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The 8th annual NM Brew Fest carries us into fall

Posted: October 12, 2017 by Brandon Daniel in NM Brew Fest 2017

It’s time to return to Expo NM for another NM Brew Fest!

Ahh, crisp, cool weather, and all the darker beers that brings! Fall usually represents the end of the New Mexico craft beer festival season. But, one event still remains that many locals like to circle on their calendars, one which has become a personal favorite of ours (and which has now coined its own term in our Crew vocabulary). Yes, it is time for the eighth annual NM Brew Fest!

Here are the nitty gritty details.

  • What: Eighth annual NM Brew Fest
  • Where: Expo New Mexico
  • When: Saturday
  • Time: 1-6 p.m, VIP ticket entry at 11:30 a.m.
  • Price: $25 general admission, $45 VIP tickets (prices will increase $5 day of event)

NM Brew Fest brings out a group of over 20 of the state’s top breweries to showcase some of their finest beers and new seasonal releases. Aside from the obvious favorites from each brewery, NM Brew Fest allows a chance for breweries to showcase their one-off, rare, and specialty offerings. In the past this has meant everything ranging from cask tappings, to rare barrel-aged beers (that was a rough year, FYI). Here we give you a breakdown of what to expect from each brewery that has responded, and we must admit we are just a wee bit excited for some of these (those are in bold). We will update the other seven breweries once we receive their lists.

  • Abbey: Tripel Reserve, Monks’ IPA #1, Dark Ale, Golden Ale, Monks’ Ale, Blood Orange Wit
  • Blue Corn: La Catrina Rye IPA, Apparition Pale Coffee Ale, Ginger Braggot, 2016 Scotch Ale, 2015 Imperial Stout
  • Bosque: Lager, Elephants on Parade, IPA, Brewers Boot (Amber Ale), 1888 Blonde Ale, Rio Soleado (Wet-Hopped Blonde Ale), Down in the Hollow (English Brown), PSA (Pumpkin Spiced Ale)
  • Bow & Arrow: TBA
  • Boxing Bear: Featherweight Session IPA (GABF bronze medal winner), Crystal Kolsch, Black and Blue Sour, Oktobearfest, Chocolate Milk Stout, Oso Otono, Uppercut IPA, Apple Bear Cider
  • Canteen: Oktoberfest, Oompa Lupulin DIPA, Grundy Thunder Porter, North 14 Pale Ale
  • Dialogue: TBA
  • Drafty Kilt: Groundskeeper Willie Cream Ale, Covfefe Hefeweizen, CampbellToe IPA, Wee Beastie Scotch Ale
  • Enchanted Circle: Hells Bells Helles Lager, Panty Tosser Peach Wheat, Oktoberfest, Red River Red, Nice Day IPA
  • La Cumbre: TBA
  • Marble: Double White, Cuvee Rouge, Raspberry Nitro Stout, Das Roggen Wiener (Vienna Lager), Amarillo Pale Ale, Abbey Brett
  • Palmer: TBA
  • Ponderosa: Ecliptic Wet Hop Ale, Imperial Red, Crosscut Kolsch, Dry-Hopped Saison
  • Red Door: TBA
  • Rio Bravo: Schwarzbier, Grapefruit Launcher IPA, Lemongrass Wit (all draft); Pinon Coffee Porter, Road Kill Red, La Luz Lager, Snakebite IPA (all cans)
  • Santa Fe: TBA
  • Sidetrack: Pilsner, #91 Pale Ale, Bonehead Red, Pub Ale (and maybe a cask-conditioned ale)
  • Starr Brothers: Don’t Fear the RIPA, Foggy Monocle (Oatmeal Stout), Starrphire Pilsner, Sando Spice IPA
  • Steel Bender: Alewitch Pumpkin Ale, Smith Hopper XPA (Dr. Rudi), V.M.O.M.G. (Oktoberfest), Skull Bucket IPA
  • Tractor: TBA
  • Turtle Mountain: Wooden Teeth, Oktoberfest, Cosmic Yum Yum, Hopshell IPA, Depravity (Barleywine)

With great beer also comes the need for great food to soak it all up. Therefore, NM Brew Fest will feature a lineup of local food trucks such as Soo Bak, Krazy Lizard Taqueria, Nomad’s BBQ, and Street Food Institute. And, for your music and chill moments, there’s a diverse mix of artists playing with DJ Flo Fader, Zach Quintana, and Michael Moxey & the Easy Sinners. Local vendors will also be selling other arts and craft merchandise, so make sure to bring your wallet and support all aspects of the local community!

