Monday, July 22, 2019

Everybody Gets a Vote: IPA Challenge Round 2

Tumbleroot hosted the Santa Fe leg of the 2019 NM IPA Challenge, which saw some breweries make huge leaps in votes from the first round. For instance, Rio Bravo received 6 times the votes that they did in the first round. Yup. Only problem is their total went from 1 vote to 7. But things could always be worse: Marble only received 3 votes in the second round, bringing their 2 round total to...3. Tough competition this year, though it looks as if Boxing Bear can dust off the Apollo Creed trunks and get ready to receive the trophy if Albuquerque voters continue the trend. Boxing Bear picked up another 32 votes in round 2, giving them 49 total. Bosque had a strong second place showing with 23 votes, though the only 7 votes in round 1 could hurt their chances in the final. Icebox's following thawed a bit in the second round, going from 16 votes in the first to only 4 in the second. Peculiar. That would put Ex Novo in the position to be Rookie of the Year, though having a pedigree of years in the Portland market earns them an asterisk. It may take a Buster Douglas-type upset to unseat Boxing Bear this year. My office pool was messed up from the beginning: I had Santa Fe as my dark horse winner.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Icebox Can Be My Wingman Anytime

It's a good day for ice. I was talking about "The Iceman" George Gervin earlier today. And then we have the results of the first round of the NM IPA Challenge, where Icebox came in a strong second place to multiple winner Boxing Bear. Pretty skewed results overall, with five breweries getting zero votes, defending champ Blue Corn getting one, and Rowley and Starr Brothers getting two apiece. A landslide for the top two, with Boxing Bear amassing 17 and Icebox only one behind. Knowing nothing of tonight's actually event other than the tally sheet and the overall history of NM Challenge in general, I will say that there have been some strange numbers to come out of the non-Santa Fe and Albuquerque events over the years, with relative unknowns doing really well. Interesting to see that has happened again.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

NM IPA Challenge: A New Hope

A format change from last year put the elimination round of the NM IPA Challenge in the mouths of the brewers this year, which could be seen as a blessing if you tried some of the beers last year. I did kind of enjoy going to previous events with a couple of people and sharing from both (or in last year's case) all three trays. I can see that people would be bummed they didn't get to try all the entries and decide who made the finals. It also seems like the Guild would welcome the cash flow from a public elimination event but I've been worn out from getting one keg for a party. I can't imagine the fun of organizing 45 kegs and trays for a million people. Yeah, 45. That's the astounding number of breweries who competed in 2019. The usual favorites were all represented, with some first-timers like La Reforma (home of the traditional Mexican IPA!), Ex Novo, and Icebox on the list as well. And who better to judge who got to the final round than the people who brewed the beer, or at least represented a brewery who entered? Well, me for one, but that's another argument. The judges were tasked to narrow the field to 15, which will compete on July 17th in Las Cruces, July 20th in Santa Fe, and wrap up with the finale at Bow and Arrow on July 27th (tickets available here. And the results...

Wow. Missing anyone? You'd expect Marble, Bosque, Boxing Bear, 2018 champ Blue Corn. But Rowley? IPA is not their strong suit, or so I thought. Icebox and La Reforma??? Good job guys! Rio Bravo is in, but not Canteen? No Quarter Celtic, whose brewer won this competition at least five times by my count. But probably the biggest upset (with some of the most upset followers) is La Cumbre not making the finals. The GABF gold winning, two-time National IPA Champion is out. Hard to believe, especially considering that their entry was the current Project Dank, which I thought was one of their best versions. In years past, I would have argued that the people who did the voting were dopes, and that would be mostly true. But who are we to blame if brewery people do the judging? Blind tasting eliminates all biases, unless you are biased against hazy/clear/darker IPAs. So does it suck that some of our favorites didn't make the finals. Yes. Is it fair? I'll leave you with this from a brewer whose beer didn't make it to the finals, "I like the way we did this and if that's how the judges voted then cool. Good luck to all that made it."

