Geez, March was a busy month. You don’t tend to realize it until you go and look at the long list of seasonal beers that came out and how few you managed to try. For me, Stoutmeister, the last month included lots of high school sports coverage, the Lobo baseball team being back, and my annual trek to Arizona to visit Dodgers camp and talk to the past and future Isotopes.
While I was off doing my sports thing, Brandon was visiting Northern California and Las Vegas, while working hard at his job to pay for said trip. Franz Solo was as busy as ever at his job, especially with his big vacation looming in the coming months. E-Rock was rehearsing, rehearsing, and rehearsing some more (the boy is in a lot of local bands), and even getting out and performing, too. Shilling was working and/or studying all the time as he works toward becoming a paramedic. And Derek, well, he was getting up at 4 a.m. way too often this past month to work on movies filming here in our great state.
In other words, we didn’t get out much this month as a group. April promises to be no less busy, what with the Isotopes returning, and of course ABQ Beer Week starts on April 25. We’ll try to be better about getting out and trying new beers, but no guarantees.
Anyway, here are our picks (if we were able to make any) for the best seasonals of March, divided between regular (sub-8 percent ABV) and high-alcohol (8+) beers. The rules hold that these beers have to go on tap from March 1 onward to be eligible.
Stoutmeister: Compared to the rest of the Crew, I have the most free time, so I managed to add it all up and I tried 15 different beers this month. That was in large part thanks to my sporadic participation in Il Vicino’s Malt Madness, but in the end it was a beer that barely made the cutoff that snagged my title of March’s best. Tractor brought forth a brand new Chocolate Stout this past Saturday, much to my delight. Like a lot of its seasonals, Tractor created a smooth, easy-drinking stout (at least to me, others might still flinch at the sight of a glass of obsidian glory). Unlike, say Odell’s Lugene, this was not overly sweet. It is more of a dry mocha flavor than a milky chocolate taste. It hits you in the middle of the palate before the roasted malts finish on the back end. I could hand out a half-dozen or so honorable mentions, including returning favorites like Il Vicino’s Irish Red and Broken Bottle’s Rob Van Winkle Vanilla Stout, plus the awesome Irish reds at Chama River, La Cumbre, Marble, and Sandia Chile Grill, which also brews up a smooth-as-silk Nitro Milk Stout that was probably my very close second behind Tractor. It was hard to lose when trying seasonals this month. I doubt I’ll have nearly as much free time in March now that the Isotopes have started up again, so — warning, shameless plug time! — feel free to spend your beer-free hours reading my two-part season preview on the lineup and the pitching staff.
E-Rock: March was a great month for smooth, easy-drinking beers. Most of my beer drinking this month came from Cask Fest, NMDSBC’s mini Irish Red challenge, and my regular trips to Sandia Chile Grill. On casks, Chama River’s Sleeping Dog Stout was amazing, and Marble Red and Il Vicino’s Mosaic IPA deserve honorable mentions. As for the Irish Reds, I can honestly recommend any of the Irish Reds in town for those who want a solid beer without sampling first. My favorite of the pack was Il Vicino’s Irish Red. I’d also like to add a thumbs up to Sandia Chile Grill for adding Nitro Milk Stout to the menu. This beer is the definition of smooth.
Franz Solo: Some favorites from this month included Il Vicino’s Irish red in all of its crisp and refreshing springtime glory. Marble’s bold Irish red offering was also quite worth a taste, though my number one stays with Vicino. Also, special props to Chama River’s Sleeping Dog Stout from Cask Fest which was utterly wondrous.
Brandon: (he’ll add his pick later)
Shilling: *wipe sweat from my head* Life simply does not let up with the crunch time before approaching finals. Unlike past posts, I actually got out a little bit more this month for a beer or two. Out of the beers on the list from a previous post, it had the IV Irish Red. Honestly, I have a hard time passing up a red ale and this was one of my favorites. This ale was balanced and not outrageously hoppy, in my opinion. I was also able to swing by Second Street in Santa Fe over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend for a pint of Jordy’s Irish Red. This was another well-balanced ale and one that I would probably pick over Santa Fe’s Irish Red as the best in the capital.
Derek: did not get out this month. Really at all. We’d try to remedy this, but he’s working again on one film after another, so we’ll let him be.
Stoutmeister: There weren’t a lot of imperials released in March, and two I wanted to try — the new imperial reds at Broken Bottle and Nexus — were two that I missed out on. Then I was reminded that Il Vicino’s Panama Joe Coffee Stout checks in at over eight percent, so voila, I had a winner. This is a burly coffee stout, with thick, strong flavor. You don’t need cream or sugar, though you might want it. It’s the kind of beer that could wake you up in the morning and keep you awake until, well, you probably got drunk, but that’s not the point. The point is it’s really good and worth trying before it disappears.
E-Rock: could not think of any he tried this month.
Franz Solo: also could not think of any he tried this month.
Brandon: see above
Shilling: I had a sample of the Panama Joe Coffee Stout at Il Vicino. All I can say is wow!
Derek: see above
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And now for our readers’ thoughts on their favorites. There weren’t many submissions this month, so I guess we weren’t the only ones who were busy.
Kent Steinhaus picked La Cumbre’s Project Dank, a new IPA and the first in a series, and Il Vicino’s C.R.A.P., which stands for Classic Real American Pilsner.
Stacy Kissam picked Tractor’s Goat Head Hater Doppel Bock and shared this on Facebook: “It’s very smooth and drinkable without being too sweet or filling. I’m more a fan of Maibock — it has more hoppy flavor — and I think the Barnstorm qualifies there, but I found it tasted a little different this year than last.”
Josh Sanders, who you should follow on Facebook under his page Be A Hoptimist, had this to say: “Loved IVBC’s Chainsaw Lager. Nice roasted malt with a touch of ale sweetness. A clean crisp finish. Nice floral notes and a bitter hop bite to balance the sweet malt. Enjoyed this one several times this month. A great way to leave the heavy-bodied winter beers behind, easing the transition to a more refreshing and quaffable warm weather brew. Don’t get me wrong I like em all anytime …”
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So that’s a wrap for March, a month where basketball killed everybody twice (thanks, Steve). Let us all hope for a nicer April. Especially with less pollen. Much less pollen. You hear me nature? STOP MAKING ME SNEEZE ALL THE TIME!
Time for beer. Well, after the Isotopes’ season opener tonight. Hooray, baseball is back!