The atmosphere of Expo NM, coupled with the weather, always serve to make this event a standout in the local craft scene. So, make sure to seize the chance for one last fest before the weather turns to a bitter chill and you are forced to relax by a fire with a burly imperial stout … because that sounds so horrible …

That was sarcasm, folks.

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

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The voting totals on the right, the number on the trays on the left.

Another year has passed, so it is time for our New Mexico breweries to see who will claim the throne with the state’s best IPA, as the 2017 NM IPA Challenge kicked off today. With the prominence of our vast amount of great IPAs around these parts, this annual event has become a popular event for both craft beer fans and brewers alike.

Will this year see a repeat win from 2016 champs Justin Hamilton and Boxing Bear Brewing, or perhaps a third title in four years for John Bullard and Bosque Brewing, or will a new face claim top honors? Today gave some clarity to those answers as competition commenced.

This year’s event begins, as last year’s did, with an elimination round hosted by Duel Brewing at their downtown Albuquerque taproom. With a reported 39 entries this year, last year’s elimination format was expanded a bit, as patrons were given a flight of approximately 13 beers to sample and vote on. Since this was an elimination round, that means there was bound to be surprises … and, lo and behold, there were. 

Check out the results:

1. The 377 27 votes
2. Bosque 21
TIE 3. Boxing Bear 17, Starr Bros. 17
5. Blue Corn 16
6. Tractor 15
7. La Cumbre 14
TIE 8. Marble 12, Bow & Arrow 12, Second St. 12
11. Quarter Celtic 11
TIE 12. Canteen 10, Ponderosa 10
14. Sierra Blanca 9
TIE 15. Bathtub Row 7, Rowley 7, The Wellhead 7
TIE 18. Dialogue 6, Duel 6, Santa Fe 6, Palmer 6, Rio Bravo 6, Steel Bender 6 (AUTO BYE TO NEXT ROUND)
TIE 24. Chama River 5, Drafty Kilt 5, Kellys 5, Spotted Dog 5
TIE 28. Desert Valley 3, Nexus 3, Sidetrack 3, Turtle Mountain 3
TIE 32. Cazuela’s 2, Red Door 2
TIE 34. Enchanted Circle 1, Three Rivers 1

UPDATE: There will be 15 breweries advancing, as Picacho Peak will automatically advance as a host of a future round. The folks from the Las Cruces brewery elected not to enter their IPA into the preliminary round, since it did not matter how they finished. Second Street and Steel Bender also advanced under this rule, though Second Street would have advanced no matter what due to its vote total above.

This seemed to be a year of cross style IPAs, at least in this writer’s opinion. I personally was given a flight of beers 14-26, in which I noticed the following:

  • The “juicy” IPA trend is in full effect: a handful of entries on my flight were of the hazy, Northeastern-style that is becoming more popular these days. I had one of said beers as a top notch brew.
  • Belgian style: Another noticeable trend was the Belgian style popping up in a few samples on mine and other patrons trays. A yeasty base could be found in several competition beers. Yeasty notes, with clove, banana, and spices were paired with lots of hops splashed in.

All in all, it was a successful event, with the up and coming The 377 Brewery taking the bulk of the votes, but NM IPA Challenge vets such as Bosque, Boxing Bear, and La Cumbre still moved on to the next rounds of the challenge. With a good cross section of sub-styles represented, the next few rounds will be quite interesting!

— Brandon Daniel

This joint is gonna be jumpin' during ABQ Beer Week. (Photo courtesy of SFBC)

Hang at the taproom this Saturday to try some excellent new beers. (Photo courtesy of SFBC)

Unless you have been vacationing in the Arctic or working in a freezer (That pretty much describes the Topes’ press box with its psychotic A/C unit. — S), I’m sure you have noticed that it has been just a wee bit hot in New Mexico as of late. Need another excuse to hide in the shade with a refreshing brew? I didn’t think so, but Santa Fe Brewing will be offering two additional reasons this weekend. You will want to celebrate at the Albuquerque taproom as they release Autonomous Collective DIPA and Sunset Limited!

It all kicks off at 4:30 p.m., right after the IPA Challenge preliminary round wraps up at Rio Bravo. Autonomous Collective DIPA and Sunset Limited Cervesa de Garde will be on tap, with bombers of Sunset Limited available for $1 off for this event. There will also be an appearance by SFBC’s Single Barrel Sour ale! SFBC’s brewers and sales people will be present to meet with the public, so make sure to say hi.

