Author Archive

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

Greetings homebrew aficionados and newcomers alike! Brewology is a series of articles by members of the NMDSBC about the art and science that goes into every pint we churn out. We will go through recipes, techniques, equipment, and anything else related to brewing some of your favorite libations. Feel free to submit feedback or discussion on any info you read here. Remember, it is all for the love of beer!

Christmas came early: the grain makings for our imperial black IPA

Christmas came early: the grain makings for our imperial black IPA

If one were to utter the words “black” and “IPA” (okay, just a series of letters in the case of the latter) in the company of craft beer drinkers these days, the reactions you will receive will undoubtedly be varied. The black IPA, or Cascadian black/dark ale depending on who you ask, is still considered a blossoming style that blurs the lines between malty dark ales and mouth-puckering hop bombs.

Sometimes considered nothing more than “hoppy porters,” this hybrid has found a fanbase thanks to prominent offerings such as Wookey Jack from Firestone Walker, Dubhe Imperial Black IPA from Uinta, Sublimely Self Righteous from Stone, and many others. What sets these and other great black IPAs apart from being just another “hoppy porter” is their smart use of malts to accentuate the beer, rather than overtake it altogether. Here is where we get into my beer, which we here at NMDSBC have affectionately dubbed the Slop Hudge Imperial Black IPA!

(Gotta interject here, the name Slop Hudge is obviously a garbled version of Hop Sludge, which Brandon came up with accidentally toward the end of the night after he had consumed several Hop Risings from Squatters and the better part of a bomber of Duel’s Grunewald Imperial Porter. — Stoutmeister)

The idea for an imperial black IPA came from our combined love of dark beers, but still having an appreciation for hop bombs, and also wanting something that was simply HUGE in flavor. We looked for a good balance of dark malt flavors, body, and hops that would be able to withstand the onslaught of malts we knew were coming from the large grain bill. I did a good amount of research, calculations, and other things that made my head hurt before I came to our final recipe, which tipped the scale of grains at over 18 pounds and would lead me to need new equipment!

When you first start with a black IPA, most homebrewers will just try to make an IPA that has a slightly darker color; this would not suffice for us, obviously, as we need the malt backing. The easiest method to achieve dark colors with minimal roasted aromas or bitter malt character is using a de-husked dark malt, which will usually lend to a smooth body without imparting those porter/stout characteristics. Simply using a few handfuls of black patent or chocolate malts mixed in with a two-row malt will definitely get you flavors that will more than likely stray away from what you are shooting for. Use those grains sparingly when making a black IPA and try to keep your base malt about 85 to 90 percent of the grain bill. If you add additional darker malts make sure to use those in small increments. I opted to use some chocolate wheat in our beer to add additional body, but kept the amount at about 3 percent of my total grain bill. Of course, these can be adjusted to taste and personal preference, as everyone likes something a bit different in this style

Monster mash: Porter Pounder (right) and Brandon start mashing an unholy amount of grain.

Monster mash: Porter Pounder (right) and Brandon start mashing an unholy amount of grain.

Since this beer ended up being an imperial black IPA, I opted to add some higher alpha acid hops. Amarillo, Centennial, and Warrior were the suspects in the lineup for the boil, as I wanted to achieve a nice aroma and hop profile that would be able to stand up to the large grain bill on the palate. With this blend I am hoping to impart a good hit of hop bitterness, citrus, mild floral, and zest notes. Keep in mind this is just for my boil; I will be dry-hopping this beer with more Amarillo, Centenial, and one more hop to be determined. Which hop, you ask? Keep reading in about a week or so to find out!

For this beer, I opted for one-and-a-half packs of Wyeast 1056. A fairly versatile yeast that can be used for a wide range of styles, it has a more neutral profile that allows hop and malt profiles to show with minimal other flavors. For non-imperial or smaller beers one of these packs are normally sufficient, although I usually recommend having another one handy in case you get a bad batch of yeast and need to pitch a second batch. I chose one-and-a-half packs due to the high gravity of the beer during wort measurement; fermentation seems to be going violently as of this writing, and that is after only about 48 hours in primary.

Overall, the whole process made for a long brew day for myself, Stoutmeister, and Porter Pounder, but we had a good time brewing it. Now it is simply a matter of controlling the temperature in my closet, which thankfully stays within the perfect range for this type of beer. Keep your eyes peeled for the follow-up once we transfer into secondary fermentation for dry hopping, for bottling, and when we finally unveil the finished product. Until then …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

The birth of a beast: Brandon (right) and Tractor assistant brewer Josh Campbell getting their grain on.

The birth of a beast: Brandon (right) and Tractor assistant brewer Josh Campbell getting their grain on.

Well, folks, the calendar has rapidly turned to the month of May, the weather is ascending into our usual Albuquerque warmth (freak occurrences of snow and locusts aside), and that yearly tradition we here at the DSBC love so much is finally upon us again. What tradition would that be? The NBA playoffs? Not a chance! The annual disappointment of our respective hockey teams being eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs? No way … although the sting still hasn’t faded from that. (Damn the Rangers. — S)

No, the tradition I speak of is ABQ Beer Week, a collection of events intended to spread interest in craft beer. From May 22-31, you will be able to find events going on across the city, including tasting events, music, tours, food pairings and more. Being the upstanding individuals we are, at least when it comes to beer, we will have lots of coverage on all the festivities coming up. While we are at it, though, how about a bit of shameless self promotion for an event we are taking part in called Battle of the Beer Geeks!

