Sneaking a taste at Boxing Bear

Posted: July 25, 2014 by cjax33 in Brewery Reviews

Boxing Bear Brewing Co. has opened to the general public today (Friday), marking the official debut of Albuquerque’s newest brewery on the west side. Being a bunch of well-connected beer writers, we got invites to a special “VIP party” on Thursday evening to try the beers and check out the renovated space near the intersection of Corrales and Alameda (it’s the old Elliott’s, in case anyone forgot).

The Black Bear Stout is just one of four excellent beers on tap at Boxing Bear.

The Black Bear Stout is just one of four excellent beers on tap at Boxing Bear.

With Franz Solo in tow, I arrived about an hour after escaping Isotopes Park. There was a small crowd already inside, one that pretty much quintupled during our time there. The new brewery staff was serving up four house beers in the main taproom area, which is located in the west side of the building. That and the brewery are operational. The Southwest Grape and Grain store, along the south/southeast side of the building, is still under construction. Brewer Justin Hamilton, formerly of Chama River, and his staff warmly greeted us as we and many other folks arrived for this special soft opening.

We snagged a table after some foolish thoughts about wandering around. Franz had been working since 7 a.m. and I just finished an eight-game homestand where the Isotopes scored a ton of runs and played some very, very long games throughout. (The day game Thursday was mercifully short despite an 8-7 score; the Topes won on Joc Pederson’s eighth-inning grand slam.)

I went with the Paw Swipe Pale Ale (5.2% ABV, 45 IBU) to start, while Franz dove right into the Bear Knuckle Double IPA (9.0% ABV, 100 IBU). The pale was a nice, comforting beer, perfect for the summer months. It has a good aroma that draws you in, then a malty backbone to avoid some of the light, dryness that you often get with the style. It has a slight bite, but not too much. Brewer Justin Hamilton stopped by a couple times, albeit briefly as he was a busy, busy man, and he said his future goal is to lower the Paw Swipe to about 4.5-percent ABV and make it a true session beer. Try the current version this weekend and let Justin know if you think it should stay as is or drop down a notch. (Personally, I’m good either way.)

There will be plenty of room for the full crowd at Boxing Bear's grand opening.

There will be plenty of room for the full crowd at Boxing Bear’s grand opening.

As I only had a sip of the Bear Knuckle, but Franz had to go to work so I couldn’t get his full review (yet, if he sends me one today during his lunch/dinner break, I’ll add it). I do know from talking to Justin that it’s loaded with a lot of “C” hops (Chinook, Cascade, Centennial). It’s big and burly and Franz declared that it would have cracked his top five at the IPA Challenge. UPDATE: Franz had this to say: “Strong pine notes, ridiculously smooth and powerful with a hint of fresh orange from some good old Galaxy hops.”

Our second round featured the Hairy Mit Hefe (5.4% ABV, 12 IBU) for Franz and the Black Bear Stout (6.3% ABV, 45 IBU) for me. Franz later felt compelled to also down a Black Bear, though he also snacked on some of the sandwich samples while we were there, whereas I had just a hot dog at the Topes game some time before.

The Hefe was definitely a banana bomb, very similar to the The Last Straw Hefe that Bosque has had most of the summer. It’s a smooth, flavorful beer. Again, if Franz has some additional thoughts on this beer, we’ll add it to this story later today. UPDATE: Franz had this to say: “Loads of banana nut bread with a very smooth, refreshing finish. Really damn flavorful and good.”

Now, as for the Black Bear Stout, this was my personal favorite. I know. You’re shocked. But remember, I hold stouts to a high standard, so for a first-batch beer, this was exceptional (as were the rest). It was lighter in mouthfeel than some stouts, but still had a burly, smoky tinge at the edges. It was creamy, but not overly sweet. This is a big, tough stout that you probably would not want to encounter in the wild. Justin said he plans to thicken this one up a bit, making it even darker and heavier. That will work well in the winter months, but the current version is fitting even in the hot, dry New Mexico summer.

The taps were flowing at a sneak preview of Boxing Bear on Thursday.

The taps were flowing at a sneak preview of Boxing Bear on Thursday.

All in all, the staff was friendly and helpful, the parking was plentiful, and so was the seating. Boxing Bear should have little trouble hosting a lot of people this weekend and in the weeks to come. There was an Amber and an IPA fermenting in the back, just waiting to join the regular lineup. We look forward to going back to try those as well.

For a brand-new brewery, Boxing Bear is off to a great start with its initial beers. We can’t wait to taste what they have in store for us in the future.

Enjoy yourselves over there this weekend. Maybe we’ll pop in again, or bring other Crew members, before the weekend ends.


— Stoutmeister

  1. Thomas Molitor says:

    Thanks for the heads-up on their opening!

  2. A drew says:

    We just left Boxing Bear after a Corrales downpour subsided. We were pleasantly surprised that their first flight of beers came out so well The Stout and Hefe were unique and worth ordering again. The sandwich was made behind the bar and was reasonably priced and quite tasty. We will be back.

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