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Tractor Bets on Old School and Remember Rogue?

I paid a visit to Jubilation the other day to see what was new on the shelves. While there were a few new beers, what stood out was the number of old. Barrel-aged Stouts of years past are abound on the shelf near the register. How times have changed from when we were grabbing every last bottle of KBS or Parabola, if we could even find any. But onto newer beers!
Bucking the trend of the NE IPA can release, Tractor Brewing has released Acreage IPA to the Albuquerque market. It's a curious move for a couple of obvious reasons. 1. It's not hazy. 2. It's not meant to be served with a lime. But hand it to Tractor, they're willing to take chances. I've never found IPAs to be a strong style for them, as I think they've had consistency issues. They have excelled at cider making, having just won five medals at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition. Every time I try cider I am thankful that I can drink beer. Acreage is probably the best IPA I have had from Tractor, though I'm curious to see if future batches keep the same quality. With four locations across the "metro" area, Tractor is a force in the local scene. I picked up a single can of Acreage at Jubilation (it sells in a 4-pack of 16 oz. cans) for $2.50.

Remember Rogue? That brewery that people who weren't in the know would bring up when you talked about going to Portland? "Oh, did you guys go to ROGUE???" Well, they're still around, though canned craft cocktails is their new big thing. But they're trying their hand at the hazy IPA. Batsquatch hazy IPA, named for something that is like the Chupacabra of the Pacific Northwest. Maybe the person who came up with the beer names "Rhubard Schmubarb" and "Combat Wombat" was busy, or Rogue did market research and found that one word beer names make for better sellers. Beer names are getting more annoying as they become harder to create, aren't they? Hill Farmstead is going to run out of old dead relatives to name beer after at some point. I could never relate to the naming of those beers anyway- "made with honey from our own beehives and hand-pulled arugula, this is the beer I dreamed of sharing with my Great-Aunt Margaret." And here I am feeling like shit because I used to hate having to go see Great-Uncle Jimmy with no legs. But anyway, Rogue hazy: it's comparable to the class of large breweries making hazies like Boston Beer, Sierra Nevada, Deschutes, etc. It's not bad. Very drinkable. An interesting taste that I would have pegged as coming from Summit hops, as it reminded me of the old Green Flash Imperial IPA. But no, Rogue lists the hops as Mosaic, El Dorado, and Belma. Good old Aunt Belma.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Evolving Beer Scene, From Binny's to Burbank


It's been years since I had the chance to spend a few days in Chicago- since 2013, to be exact. So let's see, is Zombie Dust still flying off the shelves, if it can be found on shelves to begin with? This has been a beer-crazy city for years, with tales of people sleeping out overnight for Bourbon County and chasing the beer trucks to get the hot item of the minute. So what's it like in 2019? Flying beer trucks?


A lot has changed, as evidenced from my first stop after getting off the plane at Midway and taking the train to the River North area of downtown Chicago. That first stop was Binny's, the family-owned chain that rules Chicago liquor stores. The first thing that struck me was seeing an entire half-aisle devoted to Chicago area breweries and how few of them I was familiar with. It's a bit embarrassing for someone who thinks they are so up on all things beer to pull out the phone to look up this 16 oz. can with the wrapped label and the next one that looks the same. Lots of hazy IPAs. It looked like the majority of beers being produced by Chicago breweries, not counting Half Acre. They still crank out a ton of IPAs, but hazy is not their focus. Further down the aisle was midwestern stuff, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri. Lots of Surly, Founders (of course), and look at this: tons of Three Floyds. Like Dreadnaught, Arctic Panzer Wolf, Space Station Middle Finger, Yum Yum, and plenty of Zombie Dust. It was almost sad to see in a weird way, beer that used to be so coveted that people would go to Indiana for and line up at the to-go area of Three Floyds brewpub. There's a lot of beer to be had in Chicago, which is as it was years ago, but the tastes have changed. And that's not to say that just because it's hazy that it will sell. Toppling Goliath Fire Skulls and Money was sitting there for the taking, but with a canned on date of 3/18, people just aren't going to buy it, 4.3 rating on Untappd be damned.


But that's not to say people aren't buying Toppling Goliath beers. I sought them out myself, not thinking I would find anything very close to my hotel in the touristy area on the edge of Magnificent Mile. But on a tip to try Timothy O' Toole's Sports Bar (I know, not promising), I checked out their website. And would you look at that??? A plethora of local craft from Pipeworks and Maplewood, plus a few Toppling Goliath, including King Sue, which was a real treat to find. The sports bar atmosphere was in full force and the place was packed (who knew there were so many St. Louis Blues fans in Chicago??), but the tap list made up for it. And the best part: they do flights, a practice more bars with 40+ taps should offer. As good as that experience turned out to be, minus the drunk Boston Bruins fan, one may ponder, "Hey, it's your first time in a city in six years and you can't be bothered to venture out past 0.4 miles from your hotel?" I'd agree that that is a valid question. But it was a long day of travel with our first flight getting canceled and then getting sent to Las Vegas before making it on a plane to Chicago so I was kind of beat, you know? Plus, walking from Binny's to the hotel with a suitcase and $75 worth of beer wore me out even more.

If you're not up the the challenge, Chicago will wear you out quick. It's a drinking city with a sports problem, as our obviously drunk bartender at one unnamed beer bar remarked more than once. There's a reason Chicago was chosen for the first Taco Bell Cantina, where you can drink alcohol alongside your Nachos Bell Grande. Too many renowned beer bars to hit on a short trip, and I didn't even get close to Hopleaf. A lot of new (to me) places on this trip, including cocktail bars like Longman and Eagle, where a 2 oz. pour of an 18 yr. Old Stagg bottled in 1933 will set you back $480. I went with the Stiegel Zwickel instead, thank you. Also checked out Ludlow Liquors (pictured) which was just named one of Esquire's 25 best bars of 2019. And they still let me in. I wasn't in the mood to get wasted on liquor so I walked down the street to Beer Temple.

Beer Temple had just opened when I first visited in 2013 and has since moved to a bigger spot, complete with a full bar next to the beer store. The store is separated into two rooms, one refrigerated and holding the temperature finicky stuff like IPAs and the second at room temperature with lots of Rare Barrel and Casa Agria sours. The bar has the feel that many Chicago bars give off, old-fashioned and homey. If you want to feel like you're drinking in the same place that your great-grandfather drank in, go to Chicago. And go to Queen Mary in Wicker Park.

Next: Part 2- more Chicago and some California love

Sunday, June 2, 2019

It's All Over: ABQ Beer Week Sunday, June 2nd

Sad to say another ABQ Beer Week is coming to an end, but you'll be happy to know I did get to stop by Two Fools Saturday night and get a taste of Bourbon County Bramble Rye. Yeah, somehow it's still on tap. The whales aren't what they used to be, are they? And speaking of Goose Island, they'll be at Nob Hill Bar and Grill for the Sofie Sunday Beermosa Brunch at 11 am. Which begs the question: If you're making Beermosas, is it really Beer Week? Hey, whatever gets people in the doors. And Sofie's a good beer name. Why they went with Matilda for a beer name I'll never understand.

Steel Bender is having their own cask fest called Le Cask Lunatique. Guess why. Six! casks and live music from you guessed who. Choose from The Witty Gin,⠀Mulvaney’s Old Fashioned, COMPA-rinh, Blue Bullet’s Wood-Aged Irish Whiskey, Stay Golden Sunrise, and Funky George Porter.⠀Beer starts pouring at 12.

Canteen hosts the Beer and Bike Gear event to benefit Esperanza Bike Shop. Bike shops in general need our support but the work that Esperanza does is especially important. Come join the bike part drive from 2-5.

Oils and Ales: Essential Oils and Beer Pairing at Red Door downtown from 7-9 pm. Note: some may find that these oils are not essential to a quality life, but all should agree that quality beer is essential.