If you follow us regularly, you may recall that last month we trekked to Tractor Brewing Company’s new Wells Park location for a Saturday brewing session. Well, Battle of the Beer Geeks is the culmination of our efforts, as well as the efforts of other beer groups from around town. The good folks at Tractor allowed ourselves, the Babes in Brewland, Dukes of Ale, NM Wort Hogs, and the ABQ Craft Beer Drinkers Group to brew small batches on their new pilot system. We were given free reign with ingredients and allowed to whip up our own concoctions. With support from assistant brewer Josh Campbell, we let the darkness of our hearts pour forth into our beer; by which I mean we brewed a stout! I mean, we are the Dark Side Brew Crew. What else would you expect from us?

We could not disappoint our readers on the dark beer front, so we brewed a nice sweet — but still big, rough, and burly — stout that was deserving of such a brutal name. Thus, inspired by the relentless pummeling of a song by death metal legends Cannibal Corpse, we bring you Hammer Smashed Stout! We built a pretty sizable malt bill for our beer, as there are hefty amounts of chocolate, roasted, caramel malts, and flaked oats swirling around your palate. We added an extra something special for that bit of sweetness as well. What that is you can see by coming down to the Battle of the Beer Geeks. This beer will make you bang your head!

Porter Pounder, left, and Stoutmeister work on our beer at Tractor Wells Park.

Porter Pounder, left, and Stoutmeister work on our beer at Tractor Wells Park.

The Battle of the Beer Geeks will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday at Tractor’s Wells Park location on 1800 4th Street NW. Patrons will be able to purchase sample flights of the five beers available for $7 and will receive a token, which can be redeemed for a full pint of your favorite of the beers. Aside from our beer, Babes in Brewland will have RIPA #11, a rye IPA; the Dukes of Ale feature their Adobe Red Hoppy Ale; the NM Wort Hogs have Controlled Burn green chile IPA; and Sangre Pale Ale from ABQ Craft Beer Drinkers. Members of all of the beer groups will be available, so be sure to stop by and talk shop with the folks who brewed your libations. The winner will be announced after 8 p.m., so make sure to cast your vote for your favorite (come on, embrace the darkness of the Hammer Smashed Stout). There will also be live music and food trucks are sure to be around to fill your bellies.

Keep an eye out on here for more information and coverage of the upcoming ABQ Beer Week events and happenings, or check out their website. And as always, feel free to say hi, give us a high five, and raise a pint with any of the Crew if you see us around! Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

Such a magical place...

Such a magical place…

Greetings faithful readers and beer connoisseurs, the NMDSBC is here to bring you another installment in the Brewology series!  With a few amateur home brewers in our collective, these articles are dedicated to the craft of making beer right out of our homes from scratch. We attempt to document the process as much as possible and always enjoy questions and feedback from everyone. As always, keep in mind that we are not professionals at this by any means, but we enjoy sharing our experiences with our readers!

If you happen to know any of us then you know that the gentleman of the NMDSBC are busy individuals. Between work, school, musical gigs, covering sporting events, and whatever the hell it is that Porter Pounder does (I kid, but seriously … what does he do?), it is pretty challenging to get all of us in the same room for any period of time, let alone a few of us. But we always do our best to get together in the name of beer, especially when it comes to getting our hands dirty and creating a home brew of our own!

Being the Dark Side Brew Crew, it seems only appropriate to whip up a batch of something deep, dark, bold, and well, metal (cue the Pantera). Various ideas and recipes for things such as stout variations and even a black IPA were thrown around; ultimately the porter idea won. Originally a chocolate coffee porter was in the mix, but due to a combination of my busy schedule and laziness when I wasn’t busy, the coffee was phased out of the recipe. In anticipating that this may be the case, you’ll see I did pick some of the traditional bold malts that one might expect in a porter, and basically upped the quantities of the malts that would impart more coffee characteristics. Although there will definitely be a coffee beer in the cards at some point soon, I think the bold malt bill makes up for the loss enough to still make this a good beer.

Blacker than the blackest black: transferring to secondary fermentation

Blacker than the blackest black: transferring to secondary fermentation

About four weeks ago Porter Pounder and I, along with our good friend Daniel Hicks in tow to see what this whole homebrewing thing is all about, spent an afternoon putting it all together and making beer happen! The recipe was solidified prior, minus a few tweaks that occurred in the grain room of Southwest Grape & Grain, and consisted of Vienna malt for the base, 120L caramel, crisp chocolate, CaraAroma, 80L crystal, black malt, roasted barley and flaked barley. Now if you are familiar with porters, you can see that I went against the grain (pun intended, heh) in using Vienna for a base malt. The thought here was the Vienna malt, being sweeter than a tradition porter base such as a pale malt, would add a good amount of sweetness to the beer. Having measurements of the other bolder grains that were more substantial than I’d used in my previous attempt at a porter, it was important to me to try to balance everything out as much as possible. The crisp chocolate malt was picked due to the rich coffee hints, which was meant to augment any additional coffee flavors put into the brew. We should also be looking at a slightly roasted, but rich and possibly creamy body. Quite simply, we wanted enough sugars to be converted by the yeast during fermentation, but still wanted residuals to give that flavor in the end. In terms of hops we kept it fairly straightforward, using small amounts of Cascade and Fuggles. This was an interesting combination, but after taking into account things like aromatics, alpha/beta acids, and malt bill, I settled on the Cascade for aroma and Fuggles for bittering and finish.

