Posts Tagged ‘Big Sky Brewing’

Beer festivals are usually held at hotels, casinos, convention centers, parking lots, and a whole lot of other nondescript places. So whoever thought “we should have a festival at the ABQ BioPark Zoo” deserves a medal. One of the most unique settings we have ever heard of will host Lions, Tigers, & Beers this Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m.

Grab a brew at the zoo!

Grab a brew at the zoo!

Proceeds will benefit the ABQ BioPark Society, a non-profit group that supports the Zoo, Aquarium, Botanical Garden, and Tingley Beach. You can purchase your tickets online. For $25 you get a sampling glass, beer samples, and admission to the Zoo, plus there will be food available for separate purchase. For $45 you get Suds and Grub, which gets you both food and beer. Taking a big group? A six-pack of tickets can be had for a discounted $135. There is also a $10 designated driver ticket. This is a 21-and-over-only event, so sorry, you can’t let the kids wave at the lions while you sample IPAs.

As we do with any festival preview, we get a list of the participating breweries and a list of the beers they’re bringing. Only Ponderosa Brewing did not have a list for the event organizers, but they said on Facebook they are bringing four beers (hopefully one of those will be their new pumpkin beer).

Here’s who’s coming and what they are reportedly bringing.

Abbey Brewing: Monks’ Ale, Monks’ Tripel

Ace Ciders: Perry Cider, Joker Cider, Pumpkin Cider

Big Sky: Moose Drool Brown Ale, Slow Elk Oatmeal Stout, Scape Goat Pale Ale

Black Diamond: White Witch IPA, Mosaic IPA

Boulder: Shake Chocolate Porter, Hazed & Infused, Sweaty Betty

Breckenridge: Vanilla Porter, Lucky U IPA

Bridgeport: Kingpin Red, Trilogy #2 IPA

Deschutes: Fresh Squeezed IPA, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Twilight Ale

Full Sail: Amber, Cascade Pils, Session Red

Lagunitas: Daytime IPA, Imperial Red

Leinenkugels: Orange Shandy, Sunshine Wheat

Magic Hat: IPL, Wilhelm Screamer

Marble: IPA, Red, Pilsner

New Belgium: beers will be from their current Folly Pack

Nuevo: Nuevo (whatever this is, we have no idea)

Oskar Blues: Dale’s Pale Ale, Mama’s Little Yellow Pils, Old Chub Scotch Ale

Pedernales: Lobo Lager, Lobo Lito, Lobo Negro, Lobo Hefe

Ponderosa: four beers TBA

Pyramid: IPA, Oktoberfest

Radeberger: Shoefferhofer, Pilsner

Samuel Adams: Oktoberfest, Harvest Pumpkin

Santa Fe: Happy Camper IPA, State Pen Porter

Shiner: Bohemian Black Lager, Oktoberfest

Sierra Blanca/Rio Grande: Bonechiller Brown, Sun Chaser Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada: Pale Ale, Torpedo IPA

Squatters/Wasatch: Wee Peat Scotch Ale, Bumper Crop

Stone: Coffee Milk Stout, Hibiscusicity (Belgian-style ale), IPA

Have fun out there. Just remember, tigers don’t drink beer. But they will eat people, so don’t go stumble into their enclosure.


— Stoutmeister

Oh, Hopfest, you lovely giant beer festival, you have returned. It’s Lucky No. 7 for Hopfest, which returns to the Isleta Casino this Saturday. Tickets are still available online today (Friday). They go up in price at the door ($35 for general admission, $45 for Extra Hoppy Hour), so we highly recommend you get them online while you still can. And if any are left (it was 85-percent sold out Thursday morning), get those Extra Hoppy Hour tickets. It’s worth it to pay a little extra to have an hour (2-3 p.m.) of shorter lines. Pick out the beers or breweries you absolutely, positively have to try and hit those first.

So many beers, so little time. Again.

So many beers, so little time. Again.

Event organizer Marne Gaston had to put together a lot of this from afar — her family actually moved to Sarasota, Florida, earlier this year — but she said no one should worry, all is well.

“Well, we started a year ago, so the long-distance part just started happening,” she said. “I mean, it’s gone really well. It’s lucky number seven, we have 70 breweries, seven bands … actually, we have 74 breweries. That’s 12 more than last year.”

Ah, but what beers are out there? There’s over 70 breweries present at Hopfest this season, so it’s a lot to sort through. Being Hopfest veterans, the Crew is here to help, as always. Hopfest is divided into two rooms and an outdoor area. We prefer to hit the smaller room on the right side as you walk down the main hall. It gets really crowded once the GA folks are let inside, so hit those breweries first. From there, pick your favorites in the huge main room on the left side. As the GA folks pour in at 3 p.m., head to the outside and enjoy the fresh air and good beers out there.

So by room, here are the breweries to visit and the beers they’re expected to bring. We realize a lot of these beers lists may change by the time the kegs are tapped.

“Part of the problem is I’m bugging them to get their information way in advance so we can get it in the event program,” Marne said. “Whatever information we can get in advance, it helps people plan their day, makes it more fun.”

We did our best to make sure we had up-to-date lists for all the New Mexico breweries present, but a few of them did not have time to get back to us. Nonetheless, this is a listing of the beers we’re targeting. It does not include every brewery present, so there are some you may wish to seek out in addition to these.

UPDATED: As I was helping Marne set things up at Hopfest on Friday, we all found out that Cazuela’s is no longer attending, but Ponderosa is. So where it shows Cazuela’s on the map inside your program, that’s now Ponderosa. Also, we got an updated list from Pi Brewing.

Premier Stage/Side room breweries

Durango Brewing: They’re bringing Durango Dark Lager. That’s all I need.

Eel River: They’re that brewery that does all organic beers. Gotta admit, kinda curious what the heck an Organic Acai Berry Wheat tastes like.

These three lunkheads will be back at Hopfest. Will you?

These three lunkheads will be back at Hopfest. Will you?

Erdinger/Krombacher: These two classic German breweries are bringing some of their wares overseas. Erdinger specializes in weissbier. Krombacher has a weizen as well, plus a pilsner and a dark lager.

Grain Hopper: The Rio Rancho-based home brewing store has concocted a trio of beers. White Knight (Belgian Wit), Over the Pond (Pale Ale), and Hoptoberfest will be available. Looking forward to the last of those three.

Mad River: Never pass up Steelhead Extra Stout. Never.

Mother Road: The Lost Highway Black IPA is some epic stuff. I’m also quite intrigued to try the Red Rye IPA. Beyond those, a Mother Road rep contacted us to say they’re also bringing something special in a Randall, something else in a cask, and a third beer that’s been barrel aged. Oh, you are much to good to us, supreme lord of the Flagstaff brewing scene. WE’RE NOT WORTHY!

Ponderosa: They just signed up Friday. We don’t know what they’re bringing, but we’ll stop by and see what they’ve got.

Total Wine collective: The jumbo beer store is bringing three unique beers — Clown Shoes’ Crunkle Sam (barleywine), Pike’s Naughty Nelly (a gold artisinal ale, whatever that means), and Laughing Dog’s Sneaky Pete, which sounds like a DIPA and checks in at 10 percent ABV.

Cider-palooza: You know that Johnny Appleseed badge on Untappd? You can start leveling up on that there’s so many cideries here. There are going to be four alone in the side room, including Green Goblin and Thistly Cross.

Main room breweries

Alaskan: We’ve always enjoyed the Amber and Freeride APA. The seasonal they’re bringing is their Pumpkin Porter.

Back Alley: Addison actually ran out of beer downtown because he was saving up for Hopfest. He didn’t get us an updated list, but we have a feeling it will be more than just the Soroche IPA and Berliner Weisse.

Black Diamond: The NorCal brewery with a brewer from ABQ (he and Franz Solo actually went to high school together … this town is so small) is bringing four of its best. If you have never tried the Fracas Imperial Red or the Peak XV Imperial Porter, you’ve been missing out.

Bridgeport: The Oregon brewery has something called Trilogy #2 Aussie Salute, an IPA made with two American hops and two Australian hops. Fair enough, we’ll give it a try.

In 2012, the crazy lines were for Boar's Nest. We expect Pi and Red Door to get huge lines this time.

In 2012, the crazy lines were for Boar’s Nest. We expect Pi and Red Door to get huge lines this time.

Chama River: The Brew Crew’s hefeweizen challenge champion, Hefe Nice Day! will be available, along with the delicious Hardscrabble ESB.

Dukes of Ale: They usually bring several top-notch home brews for us all to try, with patrons getting to vote for the favorite as best of show.

