Last year, the 2022 Stout Invitational made a much-welcomed return to Bathtub Row Brewing after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Like so many return-to-goodness events that began to re-emerge that year, all the major COVID protocols remained in place, but more importantly, the event was filled with laughter, and lots of smiles on faces again. The majority of the event was held outside on Bathtub Row Brewing’s patio, as well as their recent extension, the great grassy space they lovingly refer to as the “Back Forty.”
That year, La Cumbre was crowned ‘king of the hill,’ rising above a strong list of 16 breweries with fan (and Crew favorite), Malpais Stout.
This year, the event will feature a return to the basics, with only one small change, New Mexico Brewers Guild executive director Ebbie Edmonston told the Crew via email this week.
“We have 17 breweries and 16 beers competing to be number one,” she said. “Our generous hosts Bathtub Row are undergoing a renovation at the moment, so they reached out to Sobremesa to do a collab. Other than that, it’s pretty simple.”
Edmonston is referring to the Los Alamos’ favorite watering hole’s upgrade to a new brewhouse from their old historical system. If you haven’t done so, I urge you to check out crew member Reid Rivenburgh’s Look Back/Look Ahead for Bathtub Row Brewing, where he gets more in-depth on the construction going on in their brewhouse.
If you’ve never been to this event before, well, then you’ll be just like me. I know. I know. I love stouts. I love voting on things. What’s wrong with me? I get it. Anyway, the event is run very similar to the IPA Challenge with an anything-goes-approach to brewing the style, with only a couple major parameters in place. There’s a limit on ABV, with 9.5 percent is the max. I know, but stop groaning. That’s for our safety. And, there’s no “White Stouts.” It’s just too easy to pick those blondies out of a lineup, and for better or worse, it limits the fairness of the playing field.
“Each guest receives 16 1.5-ounce pours (one of each stout) to taste, and then gets a full pour of their choice in their commemorative Stout Invitational pint glass,” Edmonston explained. “Guests are given a tasting sheet to keep track of the beers, and then vote for the beer they think should be number one.”
As she said, it’s pretty simple. Three sessions. Winner takes all. Nothing we patio chair certified beer judges aren’t used to by now.
“We are hoping for good weather, so that we may use both the indoor and outdoor spaces,” Edmonston said. “But, we all know how New Mexican weather can go, so put an extra jacket in the car just to be safe.”
With sold-out sessions listed on the Eventbrite website, we’ll certainly be hoping for good weather as the majority of us will be out tasting beneath the deep blue (or slightly gray) sky, as history has displayed. As always, the Guild will be focused on fairness, but with so many varying varieties of stouts in the mix, it won’t be easy for anyone to choose a winner from their tray.
“This blind tasting is the perfect way to test your palate without bias,” Edmonston said. “There are going to be some really interesting stouts available, and I’m curious to see what people like. As always, we’ll reveal the breweries at the very end and announce who received the most votes at the conclusion of the 4 p.m. session, so keep your eyes on our social media.”
Below is the list of participating breweries, in no particular order:
- Bathtub Row/Sobremesa
- Truth or Consequences
- La Cumbre Brewing Co. (2022 winner)
- Rowley Farmhouse Ales
- Blü Dragonfly Brewing
- Roosevelt Brewing Co.
- Thirsty Eye Brewing Co.
- Flix Brewhouse (2020 winner)
- Steel Bender Brewyard
- Harmon Lane Brewing
- Piedra Blanca Brewing Co.
- Hidden Mountain Brewing
- Red River Brewing Co.
- Gravity Bound Brewing
- Milton’s Brewing
- Boxing Bear Brewing Co.
Though food options are limited, favorites like Rigobertos, located next door, will be open until 9 p.m. Ruby Ks (Sandwiches) will be open until 2 p.m. for the early group, and El Parasol will be open until 3. Origami, which Stoutmeister recommends, will be open from 5 to 7:30.
Who: Local New Mexico breweries and the cool people who love them
What: 2023 Stout Invitational, NM Brewers Guild event, fun reason to get up to L.A.
Where: Bathtub Row Co-Op, 163 Central Park Square, Los Alamos, NM, 87544
When: Saturday, March 11, 2023, noon-6 p.m., separated into three sessions
Why you should go: Support your local breweries by supporting the Guild; meet the brewers; raise your horns to glory; enjoy delicious beers of the smooth, chewy, or roasty darkness; and hang out at a great venue with good friends, and your favorite DD.
It sounds like the 2023 Stout Invitational will be another fantastic annual event for the Guild and New Mexico independent craft beer industry. It’ll be a fun time at a place I’ve only just rediscovered, and I can’t wait to see you all there, as I’ll be covering the event for the Dark Side Brew Crew (Stoutmeister will be on vacation, FYI), camera-in-hand. Say, “Beers!” Thank you, Guild director Ebbie Edmonston, for answering our questions. We wish you lots of luck with your second big event! And, may the best stout win!