Friday, May 31, 2019

ABQ Beer Week Friday, May 31

Friday? Beer Week? Must mean it's time for me not to be able to go to the Bourbon County event. Yup, Two Fools Tavern will serve regular BCBS and BRAMBLE RYE, damn it. Have fun. Starts at 5.

Nob Hill Bar and Grill and Ex Novo present Taste the Rainbow, featuring a gamut of Ex Novo beers at 5. The lineup includes IPA, Hazy IPA, Pilsner, Berliner Weisse, Mexican Lager, and Dry-Hopped Sour. I tried their impressive Hazy IPA at Sister Bar- this could be a welcome addition if the rest of their beers are nearly as good.

You won't find this deal north of Mexico often: three beers paired with three tacos at Canteen. Event starts at 6. Where do they make the tacos? In that panini press?

Dialogue gets in on the Beer Week fun with a beer and food pairing with M'Tucci's. Everyone wants to do something with this restaurant, which means they must be doing something right. Then again, Olive Garden goes on a wait on a Friday night.

Missed Marble's Beer and Cheese event last week? Come get a free taste of what you missed at Jubilation at 4. They'll have Marble beer and some free cheese as well. Just don't be surprised if you have to unwrap the plastic before eating. It's free, after all.

A little pre-Pride action at Tractor Wells Park, where Drag Queen Bingo happens at 8. The event benefits the NM Gay Men's Chorus.

Comedy Fight Club at Kilt Check, 8pm. Four of ABQ's funniest (we hope) comedians will perform and you get to crush the dreams of three of them. $10 entrance fee.





Thursday, May 30, 2019

Thursday, May 30: ABQ Beer Week

More good stuff as Beer Week winds down:

A barrel-aged Brett Saison? Isn't that style reserved for for Bow and Arrow? Apparently the folks at Ex Novo and Steel Bender didn't get the memo. Saison de Luxe debuts at Steel Bender on Thursday.

Upslope Brewing tasting at Jubilation from 4-6. I can't seem to pull the trigger on their Batch 1000 because it costs like $12 for a 12 oz can. But it's 17.5% ABV. If it was in a bottle I bet I would have bought it. I spent $10 for a 12 oz. bottle of Bourbon County in 2013 in Indiana.

Want to pay for beer instead? Go to Billy's Long Bar for Odell Pint Night. It's stated for 5-7 but I'd be willing to bet they'll still have it on tap after that. Billy's doesn't exactly get the Odell crowd. But I'm glad they carry the selection that they do.

Pints and Paintbrushes at Canteen's Tramway location. $30 gets you in. You could be the next Van Gose!

Great Gatsby Edition of Gin and Jazz at Tractor Wells Park. I love jazz but man do I hate the Roaring 20s. Tommyguns, flapper girls, bathtub gin...NO. But people find things fun, and things have never been my thing. You'll probably love it. And Le Chat Lunatique will be playing and they're really good.

Bell's gets repped at O'Niell's up in the heights. Still cranking out great beers, even if Hopslam doesn't do it for me anymore.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

ABQ Beer Week Saturday, 5.25

Rise and shine! Saturday features some early events, but none as painfully early as the Marbleous Modern General Brunch Pairing from 7:30-3. 2 Marble beers with 2 Modern General dishes for $20. Nap time to follow.

Doughnuts? Donuts? Bristol Doughnut spells it the hard way. Just like they could have gotten a Ford Fiesta instead of that big bus. The hard way. They're going to Steel Bender to pair some donuts with Steel Bender beer. 11 am.

More donuts! This time at 12-on, at Kilt Check. Rebel Donut samples paired with a flight for $10.

Ex Novo brings their Portland-inspired beers to Sister Bar starting at 6. Come see what all the hype is about from this transplanted brewery.

Quater Celtic holds a Mini Cask Fest, meaning only their own stuff, beginning at 11. BA MacLomas Stout? I'm in. Also Chai Irish Red, DDH Mor Buck IPA, and dry-hopped Gose. Four samples for only $5!