Autonomous Collective is SFBC’s summer installment in their series of seasonal IPA releases. Brewed with Amarillo, El Dorado, and Columbus hops, and dry hopped three times, it carries a mix of orange peel and honeydew melon in aroma and flavor, with a bit of malt sweetness, and a fruity/resinous hop flavor in the finish. This will definitely quench your thirst during the summer months.

Sunset Limited Cervesa de Garde is a change from the styles that SFBC has become known for. Brewed in collaboration with Bayou Teche Brewery in Arnaudville, Louisiana, Sunset Limited is brewed in the Biere de Garde style, which is traditionally malty and toasty, and possesses lower hopping levels, but enough alcohol to preserve the beer.

The official description from SFBC: “This version is a combination of the traditional style brewed by our friends at Bayou Teche, then made more New Mexican with the addition of Red Chile and Blue Corn, then cold stored for six weeks to further mellow out. Short version: toasty and malty, fruity and sweet, with an alcoholic and red chile heat in the finish.”

Make sure to stop in for a pint of this one-off beer, as it is limited to taproom and bomber availability. Once it is gone, it’s gone!

Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

Rock & Brews will be, well, rocking with lots of tappings during ABQ Beer Week. (Photo courtesy of Rock & Brews ABQ)

Rock & Brews will be, well, rocking with lots of tappings during ABQ Beer Week. (Photo courtesy of Rock & Brews ABQ)

Annnnnnnnnnnnd we’re back.

We’re back with another roundup of the upcoming events of ABQ Beer Week 2016. For those of you who have taken part in the festivities in previous years, you know well enough that there are almost too many events to cover. And, for those of you who choose to debate that sentiment … well, allow me to get you an Uber for the trip home.

This roundup consists solely of events taking place at Rock & Brews. If you are not familiar, Rock & Brews caters to American and international craft beers and some upscale American favorites on the menu, all set to (you guessed it) a rock & roll soundtrack. I mean, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley from KISS are part owners! But, I digress, here is a day-by-day listing of their events at their location at 4800 Montgomery Blvd. NE.

Friday—Moylan’s Brewery Afternoon Tealight Special Release, 4-7 p.m.: Moylan’s Brewery will have their Afternoon Tealight available on tap, which is an Earl Gray tea-infused ESB. That is the most British thing since, well, a guy with a name like Benedict Cumberbatch became famous.

Monday—Cornhole tournament with Upslope Brewing Co., 2-5 p.m.: It’s a cornhole tournament! You know, the game where you toss the beanbags at the board? Yes, that one. Combine that with delicious beers from Upslope Brewing … sounds like a Memorial Day win.

Tuesday, May 31—Tuesday Brewsday with Marble Brewery special tapping, 5-10 p.m.: Local craft beer stalwarts Marble will be tapping a special keg of their saison, 111 Farmhouse. Get it while it lasts!

Wednesday, June 1—Ballast Point Brewing tap takeover & special tapping, 6-8 p.m.: Ballast Point will be filling out taps at Rock & Brews with a tap takeover; additionally, they will be unveiling a special tapping of Barrel Aged Victory at Sea. BP rep Thomas DeCaro is going to have several thirsty Crew members to deal with!

Saturday, June 4—Kona Brewing Company Luau, 6-10 p.m.: A luau with craft beer? Fun times! Hawaii’s own Kona Brewing will have Longboard Lager, Firerock Pale Ale, and Big Wave Golden Ale on draft, and the Lemongrass Luau available in bottles.

As always, beer lineups are subject to change, and we will provide updated listings and event details as we get them. In the meantime, use this as part of your ABQ Beer Week planning to get the most out of the participating venues near you.

Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

So many tappings, so little time. (Photo courtesy of Two Fools Tavern)

So many tappings, so little time. (Photo courtesy of Two Fools Tavern)

Editor’s note: Welcome to the first of our three (!) ABQ Beer Week preview stories for Tuesday. This year we are endeavoring to provide information not just on a daily basis, but also for the places that will be hosting multiple events. Later today look for our previews of the events at Rock & Brews and the Santa Fe Brewing ABQ Taproom. — Stoutmeister

Has a year already passed? According to my calendar it has, and that means ABQ Beer Week 2016 is upon us. As battle-tested veterans of this event, we here at the Dark Side Brew Crew are here to help you set up a successful plan of attack, because let’s face it … you will likely faceplant at some point if you try to get to all of the events going on!

