The weekend was humming along at such a nice pace, and then the Steelers went out and f@#$ed it all up for me. It’s hard being a sports fan, but these days it’s easy being a beer lover. My weekend actually kicked off back on Thursday with trips to Marble Downtown and Marble Heights to interview a number of staff members for an upcoming Look Back/Look Ahead Series article. Naturally, I also got to partake in a few beers, because that’s the reward in advance for the hours of upcoming transcription.
First up, Ye’ Olde Ale is a delicious concoction made in collaboration with the Marble Beers in Manchester, England. A proper, 9.7-percent ABV English strong ale was aged in port wine barrels, with a little bit of brettanomyces thrown in for fun. The result is a complex beer that, in many ways, probably should not work together, but the warming alcohol and thick malt mixes wonderfully with the funky brett and sweet wine flavors. Also available were the Northside IPA and Alpha Acid Trip (Triple IPA), both of which had many of the best characteristics of what I still love in the style, with a piney touch to go with the more fruity and floral hops, plus enough of a malt backbone to keep them from drying out the palate. I also had more Reserve Ale, which has already run its course in bottle form, but remains on tap for now. It is a delightful batch this year, so if you have not had it, you are dead to me. (Just kidding. Well, maybe.)
From there, I grabbed a friend and headed over to Red Door for the release of the new Pining for Breakfast Maple Brown. I have had my fair share of maple-infused stouts in recent years, but for a lighter beer in color and mouthfeel, this brown held up well and did not allow the maple to turn it into a sugar bomb. The folks at New Mexico Piñon Coffee supplied the beans that brought in a nice coffee character to help balance everything out. Red Door has been churning out some quality seasonals for a while now, so make sure to snag a pint of this one and raise it high in honor of head brewer Matt Meier and his staff.
For Friday night, I trekked to the west side to catch up with a good friend and finally indulge in a long overdue pizza-and-beer night. We found room at the bar at the Blue Grasshopper location off Coors. While a number of the beers I wanted to drink had run out, the remainder (Boxing Bear’s Body Czech, La Cumbre’s BEER and Dunkelweizen) were more than enough. Throw in some really good pizza and even better company (thanks, Jess!), and it was a good night.
I picked up a trifecta of excellent brews from a beer-trading friend (thanks, Majin!) and stayed in on Saturday, a little too worn out from work to venture beyond the confines of home. As for Sunday, well, at least I didn’t punch the TV or anything. How a team blows a 23-7 lead at home is beyond me.
As for the rest of the Crew, two of them ended up joining forces for part of their weekend, while another ventured out of town for one of her favorite annual festivals.
Toning down the weird with the beer but not with the people
I just arrived home last night from our annual trip to the Portland Holiday Ale Fest up in Oregon. I am always surprised how crowded this event gets despite the fact that the price and the amount of days it goes on keeps slowly creeping upward. It starts on a Wednesday morning now and goes all the way through Sunday night. For one admission price, you can come and go with your mug and wristband over and over throughout the fest. The ugly sweaters and actual full costumes abound. Some stuff you see is pretty far out there!
For the past several years, the beers have become weirder and weirder on the whole. This year, it actually seemed to taper back a little and it was easier to find favorites you wanted to try again. I went on three of the days and only started to tire of the beers after they ran out of quite a few on Sunday.
We lived in Oregon for six years and still have many friends we meet up with each year. We mostly hit all of our favorite places each trip, but we managed to get in a few new things this time. Two favorites were a holiday popup cocktail bar in a hotel in downtown, and a new location of Mt. Hood Brewing just over on the east side of the river by trolley at Tilikum Station. Mt. Hood Brewing’s main location is at the base of the actual Mt. Hood in Government Camp. Mt. Hood Brewing also has a scenic railroad, so the theme and location for the new taproom make a lot of sense. The holiday popup is apparently a multi-city thing, with many locations participating. It’s really neat and all locations use the same menu and merchandise for a consistent experience. Information on Miracle can be found by clicking here.
