New Mexico's burgeoning craft beer industry appears capable of infinite growth. Here in Albuquerque, new breweries and tap rooms continue to materialize like bubbles in a beer glass and year after year those breweries with a consistent, quality product find a place in a market that never seems close to its saturation point. According to Brewer's Association statistics, New Mexico is currently 11th among states ranked by number of breweries per 100,000 21+ adults, with 3.1 craft breweries for every 100,000 of-age New Mexicans (Vermont tops this 2016 Brewer's Association list with 9.4 breweries per 100,000). Clearly, craft beer has captured the hearts and wallets of New Mexicans to a degree only dreamt of by the state's wineries and distilleries, even spawning a beer-tourism industry … wait, distilleries? Wine, sure. New Mexico has a rich history of wine-making stretching from the days of the Spanish conquest to the present—world-famous Gruet sparkling wines are produced in Albuquerque—but whiskey and vodka aren't products that one readily associates with the Land of Enchantment. In point of fact, New Mexico is home to one of the very best American single-malt whiskeys on the market.
Produced by Santa Fe Spirits, a small distillery that also makes gin, vodka and brandy, Colkegan Single-Malt Whiskey made just about every top five list of American single-malt whiskeys last year. Santa Fe Spirits' Colkegan is something special to emerge out of New Mexico's small craft-distilling industry and like Marble and La Cumbre once did for local craft-breweries, Santa Fe Spirits has set a high bar for the half-dozen fellow and future craft distilleries in the state.
Scotch is from Scotland, Bourbon is from Kentucky, Tennessee Whiskey is … well, you get the point. American single-malt whiskey is an increasingly popular new category of whiskey that, like single-malt scotch, is produced from one batch of grain, fermented and distilled, aged and bottled. Most American whiskey is blended whiskey, produced (in great volume) by combining multiple casks of whiskey from multiple distillation processes. American single-malts tend to be less complex in flavor than their Scottish brethren and far smoother and more delicate than traditional American whiskeys. I should point out one thing all single-malts have in common: a price point starting at 40.00 (Colkegan retails for around 53.00).
I was afforded two different bottles of Colkegan to taste. One was from Kokoman Fine Wine and Liquors in Pojaque, NM, the other came from Jubilation Wine and Spirits in Albuquerque. Both establishments had elected to sample and taste from the various barrels single batches of Colkegan whiskey is aged in, then select a particular barrel and decide—by tasting—when its contents were sufficiently mature for bottling under their own imprimatur, Kokomon #87 and Jubilation #226. Bottles of Colkegan on the shelves of most stores are going to consist of a single batch of whiskey blended back together after being aged in about 15 barrels, most of which are always used charred American-oak casks and a smaller number of which are always new charred American-oak casks. Because new barrels impart a heavier, smokier flavor—Bourbon is aged in new barrels—than used barrels, it's fair to say the smooth-as-silk whiskey in each bottle came from used barrels and is representative of the Colkegan any consumer might purchase. Adam Vincent of Santa Fe Spirits more or less backed up this assumption, though we didn't dive into the distillery's barrel notes and bottle histories which I imagine in bound form and occupying great heights of handmade bookcases. Just to summarize, every bottle of Colkegan contains whiskey made from a single batch of malted and smoked barley which is then aged in used and new barrels, the contents of which are reunited for bottling after three to four years.
Scotch is generally aged at least ten years; according to Santa Fe Spirits, Colkegan will never be aged more than five years. Besides mesquite smoke, the main native New Mexican ingredient in Colkegan is altitude. At 7,000 feet above sea level, whiskey mellows more quickly and develops its distinct flavors in a different manner than it would otherwise. Low humidity means the barrels don't swell as much, which exposes the whiskey to more air over a shorter period. The barrels are subject to the same variety of seasons New Mexicans know so well and the region's extreme cold and warmth contribute to the whiskey's maturation. Interestingly, the “angel's share”, the whiskey that evaporates over time during the aging process, is so great as to limit the maximum age of the Colkegan. After 4 years, the “angel's share” of Colkegan can be as high as half the contents of a single barrel! The coolest thing I may ever say about a whiskey is that Northern New Mexico's weather and altitude make for a uniquely aged single-malt that can't be replicated in Kentucky or Scotland. Or Ireland, for that matter.
And Ireland, my friends, is what the taste of Colkegan brings to mind. With a more straightforward and less smokey flavor and mouth feel than scotch and lacking the harsher, tannic “pow”, of American whiskeys, Colkegan immediately reminded this drinker of Irish single-malt whiskey. Both Kokomon and Jubilation have a sweetness in the aftertaste , with Kokomon #87 being slightly more vanilla in flavor and reminiscent of the black labeled Bushmills, while Jubilation's #226 has slightly more complex flavors comparable to the least smokey of single-malt scotches, Bruichladdich. The mesquite smoke really does contribute to a heavier, pelt-like mouth-feel that sustains the gilded sweetness of this wonderful New Mexican whiskey without any of the saltiness that many associate with the words “single-malt” (i.e. scotch). Each sip of this airy new-world whiskey introduces some slight peppery flavors that finish nicely with its overall sweet character and on the whole put Colkegan on par with the finest whiskeys I have tried. Colkegan borrows from other single-malt traditions, but in style and character this New Mexico whiskey helps carve out a niche for for the fledgling category of American single-malts, something Santa Fe Spirits and New Mexico should be proud of.
Woman does cartwheels instead of sobriety test, fails.
A local motorist who seriously injured two bicyclists has been sentenced to probation, providing restitution and community service.
Vandals struck the wall where Shia LaBouef's increasingly famous art installation is located, near 7th and Central in downtown ABQ.
Homeland security, local police departments and ICE are about to launch a serious increase in deportations.
Milo Yiannopolus has resigned from Bretibart.com and is threatening to form his own media company which will soon be the only company that will publish anything he says.
Four Americans died in a dramatic plane crash in Melbourne, Australia.
While unlikely to happen soon, legal recreational cannabis use is closer than ever to becoming reality in New Mexico.
Fat lady who fell in comical fashion while riding a scooter and shopping for gallons of soda pop in a Walmart is speaking out about how everyone is laughing at her and it isn't funny.
President Trump wants you to know that there are thousands of terrorist attacks killing innocent midwest farmers and average Euro Svens news of which is being suppressed by evil media companies. Like Weekly Alibi, for instance. We could have reported on the briefcase nuke that destroyed UNM's Valencia campus, but rah rah terrorism (raspberry sound).
There isn't any actual skateboarding but still, this Russian skater is pretty damn high up in the air on the edge of a skyscraper, uh ... with his skateboard.
Finally we may rest assured that huge amounts of LSD will not "fry" your brain and turn it into swiss cheese on a stale Trisket. You might develop a mental problem tho but that's different.
Let us all—all of us adults—enjoy Alistair Crowley's completely obscene 666 word poem about his girlfriend, who, in a tamer moment, he once compared to a hoover vacuum.
Here for your further enjoyment or, maybe, just to induce uncontrollable rage, is every tweet Trump has tweeted in the time he has had the POTUS Twitter account!
The President's Muslim travel ban directly affects 110 UNM students.
Milo Yiannopoulus left a bad taste in everyone's mouth after he and his crew visited a local restaurant.
There's been a spate of threats to local Jewish centers in ABQ.
Vice has a very detailed running list of President Trump's executive orders and proposed law.
This google generated dream-filtered supermarket trip is a fair representation of what the world looked like when I was given intravenous ketamine for ten days last year.
Daimler is the latest company to make a deal with Uber for self-driving cars.
There is an avalanche warning in the Taos area.
Santa Fe art collective Meow Wolf is working on a gigantic new installation, "The House of Eternal Return".
As many as 1 in 4 men in the United States have HPV.
The Trump administration claims the Donald's tweet about millions of illegal aliens voting illegally in the recent election is based on "evidence".
The Trump administration has eliminated spanish language options on the White House website.
President Trump has sided with Big Oil by green lighting the controversial Dakota Pipeline.
When your new pair of Adidas shoes is worn out, they simply decompose when put in water.
Victoria Martens' autopsy for your perusal.
This guy is accused of trying to burn down his local Walmart.
Russian interference in US elections? Watch future Attorney General Jeff Sessions masterfully skirt the question.
The US Senate published a damning report on Backpage.com yesterday.
If you haven't heard of Paul Krassner and his publication The Realist, you're welcome.
