Stout Challenge V: Another year, another new champion

Another successful year on the Dark Side.
Another successful year on the Dark Side.

The Dark Side Brew Crew gathered on Super Bowl Sunday for the fifth straight year to hold a blind taste test to determine the best house stout in the Albuquerque metro area.

And for a fifth straight year, we had a different winner. So who was it?

Well, rather than keep everyone in suspense, here was the full list of 14 beers (we thought we would have 15, but it turns out Kaktus’ Nob Hill taproom was closed Sunday, so we could not get theirs). The beers were graded on a 0-5 scale in four categories — aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, finish. The voting Brew Crew members were myself, Franz Solo, Mrs. Solo (our hosts), Brandon, and Kristin. Shilling, sadly, had to work, while E-Rock was playing music in Florida and Porter Pounder was on a boat with a bunch of metalheads and metal bands. The rest of the Bullpen was unavailable as well.

From the lowest rated to the highest, here we go.

14. Rio Bravo Black Angus Stout (16 points): This was … not good. Last year: NA

13. Sidetrack Dark Engine Stout (24.5 points): They’re new, so we will cut them some slack. Still, more malts for a stout are a good thing. Last year: NA

12. Albuquerque Brewing Handlebar Stout (30.5 points): New brewer, so give him time. It wasn’t very carbonated, for one thing. It struck us more as a brown ale than a stout. Last year: NA

11. Canteen Dark & Lusty Stout (41.5 points): This was the 2015 version of “are you kidding me? It’s that low?!” There just wasn’t much flavor or mouthfeel or really anything with this batch. We have a feeling that Zach will be tinkering with this beer. Last year: 2nd

10. Lizard Tail Oatmeal Stout (42.5 points): At least we got the right variety of stout this year, but it was just a bit thin on all accounts, including aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, etc. Last year: 13th for their rye stout

9. Turtle Mountain Stauffenberg Stout (46.5 points): Kinda average all around, but perfectly drinkable. Last year: 11th

8. Marble Oatmeal Stout (47 points): Last year the batch was contaminated by an unclean growler. This time around, the growler was fine, but the beer was … average. Last year: 14th

7. La Cumbre Malpais Stout (60.5 points): In a sea of oatmeal stouts, a foreign export stout certainly stands out. I guess it also proves we’re more biased to the oamteals, or something like that. Last year: 6th

6. Ponderosa Zaftig Oatmeal Stout (64.5 points): Some of us found this one pretty middle-of-the-road, others enjoyed it quite a bit more. A pretty solid representation of the style. Last year: NA

5. Tractor Double Plow Oatmeal Stout (67 points): This batch could not quite reach the heights of 2014’s “cookie dough” batch that took home the title. It still remains one of their best and most consistent brews. Last year: 4th

4. Cazuela’s Beer For My Horses (74 points): We all found this one kind of mean, almost leaning closer to a foreign export than a traditional oatmeal stout. Everyone picked up on a star anise aroma/flavor, which worked for some, not for others. Last year: 7th

3. Boxing Bear Standing 8 Stout (77.5 points): Last year’s winner came up just short this time around. It is still one of the finest regular stouts on tap around town. Last year: 1st

2. Bosque Driftwood Oatmeal Stout (84.5 points): Brewer John Bullard told us he was going to change up the recipe. We’re assuming he did just that, because this was rather wonderful. Last year: 12th

1. Chama River Sleeping Dog Stout (88.5 points): A while back a brewer from another brewery told me that this was the best local stout. Well, he was right. The only question, do we congratulate current brewer Andrew Krosche or former brewer Zach Guilmette? Or both? Heck, both of you, revel in this one! Last year: 10th

As always, in the interest of full disclosure, here are everyone’s individual results.

Brandon: 1) (tie) Bosque and Cazuela’s 15.5 points, 3) Chama River 14.5, 4) Ponderosa 14, 5) Boxing Bear 13, 6) (tie) La Cumbre and Tractor 12.5, 8) (tie) Marble and Turtle Mountain 10, 10) Canteen 8.5, 11) Lizard Tail 7, 12) Albuquerque Brewing 6.5, 13) Rio Bravo 2, 14) Sidetrack 1.5

Franz Solo: 1) (tie) Bosque and Chama River 19 points, 3) Boxing Bear 18.5, 4) Cazuela’s 17.5, 5) Tractor 16, 6) La Cumbre 15, 7) (tie) Marble and Turtle Mountain 12, 9) Ponderosa 11, 10) Lizard Tail 9, 11) Canteen 7, 12) (tie) Albuquerque and Sidetrack 6, 14) Rio Bravo 4

Mrs. Solo: 1) Chama River 19, 2) Bosque 17, 3) Boxing Bear 16, 4) Cazuela’s 14, 5) (tie) La Cumbre and Ponderosa 12, 7) Tractor 10, 8) Marble 9, 9) Lizard Tail 8, 10) (tie) Canteen and Turtle Mountain 7, 12) (tie) Albuquerque and Sidetrack 5, 14) Rio Bravo 3

Kristin: 1) Chama River 19, 2) Ponderosa 17.5, 3) (tie) Bosque and Boxing Bear 17, 5) Cazuela’s 15, 6) Tractor 14.5, 7) La Cumbre 11, 8) Lizard Tail 10, 9) (tie) Canteen and Turtle Mountain 9, 11) (tie) Albuquerque and Sidetrack 7, 13) Marble 6.5, 14) Rio Bravo 4

Stoutmeister: 1) Chama River 17, 2) Bosque 16, 3) Tractor 14, 4) Boxing Bear 13, 5) Cazuela’s 12, 6) (tie) Canteen, La Cumbre, and Ponderosa 10, 9) Marble 9.5, 10) (tie) Lizard Tail and Turtle Mountain 8.5, 12) Albuquerque 6, 13) Sidetrack 5, 14) Rio Bravo 3

So, that was how we voted. We invite everyone to make their own choices, and we look forward to seeing how our choices compare to the upcoming Stout Invitational at Bathtub Row on Feb. 20.

And with that, another Stout Challenge is done. We shall see if year six produces a sixth different winner.


— Stoutmeister

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