Stout Challenge XII: The little guy takes down the goliath of Albuquerque

Say hello to the only photo any of us took.

OK, first off, we were really bad at taking pictures Sunday. But, we were good when it came to judging stouts in a blind taste test format.

This year went fairly smoothly, though we did have a couple of illness-related absences (you were missed, Brandon and Luke!), but at least we ended up with all stouts. If you paid attention last year, we had a coffee porter accidentally sneak into the field.

A total of 16 stouts were judged by seven of us — myself, Franz Solo, Mrs. Solo, Erin, Andrew, Maureen, and Stevo, who is basically an honorary Crew member at this point (and no, he could not pick his brewery’s stout out of the field). We stuck to the traditional format, rating the beers on a zero-to-five-point scale in the categories of aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and finish.

The field was pretty solid this year, with a very close finish at the top (95.5 points to 94). We had another first-time winner, which is always fun to see, especially when it’s one of the smaller breweries in town. This ended a streak of four straight years where a brewery won its second challenge (though none were consecutive). If any brewer would like to talk to us about how their beer specifically fared, please reach out.

Counting down from No. 16 to the winner:

16. Brew Lab 101, Event Horizon Oatmeal Stout

15. Kilt Check, Obliviscaris Stout

14. Quarter Celtic, Mac Lomas Stout

13. Bombs Away, Blacked Out Stout

12. Lizard Tail, Black Bearded Oatmeal Stout

11. Tractor, Double Plow Oatmeal Stout

10. Boxing Bear, Standing 8 Stout

9. Canteen, Dark & Lusty Stout

8. La Cumbre, Malpais Stout

6. (tie) Ex Novo, Penguin Tuxedo Stout, and Kaktus, Oatmeal Stout

5. Sobremesa, Oatmeal Stout

4. Thirsty Eye, Bruiser the American Pit Bull Stout

3. Steel Bender, Brickie American Stout

2. Marble, Oatalé

1. Harmon Lane, Tin Cup Stout

Yes, the little brewery tucked inside Southwest Grape & Grain took the top spot. It’s a heck of a win for brewer Danny Harmon, and we did let him know with a quick text. He quickly replied: “No way!!! That’s wicked awesome! Wow my mind is blown! Thank you guys. Hope you had fun! And enjoy the big game!”

There’s something awesome about seeing the proverbial little guy among breweries win something like this, or the IPA Challenge, or really any size of competition.

This is not to see the big guys slumped or anything. Even going down the list, the gap from third to eighth was only 10 points. It was a good field this year, and we always encourage everyone to head out and try these stouts on your own, and let your palate be the judge.

A big thanks to Franz and Joy for resuming their hosting duties (the ribs, my god, the ribs), and Margaret for her triumphant return as the official pourer of the stouts. Thanks to all the brewers making great stouts in our state. And, thanks for reading, everyone. Here’s hoping you all enjoyed your Super Bowl Sunday, too.

Keep supporting local!

— Stoutmeister

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