The remnants of Stoutmeister and Brandon greet you all on this weekday after an enjoyable weekend at the fourth annual New Mexico Brew Fest. Sure, we ended up a little sunburned and a little hungover, but that’s what outdoor beer festivals are all about, right?
With our friends Dan, Jessica, and Adam in tow, we zipped through the various NM breweries and later made quick stops at the out-of-state breweries (not surprisingly, there were few beers outside the regulars that we get all over town). Rather than focus on that, we will stick with the in-state beers since those were better anyway. You can then use this as a handy guide for what seasonal beers to seek out at local breweries.
The crowd was large (but friendly) so there was not time to try every single beer being poured. We tended to skip over a lot of the beers we can get regularly, focusing instead on the newbies, debuting seasonals, and a few “secret beers” that popped up.
Among those specialty brews, the damage was done largely by Nexus’ two-years-aged barley wine and La Cumbre’s two-years-aged Barley’s Wine. Both were wonderful, the pours were generous, and that’s probably the cause of both of our hangovers. As for the rest, here’s a brewery-by-brewery recap (of at least those we remember).
Back Alley Draft House: I tackled the Russian Imperial Stout, a big old beast of a beer with lots of bourbon hints. It was thick and powerful. We will have to visit BADH for more of this, and by more I mean one per visit since BADH is a long ways from any Crew member’s residence by foot. — Stoutmeister
The Russian Imperial (a favorite style of mine) is a burly beer, and BADH did a beautiful rendition. Strong bourbon hints, loads of coffee and roasted malt with a slightly burnt bitterness, and bit of alcohol bite. Proceed with caution on this one, but you will enjoy the hell out of it. — Brandon Daniel
Blue Corn: The only bummer here was that BC was on the far (west) end of the place, and we went east-to-west like most people, so by the time we got there our palates were a bit dulled. In other words, I’m quite certain I liked the BC Oktoberfest, but I have a hard time actually picking out why from my clouded memories. Darn it, I’ll have to drive up to Santa Fe and try it again. — S
My memory was a bit stronger than Stoutmeister’s on the good folks at Blue Corn. Specifically, I’m focusing on their Pumpkin Ale, because this is giving La Cumbre’s Witch’s Tit a run for its money. The pumpkin was fresh and prominent without being too much, the spices were balanced well with enough nutmeg to round out the brew. What a treat. John Bullard does it again, folks. — BD
Bosque: They only brought the regulars, but I still stopped for some Olde Bosky Porter. It’s just that good. — S
What can I say that Stoutmeister didn’t? Not much. Olde Bosky is a wonderful rendition of a tried and true meal in a glass. Fill your growler soon or we will drink it for you. — BD
Broken Bottle: They weren’t even on the list we got from Local iQ, but hey, we didn’t mind the surprise. I snagged a pint of their new Oktoberfest Marzen. It was pretty solid. I imagine we’ll be doing an Oktoberfest Beer Battle this coming weekend or the following one, so I’ll be able to share more formal thoughts then. — S
Chama River: Welcome back, Porter for Pyros, I missed you. This beer is a smoky delight, with a smooth finish after the mesquite opening. — S
Punkin Drublic is abound. Last year’s was a bit underwhelming; this year was a slight step up. Though it was a bit lighter than I prefer and heavy on the cinnamon, it still stands as a sessionable seasonal. Now when it comes to dark beers, Chama River usually delivers, so Porter For Pyros was a welcome sight to see on tap. — BD
Duel: It was good to see Todd for the first time since WinterBrew, even better to try some beers he did not have back then. I went with the Non-Fiction Pale Ale. It was cloudy, but smooth, with just enough hoppy bite. I feared something more sour or citrus-y since it’s brewed in a Belgian style, but I just ended up with a real quality pale ale, offering up a lot more flavor than most of its genre. — S
Upon strolling up to Duel’s booth, Todd shook my hand and immediately snatched my glass and proceeded to give me a sample of a Sour Amber that wasn’t on tap yet. What a great guy! Brewed in the Belgian style they specialize in, this brew was plenty tart all the way through, but there was enough malt to give it a light/medium body and sweetness to balance. A crisp, dry finish made this a surprisingly enjoyable beer … perhaps my bias against sours is fading. I was thoroughly impressed with the Non-Fiction Pale Ale as well, a tasty hybrid with some citrus hop punch and finish. Awesome brews from Duel all around. — BD
Il Vicino: Speaking of welcome back, Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout returned with a vengeance. This year’s batch is heavy on the chocolate flavor; Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout has some competition. The cherry is buried this time around, appearing only briefly on the back end. — S
I also snagged a pint of the Hell(y)es Lager. It is a classic German-style beer, clean and crisp. Just for future reference, Hell(y)es first, MCCS second. — S
The first beer we sampled? Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout. Yes, leave it to us to try dessert beers first. Not especially big on the cherry, but loads of dark chocolate body here to make a smooth creamy glass of awesome. — BD
La Cumbre: Did I already mention the Barley’s Wine ’12? It was ridiculously good. It was a little stronger in flavor than Nexus’ barley wine (see below), with some bitterness on the back end from the hops. — S
Barley’s Wine ’12 is not to be trifled with. And I mean this in a good way. A strong hop character, silky malt, and a slight alcohol kick make for a potent mix. Arguably one of my favorites of the day. — BD
Las Cazuela’s: OK, so they’ve officially thrown the “Las” in front of their name, so we’ll be listing them that way from now on. I went with the Panama Red, which is a maltier red but drier and a little hoppier than, say, Il Vicino’s Irish Red, but far from the hoppiness of Marble’s Red. I guess it falls in the middle of the red ale spectrum, which is just fine to help set it apart. — S
I was quite pleased with the Panama Red, as it had a strong malty body with some nice toasted caramel notes, with a bit of hop punch in the back that sticks with you. This one struck me slightly more on the hoppy end of the spectrum, but don’t shy away from it if you prefer your reds in the malty Irish varieties, as this is certainly a solid concoction. — BD
Little Toad Creek: One of the newest breweries in attendance, LTC is located in a resort outside of Silver City. They brought three beers up, so naturally I went with the Oatmeal Stout. It was a stout that started well, smooth and creamy, but had an odd flavor on the back end. None of us could figure out quite what it was. For a young brewery it was a good start, but there is still work to be done. — S
The Oatmeal Stout was an odd fellow, but quite enjoyable. Rich and creamy, but something gave an uncharacteristic bitterness on the back end. Overall a good start from some new faces in the NM craft brewing scene; we’re definitely eager to hear more. — BD
Marble: A few weeks back I went to Marble to interview John and Jeff in advance of Son of Septemberfest. The newest beer on tap was Thunder from Dortmunder, so I got a sample … and could not taste a thing. This was the fault of the beer, but my fall allergies roared to life that day like you wouldn’t believe. Luckily they were in check on Saturday, so I finally got to taste the Thunder. I would love to size it up side-by-side with the Hell(y)es. They were pretty similar, and both quite good, a little sweeter than a standard pilsner with less of that dry bite in the middle. — S
Nexus: Manuel kept filling up our glasses with his barley wine. Twas wondrous, not too sweet, with minimal alcohol flavor. And I was really, really glad we all walked from Dan’s house a couple blocks west of San Pedro. — S
Barley Wine … Nexus brewed a truly evil one. This one was marvelous in caramel quality, with some earthy hops to balance it out. The alcohol is barely detectable (which contributed to our not-so-coherent collective state by the end of the day), and it has subtle hints of vanilla. A standout that I desperately need to drink again, albeit in smaller quantities. — BD
Santa Fe: So it’s official, the Oktoberfest from SFBC that we had at Son of Septemberfest was a bad batch. We had the seasonal again and it was just fine, pretty much the same as we remembered from past years. This year’s batch might have been a little lighter, but it’s still up there with the best examples of a good Marzen. — S
Rejoice! The off-batch of Oktoberfest which the Crew tried at Son of Septemberfest was sacrificed for the sake of beer drinkers everywhere, and Santa Fe brought a solid batch. Personally, I think last year’s version had a bit more character, but this was certainly back up to the standards they have for quality beers. Pick up a six-pack for the coming cool fall evenings. — BD
Second Street: As usual, Rod sent a bunch of beers to a festival that we had never tried before. I’ve been to Second Street quite a few times, but I had never had any of this collection. Needless to say, I revisited their booth a few times to try and cross them off my list. The Scotch Ale rivals Nexus and Broken Bottle’s in quality — sweet, heavy, strong from start to finish. The Otowi Pale Ale was a nice little changeup for me, offering up a good hoppy bite with a sweet, malty finish. After all that, though, the highlight was the Cherrywood Smoked Imperial Porter. It was bold, thick, tough. This is not a beer for the light of heart. — S
Second Street’s Scotch Ale was a great find. A big body of toasted malts, minimal bitterness brewed in a more traditional Scotch ale style, which I prefer. Another reason to get back to Santa Fe for a brew trip! — BD
Tractor: Another old friend was on hand as Tractoberfest returned. This year’s batch was just as smooth and sweet as its predecessors. Time to return to the tap room for some lazy days and nights. — S
All I can say is I remember liking the Tractoberfest as per usual. That is all. Forgive me, Dave, I will stop in to give a few pints a proper appraisal! — BD
Turtle Mountain: To keep with the theme, I tackled their Oktoberfest as well. It matched up with all the rest. So yes, it’s definitely time for a Mini-Beer Battle featuring some local Marzens. — S
* * * *
Several breweries were listed as attending but did not show up. I knew Sandia Chile Grill would not be there, but surprisingly neither were Mimbres Valley, Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca, and Taos Mesa. Who knows what happened, but it’s always sad when we miss out on good beer to try. Hopefully they will be at Hopfest on Oct. 26.
Well, that’s all from this event. It was great to meet some of our readers, see some friends from the brewing community and the beer-drinking community as well.
Until we do a Santa Fe trek or Mini-Beer Battle …
— Stoutmeister and Brandon