This past Thursday marked a return of sorts of “guest lecturer” Stoutmeister, which was my role again in the Geography 180 “World of Beer” class at the University of New Mexico. This time I had to ramble on for close an hour (Q&A included) about the great beer history of our state to a bunch of new students. It was fun, and in the end, I did not lose my voice (the class comes highly recommended, too, if you want a good education in all aspects of craft beer). It did, however, make me thirsty for beer after talking about so much beer.
Oh, college life, how far you have come since my days at the University of Arizona. Now I just joined a few students and Professor Maria Lane at Draft & Table, the new on-campus craft beer taproom in the Student Union. It was my first visit since its recent opening, and it was rather nice to see the completion of a project that (now former) students spoke to me about years ago. While their plan called for the conversion of the pool hall on the lower level, the final project was completed on the top floor in the southeast corner of the building, right next to most of the mall-style food court.
There was an impressive collection of varied beers from breweries across the state. I snagged a pint of Monks’ Dark Night, since I missed having that cookie-like stout since Monk’s Corner closed downtown. Others grabbed some of the gourmet, flatbread pizzas. There were other tasty-looking foods on the small menu, which is always good to pair food with beer.
Some of the students complained the place was a bit too bright; it has huge windows looking out to the south, so those could use some drop-down shades. Taprooms do not have to be dark caves, but nor does everyone want to be watched by all those poor, thirsty under-21-year-olds outside. The joint needs a happy middle ground between the dark and the light.
Overall, I was impressed with what UNM has managed to do with the space. Like I have written many times before, it is far easier to create craft beer fans out of folks between the ages of 21 and 30 than it is between 51 and 60. Introducing college students to craft beer and moving them away from binge-drinking culture is a good thing. Clearly, too, professors do not mind having a place to stop for a pint on their way out the door.
My only other stop this weekend was a quick one at Bosque, where my friend Kristen and I greatly enjoyed some of the Watchfire, a potent-yet-smooth Scottish Wee Heavy. I would print her exact response to the beer, but then I would probably be in trouble, because it was a wee bit naughty. Let’s just say that she was not wrong, as it was rather decadent.
Anyway, enough about my random trip back into the halls of higher education, here is what the rest of the Crew managed to find over the course of the weekend.
Walking to the Stand
Despite the proximity to UNM, the fact that it’s been open a while, and they have big sign describing themselves as also an ale house, I finally visited the Burger Stand on Friday afternoon. They are located on the south side of Central a couple of blocks to the east of University. It was just after 4 p.m., so I wasn’t ready to eat yet, so that will have to wait for another visit. I was sure ready for a beer. As luck would have it, one of their two special beer deals that day was Santa Fe’s State Pen Porter at half off. Nobody had to ask me twice. My usual happy hour crew met up with me there a bit later and everyone was quite pleased. The other beer on sale was Dos Equis Amber, for those who were so inclined. The rest of the weekend was the usual: tailgate and in-person football, followed by recovery and TV football.
Getting basic at Toltec
After finally coming to grips with the fact that my Oktoberfest spree was over and I would not be able to make it up to Santa Fe to enjoy this weekend’s festivities, I fully transitioned into the pumpkin beer time-of-year, which had really already begun. Toltec Brewing’s Basic Gourd Brown Ale was not just your average, over-spiced pumpkin beer. To be fair, ABQ’s breweries have all improved greatly on the quality of pumpkin beer offerings over the last couple years. This humbly-named beer is up there with the best. The mouthfeel was impressive and spicing was adequate. Folks, if you look forward to this time of year for pumpkin beers, then I recommend checking it out. I may return for another. I paired this beer with a plate of Toltec’s Pork Belly Mac n Cheese. I confess it had probably been a few years since I had mac n cheese, but it was worth the wait. Of course, pork belly goes well with just about anything, and some spicy green chile was the cherry on top. Also, the serving size was very generous.
Double brews, 5K runs, and Oktoberfest food bonanza
It was a fairly busy weekend at the Sturm Brauerei, as I did a back-to-back brew of an American barleywine (it hit 27º Plato, which is one helluva big beer) and then a red IPA using the same grains which I mashed and sparged a second time (this should be somewhere around 5 to 6 percent, depending on where it finishes). This was my first time using yeast in massive quantity as I was graciously given a growler full of some very happy yeast from my most excellent employer, Steel Bender Brewyard. To say that this was a rocket ship of a takeoff for my barleywine would be a disservice to just how quickly these hungry cells went absolutely crazy in my beer. Suffice it to say, I have learned a few valuable lessons regarding blowoff tube setups from this brew (it was a wee bit of a mess, shall we say; I may have showered in barleywine a little bit). The red IPA, which I inoculated with Nottingham and some Safale US-05, has been quite happily bubbling away all weekend, sending a wonderful wafting of hops throughout the house. The other factor in my brews I have been testing of late is the addition of minerals to my local tap water, which has a high content for both calcium chloride and calcium sulfate (gypsum). For these batches and the ESB, which I brewed, last I added gypsum to further accentuate the presence of hops in the beer with good success (so much so in the ESB that I will add more roasted malts next time to better balance the profile of the beer).
Enough on home brewing, as on Sunday we Sturms happened to be in the Santa Fe area doing the Tatonka 5k in honor of the fallen brother of one of our good friends. Luck was most certainly with us as Second Street Brewing was hosting their annual Oktoberfest this weekend and we dug in for a real feast replete with three varieties of Bratwurst, Kraut, Schnitzel, Kartoffeln, Brot, und Bier! The platter we ordered didn’t stand a chance; we left behind only delicious memories and perhaps a few grains of mustard. While there I enjoyed the Oktoberfest, Atalaya Altbier (which was quite excellent), and a taste of the Vienna Lager. Unfortunately, I was too late for any Preacher’s Share (barrel-aged imperial stout), for which I blame Luke. Until next week when we brave the battlements of dry hopping, ravage the horrors of racking beer into secondary, and plunder the secrets of successful bottling.
— Franz Solo