Posts Tagged ‘Ska Brewing’

La Cumbre's Jeff Erway and Ska's Thomas Larsen have created a beer together.

La Cumbre’s Jeff Erway and Ska’s Thomas Larsen have created a beer together.

There is always something a little extra special about a collaboration beer. The notion of two great breweries coming together to combine their powers for the goodness of all just warms the heart. In these extra warm days, when that collaboration beer fits perfectly into summer, it can be all the better.

La Cumbre and Ska Brewing from Durango have teamed up to create Cinco Cincuenta, a rye Belgian pale ale. Brewmasters Jeff Erway and Thomas Larsen created the beer together at La Cumbre, where it goes on tap today (Friday).

“They came and brewed it here,” said La Cumbre marketing guru Samantha Ward. “We’re just trying to help get (more) into this market. They distribute for us up in Durango.”

Oh, Cinco, refresh us all on these hot, stifling summer days.

Oh, Cinco, refresh us all on these hot, stifling summer days.

We were able to fill a pint glass (thanks for the help on that, Majin!) to check out what the beer had to offer. It is a cloudy, orange-colored beer. The first thing that struck us both was the powerful, enticing aroma.

“I got lots of coriander, some spicy orange, lemon, and rye,” Samantha said.

Despite all of those witbier staples, minus the rye, appearing in the aroma, the beer itself does not have any added orange peel, lemon zest, or even coriander. Samantha said it was made with rye, two German hops (Mandaria Bavaria and Hallertau Blanc), and Nelson Sauvin hops.

The flavor is balanced across the board from the malts, hops, rye, and Belgian yeast. Though the aroma could almost be described as overpowering, the beer itself is strong and yet mild at the same time. It does not overwhelm the palate at all.

“It’s really refreshing from the citrus (flavors),” Samantha said. “It has a dry finish, so it’s not heavy at all. It’s very, well, it might clear up a little bit, but it’s cloudy now.”

Quite the swanky logo that's not a label.

Quite the swanky logo that’s not a label.

Though what looked like a possible label appeared on La Cumbre’s Instagram page, Samantha said it will only be available on tap. The good news is that La Cumbre plans to distribute it to a number of their keg accounts, so if the brewery gets too crowded for you (it happens on weekends at LC), you will have other options. A full list will be forthcoming.

Kegs of the beer will also be headed up to Ska, should anyone be seeking to escape the heat this weekend and head for the Colorado mountains.

Let us toast the spirit of collaboration with a pint of Cinco Cincuenta this weekend, and hope for more of these kinds of beer unions in the future!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Food trucks, beer, and (hopefully) nice weather are in store for this weekend. (Photo courtesy of Food Truck Festivals of America)

Food trucks, beer, and (hopefully) nice weather are in store for this weekend. (Photo courtesy of Food Truck Festivals of America)

The Great New Mexico Food Truck Festival returns to the grounds of the Balloon Museum on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. General admission tickets cost $5 in advance and $10 at the gate. There is also a VIP option for $20/$25 that gets you in at 11 a.m. (tickets were said to be limited, but there was nothing on their Facebook page about those selling out as of Friday afternoon).

In addition to all of the food trucks present, there will be quite a few craft beer options as well. It’s a distributor-controlled event, so there is not much local beer available. Abbey Brewing is sending Monks’ Ale, Dubbel, and Tripel. The De La Vega’s Pecan Beer is going to be there, along with a Hoppy Wheat. That mysterious Nuevo beer will be present. Rio Bravo is sending three beers, DRB IPA, Randy’s Red, and Old Town Porter.

As for the regional/national breweries, as provided by the event organizers (subject to change):

Avery — White Rascal, Ellie’s Brown, Raja DIPA, Lilikoi
Ballast Point — Pineapple Sculpin, Mango Even Keel, Watermelon Dorado
Boston Beer Co. — Sam Adams Grapefruit IPA, Nitro Belgian, Rebel Rouser IPA, Traveler Shandy
Breckenridge — IPA, Vanilla Porter, Oatmeal Stout
Guns and Oil — TBA
Lagunitas — IPA, Pilsner, Undercover Shutdown, Lil’ Sumpin’ Sumpin’
Latis (Belgium) — Rodenbach Grand Cru, Shoefferhofer, Radeberger
Leinenkugel — Summer Shandy, Blue Moon
SanTan — Moon Juice IPA, Hopshock IPA, Devil’s Pale Ale, Mr. Pineapple
Shiner — Kingpin Red, Wicked IPA, Prickly Pear
Sierra Nevada — Otra Vez Gose, Pale Ale, Torpedo IPA, Tropical IPA
Ska — Modus Mandarina, True Blonde, Mexican Logger
Squatters — Devastator Doppelbock, Hop Rising DIPA, Polygamy Nitro Porter
Upslope — Pale Ale, IPA, Craft Lager, Belgian Pale Ale
Wasatch — Apricot Wheat, Ghost Rider White IPA

Of course, we also figure you want the food truck list, so here is what they sent us:

  • Ay K Rico
  • Basil’s Home Cooking
  • Bill’s BBQ & Kettle Corn
  • Big Dogs BBQ
  • Brooke’s Carryout
  • Calle Ocho
  • Castaneda’s Kitchen and Catering
  • Europa Roaming Kitchen
  • Fresco New Mexico
  • GOTTAHAVSUM
  • Hot Stuff Hawaiian Shaved Ice
  • Irrational Pie
  • Karibu Café
  • Kimo’s Hawaiian BBQ
  • My Sweet Basil
  • Mystique
  • O’Bean’s Coffee Cruiser
  • Ready to Roll
  • Rescue Pizza
  • Snow Cone Xpress
  • Street Food Institute
  • StreetFoodBlvd
  • TeddyLu Concessions
  • Texas Roadside Diner LLC
  • The Lunch Box

Just don’t forget your sunscreen, and carpooling is recommended if anyone remembers the parking situation from the last few festivals in that area.