Lagunitas: An Imperial Red, you say? Why yes, I’d love to see what this hop-centric California brewery does with one of those.

Magic Hat: These guys always get points for sheer naming creativity. The scored again with Wilhelm Screamer, their seasonal pumpkin release.

NM Craft Brewing: There’s no entry in the event program, but fear not, the NMCBC folks got back to us on the five beers they have coming down from Las Vegas. On the way are a Session IPA, Rye Pale Ale, Wet and Wild IPA (made with fresh-picked hops; last year’s batch was wholly unique and awesome), Porter, and Cream Ale. Guess we’ll have to try ’em all. Shucks.

Odell: Just when I thought I had all of their beers, they go and bust out Gramps Oatmeal Stout. That sounds surly and mean. Woots.

Pagosa: Mrs. Solo and her dear husband (who’s stuck at the Apple Store during iPhone release weekend; raise a pint in his honor wherever you are) have long sworn by this lovely brewery from southern Colorado. How much do they love it? They claim Pagosa has a better Chile Verde Cerveza than any NM brewery. The good news is you can see if they’re right, because it’s on the menu.

Pi: Hey, remember a couple years ago when the lines for Boar’s Nest were crazy as everyone eagerly anticipated it was opening soon? Well, sadly, it never did, but Pi is one of two new ABQ breweries at Hopfest this year that actually is open already. They’re bringing their West Coast Red, Unchallenged IPA, Apricot Wheat, and a special Bourbon Vanilla Porter.

Red Door: The other new brewery in town is already seeing huge crowds and positive buzz, even among the most discerning of beer drinkers. The Trapdoor Wheat was listed in the event program, but as it’s not ready at the brewery, it won’t be present at Hopfest, either. Don’t fret, the excellent Roamer Red, Threshold IPA, and Unhinged Cider will still be there for your tasting enjoyment.

Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca: The award-winning Nut Brown and the Alien Imperial Stout, their two best beers in our humble opinion, will be present.

Sandia Chile Grill: The Rattlesnake IPA will not be available, as listed in the program. Brew Crew Bullpen member Amy O had stopped by SCG to get a list (and a try a pint or two). They will be bringing their Smoked Stout and Barb’s Barrel Hefeweizen, plus two of Clint’s award-winning meads. Be forewarned, the melomel mead checks in at 14 percent ABV.

Santa Fe: It looks like they’re just bringing the usual suspects (Java Stout, Happy Camper IPA, Oktoberfest, Nut Brown), but it’s always worth stopping by to see if anything special is lurking.

Ska: It’s been a while since I had a Pinstripe Red Ale, so I suppose I can stop by. Would rather have a Steel Toe Stout, which isn’t listed.

Squatters/Wasatch: Been meaning to try the Squatters Wee Peat Scottish Ale, so here’s a good opportunity.

Stumbling Steer: Get your hop bomb on with the Hop Trough DIPA. Or remain standing and go with the Iron Horse IPA. Either way, you can’t lose.

Tractor: It’s a lot of the old favorites (all three canned varieties, plus Apple Cider and Berliner Weisse), but Tractor does list a “surprise beer,” so we’ll have to go by and be surprised and all.

Cider-palooza part two: There are another six cideries scattered around the main room, including Crispin, Strongbow, Johnny Appleseed, Woodchuck, and Angry Orchard. Seriously, if you don’t pick up at least two or three levels on that Untappd badge, you’re not even trying.

Outdoor area breweries

Big Sky: Well, hello there Slow Elk Oatmeal Stout. You sound like our kind of beer.

There will be plenty of beer goodness packed outside.

There will be plenty of beer goodness packed outside.

Boulder: When you need dessert, Shake Chocolate Porter should suffice.

Deschutes: Fresh Squeezed IPA will be available, but not Obsidian Stout. Boo (to the latter, not the former, which is pretty darned tasty for hop lovers).

Left Hand: Milk Stout, Oktoberfest, and Sawtooth (ESB) in one place. Thank you, Left Hand, thank you.

Marble: The list in program has changed considerably, or so Leah Black told us. The popular Double White will still be there, but it will now be joined by the Double IPA, Galaxy IPA, and Pilsner instead of the regular IPA, Red, and Barley Wine. She did not say whether those two “special brews” were still coming. Guess we’ll have to go find out. Oh, darn.

Oskar Blues: The Old Chub Scotch Ale is listed. Please be on nitro. Please, please, PLEASE.

Santa Sidra: Remember how a cider beat out all the beers at the State Fair Pro-Am? Here’s your chance to try this super cider. And further pad your Untappd stats.

Taos Mesa: They listed their tasty Kolsch 45 and Three Peaks IPA, plus the latest incarnation in their Sessions (IPA) series.

* * * * *

All right, that’s just about everything. Get those pretzel necklaces ready, don’t forget the RailRunner times if you’re taking that, and prep your palates. Come Saturday at 2 p.m., it’s go time!

And yes, you can say hello if you see us. We’ll be the bearded lunkheads in black. Plus Mrs. Solo. Hey, we gotta class up this trip at least somewhat, right?


— Stoutmeister

It was fun to get back to ABQ Beer Week on Wednesday and meet some new beer lovers at the Left Hand tasting at O’Niell’s Nob Hill. With all that done, it’s time to move on to a busy Day Eight on Thursday. Yours truly will be at Tractor Nob Hill, plus maybe some other events.

Satisfy your sweet tooth along with your beer tooth on Thursday.

Satisfy your sweet tooth along with your beer tooth on Thursday, plus there are tastings galore.

Featured event

What: Casks & Cupcakes. Where: Tractor Nob Hill. When: 4 to 6 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: Get your sweet tooth satiated with this little pairing of two cask beers with six different styles of cupcakes from Caked by Bittersweets. It’s $5 for a combo, where you get three cupcakes and one cask beer. If you just want the beer, it’s $4 for a 12-ounce pour. Or if you are the designated driver, it’s $4 for a cupcake trio. The beers on cask are Milk Mustachio Stout and and the Saison. The Stout will be paired with Caramel Macchiato, Dark Chocolate Chile Decadence, and Cinnamon Toast with Bacon. The Saison will be paired with Fresh Lemon with local grown honey, Cherry Limeade, and Nacho Libre. Come grab dessert before dinner! Hey, you’re an adult, you’re allowed to do that now. Why you should go: A little sugary goodness never hurt anyone. Besides, you can walk it off going to all of the other great events around Nob Hill tonight.

All the other great events

What: Lagunitas Tap Takeover. Where: The Stumbling Steer. When: 4 p.m. to close. Cost: No cover charge. Details: There will be beers aplenty once again at The Steer. Undercover Shutdown, Nighttime Cascade (Black) IPA, Maximus IPA, Hop Stupid Ale, Lil Summpin’ Summpin’, and Day Time: A Fractional IPA will all be on tap. The Shutdown is a big, burly strong ale, while the rest should satisfy any and all hopheads. Why you should go: If you’re on the west side and already hungry and thirsty, there’s no better place to visit.

What: Santa Fe Brewing Tasting. Where: Total Wine Uptown. When: 4 to 7 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: We assume all (or most) of Santa Fe’s bottled and/or canned beers will be available for sampling. Why you should go: Remind yourself of your favorite(s) and then take some home for the weekend.

What: Pyramid Tasting. Where: Total Wine Cottonwood. When: 4 to 7 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: We don’t know what Pyramid beers will be available for sampling. Why you should go: Come on, you’re curious as to what they’ll have.

What: Stone Brewing Tasting. Where: Jubilation. When: 4 to 6 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: We just got the list of Stone beers that will be available for sampling. They will include the Collective Distortion IPA, which is brewed with elderberries and coriander, plus the Saison, Smoked Porter with Chipotle, Cali-Belgique IPA, Arrogant Bastard, and the newest entry in the Stochasticity Project, the Quadro Triticale, a Belgian-style quad. Why you should go: Always support local, and Jubilation is just that. Plus that Quadro just sounds like a beast that must be tamed.

What: New Belgium Special Tapping. Where: Two Fools Tavern. When: 4 to 7 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: The rather uniquely named I Believe I Wood! will be available for purchase. It’s listed as a blackberry whiskey barrel beer. That, plus the usual Two Fools food excellence, should compel you to visit. Why you should go: Oh, come on, like you really need an excuse to visit Two Fools.

What: Marble Beer & Cheese Pairing. Where: Marble Downtown Pub. When: 4 to 7 p.m. Cost: $20. Details: One of the favorite annual events of many folks around town, Marble will again pair up some of its finest beers with some distinct styles of cheese. We did not get the lineup, but we will update this if we can. Why you should go: Nothing says serious beer drinker more than attending beer and cheese pairing.

