Archive for December, 2013

Welcome to our tenth entry in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14. This series is designed to give a recap, from the breweries themselves, of 2013 while also previewing all that is to come in 2014. We have already visited La Cumbre, Bosque, Kaktus, Marble, Sandia Chile Grill, Broken Bottle, Tractor, Nexus, and Il Vicino, so click the links if you missed the stories.

For our final scheduled interview, I, Stoutmeister, hit the road to Rio Rancho on Tuesday afternoon. After navigating the mess that is Paseo del Norte, I sat down with Turtle Mountain owner Nico Ortiz to talk about the year that was and the year yet to be.

For the final interview in this series, I went with a pint of Turtle Mountain's Ironman Black IPA on cask.

For the final interview in this series, I went with a pint of Turtle Mountain’s Ironman Black IPA on cask.

Reflecting on 2013

The toughest part of the year that was came when Turtle’s sister restaurant, Timbuctu, had to close its doors. Still, Nico was not going to let that drag down the whole year for him and his brewery.

“2013 overall was good,” he said. “Production was relatively flat, but obviously not being a distributing brewpub, that’s kind of the curse of being a brewpub. The only real way to increase production is either you have to have a ton more people coming through the doors buying beer (but) the economy is still somewhat soft on that, or you’ve gotta open up taprooms and stuff. We tried that in the first part of ’12 with our Timbuctu on the north side.

“Then the residuals of the real estate meltdown out there in Mariposa kind of came home to roost. Even with growlers and the taproom beer license out there, we could not get anybody to go out there. We sort of shuttered that in March.”

For the most part Turtle focused on keeping things going well at the main location, while also reorganizing their festival schedule.

“Certainly with the number of events … 2012 we had way too many events,” Nico said. “There were Guild events; I’m on the Brewers Guild board so I have an obligation to attend the events the Guild determines are official. There are Pork & Brew and Oktoberfest, which are two events that are significant money makers.

Turtle Mountain is still brewing up enough beers to cover its main location and the many festivals they attend.

Turtle Mountain is still brewing up enough beers to cover its main location and the many festivals they attend.

“This past year we had to share them, which meant less revenue, still good money-making events. Pork & Brew used to be all us and now it’s Cazuela’s and us. I can live with sharing that. Oktoberfest went from all us in 2012 to I think there were four of us in 2013, Cazuela’s, Santa Fe Brewing, us, and Kaktus. Obviously a little shot to the pocket book sharing those things. But I’m not going to throw my weight around and try to get exclusivity. From a business standpoint I could and should, but we’re not in this business to shut out other people. We’re in it to give other people exposure. It’s one of those things where sharing was necessary.

“I was glad in 2013 that the number of events went down. People still had a lot of events but we just chose not to participate in them. Being a brewpub instead of a packaging brewery I don’t have the need to get my name out there. If you’re a Santa Fe, if you’re a La Cumbre, if you’re a Marble, you have to constantly have your name out there.”

2013 saw other breweries moving closer to Turtle’s territory. From the Marble West Side Taproom to Kaktus in Bernalillo, Broken Bottle off Coors, and with the Stumbling Steer coming in 2014, the bar is being raised for Turtle.

“For the longest time I had this side of town to myself,” Nico said. “Obviously Milagro came and went. There will be a couple other places that I anticipate will come and go. The west side is where it’s at. That’s where the population is.

“I know some people are sniffing around Montano and Coors to put something there. I heard somebody talking North Valley. I’ve heard lots of stuff. This town can only handle so many places. I don’t want to see a bunch of half-barrel places go in. That doesn’t do justice. It’s really hard to make really damn good beer on systems when you don’t have the proper infrastructure.”

Turtle will take all the lessons of 2013 and apply them going forward.

“2013, it was a good year, but it was a retrenchment year,” Nico said. “I still have our two taproom licenses and as quickly as I can get another plan of action we’re going to go out there and open something up. Probably more along the lines or closer to what Marble is doing up there at Unser and McMahon. I definitely still agree that putting in a restaurant, at least on this side of town, is beneficial. With a lot of families and stuff the offering of food is kind of necessary. The food trucks and stuff in Albuquerque in the downtown-Nob Hill-Il Vicino corridor works well. Rio Rancho is very, very family heavy.”

Keeping customers happy at Turtle Mountain involves more than just good beer, it also involves finding a final solution to the parking woes outside.

Keeping customers happy at Turtle Mountain involves more than just good beer, it also involves finding a final solution to the parking woes outside, which is coming in January.

Preparing for big things in 2014

The most immediate item on Turtle’s to-do list in the new year does not have to do with beer or satellite locations. It has to do with making life for the brewery’s customers a lot easier.

“I have a parking issue coming on line hopefully in January,” Nico said. “Most of 2014 is going to be spent, knock on wood, expanding our parking. So most of our attention and money is going to go to that. Any further expansion is going to have to get bumped back to 2015.”

Like many breweries in crowded areas, Turtle has long had an issue with fitting cars into the small lot outside while not disturbing their neighboring businesses.

“The city and I are working on a solution which I’m hoping the beginnings of which are going to come to fruition in January,” Nico said. “I’ve been working on the issue of parking for six years now. I would make a few steps going down one direction and that would not pan out. So we’d go another direction. It’s frustrating because it’s not been six years of working on this in terms of one specific plan. It’s working on any solution available to me at the time.

“Finally I think we have what is the solution, the final solution so that we don’t ever have to worry about parking ever again and the city and I can be done with this issue. I’ll have more details in January. I don’t want to jinx myself.”

Once that issue is out of the way, Turtle will be putting a renewed effort into their beer.

One of Turtle's main goals for 2014 is to produce a beer for the IPA Challenge that has a real shot at winning.

One of Turtle’s main goals for 2014 is to produce a beer for the IPA Challenge that has a real shot at winning.

“We’re going to continue making 40 to 50 beers, hopefully some new recipes coming online,” Nico said. “We have some wine barrels in the back. The first crack at it … it needs much more focused attention. I’d like to get some bourbon barrels and join the crowd and so some barrel-aged stuff, bourbon, maybe some red wine and white wine. Hopefully we can do some small things like that in 2014.”

With places like the Stumbling Steer opening soon, Turtle could see their market share diminish if they don’t keep pace.

“The bar is being raised, the competition level is there,” Nico said. “There’s more places for people to go and spend their beer dollar. Just because we’ve been here the longest does not mean jack. There are a lot of restaurants that have been around forever that suck. 2014 is definitely going to be spent refocusing our energies on making sure that the products we offer are as good as can be.

“I’m going to be spending some more time focusing the brewhouse on getting into some new recipes. We have a book of about 100-plus recipes that we kind of circulate through, it would be nice to try some new stuff. Again, try to get an IPA Challenge beer that can take on (the best).”

Turtle will be at WinterBrew in Santa Fe on January 24. Beyond that festival, Nico said he will pick and choose the best events to attend in what should be another busy year for Turtle Mountain.

* * * *

A big thanks to Nico for taking some time out of his busy schedule, particularly since it was Christmas Eve and all. And a big thanks for the samples of Winter Solstice Ale, Maduro Stout, Cosmic Imperial Stout, and a full pint of Ironman Black IPA (on cask, twas delicious).

That wraps up the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for now. I still hope to talk to Back Alley, Cazuela’s, and Chama River at some point, probably after New Year’s. E-Rock will have The Week Ahead in Beer back up this Monday or Tuesday, giving everyone plenty of time to plot out which beers to get for New Year’s Eve.

I hope everyone had as much fun reading this series as I did writing it. I and the rest of the Crew will be back in 2014 to cover the beer scene in New Mexico.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Welcome to our ninth entry in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14. This series is designed to give a recap, from the breweries themselves, of 2013 while also previewing all that is to come in 2014. We have already visited La Cumbre, Bosque, Kaktus, Marble, Sandia Chile Grill, Broken Bottle, Tractor, and Nexus, so click the links if you missed the stories.

So before holiday madness got its claws into me (Stoutmeister), I headed over to the Il Vicino Canteen to talk to brewer Brady McKeown about what he and the rest of the mad scientists have planned for 2014 after a busy 2013. Though Brady claimed it’s “mostly boring stuff,” I think Il Vicino has more than enough to keep us entertained beyond their goofy photos and promotions on social media.

It was Il Vicino's turn for an interview this week. A pint of Sweet Sandarine Porter was the drink of choice.

It was Il Vicino’s turn for an interview this week. A pint of Sweet Sandarine Porter was the drink of choice.

Reflecting on 2013

The biggest moment of the year for Il Vicino was when the brewery brought home a gold medal from the Great American Beer Festival in Denver for their Panama Joe Coffee Stout.

“It’s always fun, at least for the brewers, to do the competitions and see how you’re doing,” Brady said. “We did well, so we’re happy for that. We hope a little bit of that has translated into new faces in the seats.”

The rest of the year did not have any other singular moments, just a lot of steady growth and progress.

“It was great,” Brady said. “Increased growth. We brewed more beer. We saw a lot of new faces. We sold more beer, which is nice. So business is up; it’s industry-wide, it’s nothing unusual. It’s been good.”

Seeing five other New Mexico breweries bring home another seven GABF medals this year was also a good sign for brewing in the state.

It was a big year for Il Vicino's Panama Joe Coffee Stout, which brought home a gold medal from GABF.

It was a big year for Il Vicino’s Panama Joe Coffee Stout, which brought home a gold medal from GABF.

“It’s growing just like everywhere else,” Brady said. “We’re just lucky that we have some talented people. I’m not including myself in that. But Ted (Rice of Marble) is extremely smart, Jeff (Erway of La Cumbre) is extremely smart (and) we have some good guys popping up that are making good beer.”

The big surprise of the year was that Il Vicino’s Exodus was finally dethroned after a three-year reign at the IPA Challenge. Blue Corn’s Resurgence came in and absolutely crushed all competition in its path.

Brady said he expects his staff to be prepared to try and take the trophy back in the year to come.

“Well there’s always motivation,” Brady said. “We’re always excited for a good fight. But good for (Blue Corn’s John Bullard). Good for him to show he can do good things and that he’s a good brewer.”

The loss of the trophy was both good and bad for Il Vicino.

“It’s bittersweet, because it took some pressure off,” Brady said. “Everybody was gunning for us. It got a little nasty, but still in a fun way. We’re not going to throw it this year. We’re definitely going to try to win (it back). It makes it fun, I think, especially for the customers. It’s not fun if somebody just wins all the time. You know how it is in sports, like the Yankee syndrome. People start to love to hate us.”

Other notable events this year included Il Vicino’s annual Malt Madness competition, where its own beers go head to head in blind taste tests to determine the public’s favorite; the Cask Fest, which was held at the Canteen; the Hop Kwon Do and Solstice Blackout sampler trays of goodness; and numerous smaller events for members of the brewery’s mug club.

Il Vicino's 20th anniversary celebration may be similar to 2012's Year of Beer festival, taking place inside and outside of the Canteen.

Il Vicino’s 20th anniversary celebration may be similar to 2012’s Year of Beer festival, taking place inside and outside of the Canteen.

Preparing for big things in 2014

To prepare for our interview, Brady went back and read up on the other breweries’ stories for this series. He does not have anything to share as exciting, in his opinion, as Bosque’s new brewhouse or Broken Bottle talking about canning their beers or Nexus possibly opening a second location. Still, it does not mean it will be all quiet at the Canteen in the coming year.

“We’ve been around for a long time, which brings me to the first thing I wanted to mention is that we’re having our 20th anniversary in 2014 and we will have a 20th anniversary party,” he said.

The event’s exact date has not been set, but Brady said it will be during the summertime and could be similar to the Year of Beer festival held in 2012 that was not repeated in 2013 due to cost issues and the like.

“We’re saving beers for it,” Brady said. “We even have, I can’t guarantee they’re all OK, but we have (St. Bob’s) Imperial Stout from ’07, ’08, ’10 and this year. We’re hoping those older ones are OK, still.”