Have fun this weekend, everyone!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Get your hop bomb fix, all in one place.

Get your hop bomb fix, all in one place.

Hop harvest season is upon us, in case you have not noticed by all the pictures of brewers stuffing their noses in mounds of fresh-picked hops that are floating around social media these days. Of course, one could argue hop season is year-round in New Mexico, judging by IPA sales remaining steady even in the colder months. To capitalize on this endless love of hoppy beers, Angelo Orona and his company, Craft King Consulting, are putting another tasting event at Sister Bar. Last time around it was the Tart at Heart, celebrating sour beers. This time they are calling it Palate Fatigue.

The event will take place on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $35 in advance and $40 at the door, but take note that Tart at Heart sold out before the day of the event. You can purchase hard copy tickets at Sister, Jubilation, and the Kelly’s on Juan Tabo. You can also buy them online via Hold My Ticket.

To learn a little more about the event, I sat down with Angelo over at La Cumbre during the Full Nelson release, because after all, if you are going to talk hoppy beers, you might as well be drinking one of the hoppiest in all the land.

NMDSBC: So tell me all about Palate Fatigue. How did you come up with this crazy-sounding, hop-forward, craft-beer tasting event?

Angelo: In keeping with our theme of curating interesting and esoteric beers, like we did for Tart at Heart, we wanted to do an event that’s seasonally appropriate. October being the high season for hop harvest, we thought it would coincide nicely with the hoppy beers that are going to be in season at this time.

NMDSBC: Set-up wise, is it going to be a lot like Tart at Heart? Are you changing anything at all?

Angelo: It will be very similar in the setup. One difference will be this event will be unlimited tasting. Some of the best, most hoppy beers that are out. We are curating a list of specialty beers from regional breweries, local breweries, and some from across the world as well.

NMDSBC: So it’s pretty much IPA, double IPA, triple IPA.

Angelo: Yeah, so hop-forward beers will definitely be showcased. Our intention is to make the majority of them resinous, hop bomb, hop-forward beers. There may be a couple of curveballs thrown in. One idea was to have one very light, very easy-drinking beer thrown in as a sort of palate cleanser, rather than a palate wrecker.

NMDSBC: You list a few of the (local) guys here, Santa Fe, Ponderosa, La Cumbre, Bosque. People are always going to ask what kind of beers do you have? What’s coming? Do you have a list at this point?

Angelo: We do. So Lagunitas is going to send us something special, a keg of their Waldos’. Green Flash has Green Bullet and a Triple IPA that they’re going to send. We’re considering doing Le Freak from them, which is a Belgian IPA. Green Flash is really a brewery that does some hop-heavy beers, but hasn’t been showcased in New Mexico. So we partnered with them to get something special.

We’re going to get some beers from Alpine, which is the partner of Green Flash. We’re thinking of doing Duet and Hoppy Birthday. Breckenridge is going to likely have a beer that we’re going to debut at the event, which is a barrel-aged IPA with some sort of melons, though I don’t know specifically what they are yet. I’m waiting on the information for that.

Upslope is going to send us some Imperial IPA. Avery is going to send us something special. We’re likely to have Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA and Habanero Sculpin. And Wasatch has a real nice Ghost Rider White IPA that we’re going to feature. Ska also has a few … it’s going to be a special barrel-aged Modus (Hoperandi) and then Mandrino, which is aged on Mandarin oranges.

Those are some of the regional offerings, but we’ll also have specialty beers from a lot of the local breweries as well.

NMDSBC: I’m guessing those (local) lists will be finalized closer to the event itself.

Angelo: Yes. So the idea is to really have as many exclusive beers at the event as we can, or if they’re not exclusive at least debut at the event.

NMDSBC: I know something you wanted to do at Tart at Heart was to educate people about the beers they were drinking, since sours are still a new style for a lot of folks. People around here think they know a lot about IPAs, or is there more for them to still learn?

Angelo: Absolutely. We’re going to step up the educational component at this event. There will be a table that will feature different hops in their different forms. We’ll likely have some pelletized hops. If we can get our hands on some whole-cone hops we’ll do that. Hop plugs are another thing that we’re going to seek out, just so people know the difference between what these hops look like, smell like, and feel like.

Also we’ll have a better sort of program to have descriptions of the beer. Last time we had them on a projection (screen) over the event, but this time it’s likely we’ll have a small map so people can make their way around and have fuller descriptions of each beer.

NMDSBC: You’re doing the pre-sale at the door, but last time you guys sold out before?

Angelo: We did sell out.

NMDSBC: So you’re encouraging people to buy in advance.

Angelo: Buy your tickets as soon as you can. This event is likely to sell out just like Tart at Heart. This time we do have slightly more capacity. Last time we were limited to 150. This time we’ll have seating for about 200 folks. You can buy hard-copy tickets at Sister Bar, Jubilation, and Kelly’s Juan Tabo. The soft copies are through Hold My Ticket.

NMDSBC: And there is a charity.

Angelo: There is a charitable component to the event. A portion of the proceeds are going to the Aljaba Casa Hogar Children’s Home, which is located in Mexico. It’s a charity that I’ve been involved in for the last couple years. It was strongly supported by Marble Brewery while I was there. Each year we do several trips to support this children’s home. It has 45 children there that are cared for by the folks there. The proceeds will go to make sure they have what they need for school supplies, medicine, and so on.

Angelo added there would be a special IPA brewed by Sierra Blanca/Rio Grande just for the event, so we also have that to look forward to in October.

So hurry up and go get your Palate Fatigue tickets in advance. The Crew will see you at Sister in a few weeks.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

And so it begins!

Release the beer hounds! The three-day weekend begins!

Welcome back to ABQ Beer Week, though technically it never left. After Thursday’s surge of events contrasted with the terrible weather, we expected more Friday, but the sun kept the rain at bay for a change. So we have that going for us, if nothing else.

Today’s lineup kicks off with a golf tournament and concludes with multiple tastings. In between, a major brewery celebrates their anniversary weekend.

