Another WinterBrew is in the books, and once again it was a successful event at the Santa Fe Farmers Market on Friday. The Brewers Guild sold out of tickets well in advance, and other than a few people accidentally dropping their sample glasses, it was a great crowd.
While I personally missed that pizza joint that attended last year, Duel’s brats and Second Street’s homemade cookies kept me satiated. Others seemed to enjoy Blue Corn’s selection of eats (though we all missed their beers).
This is a beer site, however, so let’s get down to the important stuff: What were the best beers that we all got to try? There were some that were only at the event, and while we will note those, we will mainly focus on the ones you need to head over and enjoy at your favorite breweries.
Blue Heron: They brought four beers down, with the La Llorona Scottish Ale retaining its title as the best of the bunch. In full disclosure, it was my free pint, but that was also because I wasn’t looking to smash myself with an imperial and have to endure a rough train ride home. I also enjoyed the subtle, smoky Penasco Porter and the light, crisp Oro de Rio Grande Pilsner. Franz Solo picked the Scottish as his favorite, while Mrs. Solo preferred the Pilsner.
Bosque: If you have not ventured over to try the Amarillo Red, what is taking so long? This uniquely hopped red ale, which falls about midway between the malty Irish reds and Marble’s hoppy red, is worth the trip to the north side of ABQ. All three of us pegged it as our favorite Bosque beer on hand.
Chama River: Winter can be a tough time of year for hopheads, so Chama has busted out the surprisingly hoppy Son of Slap, which is described as a “session pale ale” but carries far more punch than most PAs. The Shadow Boxer, a black IPA, is also fairly solid. Franz Solo also rated the Son of Slap as his favorite, while Mrs. Solo went with the ultra smooth Serenity Milk Stout.
Duel: Ever wonder if a 13-percent ABV imperial stout can taste like anything but pure alcohol? Well, the Goya Stout definitely fits the bill of a heavy, but not overly potent beer. It has a wonderful chocolate flavor that masks the alcohol. It is just a seasonal and has already been around for a while, so it might behoove everyone to hurry over to Duel and try it before it’s gone. Mrs. Solo gave it a five-star rating on Untappd.
High Desert: This was just about my final stop, so the palate was fairly exhausted by then. Still, I enjoyed the slightly creamy, but crisp Dark Bock. Mrs. Solo agreed on the Dark Bock and also enjoyed the Octoberfest, Barley Wine, and Imperial Stout. It was her first beer festival, so she easily beat out the rest of us in sheer number of samples.
La Cumbre: Jeff busted out some two-year-old Siberian Silk (Baltic porter), which aged beautifully. No word if this will be on tap at the brewery, but if it is, don’t walk, run over before it runs out.
Marble: I will admit, I did not have any Marble beers. Time was short, and I know all are on tap downtown anyway, so I focused more on the out-of-town breweries. That being said, I have already had both the powerhouse Imperial Stout and Imperial Red here in ABQ. They are both more than worth the trip downtown or to the west side. Franz Solo did have the Reserve Ale and recommends it as well, while Mrs. Solo gave thumbs up to the Imperial Red.
Monks: The brothers from Abiquiu did not disappoint, bringing their delicious Tripel Reserve for us all to enjoy. It was another big ABV beer, but you don’t really taste the alcohol. Instead you get a sweet, fruity taste like Champagne. As far as beers go, it really has the most upscale feel of any available. It is often sold in bombers at places like Jubilation. Both of the Solos gave the Tripel five stars on Untappd.
Nexus: Again, did not have time to stop, but I do recommend Nexus’ Imperial Stout from drinking it here in ABQ. In fact, doing a double run and comparing it to Marble’s Imperial Stout could make for a good day. Just get ’em in Boston growlers and take ’em home, lest you have a good friend who’s willing to be your DD. Mrs. Solo awarded the Imperial Stout five stars.
Roosevelt: This was my first (and probably many others) chance to try the Portales-based brewery’s offerings. The Portales Pale Ale was a little too light, but the Imperial Porter hit all the right notes. It had a nice, thick mouthfeel and some smoky qualities. We’ll have to make a trek out there one of these days.
Santa Fe: The state’s biggest brewery brought most of its heavyweights. I skipped the Imperial Rye Porter because they put Chipotle in it (did not inherit dad’s ability to eat hot and spicy, got mom’s inability instead). The Black IPA filtered through Latir and Cascade hops was a power punch to the face. It was almost a triple hop punch. In retrospect, I should have saved that one for later. It hampered my palate for a bit. No word if they will have it available at either SFBC taproom. The Solos also enjoyed the Black IPA.
Second Street: As usual, Rod Tweet brought a whole lot of new beers for us all to try (at least those of us who don’t live in SF and visit regularly). His aged Barley Wine was wondrous, a big, burly beer with strong and sweet flavor qualities. As far as I know, it is on tap at the main location, possibly at the Railyard as well. If you want something lighter in ABV, the Doppelbock and the Outlier Special Bitter are worth the visit. Franz likewise enjoyed the Barley Wine.
The Stumbling Steer: The as-yet-unopened brewery brought a new Imperial Stout for all us in the Crew to try (we’d already had their IPA and DIPA). It was big, but not too big. The mouthfeel was strangely light. I guess I just expected something a little thicker and meaner, like Marble and Nexus provided. Still, there will be more time to tinker with the recipe. The Solos did enjoy the Imperial Stout as well.
Taos Mesa: They only brought four beers, and in contrast to the rest, all were fairly light in texture. I went with the Old Sticke 96 Alt, which it turns out I did have (according to Untappd) somewhere along the line. It was a little too light for my tastes, but I had it toward the end, and by then my palate had taken some hits. It’s too bad they didn’t bring the Superstitious Stout. I’d also like to try their Scottish ale someday. Mrs. Solo liked the White Feather, which is listed as a pale ale.
Tractor: The selection was wide and left me a bit indecisive. Ultimately I went with the Russian Imperial Stout, which was the big, burly beer I expected. The Chocolate Milk Stout was a wonderful, creamy concoction that went perfect with my aforementioned cookies from Second Street. I’m guessing both will be available at the new Wells Park taproom which is projected to open this Saturday. We’ll have more on that as the week goes by. Both Solos also thought highly of the two stouts. No wonder we’re all good friends.
Turtle Mountain: By the time we visited the elusive Hazelnut Brown had already run out, so I went for the Revelation IPA instead. It was a solid middle-of-the-road IPA, not too hoppy, not too light. It was also not originally on the list they gave me, but a welcome surprise nonetheless. Franz Solo also liked the IPA for its big (100+ IBUs) quality.
All right, those are our picks for the best of the fest. What were yours? Leave us a comment here or on Facebook or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, and we’ll have some “major news” about a brewery later this week. We’re just gonna tease you with it for now.