Portland is so festive during the holidays. It really throws us right in to the spirit of the season (in more ways than one).
We are off to a great Holiday start!
They don’t call it the City Different for nothing
Sunday was a big day for me as it marked my first snowboarding day of the season. After getting caught at work on Saturday, I made a relatively early trip up to Ski Santa Fe to enjoy some of the weekend’s powder. Twas’ a frigid day, but I won’t complain, as the boarding was grand. It was also a nice occasion to meet up with ole’ Santa Fe Luke in his own stomping grounds. We met at Second Street’s Rufina taproom for a late lunch before I made my way back to the ‘querque. It was a unique day to visit. The parking lot was packed and the taproom was full of activity as both tango dancing and a ping-pong tournament (I’m very serious, no, seriously, it was) were happening in different areas. Watching the ping-pong competition in the brewery through the windows behind the bar while hearing the tango music in the taproom made for a fun atmosphere.
We both started with pints of Red Comet, which was a lovely beer for the day. It was not hoppy, but more of a lightly toasted amber with a bit of a creamy finish. Nice for winter. The Beer Battered Jalapeno Poppers were a delicious accompaniment. They were a bit different from the jalapeno poppers that I am accustomed to, with a cream cheese type of filling, and more like a traditional chile relleno. They were delicious nonetheless, and lightly battered to perfection. As I was hungering substantially I also ordered The Po-Mi, Second Street’s take on the lovechild of a Po Boy and a Bahn Mi. This was a bad-ass sandwich. The Asian chicken meatballs were lean, but juicy and flavorful, and well complimented by the pickled onions among the other fresh veggies and peanut sauce. Finally, I finished with the Cream Stout, which was very smooth and drinkable. It’s stop-ins like this one that remind me that I ought to visit Santa Fe a little bit more often.
Cheers, Second Street!
Damn the cold and full speed ahead in Santa Fe
This past weekend, I was able to bounce around to several different breweries in the Santa Fe area despite the plummeting temperatures and the icy roads. All the more reason to summon forth the Ubers. I found my way to Santa Fe Brewing’s Brakeroom to enjoy their winter seasonal Snowflake IPA. These rotating IPAs seem to get better every year as they dial in the recipes. I also made it to Rowley Farmhouse Ales to sip down some of their stouts left over from Blackest Friday, such as Sump Coffee Stout from Perennial Artisan Ales, as well as some Barrel-Aged Chocolate Yeti. Mmmmore, stouts! More exciting than some of those stouts, however, was their recent release of Notorious BdG, Rowley’s Bier de Garde aged in apple brandy barrels. This once-a-year treat is certainly worth putting on the long underwear and heading out to the taproom.
Speaking of braving the cold for a good beer, my buddy and fellow Dark Side writer Andrew and I went out into the snowstorm on Sunday to visit Second Street Rufina. We were quite unprepared for the sort of multiple-personality episode their party was experiencing, but I’m sure Andrew will, or has already told you all about that craziness. For me, it was all about the return of Red Comet. I couldn’t have been happier with this amazing American red ale, so perfect in its timing and execution that it reminded me, instantly, of what I love about drinking beer. Ever have a beer, not expecting it, but upon first taste, you say to yourself, yes, this is exactly the beer I wanted, right here, right now? That was Red Comet for me that day. I will be back for that, and for those jalapeno poppers. Best I’ve had.
I was also visited by a bearded Second Street Claus. As you beer fans know, there are few gifts as cool as beer gifts. I can’t wait to crack open a can of their newly packaged Jack Plane Porter, a porter aged in smoked cherrywood. But, I’ll let you know how that goes next time in the Weekend Beer-cap. Until then, keep our local independent craft workers in business. Go visit the taprooms, even if, baby, it’s cold outside. I promise you’ll find something delicious to keep your spirits bright or just plain deck your halls. To stout and porter weather!