Archive for the ‘Beer Review’ Category

Look, a full beer lineup all made on site is now at Lava Rock!

The last time any of us visited Lava Rock Brewing on the westside, an actual beer lineup was just starting to take form. Since then, we had received word that head brewer Ram Khalsa now has that promised full lineup on tap, and with some time to kill on a Tuesday afternoon, this here editor-in-need-of-a-story headed west of the Rio Grande to check it all out.

At this point, I should not expect to find myself as an anonymous drinker at any brewery in town. Ram was behind the bar, checking on the beers while more beer was being brewed in the back, and he was quick to welcome me to the brewery. I was promptly greeted with a sampler flight of six beers (which is standard), plus a seventh that he felt I needed to try.

Part of the impetus for trying those Lava Rock beers was due to the fact that the brewery, which now partners with M’tucci’s as its kitchen operator, is offering up a special this Wednesday. For $24, customers can get a flight of six 5-ounce samples of beer, each paired up with a specific appetizer.

  1. Gila Gose with shrimp and crab ceviche
  2. Shiprock Saison with honey balsamic chicken wings
  3. Petroglyph Wit with watermelon with feta and basil
  4. Brown Trout Lager with sausage orzo ragu
  5. 32 Bravo DIPA with BBQ meatballs with arugula and apple mustard
  6. Capulin Pale Ale with chocolate cherry tart with hazelnut cookie crust

Hello, sample tray. Not pictured, the Gila Gose. But, what is there makes for a really nice color rainbow.

As always, I must remind everyone that I am not a fully trained cicerone or anything of the sort. Beer is incredibly subjective, and I highly encourage everyone to try the beers, make up your own opinions, and offer constructive criticism where applicable. I had the unique opportunity to comment directly on the beers to Ram, so these were my thoughts on the seven beers that I sampled, five of which will be part of that special pairing Wednesday (I had to leave out the Petroglyph Wit as it has an ingredient that my body considers an unfortunate allergen).

  • Gila Gose (4.5% ABV, 6 IBU): Ram was proud of this offering, which is a straight, non-fruited gose. Oh, sure, there are a couple fruited goses (peach and prickly pear) on tap, for those who like such things. “I just felt a traditional gose could stand on its own,” he said. This one has just enough of that salty forward flavor, with not too much of the sour element on the back end. It goes down quite easy in this scorching late-summer heat.
  • Shiprock Saison (8% ABV, 30 IBU): While this French-style farmhouse has many of the hallmarks of the style, Ram also went ahead and dry hopped it with a dash of Nelson and Mosaic. There’s a bit of hop dryness on the back end, as well, but for the most part the Belgian-like yeast funk and a bit of spiciness are there to dominate the start and middle.
  • Brown Trout Lager (5.7% ABV, 20 IBU): The dark copper color aside, “You could drink this in the heat,” Ram said, as it is a lighter brown lager in the style of a German dunkel. The German malts and hops are there, but for the most part it is just smooth and comforting, and should hold one over until more of the popular Valles (Helles) Lager is ready soon. (There are two other lagers on deck, as well.)
  • 32 Bravo DIPA (8% ABV, 110 IBU): Ram has previously worked at La Cumbre and Santa Fe Brewing, but he said that the hop-forward beers are still a work in progress on Lava Rock’s 10-barrel brewhouse. This DIPA is not overpowering, harking back to the style from 10 years ago. This is not a juicy, sweet beer, but instead a chewy hop bomb that is slowly growing into something worthy of the behemoths that have set the local standard for DIPAs.
  • Capulin Pale Ale (6.2% ABV, 33 IBU): A coffee pale ale, this is not a copy of Sidetrack’s Buzz Bomb. If you like your coffee big, bold, and roasty, with no sweetness, this one is for you. Ram did say that the batch is an older one, but future changes could be coming since this style has not quite found its proper niche on the westside.
  • Volcan IPA (6% ABV, 80 IBU): The house IPA, Ram said he is still tinkering with this recipe. It is based in part on the classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, with more of an amber color and some of the old-school northwestern hops. Ram said he didn’t do much dry hopping, which in my personal opinion this one could use in the future.
  • Seismic Stout (5% ABV, 25 IBU): Of course I got the stout; I wouldn’t be living up to my nickname if I didn’t, right? This is an Irish dry stout, with hints of smoky roast and a slight bit of sweetness from the malt that offers up hints of chocolate and toffee. It is not a big, chewy stout, but this time of year, that is just fine. “Bigger stouts are coming this winter,” Ram said, which is music to my ears.

Overall, Lava Rock is still a work in progress on the beer front, but it is trending in the right direction. Ram has the proper beer education from La Cumbre and SFBC, and as he dials in his recipes and grasps the wants and needs of his customer base on the westside, things should start to settle in at the pub. Considering how much of a struggle things were in the beginning for Lava Rock, it is almost like a new brewery/restaurant has moved into the same location, which in a way it has, so to speak. The kitchen is all M’tucci’s, the beer is now all made on site, and it is worth another visit for beer lovers.

Please let us know what you think, and if you have some constructive criticism on the beer front, we will be happy to pass it along.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Bears in space?!?! Sounds like a hot ticket!

Another year for Boxing Bear Brewing has arrived and to mark the occasion, Justin Hamilton and company brewed a collaborative hazy IPA with Odd13 Brewing in Colorado.

With Stoutmeister on vacation and the rest of the Crew otherwise engaged at work and such, I headed over solo on Saturday to get my paws on this year’s anniversary ale. The aroma blasts off with dank grapefruit and orange zest, culminating in lightly sweet, freshly mowed clover on the initial nose. A lovely crisp bitterness on the finish cleans the palate with each sip.

