Hops & Pie and Sours, Oh, My!

As part of the run up to GABF, several bars around town were hosting tap takeovers. I was going to the GABF Thursday night session, so I wasn’t able to go to the “What the Funk” Party hosted by Beer Advocate, but I made up for it at the Crooked Stave Tap Takeover at Hops & Pie.

Hops & Pie came highly recommended, and lucky me I was planning to go even before I heard about the takeover, which included beers from Jester King in Austin, Texas. Jester King is truly one of my most favorite breweries. They brew avant garde, wild fermentation beers, and their quaint set up in the Texas hill country is one of the most lovely tasting rooms I’ve ever visited.
jester king

Jester King makes amazing beer, and their “bottle shop” list of beers from around the world, brings tears of joy to my eyes. I think it’s safe to say, I love this brewery and jump at every chance I can to drink their amazing beer.

When I got to the bar were already out of the Aureline Lure from Jester, it’s a barrel aged sour with Northern California apricots. I was bummed, but drowned my sorrows with the Provenance Orange/Grapefruit (Wild Saison with Citrus fruit) instead.

In my first flight I tried Dark Pumpkin Sour from Almanac, San Francisco, CA (Dark Sour Pumpkin Ale with heirloom pumpkins, spices an aged in red wine barrels); Apollo and Dionysus from Breakside, Portland, Ore. (Gin barrel aged sour saison with flowers); the Cherry Funk from Prairie in Tulsa, Ok. (Sour Ale aged on Cherries); the Of Love and Regret from Stillwater, Baltimore, MD (Ale brewed with Heather, Cammomile, Lavender and Dandelion, and the Provenance Tangerine/Clementine from Jester King.
sours

Tasting all these weird sources in one sitting is kind of a disaster mess on your palate. The Dark Pumpkin Sour was really great, I was glad to have tried it first, when I revisited it after the complete first flight, the subtle pumpkin spice was gone and all I got was some serious sour power. I got the Apollo and Dionysus just to be weird, I’m not really sure why, as it was aged in Gin barrels, and I won’t touch Gin with a 10 ft. pole. After the pumpkin sour it tasted very astringent and medicinal. It was not a standout for me. But the Cherry Funk from Prairie redeemed my taste buds. An awesome big sour with lots of sweet full cherry flavor, my tasting companion agreed that it was just a tasty “not-too-weird” sour.

I think I got the Of Love and Regret, because with a name like that I just couldn’t pass it up. It also had lavender in it, and after brewing a honey lavender Kolsch myself this summer, I’m always game to try anything with that herb in it. The final taste of Flight #1 was the Jester King Provenance Tangerine/Clementine. I liked this one a great deal better than the Grapefruit Orange, but making distinctions between the two after pumpkin-spice-gin-barrel-cherry-lavender … yeah, you get the idea.

In flight #2 I got the Passion Fruit Sour from Breakside. I was excited about this because I had recently spent a late summer afternoon with a local Berliner Weiss in Albuquerque and really dug it. This Berliner Weiss conditioned on passionfruit did not taste good. It tasted like cheap white wine, according to my notes. My friend smelled it and said no way. As I write this I seem to vaguely recall that I have never been a particular fan of passionfruit, so yeah, not so much on this one. Next up was Nightmare on Brett from Crooked Stave, in Denver. This bourbon barrel aged sour brown kicked ASS. It was tasty and packed a huge bourbon punch. A reasonable person, would probably have done well to have had the Nightmare on Brett and the Pumpkin Saison as tasting combo and call it a day. I still had to taste 3 more beers.

Next I had the Gozu from Westbrook in Mount Pleasant, SC. This was a play on Gose beer flavored with Yuzu, described as (malt beverage brewed with sea salt, coriander and yuzu). I must have liked it because I have the sole tasting note “sublime.” Next up was Vine, from Cascade in Portland, Ore a barrel aged blend of soured triple, blonde quad and golden ales. While the description doesn’t say as such, I’m assuming this was aged in some type of wine barrel. It was very grapey, like grape magic marker, purple grapey. Not exactly my favorite flavor. I give away all my grape skittles.