Now comes a confession that I’m not terribly happy with: I used an adjunct. Unsweetened cocoa powder to be specific. Why did I do this and why is it a bad thing, you ask? To answer the first question, I wanted to get an extra hit of chocolate into the mix. Chocolate beers that I’ve enjoyed always have an added element of richness and the same was to be had in this beer, dammit! Now as for the second question: well, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing … depending on who you ask. Some might argue that using adjuncts spoils an all-grain homebrew, some feel the flavors that are derived from these are not very brewer-friendly, or that they just impart very processed flavors in the final product. So it really isn’t a matter of right or wrong, only a matter of preference. I utilized whole vanilla beans in a porter previously and that worked quite well; in retrospect, I should have used the same process on cocoa nibs to get that something extra which I was looking for.

Brandon finally got a new bottling hat!

Brandon finally got a new bottling hat!

Oh, well, sue me.

The brew itself went surprisingly well, especially considering a few extenuating circumstances such as not having everything I needed for my turkey fryer burner and having to boil on an electric burner. Remember when I said “sue me”? Anyway, fermentation started after almost a 24-hour lag, but the English Brown Ale yeast took effect and did its job nicely. Primary only took about six days before transferring to secondary fermentation to let it age for a bit longer. Secondary fermentation lasted about three weeks before racking and bottling this past Sunday evening. A preliminary reading on the ol’ hydrometer has it clocking in at about 1.060 and a little over 6-percent ABV. There is plenty of chocolate aroma present, with roasted barley and subtle coffee notes as well. Of course all of this means nothing if the taste is not there, but all things considered this should be a pretty solid porter … only time will tell. How much time? Since the beer is bottle conditioned using priming sugars we are looking at another three weeks. A few bottles have already been set aside for aging just for fun.

Oh, and as for the name of the beer? Well as an homage to one of my favorite albums by one of my favorite bands … I have dubbed thee: Porter in The Yard! After the album “Prowler in The Yard” by Pig Destroyer. What can I say? My love for all things beer and metal runs deep.

All in all, another round of fun with friends concocting batches of delicious homebrew. As soon as the porter is ready to enjoy you can expect a review article, and keep an eye out for another installment of Brewology very soon when we get together for a batch that Porter Pounder will be doing. Spoiler alert: it’s a black IPA. Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

Greetings beer aficionados! Back from a long sabbatical, the Saturday Night Sixer has returned from the great beyond to give you a weekly dose of the best craft beers that can be found in bottles around town. Having trouble keeping up on the latest offerings from your favorite breweries or just looking for something new and exciting for your weekend? We have you covered! All of the beers reviewed here can be found in your local package liquor stores or anywhere that carries fine craft brews. Now, onward to beer …

For a long time, craft beer was the last thing that came to mind when I thought of Utah. Now, mind you, that is no slight against the fine state. I simply imagined majestic rock formations, skiing, snowboarding, and a giant bed of salt flats. However, Uinta Brewing Co. started producing quality craft beers back in 1993 (when I was still a wee lad, listening to grunge), and has made a name for themselves built on consistently solid beers. If you are a craft beer drinker you have likely imbibed a Hop Nosh IPA, Baba Black Lager, Cutthroat Pale Ale, or perhaps even one of their seasonal offerings like the Punk’n Harvest Pumpkin ale. What you may or may not be aware of is the line of specialty beers Uinta started producing in 2010 entitled the Crooked line.

For the sailor in all of us: Sea Legs Baltic Porter, aged in oak barrels.

For the sailor in all of us: Sea Legs Baltic Porter, aged in oak barrels.

The Crooked line of beers was intended to be a series of “big” beers, both in flavor and in size. The lineup consists of beers ranging from 8-percent to 13-percent ABV, so these are definitely not your grandpa’s session beers! Often the Crooked lineup finds the beers being aged in some variety of oak, whiskey, or bourbon barrels to give them special characteristics, and then find themselves being cork finished, allowing them to condition in the bottles. There have been some rather prominent releases thus far, with my personal favorites being the Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin ale and Labyrinth Quadruple Black Ale (oh Labyrinth … I could rant about thee, but that’s for another article). That is where Sea Legs Baltic Porter, aged in oak barrels, comes into play. Originally released as a limited offering back in 2012, a new batch has made its way to the shelves of your local brew supplier!

Baltic porters are one of my favorite styles due to their bold flavors and complexity, and Sea Legs does not disappoint in either category. Pouring rich and jet black, you can detect virtually no light traveling through your glass … it’s like Mordor in a glass (yeah, I went there). It possesses a rich off-white/tan head about a finger and a half thick at first pour that retains well and leads to beautiful lacing for the duration of the drink. The aroma is big with chocolate, roasted malt, and slight hints of vanilla and cocoa, coffee, and slight, smokey notes are present, too. I also noticed that the aromatics opened up greatly as the beer warmed during drinking. In terms of taste, this is beast of a beer that will put hair on your chest. The mouthfeel is rich and burly, coating the mouth and sticking to the palate. The initial flavors are lots of chocolate malt and hints of bakers chocolate, toasted malt that has a slightly burnt characteristic, and smokey malts.