Some mellow hints of spiced orange as used in my family’s traditional Yuletide wassail (an orange is halved and then covered with whole cloves like a pincushion before adding to the cider and other spices) make a brief appearance mid-palate before fading back into soft notes of candied lemon and more dank cannabis notes.

The mouthfeel is chewy, like breakfast oatmeal, though I think this may be from the use of flaked wheat rather than oats in this particular beer (I could be wrong, but both oats and wheat are quite common in this style to lend the beer a silky body that we have come to expect). Quite enjoyable through and through, whether for breakfast or a lazy summer’s eve.

Justin and his crew have knocked it outta the park with this collaborative effort for their fourth anniversary. This Lupulin-hazed style is best consumed as quickly as possible before the delicate hop oils fade from the bouquet of the aroma, so if you are interested, grab it now before it disappears. They also made some cool shirts with the bottle label design, so grab some swag while you’re at it and go fight a Bear in Space!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Not sure of what beers to pick up for your BBQ? Unsure of how to quench your palate on that hike far into the mountains? We’ve got you covered! Here you will find some of the latest beers from around the state to pick up in cans, bottles, or bombers to take home. Find these offerings at their respective breweries or fine beer sellers around the state!

THE BEER: Raspberry Dynamite

THE BREWERY: Steel Bender Brewing

(more…)

We do barrel-aged stout verticals properly. They have to pass a rigorous inspection.

We in the Brew Crew had so much fun doing our review of last year’s KBS from Founders Brewing that we decided to renew our fealty to the lord of bourbon, chocolate, and coffee with a four-year tasting, spanning 2015 to 2018 vintages of the stout much beloved of us in the Crew. Without further ado …

Solo: Here we go again.

Nomicon: (speaking to the microphone) Is this thing on, man?

Luke: Hey, Luke showed up to this one.

(Laughter ensues)

Nomicon: The last one (our somewhat recent Ska Face Barleywine review) wasn’t that incoherent.

Solo: No, we were fine. You were just wearing a winter scarf indoors with the heat on and then this delicious sandwich was born.

The sandwich in question is called the Jumanji, and consists of mayo and croutons among other ingredients. We always wonder where we left the Jumanji parked for some reason. But, I digress.

Nomicon: Fucking seasoned herb croutons, man! 

Solo: Well, yeah, it worked out.

Nomicon: I bought an extra package of seasoned herb croutons even though I have a package already. I don’t know why I keep ending up with more packages of croutons.

Solo: Do you want more?

Nomicon: No, I do not want more. I am set on croutons. Instead of rose petals I’m going to sprinkle croutons on my bed. You know girls like that type of thing.

Solo: Crouton bed?

Nomicon: Yeah, crouton bed. Bed of croutons. (After looking at something online) Whoahoahoa…

Solo: The Founders’ rum ham beer? (For those who did not see it, Founders’ April Fools day joke beers were Rum Ham IPA and Milk Steak Stout)

Nomicon: The Abyss rum barrel variant, ham.

Stout: It’s the new version of rum ham, what kind of rum ham is this? Abyss rum ham!

Nomicon: The rum ham stares into you.

Solo: It just needed a little more, uh … injection! Eeeeeeeeeeee. (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference to the adrenochrome) Dude, your head will swell up like a watermelon, you’re about to explode! And, you will sound like a raccoon!

At long last, we begin our KBS journey with the 2015 vintage:

Solo: Aroma of bourbon and soy sauce. Soy sauce ain’t bad at all.

Stout: Hint of dark chocolate.

Solo: It all sort of melts together. 

Luke: Yeah, it (individual components of the beer) doesn’t stick out. 

Solo: It definitely has that aged, tannic quality, kind of like the very end of a cabernet or something. 

Various tangential ramblings ensue wherein we discuss the finer points of Dark Lord Day and ponder feasting.

Nomicon: Yeah, I’ll wrap a turkey in bacon and you make the rum ham!

Solo: Deal!

Nomicon: Yeah, this is really rich.

Luke: It has held up pretty well.

Stout: Yeah, I’d say so, you can kind of taste it a little in the mouthfeel, where it is a little thinner. 

Solo: Yeah, it has mellowed. Just sort of …

Nomicon: Sessionable. 

Luke: We would call KBS sessionable. 

Nomicon: It has the flavor of the dark chocolate, but it doesn’t go down like dark chocolate. 

Solo: No, and it doesn’t attack the mid-palate like this beer did last year.

Luke: It hits you up front and then slowly fades back.

Stout: I think the most notable thing is how minimal the coffee is. 

Nomicon: Yeah, the coffee is not distinguishable. It’s a good oak finish, there’s a nice barrel finish.

Solo: You get that vanilla from the oak.

Stout: A little heat up front and then the oaky vanilla on the back. 

Solo: Just a nice, mild burn as it goes down. Last year this had a lot more of the barrel presence. This actually starts to remind me a bit more of the chocolate flavor in stouts from the Bruery, because they have that subtle warming chocolate presence to them, and that’s exactly what this in character reminds me of. 

Nomicon: There’s still the dark chocolate as it warms, but also kind of a cocoa (flavor). I wouldn’t say cocoa powder, but something kind of like that. I wish this was a little more coating because that mouthfeel is just a little thin, but that’s totally fine. I mean, the flavors are still on point. This year is definitely more chocolate forward.

Solo: At this point. 

Nomicon: The booze didn’t mellow at all.

Solo: No, it shouldn’t.