Last and certainly not least was the Strawberry, also from Cascade. It was delicious. I loved it. “It tastes exactly like how Strawberry Shortcake’s hair smells.” And while my notes are sketchy on this, I’m pretty sure I also tasted the Crooked Stave Batch #100 Wild Ale and the Debutante from Societe, San Diego Calif, a tasty Belgian red ale.

Somehow, in this mess of lip smacking sours, I also managed to consume an amazing appetizer of IPA Mac & Cheese. It was delicious. I really enjoyed this laid back tasting, and hope to get back to Hops & Pie in future for more yummy beer.

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Beer! Denver! Day 1

Fall has always been a time of inspiration for me. This year I got my autumn started right with a visit to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival. I was in town on a business trip all week, so I was fortunate to explore some local establishments before the big night. As soon as I got in, I headed straight to Great Divide . I was torn about what I would find there. On the one hand, I was feeling autumnal and could have gone for some Oak Aged Yeti, or another of their famous winter flavors, but when I saw my old friend Colette Farmhouse Ale, the choice was clear, I had a delicious pint straight from the source.

Collette

The pub crawl I had envisioned was cut short by a delayed flight, so there was only time to hit one more brewery before calling it a night. Usually I’m full of research and plans, but this time I just picked a spot based on geography, and it turned out really well. The second stop of the night was at Copper Kettle brewery . I’d never heard of them before, and with time for only one pint at closing time, I went for their flagship Mexican Chocolate Stout. It was sublime, tasty bittersweet chocolate and delicious notes of hot peppers. This GABF gold medal beer had a great balance of heat, chocolate and stout, none of which overwhelmed the other. It was a pleasant surprise, and the bartender’s fantasy football enthusiasm allowed me to stay a bit past closing time an savor this big, tasty beer.

mexican chocolate stout

I took a few nights off, and by “off” I only had the occasional beer, the Tommyknocker’s pumpkin harvest ale, a solid pumpkin beer with lunch, and a Funkwerks Saison with dinner. Neither disappointed, although I did have the thought that I’d rather Collette than the Saison, then I shook my head and realized if this was the big dilemma of the day, things were definitely alright.

Day 1: Purgatory

The next few blogs will be about my winter break. I’m on the longest vacation of my adult life (not including various stages of unemployment) and I’m skiing all over Colorado & New Mexico. Of course where there’s skiing, there’s beer, so I will be writing about that too.

Day 1: Purgatory
Song: dont stop believin- Journey
Beer: ska euphoria

Straightforward mtn. Well segregated to get the gapers out of the way. What to ski: lifts 3 5 & 8. Nice long bump runs around the backside off lift 8. No lines.

Word to the wise. Purgy’s closes early. Your bartenders want to go party.

Pro tip: ride “the polar” drink egg nog at the quiet lady tavern. Make it all right again with beer & breakfast from carvers.

Daytripper

Ballooning is an Albuquerque thing. It’s precisely burqueno and in my 3 years here, I’ve avoided it like the plague. The whole notion of walking around looking at balloons amidst a bunch of screaming kids just never really appealed to me. Well, it turns out, I was wrong about balloon fiesta, way wrong.
This year through some friends of friends, I’m crewing for Paul Clinton on Daytripper. He’s been flying in Albuquerque for about 25 years. Through him I’m learning “that ballooning is like sailing, only in 3 dimensions.” I’m also learning about the peculiarities of hot air ballooning at 5,000 feet surrounded by mountain ranges and Indian reservations.

So on a chilly morning, I’m listening to Pink Floyd’s Animals (recall the album cover and that reference almost makes sense) and having awaking dream about curling up in a stack of warm pancakes as I speed past IHOP on the way to the interstate. Basically, the way it works, is that if you’re willing to show up at 5 am, you can lift things and take direction, you can be on a balloon crew. Once the balloon is loaded on the trailer with the fan and the basket we wind our way up Edith toward Balloon Fiesta Park.

