Pi Brewing’s Vanilla Bourbon Porter Review

 Vanilla Bourbon Porter – Pi Brewing

ABV: 6.5% IBU: 35

A light summer porter with a unique vanilla flavor.

Reviewed by BeerMan, Bierhead, & MrHoppy


Overall Rating 4 of 5 Mugs

Vanilla Bourbon Porter from Pi Brewing Co.

Vanilla Bourbon Porter from Pi Brewing Co.

BeerMan 3.5 of 5 Mugs

The Vanilla Porter at Pi Brewing has an average head that dissipates normally and carries the aroma of biscuit, coffee, chocolate, and molasses. The taste is slightly sweet, with a light vanilla flavor that persists throughout. It is lighter than a typical porter which can be taken as either good or bad depending on your tastes. There is a smoothness to this porter almost like that of a cream stout.

The porter currently on tap is Pi’s first batch which is impressive because it’s already very drinkable. Word has it that future brewings of Vanilla Porter will have more body and flavor than this one. If this version is any indication of the quality of the beer to look forward to at Pi’s official opening later in the year, Pi is in good shape. For now you can find Pi Brewing’s first offerings at Nicki V’s on Coors.

Beirhead 4 of 5 Mugs

Bierhead visited one of the newest breweries to peak there head out from behind the city’s red tape. This time it was a Vanilla Porter from Pi Brewing. Like all flavored beers it starts with a base beer and this was a Robust Porter with Vanilla. When the beer was put in front of me it had a nice foamy head that dissipated quickly. There is coffee, a low burnt and slight caramel aroma. Hop aroma is very low with such bold grains showing through. The flavor just as with the Aroma was very bold and more of a coffee then chocolate flavor. Also the vanilla tastes more like creamer then vanilla in this batch. Come to find out the Vanilla Bean was put into the boil. It has a medium bitterness to it’s finish probably due to the roasted malts. All in all for their first batches of beer on the new system I thought it was a Very Good Beer and I will have to give it 4 out 5 mugs. Great Job Charles! CHEERS!!!  “The problem with some people is that when they aren’t drunk, they’re sober.” — William Butler Yeats

MrHoppy 4.5 of 5 Mugs

My beer had a small foamy head and a soft carbonation consistent with most dark beers. This porter has a nice dark ruby red to light brown hue and is surprisingly clear. The first sip was very sweet followed by a nice roasty malt flavor but a slightly bitter finish. The vanilla bean is not as strong as I had expected but still adds an underling taste of vanilla throughout the beer.  This beer is a little bit lighter than the typical porter which makes it great for summer and for those who don’t usually prefer to drink dark beers. Me being one of those people who tends to shy away from the darker beers can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed this beer and it’s unique flavor profile. I recommend this one for both dark and light beer drinkers alike, as it offers something for everyone!


See what other beers are On Tap at PI Brewing

Also check out our interview with Pi Brewing’s Head Brewer Charlie Sandoval!


About Our Review Process


Pi Brewing Preview & Brewer

While doing this week’s beer review of Pi Brewing’s Vanilla Bourbon Porter we took the opportunity to grab a quick interview with Charlie, the head brewer. Like every other new brewery in the ABQ metro, Pi is trying to strike a different chord with craft beer drinkers. In my opinion, breweries like this will have to offer something new and different to make it in this soon to be crowded New Mexico beer market. That’s why we believe there will be a lot of very interesting ideas coming from the new crop of breweries. ABQBeer.com readers can look forward to more interviews as the new wave of breweries and tap rooms begin to hit Albuquerque.

Charlie Sandoval of Pi Brewing fills a sample glass with "Unchallenged IPA"

Charlie Sandoval of Pi Brewing

ABQ Beer: “What’s the first beer you ever drank?”

Charlie: “Shlitz”

ABQ Beer: “What was the first craft beer that really got you excited about beer?”

Charlie: “Slow Down Brown [from Il Vicino] really turned the page for me.”

From there Charlie told us that his interest in craft brew reached a point where he decided to start brewing beer at home. He bought some homebrew supplies and a kegerator and began to brew.

Charlie: “Turtle [Mountain] came in around then and they were doing some good stuff… then they started a homebrew club”

Charlie stayed with the homebrew club until Turtle Mountain eventually decided not to continue managing the group. That’s when Charlie stepped up and took over as president of the club now named “The NM Worthogs”

ABQ Beer: “How is your homebrew background affecting the brew you make now?”

Charlie: “Its different [than homebrewing]…Every part of the process and packaging involves a different discipline” “The concerns are just different”

ABQ Beer: “Do you feel not having a formal brewing education puts you at any disadvantage?”

Charlie:”No, anything that I lack in brewing knowledge I make up for with my advanced knowledge of process control coming from a background as an engineer. I’ve really dialed in each step of the process.”