To make things easy on you, faithful reader, we are highlighting the events happening at different locations. We begin today with a rundown of ABQ Beer Week events at Two Fools Tavern. The Nob Hill pub has been a staple of events in previous years, and 2016 is no exception, as they will have plenty of shenanigans involving beer. Here’s a daily breakdown:

Thursday—Stone Brewing Co. special release tapping, 4-8 p.m.: Thanks to Stoutmeister reaching out to Stone sales rep Karl LaVine, we got the info for this one. It will be a double tapping of Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard and Americano Stout. Go big, or go dark. Take your pick, either way, you win.

Friday—Left Hand Brewing Company tapping of Extrovert IPA, 4-8 p.m.: A keg of Left Hand’s Extrovert, an American-style IPA, will be flowing.

Saturday—Boulder Beer Co. special release tapping, 4-5 p.m.: Boulder Beer is bringing some unique offerings in the form of a Blood Orange IPA and tequila barrel-aged beer. Intriguing!

Monday—Rio Bravo Brewing special tapping, 4-6 p.m.: Rio Bravo Brewing will be providing a double dose of barrel-aged goodness in the form of their Porter and Barleywine. Those are a couple of big, robust beers, so make sure to order a lot of food to go with them.

Tuesday, May 31—New Belgium Brewing Lips of Faith Special Nitro Oscar Worthy Coffee Barrel tapping, 4-7 p.m.: This is one event you won’t want to miss, as New Belgium is bringing a barrel-aged version of their Oscar Worthy Coffee beer, and it will be available on nitro. This won’t last long, so arrive early.

Wednesday, June 1—Canteen Brewhouse special tapping, 4-9 p.m.: Canteen Brewhouse is bring their Dark ‘n Lusty Stout, with coffee, to Two Fools’ Nitro tap.

Thursday, June 2—La Cumbre Brewing special tapping, 4-8:30 p.m.: We got the not one, but two, beers LC will be bringing to tap. Strawberry Gose will be available first on CO2, while Malpais Stout will be on the nitro tap.

Friday, June 3—Odell Brewing special release tapping, 4-9 p.m.: Odell will be bringing down a special keg for this Beer Week tapping, stay tuned for more details.

Beer lineups are subject to change, and we will do our best to provide updates on any lineup changes or updates as we get them. Hey, reporting the beer news is our forte.

Until next time.

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

The setting along Main Street at Expo NM was proper for this festival.

The setting along Main Street at Expo NM was proper for this festival.

The sudden appearance of colorful balloons in the skies over Albuquerque, along with the occasional onset of cooler weather (hey, this is New Mexico) is always a sign that the end of beer festival season is in sight here in these parts. One local festival always looms large over this time of year, and this year was no different, as the NM Brewers Guild held the 6th Annual New Mexico Brew Fest this Saturday at Expo NM. Stoutmeister, Porter Pounder, AmyO, and I were in attendance with friends and spouses in tow for another year of tasty libations. And yes, we were more coherent than during last year’s barrel-aged beer fiasco … (My head still hurts thinking about that one. — S)

Dark Side, dark beer: come on, do you expect anything less from us?

Dark Side, dark beer: come on, do you expect anything less from us?

As the NM Brew Fest has grown with each passing year, this year saw more changes to the festival with the move from the Villa Hispana to Main Street to accommodate more patrons. This definitely made for a great flow, less crowding, more shade, and more accommodation for breweries, distilleries, and food trucks. Yes, you read that right, distilleries; while New Mexico craft beers are always the focus of the festival, local spirits were also highlighted from places like Algodones, Distillery 365, Left Turn, and others. Food trucks were plentiful with the new location to fill bellies with something other than libations, with Soobak Korean Seoul, Irrational Pie, and about a half-dozen others.

As per usual, the folks holding early entry tickets were allowed to storm the gates at 11:30 and were treated to first crack at pours from breweries, as well as being treated to special beverages such as Beermosas and Bloody Marys. Moreso, this allowed for a relaxed pace, as there was a solid selection of new or special beers being offered from various breweries.  Here is a quick breakdown of some of the standouts from DSBC members:

Porter Pounder: (in no particular order) Turtle Mountain’s Gourd Dammit Pumpkin ale, Tractor Brewing Company’s Tractoberfest, Nexus’ Equinox, and Boxing Bear’s Chocolate Milk Stout.

Amy O: Back Alley Cali Common because I love a steam beer and they were out the last two times I tried to get it at the taproom. Turtle Mountain’s Hopshell IPA, and (still a favorite from when I tasted it at the beer fest at Cazuela’s) is Red Door’s Ryeson Sun Saison.

