher in alcohol, it is still considered a Double IPA. But hey, whatever sells the beer. It's a worthy beer for you hopheads to try out, even without the addition of New Zealand's best hop, Nelson Sauvin. I think I paid $9.10 after tax for a 22 oz. bottle at Jubilation.

I haven't been blown away by all of the Stone collaborations lately, but you have to hand it to the brewing giant for throwing a bone to some smaller breweries in the form of these collaborations. When was the last time you had a beer from 10 Barrel? Have you even heard of them? How about Tonya Cornett? Formerly of Bend Brewing Company? One of the female head brewers before being a female head brewer was cool, now the big boss of 10 Barrel? Or Bluejacket, the other lucky collaborator for Suede, the Imperial Porter that small brewers' dreams are made of. Bluejacket is a Washington, DC brewery that only opened this year, yet has somehow managed to secure a spot to the side of Greg Koch's throne, for this bottle release at least. Suede Imperial Porter is the result of the three breweries coming together, though as with all new Stone releases, it seems, there is a gimmick: in this case, the addition of avocado honey, jasmine, and calendula flowers. You know that I love nothing more than a beer with flowers in it, so I rushed out to Jubilation to get a bottle of this 9.6% ABV beer. Retails for $8.99.