Posts Tagged ‘Ska Brewing’

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

Stoutmeister and E-Rock continue their quick trek through the breweries of the Four Corners Area with a stop at the most famous of the bunch, Ska Brewing.

After the general disappointment of Steamworks on Tuesday night, our bar dropped pretty low for Durango-area breweries. Not surprisingly, Ska said “to hell with that” and reminded us what a good brewery can really do when we dropped by on Wednesday.

We actually had breakfast, but not beer, at Carver Brewing, but made sure to ring up Durango Brewing Co. and Ska to ask the most important question of the day — will you have Portugal (Papa E-Rock’s home country) vs. Spain on TV? Ska answered in the affirmative and off we went.

Ska has a jumbo-sized brewery located in southern Durango.

The brewery itself is big, bigger than anything in New Mexico. It is four stories tall, located in a warehouse district south of town (similar to the area La Cumbre and Il Vicino occupy in ABQ) near the intersection of Highway 550 and Sawyer Road. The tasting room is spacious, open during the daylight hours but closing fairly early in the evening. (7 p.m.!) It sits on the ground floor and there is also an outdoor beer garden, but being in need of a TV to watch the Euro semifinal, we opted for the great indoors.

As for the beers, the vast majority available at “the mothership” are available in bottles for sale around the region. The award-winning Steel Toe Stout was not available on tap, but there were a trio of special seasonal beers — the Orange Cream Stout, Ole Mole Stout and Mexican Logger. I let E-Rock try each of them due to allergy-related reasons.

Here is a quick wrap-up of all the beers we sampled while watching that darned frustrating soccer game (boooooo, Spain):

True Blonde Ale: This has been a signature beer for Ska for years, and rightfully so. With a touch of hops and a lot of flavor, True Blonde is most similar to the ales made by La Cumbre. This is a perfect beer for summertime refreshment on hot day. — E-Rock

Pinstripe Red Ale: The menu describes it as being like an amber ale, and I would agree. From the light, non-red color to the light taste, it was the only mild disappointment on the menu. There were hops here, but they were not enough. — Stoutmeister

True Blonde Dubbel: Though similar in name to the True Blonde Ale, this sweet Belgian dubbel is a very different beer. Again, Ska shows its knack for making flavorful beer. The best Burque comparision would be Marble’s Double White. — E-Rock

A sampler of Ska’s finest, from left to right: Pinstripe Red, Buster Nut Brown, Ten Pin Porter, Special ESB, and Nefarious Tin Pin Porter.

Buster Nut Brown Ale: My personal favorite, a solid English-style brown, smooth with a hint of caramel flavor. The Victory and Munich malts shine through for a flavorful but drinkable beer. — Stoutmeister

Mexican Logger: The Mexican Logger is the beer that Corona wishes it could be. Light, crisp, and citrussy in a way a beer should be, my seven-ounce sample even came with a little slice of lime. This is a great beer to turn a Tacaté lover into a real beer drinker. — E-Rock

Ten Pin Porter: Ska throws six malts into this style, which comes with a strong but smooth flavor. There is no burnt flavor here, just a good collection of coffee and chocolate hints. — Stoutmeister

Olé Molé Stout: This was one of the most original and satisfying beers that I have ever had. The initial taste was so unique that I didn’t know what to make of it. It is sweet and spicy like molé, but it is still a smooth like a stout. I fell in love with it on my second tasting. This is a must-try for any adventurous beer drinker. — E-Rock

The friendly confines of Ska’s tasting room. Trust us, it filled up as the day went on.

Nefarious Ten Pin Porter: At first taste this imperial version of Ten Pin had a mystery flavor that turned out to be Bing cherry. It offered up a strong yet sweet finish to a burlier version of the regular Ten Pin. At only 8% ABV, it won’t overwhelm the palate. — Stoutmeister

Orange Cream Stout: The name says it all. It’s like a cream stout with a bold orange flavor. Like almost everything at Ska, this beer was all about great flavor. — E-Rock

Ska Special ESB: An offbeat ESB, with stronger hop flavors than what you would encounter in the ESBs at Nexus or Second Street back in NM. It almost tastes like the love child of one of those ESBs mixed with a hoppy pale ale. — Stoutmeister

While the soccer outcome was not good, the beer at Ska was great and left us looking forward to our next stop in southwest Colorado — Durango Brewing Co.!

Until we return with that review…

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister