Once a year the city is pretty much taken over by craft beer enthusiasts. We are in the middle of the storm right now. I can’t begin to keep up with the craft breweries and brew-pubs that are opening here each month so I try to follow a few of the postings by local groups and occasionally attend one of the craft beer meet-up group’s get-togethers. I live fifteen miles north of Albuquerque so I’m not inclined to spend too much time in a brewery and then try to get home….it’s an occasional thing.
A large part of the Beer Week experience is the “tap take-over” where an out of town brewery brings their beer and offers it at a local brewpub. Throughout the week we’ve had Ballast Point Brewery, Deshutes, Mother Road, Ska, Lagunitas, New Belgium and about a dozen others in addition to special releases from the many local breweries.
The “Battle of the Beer Geeks” is a brewing competition where five groups brew a special beer back about six weeks ago and then face off in an afternoon contest. The beers tend to be a little bit unusual. This year there was a Saison, a Breakfast Stout, a Ginger-spiced Ale, an Oak Aged Farmhouse Bret, and a Sage and Lemon Pale Ale. My group brewed the Farmhouse Bret. As it turned out, I’m not sure I could have more than a pint of any of the five but my choice was the Sage and Lemon Ale. It had an IBU of 19 and ABV of 9 but it tasted bigger — with a definite sage and herbal flavor. Each participant had to sample all five beers and then vote and they got a pint of their favorite. At the end of the day the Sage and Lemon Pale Ale ran away with the vote. Out beer was a distant second.
There are about five or six events every day and I have no intention of attending more than a handful. Today there was an interesting event at Marble Brewing’s westside brewpub. the brewery teamed up with Whole Foods and had a pairing of five of Marble’s beers with five distinctive styles of cheese. I like beer and I like cheese — so this was up my alley.
The selections and pairings were interesting….I’m not sure who did the pairing selections. A smoky Rauchbier was paired with Jasper Hills Landaff Holstein – a nice cheese from Vermont. A Maibock was paired with Uniekaas Truffle Gouda…a Dutch cheese with Italian black truffles. A Double White (wheat beer with some spice) was paired with Wensleydale cheese with Cranberries — from the UK (eat your heart out Wallace and Gromit – their favorite cheese). A Brett IPA was paired with Igor Gorgonzola — from Italy. An Oatmeal Stout was paired with Piave Vecchio — a hard and dry cheese from Italy. There were some Spanish almonds, Sicilian olives and some sweet Peruvian peppers along with some water crackers on the tray to help with the tastings.
I can only speak for myself but the Brett and the Gorgonzola should not be allowed in the same room together. I liked the cheese but the beer was not anything I would want. It was drinkable paired with the sweet peppers but only barely. I liked all of the cheeses and most were new to me. The Rauchbier and Vermont cheese was my favorite pairing. The Stout paired with the hard and flaky Italian cheese was my second choice. The Gorgonzola was a strong cheese and needed a beefy beer so it went better with the Rauchbier and the Stout than the Brett. Third and fourth place was really a tie in my selection. I was puzzled about the Maibock because it didn’t resemble what I thought the style should be. The Maibock went okay with the Truffle Gouda but the cheese really overpowered the beer. The Double White was an unusual beer (sweet wheat with spices) for me and the pairing with the creamy English cheese with cranberries was an improvement but it was an okay pairing. I was drinking a Wildflower Wheat on the side and some of the milder cheese went well with that.
As an added treat, Le Chat Lunatique performed as the beer/cheese pairings were winding down. I wasn’t familiar with the band but they were outstanding. I’ll be looking for them in the future. (http://www.lechatlunatique.com/)
Beer Week continues for another few days. if I go to any other events I might post an update.
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