The middle and back are coffee with slight oak tannin and an very slight fruity hint (figs perhaps?), with a touch more smoke that seems to aid in the rich and smooth mouthfeel. It finishes smooth but with a complex bitterness; the bitter finish does hang around on the palate well after each sip but the adequate carbonation helps to take away some of that. There is very slight alcohol warming, and Sea Legs actually had me thinking that it may be packing more than the 8-percent ABV stated on the bottle, as it drinks quite big. Overall, for a style I partake in regularly, I would definitely put this up there with the big dogs of the porter genre.

If you want to make your Valentine's Day dark...well, here you go!

If you want to make your Valentine’s Day dark … well, here you go!

Sea Legs Baltic P0rter was a very limited offering during their last release a few years ago, so this one most likely promises to be as well. Jubilation Wine & Spirits has you covered with bottles available now, but as with any small run beer you will definitely want to get yours sooner rather than later. I must say I was quite impressed with this beer as a whole and plan on aging a bottle or two; it definitely deserves a spot in the upper echelon of the style. If you are looking for something that packs a bit more punch than your average porter, or you enjoy a nice rich beer with lots of character and complexity to offer, this will definitely be right up your alley. Grab one for your Valentine’s Day celebration, but be sure to share!

Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

Editor’s note: Yeah, we know, The Beer Premier was back on July 20. Brandon took his time. Part of it was the fact he took audio notes and by the end of the event (you’ll understand as you read this) it was a little, uh, hard for him to understand what he was saying. So the best way to look at this overdue review is it can become your handy beer scavenger hunt guide. No, seriously, print this out (or just keep the link handy on your smartphone) and head out whenever your weekend is and seek out all these new beers. Most, if not all, are available now at the breweries and tap rooms. Enjoy, but do take note not to try all 16 in the same day. Brandon learned that the hard way. — Stoutmeister

New Mexico has become a watering hole for quality beers. For the most part, if one was to travel to pretty much any area of the state you would be able to find a brewery to quench your thirst, or at least be able to find a local beer in packaged form in stores around the state. However, this be a challenge when it comes to keeping up with new offerings from the area. Hell, we here at the NMDSBC do our best to keep our readers in the loop about new beers, but it’s not always practical for the six of us to head out of town for beers (getting the six of us in the same room at the same is hard enough with all of our wacky schedules).

Luckily the New Mexico Brewers Guild made it easy on craft brew fans! July 20’s first Beer Premier gave patrons a taste of something new from 16 different breweries from around the state. Held at the Hispano Chamber of Commerce here in Albuquerque, each brewery brought something special which was prepared just for this event, and in most cases can now be found on tap at their respective home bases. If you weren’t keen on the new offerings you were still bound to find something to indulge in, as each brewery also brought along a few of their old favorites. New beers and old favorites? It’s a win-win situation!

Prost!  The Beer Premier tasting begins!

Prost! The Beer Premier tasting begins!

The setup was similar to some of the other beer festivals you may have been to before: we were greeted with a wristband, tickets and a tasting glass (a liberal-sized tasting glass, I might add). Tickets were good for pours of your choice from each brewery, so if you wanted to indulge in multiple pours from a certain brewery, you could do so. Each brewery also brought plenty of goods, such as shirts and growlers to fill and take home. Unfortunately I forgot to purchase growlers of my favorites by the end because, well … I’d tasted a lot of beer. In fact, I question why the rest of the Crew left me to take on this fest by myself; I mean, these were big f*****g pours of beer! (Porter Pounder, Franz Solo, and I were all working that day, E-Rock was in California, and Shilling was broke. — Stoutmeister) Alas, I stepped up to the plate with vigor, and with that I give you a breakdown of some of the beers in no particular order.

Belgian IPA, Blue Corn Brewery: The folks at Blue Corn impressed us at SummerBrew with their Schwartzbier, and continued to do so at Beer Premier with their Belgian IPA. This was an unexpectedly tasty hybrid beer, with a good hop profile to it; plenty of citrus and floral notes that linger around, with plenty of yeasty qualities and a light malt bill to tie the two styles together. A very easy drinking beer for these hot summer months that packs a bit of a punch. Impressive stuff for a unique style, which was brewed in honor of the recently opened Duel Brewing in Santa Fe, which specializes in Belgian-style beers. The Belgian IPA was a standout on this day.

Kolsch, Abbey Beverage Company: Monks was well represented this day, bringing along a fresh Kolsch for the event. Not usually my favorite style, I was more than pleased with the bright aromas and smooth pale malts within. No filtration to be found with this hazy brew, that wouldn’t be very Kolsch of them (heh). The Monks staff informed me it was not meant to be as sweet as it came out, but the sweetness is mild enough to not take away from the refreshing nature of this brew. Mild-to-nonexistent hops here and a nice crisp finish make for a mild, but flavorful concoction.

