Archive for January 6, 2015

As noted in the most recent edition of The Week Ahead in Beer, the Crew put out the call for everyone’s favorite beers from New Mexico breweries for 2014. The replies from our readers, not to mention from all of our writers, were fairly diverse. We’re not gonna do an ultimate ranking or anything — you don’t want to get us started when it comes to debating such things — but we thought we would share our favorites, as well as the favorites of our readers.

So without further adieu …

Crew favorites

Bosque's Scale Tipper won the IPA Challenge and naturally popped up on a lot of people's lists.

Bosque’s Scale Tipper won the IPA Challenge and naturally popped up on a lot of people’s lists.


Scale Tipper, Bosque: What’s this? A hoppy beer on my list? Well, it did win the IPA Challenge, after all. I do love a hoppy IPA sometimes, but throw in a strong malt backbone the way John Bullard did and, well, win a trophy.

Jet Black Winter, Bosque: This wasn’t barrel-aged, so it wasn’t overwhelmed by bourbon flavors. It wasn’t sweet, either. Just big, thick, and mean. Really mean. Which made it wonderful.

Russian Imperial Stout, Blue Corn: Smooth as hell, hiding its big ABV quite well. It was almost too easy to drink.

La Negra, La Cumbre: The 2014 batch came out early in the year, then they busted out a barrel-aged 2013 version. For all the talk of being the hoppiest brewery in ABQ, La Cumbre does malty monsters well, too.

4th Anniversary Barleywine, La Cumbre: See previous comment about malty monsters at LC. This was a sweet, wonderful barleywine aged in rum barrels for a rather different flavor profile.

We can't wait till the 2015 version of Luna De Los Muertos is tapped.

We can’t wait till the 2015 version of Luna De Los Muertos is tapped.

Stout #2286, Marble: This was a blended stout, a mad science experiment that just turned out so damn decadent. The bourbon flavor was there, but it was not overwhelming.

Bourbon Vanilla Porter, Pi: The best beer at Hopfest was full of sweet bourbon, a little roasted malt, and just enough bourbon.

Preacher’s Share, Second Street: Just darned ridiculous, my favorite beer of the otherwise forgettable Beer Premier. Yet another balanced, boozy, big stout.

Luna de los Muertos, Tractor: This was yet another big, burly, wonderful imperial stout. Can’t wait for the 2015 version. It’s coming soon, right, David? RIGHT?!

Turkey Drool, Tractor: The annual holiday treat did not disappoint this year. It was stronger than the 2013 version, but not as overpowering as the 2012 edition. All the flavors lived together in good balance.

And, yes, I could have put the beers I helped brew this year (Dark Side Baltic Porter at Canteen, Hammer Smashed Stout at Tractor, Obey the Darkside Stout at Chama River), but you already all know how much I love those.

Brandon, right, is just one of many who loved that there Preacher's Share from Second Street.

Brandon, right, is just one of many who loved that there Preacher’s Share from Second Street.


Preacher’s Share, Second Street Brewery: This was the find of the day during the Beer Premier event at the Railyards. So good I was almost in tears. It made another appearance during NM Brew Fest, where I was again almost reduced to tears. Such a huge, multi-faceted imperial stout. Hats off to Second Street for cranking it to 11 with this beer.

Scale Tipper, Bosque Brewing: When John Bullard is your head brewer, you can expect quality beers. However, this beer was just a delicious monster. Not bitter enough to go into undrinkable territory, which says a lot given its 110+ IBU’s. Fruity/citrus notes were plentiful, which made it a great warm weather IPA. Well deserving of the win at the 2014 IPA Challenge.

PSA (Pumpkin Spiced Ale), Bosque Brewing: Yet another beer from Bosque, definitely my favorite pumpkin beer to hit the local scene this past fall. A wonderful spice blend that accentuated the pumpkin accompanied a malty ale base. Already looking forward to next year, hoping for another great batch.

Class VI Golden Lager, Chama River Brewing: There is a reason this beer took home the gold medal in its respective category at the 2014 GABF…it is just that damn good. Smooth and crisp, excellent malt profile. Wonderful stuff.

All of us were proud when our Hammer Smashed Stout won the Battle of the Beer Geeks at Tractor.

All of us were proud when our Hammer Smashed Stout won the Battle of the Beer Geeks at Tractor.