Nomicon: If anything I get more of the bourbon notes. That definitely pops through on the finish on the mid-palate. Kind of a bourbon explosion, along with the chocolate, and then the finish is all earthy with the oaky notes. The vanilla and everything like that kind of lingers around. I’d say it held up well though. 

On to the 2016 vintage!

Luke: This has a little more rich texture to the head, a little darker brown.

Nomicon: That smells hotter than the ’15 did.

Luke: I would even say spicier, but not really spicy per se. 

Solo: The weird thing is this one was just super mellow chocolate last year.

Nomicon: OK, so coffee is pulling forward.

Solo: This one is definitely changing, lots of chocolate and hot bourbon.

We then went off topic discussing some of the Prairie Bomb variants which are also among our favorite imperial stouts. 

Solo: This has a little bit of a smokiness to it almost, kind of like a scotch, just a hair. That might just be from the barrels.

Luke: It almost feels like it has a tiny bit of ancho chile around the end, but not that prominent. It has that little rounded flavor where it goes up in intensity at the end. 

Nomicon: So I’m getting more coffee out of this one than the last one, where the coffee was virtually nonexistent. It is definitely still there in this one, and this still has the same kind of effect that I got on the last one around mid-palate, where it bursts a bit of bourbon and then it is finishing with less oakiness, and I’m getting a bit more hotness on the finish. 

Luke: I’m getting less vanilla, like where you add vanilla to cocoa, and I’m getting more of a burn.

Solo: Which in this case is fantastic. 

Nomicon: Yeah, it’s hotter. It’s not like the last one where I got more earthy oak and vanilla notes and not as much bourbon. This one I definitely get more of the bourbon … Limes? Are those limes?

Solo: We have limes, do you want some limes with your KBS?

Luke: It’s a KBS libre! That should be their next April Fools Day beer.

Solo: Unleash the fucking fury!

Luke: Release the Kraken!

Solo: Somewhere E-Rock, his ears are burning…

Stout: The call of my people!

Nomicon: They need me! They need me!

Further rambling ensues including a retelling of the breaking of a fence, breakfast ribs, and Stout Challenge VII. We then went off into the main nerve of Fear and Loathing, as is proper, and according to our nature, and then finally returned to the delicious task at hand.

Luke: This felt like it was more cohesive, more whole. The ’15 felt like the flavors were more strung out.

Nomicon: This one’s more balanced than the last one. The other one was more chocolate forward. I’d say there were a couple of different layers of chocolate in there.

Luke: Definitely a little oxidation in the last one, but I don’t feel like there’s much of that in this one. 

Nomicon: And, that could’ve just been that specific bottle, too, but it wasn’t overwhelming by any means. 

Solo: No, just a hint. It was starting to oxidize more prominently, but didn’t do any real detriment. 

Luke: I definitely wasn’t licking wet cardboard with that one.

Solo: No wet cardboard, no bandaids, or other off flavors.

Luke: That was good, I like that. Two years then seems to be best (for aging).

What follows is some *unintelligible gibberish* and barnyard noises from all of us in a call and response, not unlike the howling of aeons between demons of a certain ilk which I will not utter here.

Solo: Old man yells at cloud.

Nomicon: OK, I almost just yanked myself back with my nose.

Solo: How many croutons did you have?

Nomicon: Four.

On to the 2017 vintage. The demonic gibberish which had subsided for a moment, suddenly returns and consumes us in a wave of anticipation of our dark and delicious third offering of the evening.

Nomicon: Yow, that smells fucking boozy.

More noises indicating something of approval commence.

Luke: It’s thicker. This one is chewier for sure.

Solo: This has that wonderful bitter chocolate that hits right before you get the barrel. 

Stout: It’s probably the most balanced one we’ve had so far.

Nomicon: So it’s not as hot as it warms up. It was hot in the nose and on the palate at first, but definitely calmed down, but still more chocolate forward. Actually, (it was) more chocolate forward than even the last one.

Luke: More chocolate forward than the ’16, I agree.

Nomicon: The ’16 was more coffee forward in character.

Luke: I would say there were more highs and lows in terms of mouthfeel in the ’16 than in the ’17.

Stout: As far as the heat goes, I’d say the heat is balanced.

Nomicon: I’d say that’s the one thing that’s been consistent as far as the aging and the qualities that you get from the barrel aging, I get booziness in all of them. 

Luke: Which is the booziest so far in your opinion?

Nomicon: I’d say the ’16 so far is the booziest. ’17 wasn’t quite to that level. It was still boozy, but I would still say that the ’16 was a little more boozy from an overall perspective, not just from alcohol warming or the like. Strictly from a standpoint of all of the qualities from barrel aging I get a lot of bourbon. I didn’t get as much of the oaky barrel flavors or vanilla. This one (the ’17) gives a lot more chocolate, so it is kind of like the ’16 was when we tasted it last year with it being so chocolate forward. 

Our conversation then turned to the finer points of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels versus Snatch, which went on for some time.

Cheers to KBS for bringing us together, cheers to the memory of our fallen brother.

At long last, we persisted in our efforts and made it to the 2018 vintage to conclude our tasting. With our final glasses in hand, we raised one up to our dearly departed friend Justin Shearer and shared a moment of silence in his honor.

Solo: Too weird to live, too rare to die. 

More grunting of an excited nature ensues as we dipped our snouts into the dark mist of the aroma wafting off the surface of our goblets. 

Solo: (In a nod to this last season of Twin Peaks) Cooooo-feeeee?

Luke: Oh man, that’s sharp.

Nomicon: Rich as shit.

Stout: Jeebus.