American Session Ale, Chama River Brewing: Most of the beers at Beer Premier were sessionable. Chama River Brewing actually brought a session beer, their American Session Ale, to be exact. To me, this beer drinks like a High Life (I’ll never turn down a High Life, as I am a punk rock/metalhead at heart). Light on the malts and hops, with just a touch of each to give it a smooth profile and flavor. I was hoping for a bit more out of it, but session beers are meant to be easy drinking, so Chama hit the nail on the head with this one.

Competing with Nob Hill Summerfest surely was tough, but beer lovers still found time to indulge in Beer Premier.

Competing with Nob Hill Summerfest surely was tough, but beer lovers still found time to indulge in Beer Premier.

Peaotch Pale Ale, Tractor Brewing Company: Funny beer names, you know you like em. Tractor had that covered with their “Peaotch” Peach Pale Ale. Brewed in a similar style to their Sodbuster Pale Ale, this beer adds peach flavors to the mix. Now dare I say the hops in there are dialed down by the peach in this one? Possibly, as my brewing skills are amateur at best, but my palate says yes. It drinks like a peach ring candy with a malt backing, which was actually somewhat nice initially. The sweetness was a bit too much for my liking after a few sips. Those who like a sweeter or fruity beer seemed to be enjoying this summer offering.

Saison d’Hommel, La Cumbre Brewing: A saison. The Saison d’Hommel, to be exact. To be honest, this is probably one of my least favorite styles of beer, but Jeff Erway and his staff know what they are doing. I should not have doubted them. Wonderful aromas on the nose, lots of spice and hints of orange, plus earthy characteristics from the yeast. Slightly dry and bitter in the back and on the finish, but not enough to make the rest of it bad. Almost doesn’t drink like a saison, but I will not argue with the folks who do it the best, especially when this beer is just plain great. Another favorite from the day.

Single Hop Mosaic IPA, Second Street Brewery: Aside from Blue Corn’s Belgian IPA, there was not a lot of hops on the board at this point … oh wait, look at what Second Street has, a Single Hop Mosaic IPA! Lots of floral hints and some resiny undertones to this remarkably smooth IPA. More malt than you might expect from a good IPA, but it balanced out well. Good choice of hops in here, they certainly shine through well.

Summer Scotch Ale, Turtle Mountain Brewing: Ah, yes, a darker beer, something that I hadn’t encountered until this point! Malty but smooth and easy drinking, wonderful mouthfeel, plenty of caramel malts to please my palate. There were also some slightly spicy hints in the nose present, a nice contrast to this richer beer. Well done.

Pirate’s Booty, Santa Fe Brewing: All the patrons and friends from around the craft brewing community kept telling me to go try Santa Fe’s offering, called Pirate’s Booty. Yes, I chuckled and finally made my way to their booth to grab a pour. Again, I am not a fan of sweet/fruity beers, but damn, this was one tropical brew. A hefeweizen brewed with pineapple (my favorite fruit) and ginger? I don’t know what they were thinking with this one, but man, it actually worked quite well. A hearty wheat body melded well with the tangy and sweet citrus, with a bite of ginger in the back and in the finish. I don’t know what the SFBC staff were drinking when they were coming up with this, but Pirate’s Booty was unique and tasty.

Yours truly gets his White Ryeno on.

Yours truly gets his White Ryeno on.

Notorious ESB, Taos Mesa Brewing: BEST. BEER. NAME. EVER. Oh, and it’s delicious too. A good balance, leaning more towards the earthy hop/toffee side of things as far as flavors go. It has a pretty smooth body from the malt bill, with a bit of dry bitterness in the back that balanced out a creamy middle. Taos Mesa, why do you have to be in, well, Taos? Road trip!

White Ryeno, Back Alley Draft House: Back Alley had an intriguing offering called White Ryeno. A rye wit brewed with a hint of vanilla, this offered a unique combination of flavors. A sturdy wheat body with orange flavors at the front, it was remarkably smooth on the palate. The vanilla really made this one pop, and offered an extra creamy and mellow touch all around the palate. One of my favorites of the day.

* * * *

Overall this was a really fun event, as it gave craft beer fans a chance at an exclusive peek at the latest from around the state. Even those new to craft beer were finding the new beers to be likeable; and since each brewery had some of their old favorites available as well, there were sure to be a lot of new converts to our states wonderful brews. While having to compete with Nob Hill Summerfest was certainly a challenge, the event was well received and the weather managed to stay decent enough. Having to coordinate with multiple breweries to have enough beers for this event was a task that we must toast the NM Brewers Guild, and here’s to hoping this becomes a regular event.

Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

Greetings beer aficionados, Brandon here with another edition of the Saturday Night Sixer! As always, this week brings us another tasty offering from the craft brewing world that can be found on the shelves of your local fine packaged liquor store. Unsure of which bomber or six-pack to grace your lips with, or are you just looking for something new and exciting? Look no further than this week’s offering! Now onward to beer …

There seem to be a lot of dogs floating around the craft brewing scene these days. No, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, I’m just referring to the canine-related names that seem to be producing some quality brews these days. We have Big Dog Brewing in Las Vegas, Dogfish Head from Delaware, the good folks from Flying Dog Brewing in Maryland … I’m sure there are more I could think of, but I digress. Plus, I’m here to write about beer and not dogs; although I can never resist an English bulldog when I see one. But anyway, back to the topic at hand, which is beer, specifically a tasty dark offering in the form of Anubis Imperial Coffee Porter from the folks at Laughing Dog Brewing.