Cask Fest will return to Il Vicino on May 31 with a slightly different format.

Cask Fest will return to Il Vicino on May 31 with a slightly different format.

Cask Fest will be return, though the format may be different and it won’t be held until May 31 at the end of ABQ Beer Week instead of earlier in the year.

“It will just be Il Vicino Cask Fest,” Brady said. “As far as the Brewers Guild is concerned, they have a lot on their plate. It wasn’t much of a fundraiser for them so they’re not going to put their effort into it. We don’t want them to put money or effort into something that doesn’t benefit them. We’ll just do it.

“We still may invite a few people if they want to come. We have an idea where we get the employees involved, and get them to come up with an idea. We’ll do it, but if we can name the beers after the employees and get 10 of them, that will be fun for them as well. That’s the way we’re leaning right now.”

One temporary change that will affect the Il Vicino restaurants has come as a result of some reinterpretation of the state’s liquor laws. In the past, each restaurant had a brewing license, even though all the brewing is done at the Canteen. That enabled Il Vicino to supply its own pizza parlors with its own beer, but that will change in 2014. Now Il Vicino must get a wholesalers license, so if you head over to Nob Hill or up on Montgomery to get a slice, you may not be able to order a pint for a little while.

When things are eventually resolved via the new license, it could open the door ever so slightly for Il Vicino to begin selling more beer to other bars and restaurants. Brady said not to suddenly expect Wet Mountain IPA to pop up all over town, since there are currently no plans to expand on the brewery’s seven-barrel system. There is still some talk about opening a second taproom, but that talk has been going on for the last two years with no resolution.

There has also been some talk of doing some limited bottling or canning, though that would force a reduction in the number of beers offered at the Canteen. All those wild and crazy seasonal offerings are a big draw for customers.

Yes, it's true, Il Vicino is planning on brewing a beer in honor of the six of us. We're still dancing jigs as a result of this news.

Yes, it’s true, Il Vicino is planning on brewing a beer in honor of the six of us. We’re still dancing jigs as a result of this news.

“It’s fun for us, trying new things, trying new grain, trying different yeast,” Brady said. “So as far as from the business side of it, it may not make the best sense, but if we do start distributing … if that happens, which probably will not happen, then a lot of these specialities may be gone. I’m torn. Either way is good. It doesn’t mean we have to have 14 beers on tap. We can drop a few and still have plenty.”

And as a final note before we wrapped up the interview, Brady dropped this on the Crew: “I was going to have Zach break the news, but we’re going to come up with Dark Side Brew Crew something,” he said. “We’ll come up with something, something dark of course. We’re thinking maybe an oatmeal stout or a cream stout.”

Once I got my jaw off the floor, we started discussing ideas, recipes, and more. The Crew will be meeting this weekend to start the process of creating our own beer with Il Vicino (don’t worry, they’ll brew it, we just get to have a little input). To say we’re stoked would be the understatement of the year. Heck, of all time. With luck, our resident member of the film industry, Porter Pounder, will even be able to take everyone behind the scenes with his camera as Brady and Zach and the rest of the IV mad scientists make the first Dark Side Brew Crew beer. We can’t wait to try and create a beer everyone will love, and with the IV staff handling the actual brewing, we know we’ll be in good hands.

* * * *

A big, BIG thanks to Brady, plus Zach and Doug, who also stopped by later to chat for a bit. And thanks for the pint and the Piggly Wiggly, one of the best pulled pork sandwiches anywhere on the planet. Hey, a beer writer has to eat, or else he has trouble walking straight, much less driving home.

This series will wrap up, temporarily, with Turtle Mountain on Friday. I am still working to get a hold of Back Alley, Cazuela’s, and Chama River, but those may not appear until after the calendar flips to 2014. Fear not, for the Crew will still have plenty of content in the new year.

Until then, we’ll keep everybody updated on the Dark Side beer’s progress at Il Vicino, mostly through social media, and then hopefully via video on YouTube, and lots of stories and still photographs of us grinning like mad fools.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Welcome to our eighth entry in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14. This series is designed to give a recap, from the breweries themselves, of 2013 while also previewing all that is to come in 2014. We have already visited La Cumbre, Bosque, Kaktus, Marble, Sandia Chile Grill, Broken Bottle, and Tractor, so click the links if you missed the stories.

After a couple of minor, business-related delays (including a never-ending conference call), owner Ken Carson sat down with me, Stoutmeister, to talk about a busy and successful 2013 for Nexus Brewery and some of his plans for 2014.

Oh, and PROGRAMMING NOTE: There will not be an edition of The Week Ahead in Beer this week. It should return Monday, Tuesday at the latest, in time to help you prepare for your New Year’s Eve festivities.

This week marked Nexus' turn in the interview series. A pint of English Style Pale Ale seemed like an appropriate choice.

This week marked Nexus’ turn in the interview series. A pint of English Style Pale Ale seemed like an appropriate choice.

Reflecting on 2013

How big was 2013 for Nexus? So big they even ended up on television.

“It’s been a very good year,” Ken said. “It’s another record year for sales for us. Our food has gone very well, it’s been really good on the food side. The beer has also kept pace with the increase in sales. Our beer sales are about 30-to-35-percent of our overall sales. Our food usually runs around 65. We still sell a good amount of beer. We started the year with some really nice articles that were written up in the Venue (section) and a couple of other places in the Journal, things like that about our food.

“Then kind of our highlight for this year was being featured on (The Food Network’s) ‘Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.’ They had picked us originally because of the Crackling Cornbread and the Chicken Fried Chicken which was made with collard greens that had red chile.”

With celebrity chef Guy Fieri in the house, Nexus managed to impress both him and all the folks watching at home.

“I think that’s really attracted ‘Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,’” Ken said. “The fact that I was doing Southwest (fusion) with Southern, (Fieri) kept saying over and over again, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing red chile in collard greens.’ They’re little tiny tweaks that don’t make a big difference but it does spice it up a little bit which makes it a little more appealing to our palates out here.”

Nexus' food always pulls in big crowds, including some hungry beer writers from time to time.

Nexus’ food always pulls in big crowds, including some hungry beer writers from time to time.

All of it has led to Nexus being busy almost every day of the week.

“It used to be that Monday through Thursday were pretty slow,” Ken said. “Now, starting Tuesday, it’s busy all week long. Monday is the only day that we kind of just have a lull. But all the rest of the days are starting to fill up. We’re finding that we can’t do much more business than we do on Friday because there’s not any more room. What’s happened is the recent positive articles and things that we’ve gotten on our food and our reviews on Yelp and Urban Spoon have been filling in the other days with additional sales.”

While Nexus’ menu of Southern and soul food dishes might be attracting the big crowds, it is not like the beer is an afterthought. Working with increased capacity, brewer Manuel Mussen has been keeping up with the demand for the regulars while also introducing some new beers.

“On the beer side, Manuel did a couple of really good beers,” Ken said. “One of the best ones he did was his recent Imperial Stout, which is really good. Then we’ve played around with a lot of other things.

“I know that (customers have) liked a lot of the seasonals we’ve put on. I do enjoy having 10 beers on tap all the time.”

While the food is great, the beer isn't too shabby at Nexus, either. One of the most popular pints is the Scottish Ale.

While the food is great, the beer isn’t too shabby at Nexus, either. One of the most popular pints is the Scottish Ale.

While the soul food market in Albuquerque is fairly limited beyond Nexus, the local brewing scene is booming. In such a competitive market, Ken said one simple key to not just surviving, but prospering, is to always keep the customer’s needs first.

“I think really listening to customers and once you do get open you really have to pay attention to what your customers are saying,” he said. “We find that we get comments about our IPA. We’ll have a lot of good comments and then we’ll have some people that say well, your IPA is not up to par with Marble and La Cumbre.”

To help with that beyond what is heard at the bar, Ken has created a small panel of loyal, knowledgeable customers to review and comment on the beer.

“I have a panel that we work with that comes in,” Ken said. “We haven’t met as many times as I’d like to show that it’s starting to work. Our panel is working at least once a month, going in and tasting the beer, looking at what we need to do to change or tweak or make things better. I’d like to be even more frequent, but with people’s schedules it’s kind of hard to bring outsiders in.

“But, we’ve learned some things and they’re independent of us and have no stake in it, other than just to help us. We are conscientious about that. It’s a program that we’re going to try to rev up and make even stronger next year to see what we can do to keep improving our beer. You can’t just sit back and say we’ve reached the limit and can’t do any better.”

Brewer Manuel Mussen may soon be brewing for two Nexus locations instead of just one.

Brewer Manuel Mussen may soon be brewing for two Nexus locations instead of just one.

Preparing for big things in 2014

The coming year could be an even busier and bigger one for Nexus. That would stem mostly from the possibility of a second Nexus location.

“In the middle of the year, I decided I was going to go ahead and go for it,” Ken said. “But I kind of pulled back because I wanted to get some systems together. Looking at another location right now, there’s nothing firm, but the plan is to be full-service with a restaurant. If everything works out this would have a lounge and it would give us an ability to really separate the food from the beer, but yet still have the food. One side would be more bar-like than the other side. I’ll just leave it at we’re looking at multiple locations right now.”

Ken said he would probably resurrect one of his early plans for the first Nexus, where they would have served a different type of food.

“If we do open another location, if it is conducive, we probably will do barbecue and add that to our list using our red chile barbecue sauce,” he said.

A new location would also mean the addition of at least one 15-barrel fermenter and one or two storage tanks in the brewery to keep up with the increase in demand.

There is enough room in the brewery for Nexus to add another fermenter, if necessary.

There is enough room in the brewery for Nexus to add another fermenter, if necessary.

Still, as a businessman with a background in banking, Ken said he won’t rush into a second location just for the sake of having one.

“As a former banker I was watching my customers expand too quickly before your systems are together can be devastating,” he said. “But on the other hand, sitting and waiting around for perfection is also not going to work, either. So what you do is you stick your neck out to a certain point. I think surprisingly without any restaurant experience we’ve done quite well. We have our internal systems problems, but generally speaking we’re able to keep it together.”

Beyond the possibility of a second location, Nexus might get into bottling its own beer, though not in the way some might expect.

“I am interested in that, not so much for getting into distribution, it’s for convenience for my customers,” Ken said. “A growler is nice to have at home, but maybe a couple of cases, you don’t have to drink it all in the next few days. That’s what I’d be looking for. Distribution, that’s almost another business separate from the restaurant and the food. I’m just not interested in diversifying into distribution. I took on two businesses, restaurant and brewery. Luckily the brewery kind of handles itself.”

* * * *

Thanks again to Ken, who has been a busy, busy man lately, for taking a few minutes out of his day. And thank you to the kitchen staff, for the extra big pieces of fried chicken to go with my waffle (of course that’s what I ordered after the interview).

After taking a day off to celebrate Christmas with the family, I will resume the series with Il Vicino on Thursday and Turtle Mountain on Friday. And again, hopefully we will eventually track down the folks at Back Alley, Cazuela’s, and Chama River so they can be included, too.

Until then, may you all have a Merry Christmas. Don’t forget to fill those growlers and pick up those six-packs, but please, be responsible Wednesday. Let’s make sure everyone has a safe and happy holiday!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Welcome to our seventh entry in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14. This series is designed to give a recap, from the breweries themselves, of 2013 while also previewing all that is to come in 2014. We have already visited La Cumbre, Bosque, Kaktus, Marble, Sandia Chile Grill, and Broken Bottle, so click the links if you missed the stories.

This time around, I, Stoutmeister, headed over to Nob Hill to talk to Tractor’s Nicole Duke over a delicious pint of the Brew Crew holiday addiction known as Turkey Drool. We discussed a busy 2013 and all the developments in store for 2014, which will include a new taproom and a new brewhouse located right here in Albuquerque.

It was another good year of beer for everyone at Tractor Brewing, and all of us customers, too.