Solo: Wow. 

Nomicon: Yeah, that’s a rich motherfucker.

Stout: My god.

Solo: Yep, this is what I expected.

Nomicon: It’s really rich, but that’s a lot of coffee actually, too. It’s got the most coffee out of the four.

Solo: The coffee seems to fade year by year. Last year’s when it was fresh had a lot of coffee, and after a year of sitting it just chilled out. But, this is probably the most balanced vintage I’ve had out of the five years I’ve tried fresh. Because the others have all been a little bit where one flavor is more forward than the others. In this case, it hits the nail on the fucking head. 

Luke: I was looking at these beers like, everyone has their flavor spikes, one had the spike in the front but the dip in the end, some had their spikes in the middle, this one is just …

Solo: Unctuous. 

Luke: Yeah, everything is just up, down, here, there, all over your palate.

Solo: This one is consistent, but it does undulate forward, a little bit in the middle, and it just hits right off the back.

Luke: Yeah, because you can taste very much the barrel aged and everything else.

Solo: You get your chocolate, you get your fucking coffee, your barrel, you get your stout. You can taste a little bit of the malted grains themselves in there, too.

Luke: It’s a full-flavored beer for sure. 

Solo: Might be a pain in the ass to brew, but damn it’s delicious.

Nomicon: We need to find a cave to age a stout in. 

Solo: You’re not wrong, we could make our own cave.

Nomicon: We could …

Solo: I have … land!

Laughter ensues followed by the sounds of the Bren Gun blasting at full volume in the background and drowning us all out as we were watching Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels at the time.

Luke: That should be the end of our tasting.

More laughter.

Nomicon: And, end scene.

Solo: That was the Bren Gun!

Stout: Aaaaaand we’re back!

Nomicon: Yep, that was the Bren Gun. The bourbon’s more forward on this one, too. It’s less mellow and more like you are drinking something that’s been sitting with bourbon. It’s been playing well, it’s been playing nice, but not that nice. 

Solo: It’s got that lovely little bit of almost caramel/crystal malt flavor from the bourbon that’s just beautifully cutting through the bitter chocolate, the somewhat astringent but not overly astringent black malts.

Nomicon: I think it’s got a little more roast and a little bit of other notes coming out. A little bit of leather coming out.

Solo: Hell bent for leather.

Luke: A little leather and tobacco.

Nomicon: Denim and leather!

Solo: Have we got a traffic warden?

We then rambled on the topic of upcoming metal shows including Goatwhore (May 11) concluding with the upcoming Converge appearance in our neck of the woods.

Nomicon: I am going to murder so many fucking people. 

Solo: That’s definitely going in the article.

Nomicon: I haven’t been to a Converge show in years and the last time I did I broke my fucking ribs at that show because someone fucking kicked me. I was still fucking jumping on stage. 

Solo: I think we finally got the KBS that we were told existed, the one that was hinted at, whispered about, the unicorn. This is all melded together wonderfully.

Luke: Ahab’s whale.

We then descended into a chaotic maelstrom of conversation, including our favorite Avery stouts, more metal, and so on and so forth. What did you expect? It’s us. Well, that about does it for this year’s mini KBS vertical and review. Our overall consensus is that you should go forth and procure the ’18 posthaste and enjoy the beastly stout in all of its burly glory, ere the coffee fades and the monster loses some of its rage. From all of us at Darkside we wish you eternal hails and good ales!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Resinous hops abide behind the haze at Red Door

Posted: April 23, 2018 by Franz Solo in Beer Review
Tags:

Get thee to Red Door for a pint of New England IPA while it lasts!

Franz Solo checking in. I just happened to try the first new beer to come from Red Door’s new brewer Matt Meier (full feature on him is coming Tuesday, FYI) and I enjoyed it so thoroughly as to inspire a springtime outburst of my so called “Viking Poetry” or some such rubbish. What follows is my encounter with the simply-titled New England IPA (no sports affiliation of any kind, as I was happily informed) from Red Door, which checks in at over 100 IBU and in the 7-percent ABV echelon. 

As I began my lupulin escapades on Friday the 20th of April, after a brew day for Battle of the Beer Geeks at Tractor in the morning, I procured my first pint and dove headfirst into a veritable galaxy of hops. The aroma is of a melange consisting of tangerines, lemons, Spanish orange trees (reminding me of the gardens at the Alhambra), and ruby red grapefruit, melded with cannabis-like resins to finish it off. Sort of a lemon haze or orange kush comes to mind, if you catch my drift on the 1620, or was it 710 reversed? Never mind.

Grapefruit finishes off each draught, and the kind of pith that lingers with notes of tangerine rind. This has a lovely mouthfeel from start to finish, with a strong mellow front, a mid-palate that builds to the dry, wonderfully bitter finish. It’s the best of both worlds, where this deftly balances between a New Mexico-style hop bomb, and also a silky East Coast juice bomb. Lots of dank pine on the aroma swims around the edges with a strong kick of almost orange dreamsicle in the middle.

One can also take the New England IPA home and enjoy it outdoors on a pleasant spring afternoon.

This is my kind of beer in the hoppy vein, resins flowing from the fingertips, loads of West Coast gargle blaster hops straight outta … er… what day is this? Is this Saturday? Clearly my assignment had gotten the better of my attorney; he was off jabbering about reptiles as we were bumping old gangsta rap circa ‘92. The wave crested and flowed back for a moment. This beer, it rides like a smooth drag at high speed with the top down, just enjoying the open air and some damn fine scenery. The forest of citrus-themed hops was combined and blended, and then it went on a vision quest, and when it returned like in a haze we dazed in the hammock of early spring winds and the rain and my thoughts were given over to a long-desired wandering. Yes.

