The end of the shortest month of the year is upon us and it is once again time to select the best seasonal offering from an ABQ-area brewing. February has been an odd month, but then it always is, representing the transition from the darker, burlier winter beers to the lighter spring offerings. It was, in many ways, a month without a dominant theme among beer genres. Breweries offered up a wide variety of seasonal styles, with some hits and some misses.
As we stated last week, to be eligible to be our seasonal of the month that beer has to make its debut in the month in question. So while plenty of great seasonals may still be out there from earlier months — Chama River’s Serenity Milk Stout and Nexus’ Chocolate Porter are two great examples — we had to pick from those beers that were released this month only.
Once again, we divided up our favorites between “regular” beers (those under 8-percent ABV) and “imperial” beers (those over 8-percent). It was not easy for us to pick this month, especially since many of the Crew were extremely busy this month with work/school (and illness took a bite out of us this month, poor Shilling in particular). The New Mexico Cup actually helped a lot of us catch up on the seasonals we had been unable to try. Hopefully March, with spring break and all, will be a lot better month in terms of free time, which we always like to fill with brewery visits.
Anyway, on to our picks. We’ll start with the regular beers.
Stoutmeister: As the Crew member with the most free time (yay/boo part-time employment), I sampled a slew of seasonals this month. None really wowed me, sadly, but most that came out this month were not of the stout/porter variety that I prefer. I will hand out honorable mentions to Back Alley’s porter, Broken Bottle’s oddly unique Glugg Porter, and Tractor’s not-too-hoppy Tupac California Red. My choice, though, belies my nickname. I’m going with Sandia Chile Grill’s German Pilsner, which rightfully claimed the professional judges’ top award at the NM Cup. This is a smooth, flavorful pilsner that tastes like it really could come from Germany itself (I’ve been there and drank a lot of beer there, so I should know). Hopefully this one will stay on tap pretty regularly, because it will be absolutely perfect come summer.
E-Rock: (He flew off to the Caribbean for his sister’s wedding before he shared his thoughts. Oops. Though if I were flying to the islands, I’d probably have forgotten, too. — Stoutmeister)
Shilling: As Stoutmeister mentioned in a previous post, I have been very busy with school this semester and have been out of the beer scene. Luckily for me, spring break is right around the corner just in time for St Patrick’s Day! So with the exception of NM Cup, the Crew’s anniversary party, and the Super Bowl beer challenge, I wasn’t able to sample the many great seasonals. The one that really stands out would be the Goat Head Red down at Back Alley!
Brandon: I think a few of us have had a discussion about my pick for this month, which would be Broken Bottle’s Glugg Porter. The general consensus among us seems to be that this one is not very porter-like at all; but we don’t really care because it’s really delicious! It drinks like a light brown crossed with a spiced winter ale. The malts are creamy and smooth and it has all of the wonderful spices and slight citrus notes you would have in a good winter seasonal. Another unique twist on a beer from BBB, it’s supremely drinkable, but flavorful and has excellent balance. I’ll let the rest of the Crew debate what style it is and drink more of it!
Franz Solo: (We only got him out to a brewery once this month, and it was all about the imperials, so see below)
Imperial/high ABV beers
Stoutmeister: While I was, for the most part, underwhelmed by the lower ABV beers this month, there were several excellent imperials lurking about. There were two reds and one stout, in particular, that stood out. Odin’s Imperial Red from Il Vicino was a powerhouse, worthy of Thor’s father. Nexus’ imperial red was more mellow but no less flavorful; we had it on cask, which really helped bring out the wide range of flavors. My favorite, though, was Bosque’s Greybeard Imperial Stout. Unlike most of the imperial stouts being brewed nowadays around ABQ, this one was not shoved in a bourbon/wine barrel to age. Instead, it was allowed to stand on its own. The result is a solid, smoky stout that lulls you into thinking it is of the regular variety. It can jump up to bite you if spend too long with it, yet you will want to just indulge in it as long as possible.
E-Rock: (see above)
Shilling: (see above)
Brandon: Nexus’s Imperial Red takes the cake on this one for me. A righteously malty and smooth mistress, with caramel and slight toffee flavors, with good hop balance. We had it on cask recently at our Crew gathering, and the cask conditioning just made the flavor profile even better than it already was.
Franz Solo: For my part, Il Vicino’s Odin’s Imperial Red was definitely a standout, burly yet smooth and great all around.
* * *
Some of our readers chimed in as well on their favorites on Facebook.
Stacy Kissam: I really liked Tractor’s Tupac California Red. I liked that it’s smooth in character (Tupac Shakur was smooth, eh?) and is not overrun with hoppy bitterness, which I much prefer to save for my IPAs. Maybe I should say it’s well balanced? A touch of sweet but very drinkable.
Josh “Be a Hoptimist” Sanders: The only February Release seasonal I’ve had was Chama River’s RyePA. I though it was good. Some nice malt. Rye was present and did not get run over by the hops. I was in the middle of trying to buy a new car so I unfortunately spent more time on my I phone instead of really thinking about the beer. All I can say is it is good, though not as good as Sierra Nevada’s Ruthless Rye. Definitely worthy of submission here. If you’ve not had a rye beer this is a great one to start with.
Steve Valasek: I’ll vote for the Rauchbier at La Cumbre. I like them and nobody else has any smoked beers in town. It’s good in winter, too, warmed me up.
* * *
Well, that’s it for February. We will (hope to) have another beer roundtable to finish March, just like we did February (it was a brilliant day of imperial red on cask and chicken & waffles at Nexus). This time around we’ll try to announce it and promote it sooner than a couple days beforehand. Anyone and everyone is always invited to join us to talk about (and drink) beer.
Our series on cask beers will continue this week as well as I am stopping by Nexus and Marble, plus Brandon has already found his pick for this week’s Saturday Night Sixer. E-Rock’s The Week Ahead in Beer will be delayed until Tuesday due to his Caribbean adventure. And if you haven’t bought your tickets to Il Vicino’s Cask Festival, set for March 9, then what are you waiting for?