Stoutmeister: In no particular order, other than the order I drank them in … Rio Bravo’s Oktoberfest: good, traditional light marzen lager, true to style, one of their better offerings to date; Blue Corn’s Oktoberfest: another solid example of the style, good, clean, and crisp; Bosque’s The Rabble: massive, boozy pumpkin beer, but I could still taste the pumpkin amid the spices; Ponderosa’s Zaftig (Oatmeal Stout): roasted, chocolate, smooth goodness; Duel’s Goya (2015): massive monstrosity of a Belgian stout, thanks to Trent and Todd for the special preview of this as-yet-unreleased beer; Taos Mesa’s Great Scot Scottish: chewy, malty, more big-bodied than a lot of their beers; And of course Second Street’s Preacher’s Share (see below for more).

Giant Jenga: testing the sobriety of patrons.

Giant Jenga: testing the sobriety of patrons.

Me (Brandon): Bosque Brewing’s The Rabble: burly imperial pumpkin ale that gets the pumpkin and spice balance, boozy and bold.

Red Door Anniversary Double Red: yes, I am way behind on this one, but the hectic working dad life has me strapped for time. Regardless, this is a big ol’ West Coast-style red that is resiny as hell. I could probably only do a 6- to 8-ounce pour, but only because I need my taste buds. Delicious stuff.

Santa Fe Brewing Company Nut Brown (R2Beer2’ed with pinon): that pinon was a nice touch. Wonderful flavor and aroma.

Boxing Bear Chocolate Milk Stout: GABF silver medal winner. Need I say more?? Awesome beer.

Second Street’s Preacher’s Share: the general consensus among the Crew was that we would drink this dry, if it wouldn’t kill us of course. Amazing, developed well with age.

The NM Brew Fest attracted quite a large crowd this year, and it is always a favorite for newcomers to the craft beer world and veterans alike. Several of us talked with patrons from all around the state who traveled from places like Roswell, and even Lincoln! Both festival attendees and the folks from the breweries always seem to enjoy the festival, as witnessed in the camaraderie between all the brewery staffs. The love of great beer is our common thread, after all.

Feel free to let us know what your picks were for any standout beers, or your thoughts on the festival, and as always we can pass them along to the Guild. In the meantime, this brings the festival season to a close for this year. Now to retire to our caves for some strong ales and sports (provided our teams can ever again win some games …).

Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

DSBC Hat Trick is a weekly series dedicated to those craft beers from beyond the Land of Enchantment. Want to know what’s new and tasty in coolers gracing your favorite craft beer retailer? We’ve got you covered! Check out our three favorite picks for the week; you can’t go wrong with anything out of this trifecta. All beers located here are available at your local fine package liquor store, or other craft beer retailer. Onward to beer!

Remember that age old series called the Saturday Night Sixer? Yeah, me neither, probably because it has been dead for some time. However, we are returning with this new series to highlight three of our top picks for the week for craft beers from out of state. If you can’t find your favorite beer from around the state on shelves (pick a new store to shop at!) or can’t make it in to fill a growler at your local brewery, check out one of the fine selections we will be pimping out each week. This week we highlight two new breweries to shelves of NM craft beer retailers, Evil Twin and Stillwater. (Updated editor’s note: These beers are available at Jubilation and the Kellys on Juan Tabo in Albuquerque, as well as Susan’s and Kokoman in Santa Fe. — Stoutmeister)

We like our beers big

We like our beers big

WHO: Mono, by Stillwater Artisan Ales, 5.2% ABV

WHAT IS IT: A Galaxy dry-hopped pilsner, can’t get more refreshing than that for the dog days of summer.

SMELLS LIKE: A combination of forest and tropical. Citrus notes are abound with lemon zest and grapefruit, with a subtle hint of biscuit malt, grass, and pine.

TASTES LIKE: A crisp refreshing punch in the mouth. A mildly sweet and biscuit malt backbone paves the way for the burst of dry hopped goodness. Notes of pine, grapefruit, and lemon dominate, but in a pleasant way. The hop bitterness is punchy with each sip, but not enough so to be overwhelming or unpleasant. Finishes with a slight piney pop and orange notes. An extremely palate-friendly beer that even those who may not like their beers too hoppy can enjoy.

OVERALL: A pilsner that wants to be just a bit more adventurous and refreshing, Mono does a great job of showcasing the nuances of the Galaxy hop while maintaining that classic, refreshing pilsner style. This is a wonderful beer for the final stretch of the scorching days of summer.


WHO: Molotov Cocktail, by Evil Twin Brewing, 13% ABV

WHAT IS IT: An Imperial IPA that drinks like a barley wine … very much an East Coast-style IPA.

SMELLS LIKE: Well … smells like a barley wine. The hops are mostly prominent in this beer, with the majority of aromatics comprised of citrus, lots of earthy pine, some subtle apricot, and lots of caramel malt.