The finish is all grapefruit and cannabis resin, as dank and bitter as you demand, you who are bitter and you like it (we know who we are). Slight lemon notes as an ending here as well, much akin to the grapefruit beyond grapefruit onward to the edge of bitterness. The front end of this is a blast of juice, but the back two-thirds are an old-school swing for the fences explosion of hops. This reminds me of burly Two Hearted from Bell’s meets fresh-squeezed hop juice (if only that was a thing). In my opinion, this is the brunch of hop drinks suitable for a luxurious weekend out in a hammock, enjoying the twitter of spring birds and mild breezes. Much like our native spring, however, it will not last long, so grab a pint and breathe deeply while you enjoy this aromatic delight.

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Nom nom barleywine!

Thanks to our friends at Ska Brewing in Durango, we in the crew were delighted recipients of a bottle of their barrel-aged Ska Face Barleywine. A quorum of Stoutmeister, myself (Franz Solo), and Cryptogrind gathered to enjoy this lovely winter warmer.

Take note, Ska Face will be available today (Friday) from 5 to 8 p.m. at Sister as part of a tap takeover by the brewery. Also available are Sour Apple Gose, Pink Vapor Stew, True Blonde, and Bad Hop Contract.

To help everyone make up their minds as to whether or not to attend, we present our rambling discourse from Tuesday evening.

Crypt: I can smell the booze on this from here.

Solo: Holy hell! Bourbon!

Crypt: Bourbon, dried fruit, you get raisin right away.

Solo: Oh yeah, that tart, whiskey sour mash kind of flavor. It’s a little floral initially, too.

Crypt: Smells like corn!

(Laughter ensues.)

Stout: Korn!

Solo: Delicious creamed corn!

Crypt: Not the corn! Ah, Willie’s gonna have his legs broke!

(Further laughter ensues.)

Stout: That’s delicious.

Crypt: On a different level, layers of sweetness.

Solo: You get tart, and then sweet, and then earthy, and then yummy.

Crypt: So the booze I don’t get a lot on the palate, honestly. It’s not overly hot like it kind of smells like it should be. But, it’s pretty complex in the flavor, because there’s a ton of whiskey right up front, but it doesn’t burn. You get a ton of oak and sour whiskey comes through.

Solo: Vanilla is starting to come through a lot as well.

Crypt: There’s like five different kinds of sweetness there with a little bit of caramel, and it’s like if the huckleberries were too tart, you just dust them with confectioner’s sugar, that kind of thing.

Stout: It is not overly chewy, but I still like the mouthfeel.

Solo: Yeah, it fills the mouth, but it is not a single blast at any spot. Rather, it coats everything.

Stout: It does linger and in a good way; there’s not a bad aftertaste to this at all.

Crypt: It has this light toffee and caramel sweetness light coating that’s really nice.

Stout: It’s more the beer itself and not necessarily the barrel.

Solo: And, it just warms you so nicely. It gives me that little bit of chest burn like you get from a good whiskey or strong winter ale.

Crypt: What kind of yeast did they use in this? I’m getting different kind of fruity notes in the finish that are just really neat.

Stout: Well, it’s an English-style yeast that they use up there.

Crypt: It is pretty unique as far as the finish goes.

Solo: Yeah, it is kind of like the dried cherries that my dad has from his yard, but sweeter like they were injected with huckleberries.

Crypt: We should put that on a banana splice, er split.

(We proceed to discuss excellent sci-fi movies including Blade Runner 2049 and The Cell before returning to the task at hand.)

The bottle even came with this handy sheet of fun facts.

Stout: Thank you, Ska.

Solo: Yes, thank you, Ska. The beer smells sweeter than it actually tastes, likely from the slight tart sourness of the whiskey barrel that balances with what would be otherwise a very, very sweet beer.

Stout: Agreed.

Crypt: Purple monkey dishwasher.

Stout: Drink this while skiing Purgatory! This is very much a winter skiing beer.

Crypt: I’d wash it down with a tall, cool glass of hot dog. Wait …

(The late, great Harry Caray then enters discussion, as is typical of these gatherings, and we rambled a bit about the delicious brews and food available in Chicago.)

In conclusion, among barrel-aged barleywines this one is a strong and unique example of a tart and medium sweet, English-style winter warmer, with many distinct and delightful notes of vanilla, sour whiskey, and various dried fruits. The flavor and aroma linger with the best of ’em and the mouthfeel is excellent. We heartily recommend you seek this quintessential winter skiing/snowboarding beer.

Thanks, once again, to our friends at Ska Brewing for sending us a sample!

Skål!

— Solo, Stoutmeister, Cryptogrind

Stoutmeister gazes upon the glory of Bosque’s Rio Vallecitos. Or he’s reacting to Arizona’s football season already going down the drain, wondering if the hops can save him.

The advent of fall is near upon us, and the time of the harvest for all things green and good has begun in earnest. The season of the malt draws ever closer, but we are in the best days for some of the juiciest and most sought after IPAs in the land. For those of you who have not yet tried a “wet hopped” beer to date, and are of the IPA proclivity, then you are in for a treat over the coming weeks.

There are a number of different ways in which hops are added to our beers. Primarily you will have dry hop pellets as your main hop source in most beers, while occasionally, during harvest season in particular, you will have the opportunity to add fresh picked hops for an entirely distinct experience. Three breweries here in the Duke city currently have wet-hopped IPAs available, but they will assuredly not last very long in this land of hops and green chile.