Here's a first: food trucks at a brewery! Red Door hosts its annual Food Truck Battle at noon. Food truck employees fight to the death and serve up the losers to a hungry crowd. Or something like that. Sorry, I'm watching The Walking Dead for the first time.

One of the more cleverly named events of the year, Ciderday Night Fever at Tractor Nob Hill. All the ciders from local breweries plus a few special Tractor ones. Ciders at noon-until you can't stand them anymore. For me, 12:01. But I know people love them. Listen to DJ Dave 12 spin at 8.

Friday, May 24, 2019

ABQ Beer Week Friday, 5.24

Friday always seems to be a good day for Beer Week events, probably because I work in the evening and can't make any of them. Let's see what I'll be missing out in this year...

Canteen is a brewery that seems to fall under the radar for people except for the regulars who have been going since the 5 seat bar location was open. Get over to the larger bar and try the Social Capital Key Lime Pie Gose release.

High and Dry Brewing and the Taos Mountain Energy Bar people got together to create... a bunch of people wearing Patagonia. That, and the Taos Bar Hazy Pale Ale that was made with real bits of the Taos Mountain Almond Agave Bar as well as classic Cascade hops. If you buy a pint, you get an energy bar as well. It's the new age vodka and Red Bull.

Didn't get enough free samples on Thursday? Another Albertson's beer and cheese event with Sierra Blanca takes place at the 4950 Montgomery location from 3-5. That's the one in the colorful area near San Mateo. The Albertson's on 7101 Wyoming will host Bosque for beer and cheese, also from 3-5. Wait, there's more. Albertson's is putting the A in ABQ Beer Week this year, because they'll also have events with Santa Fe, Tractor, and Alaskan, at 2801 Eubank, 2910 Juan Tabo, and 12201 Academy, respectively.

It's heartburn for days at the Wild and Sour tasting featuring Steel Bender, Rowley, and Bow and Arrow beers at Jubilation. And it's free. Event runs from 4-6.

Canteen continues their dessert-themed day with a Sweet Samplings dessert and beer pairing. $14 gets you beer and dessert offerings. It's like a deconstructed pastry stout. Get stuffed from 6-10.

Beer and belly dancing? Sounds like what ends up happening at every beer fest, but usually by guys in sandals. This time, however, it will be a class taught by people who wear the jingly stuff. Kilt Check hosts this $10 class taught by Charlotte Montoya and includes a pint of your choice. 6-7 pm.

Awww, c'mon, I'm going to miss to 21 and Over event at Nob Hill Bar and Grill? All breweries representing at this event are...mature. They've all been in the beer biz 21+ And they'll be bringing some heavy-hitters: Stone (Wine Barrel Winter Harvest), Boulevard (Bourbon Barrel Quad), Sierra Nevada (BA Bigfoot), Firestone Walker (Maple Parabola), Odell (180 Shilling), Bell's (Mango Habanero Oberon), Four Peaks (Imperial Pale Lager) and New Belgium (Le Terroir). Damn it, I want some Maple Parabola!

Rio Bravo Brewing invites you to their Biergarten (would you like Google to translate this page?) for a movie night. At 8 pm, the will be showing The Waterboy, starring Adam Sandler and featuring Colonel Sanders. Rio Bravo has a surprisingly good new hazy IPA. They're making some high quality beer.

Tractor Wells Park welcomes another brewery to their house with three guest beers on tap from Truth Or Consequences Brewing. T or C will also have limited release bombers for sale on premise. Event begins at 5. Wells Park also hosts Magic Night on Friday with magician Dave Grimm. Oh look, belly dancing there too, though I don't think you're supposed to get up and show your stuff. Leave that to the Desert Darlings. You just sit back and watch them and the magician perform. "And for my grand finale, I'm going to make this customer's beer disappear..." Chugs beer, takes off down the street. Thank you. I'll show myself out.










