Friday, October 28, 2016

Lagunitas Generates Fresh Hop Hype

Lots of praise being heaped upon this year's Lagunitas Born Yesterday Fresh Hop Pale Ale, not to be confused with Lagunitas Born Again Yesterday Pale Ale. Or maybe they wanted you to be confused when Born Again was released some months after Born Yesterday since the Yesterday was so good that they figured you would buy the Again again and again. Anyway...

Born Yesterday is the wet or fresh hop Pale Ale that everyone is going nuts over, again. The recipe varies each year but the premise is the same: get those freshly harvested hops straight from Yakima and get brewing. This year's version is heavy on the Mosaic, Amarillo, and Equinox hops and is 7% ABV, up a half percent from last year. Investors will be pleased. This year's version also is unfiltered, which I take as Lagunitas' nod to the fact that the New England hazy IPAs are all the rage. Remember when Stone came out with their unfiltered Enjoy By? Rumor has it that 95% of their workforce enjoyed it. And the Lagunitas Born Yesterday is in that Enjoy By category in the fact that they want you to drink it NOW, which is why it was shipped to and available in just about all of their markets by today. Born Yesterday was bottled on 10.17, so while it seems like it could have made it the 1,100 miles from Petaluma, CA to Albuquerque a little faster, it's still not bad. Maybe the driver stopped at In N' Out.

This beer has disappeared quickly in previous years, though I saw a substantial stack of it at Whole Foods on Carlisle. You can get a six-pack of 12 oz. bottles at the reasonable price of $9.99.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

GABF Wrap Up

From the Brewers Association:

"During competition registration, Karl Strauss Brewing Co. self-identified their San Diego location as a Mid-Size Brewpub. After the award ceremony, GABF competition staff realized that this was inaccurate: this location is, in fact, a Mid-Size Brewing Company. Karl Strauss, while it operates brewpubs, is classified as a production facility by GABF competition guidelines.

After reassigning Karl Strauss to the Mid-Size Brewing Company category, and recalculating the Brewery of the Year results, it resulted that Karl Strauss was the winner of the Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year category. In addition, Boxing Bear Brewing Co. is the resulting winner of the Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year category.

All of us with the Great American Beer Festival and the Brewers Association deeply regret this error. Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon, which had originally been identified as the Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year, had a very strong performance in the competition, winning a gold medal in the German-Style Wheat Ale category, a silver medal in Other Strong Beer, and a bronze medal in Fresh or Wet Hop Ale. They were among the top medal-winning breweries in the 2016 competition.

Congratulations to all of the winners in the most-entered Great American Beer Festival competition ever.”

Well, it sucks to be Fat Head's. How does the Brewers Association go about getting the award back? Is someone knocking on a Fat Head brewer's hotel room door Sunday morning and saying, "Heeyyy. So I know you're probably hung over after all that celebrating, but I wanted to catch you before your flight. Anyway, about that Mid-Size Brewing Company award...."

Great that Boxing Bear was able to scoop up that Mid-Size Brewpub award. Their golds for Double Red and Chocolate Milk Stout were the only gold medals awarded NM breweries. La Cumbre's Siberian Silk took a bronze in the Baltic-Style Porter category. Bosque scored big again with two silvers for Bosque Lager and the almost expected to win Acequia Wet Hop. I say "almost expected" because it seems routine now, though none of these medals should be expected. And I'm guilty of thinking this way too, expecting that Marble would win for their Pilsner, which they did take a bronze for. But the competition is so fierce anymore, with 7,227 entries in 2016 (up 9% just from last year!), that no brewery should expect anything, nor should they leave feeling like they failed in some way.

Some other stuff from the week:

If you can get tickets to GABF, you should also treat yourself to the Paired event that coincides with GABF. 21 chefs paired with 21 breweries this year, with two dishes served with two beers at each booth. Mostly high-end stuff, which you'd expect when you have celebrity chefs like Marc Vetri participating. Dishes such as "wild salmon tataki, chimichurri, blistered shishito pepper, lavosh cracker" or "svizzerana beef brisket tartare, dandelion marmalade, cured egg yolk". And then you had Chicago's Haymarket Brewery along with Russell's Smokehouse, pairing beer with hot dogs and sloppy joes. Guess which table I went back to for seconds?