Bosque has a good history with these types of IPAs, owing to the success of Acequia IPA at the Great American Beer Festival (three medals total, including a gold in 2015), and this year they have gone all out with a series of four wet-hopped IPAs slated to come out over the next few weeks. Rio Vallecitos DIPA is their first entry in the series and clocks in at a sessional 8.8-percent ABV and 95 IBUs. The aroma is of sweet lemon and caracara orange, with a hint of peppery thyme that is simply lovely. Flavor-wise, we begin with a clean, peppery bitter start, juicy citrus with a bit of melon, tangerine, and pine spice to finish.

Get it on tap, or get it to go!

La Cumbre has released a wet-hopped version of our beloved Elevated, which is available both on draft and in bombers. Wet Hopped Elevated clocks in at 7.2-percent ABV and 100-plus IBUs. This one is pure dank, like the cannabis cousin of the hop, which shares in the same harvest time. The aroma is pure weed, while the flavor matches the aroma perfectly with that sweet golden elixir and juicy cannabis with a clean sweet finish.

Quarter Celtic has also just entered the fray with a wet-hopped version of Clark containing barely two-day-old freshly harvested hops from Colorado. This hazy variant clocks in at an immensely quaffable 6-percent ABV and 60 IBUs, which is on the slightly sweeter side of the IPA style. The aroma is of orange and kush straight out of the mountains. Flavor-wise, this one goes all the way back with orange and lemon kush resins flying from the devil’s fingertips … er, something.

All that haze on the left is Fresh Hop Clark, while the original version is available for comparison.

Go forth and procure these quickly as they will be gone like the last days of summer in but an instant!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Get your hands on TKO Triple IPA before it disappears from Boxing Bear!

Editor’s note: In honor of National IPA Day, we present a two-for-one IPA review from our resident chief hophead. Both beers are still on tap at the Bear, along with Tropic Thunder IPA, Eastern Standard IPA, and of course Uppercut IPA. — Stoutmeister

On a couple of recent forays to Boxing Bear, I had the pleasure of indulging in two of the full five IPAs they currently have on tap. TKO Triple IPA is their third-anniversary ale available on draft and in bombers, and this version of Bear Knuckle IPA is the 2017 IPA Challenge winner and has previously made the final four of the National IPA Challenge. What follows is my own take on both of these lovely offerings in the prime season of the great hop in our fair land.

TKO Triple IPA

A pure and solid knockout whether by hop blast, or by the subtle and somewhat insidious assault of strong malts of this 11’er most certainly live up to its name. We begin with an aroma of sweet orange, kush, pine, tropical fruits, and a hint of oak on the nose of this one with a small wash of warm honey malt alcohol. Sweet, slightly overripe mango, lemon, kush, and berry notes punctuate the flavor, with dry, semi-bitter grapefruit at the ultimate threshold between sips.

This is a summer sipper which to my palate will go down as one of the more memorable anniversary brews to grace my lips in some time. One could argue that we haven’t had a true triple IPA burst onto the scene in our town since the advent of the Nelsons at La Cumbre several years back.

This is a wholly different spectrum from your typical New Mexican-style IPA. Far more malt presence is here to balance with and accentuate the wonderful hops it possesses. Primarily, this is encompassed by American pale malts and some of the mid-range caramel malts which lend some sweet honey character, as though taken fresh from the hive and added to this creation. Citra, Ekuanot, and Mosaic, among others (just a wee few hop additions into well nigh bat country levels), provide quite the melange of delightful flavors and bitters as the case may be.

A deep golden ale which hearkens to the golden roof of the golden hall of Odin, and to the great golden horde of Smaug the Terrible, stolen from the people of Thorin Oakenshield, our senses are transported to the realm of imagination nigh paradise. Whether by fire pit or by hearth, TKO would well deserve a place in a good drinking horn, shared among the best of company with the metal turned as high as the sparks of the stars in the heavens above. Procure this gem of a beer as quick as you can, as it will probably not last long (at least if I have any say in the matter).

While I was enjoying TKO, I also happened to try a pint of this year’s Bear Knuckle IPA, which deserved some words of writ on its own merit.

Bear Knuckle IPA

Your two-time NM IPA Challenge winner.

This version begins with an absolute killer aroma, akin to cannabis, loads of golden resin, and skunk will clear your sinuses on the scent alone. There are hints of mango and a strong presence of orange in there as well, but mostly just the dankest, stickiest … er, beer! Right! On only a few occasions has a beer lived up to such a grandiose aroma (I could smell my pint at home, which was in the living room while I was across the room in the kitchen), and this is absolutely bonafide.

The recent NABA bronze-medal-winning batch of Uppercut IPA, to my mind, was part of the inspiration for this iteration of Bear Knuckle, namely loads and loads of Simcoe among other hops giving that skunk as none other. But, that is where Uppercut and Bear Knuckle diverge, as there are many folds of blanketed orange, tropical fruits, and blueberry hints enveloped in this light amber-colored ale. Quite a measure of sweet mango and caracara orange comes out as this hop lover’s delight warms, so do give it some chance to sit while you imbibe. Part of the surprise of this beer (how well the aroma and flavor match is one surprise) is just how well the malts hold up after such an assault from damn well plaid (faster than ludicrous speed) hopping. The finish tastes like grapefruit and golden resin, fit for a golden hall that leaves you like a good firery salsa, demanding more and more.

Procure these quickly my friends, ere the hops fade and the season of the malt draws nigh!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

A summer jaunt to Quarter Celtic

Posted: July 24, 2017 by Franz Solo in Beer Review
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Clark is back and juicier than ever.