It was another good year of beer for everyone at Tractor, and all of us customers, too.

Reflecting on 2013

Tractor’s biggest move of the year did not happen at the taproom, but rather on store shelves across the state.

“I suppose it was a big year for us since we started our relaunch of our bottling of the Red and IPA,” Nicole said. “We’re at over 200 places in New Mexico now.”

The Farmer’s Tan Red Ale and Farmer’s Almanac IPA are not just in stores that sell beer and liquor.

“I guess what I like about single bottling is you can find it at restaurants now,” Nicole said. “I went to Red Robin the other day and they have it with their local brews in bottles, which is awesome. I think it’s been a really big push for the brewery itself just keeping up with all the manufacturing of just getting all that together. We had some things with our bottling machine where we were trying to work out some kinks. I think it’s been kind of challenging but hopefully it will pay off.”

Tractor has also continued to be involved in the community beyond just serving beer.

“We worked with a lot of organizations and charities,” Nicole said. “I’m pretty proud of our blood drives that we did. We did them in competition with some of the other (breweries). We did it between Marble, Il Vicino, and ourselves. We won, which was awesome. We had a lot of blood donors. So the Pint for a Pint thing seems to be working very well.”

Another popular activity at the taproom was this summer’s series of adult summer camp classes.

“We had a lot of positive feedback and for the most they were fairly successful,” Nicole said. “I think it was a really good way to engage the community. That was a lot of fun. We might do something similar next year.”

Tractor's gear was hard to miss at many of this year's beer festivals throughout New Mexico.

Tractor’s gear was hard to miss at many of this year’s beer festivals throughout New Mexico, including SummerBrew.

Tractor has also made an effort to get more involved with Nob Hill, as owner Skye Devore has joined the neighborhood association’s board. The Tractor staff is also working with their property manager in an effort to keep the area around the taproom looking sharp.

“We’ve been able to work with them to keep the tractor outside, that was an issue,” Nicole said. “And be able to continue to have people keep their dogs here in a safe way. We’re working with Animal Humane. We added some signage here since we worked with them through the pub pet classes. So we’re hoping that helps a lot. I think that since we started those classes earlier in the year it has. We’ve seen a really dramatic difference in animals at the taproom.”

Letting people have their pets hang out on the patio has helped Tractor keep its diverse, lively crowd that packs the taproom almost every day of the week.

“We’ve got kind of an eclectic crowd,” Nicole said. “I like that it’s not really pegged to a single age group here. We do have a lot of people from the neighborhood, obviously. We’ve got some people with families. I think that we have a really different crowd.”

Say hello to the new Tractor brewhouse and taproom, which should open for business in early 2014.

Say hello to the new Tractor brewhouse and taproom, which should open for business in early 2014.

Preparing for big things in 2014

As I noted above, the new brewhouse and taproom will be the biggest development for Tractor in the coming year.

“The new brewery has been under construction over there for months,” Nicole said. “I think we’re getting a lot closer. I do think the taproom, I’ll loosely say that we potentially will have it open by late January.

“We’re still waiting for some things to come in. David (Hargis), the head brewer, he’s put so much time into the woodwork of the tables and the bar it’s ridiculous. I think he was like ‘what’s the hardest way I could possibly make a table? Let’s do that!’”

All kidding aside, the new location at 1800 4th Street NW, just south of Interstate 40, has a lot of potential.

“I’m really looking forward to that taproom,” Nicole said. “It’s going to be beautiful whenever it finally opens up. There’s a lot of garage doors over there, three or four, and as the season warms up we’ll really let the air in, have a nice patio. The chairs were all on special order, too. That was one of the things that was holding us up. Our contractors are working their butts off trying to get it ready.”

Sure, Stoutmeister could do these interviews without a pint in hand. But where would the fun be in that?

Sure, Stoutmeister could do these interviews without a pint in hand. But where would the fun be in that?

The taproom and brewery will be in the same structure which used to be the showroom space for Hank’s House, a cabinetry factory. Nicole said the taproom will open first, followed by the move of Tractor’s entire brewery operation from its current location in Los Lunas to the new site.

“I hope we don’t lose too much time in the brewing process,” she said. “I was talking to David about it the other day. Ideally we will only be out for several days if we do it right. But it’s a puzzle that I’m really scared of. I know all of our brewers, well, some of them live in Los Lunas, but I think the travel time that we’re going to save will probably be great.”

The brewery will have a mix of new and old equipment as it is a sizable increase in space from what is currently available in Los Lunas.

“We’re going to have so much more space at this new location,” Nicole said. “It’s incredible.”

With that increase in space and capacity, Tractor patrons could see some interesting new beers coming their way in 2014. David now has a small-batch pilot system at his disposal, enabling him to refine some old recipes and try out some new ones. (If the Crew had a vote, I think we would all agree that is past time to resurrect the PTO Smoked Porter, which was the beer we were drinking when we came up with the name for this website back on New Year’s Eve 2011.)

In addition to all of those big moves, Tractor will also be back in partnership with the annual Revolutions theater festival. Nicole said Tractor beers will be poured at all of the popular Reptilian Lounge and the kickoff party, plus numerous other events throughout the year.

* * * *

A big thanks to Nicole and the Tractor staff, who remain one of the best teams of beeristas anywhere in town (patent pending on that term). We look forward to getting our tour of the new taproom and brewhouse when they are ready for viewing.

With this story done, we are nearing the end of the line in this series. Still to come are Nexus on Tuesday, Il Vicino on Thursday, and Turtle Mountain on Friday. All publication dates are subject to change, especially since we are in the midst of a holiday week. Hopefully, after the holidays are over, I will be able to swing back and talk to Back Alley, Cazuela’s, and Chama River. Since we can’t get a hold of them on email, in-person visits will be required.

And before anyone asks, yes, we all survived the Brew Crew holiday party, a.k.a. Festivus, on Sunday. Though Brandon did try to kill us all with the amount of rum in the rum ham.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Welcome to our sixth entry in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14. This series is designed to give a recap, from the breweries themselves, of 2013 while also previewing all that is to come in 2014. We have already visited La Cumbre, Bosque, Kaktus, Marble, and Sandia Chile Grill, so click the links if you missed the stories.

After stopping at SCG on Wednesday afternoon for an interview, I, Stoutmeister, willingly drove across Paseo del Norte to reach Broken Bottle to interview brewer Donavan Lane. And yes, for those who have not experienced the hell that is PDN/I-25, it is pretty much as awful as you would expect. At least it wasn’t rush hour. Following that harrowing journey into the abyss, Donavan and I sat down in the brewery and talked about how BBB’s second year went and what to expect in 2014.

It was a busy year for Broken Bottle as they settled into a good weekly routine of events and series of popular seasonal beers.

It was a busy year for Broken Bottle as they settled into a good weekly routine of events and series of popular seasonal beers.

Reflecting on 2013

Broken Bottle celebrated its one-year anniversary back in April, and with more time to look back, Donavan said the difference between 2012 and 2013 was quite apparent.

“Well, we opened in 2012 and we were only open about eight months,” Donavan said. “That was a good learning experience … learning how to brew on a bigger scale, learning how to deal with different issues. We kind of got through 2012 and by the end of it we worked through most of those issues. 2013 was kind of a step back and breathe a little bit, things are running smoothly.

“Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of issues that came up in 2013. That learning curve and adjustments and growing, changing processes and stuff like that. Really the big thing in 2013 was our first full year open and we just kind of settled in and got into this groove of things. We worked through most of our issues where things were running fairly smoothly and we were able to enjoy it more than 2012. Beyond that, we took time to look at the next steps of what we’re going to do as a business, where we’re going forward, what our plans are for growth and how do we achieve those. And then take some of the steps to achieve those plans.”

Achieving greater consistency in the beer was a goal for 2013, one that Donavan said he was able to deal with more easily than the year before. Still, BBB did not bat 1.000 on its beers.

“We get to the point where we’ve worked through issues, we feel things are consistent and then have this random batch where something goes wrong,” he said. “You think you’ve worked through everything, you think you’ve worked through every possible aspect that changes anything, and then you’ll have that random batch where something goes wrong. It may be one of your regulars where you’ve made it 20, 30, 40 times. You’re left picking your brain, trying to figure out what went wrong. Why did it come out different this time? Some of it is just a head scratcher. It’s not up to standards, so I’m going to dump it. We had very little of that in 2013. We worked through most of those issues in 2012.”

Seasonals like this Fat Willy's Smoke Stout became very popular at Broken Bottle this year.

Seasonals like this Fat Willy’s Smoke Stout became very popular at Broken Bottle this year.

More than anything, BBB has become known for its eclectic collection of experimental and seasonal beers.

“I think that’s kind of to some extent what people came to know us for and kind of our following,” Donavan said. “People love our seasonals, the unique things we try. We just had our Drunken Hobo Milk Stout and that sold like crazy. Early in the year we had a Toffee Stout, that sold like crazy. Some of the ones we did last year and even the recipes from home brewing are like the Sol Rosenberg Ale, which is a nut brown but uses sunflower seeds, and every time we put it on tap we have customers come in and fill growler after growler. The Tom Selleck Ale, our cranberry ale, we have customers that wait for it.

“As far as ones that sold slower, off the top of my head … we did Tingley Peach a while back. It was a peach ale but the peach flavor didn’t come through quite as much as I hoped for. I think the combination of the peaches not being as sweet, not as ripe, it didn’t sell as well. Overall most of the seasonals sell like crazy. The last three months it seems like every week I need to get one or two more seasonals fermenting, we’re flying through them.”

Live music was a popular and regular event at Broken Bottle, even featuring Brew Crew member E-Rock.

Live music was a popular and regular event at Broken Bottle, even featuring Brew Crew member E-Rock.

The popularity of the seasonals is only one part of BBB’s effort to establish a solid customer base. Perhaps and even bigger reason for that has been establishing a routine in terms of what is going on night by night at the brewery.

While Mondays and Tuesdays are typically slow everywhere, no matter the special events, the rest of the week has certain regular events that tend to draw in big crowds. From Open Mic night on Wednesdays to karaoke on Thursdays, live music on Fridays and/or Saturdays, and then football games and special TV show (Breaking Bad, Walking Dead) viewing parties on Sunday, all have helped create a large swath of regular customers.

“In 2013 I think a lot of it was still establishing that regular customer base,” Donavan said. “The consistency was not from a beer standpoint but what to expect from here on a day-to-day basis.”

Preparing for big things in 2014

Like almost every other brewery in town, BBB wants to grow in the coming year. And like most of those other breweries, it faces issues with the size of its current brewing system and the space in which there is to brew.

“2014 for us will be the year of a lot of changes, a lot of growth,” Donavan said. “In November we got our wholesalers license from the state. The last couple weeks I’ve been going out and talking to restaurants and bars. In 2014 we’ll start distributing to restaurants and bars.”

The very creative new tap handle for BBB beers that will be served at bars and restaurants in the area.

The very creative new tap handle for BBB beers that will be served at bars and restaurants in the area.

With distribution will come the need for an increase in production capacity. That in turn could lead to a change in venue to accommodate the need for more space.

“October was two years into our three-year lease, so for the last two months we’ve been talking to the landlord about what we’re doing going forward,” Donavan said. “Whether it would possibly be remaining here or looking at a few different properties to make a move to. We’re talking to the landlord if possibly the distribution takes off on the scale we’re hoping to possibly taking over one of their other vacant spaces and bumping up our capacity on the brewing end.

“All of the decisions will be made in the next two or three months. We’ll set our path for all of 2014 there. Right now we’ve got a lot of different things in play. We’re waiting for some proposals back from our current landlord. We’re meeting with two different property owners looking at other possibilities. By the end of January, most likely we should make those decisions whether we’re growing here or looking at a new place.”

Whether BBB stays in its location off Coors or moves elsewhere on the West Side, increasing the size of the current brewing system is definitely on the table.