What: Boulder Beer Tasting. Where: O’Niell’s Juan Tabo. When: 5 to 7 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: Some of Boulder’s top beers will be available for sampling. We did not get a list, sadly. Why you should go: If you’re in the Heights and curious as to what they’ve got, stop on by.

What: Sierra Nevada Tap Takeover. Where: O’Niell’s Nob Hill. When: 5 to 7 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: We did get the list for this one! (Hallelujah) Collective Distortion Double IPA, Summerfest, Hoptimum, and the ubiquitous Pale Ale will all be available. The Pale Ale was a gateway craft beer for many, myself included. So see what else Sierra Nevada has to offer nowadays. Why you should go: Grab a pint, grab some grub, and enjoy the patio before the weather heats up anymore than it already has.

What: Nexus Beer Dinner. Where: Prairie Star. When: 6 to 9 p.m. Cost: $39. Details: This late addition to Beer Week will feature four Nexus beers paired up with some of Prairie Star’s dishes. The Cream Ale, IPA, Chocolate Porter, and Beam Me Up Scottish will all be on hand. Why you should go: Food plus beer. Plus you can meet Nexus owner Ken Carson and brewer Kaylynn McKnight.

What: Big Sky Sampling. Where: Gecko’s on Academy. When: 6:30 to 9 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: They will have Moose Drool (brown ale) on draft, plus samples of their IPA, Scape Goat Pale Ale, and Bobo’s Robust Porter. Why you should go: If you’re in the Heights and don’t feel like going too far, enjoy the craft beer experience close to home.

What: New Belgium Mini Tap Takeover and Rolle Bolle Game Night. Where: Adieux Cafe. When: 7 p.m. to midnight. Cost: Unknown. Details: Rolle Bolle is apparently a game like bocce ball (we think). You can play it and win some prizes, plus there will be a selection of New Belgium beers on tap. Adieux Cafe is located on the southeast corner of Central and 5th Street downtown. Why you should go: Admit it, you want to know what Rolle Bolle is and see if you can dominate the game and rule the world. Or at least the cafe.

Got any updates or additional info for the Crew? Email us at or contact us via Facebook or Twitter (@nmdarksidebc).

Enjoy Day Eight! Just remember to pace yourselves and be responsible.


— Stoutmeister

There was a bittersweet feeling as the Crew left Hopfest on Saturday afternoon. It stemmed not from any disappoint in the event — it was quite the opposite, in fact — but instead it came with the realization that beer festival season in 2013 was coming to a close. Even though the year itself is far from being over, in a way another chapter of our lives in beer has come to a close. In that respect, we all raise our sample glasses one more time in honor of a year that began with a fun experiment (New Mexico Cup), had a middle chock full of adventure (ABQ Beer Week), and ended with the biggest bang of all at Hopfest.

Stoutmeister, Brandon, and Porter Pounder all tackled Hopfest. Hey, half the Crew in one room is an accomplishment.

Stoutmeister, Brandon, and Porter Pounder all tackled Hopfest. Hey, half the Crew in one room is an accomplishment.

So enough sepia-tinted nostalgia of times past. Let us get to the important thing: How was all that beer, guys? There was much beer. And it was good. So good.

We begin with a careful analysis of … ah, to hell with it. LABYRINTH! LABYRINTH! LABYRINTH! LABYRINTH! LABYRINTH! LABYRINTH! The quadruple black ale of godliness stole the show. Only this time we weren’t the only ones to think so. Post-event buzz centered around this monster from Uinta, this wonderful beast that blasted our palates and made our tastebuds dance. Yes, Labyrinth, you were the best of show. Now please, somebody, help Uinta start putting that on the shelves of Jubilation and other fine New Mexico liquor stores. PLEASE!!!!

Ahem, anyway, amid the 62 breweries and thousands of beer lovers, we (this is Stoutmeister, and Porter Pounder and Brandon were along for the ride this time) found a few favorite beers, some off-beat beers, and overall enjoyed the heck out of our Saturday. This is our stab at a breakdown of what we had or remembered having (though there was no Nexus brewer around this time constantly refilling our sample glasses with two-year-old barley wine, so we were much more lucid than after Brew Fest).

Stoutmeister’s favorites (besides Labyrinth)

New Mexico beers: Well, first off, one of the major highlights were the home brews served up by the Dukes of Ale and Southwest Grape & Grain. Ben Miller’s Belgian Trippel and Mike Griesmeyer’s Milk Stout were quite wonderful at the Dukes booth. The former found a nice balance between sweetness and strength, while the latter was smooth as silk and not overly sweet. I also felt the Octoberfest at the SWG&G booth was comparable to any brewery’s Marzen.

Las Vegas’ New Mexico Craft Brewing brought a couple of top-notch beers to tap. The Wet-N-Wild Ale, made with wild hops picked in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, was a wholly unique beer with a strong vanilla flavor amid the hops, which had a Cascade-like aroma and feel. The uniquely named F Your Black IPA Dry-Hopped Porter tasted like a hybrid between a dry, bitter black IPA and a smooth, coffee-and-chocolate-heavy porter.

Back Alley Draft House also unveiled two big, tough beers in the hop-bomb Triple IPA and the burly Imperial Russian Stout. BADH doesn’t brew huge batches, so head down there ASAP before they disappear from the taps.

Marble’s Pumpkin Noire offered up a nice mix of a smoky porter base with some pumpkin spices. Also of note, Tractor’s more classic pumpkin ale, Jack the Sipper, and Sandia Chile Grill’s always excellent Rio Negro smoked milk stout.

In case we haven't said it enough already, Uinta's Labyrinth is one of the greatest beers ever brewed.

In case we haven’t said it enough already, Uinta’s Labyrinth is one of the greatest beers ever brewed.

Out-of-state beers besides Labyrinth: A lot of breweries busted out their big guns (by ABV and/or IBUs), but Clown Shoes’ Blaecorn Unidragon, a 12.5-percent Russian Imperial Stout that is every bit the behemoth it sounds like. Seriously, if Godzilla were real, he would drink this beer. And then smash Tokyo to bits looking for more of it. For us mere mortals, it’s often available at Total Wine; just drink with caution.

Keeping with the big beer theme, Anderson Valley’s Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout offered up a kung-fu kick to the face. Indian Wells’ Whiskey Barrel Amber took a style not usually associated with barrel-aging and made it into a rough-and-tumble beer in its own right. Sierra Nevada did not bring the excellent Narwhal Imperial Stout, but they made up for it with the Bigfoot barley wine, aged for over a year. I only had one this time, I swear.

For those who are looking for something a little lower on the ABV chart, you could go seasonal with Bridgeport’s Witch Hunt or Deschutes’ Jubelale. Durango’s Dark Lager is always a solid standby, while Eel River’s Certified Organic Amber packed a lot more flavor than most regular ambers. Kona’s Pipeline Porter exceeded my expectations (Franz Solo should enjoy it when he’s in Hawaii soon). Another staple of my autumn beer diet, Left Hand’s Oktoberfest, showed up in place of Fade to Black. Oh. Darn. And speaking of seasonals, Ska brought down its Vernal Minthe Stout, which is basically dessert in a glass. A chocolate mint made into a beer? Sure, why not?

And the award for the strangest beer went to Twisted Pine’s Roots Revival Carrot IPA. I’m not sure if I tasted the carrot in there. I’m not sure what I tasted period. It was a beer that cannot be categorized. It’s not bad, just … different.

Oh, and beers I wanted to try but ran out of time to get to included Pedernales’ Lobo Negro, Green Flash’s Green Bullet, and Odell’s Isolation Ale. Looks like a trip to Jubilation is in my near future.

Brandon’s favorite beers (besides Labyrinth)

New Mexico beers: A majority of our state’s breweries have been unleashing their latest offerings over the past few weeks, so there were only a few new things to check out. The majority of my praise has to go to the home brews from the Dukes of Ale. There were several pleasant surprises in the mix at their table, of which the public got to vote on their favorite beer. This truly was a tough choice, as all had qualities that I really appreciated. Here’s a quick breakdown.

Sandia Chile Grill definitely got into the season with their beer board.

Sandia Chile Grill definitely got into the season with their beer board.

Belgian Pale Ale: This hybrid-style gave a pale ale some refreshingly crisp character from the Belgian malts and enough yeasty character to please this guy’s palate. Add a hop profile that held a slight bit of citrus and pine without being overwhelming and you had a very delicious take on a unique style.