Editor’s note: Somebody was supposed to finish his Hops Brewery article the other night. Instead, he ended up reviewing the beers he was drinking while not really working on that. I guess I’ll let it slide. — S

I suppose it was just to be, as I headed to Quarter Celtic on rumors of an even more “Juiced” version of Clark IPA, and happened upon a lovely Berliner Weiße as well.

Clark Juiced* IPA

Grapefruit and tangerine aroma with sweet orange. Wonderful full flavor elements of juicy Valencia orange, sweet lemon, and grapefruit pith. Hints of fresh pine from the hops takes my palate to the frosted forests of the northern realms, with a soundtrack of Wintersun and Wolfheart. This is an incredibly quaffable IPA of the eastern slant, with the local 505 high explosives of hops very much present to carry your palate beyond the bitter realms to the warm lands of the Desert Vipers and Dornish … er, Granada, Spain. The gardens of the Alhambra with oranges dripping from the trees, and rows of roses of every color and scent you could imagine. That is where I am transported to in this moment with this last pint of the dying day. Ride forth in numbers and storm the gates, er, doors and procure this gem of a beer before it fades like summer into autumn.

It’s a stoplight of deliciousness!

While you bathe your tastebuds and olfactory senses in the hops of the Clark, or perhaps before, try a lovely Berliner Weiße with classic flavorings and quaff your thirst in the heat of July. This traditional German-style sour of light alcohol, and thus immensely quaffable proportions, is just the ticket at the end of a good, honest day toiling in the sun. A cool, crisp concoction with two flavoring options (raspberry and woodruff) is sure to please your parched palate in these days of the unpredictable monsoon and spectacular sunsets. A quintessential post-yard-work beer, this Berliner Weiße finishes quite crisp on its own, clearing the throats of the dusty dryness of our desert home after a hard day in the sun. We have two distinct variations with the pair of flavor additions, so try one of each and discover what you like best.

There are more of these seasonal brews which beg trying, but the time of this day is spent, so I entreat you to go forth and enjoy what your heart desires of any of these, be it the Berliner, the Juiced* Clark, or another. May your beers ne’er empty, nor your mirth ever fade.

Until we meet again,

Skål!

— Franz Solo

El Jugo, a beer so good even Stoutmeister’s hop-fearing relatives were enjoying it!

As this is the season of the zenith in hop dominance in our fair land, Brandon and I, Franz Solo, took it upon ourselves to seek out new hops and new hopilizations. We boldly went … (cue Beastie Boys’ Sabotage while tooling along in a fire apple red Trans Am circa 1970 with T-Tops) to the edge of hops and back, and what follows is our tale — The Tale of Sir Hopsilot.

We began our quest in the fair lands of La Cumbre, where we found the juices flowing with the freshest of batches of El Jugo and the hop maidens well …

La Cumbre El Jugo

Franz Solo: Aroma of orange and citrus juice, with a hair of Simcoe. Tastes just like the name says, Jugo, juice. That makes me think about breakfast, and well, this is an excellent breakfast beer. Light mouthfeel and quite tart. Floral and refreshing. Name a common tropical or semi-tropical fruit and you could quite well make the argument for finding a little of this flavor, a little of that flavor, and so on and so forth. This isn’t quite one style nor another established style, we’ve gone out on our own, pure gonzo hops, er … maybe you could just shove me into … Madness. Well, crisp fresh as hell hop madness that is.

I dig it, not really New England not really NM, doing what it wants according to the whims of the great magnet.

These come in four packs, so I had a second chance, and third, and fourth to pontificate the luscious and well juicy …

Second go-round: Still juicy, sweet then tart as the name and label suggest. Even after a Stone Ruinten, I can still taste the layers of pithy citrus flesh hops of this magnificent fresh offering to the hop gods. Somewhere between the Elevated and the Dank and the Nelson twins (Father and Full) is where the theme of this beer lies. Fresh and filled with life like a summer morning, the color of the marigolds on my back patio, both French and African varieties transfigured from the apprehension of color into the sense of taste, with vigorous young and a lively passion. That is what this tastes like to me.

Brandon’s notes: El Good-o … er, El Jugo, is a beer that could convert my previous bias against this style. Pleasantly fragrant, citrus notes of lemon and a mild floral bouquet, not dank or pungent, but still lets you know it has hops. The palate is, as Franz said and the name implies, juicy. A fresh squeezed glass o’ goodness. Could be part of a balanced breakfast in my house. Drinks easily, light malt base makes for an easy drinking and surprisingly clean finishing beer for this variety of beer.

From the fair lands of La Cumbre we headed north to the mountains of old Santa Fe, where we found an IPA on the very peaks of old Baldy where the elk do dwell. Of the 7k, this is our summation.

Santa Fe 7k

Just looking at 7K you can almost smell that beautiful aroma through your screen.

Franz Solo: On to being so high right now … er, 7k to be precise. Sweet orange tangerine with some dank overtones, and undertones/throughtones/betweentones, and so on and so forth. A little berry and a hint of pine to finish the aroma and flavor both. Flavor is crisp and carries back with a hair of sweet orange grapefruit, mid to front, that permeates the onslaught. A bit of lemon or some sourish lemongrass punctuate this splendid new unique addition to the ranks of such venerated offerings as (in no particular order) La Cumbre’s Elevated, Tractor’s Almanac, and Marble’s IPA as year-round hop offerings readily accessible to us in the Duke City. Initial aroma is like a mango peach, second can in. There are some very nice cannabis-esque notes smack in the middle of this delight. Very bright beer that has an abundance of hop character, yet remains quite quaffable. This takes me back to the summertime in the mountains around Santa Fe, circa the early 2000s, quaffing some of those first groundbreaking IPAs after a hard day of work. Grab a sixer of this and climb up Mount Atalaya or Santa Fe Baldy and take some 7k even higher.

