Best of the Septemberfest beers

One festival down, many to go. Marble’s Septemberfest kicked off festival season on Saturday afternoon. It was a fun, efficiently-run event with a good crowd. Kudos to Ted and Amberly Rice and the hard-working Leah Black for putting it all together. It was never overcrowded and the beer line moved quickly. Remarkably, even with all those Arizona State fans in attendance, things stayed nice and civil. (Full disclosure: I am an Arizona alum. Fought the urge to just scream out “Scum Devils!” all afternoon.)

Yes, we wore black to an outdoor beer festival.
Yes, we wore black to an outdoor beer festival.

With Brandon along for the ride and his girlfriend Taylor handling the designated driver duties (we are gonna owe her so many beers after January), we got to the event right at the outset, which proved quite advantageous in getting our beers in a timely fashion. It also helped since one of us had to go to UNM to cover the Lobos-Sun Devils game later on. (Take a guess who.) We were later joined by Brew Crew Bullpen members Adam, Jason, and Paul, and the usual suspects from the ABQ Craft Beer Drinkers Group were there as well. Since Marble staffers were handling the pouring of the 10 beers on hand, the other brewers were free to just be beer fans like us and sample everything on tap. Blue Corn’s James Warren, Bosque’s John Bullard, Boxing Bear’s Justin Hamilton, and Nexus’ Kaylynn McKnight were among those who stopped by to say hello and talk a little beer.

We divided the 10 beers present into a malty category and a hoppy category. The only one that didn’t really fit either was Turtle Mountain’s Saison Du Soleil, a French/Belgian saison with some very strong Belgian yeast notes. We enjoyed all of the beers, but if we had to pick a top beer for each category, well …

Best hoppy beer: Bosque’s Acequia Wet Hop IPA

We do love La Cumbre’s hop monster Project Dank, and Boxing Bear’s punchy Uppercut IPA and Second Street’s Pivotal IPA were solid as well. The standout here was the brand-new Acequia. The fresh-picked, Colorado-grown hops arrived back on Aug. 24 and went straight into making this new IPA. It had an almost floral quality, with subtle pine and resin hints. It offered up a cool, refreshing mouthfeel, unlike the dryness that can be common with many stronger IPAs. The good news is this beer, as well as the other IPAs above, are all on tap at the breweries. Head over quick and try them out before they’re gone.

Since I did say “we” above, here are Brandon’s thoughts on the Acequia:

Acequia was very welcome on my palate. With bright floral notes, subtle bitterness, and an almost tropical finish, it proved to be the best hoppy beer of the bunch to quench your thirst with while still getting a dose of lupulin goodness. A tip of the hat also is due to the folks at Boxing Bear for impressing me with my first taste of the Uppercut IPA. (I know, I’m slacking … I’ll be in soon for a flight, guys!) Uppercut packs a resiny punch and complexity with minimal malt sweetness, making for a tasty treat.

The calm before the beer storm.
The calm before the beer storm.

Best malty beer: Chama River’s Wee Bit Loco

For some it is still a little warm outside for a Scottish Wee Heavy, but Zach and David are forward-thinking brewers over at Chama. They created a Scottish that has all the flavor you’d expect of the genre, but with a little lighter mouthfeel that one would expect from a summer beer. There were some good caramel and toffee notes on the edges of this beer, which hits strong with the peak smoke (but not too strong) and then mellows out considerably. It ended up being my choice for my full pint (shocker, I know, that I took the darkest beer on tap), though it was a tough choice over Acequia. Among the other malty beers, I enjoyed Nexus’ Altbier, which is smooth and sweet like you’d expect from a Nexus beer. If you’re in Santa Fe, stop by Blue Corn to try some Schwarzbier, or if you’re in Taos, definitely hit up Taos Mesa for the Old 96 Sticke Alt. This batch is improved over the last one they had back at … a festival a while ago. Perhaps WinterBrew? Or more recent? My brain can’t remember.

Anyway, here are Brandon’s more coherent thoughts on this beer:

Stoutmeister pretty much summed it up. My full pour pint went to Chama River as well for the Wee Bit Loco, a slightly smoky, malty mistress. The caramelized sugars and subtle roasted barley coat your mouth without being too rich, providing an east drinking version of the wee heavy Scottish style. The subtle smoked character of the malts provides extra character to keep you interested. Great job all around on this one.

* * * *

Septemberfest was a great start to festival season. Things are quiet this coming week, but remember that Hopfest is set for Sept. 20 at Isleta Casino, followed by NM Brew Fest at the State Fairgrounds on Oct. 11. In between there’s this little thing called the Great American Beer Festival in Denver Oct. 2-4, though none of the Crew was able to secure tickets this year. We’ll have to aim for press passes in 2015.

Anyway, fear not, for we have plenty of beer news coming up this week. Reid from the Bullpen will have an update on the Los Alamos Beer Co-op, Luke has a guide to taking a “beercation” in Durango, Brandon will have a guide for the novice craft beer drinker in your life, I’ll be getting the full lowdown on Santa Fe Brewing’s pending expansion, and who knows what else might pop up (looking at you, Red Door).


— Stoutmeister

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