Milk Stout: Well, what can I say? You had me at milk stout. This was quite the creamy delight, actually, as I have high expectations of this style. Lots of chocolate and roasted malt, with a hefty dose of sweetness from the lactic sugars that was still somehow not overpowering. Wonderful job with this beer.

IPA: This was a really interesting beer for one big reason, which is that is was NOT a hop bomb … however, the nose on it said otherwise. Lots of grapefruit and pine, with a touch of citrus. The body? Light, almost floral throughout the front and middle, and slightly resiny in the back. It didn’t leave me with a lack of taste buds for the rest of the day, which is good. Unexpected but very tasty.

Belgian Trippel: A creation of noted homebrewer Ben Miller, the Belgian Trippel stood tall among the other entries. A rich and smooth malt bill was balanced out with a slight bitterness, and finished with a subtle sweetness. Subtle spice hints and complex yeast aromatics made this a great brew, though deceptively easy drinking (as most trippels are). One of my favorite beers of the day.

Green Chile Pumpkin: Yes, you read that right. Odd, huh? Well, I’m all for experimentation when it comes to beer. This was actually a very tasty brew, with fresh green chile prominent in the front and middle, along with a slightly sweet malt bill and spices. The pumpkin comes in mainly at the end, but does lend to the overall creamy mouthfeel of this beer. Judging from the patrons I spoke with this was a pretty polarizing beer, but most people enjoyed it. I will include myself in that group.

Now, on to the breweries! Marble brought two pumpkin beers, the Pumpkin Noire being my favorite of the two. A very natural pumpkin flavor is met with slightly burnt/toasted malts to give the flavor of a baked pumpkin pie. Wonderful stuff really, it was one of my favorites of the pumpkin season.

The good folks at NM Craft Brewing brought the hops to Hopfest. F Your Black IPA was a dry-hopped porter with a bit of smokiness and a dry finish. Plenty of dark and roasted malts gave it a rich body with a nice hop kick. For those of you not big on the dark malts, the Rye PA was plenty smooth with floral and pine hints, and a nice light/medium malt body, making this an easy drinking IPA variation.

Back Alley Draft House had their Russian Imperial Stout and Triple IPA flowing. The IPA was an expected onslaught on the senses with loads of floral, grapefruit, and pine, and a subtle fruity hint, and a strong nose to boot. I’m glad I only had a taste, but man was it good.

Sandia Chile Grill brought out their Rio Negro stout for the event. Strong and malty with a nice sweetness, there is lots of chocolate-y goodness to be found in this brew, so make sure to stop in for a pint.

We have no idea why some dude dressed as Batman and came to Hopfest. But he did, and we hope he enjoyed it more than Porter Pounder enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises.

We have no idea why some dude dressed as Batman at Hopfest. But he did, and we hope he enjoyed it more than Porter Pounder enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises.

Out-of-state beers: The breweries from around the region were in full effect at Hopfest. Clown Shoes brought the big guns out in the form of Blaecorn Unidragon. A huge amount of malt complexity, lots of chocolate and slightly burnt malt with coffee and mild hop kick. All the things one would expect from the style are here in droves in this Russian imperial stout, quite a wonderful brew.

Green Flash brought out their Green Bullet Triple IPA that I’ve heard so much about. As one who has grown to love a nice dank IPA, this one made me utter a brief string of obscenities … in a good way. Huge grapefruit and pine notes, with a punch of citrus and fruit around the middle, and slight resin and more citrus in the finish. Not for the faint of hops … er, heart.

Big Sky came from Montana with their limited release Heavy Horse Scotch Ale. More of a traditional “wee heavy” style, it had a wonderful malt body, with a dash of earthy hops and a slight smokey touch to it. This needs to be a year-round beer.

A pleasant find of the day was Indian Wells’ Whiskey Barrel Amber. One of the smoothest libations I had the pleasure of sampling, the whiskey character was prominent and smooth with oak and vanilla spread all through and slight caramel, almost butterscotch flavors. A delightful amber that just wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t aged. I’m glad it was, though.

We of course took time to get a taste of some of our old favorites from breweries like Left Hand (Oktoberfest), Ska (who brought their Mole and Vernal Minthe Stouts, two excellent seasonals), Oskar Blues (hello, G’Knight!), Deschutes (Jubelale, a tasty winter ale), Durango Brewing Company (Dark Lager), and Sierra Nevada (Bigfoot Aged Barley Wine). So many beers were tried that I know we will miss some, but all in all it was a great day filled with delicious beers.

Porter Pounder’s favorite beers (besides Labyrinth)

As this was my first Hopfest, I finally had the opportunity to try a staggering amount of beers that the rest of the Crew has enjoyed from GABF and other such festivals. Here’s some of my high points in no particular order.

Many of the best beers from outside NM were found on the patio outside the casino.

Many of the best beers from outside NM were found on the patio outside the casino.

Big Sky’s Heavy Horse Scotch Ale: Really full-bodied Scotch Ale, which I am a big fan of always; it was just nice and rich. I love root cellar temp-fermented beers. It gives styles like this that nice thick body and a creamy tone off the top.

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse’s Pumpkin Ale: I was quite surprised I liked this one, to be honest. But in the end, out of all the Pumpkin Ales I tried at Hopfest, this one really had some of the best balance between pumpkin flavor and pie spice, blended to make it creamy with a smooth finish.

Clown Shoes’ Blaecorn Unidragon: One of the highest ABV beers at the show, and clearly an all-around winner for the NMDSBC alongside the Labyrinth that we call can’t stop raving about. This was also my first time experiencing Clown Shoes beer. It was also one of the first things I tried. I figured go big or go home and no regrets my friends, this beer was worth every sip. So thick you could cut it with a knife and fork and amazingly enough, it finished relatively clean, so despite how bold it was it didn’t ruin your palate for your next samples.

Ska’s Vernal Minthe Stout: I never thought about doing mint in a stout, and all you get is what it claims, a bold, rich, perfect stout with just the right amount of mint that adds this throat-and-palate-cleanse at the end. It’s like eating girl scout cookies, but even better, cause cookies don’t get you buzzed. I’m officially sold on Ska after this and their Mole Chile Stout.

Milk Stout, Dukes of Ale (Brewed by Mike Griesmeyer): Welcome to the Indie Awards! The fine folks with the Dukes of Ale had brewed five brews for their own mini-competition. This was my runner up. I drink a lot of stouts, and I’ve brewed at least one of my own, and they are trickier to get just right than a lot of other lighter beers. This was bold and rich, actually almost like a punch in your mouth, but it’s because you joined Fight Club on purpose, so it’s exactly what you came for. Full-bodied with a bold nose off the top with the added richness from the milk sugars. Definitely a highlight on independent brewing.
Green Chile Pumpkin Beer, Dukes of Ale (Brewed by Brian Ausderau): Exactly what it claims to be. Many chile beers have an inherently vinegary tone to them which isn’t that pleasant. This is all about natural roasted chile flavors. Keeping it to a crisp light ale is usually the best way to go with this category to balance it, but then this fine fellow decided to try something new — add pumpkin. Strangely it works really well. It makes this lighter beer almost creamy, which was wonderful to follow the hotness of the chile, and then all you’re left with in the end is a nice pumpkin flavor to finish it and remain. This is the one that got my vote.
Octoberfest, SW Grape & Grain: Second up on the indie beer brewing tastings for me was this wonderful local beer supplies store’s offering of an Octoberfest. They hosted five beers for this event, and this was my favorite. I tried quite a few Octoberfest beers during this event, and this one really stood out for me being particularly crisp. It had a little extra body which I find nice, and a clean finish without being overly bold or alcoholic so you could just eat and drink at an event all day long and never need to take a break, just enjoy!
New Mexico Craft Brewing's booth was full of unique beers and some unique characters serving those beers.

New Mexico Craft Brewing’s booth was full of unique beers and some unique characters serving those beers.

New Mexico Craft Brewing’s F Your Black IPA Dry-Hopped Porter: Our other indie brewing category friends brewed a really damn delicious beer. Honestly, the only way to write to you all how bad ass this beer was, is to steal directly from the write up they submitted for the Hopfest guide: “Oh what am I? Am I a roasty beer? Am I an IPA? I suck at being both. Nope. I am a fat-balled dry-hopped porter. So shut up.” Damn right!