“We brew on a two-barrel system, so we’re looking at the possibility of upgrading that to either a five- or seven-barrel system,” Donavan said. “Still on a smaller scale compared to the big guys (but) for us it would be a step up. It would allow us to keep up with here and get out to other places. On our current system the reality is if we sign up with too many restaurants we’ll very quickly hit out limit with what we can provide here and what we send out. A five- or seven-barrel system would double or triple what we can put out. It would give us a lot more room for growth without having to spend 70 or 80 hours a week here.”

Franz Solo always likes taking BBB beers home (since he lives nearby), but the option of bottles/cans instead of just growlers would be nice to have.

Franz Solo always likes taking BBB beers home (since he lives nearby), but the option of bottles/cans instead of just growlers would be nice to have as well.

Broken Bottle has also been talking to a new local company, Mother Road Canning, which will bring a small canning line to the smaller breweries around town and help can or bottle their beers. Having beer on bottles/cans could be a smart business move, Donavan said.

“We’ll see if we can’t work something out that’s a beneficial deal for both of us,” he said. “Then with that, initially we would sell out of here. You would be surprised how many people come in and say I’d like to buy a six-pack instead of a growler. I want to open one and drink it tonight and not worry about the rest. With a growler once you open it you have to finish it in a couple days.

“Initially we’d do it to sell out here. Then we could approach the smaller grocery stores, possibly. We could sell at a few restaurants and bars. You could try to sell kegs, but they don’t have any open taps. If they don’t want to drop anyone they have, but you can sell them a case of bottles. It gets your foot in the door. If they sell well and like your product, maybe down the line you can get a keg in there.”

The Crew will keep on top of BBB’s big meetings in the next couple months and let everyone know what is ultimately decided.

* * * *

A big thanks to Donavan for taking the time to chat and, of course, for the pint of the delicious Elixir, a vanilla cream ale that is quite the decadent late afternoon treat. Head over before they run out, as I just missed out on the last of the milk stout.

A busy weekend lies ahead as I will be interviewing Ken Carson of Nexus in a short while, followed by the Dark Beer Festival at Bird of Paradise, which is today at 6 p.m. (we get to go at 5 p.m., another perk of this whole writing-about-beer gig) Saturday will feature the New Mexico Bowl, something I actually get paid to write about, followed by Solstice Blackout at Il Vicino. There will be plenty of shenanigans for the Crew’s hush-hush, double-secret probation holiday party on Sunday.

As for the remaining Look Back/Look Ahead stories: Monday — Tractor, Tuesday — Nexus, Wednesday — no stories, both E-Rock and I are taking the day off, Thursday — Il Vicino, Friday — Turtle Mountain. Still waiting to hear back from Back Alley, Cazuela’s, and Chama River, so those may have to wait until January.

Enjoy your weekend, folks. Just remember not to overdo it.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Welcome to our fifth entry in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14. This series is designed to give a recap, from the breweries themselves, of 2013 while also previewing all that is to come in 2014. We have already visited La Cumbre, Bosque, Kaktus, and Marble, so click the links if you missed the stories.

After stopping by this past Sunday to talk a little beer science — we’ll have more on that in January — I, Stoutmeister, returned to Sandia Chile Grill on Wednesday afternoon to talk with brewer Clint Coker about the year that was and the year to come. Clint made sure I was properly fueled for the interview with a pint of Rio Negro Milk Stout. When in Rome, right?

Sandia Chile Grill has made the most out of its small brewing space in the Northeast Heights.

Sandia Chile Grill has made the most out of its small brewing space in the Northeast Heights.

Reflecting on 2013

Sandia Chile Grill started brewing its own beer midway through 2012, meaning 2013 was its first full year as a microbrewery, in addition to still being a popular restaurant in the Northeast Heights. As with any smaller microbrewery, SCG found itself constantly up against the constraints of the available space.

“Well, we got into the brewing industry and we decided to create our own system,” Clint said. “As we started to build our system and put it together we had some trouble as far as fermentation and how we were going to do it like everybody else as far as collecting our yeast and recapturing that nice (batch). So that forced to start propagating our own yeast. It’s given us heightened viability over what we can get through the labs. We’ve actually got a strain we think we could start selling (back) to them. It’s a little bit different from what they actually sell.”

As Clint has gotten into a groove with his system and the yeast propagation (the Crew will have more on that specifically in January), it has increased his rate of production and the quality of the beer.

Over the last year SCG has been able to speed up its brewing and fermenting process.

Over the last year SCG has been able to speed up its brewing and fermenting process.

“Out here we’re fermenting quicker,” Clint said. “We’ve gone from 30-day, 40-day to five- to-10-day ferments. We can turn barrels three times a month now. Our beer is cleaner. It’s got better esters.”

That has shown up on the awards front, as SCG pulled in multiple medals at the State Fair this year, including a bronze for cider, a silver for Barb’s Barrel Hefeweizen, and multiple medals for their meads, including best of show.

SCG has also established a routine of brewing lower ABV beers in the summer and higher in the winter.

“Now one thing we do is we do a smaller beer, five- to six-percent (ABV) beer during the summer, then as winter rolls on we boost it up to seven- to eight- to give them a little more for their money,” Clint said. “I’ve noticed people come in during the summer and they want to drink more beer. They come in during the winter and they only want one. During the summer we don’t want them getting drunk and during the winter we want to give them more value.”

The most vexing aspect of the past year for Clint has been his Rattlesnake IPA.

“If IPA wasn’t so popular I would not make that,” he said. “It has eluded us and eluded us. I’m getting ready to do a new IPA. I’m hoping this one will stick. We’re going to do Cascade and Northern Brewer (hops). Cascade is one of the hops we have a lot of luck with for our Irish Red and our Amber. It would be a bit bitter for those IPAs. We did an ESB last Christmas just with the Northern Brewer and that went really well. We’re going to do that again this Christmas as well. We’ll let the people decide whether they want the ESB or the IPA. That’s the one I’ll stick with for the hop fans.”

The malty Irish Red is one of the more popular styles of beer at SCG.

The malty Irish Red is one of the more popular styles of beer at SCG.

SCG has also fixed a few things in the back that have helped improve the consistency and quality of the beer.

“We’ve fixed our fridge recently so everything is colder,” Clint said. “I think the beer right now, being colder and also being able to keep our back room colder, our beer is better than it’s ever been. Now it’s trying to get past this little hump trying to help Desert Water Brewing. I’m down to two flavors, man, and I’d like to have eight on tap. We’re trying to stock up before the end of the year.”

Desert Water is a friend’s operation just outside of Artesia that has only recently opened.

“We’ve got the licensing for them,” Clint said. “I’m actually teaching them how to brew right now. I went up there last week and I brewed a hefeweizen with them. It’s just going to be a wheat pitched with American ale. They’re carrying our pilsner and our Irish red. They were carrying our stout. But as time goes they’re going to have all their own flavors.”

SCG is able to propagate and cultivate its own yeast, which has helped make brewing a lot easier.

SCG is able to propagate and cultivate its own yeast, which has helped make brewing a lot easier.

Preparing for big things in 2014

Like many successful smaller microbreweries, SCG is starting to outgrow its available space. They are hardly alone in the Albuquerque metro area among breweries seeking to increase physical space and/or production capacity in the coming year.

“I need a bigger space,” Clint said. “We’re in the works for that. We’re always trying to move, find a bigger, better place.”

The groundwork for preparing to move has already begun on the brewing front.

“And then again the yeast, being able to brew it three times a month instead of once a month, that’s a huge change for us, it really was,” Clint said. “It’s made us look at our own equipment that we’ve designed and realize we can push it even further. We can make it even bigger before we have to expand to a seven-barrel system. All of the stuff we’re using now, we can use as far as wine-making and distilling. We’re pretty happy. We think we can get, seriously, about twice the brewery we have now and start putting beer out there in the community and start getting rocking and rolling.”

SCG has made the most out of its available space for brewing, but a new location could allow them to expand.

SCG has made the most out of its available space for brewing, but a new location could allow them to expand.

The headaches that come with zoning and licensing are something that a possible move for SCG could help alleviate.

“If we get that location one of the first things we’re going to be doing is to change our license to that location as far as microbrew and then obtain a wine growers’ and growler license,” Clint said. “Not only are we going to sell our beer to the neighborhood, but we’ll sell our mead out to the community as well. We’ll start doing some ciders and wines as well. Out of this location our zoning is all screwed up.

“That used to be a brewery, that Southwest Eye Care (building in the same shopping center as SCG). That land still had exclusive rights so we had to cancel those exclusive rights and then we had to change our zoning and get exclusive rights. Now they’re fighting us on growlers, they’re telling us we have to have a special exceptions license. We’re just looking at it as we have to leave. We’re pretty sure we’ve found a (new) location.”

We in the Crew will be keeping a close eye on SCG’s situation and possible move. When the paperwork and all the rest goes through and they let us know, we will let our readers know where they can still get a beer and some good food to go with it.

* * * *

Thanks again to Clint for taking time out of what is usually his day off, and for the pint, of course.

The upcoming schedule for our series looks like this. As we’ve learned a couple times already, it is subject to change based on interview availability.

Friday — Broken Bottle, Monday — Tractor, Tuesday — Nexus, Wednesday — it’s Christmas, I’m taking the dang day off, Dec. 26 — Il Vicino, Dec. 27 — Turtle Mountain

Yeah, we may actually finish up this series before 2014 arrives. Damn, I probably just jinxed it.

Cheers anyway!

— Stoutmeister

The Week Ahead in Beer: Holiday cheers!

Posted: December 18, 2013 by erockslab in The Week Ahead in Beer

Greetings New Mexico craft beer lovers, this is E-Rock back to bring you this installment of The Week Ahead in Beer. This column is hand-crafted to keep you up to date on all of the seasonal beers, news, and events served up at breweries and tap rooms in New Mexico.

E-Rock, left, has uncovered all the beers worth sneaking up on this week.

E-Rock, left, has uncovered all the beers worth sneaking up on this week.

The holiday season is upon us, and breweries around the state are celebrating with a wide range of special events. Santa Fe Brewing is halfway through their 12 Beers of Christmas celebration. Marble Brewery will host their Reserve Ale Release Party today at 5 p.m. The Il Vicino Canteen begins Solstice Blackout on Saturday featuring six dark bears on tap and available in flights. The Taos Brew Master’s Festival is also on Saturday. Stoutmeister has previewed a lot of this weekend’s activities, if you need more info. If that isn’t enough to keep all you craft beer fanatics happy, there is a huge amount of new and returning seasonal beers around the state that will keep a smile on face for the foreseeable future.

Right now in the Duke City, Back Alley Draft House has their White Ryeno and Red Ale back on tap. Broken Bottle has new batches of Cracked Cork Barley Wine (11% ABV) and Tom Selleck Ale (5.1% ABV) now on tap, and a new batch of the End of Days Tripel will be on tap by the end of the week. The Canteen is now serving Day of the Dead, and they are working on getting their dark beers lined up for Solstice Blackout. Kaktus is now serving their Christmas Ale and American Wheat on tap and their ESB on cask. La Cumbre has a new batch of Pater’s Pale Ale on tap. Marble is now serving their Josh’s Brown Lager and Double White. Sandia Chile Grill has their Red back on tap. Turtle Mountain has a whole host of new beers and returning favorites on tap this week including Red Rye, Cabo Lager, Golden Honey Ale, Maduro Stout, Oblivion Express Barleywine, Low-Gluten Amber, and the Hybrid IPA.

In the City Different, Duel’s Goya Stout (13.6% ABV) is now on tap. Santa Fe Brewing Company’s 12 Beers of Christmas continues this week with Grapefruit IPA today followed by Nick & Leif’s Collaboration Sour (Bottled), Tamarind Saison, Bourbon Barrel Black Ale, Santa Fe White IPA, Fat Man Minty Stout, and ending with Sangre de Cristo Craft Brewer’s Club Collaboration Sour (Bottled) on Christmas Eve. See SFBC’s entry below for a complete listing of each beer and its release date.