New Mexico's lottery scholarship is set to shrink.
Department of Justice is looking into allegations APD altered or deleted police body cam videos.
American soccer fans that emulate British football fans.
Austria has finally announced its word of the year.
What New Mexicans have long known as a tortilla burger is making its Park Slope debut under the awkward moniker "burgito".
Weekly Alibi is an intrinsically local affair. Recently the Alibi staff were blessed with a device that delivers—on demand—one of the locally made products our city is most famous for, besides blue colored crystal methamphetamine and Pimental & Sons guitars. It's our internationally recognized, high-quality local beer. This writer is still trying to think of another name for the thingamajig we use to access this magical liquid, because the word “kegerator”, like “labradoodle”, is just plain hard to say without inviting a sinking feeling that the english language is seriously at risk. Also, Alibi's beer machine is as finicky as an old Evinrude outboard motor and deserves more than two words mashed together. Perhaps something vintage sounding, like “Fine Time Foam Queen”; "The Spigot” would work as well. Patience is required to get a glass of brew out of our little fridge with a tap on the top of it but the quality of our city's locally produced beer makes the effort worthwhile. As one beer replaces another in the grog box in the back room, Weekly Alibi will share our thoughts and tasting notes. Stay tuned for some ideas on what to order next time you're at one of our local brew-pubs or tap-rooms, there are not-to-be missed pints to be had in nearly every part of town these days. Like the delicious stout our brew hydrant currently dispenses in expanding gushers of foam, creating a fun atmosphere not unlike the one in The Rolling Stones' video for “It's Only Rock 'N' Roll".
• Boxing Bear's Chocolate Milk Stout (5.2 % ABV, 20 IBU)
Boxing Bear took home a pile of awards in 2016, including “mid-size brew-pub of the year” at the Great American Beer Festival, where their Chocolate Milk Stout bested 72 others to win first place in the cream stout category. This stout has won awards at various other festivals and competitions over the past couple years and the Alibi staff is honored to work alongside this standout beer; we couldn't ask for a finer wintertime co-worker.
Boxing Bear's milk stout is a shining example of an American cream stout, so-called because of the addition of non-fermentable lactose—milk sugar— which retains its mild sweetness through fermentation and lends a creamy character to the resulting beer. American stouts are traditionally lighter bodied than their British ancestors and are thus well suited for the addition of an adjunct like lactose, adding texture without creating a monster thick dark beer.
The milk sugar combines with a generous helping of chocolate and caramel malt to bring the beer close to confectionary status without becoming overwhelming. Some chocolate stouts must be rationed like a triple-layer chocolate cake; one glass of Young's Double Chocolate Stout, for example, is sufficient. With any sense, that beer should be delivered to your palate as a finisher, after your main course. Part of what makes Boxing Bear's Chocolate Cream Stout an award-winning beer is its drinkability. It has a medium bodied mouth feel that is textbook American cream stout. Where some chocolate stouts blow the doors off with sweetness and chocolate adjuncts, the Burque-based brewers show restraint. Their measured addition of unprocessed cocoa nibs at the finish adds flavor without dominating the stout's well-balanced character. The result is a brew that some will drink like Guinness (you know, like water) while others will treat their pour as a sophisticated dessert beer. Well done.
The Duke City is opening a new library branch where the Caravan East nightclub has been oh these many years.
Yar, here be the suspect in a string of suspicious fires that afflicted several businesses in Albuquerque.
Is Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev asleep? Russians want to know.
British politicians will be exempt from the scrutiny of their country's new "Investigative Powers Act" which will collect data en masse from "ordinary" Brits.
Niagara Falls has a new, balls-to-the-wall, LED powered illumination that turns the whole place into a DMT fairy mound made of violent water. Wow.
It's official. Serial killers are out. Individuals with a bunch guns and less than an hour are in.
In local weather, Sunday, December Fourth will be a beautiful day for a yard sale. Especially in the Mountain Road/Harwood area, they say.
Thanksgiving Day thieves robbed a church of its tabernacle.
Did Russian media outlets serve Trump's campaign by promoting particular fake-news stories?
Check out this great collection of chola portraits from the'70s and '80s.
Winter weather is adding a sinister bent to oil pipeline protests in South Dakota.