Star Bar held "The Curiosity Ball" in their adjacent parking lot Friday night. The curiosity was whether they were actually going to get the damn thing started, as they didn't let people in until nearly an hour after the scheduled start time (well, there was the NM contingent of BrewsBanner and friends who were even more eager than me and were in the lot waiting before someone who worked there stopped letting people wait there). Even when it got going, they were having trouble with the jockey boxes and some of the beers weren't pouring. But what they did have was great, including what may have been the best beer of the week: Other Half's Double Dry Hopped Double Mosaic Dreams.

I liked that Avery was pouring beer straight from barrels at GABF on Saturday. Their booth is always amazing, even if they are one of the breweries that staggers their pouring times. I feel like a shout out is necessary for the breweries that were pouring their rarer beers all the time at the four sessions (at least until they ran out): Dark Horse Barrel Aged Plead the Fifth, Bell's Black Note, Lost Abbey Cable Car, Goose Island BCBS and Regal Rye.
The highlight of the Saturday session was probably the Coastal Evacuation DIPA from Cape May Brewing Company. I wish I had the luxury of hitting all four sessions just so I could try the breweries without hype behind them. Let's be honest- as much as New Mexicans know the worth of the breweries here, how many of those breweries are getting national recognition to where people are lining up for them at GABF? Taos Mesa made a great IPA for the NM Challenge this year, and they were on my list of breweries to try, but in the rush to get all the big names, I passed them by. I don't expect to be able to get to all 3,800 beers on the festival floor, but I know there has to be be good beer waiting to be discovered if I went to the little known guys. Stephen Hawking did some kind of equation to prove it.

Yes, Melvin Brewing guys. You make excellent DIPAs. But it doesn't help much when I'm trying to discern the differences between Couchlock, Asterisk, and 2x4 when you say, "Yup. Hops. Lots of hops." Somehow, your beer isn't as appealing anymore.

Freshcraft has to be a claustrophobic's nightmare during GABF. During the Surly tap event especially. Can't they take over the ever-changing business next door?

I-25 from Denver where it goes down to two lanes until Colorado Springs has to be some of the most treacherous highway driving there is. I feel like I can be on autopilot most of the way home after that, but there is always some RV that everyone has to pass that all of a sudden slows down the left lane almost to a stop. It's rough enough driving home after a week of GABF without having to test my weakened reflexes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Four Peaks Hits the Rio Grande Valley

Shelf space just got a little tighter in NM markets with the addition of beers from Four Peaks Brewing out of Tempe, AZ. Considering they are our neighbor to the west, Arizona beers are not very well represented in NM. Far less than beers from our neighbors to the south, and that's with that giant wall to get over.
Four Peaks has been a mainstay in Arizona stores and beer bars for years. You may have downed their flagship Kilt Lifter Scottish Style Ale while enjoying a night among the crazy partiers on Mill Ave. near ASU. I always thought it was weird that a Scottish Ale would sell so well in a city that sits above the 100 degree mark so many days of the year, but it works. I've long been a fan of their 8th St. Pale Ale, but we won't be getting that one, at least not right away. Instead. look for Kilt Lifter, Peach Ale (yes, peaches actually do grow in AZ), and their solid Hop Knot IPA. Also, there will be a limited run of their popular seasonal Pumpkin Porter in stores and on tap, though only 8 kegs made it to the entire state.

Friday, October 7, 2016

GABF Thursday Session

Usually, when you're in bed by 11 pm after a GABF session, it's because you passed out. But I promised to take it easy, and, thanks to the breweries on the floor, it wasn't so hard to do.

You see, many of the breweries have adopted a practice that (I think) originated with Firestone Walker a few years ago, where they hold off on pouring their rarer beers until a certain time of evening. When Firestone Walker began doing it, it was with Parabola. I then noticed it at The Bruery, who had a certain time for Chocolate Rain. Avery also, pouring Tweak a one time, Rumpkin at another, and so on. It's become common practice, and I can understand the reasoning. Thousands of pours add up, even at one ounce at a time. But it's easy to lose track of the time when you're sampling, then you realize, "Oh shit! They're pouring XXX beer at such-and-such brewery at 7!" And it's in section O, and you're in section E now, and you have to trudge through the crowd, and you get there with ten minutes to spare, and there's already 100 people in line ahead of you. For a one ounce pour. Such is the modern craft beer world, right? But wait: now breweries are taking it to a new level by pouring rare beers on certain DAYS of the fest. Case in point Bottle Logic. This Anaheim, CA brewery makes one of the most sought after barrel aged Imperial Stouts in Fundamental Observation. And, tho their credit, they brought it to GABF. However, they are only pouring it on FRIDAY NIGHT at 7. That's it. Lucky enough to get tickets to the Thursday session? Sorry, pal!