And Finally probably my favorite of all of Hopfest goes to …
Indian Wells’ Whiskey Barrel Amber: This beer is exactly what I came to this festival for. I love whiskey or bourbon barrel-aged beers, but what sets this aside from the rest is one simple fact. It was a dried in the direct sun until the whiskey was sweated out. The difference in doing this from the others — and as good as the others are they are SO overly bold with the alcohol flavor — is that you have to sip your beer like it is a fine scotch, or brace yourself and take your beer in shots. This style Indian Wells tried gives it an edge, because you still taste some great whiskey, but it’s so mellow and well blended into an already excellent beer that you can enjoy it like you would any other smooth drink. It definitely has a decent alcohol content that will sneak up on you in the end, but I could drink this all day, winter or summer.

The beers that ran out before I got to try or somehow weren’t available to try for other reasons were Brigdeport’s Bear Hug (Cherry Chocolate Stout) and Clown Shoes’ Crunkle Sam (American Barlyewine).

* * * *

Well, as we said at the beginning, that’s it for beer festival season in the ABQ area (there is one more fest down in Las Cruces this coming Saturday, but we’ll be sitting that one out). A huge thanks to the always awesome Marne Gaston and her entire volunteer staff, everyone at Isleta Casino that helped out, and all the brewery staff members present. Everything went smoothly, just like many of the beers we had. And thank you to all of the other attendees; once again, you were a great crowd united in the pursuit of having a good time without anyone going overboard.

The big fests may be over, but there is still plenty of beer news out there for the Crew to cover. We will be back soon with our advance preview of The Stumbling Steer, including our samples of some of their forthcoming beers, plus a whole lot more as the rest of 2013 draws to a close.

Because after all, what else are we going to do? Sit around and watch our football teams? (They’re a combined 11-18 and probably only going to get worse.)


— Stoutmeister

Hopfest is big. There are 62 breweries serving up samples for thousands of beer lovers. In other words, it is not the place to just walk into and wander about. Nope, you need a plan, a battle plan. Luckily, the Dark Side Brew Crew is here to provide one. It’s what we do.

Hopfest is tougher than he looks. You need a battle plan before entering.

Hopfest is tougher than he looks. You need a battle plan before entering.

In terms of physical layout, Hopfest is divided in three. There is the side room, where the Premier Stage is located; the main room, where over half the breweries will be stationed; and the outdoor area, where the Project Acoustic Preview Stage is located. There is also a VIP area, but we don’t have VIP tickets and most of you probably do not, either, so we’ll skip that place.

The two smaller areas should be your first two targets. They can get crowded quickly. In fact, if you are a serious beer drinker, that additional $10 for Extra Hoppy Hour tickets is a must. That initial hour is an excellent time to not only try more beers with fewer people in line, but it is also a chance to actually converse with some of the brewery reps behind the counters.

Upon arrival we are heading for the side room first. It features three in-state breweries, eight from out-of-state, and two from outside the country. What order you go in is up to you, and in the end that is likely to be determined by the beers they have on hand and your personal preference by style. Luckily, we have the list that the breweries passed along to Hopfest, though as always things will be subject to change.

Abita: The Louisiana brewery is bringing two of its standard bearers, Turbo Dog and Purple Haze, so the one we’re interested in is Andygator (8% ABV), a high-gravity maibock-style beer.

Cazuela’s: The Rio Rancho brewery is bringing five beers to Hopfest. For hopheads, you have to go with the Papa Cabra DIPA (9.2% ABV, 100+ IBUs). If you fall on the maltier side of the spectrum, check out the Piedra Del Fuego (5% ABV), a stoned cream ale.

Clown Shoes: Make sure to thank Total Wine for bringing this Massachusetts-based brewery to town. And they’re not coming bearing anything wimpy. Both the Crunkle Sam (11% ABV), an American barleywine, and Blaecorn Unidragon (12.5% ABV), a monstrous Russian imperial stout, will be available. This is why you take the Rail Runner down to Isleta, so you can sample beers like this. Do not go all imperial-crazy and expect to drive afterward, OK?

Durango Dark Lager will be one of the featured beers at Hopfest. Huzzah!

Durango Dark Lager will be one of the featured beers at Hopfest. Huzzah!

Durango Brewing: Ska gets a lot of the attention out of Southwest Colorado, but this little gem of a brewery was a favorite of mine and E-Rock when we visited last year. They’re bringing one of our favorites, Durango Dark Lager (5.4% ABV) along for the ride. There will also be Hop Hugger (6.7% ABV) for you IPA lovers.

Eel River: Gotta admit, have not had too many certified organic beers over the years. This Fortuna, Calif.-based brewery will bring three of those, an IPA, amber, and a blonde, for us to sample.

Indian Wells: Another California brewery, you can find their Lobotomy Doppelbock (typically shortened to the NM-friendly Lobo Bock) around town. It’s not a personal favorite, but we do intend to give their Whiskey Barrel Amber a shot. For all the stouts/porters/browns/Belgians that get the whiskey barrel treatment, we gotta admit, we have not heard of anyone doing that with an amber.

Lost Coast: Not to be confused with Left Coast (see below), this Northern California institution is one of the only female-owned-and-operated breweries in the country. They are bringing three of their primary beers, Indica IPA, Great White, and Downtown Brown.

Mad River: It’s practically a California invasion in the side room. Mad River is bringing three of its standard beers as well in Steelhead DIPA, Steelhead Extra Pale Ale, and Jamaica Red Ale.

New Mexico Craft Brewing: The Las Vegas, NM, brewery is unleashing four hop-centric brews — Starvation Peak AIPA (6.3% ABV, 80 IBUs), Anti-Imperial AIPA (9% ABV, 100+ IBUs), RyePA (6.6% ABV, 85 IBUs), Wet-n-Wild Ale (7.3% ABV, 100+ IBUs) — with the last one made with wild hops picked here in NM. In addition, there’s the early candidate for “most unique beer name” at Hopfest in the F Your Black IPA Dry-Hopped Porter (5.8% ABV, 60 IBUs).

Petrus: The Belgian brewery is bringing its Aged Pale Ale and Aged Red Ale to tap. If you’re a Belgian beer fan, this place is one of the big guns in that country.

Rio Negro is big and burly, yet very smooth.

Rio Negro is big and burly, yet very smooth.

Sandia Chile Grill: Feeling dark? Yet smooth? Then a sample of Rio Negro smoked milk stout on nitro should fit you perfectly. If you want to stay on the light side, the award-winning Gold Rush Pilsen should more than suffice.

Twisted Pine: This will mark the first visit (we think) to a NM beer festival for the Boulder-based brewery. Twisted Pine is not coming light, either, bringing its wholly unique Roots Revival Carrot IPA (6.9% ABV, 51 IBUs), plus Bishop’s Elbow ESB (5.2% ABV).

Van Steenberge: This Belgian brewery is bringing Gulden Draak, which is not a character in the upcoming “Hobbit” film, but instead a Dark Triple Ale that checks in at 10.5-percent ABV.

All right, so that’s the side room. Now head to the small outside area on the south side of Isleta Casino, where 11 breweries, all from outside New Mexico.

Anderson Valley: Another of Northern California’s finest breweries will grace our presence with four beers. While the seasonal Winter Solstice (6.9% ABV) sounds nice and all (if a bit early), the one we have our eye on is the Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout (6.9% ABV).

Big Sky: Montana’s biggest brewery will bring three beers to sample, with the Heavy Horse Scotch Ale (6.7% ABV) as the highlight.

Boulder Beer: Colorado’s oldest microbrewery will feature four of its primary beers, including the popular Hazed & Infused and the Flashback India Brown Ale.

Deschutes isn't bringing Obsidian Stout (sniff), but you can still celebrate their beers the way I celebrated the Pirates' 82nd victory a few months ago.

Deschutes isn’t bringing Obsidian Stout (sniff), but you can still celebrate their beers the way I celebrated the Pirates clinching their first winning season in 20 years back in August.

Deschutes: Bend, Oregon’s most famous brewery will have four beers to try, including two regulars in River Ale (4% ABV) and Hop Trip (5.5% ABV) pale ale, plus the seasonal Jubelale (6.7% ABV) and Chasin’ Freshies IPA (7.2% ABV).

Left Coast: Poor Left Coast has probably been mixed up with Lost Coast (see above) and Left Hand (see right below) plenty of times. This Southern California brewery will try to set itself apart with four beers on hand in the Una Mas amber lager (6.4% ABV), Hop Juice DIPA (9.7% ABV), Voo Doo American Stout (8.5% ABV), and a fourth TBA beer. (We heard it was called Lucky Buddha, but the official Left Coast site has no info on such a beer.)

Left Hand: The Longmont, Colo., brewery racked up multiple medals at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival. They are best known for their Milk Stout, which will be among the regular beers they are scheduled to bring down. Sawtooth Ale, an ESB-style beer, will also be present, as will whichever current edition of Fade to Black they have available. That has been a porter, a black IPA, and various other dark genres in the past. Guess we’ll have to go and find out what this version is.

New Belgium: Another Colorado institution, they will have regular beers Fat Tire, Rampant Imperial IPA, Shift Pale Lager, and the seasonal Pumpkick.

Oskar Blues: It’s all about Colorado breweries on the patio. They will have five of their regular beers on hand, including two of our favorites in G’Knight, an imperial red, and Old Chub, a Scotch ale.

Pedernales: Another brewery making its ABQ debut is this Fredericksburg, Texas, outfit. They have a series of Lobo beers, so that should appease the local sports fans. Lobo Lager, Lobo Lito (a pilsner), and Lobo Negro (a black lager) will be on hand for many of us to try for the first time.

Tommyknocker: This Colorado brewery has made a recent push into NM and gotten some good reviews from folks around the state. They will have the dry-hopped IPA and a Half (7% ABV, 85 IBUs) for all you hopheads. Seasonal lovers can try the Pumpkin Harvest Ale or the Maple Nut Brown Ale.

Dear lord, thank you for Uinta's Labyrinth, a quadruple black ale.

Dear lord, thank you for Uinta’s Labyrinth, a quadruple black ale.

Uinta: Another brewery that has arrived in force in NM, this Utah-based group will have the wonderful, magnificent, still-not-available-for-sale-here (damn it) Labyrinth Quadruple Black Ale. If you did not have this wonder at Blues & Brews back in May, now you must try it. No, seriously, TRY LABYRINTH!

All right, now it’s time to tackle the main room. Odds are, you’ll be arriving just as the general admission crowd is walking in. So get strategic, target the places you absolutely want to try first; if a brewery only brought some classics, hold off and wait until you’ve cleared your must-haves, then pick the shortest lines and go wild.

Alaskan: Sadly, no seasonals are expected, just the four regular beers you can find in six-packs all around town. Still, if you have not tried the Amber or the Freeride APA, now is a good chance. They are both worth it for malt lovers and hopheads.

Angry Orchard/Crispin/Woodchuck: It’s all ciders. Have fun if you’re into that sort of thing any of these three booths.

Back Alley Draft House: Addison is bringing two monsters, his Imperial Russian Stout (9.6% ABV) and Triple IPA (10.5% ABV, 100+ IBUs), to clobber us all. We had the stout at Brew Fest and it was excellent. Just not for the faint of heart. If you can’t take those behemoths, go with the Pumpkin Ale. It’s only 8-percent ABV.

Batch 19/Blue Moon/Third Shift: Don’t let the cute names fool you, these are macrobrewery-owned places trying to masquerade as microbreweries.

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse: It’s a beer chain. There’s one by Winrock. In a better world, we would have gotten the superior Rock Bottom first. Oh, well.

Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams): The biggest of all microbreweries in America, they have a bunch of their usual stuff. The only I (Stoutmeister) have not had before is the Hazel Brown (5.2% ABV). I’ll give it a shot if there’s time.

Breckenridge: A staple in Colorado, they are only bringing their two most popular regular beers, the Vanilla Porter and Lucky U IPA.

Bridgeport: The Oregon brewery got some pub when the final season of TNT’s “Leverage” was filmed there. While their IPA and Hop Czar have been here before, this may very well be the debut of Bear Hug, a cherry chocolate stout. Sample it and then head over to Il Vicino to see how things stack up.

Dukes of Ale: Definitely make time to stop by the home brewers’ booth, where they will have samples of some of the best locally made beers you will have Saturday. There should be a big variety.

Goose Island: The Chicago brewery is not, sadly, bringing us more of that Bourbon County Coffee Stout like they did back during ABQ Beer Week. Instead we just get three of their regulars, IPA, Honker’s Ale, and 312 Urban Wheat Ale.

Green Flash: San Diego’s up-and-coming brewery will have two blasts for hopheads. Their West Coast IPA is a good start. Then they will clobber you with the Green Bullet, a triple IPA. See how it compares to Back Alley’s Triple IPA.

Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout from Il Vicino goes perfectly with ... everything.

Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout from Il Vicino goes perfectly with … everything.

Il Vicino: Our favorite local mad scientists will have some more Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout for us all to enjoy. There will also be Hell(y)es, Dark American Lager, and Wet Mountain IPA, but you can still get those at the Canteen.

Isotopes Beer: It’s the two beers you can get during baseball games, the Slammin’ Amber and Triple-A Blonde. They are made by Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca (see below).

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing: The popular Wisconsin brewery will have their Hoppin’ Helles. That’s all they’re listing, for now. At least they’re not bringing the Summer Shandy, which one Twitter feed considered a form of torture under the Geneva Convention.

Kellys Brewpub: The Nob Hill institution will have its Session IPA, Scottish Ale, Apricot Ale, and Pumpkin Ale. It’s been so long since we have been there we have no idea if three of those beers are new or if they have been on tap for a while (we know the Scottish is a regular).

Kona Brewing: Hawaii’s biggest brewery will bring three of its regulars to town in the Longboard Lager, Pipeline Porter, and Big Wave, a golden ale. I’ll give the porter a shot since it was never on tap at any of the bars I was at in Honolulu about eight years ago. We’ll have Franz Solo seek out Hawaii beers when he is out there for a cousin’s wedding next month.

Lagunitas: These hopheads from California are just bringing their IPA and Undercover Shutdown Ale. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but we can go buy ’em at Jubilation. Bring us something new!

Magic Hat: The Vermont brewery has also made a fairly recent push into NM. It’s beers tend to be all over the place. Along for the ride at Hopfest are #9, a “not quite pale ale,” the HI.P.A., Seance (a Saison), and deVeiled Red Ale. These appear to be all the beers available in their current variety pack that you can pick up at Jubilation.

What mystery kegs will Marble bring to Hopfest? We will find out soon.

What mystery kegs will Marble bring to Hopfest? We will find out soon.

Marble: They’re bringing … no one knows! As per usual, Marble seems to be throwing together its beer list at the last second. We are sure there will be some good ones, some company standards, and hopefully a surprise or two.

Odell: There’s nothing too new from this Colorado brewery, just the debut of Isolation Ale, their annual winter seasonal.

Omission: Widmer owns this gluten-free line of beers. For that gluten-free friend of years who just can’t take another cider, their Pale Ale will be on tap.

Redhook: Three of their standards will be available from Seattle, the ESB, Longhammer IPA, and Audible Ale. Actually, that last one is new. They brewed it with former ESPN anchor Dan Patrick. Yeah, you read that right.

Sierra Blanca/Rio Grande: The Moriarty brewery will have all of its crowd favorites on hand, including the Sierra Blanca Nut Brown Ale, which has won silver and gold, respectively, at the last two Great American Beer Festivals.

Santa Fe: Three regulars and Octoberfest. About what we expected.

Sierra Nevada: If you haven’t tried the Narwhal Imperial Stout, this is your chance.

Ska: Decadent Imperial IPA beckons hopheads everywhere. But where are the excellent stouts? WHERE?!

Spoetzl Brewery (Shiner): They are only bringing their Ruby Redbird. Have at it, fruit beer lovers.

Squatters/Wasatch: For hopheads only. These two Utah breweries are bringing Squatters IPA, Hop Rising DIPA, and Ghostrider White IPA.

SW Grape & Grain: They will have some home-brewed beers to sample, just like Dukes of Ale. See whose collection is superior. Hey, there’s an Octoberfest on their list! See Monica, not everyone brewed pumpkin beers instead this fall!

It's always a party at the Tractor booth with Skye and Dave, or whoever they send.

It’s always a party at the Tractor booth with Skye and Dave, or whoever they send.

Tractor: It’s pretty much what you’d get over at the Nob Hill tap room (IPA, DIPA, Red, Cortijo, Stout are listed, though I thought the Cortijo, a farmhouse ale, ran out a while ago), but they’re always a fun bunch to stop by and say hello to. And if you are one of those weird people who still hasn’t been to tractor, grab yourself a sample of the Double Plow Oatmeal Stout and see what you have been missing.

Widmer Bros.: Hopfest’s sponsoring brewery, so at least stop by and say “thanks!” Their Hefeweizen (4.9% ABV) and Alchemy Ale (5.8%) will be on hand. The latter is a result of an ongoing experiment to create a “perfectly balanced, perfectly hopped ale.” We love when breweries go all mad scientist on us.

So that’s the entire lineup (Duel will only be pouring in the VIP room, darn it), but as we said, it’s all subject to change. You can go clockwise or counter-clockwise around the rooms, or just dart about, picking shorter lines as the event gets more crowded. Whatever approach works for you, go with it. Just pick the beers or breweries that sound like your kind of places, and hit ’em up first. Everyone at these events has traditionally been polite and courteous, but still, please be on your best behavior. I think we have all seen enough videos on Deadspin of drunk sports fans battering each other. That bad behavior has never spilled over into Hopfest or any other beer festival, so don’t let it start. Smile and remember, it’s all about having a good time and lots of good beer.

However you choose to go, just don’t overdo it, please. Getting a designated driver or taking the Rail Runner is a must for this event. We will be doing the latter, so we’ll see some of you on the train.

On behalf of myself, Brandon, Porter Pounder, and associate Brew Crew member Corporal Hicks, we hope you enjoy Hopfest tomorrow half as much as we do!


— Stoutmeister

Stoutmeister here, fully recovered from the madness that was Hopfest 2012 down at Hard Rock on Saturday afternoon.

We knew we were in the right place for lots and lots of beer.

First off, a huge thanks to everyone there, from the fans to the employees and volunteers. You all made it a wonderful show. A big thanks to Marne Gaston, who supplied us with Extra Hoppy tickets. For future beer-reviewing purposes, we will always try to obtain these types of tickets, since that initial hour is peaceful and easy to move from brewery to brewery. Once 3 p.m. rolled around, holey moley, the population quadrupled (at least) and our sampling slowed down. In retrospect, that is probably a good thing.

Shilling was along for this ride, as were two lovely young ladies who were just crazy enough to accompany us (the rest of the Crew was either working or, in E-Rock’s case, out of the state for the weekend). We took the Rail Runner down, a brilliant move to save on the hassle of driving and the danger of trying to drive with too much to drink.

There were plenty of nominees for the “best of the fest,” including Back Alley’s The Maple’s Shade (more on that below) and Cassie, whose birthday is Halloween, fell madly in love with Wasatch’s Pumpkin Ale. Almost every beer we tried, save one, ranged from good to great.

With the light crowd for Extra Hoppy hour, we made sure to stop by and say hello to a pair of local brewery staffs who were on hand, Broken Bottle and Tractor. BBB brought their “Incident” Black IPA, which was still excellent, and Tractor had plenty off their regular and seasonal menu, including the Mustachio Milk Stout.

Patrons line up for Tractor samples, but very soon they will be able to get growlers at the Tap Room.

NEWS BREAK: We talked to Skye from Tractor, who updated us on the growler situation. So, after waiting two extra weeks until Aug. 7 to have a final city hearing due to a broken water pipe in the Plaza Del Sol building, and THEN waiting two more weeks for a written response, Tractor has to wait until Labor Day itself, at 5 p.m., to begin selling growlers again. There is this whole “protest period” for a brewery that has heard nary a word of protest during this entire process. But that is the procedure, so Tractor is dutifully complying. Assuming no one jumps out and argues against it at the last second, the crew will dispatch someone (yours truly will almost certainly still be at Isotopes Park for the final home game of the regular season) to cover the occasion. You know, should it actually, finally happen (FINGERS CROSSED!). And it turns out Broken Bottle will (hopefully) also be able to sell growlers at this exact same time!

Anyway, back to Hopfest, I will break the ‘fest down by breweries and the beer we tried in the kind-of-order we tried them in. Shilling and I both recorded our comments on my digital recorder while Cassie and Becca probably wondered if everyone else there thought we were crazy.

Round One in the Premier Stage room

Broken Bottle: Shilling had never had “The Incident” Black IPA before, so here are his thoughts on this seasonal offering: “It was nice. Very mellow black IPA compared to some of the other local guys. You get that dark, smoky flavor at first, then the IPA, the hoppy flavor sneaks in.”

Stoutmeister regales Becca, left, and Cassie, right, with tales of beer festivals past.

Taos Ale House: I sampled The Simple Porter, which was smooth, a little lighter than most smoked porters. It was perfect for the warm summer months.

Silverton Brewery: Once upon a time, the Bear-Ass Brown was a solid example of its genre. This time around, it was, well, terrible. I hate labeling a beer like that, but seriously, it tasted bad. Cassie put it best: “You could clean hospital floors with that.” Shilling guessed maybe it was a bad lining with the portable taps.

Lost Coast: I sampled the Downtown Brown, a beer I have had before, just to cleanse the palate after the Bear-Ass Brown; this brown was smooth, flavorful, and yet not too heavy. Shilling tackled the Great White Ale: “Probably not a beer I’d get on a regular occasion. Still, very smooth, very mellow, light citrus undertones.”

Sandia Chile Grill: We had no idea this establishment, located on the northeast corner of San Antonio and Wyoming, was even brewing its own beer. Now we can’t wait to go up there and try some of their other styles. I grabbed the Smoked Milk Stout, a hybrid between the two genres that blended perfectly together with the tart, smoky bite and the smooth, chocolate finish. Shilling snagged their English IPA, which was a surprise: “Unlike a North American IPA, where it’s usually about the hops, this one was a lot more mellow. You still get an IPA flavor but it’s not like a kick in the mouth.”

Mad River: I highly recommend the Steelhead Extra Stout, a big, burly smoked ale that can protect you in a dark alley. Shilling jumped on the Jamaica Red Ale: “Unlike other reds I’ve had, this one was more mellow. Not hoppy, not pungent.” Shilling also added that the Extra Stout smelled like a charcoal grill, which would make it perfect for a barbecue.

Durango Brewing: They broke my heart by leaving the award-wining Dark Lager at home. I went with the summertime Derail Ale, a double golden ale, but I was too bummed about the lack of Darkness in my life. (sniff)

Round Two in the main room

Back Alley: Downtown’s newest tap room does brew up a few of its own beers, including some with the still-homeless Goathead Brewery. They unleashed the aforementioned Maple’s Shade, a behemoth (11.8-percent ABV) strong ale with layers upon layers of flavor. Shilling: “It’s one of those beers, as far as thickness goes, it puts most barleywines to shame. There was a nice contrail of sugar around the glass.” I called it a breakfast beer, the kind if you wanted to do nothing else all day. This one was my pick for best of the fest, just for how unique and awesome it was.

The line forms up outside Boar’s Nest’s colorful booth.

Boar’s Nest: They are moving closer and closer to opening, but until then, we just appreciate the BN guys showing up at festivals in their tiki-style tent (minus the skeevy Burt’s crowd). Shilling and I tackled the War Pigs Imperial Stout, a Russian-style obsidian monolith with some serious smoky bite, but also a smooth, slightly sweet finish. We tasted flavor, not alcohol, always tough to pull off with any imperial. The ladies went with the smooth, subtle Hotel California Red Ale, which represents a light but flavorful “starter beer” before anyone moves on to start humming Black Sabbath. Boar’s Nest was named the crowd favorite at this year’s Blues & Brews. Now we know why.

Oskar Blues: Just about everybody ended up with OB cans on Mardi Gras bead-style necklaces, which actually were a convenient way for people to carry things around for easy access, like our sampler tickets. As for the beers on hand, it was the usual selection. I went with Old Chub (Scottish), while Shilling went with the Deviant Dale’s IPA: “I’m not much of an IPA fan, but it was the only beer from them that I had not (tried).”

Left Hand: Another old favorite, Becca was jumping up and down to head over to this Colorado favorite. I passed on the ubiquitous Milk Stout for a Black Jack Porter. It was a flavorful beer without too much smoked flavor. Shilling took on the Fade to Black, Vol. 3, a hybrid of porters similar to, but better than, the New Belgium 1554. They added a chile pepper bite to it, making it all the more unique. NEWS BREAK: We found out at the end of the day that the Fiery Foods Festival is adding a chile beer category this year. Broken Bottle is going to try and make a red chile chocolate stout; the Crew will be their taste-testing committee. Wish our tastebuds luck.

Round three, also in the main room, but after the general admission crowd stormed the beaches

Homebrew competition: Southwest Grape & Grain played host to the Dukes of Ale competition. There were four samples to be tried. The Saison was “drinkable,” but none of us are big fans of the genre and the other beers threatened to overwhelm it. The other beers, an Irish Red, Smoked Porter, and Summer Stout, were all very comparable to the bigger breweries’ similar styles. I voted for the Stout, because, well, you probably can guess why.

An event as big as Hopfest has a mascot. But of course.

Odell: Even though we’d had most of the styles before, we stopped anyway since the line was short(er) than any other brewery in our vicinity. Cassie was not a fan of the IPA, while Becca enjoyed the 90 Shilling. You can find Odell beers just about anywhere that good beer is sold. Shilling and I tackled the St. Lupulin, an “extra” pale ale that was very dry but still had a good flavor without overwhelming hops.

Wasatch/Squatters: The two Utah breweries joined efforts at a single booth. Rather than just smirk at the Polygamy Porter package (“Why have just one?” is the slogan) at Sunflower, I actually tried this style and liked it. A smooth, flavorful porter that is almost, but not quite, on par with Left Hand. I already mentioned how much Cassie liked their pumpkin ale; it’s not my usual genre, but I will admit I liked it as well. A perfect blend of pumpkin, nutmeg, and a brown ale as its base.

Ska: I talked up the Nefarious Ten Pin Porter, their imperial, since my visit to Durango earlier this summer. It was burly, with a serious bite up front, just like I remembered it. Shilling chanted “TEN PIN” afterward, so it appears I am not alone. If you can find this in bomber version (it’s not available in six-packs as far as I know), buy it!

Big Sky/Coronado/Green Flash: We hit these last three in the main room in rapid order as the day was winding down and we wanted to make sure we got outside in time to hop on a free shuttle to the Rail Runner station. Big Sky had just run out of Slow Oak Stout (this has happened to me before, @#$%!) so I just had a Moose Drool Brown Ale, their most commonly-found style. It is a lighter brown if you are looking for that sort of thing. Coronado only brought their IPAs, so I snagged an Islander, which is basically an average IPA, with less hops than most of the ABQ-area IPAs. Green Flash was the last stop, with Double Stout still available. This was a solid beer to close the show, similar to the Extra Stout from Mad River. It was big and thick, checking in at 8.8 percent.

We skipped other breweries due to either A) time constraints (sorry Breckenridge, Abita, Deschutes, BridgePort), B) their beers are available everywhere (Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Guinness), or C) we aren’t fans of their primary styles (Blue Moon, Leinenkugel).

Yeah, I know, we probably should have checked out a few, but in the end we all valued not feeling bulldozed the rest of the day. We also skipped the “international section,” all the ciders and since the rest of the NM breweries did not bring anything we had not tried before, we bypassed them as well. Maybe if we’d had E-Rock and his endless thirst along for the ride we would have made more stops, but in the end we decided to pace ourselves and offer the (mostly) coherent review above.

So in closing, all four of us definitely enjoyed Hopfest and hope to be back next year.

Until Septemberfest at Marble on the 22nd of next month, the Crew will be around town, digging up some local reviews and setting our first beer-flavored fantasy football league into motion.


— Stoutmeister

E-Rock and Franz Solo each made trips out for Thursday’s ABQ Beer Week events in Nob Hill. They offer up their thoughts on all the great beers that were available.

Rogue Nation seized control at O’Niell’s in Nob Hill, much to the delight of Franz Solo and E-Rock!

Once again, I found myself at beer tastings on Nob Hill. I started the day’s tastings at Two Fools where I ran into the ABQ Craft Beer Drinkers crew. They graciously invited me to their table to join them in a tasting of Left Hand’s Week Sauce, a coffee porter. Once again, Left Hand reminded me why they are my favorite out-of- state brewery. The coffee porter had the perfect amount of espresso taste in this delicious and smooth offering. If you are a fan of Marble’s Oatmeal Stout, then you are going to love the Week Sauce, a beer brewed especially for beer weeks across the country.

Next, I was off to O’Niell’s for a Rogue Brewery tasting. Due to a filing error, I did not have enough money on hand to buy the two pints that Rogue had on tap. However, I had no problem heading over to their free sample table and trying four other beers that they had on hand. First up was the Hazelnut Brown, which was amazing. The sweet hazelnut flavor would make for an irresistible dessert beer. It was my favorite of the four.

Then I had the Mocha Porter. It was good, but not nearly as smooth and tasty as Left Hand’s Week Sauce. Next up was the John John Ale, which is the Dead Guy Ale aged for 21 days in a whiskey barrel. The secondary aging process gave this beer a sweet whiskey taste that was not overpowering. I ended this stretch of tasting with the Double Dead Guy. This beer was very malty, but not as sweet as the John John Ale.

All in all, it was a great night filled with delicious beers. This evening I will double check my wallet and make sure I have enough cash to properly enjoy Stone Brewery’s offerings at O’Niell’s in Nob Hill. I hope to see you there.


— E-Rock

Rogue Nation invaded Albuquerque the past two evenings and it was glorious! The tasting lineup was a good roundup of some of the basic Rogue beers that I have enjoyed over the years and a couple of the excellent variations on the classic Dead Guy Ale. But the showstopper was the fact that the XS Imperial Russian was on tap alongside the aforementioned Dead Guy.

I had the chance to taste a couple of the XS series ales in bomber form in the past, but having this one, in particular on tap, was simply magical. This one packs a punch with a nearly impenetrable black-hole-like color, a dark copper head and an aroma that is dank, like good tilled earth. This one is a fire-breathing dragon when it comes to flavor, certainly not for the meek, or for those who avoid darker beers like they were the plague or something, but for those of us who have a love of the darkness (dark side!) this one delivers so well that I was forced to give it a triple helping!

Now, even with this delicious lineup and the appearance of the XS, this is but a small snapshot of the Rogue empire. If you ever chance to be in the Pacific Northwest, head to Newport, Oregon, where the brewery lies and you will be assaulted with more than 30 varieties on tap which form a galaxy of flavors, styles and just plain good beer!

In any event, this tasting was most welcome and I look forward to enjoying more of Rogue Nation!

— Franz Solo

Friday’s Beer Week events

  • Imbibe will be playing host to two big events. Santa Fe Brewing is bringing its Chicken Killer Barleywine and Black IPA (on draft) to the Nob Hill joint for folks to enjoy. That will run from 5 to 7 p.m. Also, there will be another beer trivia contest. It’s only a $5 entry fee per person. Team registration begins at 6 p.m. and the contest starts at 7 p.m. There will be plenty of Beer Week prizes on hand.
  • Two Fools will be doubling up on out-of-state brews for their taps at 5 p.m. New Belgium’s Cocoa Mole’ will occupy one tap, while Montana’s Big Sky will offer up … something. Nothing is listed at the moment on the Beer Week events page, but I’m sure whatever they are bringing will be tasty.
  • O’Niell’s Juan Tabo will have another round of tasting from 5 to 7 p.m. as Colorado’s Oskar Blues shows off its finest creations. Samples of Dale’s Pale Ale, Deviant, Yellow Pilsner, and Old Chub will be available, while you can also buy full pints of G’Knight.
  • O’Niell’s Nob Hill will play host to Franz Solo. Oh, and So Cal’s Stone Brewing, one of Franz’s favorites, will be there with Sublimely Self Righteous, Smoked Porter, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, the classic IPA all available for sampling. Once you (and Franz) are done with that you can purchase full pints of Levitation, Arrogant Bastard, and Cali Belgique. This event will also run from 5 to 7 p.m.

Memorial Day weekend suggestions

If you are escaping ABQ (and the smoke cloud) this weekend for other, cooler parts of the state, seek out the breweries in those areas!

  • For the Taos area, start at Blue Heron Brewing along Highway 68, just past the Dixon exit on the left (river) side of the road. We recommend the Tarantula Trek Red Ale, the Amber’s Folly, and the Prieta Real Imperial Stout (though probably not if you’re doing the driving). If you have the time, and we think you should make time, head over toward Eagle Nest and look for a dirt road with a brewery sign on it to find your way to Comanche Creek Brewing. Find your way to the little log cabin and enjoy some Homestead Amber. Then swing north through Red River and loop your way back into Taos. Right off the main drag you will find the Taos Ale House across the street from the main post office. They are always brewing up something awesome, and something a little out of the ordinary, so make sure to stop on by.
  • If you are just heading to Santa Fe, the Big Three up there — Blue Corn, Santa Fe Brewing, Second Street — will be there for you as always. The Road Runner IPA tops the menu at Blue Corn, but the Atalaya Amber Ale and the End the of the Trail Brown Ale are worth a look as well. SFB will have its usual collection of powerhouse beers, plus an Oranjelo Belgian White will be featured for Small Batch Saturday at the main tasting room. The good folks at Second Street will have favorites like their E.S.B. and Cream Stout, plus summer styles including a Kolsch and the Rail Runner Pale Ale.