A beer suitable for the gods: Anubis Imperial Coffee Porter

A beer fit for the gods: Anubis Imperial Coffee Porter from Idaho’s Laughing Dog Brewing.

Laughing Dog has been brewing a number of delicious craft beers in many forms since 2005, and have developed quite a knack for it. Based in Sandpoint, Idaho, they currently boast 15 beers in their lineup, and have gained recognition for a number of them, collecting awards for a few of their varieties of IPAs, their Cream Ale, and others. This should be a good indication for those of you not familiar with their brews that the Laughing Dog crew knows brewing. And as for the pooch that graces the label of several of their selections? That would be Ben, the family dog of owners Fred and Michelle Colby. The companion of a couple devoted to brewing beer; I’d say Ben is one lucky, well, dog.

Now as for the Anubis Imperial Coffee Porter, this was a welcome find. After Stoutmeister voiced his excitement to try it, I decided to beat him to the punch and do this review; this was a pleasant treat since I’d been taking in a good amount of lighter beer due to the hot weather. Anubis pours an opaque black, and I do mean BLACK. It gave off about two fingers or so of frothy brown head that settles into a nice whipped foam and lasts for the entire beer. Beer mustache, anyone? The aromatics in it are heavy with roasted caramel and freshly ground coffee, with cocoa and slight hints of resiny hops.

The flavor profile on Anubis is wonderful. It possesses a smooth mouthfeel, though a bit thinner than I was expecting for this style, and has perfect carbonation. The coffee hits right away upon first sip; it’s not overwhelming but is enough to let you know who’s the boss. It is almost more of an espresso flavor than straight coffee. No matter, as there is plenty of roasted malt and caramel there to accompany and give a sweetness to balance out everything. There is a mix of darker tasting malts around the middle that I just couldn’t decipher through my pint, but hints of vanilla pick up as well and lend to the sweet and smooth characteristics of the beer. The bitterness from the coffee sticks around the whole beer and actually gives way to a different kind of bitterness in the back, that of dark chocolate and even some hints of baker’s chocolate, and a subtle touch of licorice that is barely detectable. The finish is a tad dry with a bit of alcohol warming.

As far as hops go, the malt bill is what is meant to stand out obviously, but the resiny hops are slightly present in the middle and back. The finish is very impressive here, as the coffee bitterness transitions well to the chocolate bitterness. The ABV is pretty well hidden in there (about 8 percent), but you will feel it by the end of the pint. There is more than enough malt and coffee in Anubis to make it a breakfast of champions … if you drink beer for breakfast, of course. What a beer, a beer that leaves you happy on several fronts as long as you love the malts or the dark side of beer. Which we do here, after all.

Overall, Anubis Imperial Coffee Porter is a sucker-punch of a coffee beer, one that still doesn’t let the coffee completely overtake the palate. The bevy of chocolate and caramel malt make it smooth and distinct, with enough complexity to keep the most discriminating of us beer geeks thinking about each sip. It is a great beer to have for dessert, or even with a nice slab of meat on the grill. So on your next outing, make sure to pick up a bomber and take a couple home before myself and Stoutmeister harvest them all!

Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

Greetings beer aficionados, Brandon here with another edition of the Saturday Night Sixer! Yes, I have returned from a sabbatical due to another tough semester of school. The good news is that I now have more time to taste beer… delicious, malty, hoppy beers! As always, the Sixer is here to bring you those hidden bottled gems you can find in your local fine beer and spirit retailer, or possibly on tap at a local pub. Intimidated by the plethora of bombers in the cooler at your neighborhood store? Feeling adventurous and just looking for a new style or brewery to excite your taste buds? Look no further than this week’s offering! Now, onward to beer …

Reminds me of a warm night by the fire at grandma's as a kid.  Though I wasn't drinking this at age 8...perhaps grandma was...

Reminds me of a warm night by the fire at grandma’s as a kid. Though I wasn’t drinking this at age 8…perhaps grandma was…

Well the calendars have turned to the month of May, and along with this brings the warmer weather. Here in New Mexico that tends to bring long spells of dry, scorching days that make enjoying a nice Russian imperial stout in the middle of the day sound … well, not so appealing (Speak for yourself. — Stoutmeister). Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll still squeeze in my dark beers, of course (I would be excommunicated from the Dark Side Brew Crew if I didn’t!), but the hot weather has necessitated that I start having a sixer of Lagunitas Pils or North Coast Pranqster in my fridge to beat the heat.

I digress, though, as this article is about another beer, a rich and wonderfully complex beer coming in a style I’ve not really had the pleasure of enjoying before. This week the shelves of Jubilation had a tasty little gem in the form of an Imperial Nut Brown ale courtesy of Tommyknocker Brewery.