Thursday, May 23, 2019

ABQ Beer Week 2019 BEGINS

I say it year in and year out, which may be why I stopped listening to myself years ago. But this year may be the best lineup for ABQ Beer Week events since at least last year, and possibly ever. If this year's Beer Week doesn't have something to make you happy, you may not like beer.

The week kicks off with a number of chances to drink beer for free. Samples, of course, but who's stopping you from having more than one, at more than one location? Albertson's Market hosts a Sierra Blanca beer and cheese event at the 6200 Coors location from 3-5. The 2910 Juan Tabo location hosts a similar event but with Isotopes beer, also from 3-5. Stone Face Liquor (where I found two lone bottles of Cantillion few years ago) will host a Firestone Walker tasting from 4-6. Jubilation welcomes Bell's Brewery for a tasting from 4-6. That's a day's worth of drinking you can get in at no charge.

Straight from the ABQ Beer Week Website, since I can't state the facts any better: "Bubba’s 33 will be hosting an ABQ Beer Week kickoff event with Alaskan Brewing from 4-7pm on Thursday May 23rd! Giveaways include swag from Alaskan Brewing Co, and a VIP Blues & Brews package with 2 VIP tickets, a one night stay at Residence Inn, dinner at Bubba’s and a roundtrip ride from zTrip to the festival!" Bubba's is quickly becoming a place where the craft beer lovers flock, so this should be a good event. And the Alaskan beer cooler looks sweet.

Tractor and Rowley Farmhouse Ales team up for a Sour Hour at the Tractor Wells Park location beginning at 5. Come sample some of Rowley's award-winning sours. Tractor sours will be available as well. Musical performance by Alex McMahon. Alex is quite the beer connoisseur so hopefully he will be ok to perform after trying all those beers.

Beer, Cheese, and More, one of Beer Week's original events, returns to Marble Heights at 5. $25 gets you five carefully selected cheeses paired with 5 Marble beers. As the name promises, the $25 also gets you More.

Pay money to run! $5, or only $1 per K, gets you into the Laid-Back Lager Jogger 5K run put on by Canteen and Heart and Sole Sports. I'll pay you $10 to run in my place. Meet at Canteen to register at 5 and start running at 6. Finish in time for last call.

A Drinking Songs Themed Karaoke?? It's all capitalized, so it must be a real event. Red Door hosts this unique event from 7-11. Will they have "Beer" by Murphy's Law or "More Beer" by Fear available to sing? I bet not. But you should listen to those songs. And break stuff.

Learn how beer is made with the head brewer at Casa Vieja Brewery. For $20 you can hear how it is brewing on one of the nano-ist of Albuquerque's nano breweries, located in a very Corrales-like setting.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Hopsoulution to the Haze Craze?

First, is it still a craze if it has been around for years? I say no, but some people still look down on the "Hazebro" types as gimmick chasers. I get that anyone who can be labeled as some sort of bro is most likely annoying, but that shouldn't affect your opinion on the beer itself. Old school IPA brewers talk about their distaste for the style and mock it in much the same way as the non-IPA brewers used to say say, "Well anyone can brew an IPA, you can hide flaws with all the hops..." You know what you can't hide? A shitty-tasting IPA. And I've talked to more than one (two) brewers who found the hazy style to be more challenging than expected to nail down. So if it's a gimmick, gimme more.

THAT BEING SAID, this post is to say that there's still hope for you who long for more of the clear IPAs, and from a trusted veteran and innovator in the IPA world: Bell's has re-introduced (year-round in six states that aren't near us) Hopsoulution DIPA to the Albuquerque market. It's not hazy. In fact, it's amber in color, which worried me at first. I had flashbacks to so many easy-to-brew darker IPAs that tasted like malty messes. Thankfully, Hopsoulution benefits from a lower than normal (for Bell's) DIPA ABV of 8%. This, along with a deft use of hops, makes this a welcome addition to crowded shelves. It's got traditional pine mixed with some of the tropical notes of today's IPAs. Really a pleasant drinker for those who aren't adverse to drinking a beer you can see through. And if you are, there's always Bell's Official Hazy.