Bashing the Bottle Logic pouring practices aside, they did bring (and pour!) one of the highlights of the fest for me, Stronger Than Fiction. A 14.3% barrel aged Strong Ale with coconut and coffee that had me going back for seconds and second seconds. Another highlight was Greeley, Colorado's Weldwerks and their Juicy Bits IPA. I was hoping for a showing from the hot New England breweries like Treehouse, Trillium, Hill Farmstead, or PA's Tired Hands, but none of them were at the fest. I guess when you're selling out of beer, there isn't a need to promote it more, but it would be nice to share with the rest of the country. I felt bad for the guy at the Cigar City booth, who didn't realize that the GABF app had Double Barrel Hunahpu listed as one of the beers they were pouring. I guess I was the first to ask when they would be pouring it, as it wasn't listed at their booth. He was dismayed when I showed him the listing, and walked off saying, "I need a captain here now to fix this!" Still isn't fixed in the app though. Poor guy must have been asked about that beer all night!
I love Columbus Brewing out of Ohio, but they didn't have any info about the beer they brought, and the volunteers were not any help. "And what is this beer?" "Oh this one? Uh, it's more pineapple than this other one." Well, thanks for that!

The NM breweries all seemed to draw a nice crowd, though it's a shame that we didn't have a brewers guild booth this year. I saw Taos Mesa with a decent line. Marble and Bosque also. La Cumbre represented well with an endcap booth, complete with La Cumbre label artist Chris McAfee there doing a live painting that would go to a lucky festival participant. An unlucky festival participant would have to let Chris crash in their room for the night.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

GABF 2016

8 years of covering GABF. That's a lot of hangovers. A lot of Pedialyte. But so I persevere, trying to keep up with all the hot new breweries to visit and all the Albuquerque locals pouring their wares to the world. It's gotten harder to try all the beers I want to try now that there are so many more breweries on the floor, thanks to an astounding 100,000 sq. ft. added to the event last year.

And since you can't just go into GABF without having some major warm up work, we arrived on Wednesday afternoon after a hassle-free drive up from Albuquerque. Hit up a couple of beer shops, where plenty of beers not normally distributed to CO were available on the shelves. Saw Half Acre, Westbrook, lots of Wicked Weed...picked up some Surly Todd the Axe Man and Lawson's Sip of Sunshine. Checked into the hotel along the 16th St. Mall, a.k.a. 10+ blocks of chain restaurants and people trying to get you to donate to Greenpeace. Fidgeted in the hotel until 8:30 and finally walked over to the old standby, Falling Rock Taphouse. Falling Rock is the unofficial home to everyone visiting GABF, and they were all there on Wednesday, to the point where I didn't even try to get a beer at the bar. I was there for the East Coast vs. West Coast IPA event anyway, so I fidgeted in the Falling Rock parking lot instead. Staked out what I thought was a strategically superior spot for when they started pouring, but it still took 10 minutes to get my order in, and I was at the front!
There were 20 taps of great IPAs/DIPAs, so it was hard to choose from this list:
Fort George 3 Way IPA, Beachwood Amalgamator, Societe the Pupil, Faction Hop Soup, Breakside Back to the Future, Crux Gimme Mo, Boneyard Notorious, La Cumbre Project Dank (never heard of it), Cannonball Creek Project Alpha 10, Comrade Superdamp, Lawson's Sip of Sunshine, Maine Lunch, Two Roads Two Juicy, Kane Head High, Carton 077XX, New England Beer Co G-Bot, Singlecut Bon Bon 2x TNT, Three Floyds Dreadnaught, Wicked Weed Juiceless, and Creature Comforts Tropicalia. Whew. Ended up hanging out with some cool locals and we all shared our beers, to were I tried way too many good beers the first night. Lawson's Sip of Sunshine kicked first, to nobody's surprise. What was a surprise was that they then tapped the rare Double Sunshine, so I had to order one of those as well. As far as what was best? Hard to say. I really like the Singlecut and Two Roads hazy East Coast thing they have going on. Dreadnaught still hung in there as an old timer DIPA. I feel like a winner for waking up today. Now on to GABF session 1 in a few hours. Gonna pace myself. Gonna pace myself.