TASTES LIKE: Again … like a barley wine. Slightly rich in the mouthfeel, with a honey-like texture. A very complex malt bill, comprised of a lot of caramel notes, dried fruits, and biscuit. The hops on the palate are very mild; the pine and citrus notes gave out and I only picked up a hefty dose of apricot hop notes. Slight alcohol warming in the middle, which seems to help temper the sweetness of the malt bill.

OVERALL: This is actually a really delicious beer if you aren’t looking for a NM-style hop bomb that a lot of people are accustomed to. Grand hop aromas and a complex malt bill make up something that is deceiving for those who want to kill their palate, but give this a try and prepare to pick apart the complexities.


WHO: Soft Dookie, by Evil Twin Brewing, ABV 10.4%

WHAT: A rich bastard of an Imperial Stout that you may give a second thought to drinking after reading that name. Don’t be scared, though.

SMELLS LIKE: The complexity of quantum physics. Lots of roasted barley, caramel, dried fig notes. More subtle are the notes of licorice, dark chocolate, molasses, and vanilla (although the latter of those three pops more as the beer warms).

TASTES LIKE: Well, it doesn’t taste like dookie! Initially you will get a ton of roasted barley, caramelized sugars, and dark chocolate. The vanilla pops a lot in the middle and leads to a velvety smooth finish. But like pretty much all imperial stouts, this beer is best when warmed a bit; the dark chocolate gives way to more milk chocolate notes, and a delicate touch of coffee and other dried fruits. The vanilla aromatics increase the appeal of this beer as it warms, as well, and pair well with the rich molasses finish.

OVERALL: Get past the name, folks, as it does not taste like dookie … although that may be what it is supposed to cause if you have had too many of these. Anyway, a wonderfully complex beer for those who like their beers big and burly.


That’s all for this week’s edition of the DSBC Hat Trick, check in next week for more reviews. As always, if you have a suggestion for us, feel free to drop us a line. Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

The urge to drink a dark, burly, roasty, rich behemoth of a stout never seems to abandon us folks here in the DSBC; which is a good thing, otherwise we might have to consider changing our name. Anyway, we collectively have been asking ourselves what would fit in the next big beer we brew at home, with lots of solid recipe ideas being thrown around. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long to put those ideas to good use, as Tractor Brewing’s Second Annual Battle of the Beer Geeks is rapidly approaching.

Well hello there: We return for another session on Tractor's pilot brewing system.

Well hello there: We return for another session on Tractor’s pilot brewing system.

For those who didn’t get to attend or are new to the ABQ Beer Week shenanigans, Tractor was gracious enough last May to host us — as well as other NM beer groups including the Babes in Brewland, NM Wort Hogs, ABQ Craft Beer Drinkers, and the Dukes of Ale — for a day of brewing on their small batch pilot system. That’s right, they allowed us to raid their ingredients and brew our very own recipes, which were then served up as samples to the public for a nominal fee, with each patron able to choose a full pint of their favorite to determine the winner.  Pretty awesome concept, eh?

Oh, and again, if you weren’t there … WE WON! The Dark Side Brew Crew took home the Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robot trophy (yes, seriously, how awesome is that?). Up against some stiff competition, our burly Hammer Smashed Stout took home the win as voted on by the public. Pretty cool stuff!

Now jump ahead to Friday, March 6, and the Crew gathered again at Tractor for our brew day. With brewer Josh Campbell lending his expertise, just as last year, we had solid help, which we found out a few days before would be much needed.

Brandon, left, getting in the way gathering social media content while Franz stirs in the mash.

Brandon, left, getting in the way gathering social media content while Franz stirs in the mash.

Before I do the complete reveal of our beer, I have to preface it by saying the recipe we designed was all calculation-based and something none of us have actually ever done before, in terms of batch size and some ingredients. Alas, we got an email back from head brewer David Hargis a few days prior saying that our grain bill would be a bit too big for the equipment to yield a decent return. We all had a laugh at the fact that our beer was already TOO big, even in theory. Both us and Dave and Josh returned to the drawing board, and in the end were able to come up with a few minor tweaks that we are all happy with. Thus, we can finally announce (although I’m sure it has already been known to most) our entry for this year’s Battle of the Beer Geeks …

THE DARKSIDE DONUTBRAU!

