Boxing Bear Brewing ready to step into the ring

Posted: June 30, 2014 by cjax33 in New Brewery Preview

There is something about that new brewery smell that brings a smile to my face. It’s not even the wonderful aroma of the first batch of beer, since a lot of the time these first visits the Crew goes on are before brewing has even begun. It’s that smell of fresh paint, sawdust, and overall newness that just permeates every corner of the structure, and the promise of all that is to come.

Brewer Justin Hamilton is all smiles with his shiny new brewhouse at Boxing Bear Brewing.

Brewer Justin Hamilton is all smiles with his shiny new brewhouse at Boxing Bear Brewing.

A couple weeks ago I was invited by brewer Justin Hamilton to take a tour of Boxing Bear Brewing Co., which will become the newest brewery on Albuquerque’s west side. Located in the old Elliott’s Bar space at the intersection of Alameda and Corrales, Boxing Bear holds considerable promise for thirsty west siders and Burquenos in general. Justin comes to Boxing Bear after a successful run as the head brewer at Chama River. He is teaming up with the owners of Southwest Grape & Grain, who will also be opening a second home brew store within the building. This unique combination of a brewery and a home brew store in one space will be a happy union for beer lovers and amateur brewers alike.

Boxing Bear’s Facebook posts have shown that brewing is now underway, with the staff hopeful to be open some time in July. There’s no exact opening date set as of yet, but we expect them to be up and running sooner than later. When they do open, what can fans expect? Big, bold beers, the kind that Justin wanted to make at Chama River but was unable to due to some restrictions by his superiors (it should be noted many of these restrictions have since been lifted at Chama and its sister brewery, Blue Corn in Santa Fe).

The good news is Boxing Bear has plenty of space inside for both patrons and brewing. There will also be a large outdoor patio on the north side of the building which will include a small stage for music acts. Boxing Bear put up some noise insulation panels to keep their neighbors on the other side of the irrigation canal happy. The path along the canal, used by horse owners, bicyclists, and just folks on their own two feet can you bring you from Corrales to the brewery or from the Bosque to the brewery.

Boxing Bear's patio will be an excellent place to unwind with a pint or two.

Boxing Bear’s patio will be an excellent place to unwind with a pint or two.

“We’ve got an awesome location,” Justin said. “You can take this trail to the Rio Grande. Park there, walk here, have a beer, walk back.”

The indoor bar area is expansive and should feature plenty of room for lots of customers. You can enter the bar from the SWG&G store or the main entrance on the northwest side. They have completely renovated the old Elliott’s space, which needed a fair amount of work on the floors, walls, ceilings, and just about everything else. It should be a comfortable environment in which to kick back and enjoy a pint or two. Boxing Bear will have six regular house beers and six taps for seasonal/specialty beers. Justin said they will start with five regular beers and carry other local beers until they catch up. While all of that work continues to get things 100 percent ready for customers, the real fun is in the back.

Boxing Bear’s entire brewing system is new and shiny. Their 10-barrel brewhouse is a high-tech masterpiece and as noted before, they have plenty of room to add more fermenters around it, while also still having plenty of room in their walk-in cooler for more serving tanks. They will have a dedicated mill room as well, further helping to speed up the brewing process without losing efficiency and quality.

“They did a really nice job of setting us up for success,” Justin said of Premier, the company that built his brewhouse. “It’s pretty much a turn-key system, really easy to use.”

These mini-tanks can be used for ciders, meads, or specialty beers.

These mini-tanks can be used for ciders, meads, or specialty beers.

Boxing Bear will also have a wine license, giving them the ability to even do ciders and mead at some point. They have two small tanks they can use for these, or they can use the small tanks for some of their experimental beers. They will have a set menu of house beers, but Justin and his staff get to have some fun, too. Boxing Bear will sell New Mexico wines for those weird friends/relatives/spouses that just don’t like beer that much. (We’re trying not to be judgmental, because we believe there’s a beer for every palate, but we’ll make exceptions.)

“We’re going to have a little bit of food, some sandwiches and wraps, but we did want to do wine to bring in more people,” Justin said. “We’ve got the nice patio, too, so we should have a good customer base.”

There is also a small area for a potential game room in between the bar area and the brewery, though in time that could become a storage area. And by storage area, Justin means a space for barrels to do some aged beers. I wholeheartedly support any barrel-aging programs by a brewery.

We have a feeling Boxing Bear will become another regular haunt for us on the west side.

We have a feeling Boxing Bear will become another regular haunt for us on the west side.

Boxing Bear will be the largest brewery-centric operation on the west side, far bigger than Broken Bottle while not existing as a joint brewery-restaurant like The Stumbling Steer and Rio Rancho’s Cazuela’s and Turtle Mountain. Being able to exist as a brewery first was important to Justin when he helped launch Boxing Bear.

“That’s what we wanted,” Justin said. “People are so thirsty out here. People have to drive a long ways to get good beer. The closest is Bosque. … Then La Cumbre or Il Vicino, that’s 25 minutes (to drive to). Marble, that’s 30 minutes or more. We want to serve the people out here, but also the people from all over town.”

I’m looking forward to what Justin and his staff have cooking up for the near future. Elliott’s was always one of those good locations, but they never capitalized on what it really could be (kinda like Kellys in Nob Hill). Boxing Bear should be able to do that and more. The west side needs a full-sized, brewery-first establishment to go with their excellent brewery/restaurants. They are about to get one. Rejoice, ABQ beer lovers!

Oh, and head over to our Facebook page for a more extensive photo gallery.

Until next time, when I get to try Bear Knuckle IPA and all the other Boxing Bear brews now in the works …


— Stoutmeister

  1. Thomas Molitor says:

    Marble has a westside tap room 15 minutes away from Corrales. Glad to welcome more options, especially if the beer is good.

  2. says:

    Hello, Can I use some of you blog for my quarterly newsletter…..The Roadrunner chapter of the Breweriana Collectors of America? of course I’ll give all due credit. Cheers Dan

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