Santa Fe WinterBrew 2014

Strong, Bold Beers Dominate Santa Fe Winterbrew

Santa Fe’s annual Winterbrew festival returned with another spirited gathering of New Mexico’s finest craft breweries and some of Santa Fe’s best chefs. Although there were plenty of delicious comfort foods available to soak up the suds (frito pie, pulled pork chalupas, green chile mac n’ cheese just to name a few), the emphasis was on good beer and good company.  A lovely crowd of 850 craft beer admirers were lucky enough to sample seemingly endless pours from a variety of New Mexico breweries at this sold out event.

Strong beers truly dominated the festival. Entries like Duel Brewing’s Goya, a Belgian-style Imperial Stout with a whopping 13.6% ABV, Santa Fe Brewing Company’s 9-month Wild Turkey barrel aged Kickin’ Chicken (11% ABV), the Abbey Brewing Monk’s Tripel Reserve (9.2%), and Marble Brewery’s bourbon barrel aged Reserve Ale (9% ABV) outmuscled other beers in both strength and popularity.

Other brawny fan favorites included La Cumbre Brewing’s 2-year aged Siberian Silk Baltic-style Porter, Second Street Brewery’s 2012 Barley Wine, and Tractor Brewing Company’s Chocolate Milk Stout that smelled and tasted like, well you guessed it, chocolate milk.

Not to be outdone by their darker cousins, the classic West Coast IPA style made a solid showing. Most people couldn’t get enough of La Cumbre’s Project Dank, a beer that some critics believe can stand up to hoppy American legends Pliny the Elder and Heady Topper. Among other favorites were Chama River Brewing’s hop forward Son of Slap, Stumbling Steer’s surprisingly smooth Imperial IPA, and Blue Heron Brewing’s tasty Aurora DIPA. However, one cannot talk about classic New Mexico IPAs without mentioning the nationally recognized IBU chart-busting La Cumbre Elevated, Santa Fe’s refreshingly piney Happy Camper, and the timeless Marble DIPA.

Santa Fe’s Imperial Rye Porter, perhaps the most anticipated beer of the event, was inexplicably a no show. The highly sought after beer which is a collaboration with Kansas City’s Central States Beverage Company was reportedly missing. Whether the keg was stolen, misplaced, or purposely withheld is anybody’s guess. The one thing we do know is that the strange absence will only add to the fascination with this greatly coveted beer.

While there was plenty to love about the beer selection, Winterbrew was not without controversy. Roosevelt Brewing’s Green Chile Lager and Santa Fe’s 1000 Duck Sized Horses Limited Sour Ale had festivalgoers divided. The former had New Mexican’s questioning whether their beloved green chile had a place in a beer while the latter was too sour for some to stomach. People either loved them or hated them.

This year’s Winterbrew perfectly exhibited New Mexico’s emerging craft beer revolution demonstrating eclectic style and bold, rich flavors. No matter what your beer style preference is, at the end of the day what it’s really all about is good beer, good food, and good people. In that sense Winterbrew was a huge success.

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