Not familiar with Tommyknocker? Well, they are yet another brewery from the craft beer-rich state of Colorado. Since opening in 1994, Tommyknocker has been churning out quality craft beers from the town of Idaho Springs (just west of Denver along I-70), and in the process have concocted some great recipes. Their long list of awards for their various beers dating back to the 90’s should give you an idea of the quality they are capable of. Aside from the obvious list of great beers, they also have some tasty food items and house root beers available, so stop in for a pint and some food if you are in the area. Their Maple Nut Brown Ale has become one of their most popular beers, with the Imperial version actually collecting several awards over the years. It must be good then, right?  Read on to find out … (spoiler alert: it’s very good)

Although familiar with the Maple Nut Brown from years ago, I was surprisingly ignorant to the fact that Tommyknocker had crafted an Imperial-style big brother, and considering I’ve never really come across an Imperial nut brown, I was in for a treat. This beer pours a deep, reddish brown color, with about a finger or so of foamy tan head that sticks around for a bit and gives way to nice swirling on top as the beer goes on. The nose on this is full of malts, with toffee, roasted and caramel malts being the main characteristics here. The hops are almost a non-factor, but give off subtle resin hints that don’t overwhelm the malt aromas.

That thing is good.  I want to be friends with it.

That thing is good. I want to be friends with it.

The label on the Imperial Nut Brown Ale claims to be “big, complex and malty,” and this beer certainly delivers in that department. The mouthfeel is somewhat rich, about medium in body, coats the mouth well and has moderate carbonation that is on par with most other variations of brown ales. It starts off with caramel and roasted malts in the front, with a slight hint of coffee, but not enough to overpower the primary malts. This one is brewed with maple syrup so there is an underlying sweetness, and if you have tried beers with maple syrup you know it is easy to have that flavor trump everything else and make a beer taste too sugary. That is not the case here, as the maple syrup gives a very mild sweetness that actually helps to balance out some of the bitterness. Toasted nuts and toffee show up in the middle and give way to a cocoa bitterness in the finish, with mild alcohol warming. Again, the hops are not a factor here, with only a bit of resiny bitterness throughout; the malts are the star here and they very well should be. The malt bill is complex as they stated and makes you swirl this one over the palate with each drink to take in the different malt aspects. It is a rich beer and about on par with most Imperial styles (9.0% ABV), so it is a one-and-done for most people. With quite an array of malts at work and nice alcohol warming, this is a great beer for a cool night, or even as a nice dessert after a hearty meal!

Overall, I was pleasantly surprise with Tommyknocker’s Imperial Nut Brown ale. It possesses a rich body, with plenty of twists and turns in the malt bill to keep you interested from one sip to the next; dare I say it’s a thinking person’s beer? I dare say I do! It will certainly please those of you looking for a strong ale without wanting to have the “steak-in-a-glass” experience of a hearty stout or porter. Give the Imperial Nut Brown a try on your next trip to stock up your fridge!

Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

Greetings beer aficionados, Brandon here with a recap of some of the events from ABQ Beer Week! It has been a while for yours truly, since a hectic schedule of work and school has occupied all of my time recently, but thankfully my schedule lightened up just in time for this week of festivities. When Beer Week comes calling, you answer the call like a beer-soaked viking rushing into battle against an army of beers … well, you get the picture.

Where to begin?  A flight of sours at Back Alley Draft House.

Where to begin? A flight of sours at Back Alley Draft House.

The first Friday night of ABQ Beer Week brought us lots of events, so I made it my mission to partake in one that paid homage to a style of beer that doesn’t get much love: the sours! Back Alley Draft House played host to the Tower of Sour, offering four distinct styles of sour beers on tap; whether your palate leans more toward the sweet or sour end of the spectrum, you were probably going to find one that you enjoyed. Now, I will admit that sour beers are a style I’m not usually accustomed to, as they are minimally available on taps around town. Most craft beer fans I come across in general have minimal experience with the style as well; they can’t be blamed, as it is a somewhat specialized style, often needing fresh fruits to help achieve the sour notes that are its trademark. But I am happy to report that there were some hidden gems on tap that I found to be refreshing treats!

Back Alley had a great deal for a flight of the four sours and a 10 oz. pour of your favorite one for $10, so naturally I was sold. The first one in the flight that I tried was Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour. With a light amber/orange hue, it was not overly aromatic, but possessed some fresh qualities with subtle hops. Taste-wise, this was quite light and refreshing, leaning more towards the sweeter end of the spectrum of flavors. The sour did finish in the back to help balance it out, though. Overall I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed something of this style; I would definitely indulge in more of this, it’s a great summer beer!

Next up, I sampled the Petrus Oud Bruin. This one was certainly more complex, but I still thought it was well-balanced. It has an appearance of a deep amber beer, something like an Irish red, perhaps. The hops actually mingle well and accentuate the sweet/sour notes present in this one, and is a bit more bold in flavor. The aromas seemed to pop more after each sip; an enjoyable brew that has a lot going on, I’d call this one a sour for the thinkers.

Pertrus Aged Red was the top of the Tower of Sours!

Pertrus Aged Red was the penthouse beer of the Tower of Sour!

Moving on, next up was the Petrus Aged Pale; now this was not my cup o’ tea at all. The aromas were pleasant, with citrus notes and aromatics from the yeasts present. But flavor-wise, this was on the extreme SOUR end of things; quite yeasty, heavy carbonation and bone dry, with the dryness almost on a champagne level. There was a lot of tartness there with nothing to balance it out; it was definitely a complex blend of flavor profiles. Overall, it was not my favorite, but other patrons seemed to enjoy it.

