Imagine a big old warehouse in northeast Albuquerque set up with sand volleyball courts. Then imagine a bar in with all those courts, pouring beers from a Las Vegas brewery. Sounds a little odd, doesn’t it? Yet that is exactly what the Brew Crew found at the Sandbar inside Charlie’s Sandbox, located west of Jefferson near Journal Center off Masthead (it’s the first red light north of Ellison, take a left and go west a half mile or so). The guys from New Mexico Craft Brewing Co. in Las Vegas (ours, not the neon one in Nevada) pour their beers at Sandbar and they graciously invited us to come try two new offerings, Josh’s Strong Ale and Extra (extra) IPA.
Once almost all of us (Brandon was MIA) got there we started sampling both the Strong Ale and Extra IPA, along with the other beers on tap, including the Rye PA, Red Ale, and Stout. With a mix of small samples or full pints (or goblets) provided by our host, Miguel Melendez, we set forth to try these beers and, as always, perform a highly scientific analysis on all of them (by which I mean we threw out a bunch of random thoughts interspersed with talking about the Pittsburgh Pirates having the best record in baseball — WOOTS! — and heavy metal albums and upcoming shows we’d really like to see but can’t). Without further adieu, here’s everybody’s thoughts on each beer we tried. (And if Franz Solo and/or Porter Pounder find the time to add their thoughts, we will update this story.)
Josh’s Strong Ale
Stoutmeister: The word I kept coming up with was “unique” to describe this beer. Its base is that of a California Commons/Steam beer, only amped up. There is a piney flavor you pick up mid-palate from the hops (Willamette, I’m guessing) and a little extra hoppy kick on the back end. The front is malty with a little bit of that aromatic effect from a steam/commons that sits up on the roof of your mouth. Overall this is not an overpowering beer, despite the hefty ABV (8.5%). I always like trying something that’s different, almost hard to classify in the great spectrum of beer styles. This one fits that well.
Shilling: Good beer, high alcohol content, not an incredibly overwhelming flavor. Two thumbs up! (But drink with caution.)
Extra (extra) IPA
Stoutmeister: Ooo, aromatic goodness. A pleasantly hoppy little beast without being overpowering. There is an almost berry-like quality to the hops in this beer, rather than an overly floral or, worse, a citrus flavor. The malts are still here, not muted. Another burly beer (8.9% ABV) that does not taste like alcohol. If they end up submitting this to the IPA Challenge it might pick up its fair share of votes of the less hardcore, non-hophead folks in the crowd.
Stoutmeister: This stout was so smooth it started talking jive. A very mellow brew, you can drink it in the summer or the winter. The oatmeal elements are subdued, with only a tinge of the smoky flavor in a lot of stouts.
E-Rock: Of all the beers I sampled, this was the beer that I ended up getting a pint of. It’s on the sweet side for a stout, and the malts add to the complexity on your palate.
Stoutmeister: Well, hello vanilla, back behind the rye. You sit there like a welcome finish to a beer that starts strong but never comes across as overpowering. I often find rye beers to be too much rye and too little beer. This was not one of those.
Shilling: I enjoy a good rye beer; I was kinda disappointed with many of the local submissions this year. This one was a good balance of flavor and complex in a way where you can taste everything in your glass.
Stoutmeister: The one disappointment in the bunch. It was too sweet of a red, as if a bit of caramel got loose in the fermenter and went bonkers. I wish I could share it with a professional brewer and get his/her take on where the brewing process went awry with this beer and get their advice on how to improve it. Based on the other NMCBC beers, improvement is definitely possible and will be welcomed.
E-Rock: I was the last of the Crew to arrive at the tasting. Most of the other guys shared their thoughts on each of the beers before I had a chance to come to my own conclusions first. With that disclaimer given, I have to agree that I wasn’t a big fan of this beer. It was sweet, but not overpowering. It’s not a bad beer, it’s just not as good as the other offerings since it a little one-dimensional in flavor by comparison.
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Well, that’s it from all of us. We’ll certainly be heading over to Sandbar again for more tastings, or if god forbid enough of us have the same days off, we’ll trek up to Las Vegas to visit the NMCBC mothership.
We definitely recommend heading over to try the Strong Ale and Extra IPA before these small batches run out. And if you’re feeling adventurous, hop on a volleyball court and do your best Misty May/Karch Kiraly impression. Just don’t do too much volleyball and then too much drinking, or the other way around. We don’t want you wiped out along the sidewalk in Journal Center.