Ladies and gentleman, this beer would make Motley Crue proud, as it will kickstart your heart! You want big roasted malt flavors? You got it. Need some caramel and biscuit notes in there, too? We got that as well. We have all of these things in large quantities, but that’s not all. You want chocolate? How about coffee? Done and done, as we added copious amounts of bakers dark chocolate and plenty of coffee for that extra kick. What else would a Donutbrau be if it didn’t have coffee and chocolate? Thus, you have the Darkside Donutbrau, a breakfast stout of our own creation.

It turned out to be a fun brew day for Stoutmeister, Franz Solo, and myself (sadly, the rest of the Crew could not attend). I can easily say we all learned some valuable lessons with this recipe. As a result, a few notes:

  • I made a complete and utter mess of my kitchen at home in the days prior, as I cold pressed MASS amounts of coffee for this brew. While I don’t want to reveal our whole recipe, I will say that cold brewing is definitely a good plan when it comes to incorporating coffee into any beer.

    WOWZERS: Stoutmeister taking himself seriously.  We did have a pint or two...

    WOWZERS: Stoutmeister taking himself seriously. We did have a pint or two …

  • While coffee was a bit easier, chocolate was not. As a matter of fact, with a small amount of unmelted chocolate having settled into the ball valve drain on the kettle after we were chilling the wort, we were unable to finish pumping the last of the batch into the fermenter. Dave and Josh simply gave each other a look, grabbed the kettle and dumped the rest of the wort in the fermenter. Hey, sometimes you have to go old school!
  • Always remember equipment limitations when it comes to the size of your grain bill, batch size, etc., kids!

Overall, we here in the Crew feel we put in a good day’s work, and also created a worthy successor to last year’s Hammer Smashed Stout. Who knows what the outcome will be for this year’s competition? Last year had some great unique offerings from the other groups, so what I do know is that the voting public will be the winners, as they get to indulge in some tasty small batch beers brewed by some of Albuquerque’s renowned beer groups. Join us on May 25 (that’s Memorial Day) between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. to help vote for the winner!

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

Okay, so this isn’t JUST for Stoutmeister and Brandon … but this is a new regular series to highlight those special new beers that only make seasonal, yearly, or one-off appearances in our local breweries and fine beer stores. Whether local or from some of the far reaches of the country or even world, we’ll drink it! Read on for the latest on those special beers. This week, the spotlight is on Tweak from Avery Brewing Company. Snootchie Bootchies!

WHO: Tweak Barrel Aged Stout from Avery Brewing Company, 17.81% ABV

Not for the timid: No, really.  Tweak from Avery Brewing is likely to assault you with flavors.

Not for the timid: No, really. Tweak from Avery Brewing is likely to assault you with flavors.

WHAT: A double/imperial stout brewed with coffee and aged in bourbon barrels.

WHY YOU SHOULD DRINK IT: Because it’s like being in a circle pit with 100 other bearded guys with tattoos while Pantera plays “F***in’ Hostile” in beer form. You will be hard pressed to find another beer that gives you the massive flavors that Tweak will. Proceed with caution, though.

If you are a regular reader of our site (or just one of those who tolerates the barrage of posts from us on Facebook … we still love you either way), you probably read the recent news that beers from Avery Brewing Company have made their way back to retailers here in the Land of Enchantment. If you didn’t, go read it … I’ll wait … caught up? Good. Because Avery Brewing has been a staple of the Colorado craft beer scene since 1993. Up until about five years ago you could wander into you local fine beer retailer and find their offerings waiting for you on the shelves. However, things went dark and our supply here in New Mexico was cut. Thankfully a new distribution deal was reached and Avery was able to supply their brews (you can currently find them at Jubilation Wine & Spirits for those in the ABQ area). This was great news to many; it got even better with the fact that Avery recently sent a supply of Tweak here to New Mexico!

Tweak is part of Avery’s barrel-aged series, an extremely limited, one-off series of beers that appear, kick your ass, and vanish into the night. This imperial stout is brewed with copious amounts of coffee and put into bourbon barrels for a four-month nap; what emerges could be described as the beer equivalent of a sleeping giant. Pouring a jet black with a tan/mocha-colored head that laces beautifully, the aromas are almost overwhelming at first: slight roasted malt, plenty of fresh-brewed coffee, vanilla, and oak notes from aging. The mouthfeel on Tweak is smooth, but punchy. In terms of flavor this is an onslaught: more vanilla, tons of dark chocolate and bakers chocolate, caramelized sugars, vanilla notes, slight licorice, and slightly smokey malts. The coffee isn’t quite as prominent, but with everything else going on I couldn’t really ask for any more. Definitely boozy in the middle and finish, but not as bad as I would have imagined from an 17.81-percent ABV (HOLY !$#@) beer.