Last but not least, I sampled the Petrus Aged Red. Now this was a welcome surprise, as it is brewed with fresh cherries and I have not quite enjoyed the beers I’ve had with cherries in the past. The Aged Red was wonderful, though; cherry aromas, slight hop spices, and a hint of vanilla in there as well. The flavor is well-balanced, with big cherry tartness and natural sweetness as well; the malts lend a nice, creamy mouthfeel for this one. It is a rich beer that does give a slightly sweet aftertaste, but it was not overwhelming for me at all. This was by far my favorite of the four!

Indulging in my goblet of the Petrus Aged Red, I got a chance to talk to some readers and other patrons, many of whom were sour fans who came out to indulge in a uncommon tapping of four unique sours in our fair city. For the patrons who were giving the sours a chance for the first time, the reviews were positive as everyone seemed to enjoy what Back Alley had to offer.

Another successful ABQ Beer Week event is in the books. We will see you at the next one so make sure and come say hello at any events!

Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel

Greetings beer aficionados, Brandon here with another edition of the Saturday Night Sixer! As always the Sixer is here to help you at those times where you just seem to be staring at coolers of beer, unsure of which is going to best please your palate. Well, look no further than our weekly recommendation found right here, as we are here to steer you towards the best of the best. Remember that all the brews here can be found at your local fine packaged liquor store, or ask them how you can get your hands on this week’s offering. Now, onward to beer!

It certainly warms you up like its namesake: Lava Smoked Imperial Stout

It certainly warms you up like its namesake: Lava Smoked Imperial Stout

Iceland is an absolutely beautiful country. Granted, I make this assertion based on photos and such, but I refuse to believe that all of the pictures I see of the natural beauty of this country can be Photoshopped; millions and millions of people can’t be that proficient with a computer program! At least I hope not, anyway, but that’s besides the point.

I’ve personally always wanted to visit Iceland, and I just came across another reason. Looking at the Facebook page for my local neighborhood packaged alcoholic beverage establishment (thanks, Jubilation Beer Wine & Spirits!), I came across a picture of Lava, a smoked imperial stout from Ölvisholt Brugghús, a little brewery from far away in the southwest part of Iceland. At that point I was sold, as I am always eager to try a good brew from across the pond. According to website, Ölvisholt is located in an old dairy farm in south Iceland and “was founded in the year 2007 by two neighboring farmers who had a true passion for beer.” They currently export their beers to several other surrounding European countries, as well as here in the good ol’ U.S.A. As for the name of the beer, there is apparently an active volcano nearby, one that has occasional eruptions that can be seen from the brewery; after reading this, I uttered (in the standard deep voice) the word “metal.” You didn’t have to tell me twice before I got my hands on some of this wondrous brew from the norther regions of the world.

To say one is in for a treat with this beer is really an understatement. First off, it is easy for a smoked beer to be either overpowering with its flavors, or underwhelming and lacking; that is not the case at all with Lava. This beast pours black, and I mean BLACK. Once in my pint glass, no light passed through at all; there were some deep red hints at the top, though, with a fizzy brown head that dissipated quickly and gave way to a rich, tan film with swirling on top. The aromatics on this were complex, as lots of smoke is present, with slight charcoal, roasted malt, and very subtle coffee hints as well. There was a slightly earthy hop aroma as well, with a hint of alcohol; a great medley of aromas to accompany this stout. The flavors are some of the best I’ve had with a smoked beer. The smoke doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors, it is just the vessel that carries all of them here, and there are a lot of different malts and flavors at play here.

There are different chocolate malts present right away at first sip, mainly dark chocolate and hints of biscuit as well, with a tiny bit of coffee and caramel. There is a subtle sweetness as well, which plays surprisingly well with the smoke and complements the chocolate malts. There are hints of licorice around the middle of the palate, but they are subtle, so don’t worry if you don’t care for those flavors. Some nutty flavors along with oak hints hit around the middle and back of the palate. I also detected a hint of star anise in there, a very slight taste that fades quickly, but a pleasant surprise. There’s more wood and slight fruit hints on the finish, along with a touch more chocolate and slight alcohol, and all through the smoke mingles beautifully with all of these flavors. The mouthfeel on Lava is quite velvety, with a slightly rough touch in the middle from the spice and smoke, but it finishes full and rich with tiny bite.

To be clear, it isn't actually smoked with lava...that would be pretty metal though.

To be clear, it isn’t actually smoked with lava … that would be pretty metal, though.

Overall, I think Lava is a perfect example of what a smoked beer should be, especially being a smoked imperial stout. The big flavors you would expect from the style are there and are delicious. They are all balanced and play well off of the smoke flavors. At 9.4-percent ABV it is big, but the way it drinks would have you believing that it’s more potent. I would recommend this as a dessert beer or around the fireplace. Imperial stouts and smoked beers alone are not always the flavors that everyone likes, but for those of you who like their flavors big and bold, and want something amazing from a far away land, then Lava Smoked Imperial Stout from Ölvisholt Brugghús is sure to please your palate.

Lava is certainly a beer that might take some work to find, as it is imported from quite a ways out, but believe me, it will be worth the effort. Again, for readers here in the Albuquerque area, your friends at Jubilation Wine & Spirits have it in stock, so get it while it lasts. And for our readers elsewhere, take a trip to your local fine packaged liquor store and see what they can do to get you your Lava fix!

Until next time …

Prost!

— Brandon Daniel