As a programming note, I will be taking next week off, so The Week Ahead in Beer will return in two weeks. Stoutmeister told me I earned a break. (Yes, yes you have. — S) Expect the next edition of this column by New Year’s Eve day at the latest, so you know where to go and what beers to get for your celebratory fun.

That is just a small sample of what is going on in the Land of Enchantment. Continue reading for all the news that is fit to blog for the week of Dec. 16.

To break down each “capsule,” I listed the brewery (with Web page linked), its phone number and hours of operation. Under “Beers” are the new or seasonal beers on tap for this week.

ABQ Brew Pub — (505) 884-1116

(Mon–Thurs 11 a.m.–midnight, Fri–Sat 11 a.m.–2 a.m., Sunday 10 a.m.–midnight)

Beers: Sierra Blanca Oktoberfest. Stoutmeister and Brandon had this at Son of Septemberfest. While Stoutmeister thought it was fine, Brandon thought it was missing something flavor-wise. Try it for yourselves and see what you think. Several times a year ABP serves up the latest creation by local brewing hero and winner of the Samuel Adams Longshot competition, Ben Miller, or seasonal releases by Monks Brewing.

Back Alley Draft House — 766-6973 (NYPD)

(Hours 4 p.m.-11 p.m. daily)

Beers: White Ryeno, Red Ale, Pale Ale, American Strong Ale, Pumpkin Ale, Imperial Pumpkin Ale. Stoutmeister and Brandon enjoyed the Imperial Pumpkin Ale, which is not overpowering on the alcohol end. BADH is now offering Stone’s Double Bastard on tap as well.

Events: On Saturday, BADH will be participating at the Taos Brew Master’s Festival, and they will also have the Rio Grande Family Band playing Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Blue Corn Brewery — (505) 438-1800

(Daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m.)

Beers: Barrel Series #2 Russian Imperial Stout, Smoky Brown, Galaxy Pale Ale (5.3% ABV, 30 IBU), Shootout Pale Ale, Chocolate Porter. Barrel Series #2, a Brett Russian Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels, is available on both Co2 and Nitro. The latter version is unbelievably smooth, as Stoutmeister and Porter Pounder recently discovered over lunch at Blue Corn. Galaxy is an Australian hop variety, and Blue Corn heavily hopped their new pale ale to give you a sense of what Galaxy is all about. All of its bitterness came from 10-minute and zero-minute hop additions in the kettle and then dry hopped with 1.5 pounds per barrel. Shootout is a strong pale ale brewed with Centennial and Citra hops.

Blue Heron Brewery — (505) 579-9188

(Sun-Tues noon–6 p.m., Wed-Sat 10 a.m.–8 p.m.)

Beers: Prieta Real Imperial Stout, Tarantula Trek Red Ale, Autumn Sun Golden Ale, La Cabra Doppel Bock, Cascabel IPA. The Autumn Sun was made with locally grown hops in the Rinconada area. The Cascabel is an English-style IPA. The La Cabra gets this little writeup on Blue Heron’s website: “A dark creamy bock with a hint of chocolate, slightly hoppy.” Blue Heron also has Prieta Real, La Llorona Scottish Ale (a Crew favorite), Amber’s Folly Amber Ale, Embudo Gold Golden Ale, and Lava Rock Pale Ale for sale in bombers.

Bosque Brewing Company — (505) 750-7596

(Mon–Thurs 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri–Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun noon-8 p.m.)

Beers: Double IPA, Backpacker (Dubbel/Abbey Style), Pale Ryder, Mellow Brit, Oatmeal Stout. Bosque’s new Double IPA is on tap, the first entry their “Scale Tipper” series of Double IPAs. It checks in at 100 IBUs to satiate all the hopheads out there. Not surprisingly, Stoutmeister gives thumbs up to the Oatmeal Stout, which he described as “big and bold, almost like a hybrid of a dry stout and an oatmeal. It’s not for wimps.” The Oatmeal Stout will soon be joining Bosque’s regular lineup as it is their second best-selling beer at the moment. It will replace the Olde Bosky porter, which will return later as a seasonal.

News: Subway moved out Dec. 1 so Bosque’s new 15-barrel brewhouse is now under construction next door to the current brewery and taproom.

Bosque has a happy hour running from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and all day on Sunday. Look for a revamped menu and get $1 off your favorite pints.

Broken Bottle Brewery — (505) 890-8777

(Mon–Weds 4-11 p.m., Thurs-Fri 4 p.m.–midnight, Sat noon–midnight, Sun noon–10 p.m.)

Beers: End of Days Tripel, Cracked Cork Barley Wine (11% ABV), Tom Selleck Ale (5.1% ABV), Elixir (Vanilla Cream) Ale (6.4% ABV), Drunken Hobo Milk Stout (6.7% ABV). Drunken Hobo Milk Stout should be sold out by the end of the week and after it the End of Days Tripel will be on tap.

Events: B3 has $3 beers every Tuesday from open to close. On Wednesday, B3 will be hosting their open mic from 8-10 p.m., with signups starting at 7:30 p.m. Check out B3’s karaoke night every Thursday starting at 8 p.m.

Cazuela’s Seafood & Mexican Grill — (505) 994-9364

(Open daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m.)

Beers: Cabrocito (Pale Ale), Papa Cabra (Double IPA), Acapulco Red, Panama Red, Acapulco Gold (Mexican Lager) (5.2% ABV), Hefe Weizen (5.5% ABV), Robusto Porter (5.9% ABV), Chupacabra IPA (7.2% ABV), Pastizal Oatmeal Stout (5.5% ABV), Piedra del Fuego Stoned Cream Ale (5.0% ABV), ESB (5.2%). First there was the Chupacabra IPA, then Papa Cabra Double IPA, and now Cazuela’s is pleased to announce the arrival of the newest addition to the Cabra family, the Cabrocito Pale Ale. Try them all. Stoutmeister and I had a chance to sample the Piedra del Fuego Stoned Cream Ale, which we both recommend. According to Cazuela’s menu: “This cream ale uses red-hot stones to super caramelize the sugars, creating a nutty, toffee-like flavor.” Brandon tried Panama Red at NM Brew Fest and recommends this slightly hoppy red ale.

News: Cazuela’s will have an Oatmeal Stout on tap soon.

Events: Cazuela’a now features a live guitarist every Friday.

Chama River Brewing Company — (505) 342-1800

(Sun–Thurs 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri–Sat 11 a.m.–midnight)

Beers: Me Llamo Lodo (7.1% ABV , 60 IBUs), Punkin Drublic (6.4% ABV, 20 IBU), Whispering Rye (6.3% ABV, 60 IBU), Apricot Wheat (5.5% ABV, 15 IBUs, $5.25 Pints). Chama had this to say about Whispering Rye: “Our rye pale ale is a little slice of heaven for hop lovers. Immediate flavors of juicy hops matched with a ripe aroma of citrus and a spicy rye backbone create a great divide between this and other rye beers.” Chama also had this to say about their Imperial Brown Ale, Me Llamo Lodo: “Big chocolate and caramel malt flavors and aromas dominate this warming seasonal beer.”

Comanche Creek Brewing Company — (575) 377-2337

(Wed-Sat noon–6 p.m.)

Beers: Touch-Me-Not IPA, Deadman Pale Ale, Homestead Amber Ale. According to Comanche Creek’s website: “Touch-Me-Not IPA is a tantalizing American style IPA flavored with Chinook, Centennial and Cascade hops. This bold IPA is named for the majestic mountain that overlooks our brewery!” Homestead Amber Ale was on hand when Stoutmeister and I visited Comanche Creek last year. The Homestead is often bottled and served at establishments in the Eagle Nest/Angel Fire area.

Duel Brewing Company — (505) 474-5301

(Sun 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Mon–Tues 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Wed–Sat 11 a.m.–midnight)

Beers: Goya Stout (13.6% ABV), Manikin (Scottish Ale, 3.9% ABV), Titian (Belgian Golden Strong Ale, 8.2% ABV), Grunewald (imperial porter, 12% ABV), Dark Ryder (Belgian strong dark ale, 11% ABV), Bad Amber (Belgian amber, 6% ABV), Duchamp Sour Wit, Fiction IPA, Non-Fiction Pale Ale. Duchamp is a Belgian-style sour wit with lots of citrus punch (5% ABV). Duel describes the Goya Stout (13.6% ABV) thusly: “Smokey pear on the nose. Ethereal mouth feel. A true journey for all the senses!”

News: Duel is trying to have music at least Thurs-Sat (usually 7-10 p.m.), their food menu just expanded with three new items, and they have a life drawing session each Sunday morning from 11-1 (although they are not open to the drinking public till 1 p.m. on Sun).

Events: The life drawing session is $25. You get the beverage of your choice, a Brussels-style waffle made with their own yeast and beer and then served with a Grunewald Syrup. Everyone then draws from a nude model. People can sign up through the website or call the brewery to reserve a spot.

Eske’s Brew Pub — (575) 758-1517

(Mon–Thurs 4 p.m.–10 p.m., Fri–Sun noon-10 p.m.)

Beers: Rio Red Ale, Naked Apricot Ale, Green Chile IPA, Chemist Ale, Seco Stout, Blonde Betty. The Green Chile IPA got a big write-up in the Albuquerque Journal‘s revamped Friday entertainment section recently. The Chemist Ale is one of the few gluten-free beer brewed in New Mexico.

High Desert Brewing Company — (575) 525-6752

(Mon–Sat 11 a.m.–midnight, Sun noon-10 p.m.)

Beers: Wheat Ale, Peach Wheat, Amber Ale, Bohemian Pilsner, Holiday Ale, Irish Red Ale, IPA, Brown Ale, Porter, Barley Wine. New to the lineup this week are the Irish Red Ale and Porter. High Desert’s website says the Holiday Ale has “a complex flavor profile & creamy texture. Brewed with orange zest, Madagascar vanilla beans, cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, allspice, & clover honey.” High Desert Brewing Company is located at 1201 W. Hadley Ave. in Las Cruces.

Il Vicino Brewing Canteen — (505) 881-2737

(Sun–Thurs noon–10 p.m., Fri–Sat noon–midnight)

Beers: Day of the Dead, Just Esteem, Irish Red, Raz Wheat, Sasquatch Scotch. The Canteen is working on getting their dark beers lined up for winter solstice. The Solstice Blackout starts on Saturday and features six beers (black IPA, stout, coffee stout, brown porter, smoked porter, robust porter) blacker than the longest night.

News: Looking for gift ideas? The Canteen is selling their growler gift pack (one flip top gene bottle growler, filled or with a fill voucher, and 2 logo pint glasses). They are also running a gift card special. Spend $25 in gift card purchases and receive a free $5 gift card. Their brewery calendar should be ready for purchase later this week.

Cask: Cask beers at the Canteen for this week are yet-to-be-announced.

Kaktus Brewing — (505) 379-5072

(Hours Mon-Thu 11:30-8, Fri-Sun 11:30-10)

Beers: Christmas Ale, American Wheat, ESB, Late Hop Amber, Big Ben (London) Porter, Vienna (Dark) Lager, IPA, Stout. Located at 471 South Hill Road in Bernalillo, Kaktus is the state’s newest brewery. It is a small, casual place, similar to Blue Heron in appearance and comfort factor. We already did a review of Kaktus and Stoutmeister highly recommends the ESB. The ABQ Craft Beer Drinkers Group visited Kaktus recently and Stoutmeister went along for the fun. He enjoyed the Stout (of course). Kaktus owner Dana Koller said fans can expect the nanobrewery to go through its most popular styles quickly, though they will always have something new and exciting available as a replacement.

Cask: Kaktus is now serving their ESB on cask.

News: Kaktus has a new winterized patio covered by a tent, so now you can enjoy pint on the patio any time of year.

Events: Kaktus hosts live music by original song writers every Monday night from 6-8 p.m, and they are also offering $3 pints every Monday. On Wednesday, David and Felix from Felix De Los Gatos are playing from 6-8 p.m.

La Cumbre Brewing — (505) 872-0225

(Open every day at noon)

Beers: Pater’s Pale Ale, Cabra Fuerte (German-style Bock), Weizenbock, 2012 Barley’s Wine, Project Dank. La Cumbre still has a few bottles of their 3rd Anniversary Belgian-style Quad available for purchase with a mug club membership, although it is no longer available on tap. Pater’s Pale Ale and Weizenbock are back on tap. Project Dank will be on tap in La Cumbre’s taproom as much as they can keep it there for the foreseeable future.

Cask: La Cumbre now has Elevated IPA available on cask.

News: La Cumbre has begun mug club renewals. This year’s gift with the mug club membership is a very special Belgian-style Quad (10% ABV) aged on cocoa nibs (bottle conditioned, 750ml) for their first bottle release. There are still a few bottles left, so sign up for the mug club soon.

A Slice of Hefen 16 oz. cans are now on store shelves. Malpais Stout is next, hopefully by February.

La Cumbre’s holiday hours will be a bit different this year. They will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. They are closing at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, so you will have plenty of time to get your growlers filled. New Year’s Eve they will be closing at 8 p.m.

Marble Brewery — (505) 243-2739

(Mon–Sat 1 p.m.–midnight, Sun 1 p.m.–10:30 p.m.)

Beers: Josh’s Brown Lager, Double White, Imperial Red, Belgo Stout, Imperial Stout, India Lite. The new India Lite checks in at just 3.8-percent ABV. It was inspired by Marble’s recent trip to meet the folks at England’s Marble Brewery and their penchant for very low-ABV beers brewed in the classic English style, though they made it with Southern Passion hops from South Africa. This year’s batch of Imperial Stout finds a nice balance between the bourbon flavors from the barrels and the strong stout base, or so says Stoutmeister, who has already gone by twice to enjoy this powerful elixir. Stoutmeister also recommends Josh’s Brown Lager, a sessionable beer perfect during the cold weather months.

Cask: Check out Marble’s cask (a.k.a. “real” ale) selection on tap every Friday at the Downtown Pub.

News: Marble will be closing at 8 on Christmas Eve, and they closed Christmas.

Events: Marble’s Reserve Ale Release Party will start today at 5 p.m.

Marble host their Gift Market on Sunday from noon-4 p.m.

Mimbres Valley Brewing Company — (575) 544-2739 (Deming)

(Deming Brewery Hours: Mon–Fri 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun closed)

(Las Cruces Taproom Hours: Mon–Sat noon–midnight, Sun noon–9 p.m.,)

Beers: Liquid Nap, Belgian Wit, Silver Spike IPA, Beer Goggles, New England Hard Cider. Liquid Nap is a Belgian Style Tripel. While being a strong beer, it is sneaky smooth. Hard Ciders have grown increasingly popular in recent years, yet they are still pretty hard to find on-tap. The MVB Hard Cider is brewed with apples, brown sugar, and honey and has a high ABV of 8 percent. Because of the high alcohol content, the Hard Cider is served in 10-ounce glasses only. This dry cider is different from most other ciders. Mimbres Valley has a brewery in Deming and a taproom in Las Cruces. Both locations feature $7 tasting flights, and both locations carry the brews listed above.

New Mexico Craft Brewing Co. — (505) 426-6079 (brewery), 203-521-7908 (pub)

(Sun–Thurs 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri–Sat 11 a.m.–midnight)

Beers: Imperial Stout, RyePA, IPA, X Hop Pale, Brown. I am told that the Imperial Stout is well worth the trip to Las Vegas. Business has been nuts over at NMCBC, so beers are changing out rapidly on tap.

News: NMCBC’s new pub, The Old Town Draft House in Las Vegas, is open for business. They have 10 NMCBC taps and some cider. At least for a while, their hours are high noon until close, seven days a week.

Nexus Brewery — (505) 242-4100

(Sun–Thurs 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri–Sat 11 a.m.–midnight)

Beers: Imperial Stout, English Pale, Equinox (pumpkin ale), Chocolate Porter, Imperial Cream. Nexus’ English Pale is a light, sessionable beer that makes for a perfect to start your visit. The Equinox offers an interesting mix of flavors between pumpkin and spices on one hand and a nutty brown ale on the other hand. Brewer Manuel Mussen has tweaked the recipe for the porter; Stoutmeister said there is more of a roasted flavor now, with less chocolate. He suggested they call this recipe the Winter Porter. The Imperial Stout has gotten thumbs up from Stoutmeister and Franz Solo, with the latter also recommending the current batch of Equinox as an improvement over the one we all tried during our pumpkin ale mini-beer battle.

Cask: Nexus will be serving the English Pale Ale on cask this week.

Events: Nexus serves up Happy Hour All Day on Tuesday featuring $3 pints. Also on Tuesday, Nexus will be hosting their comedy open mic, Young Dumb and Full of Comedy, starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Sun Room. They also have Ladies Night on Wednesday from 4-6 p.m. featuring $3 pints for the ladies.

Roosevelt Brewing — (575) 226-2739

(Sun 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Mon closed, Tues–Thurs 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri–Sat 11 a.m.–10 p.m.)

Beers: Eleanor’s Blonde Ale (5.5% ABV, 21 IBU), Portales Pale Ale (5.5% ABV, 45 IBU), Clovis Point IPA, Dirt Town Brown Ale (4.0% ABV, 23 IBU), Happy Heifer Hefeweizen (4.9% ABV, 17 IBU), Big Stick Stout, Cole Espresso Porter. Roosevelt Brewing is located at 201 S. Main Street in Portales. Our own Porter Pounder stopped by while working on a film crew that was shooting in Portales and reviewed several of Roosevelt’s beers.

Events: Wednesday night is Open Mic Night at Roosevelt Brewing.

Sandia Chile Grill — (505) 798-1970

(Mon–Sat 8 a.m.–8 p.m., Sun 8 a.m.–6 p.m.)

Beers: Red, Rattlesnake IPA, Rio Negro Milk Stout (7.6% ABV), Barb’s Barrel Hefeweisen (5.5% ABV), Gold Rush Pilsen (6.8% ABV). The current batch of Rio Negro Milk Stout offers up a unique hybrid of the creamy milk stout and more of an Irish dry stout. And a big welcome back to the Gold Rush, a medal winner at the New Mexico Cup earlier this year.

News: Sandia Chile Grill will be helping Cottonwood Winery and Brewery open their first brewery in Artesia.

Santa Fe Brewing Company — (505) 424-3333

(Mon–Sat 11 a.m.–10 p.m., closed on Sunday)

Beers: Grapefruit IPA, Nick & Leif’s Collaboration Sour (Bottled), Tamarind Saison, Bourbon Barrel Black Ale, Santa Fe White IPA, Fat Man Minty Stout, Sangre de Cristo Craft Brewer’s Club Collaboration Sour (Bottled), Black IPA, Saison ’88. The Saison ’88 was brewed in honor of SFBC’s 25th anniversary. It is also available for sale in cans just about everywhere you can find SFBC products.

This is SFBC’s official 12 beers of Christmas list and the dates on which they will be available (all are tapped at noon at both SFBC locations):

Today — Grapefruit IPA; Thursday — Nick & Leif’s Collaboration Sour (Bottled); Friday — Hector’s Tamarind Saison; Saturday — Bourbon Barrel Black Ale; Sunday — Santa Fe White IPA; Monday — Fat Man Minty Stout; Tuesday, Dec. 24 — Sangre de Cristo Craft Brewer’s Club Collaboration Sour (Bottled)

Events: $1 Off Growler Refills in the Tasting Room on Mondays. $2 Tuesdays at the Eldorado Taphouse. On Wednesday, there is a $2 Pint Special in the SFBC Tasting Room, and the Sangre de Cristo Craft Brewers’ Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Tasting Room as well. On Thursday, there will be $1 Off Growler Refills at the Eldorado Taphouse.

News: SFBC is also purchasing a 7.5-acre farm in Northern New Mexico where they will begin growing their own hops.

Second Street Brewery — (505) 989-3278 (Railyard), (505) 982-3030 (original location)

(Mon–Thurs 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri–Sat 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sunday noon-9 p.m.)

Beers: Kolsch, Rod’s Best Bitter, Schwarzbier, IPA, Altbier, Cream Stout, Old Pecos Porter, 3 C’s Porter, Rod’s Steam Bitter. The Altbier and Schwarzbier are the last of the German-style offerings from Second Street’s Oktoberfest collection of beers that were on tap in October. November was Porter Month at Second Street, with the Old Pecos Porter and 3 C’s Porter now on tap. The 3 C’s is named for the three hops involved in its creation, Cascade, Chinook, and Citra. The Buenas Dias Porter is still to come. The GABF gold medal-winning Rod’s Steam Bitter is definitely worth a visit, Stoutmeister said, after he and Porter Pounder recently stopped by Second Street.

Taos Ale House — (575) 758-5522

(Mon–Fri 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Sat noon-10 p.m., Sunday noon-8 p.m.)

UPDATE: Taos Ale House will be closed for the rest of December. The owners assured us over Facebook that they are not shutting down permanently, only that they are working to improve the nanobrewery with the goal of reopening in January. When we have more news to pass along, we will do so. Taos Ale House will be participating in the Taos Brew Master’s Festival on Saturday, so that’s good news.

Taos Mesa Brewing — (575) 758-1900

(Daily 11 a.m. – close)

Beers: Black Widow Porter, Booty Call, Party Gal, Big Brown, Great Scot Scottish, Fall Down Brown, Honey Cat, Hopper IPA, Lunch Pale Ale, Superstitious Stout. The lineup us unchanged from last week. Among the more creatively named beers, Booty Call is a hefty (10.5% ABV) barley wine. The Party Gal is an aptly named mild ale (4.2% ABV). The Honey Cat (5.4% ABV) is a pale ale. Stoutmeister recommends the Superstitious Stout. In addition to their own beers, Taos Mesa has two guest taps. Marble’s IPA and Red can be found in the far north of New Mexico.

Three Rivers Brewery — (505) 325-6605

Beers: Thode’s Fat Dog Stout, India Pale Ale, Papa Bear’s Golden Honey Ale, Animas Pale Ale, Red Apple Flyer Cider, Numb Junkie (X-Beer), Peachy Keen, S.M.A.S.H. – EPA, Bare Naked Aggie Wheat Ale, Bisti Blonde, 3 Rivers Scottish Ale, Arroyo Amber Ale, S.M.A.S.H. – Vienna Lager. The Arroyo Amber Ale (5.0% ABV) is the local favorite. It is copper-red in color, medium bodied, and is brewed with caramel malt with a nice hop balance. The newest beers on tap include Bisti Blonde (4.1% ABV), Vienna Lager (5.1%), and the Numb Junkie (8.7%), a burly combo IPA that features the grain from Hop Junkie and the hops from Numbskull.

Cask: Three Rivers is now featuring the Thai Dragon Pepper Kolsch on cask. Coming soon are the Imperial Chocolate Oak Porter and Peppercorn IPA.

Tractor Brewing Company — (505) 433-5654 (Nob Hill Tap Room)

(The tap room is open Monday-Wednesday 3 p.m. to midnight, Thursday 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday-Saturday 1 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday 1 p.m. to midnight)

Beers: “Tupac” Cali Red Ale (5.8% ABV), Pilsner #15 (6.8% ABV), Tractoberfest (6.5% ABV), Hard Apple Cider (8.0% ABV), Scotch Ale (7.3% ABV), (Not Yo Mama’s) Turkey Drool (8.3% ABV). The “Tupac” Cali Red Ale, Cider, and Scotch have rejoined the lineup at the Taproom after a long absence. Stoutmeister recommends this year’s version of the Scotch, which is smoother than last year without being overly sweet. The Turkey Drool is an annual Crew favorite. Created by brewer Josh Campbell, it uses a variety of unique spices over a brown ale base to create a wholly unique beer. We will head over and grab some soon enough, so hurry up, or Brandon might drink it all. Again.

News: Non-smokers rejoice! Tractor’s patio flaps are up. Enjoy a beer with nice scenery with no pesky chilly weather to keep you from drinking your favorite beer.

Tractor has five new styles of apparel hot off the presses. Pick your favorite out for yourself then grab one as a gift for your best beer lover.

New/returning beers on the way include the Javi Memorial Lager, Russian Imperial Stout, and Chocolate Milk Stout.

Events: Tractor is now hosting their Thursday Night Game Night. Play whatever game you want with a fellow drinker. The winner of each game can enter to win their awesome door prizes! Let the bar staff know you’re playing. Bring a game or borrow one of theirs. The games begin at 9 p.m.

Turtle Mountain Brewing Company — (505) 994-9497

(Kitchen hours: Mon–Tues 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Wed–Thurs 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri–Sat 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Sun 10:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Reminder: TMBC closes early when business dictates.  Please call.)

Beers: Red Rye, Cabo Lager, Golden Honey Ale, Maduro Stout, Oblivion Express Barleywine, Low-Gluten Amber, Hybrid IPA, Hazelnut Brown, Ironman Black IPA, Hop Duster Pale Ale (4.7% ABV, 50 IBU), Cosmic Imperial Stout (7.75% ABV, 80, IBU, 1.072 OG). New on tap this week at TMBC is a Golden Honey Ale brewed with Gambrinus Honey Malt giving it a very dark rich honey hue and slightly sweet malty finish. (4.2% ABV, 15 IBU)  TMBC also has their Oblivion Express Barleywine back on tap this week. This tribute to the more-malty and less-hoppy English-style barleywines is one TMBC’s favorite recipes. (8.7% ABV, 60 IBU)  The Maduro Stout is also back on tap.

Cask: TMBC is currently featuring their Ironman Black IPA on cask with all of its 80 IBU hop bite and roasty body, but served at cellar temp and naturally carbonated.

News: TMBC is opening at 10:30 on Sundays as opposed to 11 a.m. for the hardcore football fans.

The Wellhead — (575) 746-0640

Beers: Wellhead Pale Ale (5.3% ABV), Roughneck Red Ale (4.8% ABV), Roustabout Porter (4.8% ABV), Cisco Canyon Blonde, Indian Basin Wheat. The Wellhead is located in Artesia. The Roustabout Porter is available in the summer months replacing the stout. The brown-colored porter was originally developed in the 18th Century for the working class or ‘porters’ of London. The malt and hop ingredients are simple and well-balanced. The Roughneck Red is as sweet malty Irish Red ale. The Chinook, Cascade, and Mount Hood hops create a wonderful aroma and flavor combination. Try this microbrew with spicy dishes or steak and the turtle cheesecake dessert.

* * * *

That’s all for this week! If you have any questions or comments, leave them below or contact us on our Facebook page.

Cheers!

— E-Rock

Stoutmeister here, back after stops today at Santa Fe Brewing and Nexus. For the former Porter Pounder and I were there to try the Biscochito Stout as part of the 12 Beers of Christmas (not bad, but a little too many holiday spices at the front, needs more balance) and for the latter I was supposed to interview Ken today for Nexus’ entry in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14, but he got stuck running errands all day. If you go to Nexus, you’ll notice some structural changes behind the bar, so it’s been a busy time over that I’m sure we’ll recap when we reschedule the interview. Also, try the new Imperial Stout. It’s a big, burly monster that was not aged in any kind of barrel. It’s just a mean, raw stout that is not for the weak of palate.

Two years ago, before the Crew was, well, the Crew, we met over Solstice Blackout trays at Il Vicino. It's back this weekend. We'll take clearer photos, we promise.

Two years ago, before the Crew was, well, the Crew, we met over Solstice Blackout trays at Il Vicino. It’s back this weekend. We’ll take clearer photos, we promise.

So anyway, with all that in the past, I figured today was as good a day as any to preview some events this upcoming weekend. Whenever Christmas falls in the middle of a week, it can lead to some holiday travel chaos the previous weekend (or even worse, you’re stuck at the hellhole known as Terminal 1 at LAX, trying to fly home on a Monday or Tuesday; thankfully, I am no longer a SoCal resident). Well, for those not traveling, there is plenty of beer-related stuff to do right here in New Mexico.

First up, on Friday, is the Dark Beer Festival at 6 p.m. at The Bird of Paradise (5409 Gibson Blvd. SE). This event is being brought to us all by the same crew responsible for the annual Dark Matters Film Festival. All of the beers will be on draft, and those of us in the Crew get an early bird (pun intended) preview an hour before the general public. The beer list sent to us includes Old Rasputin, Sierra Nevada Narwhal and Dunkelweizen, Odell Fernet Porter and Friek, Alaskan Barley wine, Kostritzer (“Germany’s finest Schwarzbier”), and a slew of Belgian beers — Petrus #9, Troubadour Imperial Stout, and Enamel Tripel. There may be even more beers beyond this group.

Admission is a suggested $5 (tax deductible) to the Dark Matters Film Festival. You get a 6-ounce tasting glass, at which point you can choose among four different flights of three beers apiece. Those flights cost $8 apiece, so bring some friends to defray the costs and, of course, to share all those high ABV beers. There are also wines and cocktails for those wild and crazy friends/relatives/significant others who do not like beer. But honestly, leave those folks at home and enjoy the black brews.

For more info, contact the organizers at info@darkmattersfilmfest.com.

If all that isn’t enough, Saturday will feature the return of one of our favorite annual delights, the Solstice Blackout at Il Vicino. The Canteen will provide a tray of dark beer samples for your enjoyment. This year’s lineup will include a black IPA, stout, coffee stout, brown porter, smoked porter, and a robust porter. I personally will be there after I wrap up my day of actual work (!) at the New Mexico Bowl. The freelance sports writer may be an endangered species, but he is not yet extinct.

Want to enjoy Taos Mesa's beers after skiing? You can now at their new taproom at the ski valley. It's next door to where they're holding the 18th annual Taos Brew Master's Festival on Saturday.

Want to enjoy Taos Mesa’s beers after skiing? You can now at their new taproom at the ski valley. It’s next door to where they’re holding the 18th annual Taos Brew Master’s Festival on Saturday.

Oh, yeah, and then for the really adventurous types among you, head on up to Taos for the 18th annual Taos Brew Master’s Festival, kicking off at 4:30 p.m. at the Taos Ski Valley. The event will be held at Tenderfoot Katie’s and the Martini Tree at the base of Chair 1. It will feature around 30 breweries and the cost to get in is $25, pretty much a festival standard nowadays. The Albuquerque Journal just ran a story on the event in their Venue section with a list of all the breweries expected to participate.

If you get to Taos early and need some place to kill time without heading back into town, head over to the new Taos Mesa taproom also located in the Ski Valley near the post office. It’s the TMBC version of the Chama Microbar, by all appearances. Its hours are noon to 6 p.m., so you won’t be able to stop by after the festival.

If there are any other beer-related events this weekend in New Mexico, let us know and we’ll update this post throughout the week. Until then, we’ve got to get back to preparing for Festivus at Brandon’s house (yes, there will be feats of strength, airing of grievances, and rum ham) on Sunday. Pray for us all.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Welcome to our fourth entry in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14. This series is designed to give a recap, from the breweries themselves, of 2013 while also previewing all that is to come in 2014. We have already visited La Cumbre, Bosque, and Kaktus, so click the links if you missed the stories.

Armed with my trusty digital recorder, notepad, and a pint of Josh’s Brown Lager (recommended by, uh, well, Josh himself), I sat down at Marble’s downtown pub to chat with co-founder John Gozigian about how this past year has treated the ABQ area’s largest brewery. It was another year of steady growth, and all the challenges that come with that, for Marble.

All the equipment a beer writer needs to properly conduct an interview.

All the equipment a beer writer needs to properly conduct an interview.

Reflecting on 2013

When I write that Marble is big, I’m not kidding. The brewery churned out 12,750 barrels of beer this year, up 2,000 barrels from 2012.

“Despite the two new fermenters we have outside, we were totally maxed out,” John said. “Summertime was very challenging. We were still distributing throughout Colorado. Here in Albuquerque and in Santa Fe our own distribution picked up. I thought we had plateaued, but we’re up about 17 to 20 percent in our own territory.

“Nationally we were up 100 percent over the past year. So we were strapped. We say over and over it’s a great problem to have, but it was so hectic.”

Eventually that led to the tough decision to withdraw Marble from most of the Front Range (Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, etc.) portion of Colorado. John said Marble will still distribute its beers in Southwest Colorado, including Durango, Teluride, and Cortez.

Marble also switched distributors in Arizona to Hensley, which proved to be a positive change.

“They do a really great job for us,” John said. “They’re very conscious that we’re small and they don’t order truckloads of beer. They’ve taken a very measured approach, getting us into the right accounts, into the right stores.”

The current edition of Marble's Imperial Stout has been a Brew Crew favorite.

The current edition of Marble’s Imperial Stout has been a Brew Crew favorite.

Selling beer in stores is still not a problem for Marble, but outside of New Mexico finding space for keg accounts has become tougher. Then again, it is tougher for almost anyone trying to cast a wide net of distribution as more and more local breweries begin to distribute.

“Quite honestly now it’s getting harder and harder to get draft placements outside your home territory because there’s so many local places,” John said. “And rightfully so, they’re going to get those draft placements. Unless it’s a true beer bar with 40 to 50 beers on tap, I’m thinking of the smaller places between four and 10 handles they could be totally filled up with local players and that’s awesome. That’s what we see here and around the country, too.”

In the end, though, that can actually benefit Marble’s original customer base in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

“We always take care of our (taproom) locations first,” John said. “Our local distribution customers are a close second. Everybody beyond that, they get what (we have available). We always want a large selection here at our taprooms. We want our own draft and package customers here and in Santa Fe to always have that.”

The local demand is big enough, which has kept John and the rest of the Marble command staff busy trying to help Ted, Josh, and the rest of the brewers.

“We just added more capacity,” John said. “We just another 120 a couple weeks ago, a fermenter, and a 120-barrel bright tank which is really going to help our turnover. It’s going to add another 20 percent capacity probably. I think that’s all we need. We’re not going to go out and try to sell that (extra 20 percent), we’re going to use that to fill in the gaps that we currently have.”

It is getting a little crowded, equipment-wise, in Marble's brewery as they try to keep up with demand.

It is getting a little crowded, equipment-wise, in Marble’s brewery as they try to keep up with the demands of a thirsty public.

The toughest task now is trying to fit new equipment into the existing brewery.

“It’s been a challenge figuring out how to make a building expansion work, but there’s other ways to do it,” John said. “One way or another, we’ll keep adding capacity as we need to. But it’s never been part of our philosophy to just go nuts and just build. We’d rather grow organically and just add capacity as we need it. That being said I think it would be nice if it could happen a little faster.”

Even at capacity, Marble is still able to churn out some award-winning beers.

“Our Double IPA won a silver (medal) at the Great British Beer Festival this year, after having won gold last year,” John said. “They like it over in England, especially on cask.

“We got a couple more GABF medals this year (for the Pilsner and Thunder From Dortmunder), which is awesome. We try not to get too hung up on those because we don’t focus really on brewing to style. Our brewers back there, they like to brew beers that are interesting and taste good. But not necessarily rigidly style-specific.”

Marble also had a little fun with a notable pop culture tie-in this year.

“It was a good year for recognition,” John said. “We got a ton of attention for the Breaking Bad tribute beers, which were really cool. Those we made for fun, because we love the show. We didn’t try to ride the coattails of the success of the show. We didn’t put them in package or try to make a ton of money off them. We did it in the pub and the taprooms and that’s it.”

Marble is working hard to keep its customers, near and far, supplied with lots of good beer.

Marble is working hard to keep its customers, near and far, supplied with lots of good beer.

Preparing for big things in 2014

If there was a down note in 2013, it was the news that Marble’s Santa Fe taproom is closing. Fans of Marble in the state capital should not worry, though, John said.

“One of the lowlights was the loss of our Santa Fe taproom, (but) I think we’re getting pretty close to another location there,” he said. “That’s going to turn out to be a silver lining, a blessing in disguise. Despite the fact that that location did really well, a lot of the customers that came in there they were looking up from the plaza and saw a beautiful patio with umbrellas and people drinking and eating something and they decided to be there. We spent half of our time there educating people that we were a craft beer bar.

“Our sales were good but it was not like a typical taproom (clientele). We want people who are specifically there for beer. So wherever we end up it will be more along those lines. We want to serve the local clientele than try to focus on tourists. Not that we were trying to focus on tourists, that’s just what we got. We had a lot of regulars, too, but they’ll be willing to go anywhere.”

Marble also established its West Side Taproom in 2013, and now has plans to expand that site in 2014.

Marble will be present at just about all the beer festivals again in 2014.

Marble will be present at just about all the beer festivals again in 2014.

“We’re moving into the adjacent space, which is currently a nail salon,” John said. “We’re going to make our bar, which is currently one-sided, two-sided or a U-shaped bar. So we’re going to use both sides of the space. We’re going to put in some booths, shuffleboard, darts. We’re going to really make it a place to come hang out.”

Beyond that, Marble will continue to hold its course, brewing up new and exciting beers while resurrecting old seasonal favorites. The brewery will continue to work with local charities and other businesses, while providing live music once the weather warms up again.

Marble will be present at the Taos Brew Masters Festival on Saturday to finish off the 2013 festival season, and they will also attend WinterBrew in Santa Fe in January as well as two major festivals in Phoenix and Tucson in the late winter/early spring.

* * * *

Thanks to John for taking time out of his busy day to chat. And thanks to Josh for pointing out his Brown Lager while he was on his way out the door to go have lunch. Twas delicious.

In a slight adjustment to our schedule for this series, Broken Bottle’s entry has been (slightly) delayed, so Nexus will probably run Tuesday late afternoon, and Sandia Chile Grill will be Thursday. You’ll have The Week Ahead in Beer in between on Wednesday to keep you entertained.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

And we’re back with the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14. This series is designed to give a recap, from the breweries themselves, of 2013 while also previewing all that is to come in 2014. We have already visited La Cumbre and Bosque, so click the links if you missed the stories.

This time around I (Stoutmeister) drove up to Bernalillo to sit down with Dana Koller, the owner of the metro area’s newest brewery, Kaktus. A true nanobrewery, Kaktus has only been open for three months, but has already made a name for itself. For those who have not trekked north, Kaktus is quite easy to find. Just get off Bernalillo at the first exit (avoid the Highway 550 exit, as the overpass is under construction). Just west of I-25 is South Hill road, and there is a sign telling you to turn right (north) to Kaktus. Head up the road a little ways, past the KOA Kampground and you will see the big sign for Kaktus on your left (west).

The setting alone for Kaktus is unique; the only other brewery location in the state that’s comparable is Blue Heron in Rinconada, on the road between Espanola and Taos. And much like Blue Heron, Kaktus brews in small but delicious batches.

There are cool places to conduct interviews and enjoy a mug of great beer. Then there's the Breaking Bad table at Kaktus. Epic stuff. Though sitting on Saul is a bit intimidating.

There are cool places to conduct interviews and enjoy a mug of great beer. Then there’s the Breaking Bad table at Kaktus. Epic stuff. Though sitting on Saul is a bit intimidating.

Reflecting on 2013

Kaktus’ genesis actually goes back to 2011, when a fortuitous meeting occurred between Dana, brewer Mike Waddy, and Turtle Mountain brewer Mark Matheson. The trio were enjoying a party at Dana’s house, which is actually located right behind what is now the brewery building. They discussed the prospect of opening a nanobrewery on the property and agreed that it would be a good idea.

“It just made sense,” Dana said. “There was nobody on the north side of (the metro area) servicing Algodones, Placitas, Bernalillo, Enchanted Hills of Rio Rancho, all these places. It made sense to be the one to come in and service them as a community brewery.”

While the idea was easy to come up with, getting the brewery up and running took some time.

“It took us a long time because Bernalillo is a very undeveloped area,” Dana said. “It took us a long time to get permitting done. We’re using an updated septic system instead of being on a city sewer. There’s a lot of hoops we had to jump through to make things happen.”

Everything came together this fall, with a soft opening on Sept. 13 and a grand opening on Oct. 7. Though there are still plenty of beer lovers who have yet to find Kaktus — it is away from Bernalillo’s main streets — Dana is convinced that the location is a good one.

It may be winter, but you can still enjoy Kaktus' front patio underneath a nice, warm tent.

It may be winter, but you can still enjoy Kaktus’ front patio underneath a nice, warm tent.

“We actually do have a great location,” he said. “It’s just that people don’t realize there’s a frontage road in Bernalillo yet. We’re walking distance from the RailRunner. We’re right next door to the KOA. We have a lot of potential to bring in business. And we’re right dead-center between Bernalillo, Algodones, and Placitas.”

This was actually my fourth visit to Kaktus, the third since its grand opening, and on prior visits on a Saturday afternoon and a weekday evening, there was a large, lively crowd. Part of that comes from the beer, of course, but also the friendly, laid-back atmosphere that Kaktus is trying to create.

“We definitely wanted to give that feeling to people,” Dana said. “In New Mexico, all of the new breweries have a similar theme, a warehouse, kind of more of an urban feel to it, more of a metro look. We wanted to be more comfortable than that. We wanted a place where people can come in, bring their dogs, bring their family, bring their kids, (make it) a kid-friendly environment.

“So we didn’t want to be just like a bar. We wanted to bring back the old feeling of a pub. We’re doing our best to X out the televisions. We want people to talk, we want people to really get to know each other, we want to build a community. So it’s important for us to give that feeling. When people leave, they say exactly what we were going for, ‘I just had a beer at a friend’s house.’ That’s exactly what we wanted.”

Owner Dana Koller, talking to a customer, has created a nice, relaxing atmosphere at Kaktus.

Owner Dana Koller, talking to a customer, has created a nice, relaxing atmosphere at Kaktus.

Community involvement is also a big development for Kaktus. The paintings on the walls, and even some of the chairs and tables, have been created by local artists. Dana said he has a rotation of about six artists, changing things out every two to three months.

“Obviously we want to put a fun focus on the place, but our absolute main focus is quality beer,” Dana said. “So we started with the reverse osmosis system to make sure we have the cleanest water available. We built our own water profiles for the styles of beer we want to brew.

“Our equipment came from Germany because we wanted to give something we thought New Mexico was missing. A lot of breweries are brewing real strong, high alcohol-content beers, very hoppy, very distinct and aggressive taste. We wanted to do something a little more easy palated. Because of the area we’re in we have a lot of Mexican culture. And because of that we are the place that’s introducing microbrews, craft brews to people for the very first time. It’s important for us to have easy-drinking, light-style beers, session beers, basically. Lagers are going to be our first and foremost special style. And then we have our London Porters, ESBs, IPAs, and stouts.”

Like most breweries, getting into a flow with beer production and making consistent flavors was a bit of a challenge, though perhaps not as much as at other sites.

“We didn’t know how the new equipment was going to work, being from Germany,” Dana said. “We had to replace a lot of parts to Americanize it. Piping, electrical … all these different things. That was somewhat of a challenge. Then once we got that up and running, our first batch came out nice and good. It wasn’t perfect, but for our first time through it was drinkable.

You can take an interactive, self-guided tour of Kaktus' brewery room to learn all about the brewing process.

You can take an interactive, self-guided tour of Kaktus’ brewery room to learn all about the brewing process.

“Our challenge after that was carbonation, how we were going to carbonate our beer. Our first month we were very inconsistent with how our carbonation was coming out. Now I think we’ve got it down. We wanted to go for a very European style, just about a quarter inch of head on a beer.”

Operating on a two-barrel system, Kaktus tends to change out its beers on a fairly consistent basis, averaging about one or two tap changes per week, Dana said.

“I think there’s a pretty big advantage to it,” he said. “We have a new beer or two every week. We like to give a lot of diversity. We like to really rotate our taps often. We do take more chances with things. If we destroy a batch, it’s not the end of the world. Luckily we haven’t had to do that. There’s always that chance. We can take a little more aggressive stance on something new.

“Small batches are delicate. We keep a close, close eye on them. We have some wonderful flavors coming through. I’m very happy with our beers.”

The future setting for Kaktus' back patio, which will have plenty of games and possibly an outdoor bar, all in time for warm summer days.

The future setting for Kaktus’ back patio, which will have plenty of games and possibly an outdoor bar, all in time for warm summer days.

Preparing for big things in 2014

Like much of the ABQ-area breweries, Kaktus is focused on improving its current location for the coming year. Unlike its larger brethren, Kaktus is not worrying about distribution for off-site sales or putting its beers into bottles and/or cans.

“We want to sell all in house,” Dana said. “It’s not our first priority to sell kegs or bottles or do any of that distribution outside of our place. We’re really focusing on generating a very comfortable and friendly environment here. We’re looking forward to putting a lot of money into our establishment itself.

“We’re going to be opening another patio specific to gaming. So we’re going to have a bocce ball court, a petan court, a couple dart boards. Potentially we’re going to have a small stage back there. We might put in an outdoor bar so we can have some taps out there. It’ll be some fun expansion for this summer. We’re really excited about this summer. We want to have some things people haven’t seen yet at Kaktus Brewery.”

One new change right here in December is a self-guided tour through the brewery, since people have to walk through that area when getting inside to the bar during the winter months. There are signs on the walls explaining the process and giving folks an idea of how the beer they’re about to enjoy was created.

There is also a tent covering the front patio, helping Kaktus remain at capacity even when it is cold outside. It just further adds to the relaxing atmosphere at the pub.

There is room for some additional fermenters in the back of Kaktus, which you can see while taking the self-guided tour.

There is room for some additional fermenters in the back of Kaktus, which you can see while taking the self-guided tour.

While comfort is one thing, it all comes down to the beer. As the crowds increase, so will the demand, thus there will be a few changes in the back.

“We are going to look at doing some bigger holding tanks and upping our capacity a little bit, expanding to two more fermenters,” Dana said. “After that if we’re really doing well we’ll double our system to a four-barrel instead of a two-barrel, but that’s really more toward the end of 2014.”

In addition to current unique seasonals like the the delicious Peppermint Stout — which offers up a very nice, balanced mix between the peppermint and stout flavors — there will be more intriguing beers on the way. Dana said Mike is planning to brew a coffee lager soon, and there are plenty of other new experiments going on in the brewery.

“Our beer is where we want it right now,” Dana said. “Obviously we’ll always refine our recipes. But I think the biggest attraction of 2014 is just working our establishment itself.”

Kaktus will also begin participating in beer festivals throughout the state, starting with the Taos Brew Masters Festival on Dec. 21, to further get the word out.

* * * *

A big thanks to Dana for taking the time to sit down and chat, and of course for that pint of Peppermint Stout. If you have not made your way up to Kaktus yet, get on up there ASAP. It only took me 10 minutes on I-25 from the San Antonio exit to Bernalillo, so it is not nearly as far as you might think. If you need a place to kick back and chill out with a good beer, it is worth the short trip.

Our revised schedule for the next few entries in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series: Monday — Marble, Tuesday — Sandia Chile Grill, Wednesday — Broken Bottle, Thursday — Nexus. I am still trying to work out interview times with Back Alley, Chama River, Il Vicino, Tractor, and Turtle Mountain, but I hope to finish this series before the calendar flips to 2014.

See some of you at Santa Fe Brewing on Saturday. Until then …

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister