Blue Corn properly celebrates their brewer’s one-year anniversary

Posted: March 19, 2015 by Luke in Beer in Santa Fe, Events
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Local homebrewers show their support. Chris Goblet keeps his promise. And the Santa Fe Dining folks come out to salute their brewer.

Last Thursday, Blue Corn celebrated James Warren’s anniversary at a special Thursday at the Brewer’s Table. It’s been one year since young James has taken the reins at Blue Corn Brewery. When a friend commented that he had pretty big shoes to fill, but filled them well, James joked, “Yeah, but they feel like clown shoes.” If you’ve read Blue Corn’s Look Back/Look Ahead article, you’ll know that it wasn’t always easy. He came into a lot of responsibility taking over at Blue Corn. And even if the batch sizes are substantially smaller than the ones he worked on at New England Brewing Co., the challenges have been much greater at times. Yet, after his transitioning period, it’s clear that he’s more comfortable in the brewhouse. You can taste it in the beer. Even if a beer is not something he’s 100-percent happy with, his sound techniques, and sometimes contingency plans in the face of equipment failure, always produce something enjoyable.

In Santa Fe, James has done a tremendous job as a brewer to really get people excited about craft beer. Aside from brewing the solid lineup of core beers — which locals have come to love, but more importantly to expect — he’s certainly done his part, fighting the good fight by encouraging people to expand their flavor profiles, pushing people to try new things, and even inspiring folks to have new ideas of what a beer can be. In the year that he’s been here, he’s been good for Santa Fe’s glacially growing beer scene. We can only hope we’ve been just as good to him.

James gave a speech that night, recalling one of his first nights in Santa Fe.

“It wasn’t but a week or two into being here, that I was at a home with some home brewers. We were drinking all their homebrews, trying new beers, talking brewing and beer philosophy. At the end of the night, a prediction was made about me by one of the guys there. He either thought I would have a long and successful career here, or they were gonna fire me in two months. So, a year later, I’m still standing here, and I think this year has been pretty successful.”

We would have to agree. With five medals at the State Fair Pro-Am, a great showing at the Santa Fe Open Brewing Competition, and of course the gold medal at the Great American Festival, bringing back credence to the name Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout, he’s had a great first year. Not bad for the new ‘kid’ in town. All that aside, James has demonstrated that, though his looks may deceive, he is certainly no kid. His understanding of the business shows years of maturity and wisdom. When James thanked Jim Hargrove, President of Santa Fe Dining, for “taking a risk on a kid from Connecticut,” the President joked, “I got lucky, didn’t I?” But he wasn’t kidding. That’s exactly how Blue Corn Brewery feels, and so does its patrons.

Every time there’s a change in the guard at a brewery, the patrons worry that the beer won’t be the same. I’m one of them. And it usually isn’t. Bosque was quite lucky to get John Bullard, but in my humble opinion, his shoes have been sufficiently filled. And at the rate that this “kid” is growing, he might need some room for expansion very soon.

Cheers, James, to another year just like your first!

* * * * *

Tasting notes:

The Imperial Gose was paired with the pork belly spring rolls. The saltiness of the beer and the slight sweet character of the spring rolls, with sour ale Gastrique, blended nicely together into one umami (pleasant savory taste) experience that was perfect for a warm-up. The duck torteloni with mascarpone and chile dipping sauce, on the other hand, matched the saltiness in the beer savory for savory. It was then the coriander in the Gose that came through as a refreshing, slightly tangy fruit finish.

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Clockwise from top left: Imperial Gose, Cask Roadrunner IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, and Barley Wine.

The Roadrunner IPA was on cask that night with plenty of Sorachi Ace making the beer almost sweeter and citrusier, lemonier, and it poured cool with low effervescence, like foamy IPA Kombucha, but better in practice than on paper. This beer was paired with the clams and curry dish. This was an amazing combination. The IPA was the perfect counterbalance to the spiciness of the curry, which Chef D dialed in just right between heat and holy shish kebab. Bravo, Chef. IPA and curry, never forget. It was a match made in Mumbai, and we all went home Millionaires for it.

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Clockwise from top left: Pork Belly Spring Rolls, Clams and Curry, Malt-encrusted Petit Tender, Tangerine Torte, and Duck-torteloni.

Chef’s pairing of the malt encrusted petit tender, with James’s Russian Imperial Stout, was the closest thing to a religious experience that I’ve had in a LONG time. Tender, juicy red meat and the sweet roastiness of the Imperial Stout were just excellent together. But then, the sweet starchiness of the sweet potato, which I normally do not love in any iteration, went so well with the chocolate roast of the Imperial Stout, that I dare say, the Stout elevated sweet potatoes to a religion I could convert to. For those already into sweet potatoes, I need say nothing more, for that would be preaching to the choir.

Finally, the night came around to Chef’s famous and always surprising desserts. A tangerine torte with a puff of cream on top was paired up with Blue Corn’s Barley Wine. At this point, with all this beer and food, one might wonder if anyone was still coherent enough to really taste anything. Well, no one had slipped into their food comas just yet. The orange, acidic, sweet flavor from the torte brought out a bouquet of complexities in the Barley Wine that you might not have otherwise known were there. Plum, fig, raisin, and blood orange emerged from the slow-churning sea of alcoholic malt.

And that, my friends, is the power of a successful beer pairing — when one flavor opens up another, causing a whole new experience than if it had been experienced by itself. A successful food pairing is like Dr. Phil, Game Genie, and the ESPY Awards for your taste buds. How? Well, you can’t understand it, but the right combination is like using a Texas Wisdom, a simple phrase that unlocks a whole new understanding that was there all the time. Pairing is like the cheat code that enhances your experience, making the mundane magical, exciting, and fresh. And in some cases, food and beer pairing causes you to experience the meal more deeply, in an emotional way, one that might just make a grown man cry. Damn you, ESPY Awards. That also could be all the beer talking. But remember folks, Chuck Norris doesn’t cry. He sweats through his eyes. So, take my advice, be like Chuck Norris, obey the Dark Side, drink craft beer, pair your food, tip your servers, and you’ll live long and prosper.

Cheers!

— Luke

For more #CraftBeer News and @NMDarkSideBC info, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro.

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