ABQ Beer:  Is your recipe creation by the book then or more Mad Scientist?”

Charlie:”I definitely try to stay pretty close to the beer profiles when brewing, only making adjustments where needed for that extra or unique flavor.”

ABQ Beer: “How do you feel the new wave of breweries has effected the ABQ brewing scene?”

Charlie:”Just like any sport the competition only pushes everyone to get better. Every neighborhood doesn’t have it’s own brewery yet but they could.”

New equipment at Pi Brewing .

New equipment at Pi Brewing.

ABQ Beer: “What is there to look forward to at Pi Brewing?’

Charlie: “Everyone is looking to distinguish themselves… We are going to be a responsive brewery. It’s important to let your clientele guide you. They will tell you were where you need to be…”

ABQ Beer: “Every brewery has distinct names for their brews. What is going to be your process for naming your beer?”

Charlie: “When our beer earns a name…then we will name it. Not until then!”

We had a sampling of the first beer brewed at Pi and everyone at ABQBeer.com thought it was impressive. Brewers are always improving their beer batch by batch. Pi is starting off in a great position. The beer is very drinkable and distinctly different than other local beer. As time goes on and they get more familiar with the new equipment their already good beer has the potential to be stellar. Although Pi Brewing is not officially open yet, you can find Pi’s beer at Nicky V’s (located right next door to the future Pi Brewing Tap Room). They will also be sampling at some of the upcoming local brew festivals.

Check out our Review of Pi Brewing’s Vanilla Bourbon Porter

View Pi Brewing’s Beers On Tap

2014 IPA Challenge

I originally wanted to make it up to Santa Fe for the first round of the IPA Challenge. However having family in town I opted to wait it out until the final round in Albuquerque. The final round was held at Tractor Brewing Wells Park location. Fitting for a southwest beer standoff the event took place at high noon. I arrived around 12:30 and was pleased to see the line wasn’t too long. I only waited about 10 mins in line. The event it’s self was great. Tractor has lots of room setup both inside and on the patio as well as opening up a portion of the brewery area for serving and extra seating. It also seemed that the staff was very prepared and organized. They easily handled the masses of people foaming at the mouth for IPAs.ipa-8

On to the beer…..

ipa-7There were a total of 16 IPAs entered into this years challenge. The beer scene in New Mexico is growing and the challenge is proof our breweries have come to compete. I was very pleased with most of the ales entered and only disliked one of them. At first, judging a tray full of amazing IPAs seemed like a daunting task and I wasn’t sure where or how to begin.  I opted to just start with number 1 and make my way down the list.  I used a 4 point system for judging. I started by looking at the appearance of all the beers looking for things like clarity, head, lacing and color. Next on to aroma which is a huge part of any good IPA. There where quite a few fruity, spicy and floral aromas and not as many beers sporting the citrus grapefruit aroma as I had expected. I believe a lot of the brewers this year used different and more exotic hops than you usually find in their IPAs which makes sense since it is the IPA Challenge after all. After aroma I went right to taste and gave the majority of my ranking from the drink-ability and flavor categories. After all this isn’t a BJCP certified event and I’m not a BJCP certified judge. I wanted to vote for the beer I liked best, not the one that hit on all the technical aspects of an IPA.ipa-4

I ended up giving 7 of the 16 beers 4 stars, just to give you an idea of the caliber of beers in attendance. To be honest Bosque’s winning IPA wasn’t on my list. I thought it was another beer I had favored but after seeing the results I realized I was wrong. Just goes to show that even if you think you “KNOW” a beer, you may not be able to pick it out amongst 16 of it’s peers in a blind tasting, which I couldn’t. I also thought for sure I knew which beer was Project Dank and was wrong on that one as well…. The 7 breweries whose IPAs received a 4 start vote from me where as follows in no particular order: Chama River, High Desert, Tractor, Blue Corn, 2nd St., Marble & Il Vicino.

ipa-5I then narrowed my top seven beers down to my top three favorites. The top three favorites for me where 2nd St, Il Vicino, and Marble. After sipping, smelling, snorting, staring, swirling and sipping again several more times I finally concluded Marble’s IPA as my personal favorite and winner of the IPA Challenge. I had 2nd St as my second place winner and Il Vicino as my third place beer.

Who cares what I think though….. you want to know the real results and winner. This years winner was Bosque Brewing, followed by my pick Marble for second, and Chama River in third.


This was a great event and if you didn’t make it this year I suggest you put the IPA Challenge on your calendar for next year.




PS – I happened to try one IPA Challenge beer this week that didn’t make it into the challenge. From my analysis this beer would have done well and most likely placed amongst the top ales had it been entered. So if you’re looking to extend your IPA Challenge I suggest you head over to Nicky V’s and try PI Brewing’s “Un-Challenge IPA”.  You can also find most of these Challenge IPAs at their respected breweries while they last. Get some!