As I haven’t had as much time and/or money to follow the New Mexico brewery scene as I used to, I haven’t been keeping track of my favorite beers. The two beers that stick out the most to me were the two beers that I had the opportunity to help make at Tractor and the Canteen Brewhouse. The two beers that I am speaking of are the Hammer Smashed Stout and the Dark Side Baltic Porter brewed in collaboration with Tractor Brewing Company and the Canteen Brewhouse, respectively. The brew crew also did a collaboration beer with Chama River, but I was playing music and visiting friends in Texas when that was being brewed. Check out our stories on each of these brewing adventures.

Even though we brewed the Hammer Smashed Stout on a smaller system than we did on the Baltic Porter, the two beers had certain similarities that I really like in my beers, and I’m happy that I was able to be part of the creation of each. Brandon and Derek helped create the recipe for each beer, with some ingredients changing based on availability at each brewery. As such, I had very little impact on what went into the beers. People said “move that” or “stir this” or “get pizza,” and I said, “OK” and did whatever they said. In both cases, the beers I helped brew were big, dark beers that were also very smooth. I was very happy that we achieved those characteristics, and I would like to thank everyone for the opportunities to have those great experiences. Happy brewing and happy beer drinking!

You can all blame Franz Solo for the supply of Full Nelson running out so quickly.

You can all blame Franz Solo for the supply of Full Nelson running out so quickly.

Franz Solo

Whiteout, Marble: Wonderful balance of Belgian funk and tropical hops. A wonderful experiment which pays dividends in delicious flavors.

Full Nelson, La Cumbre: My pick for local beer of the year. Balanced malt and monster hop profile. Nelson Sauvignon shines brightly in this nearly perfect brew.

Tractoberfest, Tractor: Exactly what I love in a Märzen bier, mild sweetness and wonderful malt balance.

Alpha Reaper, Blue Corn: Hands down my favorite imperial red of the year. Boozy and brash with so many layers of hop bitter and sweet.

Scale Tipper, Bosque: Several versions of this came into existence this year and all were simply outstanding. IPA Challenge ’14 winner indeed.

Vienna Lager, Canteen: I am not usually a lager fan, but this was just wonderful through and through.

That there Paint It Black Milk Stout from Red Door, on the right obviously, was a decadent treat for us all.

That there Paint It Black Milk Stout from Red Door, on the right obviously, was a decadent treat for us all.

Mrs. Solo

She’s a busy paramedic, so she ranked ’em for us real quick.

1. White Out, Marble

2. Scale Tipper, Bosque

3. Bourbon Vanilla Porter, Pi

4. Hairy Not Hefe, Boxing Bear

5. Paint It Black Milk Stout, Red Door

Porter Pounder

He’s busy on a film set and claims he could not remember most of the beers he had in the past year.

* * * * *

And all of the Crew’s other favorites deserved at least a mention here.

Good old Sleeping Dog Stout is one of our reliable favorites on tap year-round.

Good old Sleeping Dog Stout is one of our reliable favorites on tap year-round.

Honorable mention regular beers: Driftwood Oatmeal Stout and Scotia Scotch Ale, Bosque; Standing 8 Stout, Boxing Bear; Irish Red and Slow Down Brown, Canteen; Sleeping Dog Stout, Chama River; ESB, Kaktus; Malpais Stout and Elevated IPA, La Cumbre; Oatmeal Stout and Pilsner, Marble; Chocolate Porter and Scottish Ale, Nexus; Soiled Dove Imperial Stout, Stumbling Steer; Double Plow Oatmeal Stout and Mustachio Milk Stout, Tractor; Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout, Blue Corn; Java Imperial Stout, Santa Fe; Cream Stout, Second Street; La Llorona Scottish Ale, Blue Heron

Honorable mention specialty/seasonal beers: Ladron’s Peak, Back Alley; Prospector Milk Stout, Oktoberfest, and Cottonwood Anniversary Ale, Bosque; Sasquatch Scotch and American Stout, Canteen; Cosmic Dog, Chama River; Holiday Peppermint Stout, Kaktus; Cafe Con Leche, Witch’s Tit, and La Llorona Baltic Porter, La Cumbre; Imperial Stout, 2014 Brew Club Barley Wine, and Reserve Ale, Marble; Beam Me Up Scottish, Nexus; Strong Scotch Ale, Red Door; Black IPA, Stumbling Steer; Chocolate Milk Stout, Tractor; Oktoberfest, Turtle Mountain; Alpha Reaper and Malty-ness Monster, Blue Corn; Goya Imperial Stout, Duel; Oktoberfest, Santa Fe; Cherrywood Smoked Imperial Porter, Second Street

The Bullpen’s favorites

Yes, it was made in 2007, but they didn't tap this St. Bob's until July 2014.

Yes, it was made in 2007, but they didn’t tap this St. Bob’s until July 2014.


(He’s on vacation, so we just got a list. But what a list.)

St. Bob’s Imperial Stout ’07, Canteen (we counted it since it was tapped this year from the barrel)

Goya Imperial Stout, Duel

Elevated IPA, Full Nelson, Project Dank, La Cumbre

2014 Brew Club Barley Wine, From the Wood IPA, Imperial Stout, Marble

Preacher’s Share, Second Street

Luna de los Muertos, Tractor


Bourbon Bacon Stout, Stumbling Steer: I loved it on its own, but it was pretty mind-blowing when eaten with bacon-wrapped dates at Bacon Fest. It could have partially been the festive atmosphere while enjoying all things bacon. But I enjoyed it very much the next day, too, at the restaurant.

East Kent Ale, Boxing Bear: I was pretty stunned that this beer was so good right out of the gate when they opened.

We're not sure if Luke got a cookie with his first pint of Marble Reserve, but we can hope.

We’re not sure if Luke got a cookie with his first pint of Marble Reserve, but we can hope.


Alpha Reaper, Blue Corn: This beer was big and just about my threshold for a beat-down-by-beer. It was a sign that things have changed at Blue Corn.

Class VI Golden Lager, Chama River: This is a reminder of what smaller craft brewers can do with a typically bigger brewery category. Well-executed, with craft personality, this lager is cold fermented for a month. Time is on this one’s side. Yes it is.

ECS Double White IPA, Santa Fe: This was a big bright breath of fresh-squeezed air from Santa Fe Brewing Co.

Junk Punch, Taos Mesa: Again, damn. This odd style, the Dopple Oktoberfest, comes together well to form one of the larger palate-pummels of the year. Just be careful how you ask for it.

Kriek, Santa Fe: This was a very well-balanced sour, with the right flavors coming through, and none of them overwhelming. Excellent on tap, it is easily my current favorite sour; and I’ve had my share of PNW sours.

Blue Corn's Russian Imperial Stout was delightful for being such a big monster.

Blue Corn’s Russian Imperial Stout was delightful for being such a big monster.

Reserve Ale, Marble: It’s strong and smooth, caramel-y, malty, and reason enough to officially add the word ‘bourbony’ to the dictionary.

Oaked Grunewald, Duel: This big, Belgian-style Imperial Porter is a heavy, dark, oak medium, nuanced with strokes of fruity tartness, spice, chocolate, and wine. It says my German Renaissance Painter shall utterly destroy your German Renaissance Painter.

Red River Ale, Chama River: This probably upset my current champion for ESBs. Balanced and very drinkable, it’s not particularly low on ABV, but it’s what I would call sessionable. Great from growler to glass.

Russian Imperial Stout, Blue Corn: It was exactly what I wanted in a Russian Imperial Stout, which is boozy, dark chocolate, creamy goodness. “And dat browned head, tho.”

Stout Americano, Marble: Almost a five for me, this beer had me heading back to Draft Station several times that week in March.


Full Nelson, La Cumbre, was his one single favorite. Then he had to get back to work at Los Alamos National Labs.

Readers’ picks

Many of our readers enjoyed this year's batch of the 505 collaboration beer for ABQ Beer Week.

Many of our readers enjoyed this year’s batch of the 505 collaboration beer for ABQ Beer Week.

Lonnie King (a.k.a. Darth Lupulus on Untappd)

My Top Five NM Craftbeers 2014

1. Project Dank, La Cumbre
2. Full Nelson, La Cumbre
3. Red Chile Brown, Canteen
4. Brokenberry Brown, Broken Bottle
5. Berliner Weisse, Tractor

Honorable Mentions

Oyster Stout, Kaktus
Year Two IPA, Broken Bottle
Threshold IPA, Red Door
FYFA IPA, Tractor
Abbey’s Mosiac, Marble
505-2014 (Albuquerque Beer Week Collaboration), various breweries
Odie Scotch, Tractor

Laura Claussen Spies (chief organizer of New Mexico Craft Beer Enthusiasts on Facebook)

Here are my highlights of NM breweries since my move here in October 2014!

A little Dank never hurt anyone, right?

A little Dank never hurt anyone, right?

Project Dank, La Cumbre: Complex IPA with citrus notes, tropical notes, some pine and a sweet, malty finish.

Elevated IPA, La Cumbre: Extremely hoppy! Big, big IPA. Heavy grapefruit and some tropical flavor.

4th Anniversary Barleywine, La Cumbre: Rich, fruity, malty barlywine, caramel and toffee. Big and boozy. Fun beer but a five-ounce pour was plenty.

Reserve Ale, Marble (hubby’s pick): Nice bourbon barrel-aged ale. I thought it was a barleywine. Sweet, malty, and heavy bourbon flavor.

Double White, Marble: Outstanding Belgian white. Orange, lime, lemon, coriander. I could easily drink three pints of this, unlike bigger beers that I love. One of the best witbiers I have tried anywhere. Complexity 8/10. Drinkablity 10/10

Beer for my Horses, Cazuela’s: Everything a perfect oatmeal stout should be. Heavenly chocolate aroma, thick mouthfeel, dark chocolate, and hints of coffee bitterness.

Gracias por Fumar, La Cumbre: Cannot drink a whole pint of this outstanding, barrel-aged smoked porter, but was very fun to try.

Special mention — Red Ryeot, La Cumbre: Fun, easy-drinking Red Rye IPA. Sweet, spicy, hoppy and complex. I order this one at the Blue Grasshopper, a brewpub close by. Hope it takes a while for them to tap out.

* * * * *

OK, that’s all from us. Most of you were too shy to offer your picks. Now you know what you’re up against. Unleash your opinions on all the various commenting forums! And then go drink more great New Mexico beer in 2015.


— Stoutmeister

Greetings everyone, Stoutmeister here with the seventh post in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2014-15. Our La Cumbre story, Kaktus story, Bosque story, Ponderosa story, Tractor story, and Santa Fe story have already appeared. As the year draws to a close, rather than just write up a single summary review of the last 12 months in beer, I decided to take what free time I have and go talk in person to brewery staffers in the ABQ area to get their thoughts on both the year that was and the year to come, while Luke handles the Santa Fe series. I’m not going to put up any sort of schedule for this series, as it is definitely going beyond December and into January with other Crew members chipping in as well.

Boxing Bear opened their doors back in July and made an immediate impact on the local brewing scene.

Boxing Bear opened their doors back in July and made an immediate impact on the local brewing scene.

The west side of Albuquerque got a major beer boost this past summer when Boxing Bear Brewing Co. opened their doors. Located in the old Elliott’s space near the intersection of Alameda and Coors/Corrales, Boxing Bear gave the west side its first true full-sized brewery and taproom located within the ABQ city limits. Just like at other new breweries, Boxing Bear had to deal with some ups and downs en route to opening and then shortly thereafter, but brewer Justin Hamilton and his staff were able to stay off the ropes and kept right on punching.

“So we opened the 25th of July and it was pretty crazy,” said Justin, who had previously been the head brewer at Chama River. “We didn’t know how quickly we were going to open. We knew that we wanted to open before August. So we just had barely made it. That was our goal. Originally we wanted to open in May or June. Just like any other brewery opening, it takes time.”

For anyone who had been to Elliott’s in recent years, it was easy to see how hard it might be to turn the wannabe-upscale bar into a functional brewery and taproom. The Boxing Bear team had to do a lot of painting, cleaning, and other maintenance in the west side of the building that is now the taproom. They had even more work to do on the east side where the brewery itself now sits. That included completely redoing the floor, both to make it structurally sound and to put in the trench drains and make it suitable for all the brewing equipment.

The staff did a great job of turning crummy old Elliott's Bar into a shiny taproom.

The staff did a great job of turning crummy old Elliott’s Bar into a shiny taproom.

“We were pretty happy with ourselves being that we didn’t get the keys to this place till around February,” Justin said. “From February to July we just worked our asses off painting, cleaning, doing every little bit we could to prep this place. (And) on top of that, getting our equipment in and making sure it was ready to go.”

The 10-barrel brewhouse began humming in early July.

“That was really cool, once we got to that we started playing with the tanks and cleaning them, getting ready,” Justin said. “(Then) we started actually brewing. We busted out and filled all our fermenters within a week, within four days, actually. We did all our brewing and that we had to wait for it to finish.

“After that it was kind of wait on our seal from the City, our green tag. We got everything literally the day before we opened. We said hey, let’s do it. We had our little private gathering and then we opened the next day, which was a Friday. So it was a pretty wild ride. It was pretty cool.”

Once Boxing Bear was open the crowds started to arrive in droves.

Brewer Justin Hamilton was ecstatic once he got to start brewing back in July.

Brewer Justin Hamilton was ecstatic once he got to start brewing back in July.

“And then you know the next couple weeks after that were pure madness,” Justin said. “Luckily we were able to get a hold of our serving needs and a our ability to take care of our patio and our pub at the same time. After that, things started running a lot smoother. We started to see a lot more regulars and people coming in here everyday to just enjoy our place and our beer.”

Justin’s career path included a stint at another popular local brewery when it opened several years ago, helping to prepare him for what he faced at Boxing Bear.

“At first, I wouldn’t say I was surprised (at the crowds) being that I was there when Marble opened their doors,” he said. “I remember how crazy that was. Being that Marble started with a 15-barrel system was a little bit of an (advantage). We were like, ‘We’ve got a lot less fermenters and serving vessels, so we’re going to be doing a lot of work and a lot of juggling over the next few months.’ That’s what we did.”

Even though Boxing Bear has had trouble at times keeping pace with the thirsty public, it has not affected the feedback that the staff has received.

“Everyone seems to really enjoy not only our beer but our place,” Justin said. “I think we have an amazing staff, we’ve got a great location. Everything about this place just screams beer, screams beer culture. I think that’s not only something that people wanted on the west side but in town in general there’s always a need for a more beer-forward establishment.

“There’s lots of other breweries and pubs that are opening up, but they kind of seem to lose a lot in translation that it’s about the customer enjoying themselves and being able to have a good beer and a good environment and feel relaxed and comfortable. Feel at ease to have some beers with friends and not feel so stiff, I guess.”

Seriously, how can you not relax on a patio like this one?

Seriously, how can you not relax on a patio like this one?

That relaxing atmosphere was something that Boxing Bear strove for since the beginning. It’s also something that Justin and the staff have had to lean back upon at times.

“The biggest lesson learned in 2014, let me think about that,” Justin said. “There’s lots of lessons I learned in 2014. … I guess it’s just to go along with the ride. There’s so many peaks and valleys with any business, with any opening of any business. Sometimes my initial reaction is to freak out on things and start worrying about stuff. If I’ve learned anything from the last year of doing this, it’s that there’s going to be good times and bad times and just keep a level head during both.”

The only major disappointment in 2014 was that due to the late opening, Boxing Bear was not able to trek north to a certain event in Denver in October.

“Not being able to attend something like GABF during our first year was kind of hard,” Justin said. “The timing that worked out we weren’t able to go or even enter our beer. Just watching the presentation online was really anxiety-ridden even just watching New Mexico (breweries) win. I think next year when we attend it’s going to be about going there and having fun. If we win something, great. If we don’t, that’s OK, too. I think it’s important to keep all of that stuff in mind. I love beer and I take it very, very seriously, but I have to remind myself that it is just beer.”

2015 shapes up as the main event

Boxing Bear's new 20-barrel fermenter is already in use.

Boxing Bear’s new 20-barrel fermenter is already in use.

Boxing Bear has already received a boost for 2015 with the arrival of new equipment. The brewery received a new 20-barrel fermenter that is already in use, while the new 20-barrel serving tank and three 10-barrel serving tanks are in the process of being hooked up.

“So there are five new tanks back there,” Justin said. “That should help us to first of all be able to do some lagers every now and then. We have one planned in the next couple weeks. So that will probably be out sometime in February (or) March, is my guess.

“But it will also allow us to do more than a couple specials at a time, which is where I really love to have fun making new and different beers. Making the house stuff is fine, but making something interesting is what I really like to do. That will be great to be able to play around more back there, create some more new (and) interesting recipes and different specials that are going to be something hopefully that people will come out of the woodwork to try and hopefully put Boxing Bear on the map.”

Beyond new beers — and it should be noted that Boxing Bear’s first black IPA is now in the fermenter — Justin hopes to start hosting some major events.

The new serving tanks are nearly ready for use.

The new serving tanks are nearly ready for use.

“We’re planning to do maybe do some special events, something that may rival, not necessarily in the time period, but something along the scale of what (Marble’s) Septemberfest has been,” he said. “That’s been a really big thing in the brewing community and people really enjoy that. We have the ability here to do something like that, where we could have festivals in our parking lot and even something smaller in our patio and pub.”

Boxing Bear has, like almost everyone else, started a mug club called Champions Club. They would like to set it apart, however, from those that just offer discounts on pints, growlers, and other swag.

“That’s something we’re looking into, doing special events not only for the general public but doing events for our brew club members as well,” Justin said. “We want to be able to really give our members a reason to join every year, a reason to seek out membership. We want people to not only join for the free gift and for being a Champions Club member, but also if you’re not a Champions Club member you might miss out on a real cool events that otherwise you wouldn’t have known about We’re really going to try to push that, make it a really exclusive, esoteric thing that ‘oh, did you hear what the Champions Club members are doing this week?’ That will be something we want to play with, definitely.”

Customers who enjoy looking through the glass windows into the brewery may see some new sights back there this year besides the new fermenter. Justin said he plans to start barrel aging some of his beers. In addition to that, for everyone that cannot make it to the west side on a regular basis, Boxing Bear may soon bring their beers closer to you.

Boxing Bear's beers will not just be tapped at the brewery this year.

Boxing Bear’s beers will not just be tapped at the brewery this year, but at bars around the city.

“You’ll definitely see us start picking up some (tap) handles around the city in the next few months,” Justin said. “That’s going to be a big goal of ours is to see Boxing Bear in lots of pubs and restaurants and other bars. That will be a big thing for us, starting our distribution more on a our own.

“We’re currently going through Bosque, which is working out great, but as you know the real marketing aspect of that is having your own trucks and having your presence out there on the street. We deliver our own beer, we clean our own lines, we provide you with great service. That’s something you’ll see, Boxing Bear tap handles around the city in the next few months. That will be fun.”

Boxing Bear will also become more of a presence at beer festivals throughout the state this year, something that will further raise awareness of the brewery.

“In fact, that will be starting in the next few weeks with WinterBrew, we’ll be up there (in Santa Fe),” Justin said. “That will be only our third festival, I think. We haven’t been able to do too many because we kind of joined in right at the end there. It will be fun to get a presence at those this year. Everybody will start to learn our name and see us as a regular brewery around this city.

“It’s cool to see that we already have a lot of regular customers and people that frequent other really great breweries. You start to see the clientele that circulates from good brewery to good brewery. It’s a really good sign that we’ve got that clientele here. I see a lot of friends on Facebook and they’re promoting other breweries, they come here and promote us and talk about us, Marble, La Cumbre, the Canteen. That makes us feel really good that a lot of people have kind of embraced us as a part of the brewing community, knowing that we’ve had lots of experience doing this for a while. We’re not just the new kid on the block. We’re actually someone that deserves to be here.”

Cheers to a great beginning, Boxing Bear. Here's to more great times in 2015!

Cheers to a great beginning, Boxing Bear. Here’s to more great times in 2015!

Considering how good Boxing Bear’s beers were right out of the gate, and how they have only continued to get better, this year should be a big one for the brewery and their loyal customers.

“Other than that we’re just really excited to be in our actual first full year of business,” Justin said. “It will be great to see how things continue for us and the brewing community in New Mexico with the expansion of breweries that are going to be coming out soon. It will be good to see who makes it and who doesn’t. Hopefully with our business model and our product that we’ll definitely be up there with everybody else, succeeding and putting Albuquerque on the map for good, craft quality beer that’s something to be sought out.”

Thank you to Justin for taking the time out of his day to chat and the quick tour to see the new equipment in the back. I only wish I could have stuck around to try that Iron Lung Smoked Porter, but alas, my other job beckoned.


— Stoutmeister