Brandon’s notes: Let’s get down to brass tacks — how much for all of the 7k available? Because I wish to drink it all. This has to win a special award just for its aromatics, because those slight lemongrass, pineapple, and floral notes are outstanding. The body is pure grapefruit, pineapple, and some mango punch as well. Finishes extra clean, crisp, and a subtle malt base gives a good backing. SFBC crafted an excellent IPA here.

From the mountains of old Santa Fe, our quest took us east to the haven of the Dogfish, where strange brewings are known to occur.

Dogfish Head Romantic Chemistry

Weird? Well, yeah, it’s a Dogfish Head beer.

Franz Solo: Like 60-minute with an apricot nose, peach, and just a hint of ginger. For a sessionable East Coast variant, this ain’t half bad. At least the fruit is not cloying, but I’d like a more prominent showing from some of my favorite things. Fond memories from childhood of my maternal grandfather’s apricot trees in the summer, when we’d run around in the sprinklers, which were fed off the well he dug himself in the North Valley. The mango does blend extremely well with the apricot, I must say, and the light kick of ginger finishes with a nice bright flourish. It’s no doubt the Burqueno in me wants to take this beer and increase basically every flavor present by a factor of three or more. Overall, an interesting and tasty experience.

From the Atlantic, we headed to the Pacific to find the great Gargoyle of Stone Brewing, legendary beast of the grand mosh pit of hops, to see what offering he had in store for us.

Stone Ruinten with Orange Peel and Vanilla Bean

Zing! Pow! Stone, you have done it again.

Franz Solo: Smells like a sweet, hoppy dreamsicle. Loads of slightly bitter orange rind gives way to the veritable mosh pit of good old bitter hops that are the signature of the behemoth, and are wrapped in sweet vanilla, which punctuates the afterburners. I do mean afterburners like the afterglow … er … a plethora of tangy citrus and pine woven in a tapestry of sweet black vanilla. As one who enjoyed first Stone IPA, then Ruination, and at last Ruinten in the early 2000s, this is somewhat of a curveball, which I’m entirely sure will be a delight to some and a dreadful letdown to others. When they added orange and vanilla they went full on Crime and Punishment status (some of my favorite spicy-as-hell ales, check the archives if you want a more detailed description of the experience of each) and, well, I definitely enjoy a dreamsicle, always have. As I delve deeper and slake my thirst on this scorcher of a day, ye olde mosh pit of hops starts to begin to resemble what I know lurks in these golden depths. The deception of this beer when cold and after a half hour or so quite amuses me, actually. We have our old friend in what at first taste is a nice, sweet vanilla-hopped ale, but what emerges is a delightful and brutal bitter twist, like showing up for a blues band and getting some full on black metal blasted in your face in hop form. I dig this spicy, almost peppery orange pine odd fellow. Now for the rub. I as a person love strange and bold variations on a theme. Now, would I take this over a straight on Ruinten? Well, depends on the day, really. Some will agree, some disagree, but hell, variety maketh life worth living, and I’m maybe a little inspired to make some damn crazy sounding and tasting beers of my own, drinking in the vein of this year’s locally available Ruinten. If you want something familiar, have a 505 staple local IPA. You want to buy the ticket, take the ride, and go on a taste adventure, then have at you!

Brandon’s notes: I’ve become acclimated to the past editions of Ruinten, so having a variant with orange peel and vanilla bean was slightly jarring. At first, the aroma is all zest, pine, and subtle grapefruit … not bad so far. But, upon the first few sips, I felt the need to punch drywall; all I got initially was heavy, bitter orange peel, some Northwestern earthy/pine notes, and a touch of lime zest as well. This has always been a beer that punches you hard with a ton of IBUs, but my initial impressions weren’t favorable. But, good things take time; as it opened up over about 10 to 15 minutes, the orange citrus and vanilla bean notes popped a lot more. At this point, you will get more of an orange soda/vanilla float with an overload of hops experience. Doesn’t sound good? It actually is. Just remember to let it open in your glass and you will have a solid triple IPA experience.

* * * * *

We returned, at long last, to our homeland, where we found the following challengers to the throne of pure hops, the very Graal of hops for us, as it were.

Current local offerings are as follows:

Challenge IPA 3, Bosque

Don’t Call it a Comeback IPA, Bosque

Bear Knuckle IPA, Boxing Bear

(Forthcoming) TKO Triple IPA, Boxing Bear

Lucha Lupulin IPA, Canteen

Juiced Gondola Party, Quarter Celtic

Project El CuCuy DIPA, The 377 Brewery

Up north in Santa Fe:

Gatekeeper IPA, Blue Corn

#19 IPA, Second Street

We suggest you go out and enjoy these listed, and all the rest of the advancing IPAs from the grand duel of the IPA Challenge, for this foul year of our dark lord, 2017, and dance with the fair green hop dragon!

I entreat you all to relish in this time of the great jousting of hop-laden warhorses and explore not only our fair New Mexico, but the hops of the great beyond. May your palates be never overcome with bitterness, and your hop aromas ever divine, for this is the season of the great Graal of the Lupulin, and we the Knights of the Venerated Hops. Drink well of the hop bombs, and I’ll see you all at the finals of this year’s New Mexico IPA Challenge!

Skål!

— Franz Solo