Marble Brewery Heidi’s Raspberry Tart Review

Heidi’s Raspberry Tart – Marble Brewery

ABV: 6.5%  IBU: 10

Reviewed by Bierhead, MrHoppy & BeerMan

Marble’s Raspberry Tart is a fruit style beer that is clean and crisp. Reach for one of these if your looking for a unique Summer drink.

Overall Rating 4 of 5 Beer Mugs

Marble Brewing Co. Raspberry Tart Review (photo credit: Antonio Gandara-Martinez)

Marble Brewery Heidi’s Raspberry Tart Review by ABQBeer.com (photo credit: Antonio Gandara-Martinez)


BeerMan 4 0f 5 Mugs

The first thing that stands out about this beer is the color. It is a solid red looking almost like cranberry juice. The aroma is good even though the glass I used for this review had little head. There is not much for me to say about this one since the distinct style of beer is hard for me to pin and the beer does no more or less than deliver on it’s name. There is a big Raspberry flavor followed by a nice tart finish. It is really good as far as fruit beers go. Our reason for going outside of our usual review routine is the search for the perfect summer beer (to vote on the nominated beers and help us decide on  2014’s Summer Favorite Beer, see our nomination list). This one came up on our radar as a good candidate. It is light, tasty, and a particularly good option for a cold drink on a hot day.

Bierhead 3.5 of 5 Mugs

This time Bierhead went to the Marble Taproom on the Westside to check out Heidi’s Raspberry Tart. A Raspberry Wheat. And she is a tart one. When I got there I sat at the bar and ordered my Tart. It was served up in a tulip glass. First impression I got was no rocky head or bubbles coming from the bottom of the glass. The color is a sparkling Ruby-Red and the aroma is that of… yep you guessed it raspberries, also  a bit of earthy aroma. The first taste was a very tart, sour, acidic and ever so slightly sweet flavor right on the front of your tongue. The finish was pretty much the same flavor with a dry ending. The finishing length was a little longer then I like. Virtually no lacing. I would have liked it to be more carbonated and effervescent with that much fruit flavor. Other then that I really did enjoy my pint on the Patio and would order another one next time I go. All in all I am giving this Beer a 3.5 Mugs. -Everybody should believe in something — I believe I’ll have another drink. — W. C. Fields. CHEERS Everyone from Bierhead!!!

MrHoppy 4.5 of 5 Mugs

This beer has a brilliant clear red color that glows in the sunlight, a small foamy white head and the scent of raspberries. The initial flavor is sour followed by the onset of raspberry flavor and then again finished with a tartness on the front of the tongue that gives this beer its name. This beer has good carbonation for a fruit beer without being overly sparkly which I usually don’t like. Overall I very pleased with the raspberry tart as it delivers on it’s name being both tart and raspberry flavored while remaining true to a beer in drinking qualities. A great beer for a hot summer day! I would recommend this beer to anyone who enjoys sour beers and or lighter fruit offerings.




See what other beers are On Tap at Marble Brewery



About Our Review Process

Turtle Mountain Hopshell IPA Review

Hopshell IPA – Turtle Mountain Brewing Company

ABV: 6.7% IBU: 100

Reviewed by BeerMan and MrHoppy

Hopshell is a great new offering from Turtle Mountain that offers huge grapefruit flavor akin with Il Vicino’s Exodus. This is another big hoppy IPA on par with other notable local IPA’s.


Overall Rating 4.5 of 5 Beer Mugs

[hr]Turtle Mountain Hopshell IPA

Beer Man 4.5 of 5

The first thing I noticed about this brew is the huge grapefruit aroma. There wasn’t a decent amount of head which I won’t fault because I ordered it in a non-standard size. The lack of head in the glass did not hurt hop aroma one bit. This beer is a big palate destroying ale that most of of the micro-brew drinking community in Albuquerque loves as evidenced by the popularity of Elavated IPA and Exodus IPA.

The grapefruit flavor in this beer is huge! The nearest beer to compare to the hop heaviness is Il Vicino’s Exodus (a personal favorite) only this beer is a little darker, has a definite leaning towards grapefruit in the citrus flavor, and has a different bite at the end (possibly an inclusion of rye in the brewing process?).

This is a definite recommend ale if you like Elevated IPA, or Exodus IPA… Seriously… It’s that good.

MrHoppy 4.5 of 5 Mugs

I actually lost my notes on this beer however I remember it to be delicious. Great initial citrus on the nose with a slight hint of malt aroma. This beer has everything I look for in an IPA. A good amount of bitterness with a malt body that balances off the overall flavor. The after bite is crisp with residual hops resins left on the tongue. This beer is definitely on par with some of the more popular IPAs in town and one I personally look forward to drinking again soon.



See what other beers are On Tap at Turtle Mountain



About Our Review Process

Back Alley Draft House Pale Ale Review

Pale Ale – Back Alley Draft House

ABV: 5.5% IBU: 35

Reviewed by BeerMan & MrHoppy

Back Alley Draft House Pale Ale is a session-able beer that will appeal to lighter beer drinkers with a hoppy kick that will please IPA lovers.


Overall Rating is 4.5 of 5 Beer Mugs


Back Alley Draft House Pale Ale

Beer Man 4 of 5

The first thing you will notice about Back Alley’s Pale Ale is the foamy white head that persists throughout your first few drinks. You get a great hop aroma from the head that accentuates the flavor the beer. The color is a clear yellow-gold that looks as clean and crisp as this beer tastes. This beer also has a good balance with a great presence of citrus peel flavor from the hops in the finish.

Back Alley Pale Ale is a good all around beer for anyone looking for good flavor without too much of a kick (in terms of ABV) and enough crisp citrus hop flavor to please almost any IPA drinker.

MrHoppy 5 of 5

This beer starts with a small frothy white head that leaves a nice lacing. It has a nice well carbonated, yellow-golden colored body that is ultra clear. The initial aroma is all citrus and fruit!This is truly a great beer in my book. It looks delicious and tastes amazing. A light smooth body that is easy on the palate with ample amounts of hop aroma and flavor. Perfect bitterness for me which means hoppy and bitter but not over powering or out of balance in the overall flavor profile.

I personally feel this is one of the best “drinking” beers on tap in town and a much overlooked style in general with brewers opting for session IPAs over Pales. If you are looking for an all around good beer that you can sit around and chug a few without passing out afterwards, Back Alley Draft house Pale Ale is for you. If you are a Hop Head like myself but occasionally like to give your taste buds a break without sacrificing hop aroma or flavor, Back Alley Draft House Pale Ale is definitely for you!



See what other beers are On Tap at Back Alley Draft House



About Our Review Process

Chama River Brewing’s Summer Smoke Review

Summer Smoke – Chama River Brewing Co

ABV: 4.9 %  IBU: 25

Review by BeerMan & MrHoppy

This beer is surprisingly good! It has a big perfectly balanced flavor that will please almost any palate. The ABQBeer.com panel was taken by surprise in the best of ways by this beer. Get one while you still can!


Overall Rating is 5 of 5 Beer Mugs


Photo Credit: Antonio Gandara-Martinez

BeerMan, 5 of 5 Mugs

The Summer Smoke is a take on a Rauchbier. I have to preface this review with saying I in no way can be considered a rauchbier connoisseur. In fact, Summer Smoke may be the only one I actually know by name at the moment. Your about to hear a shameful rave about how great I think this beer is. Which I’m not sure how much of my opinion speaks to the greatness of this specific beer and how much is the style itself which I am completely new to and cannot compare this beer to out of pure ignorance of what is already out there. If you are a consummate rauchbier style drinker who thinks I am over-praising in this post you should take this review with a grain of salt… or a piece of pretzel.

Summer Smoke delivers on its name. Period. The beer begins and ends relatively light for the amount of flavor it provides. The lightness of Summer Smoke is definitely in a sessionable range. The pint I was served had finger width of head at the rim of the glass providing a great smoky aroma. There is a great malt flavor balanced with a small presence of hop making an overall smooth and palatable experience. I don’t know the style well so I won’t try and add any more details. I will just mention quickly that I would definitely try this beer. There are a lot of notable local brews in the IPA, Stout, and Porter categories but if you’d like to try something equally good in a locally underutilized style Summer Smoke is a definite must.

MrHoppy 5 of 5 Beer Mugs

I’m happy to say this was my first Rauchbier as well and I loved it. I’ve had other smoke infused and smoke flavored beers but never exactly a Rauchbier, so this was a treat. Summer smoke was clear and well carbonated with a small head. A very appealing beer by sight with it’s orange coppery color. The first taste gives you the roasty malt flavor followed by the subtle on set of the smoke. It’s hard to describe the smoke taste but I’d relate it to the peaty smoke flavor you get in some scotch. This is a unique beer that was very well put together and balanced. I’m happy to give this beer my first 5 Mug review and highly recommend you grabbing a pint before it’s gone.


Rauchbier Description:
The Rauchbier style is an old German beer style, its origins go back to the 1500’s and to the district of Franconia and the town of Bamberg. It’s typically of dark colour and has similarities of the Oktoberfestbier. Green malts are literally dried over an open fire of beech wood, imparting a unique smokiness (“rauch” is German for smoke), the usage of which produces beers of an acquired taste. Imagine a smokiness so robust, so assertive, that it tastes of spiced, smoked meat. Find more Rauchbier



See what other beers are On Tap at Chama River



About Our Review Process

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