Dawn Patrol


I’ve been out with them a couple of times now, chasing the balloon in a truck kicking up dust on the mesa west of town and also driving a not quite fully refurbished prison van to dead end on a cul de sac and then begging a homeowner to cut through their house and yard to get to the ditch and catch the balloon. Getting to the landing is key, so is keeping your cool while negotiating balloon fiesta spectator traffic and looking out for other out of town balloon crews. This part of balloon crew is very important. Once the pilot lands, he needs more weight on the basket to keep it from lifting off the ground again and to get tilted toward the ground so he can let the air vent out of the balloon. Once the balloon is on the ground it has to be carefully packed away, because, hey, you don’t want to deal with a mess the next time your stumbling in the dark at balloon o’clock (usually about 5 am). Once the envelope (fancy name for balloon part) and basket (duh, it’s the basket part) are on the trailer, its time to start drinking beer.
Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you get to drink it from a vintage firetruck/chase vehicle called the gentle stripper. Other times you sip it from a can as you watch the balloons come in for competition. Other than my actual balloon ride, the competition drop was my favorite part of my virgin fiesta. Basically balloons fly in to the field and try to drop bean bags on an X on the ground, or for the really big money, put a ring on a pole that’s about 15 feet tall. Because Albuquerque’s balloon fiesta is the biggest Ballooning Rally in the world, you get really top notch competitors.
Much like sailing, everyone who intends to fly, meets at a pilot’s briefing. Once the weather conditions and rules are sorted out at this meeting, the competition pilots start to calculate the best place to launch from in order to hit the targets. Strategy, local knowledge and a bit of luck all weigh in to this equation about equally.
On this exceptionally brisk October morning, we had the first two going for us. Paul knew exactly where he wanted to launch from, but unfortunately we had a mechanical, um situation, one of the uprights that holds the burner above the basket had broken the day before and was lodged so far down in the slot where it sits that the spare upright would not go in.

Despite brainstorming and resourceful attempts at removing the piece, it looked like the day was going to be a wash.
I never thought I’d say I was glad to not get a ride, but sitting on the infield with a beer, watching the pros come in to the targets was the non-flying highlight of the week. It’s a really cool sport with some really, really talented pilots and the wind conditions were right for several of them to make multiple attempts on the targets. From my novice observations, the wind conditions were such that the north south wind “dumping” from Santa Fe sped the contestants right to the targets, then they’d rise up and catch a south-north current to head back up and give it another go. It looked like they were using an elevator and a conveyor belt. Very cool.

Competion Drop

All the while we were trying to fix the upright situation the special shapes were taking to the air. I got a lot of cool pictures of special shapes.

Special shapes!

Finally on the final Sunday of fiesta, after 3 weekends of 5 am wakeups, I got my ride. It was a perfect day for flying and everyone was inflating on the field for a huge, sunny mass ascension.

Mass Ascension

We waited until the tail end of the ascension and sailed right up over the field. Balloons directly ahead of us to the south dotted the sunny skyline in a perfect Albuquerque moment.

But all good things must come to an end and just as smoothly as we had ascended, we started to head toward a field to land.

Floating


We came in smoothly, softly and slowly right over the top of the Noah’s Ark balloon, still inflated on side. The fine folks from the Smokey the Bear were right there in the field to help us, and by 9 am we were all packed up and enjoying a growler of IPA. Once we got back to the field it was time to enjoy a gorgeous New Mexico day with some more beer and elk summer sausage, another great fiesta in the books.

Autumnal

Fall is a great time to be alive in New Mexico. The smell of pinon fires mingling with the scent of roasting green chiles on the cool air means one thing, it’s beer festival season. Marble Brewery’s intimate Septemberfest, delivers the goods from regional microbreweries around the state. Then there’s the New Mexico Brew Fest, at the Villa Hispana. I’ve never attended this one, but I see it’s got a nice line up of big commercial breweries (Odell, New Belgium, ect.) as well as some non-New Mexico neighborhood breweries, like Ska Brewing out of Durango.

Another festival that’s not to be missed is Telluride Blues and Brews. Generally known for big name headliners this festival also has a really great line up of Colorado beers from breweries big and small. I drank a lot of good beer when I went last year, even as it snowed on the valley in late September.