Featured event

Every day we will pick what we consider the biggest, most interesting, most unique event. This does not mean you should go to only this event and ignore the rest. All of them deserve your attention, but realistically, you can probably only attend a few. So we will make our daily pick, and you can either jump on it, or declare the Crew is foolish (we kinda are) and pick your own.

What: Nexus 4th Anniversary Party. Where: Nexus Brewery. When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Cost: No cover charge.

Details: Release the hounds as Nexus turns four years old today. To celebrate, they are grilling up some more red chile BBQ ribs, back by popular demand. You can also order a pint of Prosperity Works Belgian Scottish, which is the normal Beam Me Up Scottish this time with Belgian yeast. One dollar from each pint sold will go to the charity Prosperity Works. There will be live music from the Racine Kreyol Band from 1 to 4 p.m. The first 100 Nexus Members who walk in the door will get a special pint glass.

Why you should go: Even if the red chile BBQ ribs are too spicy, there will be plenty of other food, including the always awesome Chicken & Waffles. Throw in a new beer, live music, and more, and it has hard to see how you would sit this one out.

All the other great events

What: Seventh Annual NM Brewers Guild Golf Tournament. Where: Santa Ana Golf Club. When: 7 a.m. (registration), 8 a.m. (shotgun start). Cost: $100 per person. Details: From the Guild website, “Join New Mexico Brewers Guild for our 7th Annual Golf Tournament as we return to Santa Ana Golf Course for another round of beers and lost balls. Gather up a foursome of your best beer drinking buddies for this 4-Man or Woman scramble as we tee up some of the finest local beers to motivate the biggest hack to pick up some clubs.” The $100 covers your course fees, range balls, lunch, awards, and beer, of course. Why you should go: We know some of you love to play golf (looking at you, Karim), so why not throw in some beer and help the Guild at the same time?

What: Kiuchi Brewery Tapping. Where: Two Fools Tavern. When: 11 a.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: Hitachino Nest White Ale is the selected beer from Japan that you will enjoy. Why you should go: For those who are into the burgeoning Japanese craft scene, Kiuchi is among the trailblazers with their Hitachino Nest series. Plus, stick around for a Kilarney Grilled Chicken for lunch.

What: Oskar Blues Sampling. Where: Whole Foods on Academy and Wyoming. When: 11 a.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: Pinner Throwback IPA will be among the styles to sample. Why you should go: Free beer samples. Plus, pick up some healthy food for later when you have to cook dinner for your significant other and/or family to make up for all the time you’ve been spending at Beer Week events.

What: The Harwood’s Annual Fundraiser. Where: Marble Downtown. When: Noon. Cost: No cover charge. Details: The Harwood Art Institute is an amazing community resource, with their Summer Art Camp teaching children in-depth lessons in various mediums. Marble hosts their annual fundraiser to raise money for art scholarships to the camp. Street Food Institute will be on the curb from noon to late, while Conchitas Creations will join them from 1 to 7 p.m. Carlos the Tall will perform from 1 to 2:30, followed by Jasper from 3 to 4:30, and Joanie and Darin from 5 to 6:30 p.m. There will also be a merch table with a button-making machine from Harwood. You can purchase raffle tickets ($1 each) for prizes ranging from local bands’ CDs to a grand prize of a $175 gift basket from Harwood that will include a membership, gift certificate to an art class, and more. Why you should go: Support a good cause, help some kids have a great summer, eat awesome food, buy some merch, enter the raffle, listen to great music, and of course indulge in Marble’s many great beers.

What: Angry Orchard Honey Cider Tasting. Where: Total Wine (both locations). When: 1 to 3 p.m. (Cottonwood), 4 to 6 p.m. (Uptown). Cost: No cover charge. Details: Sample Angry Orchard’s newest cider. Why you should go: Free cider samples.

What: Woodchuck Sampling. Where: Total Wine (both locations). When: 1 to 3 p.m. (Uptown), 4 to 6 p.m. (Cottonwood). Cost: No cover charge. Details: Sample some Woodchuck ciders. Why you should go: More free cider samples.

What: Tommyknocker Event. Where: Twin Peaks. When: 1 p.m. Cost: No cover charge listed. Details: Tommyknocker will be promoting their beers for sale locally with Maple Nut Brown and Jack Whacker Wheat on tap. Why you should go: Beer, food, sports on TV. Almost everything you need in life.

What: Beer and Boards. Where: Tractor Wells Park. When: 1 p.m. (opening), 6 p.m. (music). Cost: No cover charge. Details: Tractor and Kamagraph are teaming up again for another art show, this one showcasing the art of skateboards. There will be live art being made, plus skateboarding demos in the parking lot, and live music will begin at 6 with Zack Freeman, Burque Sol, and The Riddims. Why you should go: Support the local art community, support some local musicians, and of course enjoy some beer while you are there.

What: April Showers Bring May Sours. Where: Jubilation. When: 2 to 4 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: Unleash the power of sour beers. There will be eight (!) sours available for sampling and then package sales. The lineup — St. Louis Framboise Lambic, St. Louis Peche Lambic, Petrus Aged Red, Petrus Oud Bruin, Monk’s Cafe (Flemish Red), Silly Sour (brown ale), St. Louis Fond Tradition Kriek Lambic, Petrus Aged Pale. Why you should go: If you love sour beers, this is practically nirvana.

What: Colorado Brewing Tasting. Where: O’Niell’s Juan Tabo. When: 2 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: Left Hand, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues will have samples for sampling. Why you should go: Three good Colorado breweries in one places.

What: Mother Road, Deschutes, and Ska Tapping. Where: Nob Hill Bar & Grill. When: 4 p.m. (Mother Road), 5 p.m. (Deschutes), 6 p.m. (Ska). Cost: No cover charge. Details: It’s a tripleheader of beer greatness. First up, Mother Road will have a special sour cask at 4 p.m. Then at 5, Deschutes will have some of their awesome Mirror Mirror barley wine from 2014. Then it’s Ska Keep the Pint Night, featuring Modus Hopperandi and True Blonde, with brewery swag and giveaways. Why you should go: One location, three epic breweries.