Times before I have stated that beers were not for the weak at heart, but this one almost made me tap out. It kicked my ass, took my lunch money, and gave me an atomic wedgie. That much chocolate, oak, coffee, and vanilla has not been seen in a single beer for some time. A few times between sips I found myself saying “this is almost too much,” but I was quickly slapped in the face by another burst of flavor from the next sip. Now, I do have to give a disclaimer: THIS BEER IS RIDICULOUSLY LIMITED! Jubilation Wine & Spirits was lucky enough to get some in stock; as of this writing on Tuesday night, they were getting dangerously close to the end of the line with their supply, so run and pick it up while it you can. Tweak hurts in the best way possible.

Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

Park your tail at the bar: Lizard Tail Brewing opens for business to thirsty patrons.

Park your tail at the bar: Lizard Tail Brewing opens for business to thirsty patrons.

Albuquerque has become a hot spot in the microbrewery industry over the past few years. This should come as no surprise to us locals, as we have become accustomed to the creations routinely offered up by the likes of La Cumbre, Marble, Il Vicino, Chama River … the list goes on, really. That being said, it is always nice to see a new brewery pop up in town that can offer up their own take on our craft beer favorites. If you happen to be a resident of the Northeast Heights in Albuquerque, you are usually reserved to finding a DD or cabbing it if you wish to partake in a pint with friends. Well, now you don’t have to look far, because Lizard Tail Brewing has set up camp right in your backyard!

Located in the same spot as the now-defunct Bad Ass Brewery, Lizard Tail Brewing opened up shop this past Friday and was received with open arms by craft beer lovers. The venue chosen for business has always, to me anyway, seemed like it was at a disadvantage as it is nestled in a shopping plaza which houses two other busy bars. After stopping in for their grand opening, however, I have no doubt about their ability to attract a crowd. The atmosphere was quaint and relaxed, with bar stools and tables alike filled with patrons. For those in the area looking for something other than your average macro brew, this is a welcome sight for your neighborhood. But enough about pretty decorations, on to the beers.

The current rotation of beers at Lizard Tail consists of Berliner Weisse, Blonde Ale, IPA, Amber, Oatmeal Brown, Honey Pale Ale, India Black Ale, Rye Stout, and the current seasonal offering of Belgian Abbey. I was in a bit of a time crunch when I stopped in, so I only opted for a single flight of four beers (don’t worry, Lizard Tail staff, I and the rest of the Crew will be back to try the rest!) Big selections yield difficult choices, but I opted for the Oatmeal Brown, Belgian Abbey, IPA, and the Rye Stout. The first thing that I noticed about all of the beer selections was a distinct malt bill in every batch, which I greatly appreciate.

A flight of Lizard Tail libations, from left to right: Oatmeal Brown, Belgian Abbey, Rye Stout, and IPA.

A flight of Lizard Tail libations, from left to right: Oatmeal Brown, Belgian Abbey, Rye Stout, and IPA.

The Oatmeal Brown was a bit lighter than I expected, coming off a bit more like an amber ale with a crisp finish, but drinks smooth and has a wonderful aroma that you will want to keep sniffing with each drink. The Belgian Abbey is one of the seasonal offerings that will be rotating in and out with the changing of the tree colors. Grab this one while you can, for it is a lovely summertime brew with a nice yeast complexity, subtle sweetness, and nice citrus notes that make this a great choice for these final hot days of the year.

For dark beer lovers (which we obviously are), the Rye Stout is a solid option. Pouring a deep, obsidian black, it has plenty of creamy mouthfeel, lots of coffee and roasted barley, with just a bit of rye kick in the finish to make this stand out. I found that I actually enjoyed this one better as it opened up a bit in temperature; a few degrees made it a tasty brew. Finally, the IPA — I was impressed. In this city we are spoiled with great IPAs, so this is always a category that can make or break a brewery. Lizard Tail’s IPA has a grapefruit-forward hop profile, with floral notes around the middle, with a bit of zest and peppery hints to boot. There is subtle malt sweetness for balance, and a lingering bitterness and nice finish. It’s a pretty impressive IPA from the new kids on the block!

Overall, Lizard Tail Brewing has something for everyone on the big board that greets you when you walk in. Dan and Ken revealed some upcoming creations to our Bullpen member Adam previously. You can look forward to a Porter, Biscochito Brown, Belgian Strong Dark ale, and several others. If you are hungry as well, there are always snacks and sandwiches available. But let’s face it, you will be there for the beer, and you damn well should. Lizard Tail is up and running and definitely offers up something refreshing for all craft beer drinkers here in town.

Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel