Blue Corn releases their big Barleywine at another Thursday at the Brewer’s Table

If this isn’t barleywine weather right now, we don’t know what is.

Blue Corn Brewery has been doing a few things very well recently. As a ‘beer journalist,’ it makes me glad to see a smaller brewery work so hard at all aspects of their business, whether it’s their food, service, beer, or planned events to further their brand. At every turn, it seems these guys are working hard to make it worth coming in for the family seeking a tasty meal, or worth it to the guy who needs a solid beer after a long day, or even worth it to the beer guys and beer gals like you and me, who are still very excited to see what our New Mexico brewers are going to do next.

The Thursday at the Brewer’s Table events are a nice example of Blue Corn going the extra mile to do things right. These events vary, as much in theme as they do in their execution, from brewfests to small, intimate dinners at the big table alongside the creators. It’s always a new event, but a few things never change. The food always wows, the beer is always excellent, and everyone has a great time. The prices can range anywhere from $10 to $45, but they’re pretty good at gauging value. These monthly events are a good time to catch up with family, meet new people, talk shop with other brewers, or bring your significant other for a different kind of date night.

It’s nice to see that Chef D continues to push his food toward the interesting and the innovative, yet it always manages to be impressive. And it’s also nice to see that Brewer James has not rested on his laurels, as he probably hasn’t stopped asking himself, “Okay, what’s next?” ever since he took the stage for his gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival last fall.

A big old bowl of gumbo pairs nicely with barleywine.

For this event, it was Chef D’s Southwestern Gumbo paired with brewers James and Nick’s Barleywine. We were all pretty excited about the Gumbo, and it was well worth the wait all week. It was certainly not a traditional take on the famous Creole dish, but that’s not how Chef D rolls. He started with a thorough understanding of traditional gumbo and made it his own way, with all fresh and local ingredients from just down the road. But where traditional folks might have “zigged” towards southern Louisiana, Chef D “zagged” southwest-like. He smoked the Andouille sausage with mesquite instead of traditional hickory. Instead of green bell peppers in the “holy trinity” of what usually gives gumbo its soul, he used green chile, because that’s the brand of jazz we listen to in the City Different. The chicken-based broth was made with red chile instead of cayenne, and instead of okra, he used nopales. Finally, he topped the not-so-cajun-stewy-Andouille with cilantro dirty rice. Culture shock aside, it still hit that gumbo spot for me. It was hot, spicy, thick, and chunky, with lots of flavor and lots of different textures depending on where you played the fork. Awesome stuff. If I hadn’t known what was in it, I’d have believed it was indeed born on the bayou, but with a little more 505 kick. And green chile cornbread? Wow, and I’m not a cornbread person. Just wow. The meal was very Mardi Gras! All that was missing was the beads and the boobs, but c’mon folks, this is a family establishment.

A beer that pairs with gumbo has to be a big one. To compete with all the flavor and spice, it would have to be an IPA or an unyieldingly malty brew, one that won’t get buried, one that can hold its own in a Cajun cock fight. Blue Corn Brewery’s Barleywine 2015, I believe, is such a brew.

When I taste big beers such as this, I sometimes wonder how that brew day went. What did they do to wrestle so much monster into one mash? Luckily, for this brew day, Blue Corn had invited any and all beer enthusiasts to come in to see exactly how to trap a hulk in a mash tun. They even let me help out a little in the taming. To the trilling tunes of Jerry Garcia (because apparently that’s the music that soothes the beast), I fed said beast its breakfast. Thirteen or so grain bags later, I switched to the tun to pummel and prod the brute with the mash paddle. Up there on the rig, I felt like a lone sailor fighting off a Kraken. Later, into the malty spray of the roiling brown ocean, I poured the buckets of hops and hoped the monster would not reemerge. As it turns out, it was not seen again for six weeks, when manager Gustavo brought it to me in a shapely glass.

Brewers do like to put Crew members to work sometimes. It’s not like we’d ever say no.

I really enjoyed the beer. As far as Barleywines go, I’ve only had a few to compare it to, but when I talked inspirations with Nick and James that day, beers like Hog Heaven from Avery, Bolt Cutter from Founders, and Bigfoot from Sierra Nevada came up. Particularly special to James was Doggie Claws from Hair of the Dog, but also another Barleywine he’d learned a lot from brewing at New England Brewing, called “Premeditated Murder.” My favorite example was Fred from the Wood, also by Hair of the Dog. The general theme was big, but simple and well-brewed.

Blue Corn’s Barleywine had a nice, vibrant color to it. The sweetness had eased a great deal since the first few samples, and it finished more like a beer than a waffle-topper. It went quite well with the gumbo, as expected, but maybe that’s why they invited gumbo to the party in the first place, to stand up to such a brew. Sometime between my first and second glass, I talked to James about the beer.

DSBC: So, though I was there for the brewing and got a pretty good long look at the recipe, for our readers’ benefit, what’s in this Barleywine?

James: A whole lot of everything. (Laughs) It’s a lot of malt. It’s a lot of hops. And towards the end, quite a bit of oak, too, to help balance things out.

DSBC: How long did you oak it for?

James: It’s been on oak for about three weeks. It’s been on a decent amount of oak spirals. And I think it imparted an interesting character to it, one that I really like, never having used oak spirals before for anything.

DSBC: What was your goal when you first set out to make a Barleywine?

James: I think every brewer’s goal is to build it bigger, faster, stronger. (Laughs) No, I wanted to build a Barleywine without using a lot of crystal malts or anything. Keep it simple. Let the kettle do its work, in caramelization. Kind of let time do its job. I think it turned out pretty well. And as with everything, changes for next year, build it bigger, faster, stronger.

* * * * *

Another successful Thursday at the Brewer’s Table has come and gone. If I haven’t convinced you yet to come out for one of these, or all of them, the next one is March 12. It’s going to be a very special Thursday at the Brewer’s Table. It’s Brewer James’ Anniversary Dinner! There will be several special beers at this event, paired with more amazing food as always (for details, see below), but don’t take my word for it. Make your reservations, join me, and see for yourself. I’ll be the little guy with the notebook, recorder, and slightly annoyed girlfriend due to my neglect. Kidding. I won’t bring my notebook this time.

See you there, and remember: life’s too short to drink bad beer.


— Luke

For all things #beer related and more NM Dark Side Brew Crew info, follow me on Twitter: @SantaFeCraftBro

Brewer James’s Anniversary Dinner

Imperial Gose — paired with Pork Belly Spring roll with sour ale gastrique, duck & Balinese pepper ravioli with mascarpone & chile dipping sauce.

Roadrunner IPA — paired with black lip mussels in yellow curry with grilled sourdough crostini.

Russian Imperial Stout — paired with Steak Island: coffee and brewer’s malt encrusted petit tender, seared and sliced on a potato island in a sea of grilled tomato and bleu cheese cream.

Barleywine — paired with salted cashew torte with tangerine curd, pink peppercorn phyllo crisp, and pomegranate molasses.

March 12, 6 p.m. Reservations required. $45 per person. (505) 438-1800

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Great beer/food pairing, great photos!

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