This year, in a brilliant move, Il Vicino Canteen kept things closer to home, cracking open the beers they planned to take to the mother of all beer festivals, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver on October 11-13. I felt like it was Christmas in September as I sipped their Chocolate Cherry Stout, which an innovative competitor in the Fruit Beer category at GABF this year.

Of course GABF is sold out, who doesn’t want to drink beer in 70 categories from 580 of the nation’s best breweries, but if you’ve got a New Mexico server’s license, hit up your local pub and see if you can join their team to head north and volunteer.

No tribute to fall in New Mexico could be complete without mentioning Dixon’s Apple Orchard. I feel extremely lucky as a new Burquena to have been treated to this fall tradition before it was too late. As a girl from New England who grew up picking apples with my classmates in the crisp Connecticut air, I was thoroughly impressed with Dixon’s delicious champagne apples. Sadly, my first visit to this wonderful orchard would be my last. The orchard was badly burned in the fires of 2011 and will not be producing a harvest this year.

New Mexico may not be New England, with throngs of tourists inundating small towns to stare at the leaves and gawk at covered bridges (I’m looking at you Kent, Conn!) but we do have aspens. The glorious golden trees can be seen just about anywhere you go above 8,000 feet. There’s something alpine and soothing about the sound of aspen leaves blowing in the fall breeze.

Telluride Blues and BREWS


There were two parts to my weekend in Telluride…
one was the lovely flaming lips show on saturday night, and the second component was the grand (beer) tasting on Saturday. Saturday’s weather turned out to be a bit less than desirable for doing anything except drinking scotch by the fire, but with wristband firmly on wrist, and 90 microbrews waiting, I pressed onward through the fog.
Its always hard to capture snow on camera, but it rained and sleeted for a better part of the tasting. It was so wet and cold I couldnt take any tasting notes and could barely remove my fingers from my jacket to take pictures. Here’s is one to give you an idea:

Here is an annotated list of the beers I believe I may have sampled:
Pretty much my methodolgy was to drink the dankest, stoutest, most warming ale at the closest tent possible.
Marble Brewery- Double White (yeah dude, I am predictable)
Steamworks – Backside Stout (warming)
Ska Brewing – Some Heffe/ Banana-y that Erin really liked
Great Divide- IPA (guessing)
Bonfire Brewing –These guys ruled, Chris, Elisa and I made friend with them to stand under the large patio umbrella they were wielding. When the umbrella master suggested we try some of their “secret” beer, it was a vanilla porter, poured from a growler. It was a delicious beer, spot on for the day. These people win!!!
Aspen Brewing- I have a sticker, I must have had some beer?
Upslope- I really like their logo and was hoping to score some gear, but once again, too damn cold for commerce, the had a nice brown lager. It was snowing heavily and I cursed their lack of oatmeal stout. Pretty much at this point, I was just walking around randomly, jumping in puddles of mud, asking for stouts and porters.
Pug Ryans- Skillfully directed here by Chris, they had a really good IPA that had been aged in oak (chardonnay) barrels. Sounds odd, tasted great. I’d like to be able to savor these flavors with a clean palate and no hyperthermia.
Deschutes- Sigh, we all know I’m like a moth to a flame for Mirror Pond IPA, I got a sticker, that might work well on my bike.
Honestly, beer wise, thats about all I can recall. My tasting notes arent ever very thorough, but this day was even worse. I returned to town, frozen, covered in mud and soaking wet. Erin kindly gave me her left over lunch and took me home to change and compose myself. Later in the afternoon we headed over to Ghostriders for some hot tubbin’ hot tub beers consumed included Modus Hoperandii IPA and a growler marked “Red” from Steamworks.
The following morning, driving back we stopped at the Orvis Hotsprings to further defrost and Erin shared a special vintage with me, a sweet hot tub wine, specially bottled (in plastic, natch) obtained from a naked east-coast caving event.
Despite the snow and rain and mud, it was a great weekend. I’d certainly go back next year, especially since the locals claim, “it never snows 2 years in a row.”