What: Sierra Nevada Special Tapping. Where: Sister Bar. When: 5 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: A quartet of SN beers will be available in the form of Summerfest Lager, Kellerweis, Harvest Idaho 7 Single IPA, and Ovila Quad with plums. Why you should go: The Harvest and Ovila are a couple of hard-to-get beers, so reward the folks at Sister for getting them by stopping by and paying for a pint or two.

What: Belgian Beer Dinner. Where: Heimat House. When: 5 p.m. Cost: $55 per person. Details: It’s a five-course meal pairing up different dishes with different Belgian beers. Among those poured will be the St. Bernardus Abt 12. There will be brewery reps on hand to help you get through it. Why you should go: Get an education in Belgian beer and indulge in some amazing European food. Sound like a win-win.

What: Bosque Tap Takeover. Where: Rock & Brews. When: 5 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: An unknown number of different Bosque beers will be on tap at the rock bar. Why you should go: Well, if you’re in the area, save some gas money and stop here.

What: Alaskan Special Tapping. Where: Gecko’s Nob Hill. When: 5 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: We have no idea what this beer will be, but it will be on tap at the NH location. Why you should go: Curiosity is not a bad thing. Neither is tapas food.

What: Oskar Blues Sampling. Where: Whole Foods on Carlisle. When: 5:50 p.m. Cost: No cover charge. Details: Pinner Throwback IPA will be among the beer styles sampled. Why you should go: Free beer samples!

Special ongoing events

All throughout Beer Week, these two events will be running.

Brewery Scavenger Hunt at lululemon athletica at ABQ Uptown
Where: lululemon athletica ABQ Uptown and various other participating sites. When: Today through May 31. What: Pick up a scavenger pass at lululemon and head to six of nine participating locations. Take photos with your pass at the locations and then bring it all back to lululemon to be redeemed for a special pint glass. Participating sites: Routes Bicycle Rentals & Tours, Duke City Trolley, Tractor, La Cumbre, Red Door, Marble, Chama River, The Grain Station, Rock & Brews

Smoked Meats Week
Where: Sandia Chile Grill When: 3 to 8 p.m., from today through Saturday, May 30
What: Beer and smoked meat pairing; beers are $3.50 per pint, $6 per 10-ounce mead sample
Today — Stuffed Avocado Street Tacos, Dirty Steve Mead (9.5% ABV)
Sunday — Baby Back Ribs, Legacy Mead (9.2% ABV)
Monday — Smoked Sausage, Rattlesnake IPA
Tuesday — Potato Stuffer, Barb’s Barrel Hefeweizen
Wednesday — Stuffed Avocado Street Tacos, Gold Rush Pilsner
Thursday — Smoked Salmon Platter, Red Ranger Irish Red
Friday — Stuffed Avocado Street Tacos, Rattlesnake IPA
May 30 — Smoked Meat Sample Platter, Rattlesnake and Red Ranger and Milk Stout ($3 per 10-ounce)

* * * * *

Got any questions, comments, complaints, send them to nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com, or leave them here on our site, on Facebook, or on Twitter (@nmdarksidebc).

Enjoy yourselves out there, but please, do it responsibly.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Marchfest5

It might not have been advertised much outside of Santa Fe, but plenty of folks showed up at Buffalo Thunder.

Last Saturday was the second annual Marchfest put on by Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino. Previously, this was an event that many of the Crew had written off due, mostly in part to little to no advertising, except through commercials on the mainstream radio stations (I’d be pretty surprised if the Crew listened to the radio). (We don’t. — S) There was almost no cooperation from the people running the event back then, and from what I did hear from those who attended, most reviews were mixed.

This year, because I’m the new Santa Fe correspondent, I felt it necessary to head out to my “backyard casino” and investigate what could go so wrong with a brewfest. Painful memories of Lions, Tigers, and Beers still bring forth a full-body shudder. Thankfully, for this event, I wasn’t wandering through the woods alone. I had a trusty guide, and I also bumped into Dark Side Bullpen and Los Alamos correspondent, Reid Rivenburgh, at the event. He came with his lovely wife, and this was their second Marchfest. Here were his thoughts on the event:

“We attended the Buffalo Thunder 2014 Beerfest, and as usual, a year later I can really only recall that I was a little “ehhh” about the event. I remember it being quite crowded, for one thing, and it’s never fun to stand in line for five minutes to fill a barely 1-ounce cup. Some friends were planning to go to this year’s event, so we figured we’d give it another chance. We were glad we did! Perhaps the biggest difference was that there weren’t that many attendees, so lines at each table were at worst a few people. It was far from empty, but it still felt comfortable. (And I was also able to catch up with fellow Dark Sider Luke, who I don’t think I had seen since the IPA Challenge.)

“I’m a dedicated IPA fan and will appreciate just about any style of beer, but my wife steers towards the ciders and fruitier/wheatier beers. Well, this was her event. It felt like there were just as many alternative beers as real ones. The makers of her favorite beer, the Pecan from the Pecan Grill and Brewery in Las Cruces, were in attendance. She even found a new favorite, Whiskey Beer. (Too bad we didn’t note who made it despite going back 14 times.) It was a glorious day for her. I certainly had plenty of Real Beers (TM) to try, but it didn’t feel like there were all that many interesting, unusual ones. Still, it was fun, and they were kind enough to offer complimentary sliders and tamale bites, which were much appreciated. And as a final bonus, since the event was at Buffalo Thunder, we were able to go to their buffet after and, ahem, digest our food and drink before driving off. (Plenty of gambling, too, if you’re into that kind of thing.) Overall, two thumbs up!”

My experience was pretty similar, except I was sans significant other this time around. Upon arrival I was greeted by tables full of beer mugs, T-shirts, water bottles, snacks. It felt like somebody had made a brewfest checklist and followed it. Pretzel necklaces, check. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, until one of those items is left unchecked, right?

Inside the main ballroom, it was a very open space full of tents and booths — nothing new, but always a happy sight. The place felt full enough of people, but it certainly wasn’t overcrowded like some Albuquerque venues, cough, BioPark, cough. I never had to wait in line. Not once. The music was mainly bluesy rock, but solid for a fest. The band was called D.U.S.K. (Dirty Urban Sh*t Kickers) and they kept people in the right beer-drinking mood. I can’t taste beer to Death Metal just yet; after all, my Dark Side training is not fully complete. (We have much work to do, clearly. — S)

Marchfest2

D.U.S.K. takes the stage!

Of the breweries, there was a healthy handful. Even La Cumbre showed up, despite previous confusing reports. And only one Marble Brewery showed up, which, if you saw this year’s Marchfest flyer, you’d get the joke. Santa Fe Brewing Co. poured all they’d promised to pour. It was unfortunate not to see more local guys, especially from Santa Fe, but that’s another can of worms I ain’t touchin’. Still, Tractor, Kellys, and Abbey Brewing Co. came to hang out for the day.

It was nice to drink my way from Kannah Creek (Grand Junction, Colo.), to Mother Road Brewing Co. (Flagstaff, Ariz.) ever since our fearless editor came back from his trip out to Flagstaff in June of last year. I ended up with a pint of their Kolsch towards the end. And I’d do it again. Avery, Breckenridge, and Ska were also representing Colorado, so that was nice.

Marchfest4

Some of the sights and beers.

The high-er rollers came out to the casino from the West Coast — Lagunitas, Stone, Deschutes, Sierra Nevada, and Alaskan. They were all welcome sights, as well, and brought some nice offerings and some special stuff. Did I mention Heineken was there? I usually wouldn’t. But, they were touting this crazy new vacuum-suctioned keg contraption that keeps the sunlight and oxidation out of beer. The beer I tasted was nothing like my memories of those dank, smoke-filled pool halls from college. If it could do that for Heineken, imagine the possibilities. Have you ever known a guy who complained about the oxidation in craft brews? I may know a thousand of them. And then there were the weird guys like Montejo and the Traveler Beer Company, both using some curiously odd mixes and mustaches to hide their macro parentage (so that’s where the mustaches came from!). I may have missed some of the breweries, but it was a big room.

As for value, we received a small taster glass with our ticket. Can’t complain about unlimited tastes. But if you wanted the mug and ticket for a “full beer” you had to pay $10 extra. This is a little bit different from NM Brewers Guild events, which, I believe, traditionally comes with a pint glass and ticket for a full pour. I suppose the extra money went to paying all the hotel and casino staff that were working with the brewery staff as additional pourers. Too bad they couldn’t tell you what you were drinking. Not a huge deal. There was at least one person at each booth that could. The total costs came out to what you might expect from a brewfest when you factor in full beers, food, souvenirs, etc. So, no problem there. There was an even a place, off to the side, where you could buy a six packs of all the stuff you liked.

Marchfest1

Look, proof of all the happy people!

Overall, it was a great time. Generally, I go to fests to try new things I’ve never had before, but I was “working,” so I tried a few new things from Mother Road, Stone, Kannah, but I had no problem playing the hits. Happy that Red Ryeot and State Pen Sour Porter were there. But, you see, I suspect it was a different crowd there than we see at ABQ Brew Fest or even Winter Brew. This crowd was very happy to be trying these beers, many of them for the first time. If this was their introduction to non-light macro lagers or Mexican lagers popular around the area, then from the enthusiasm they showed me, it was a huge success. After all, Sierra Nevada doesn’t make for a bad first experience, does it now?

What makes this brewfest worth attending next year? Well, for one thing, it’s a great venue. Come for a brewfest, and stay for a fun night. Drink great beers with your friends, and have a good time. Does every brewfest need to be an Untappd badge raid? I don’t think so. I can’t always go to my favorite brewery and try something new. I go far too often for that. But I go to have fun. And have fun, I did. Everyone had fun. I’m giving the whole experience a B+. The atmosphere was good. The vibe was good. This good time was well worth the price of admission. Let’s see what they can do next year!

Marchfest3

A couple photo IDs amid more attendees: Bullpen writer Reid Rivenburgh and his wife (top right). Event coordinator Emily Brcic (bottom right) is in the red shirt.

After the event I asked Emily Brcic, the event coordinator, a few questions.

DSBC: Overall, how do you think it turned out?

Brcic: I believe that overall the event was a big success, especially for being our second annual Marchfest. We learned many things from the previous year’s event that we applied this year. One example, was that we doubled the size of the room. This allowed more flow through the event, and eliminated crowded walkways and groups of people not being able to go to the booths that they wished to. We ended up having around 2,000 to 2,500 people at the event, which was a great turnout for an event that is still in it’s growing stages!

DSBC: What was the biggest success of this year?

Brcic: I think that our biggest success was the number of vendors/distributors that we had turn out and how great their booths and products looked. They all took a lot of pride in showing their products off to the guests, and I think this translated into a great guest experience. We had over 100 different beers this year, which was an increase from about 60 (I believe) last year, and we hope to increase that by even more for next year!

DSBC: Anything you would do differently next year?

Brcic: If I would change anything for next year’s event, it would be to push the event back a few hours. We struggled both years now with the majority of people not showing up until 1:30 to 2 p.m., when the event starts at noon. If we were to push the start time back, I think this would be beneficial to everyone involved.

* * * * *

All in all, allow me to say, well done Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino. Well done, Emily Brcic, for taking the lessons you learned from the previous event and really putting together something worth coming out for. Everyone I spoke to, and the majority were from Albuquerque (that was surprising), had nothing but positive things to say. I’ll reiterate, everyone had a good time. We can’t always go to Disneyland expecting new rides. Sometimes you just get drunk and ride the teacups, but it’s all good fun in the right place. Stay festy my friends!

Cheers!

— Luke

If you were in attendance, tell us what you thought about Marchfest on our Facebook page.

For more #CraftBeer News and @NMDarkSideBC info, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro

Durango Pic 15

The beautiful Colorado mountain town of Durango is an excellent “beercation” destination.

OK, New Mexico, I know many of you have made the trip up to Durango before. I know because I saw a lot of you there recently for the San Juan Brewfest. But for those of you who’ve never been, or haven’t been since you were a kid, let’s talk about Durango as a serious “beercation” destination. Sure, it’s great for the snow and the tons of excellent outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking, and zip-lining (all-beer friendly, am I right?), but read about that stuff in Outside Magazine if you want—we’re here for the beer, and as far as beer goes, Durango, “The City of Brewerly Love,” does not disappoint.

In order to have a successful beercation, several things are needed. Each beercationer will do his or her own thing, but we generally end up with a similar story at the end. Necessary elements, in my opinion, are 1) a good brew scene, 2) easy and safe access to said brew scene, 3) modes of recovery, and 4) a good beer haul, because you’ll want to bring some of those hard-to-get beers back home with you. For all of those to happen, your beer-vay-cay destination needs a reasonable amount of breweries, brewpubs, beer bars, and an overall enthusiastic bend in beer’s direction. For ease of access, it needs decent mass-transit — trolleys, cabs, horse and buggy, whatever — or at least it should be within easy walking distance between all beer establishments and hotels. We beercationers are all about tasting responsibly, right? Right. And finally, your beercation destination has to be packed with locally stacked liquor stores. Durango had all of those in spades.

Durango 3

Public transport! In a beer town? How novel.

So, following the rules of beercationing set down by our forefathers, and some common sense, we planned everything in advance — a city known for its craft-beer passion, a centralized hotel, easy transportation routes, recuperation restaurants, and a list of beer bars, breweries, and liquor stores long enough to quench everyone’s thirsts.

Base Camp

For a successful hop-holiday, the first thing needed is a good base camp, somewhere near the beer scene/events, close enough to walk to or grab a cheap cab ride home from. Something easily named so you don’t forget it when the cabby’s asking, “Where to, buddy?” Seriously, try remembering which Motel 6 by the highway after several pints. For that, we chose the Durango Downtown Inn. It’s not a fancy hotel by any means, as fellow Bullpen member Amy O pointed out to me, but it’s comfortable and clean. And what more do you need for a beer trip, really? But located between 8th and 9th Streets and only two short blocks from Main Street (Brew Central), it’s an ideal place to stumble back to after a long night, or day of responsibly drinking copious amounts of good craft brews. I highly recommend the hotel, and as Amy O also informed me, it really is right next to a liquor store for a beer haul, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Nightlife

Durango 1

In addition to multiple breweries, a good beer bar is a must-see.

As for the nightlife scene, there are plenty of breweries, taprooms, saloons, cantinas, pubs, pre-prohibition-era-style cocktail bars, wine bars, spiritoriums, dives … eeally, it’s pretty ridiculous how much variety there is for such a small town. There’s a lil’ sumthin’ sumthin’ for everyone’s tastes and bends even if it isn’t beer. For us, however, we would have been remiss if we passed on the royal beer treatment of Lady Falconburgh’s Barley Exchange that Friday night.

“Falc’s,” I tried calling it a couple times to locals, only to be received by faces scrunched up in confusion, followed by, “Oh, Falconburgh’s! Yeah, love that place!” Take note Brew Dogs. No need to sound Greek when in Rome. Falconburgh’s was a great place. Sure it was “college-y,” but it’s in a college town. It felt very “Falling Rock Tap House,” if you’ve ever been to Denver. But with 38 rotating beers on tap, it’s easy to remind yourself that you’re here for the beer!

Altbiers and porters and ryes, oh my! They poured a wide variety of styles from each end of the spectrum and everything in between. If you visit, don’t forget to sign up for a beer card if you plan on drinking there often. And you should! After drinking 100 different brews, you get your name and design on one of the bricks holding up the establishment. Talk about supporting local! Falconburgh’s is a worthy descent into brew-madness and well worth the climb back out. After some interesting and informative barhopping, we finally ended up back at base camp having closed out the Derailed Pour House with one of their house pours. Exhausted, it was definitely time for bed; we had a brewfest to attend the next day.

So ... many ... tap ... handles ...

So … many … tap … handles …

That weekend, we made the special brewcation up to Durango for their annual San Juan Brew Fest, a festival with over 50 breweries, four bands, and one good cause. If you haven’t done it already, read all about the experience here (San Juan Brewfest). But there are other events that are coming up for you to plan into your very own cerveztination. Why not visit for Durango’s Oktoberfest, which is the weekend of Sept. 27-28 in Buckley Park? Bring your palates and don’t forget your sunscreen!

Hangover Breakfast

The next morning after a brewfest, very few thoughts enter the hurting brain besides, Water. I need water. Where are my sunglasses? Tylenol. Why is everyone talking so loudly? A single image of a giant greasy meal fit for an army of one pops into view. You see this carb-monster whenever you close your eyes, and it’s all you can think about. Fooooooood …

Durango Pic 12

Sustenance is a must while on beercation.

On local recommendation, we dragged ourselves, zombie-style, to the Durango Diner, famous for their green chile, spelled c-h-i-l-i there. Amateurs! Ha! Ow. My head. They had a rather large menu filled with breakfast and lunch items, pretty standard diner fair but huge piping hot portions, one even named “The Cure” with everything but the kitchen sink in it. Oh, there was the “Kitchen Sink Omelet,” too. We went with a breakfast sandwich and a breakfast burrito. Now, my New Mexico amigos, I strongly suggest NOT ordering the red chile or Christmas. Their green chili is not our green chile, but it is still Hatch, and the recipe for the chile sauce is pretty tasty and with a familiar NM kick. But again, stay away from the red unless you want your burrito to taste like a chile cheese coney from Sonic, which is great as a chile dog. But we’re New Mexicans; we have a right to be snobbish about our chile. I won’t apologize for that. Interesting thing about Colorado is that they get the chile right in their beers. Try Pagosa Brewing Co.’s Chili Verde Cerveza and let me know what you think. Anyway, hangover cured! We were ready for our last bit of business, that is, the business of the beer haul.

The Beer Haul

As far as a good beer haul goes, you want to pair variety with friendly customer service. Durango has plenty of good options for liquor stores, but we chose Liquor World, as it was next door. We didn’t have time to drive around checking them all out, and so we reserved the others for a return visit, because there will be many. Oh, yes! There will be many. I want one of those Falconburgh bricks, all yellow, with a big red Zia Sun on it. Represent!

Durango 6

Don’t forget your friends at home before you leave.

Meanwhile, back at Liquor World, it seemed pretty run of the mill to me at first, but then, as always, this magical thing happens. You walk up to that familiar section of craft cans and bottles, just like you might see at Kelly’s, Total Wine, or Jubilation, except … lo and behold, there are new and exciting cans and bottles that we’ve never seen before! It’s like visiting a new candy store, except candy doesn’t magically change from state to state, unlike beer. I loaded up a few six-packs of purely Colorado stuff, biting my knuckles as I purposely passed up the six-pack of 90 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head. I was in Colorado and was going to bring home local.

I got a nice selection of different styles, and tried to keep to stuff I couldn’t get here in the good old NM without knowing a guy who knows a guy. I pulled some Avery Brewing Co. that I didn’t get to try last time in Boulder. I picked up some Steamworks Brewing Co., because I LOVED what they were throwin’ down. I really dug their Third Eye PA. The hops in that beer could totally bring you to a higher consciousness. I grabbed Odell because we somehow missed their tent at the brewfest, and I also threw in a couple Ska brews because according to the beer clerk, they would not be making the Mexican Logger anymore, due to some issue with production, that and I couldn’t leave Ska Brewing completely out of my Durango trip. It just wouldn’t seem right.

Summary

Durango 4

Flights of joy.

With four quality breweries around town and plenty of brew pubs and beer bars set right in their historic downtown area, this little mountain town is an excellent location to immerse yourself in Colorado beer. The nightlife and restaurants are as varied as the brews and drinks they serve, the people are friendlier than you could ever hope for, and the green chile is nice surprise on that side of the state border. And they show OUR local news! What’s up with that? With ideal locations to sleep, to cure hangovers, and to pull decent beer hauls, Durango is an excellent venue for a foam-filled beercation. Plus, it’s only about three and a half hours from Albuquerque.

Cheers!

— Luke

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.)

Cheers!

— 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!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Well, that was fun.

We're just happy to have survived you, oh wonderful event.

We’re just happy to have survived you, oh wonderful event.

ABQ Beer Week 2013 has come and gone, and now that a certain baseball team is on the road, ol’ Stoutmeister here has a chance to catch up and recap the last two days of events, Friday and Saturday. These were a couple of big days for the Brew Crew with our Dark Ages show on Friday and Blues & Brews on Saturday. Oh, yeah, and I turned 35, so I guess it was big for me personally. I’ve never had a beer festival on my birthday before. It was, shall we say, a tad insane.

First up, a huge thank you to everybody involved in Beer Week. From Marne Gaston and her staff at Feel Good Festivals,  all the local brewery staffs and local bar staffs who participated, all the people who generously volunteered their time instead of just drinking beer, and to all the folks in the general public who came out to all the events, thank you for all your hard work, your kindness, and for just being the best bunch of folks on the planet for 10 days.

So anyway, onto the last couple of events.

* * * *

For not exactly being the kind of guys who have ever put on an event before, we got through pretty unscathed.

For not exactly being the kind of guys who have ever put on an event before, we got through pretty unscathed.

The Dark Ages was a blast. For an event that we conceived in about a month, I feared it would be completely disorganized and haphazard. Thankfully, we had the awesome Lauren Poole in charge of producing, plus Skye and her staff at Tractor working hard to help procure the beers and set up ArtBar for our event.

As for the Crew, well, we rehearsed our Monty Python inspired opening about 30 minutes before the event. Poor E-Rock got there just in time from his earlier gig to follow us in the line of Beer Monks; he didn’t have a chance to learn the chant we came up with:

Pie jesu domine, we prefer the darker beers (pause, drink)

Pie jesu domine, we like our malts roasted black

Pie jesu domine, we do not like the hoppy

The audience laughed, so I guess we did something right there. From there Lauren and I introduced the various acts, which ranged from Red Light Cameras’ Barney Lopez playing a song on a ukelele atop a ladder to Sam Tynker drinking a beer from eight feet away via a tube through his nose to E-Rock leading his friends in a series of covers from Dark Side of the Moon. Lauren led the band House of Wine into action, while two of our the Crew’s friends did a belly-dancing routine.

The talented Morgan Harris was one of our favorite acts during Dark Ages.

The talented Morgan Harris was one of our favorite acts during Dark Ages.

Oh, and there was also a lovely, extremely flexible young lady silencing us all with her amazing acrobatic routine. We were so blown away I think I was the only one to bother to snap a photo. Thank you, Ms. Morgan Harris, you were amazing.

In between the acts we kept everyone guessing with some beer trivia, with prizes from us (we gave away some of our T-shirts that you may have spotted us wearing all week), Bosque Brewing, Broken Bottle, and more. Heck, we even gave away two free VIP tickets to Blues & Brews that were handed to us during the show. Thank you to Alan Markey from Premier Distributing. We also gave away a free brewery tour with the Crew to our newest follower on Facebook, Matthew Schleyer. He started following us during the show and we pulled his name out of Shilling’s hat just minutes later. His wife also won a prize during the trivia rounds.

So what were the trivia questions? Test your own knowledge here. The answers will be at the bottom of the post.

1. Why do the bubbles in Guinness go down?

A) It’s a visual illusion; B) It’s an effect of being made with nitrogen instead of CO2; C) It’s created by the secret malts Guinness uses

Stoutmeister, left, writes down the trivia answers while Porter Pounder does, um, something important.

Stoutmeister, left, writes down the trivia answers while Porter Pounder does, um, something important.

2. Where did La Cumbre’s Jeff Erway get his start as a brewer?

A) Chama River; B) Turtle Mountain; C) Il Vicino

3. Where was the original location of Il Vicino’s brewery?

A) Downtown; B) Off Comanche near I-25; C) Nob Hill

4. What ingredient gives a milk stout its creamy body and sweetness?

A) Lactic sugar/lactose; B) Chocolate malts; C) A special type of hops

5. Which of the following was NOT a beer from Broken Bottle?

A) Rob Van Winkle Vanilla Stout; B) Fat Willie’s Smoke Stout; C) Pied Piper Porter

6. What was the most read Brew Crew story of all time?

A) Our in-depth interview with Jeff Erway; B) Our explanation of how Tractor briefly lost the ability to sell growlers; C) The review of our second Super Bowl Stout Challenge

E-Rock, left, wore his Spartan helmet and played the oud alongside his friends Sam, center, and Stephen.

E-Rock, left, wore his Spartan helmet and played the oud alongside his friends Sam, center, and Stephen.

We closed the night with a jam session by E-Rock and the many other musicians we had in the house. We also had a total of nine dark beers on tap including Odell’s Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout (a huge thanks to Ryan Bogart from the Colorado brewery for the last-minute donation!), Bosque’s Olde Bosky porter, Broken Bottle’s The Incident Black IPA, Il Vicino’s Black IPA, La Cumbre’s Baltic Porter, Marble’s Stout Americano, and Tractor’s Double Plow Oatmeal Stout, Nut Brown, and Milk Stout.

Thank you to all of our performers, everyone from Tractor and Blackout Theater Company who helped us out, and of course to all the cool people we met in the audience, including some who came from as far away as San Diego. We’ll be sure to do another Dark Ages show for Beer Week 2014 that will be even bigger and better. Don’t miss out next time!

* * * *

The crowd was great with all the space to move around in at Blues & Brews.

The crowd was great with all the space to move around in at Blues & Brews.

So after some stroke-of-midnight birthday shenanigans over at Anodyne with fellow May 4ther Sam Tynker and our friends, I made it home around 4:30 a.m. I may be older, but I’m not wiser. After about 5 hours of sleep, Franz Solo rolled by and we headed out to lunch/brunch with Porter Pounder. From there, it was off to Blues & Brews, which was held outdoors for the first time at the Isleta Amphitheater. The location had its pluses (plenty of room to maneuver) and minuses (the location is a tad remote), but overall things went very well. Heck, I was only sunburned on one small part of my neck that I missed with the sunscreen. That alone is a miracle for this Scottish-Irish-Polish-American.

We stopped by to talk to old friends at Tractor, Bosque, Broken Bottle, Back Alley Draft House, and more of the local booths. We also introduced ourselves to the staff at New Mexico Craft Brewing Co., which is opening soon in Las Vegas. Others we talked to included the owners of the Grain Hopper, Rio Rancho’s homebrewing store, and the folks who are bringing Utah’s Uinta Brewing into the state at long last.

We implore you all to find this awesome beer from Uinta. Just be careful with it, tis a monster.

We implore you all to find this awesome beer from Uinta. Just be careful with it, tis a monster.

For Franz Solo and I, our favorite three out-of-state beers were Lagunitas’ aptly named Hop Stoopid, Green Flash’s Double Stout Golden, and Uinta’s monstrous (13.2% ABV) Labyrinth Imperial Black Ale. Others that stood out to me were Butte Creek’s Organic Porter, Durango Brewing’s Hop Hugger IPA, Mad River’s Steelhead Extra Stout, Pagosa’s super sweet Peach Ale, Ska’s Vernal Minthe Stout, Stone’s Smoked Porter, and Uinta’s Dubhe Imperial Black IPA.

In terms of New Mexico beers, we gave big thumbs up to Back Alley’s IPA, Blue Corn’s Gold Medal Stout, Bosque’s new version of the Boss Pale Ale (it’s sweeter, but with a hoppy bite still present), Broken Bottle’s The Incident, Cazuela’s Inebriator Dopplebock, Chama River’s White Elephant (for Franz) and Summer Ale (for myself), NM Craft Brewing’s Roundhouse (Nitro) Stout, Sandia Chile Grill’s (Nitro) Milk Stout, Santa Fe’s Imperial Java Stout, and Tractor’s Maibock. I do not want to pick just one favorite out of the bunch. They are all worth seeking out, along with the many other great beers brewed all across this great state of ours. Beer Week may be over, but please, don’t stop supporting our local breweries!

The birthday boy closed his day at Blues & Brews with Tractor. What, you're shocked by this? Have you not been paying attention?

The birthday boy closed his day at Blues & Brews with Tractor. What, you’re shocked by this? Have you not been paying attention?

There was a lot of beer that we did not try, but we had to try and stay somewhat lucid. Well, Franz did, I was not quite as lucky (again, older, not wiser). We also had a conversation with Tractor about a little something that might be pretty big for the Crew in the future. We’ll have more on that once we talk some more and transition from theory to actual plan.

Anyway, I again want to say thank you to everyone involved with Blues & Brews. Especially Marne, who does an incredible job of organizing all of this. Marne, you have earned the right to do absolutely nothing for a week but kick back and relax! Blues & Brews was a splendid event and just about the best birthday present this old guy could ever ask for.

So until we’ve all recovered in time next week’s American Craft Beer Week, I bid you adieu from all of us in the Crew. We’ll be back out there soon enough supporting our local breweries. We have (at least) three more beer festivals in June to prepare for!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

(Trivia answers: 1. B, 2. A, 3. C, 4. A, 5. C, 6. B)

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.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister