Blue Corn Brewery has undergone quite a bit of change throughout the years since it opened in 1992. One thing that hasn’t changed is that this humble 7-barrel brewpub has been a springboard for many great careers in the New Mexico Brewing industry. The names Daniel Jaramillo, John Bullard, Jordy Dralle, Justin Hamilton, and James Warren come to mind. Flipping through Blue Corn’s old log book reads like a modern history book of brewing in New Mexico. It’s a fine list.
Recently, a new name was etched into that list. The name is Paul Mallory, and I’m here for his story.
It’s a hot Thursday afternoon, one of the hottest yet in Santa Fe, the kind that has you pausing one too many times beneath the office air-conditioning and begging for the bell to toll ‘Beer:30.’ When it’s time, I drive just down the road from work, brewery to brewery, which is less of a pub crawl than it sounds. I sit down at that same familiar bar. My old friends, the copper serving tanks, are as welcoming as ever. I choose the one beer I hadn’t yet tried on the board, the Blueberry Gose. It’s as refreshing as you want it to be. New head brewer Paul Mallory meets me just in time to order a pint of Summer Lager. Pints in hand, we look for a table. Paul has a friendly demeanor. A few minutes talking to him, and it’s hard not to like the guy.
After we cheers to our first interview, I get a little background from Mallory. He tells me that he’s from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and shares that he may have gone to school with Franz Solo. No way! I say. I feel cliché tossing in ‘small world.’ If there are any stories there, I’ll be sure to let Franz be the one to tell them. I get straight into brewing. Paul tells me that before Blue Corn, he had been professionally brewing for about four years; nine if you count his homebrewing. His parents gave him his start, having given him a homebrew kit all those years ago. As with many homebrewers that became professional brewers, he was hooked from the start. From then on, he read books, talked to pros, and kept following his curiosity. He would talk to local brewers in Albuquerque, but more importantly, he listened to them. He took their advice and that led to taking beer-judging classes. They also advised him to go to school if he really wanted to pursue brewing. Again, he took their advice; that led him to the brewing program at UC Davis. At one point, he even did an internship at Marble, which was another foot in the door.
After the program at Davis, Mallory began his professional career at Black Diamond Brewing Company in the East Bay Area (Concord, Calif., to be specific) to get us closer on the map. There, he was hired as assistant brewer, and pretty quickly he was promoted to head brewer there. He was there for about three years.
Mallory: It was a good, challenging job, because it was a production brewery, so you know we were on a 15-barrel system, brewing about six times a week, kegs and bottles, and sending to all these different states. So, stability, shelf-life, all that really mattered.
DSBC: How many states is Black Diamond in?
Mallory: I think we were in 13 to 15 different states. We had beer in Brazil and Italy. Too much, honestly. We were like, the Italians must be digging the old hop flavor, because I don’t know why they would like beer that’s made that trip. (Laughs)
DSBC: Did you work anywhere else after Black Diamond?
Mallory: Yeah, I went and worked with some buddies in Oakland at this really small brewery, which had its own set of challenges. It had a new 15-barrel brewhouse that they hadn’t hooked up yet, so I went in there, really trying to get their recipes dialed in, their processes, their lab, all that before they went on to the bigger scale. It was great. It was really fun to just work with friends and try to get their brewery off the ground.
DSBC: After that, you found Blue Corn? How did that happen?
Mallory: Yeah. Well, I was traveling, and my girlfriend sent me this email. And, so I was in a place with not very good internet. (Stoutmeister? Sound familiar? — Yes, all too familiar.) I really scrambled to get this resume in before the deadline closed and all that. So, somehow it worked. I spent one of my travel days getting my resume together, shot it over to James, and yeah, I got lucky, just with the timing. I was gonna move to Santa Fe, either way, and I really wanted to keep brewing.
DSBC: Now that you’re at Blue Corn, what sort of direction would you like to see the beer go?
Mallory: I’ve gotta say, James has been very creative. I’ve looked over his past recipes, and I’ve had his current beers. I’d like to keep it going. I’m sure I have some things that I can bring to the table because I came from another region in the country. I’ll definitely try to add that and just try to keep pushing the boundaries. I’ve looked through his old recipes and I was like, oh, I’ve done one of those, or I’d like to do one of those. There’s definitely a lot of overlap, too.
DSBC: What are your current favorite styles?
Mallory: I think it really depends on the time of time of day, time of year, whatever. If it’s a really well brewed beer, I’ll drink it. I’ll brew any style! But, hops, I really like hops, as most people do. (Laughs) I like the big, hoppy beers, but I’m obsessed with those pale ales. I like IPAs. I like session IPAs, but right in the middle are those pale ales, just super balanced, a lot of body, good strong bitterness, bold American or New Zealand hops. I want to be able to drink a few.
DSBC: Any beers you don’t particularly like to brew?
Mallory: I guess smoked beers. It’s just not my thing. I have friends who keep trying to find a smoked beer that I’ll like, and I’ll give it to them. They kind of found some that I do like more than others, but it’s just not a style you’ll see me do anytime soon.
DSBC: It’s a certain fringe style, either you like it or you don’t, like pumpkin ales or chile beers. Looking forward, what would like to see more of at Blue Corn?
Mallory: I think I’d like to help build the culture here. I think a lot of people don’t know how good a beer we make here. I think people think of our house beers, and that’s it, and they don’t really know about all these exciting seasonals. I don’t think they even know how good our house beers are. I’m really trying to work with the front of house, the kitchen, maybe the other location downtown. As for the beer, I kind of just want to keep it going. I’d like to follow in James’ footsteps and, of course, throw in my own flavor in there.
DSBC: It’s probably early to ask, but do you think you’ll be working on any special projects in the near future, barrel-aging kind of stuff? Sours?
Mallory: I hope so! I think when things slow down, at the end of summer, I’ll definitely look to fill my time by doing some more adventurous things with barrels. Yeah, and we’ve got a few to play around with, that we’ve been kind of tasting off of the last week.
DSBC: So, what kind of specialties can New Mexico expect to see at Blue Corn with the Mallory flair this year?
Mallory: Well, I guess I have my little black book with all my ideas in it. I can’t say for sure what I’ll draw from there, coming up, but in the past I’ve made a ginger saison for the summer, or maybe a rye pale ale, or maybe a pale ale that’ll showcase a new hop variety that most people don’t know about. I could go on and on, I guess.
DSBC: I’d let you, but we’ll save it for future interviews. What can you tell us about our current specialties that you have on tap?
Mallory: Yeah, of course. So, last week we released the Blue Corn Summer Lager, which actually has blue corn in it. It’s from New Mexico, some local blue corn flakes. And, you know the blue corn just dried the beer out. It’s nice and crisp. Real light body.
DSBC: It’s a good American light lager.
Mallory: Exactly. We threw some American hops in there, too, just to keep it fairly traditional to them with a little twist. And then, I don’t know if it’s because we knew there was blue corn in there, but we thought we saw a little tint or a little haze.
DSBC: It could just be in your head.
Mallory: I think it might be, but there definitely was during the early part of the brewing process, but it seemed to clear up later. And then, today, we released the Blueberry Gose. We used a little bit of acidulated malt to just give it a little tartness. We used a little bit of coriander and salt to give it the spice and the body. We used over 50-percent wheat on it and blueberry puree. And so, again, it’s somewhat traditional, and then we throw in a little twist. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It’s nice and drinkable.
DSBC: I know you’re going to try new things. Will you continue to do some of the new favorites that people really latched onto? I’m not talking about the cores, but the big beers that people have been enjoying like the Barleywine and Russian Imperial Stout, which have become kind of an annual thing?
Mallory: Yeah, I’m definitely happy to listen to what the customers want. I know that instead of our regular Honeywheat, we put blueberry in it one year, and it was like one of the best-selling beers of all-time. Barleywines, those, I’d be happy to do again if that’s what the people want. We are going to do a Russian Imperial Stout coming up, and Santa Fe Dining has a coffee roastery as well, so we’re going to get coffee from 35 North, and put it in the Russian Imperial Stout. And, with James’ inspiration, you know he likes his big beers, and he’ll release them at any time of the year, so we’re coming out with that soon. And then, we’re also doing the IPA Challenge this year, too. So, I know we got second place, last year.
DSBC: And you guys brewed that yesterday, right?
Mallory: That’s right, and hopefully we do well with that.
DSBC: Can you give us a little teaser about it? And, you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
Mallory: Um, yeah. It seems like a lot of the brewers are keeping it somewhat quiet, but yeah, kind of like last year, just a bunch of hops, just more hops than I’ve ever put into a beer.
DSBC: Even at Black Diamond? Cool.
DSBC: In the Dark Side, we’re fans of really big beers, beers that consume you, not the other way around. Any of those in your black book?
Mallory: Hmm, let’s see. We did a quad at Black Diamond that I was a big fan of. I know we have one on right now that James made, and that’s really tasty. I’m a fan of the ones we already have. I love barleywines. I love quads. And, you know, we’ll see about getting our hands on some yeast in the winter when we have some more tank space, and maybe do a dopplebock lager, something like that.
DSBC: Last few questions. What kind of beer do you have in your fridge?
Mallory: Um, (Sierra Nevada) Torpedo. I know it sounds like I’m missing the Bay Area, where I was just living for the last five years, but honestly, I went to the corner store, and they didn’t have any local stuff. I ended up buying from California.
DSBC: Shaking my head at you, distributors. I’m kidding.
Mallory: I still feel new to the beer scene here a little bit, and I’m super excited to try all these new beers on the shelf by these local breweries.
DSBC: Anything you’d like to add for our New Mexico craft beer drinkers?
Mallory: I’m just excited to be back home. As good as the California Bay Area brewing scene was, I honestly feel like New Mexico is one step above.
* * * * *
At Blue Corn, I’ve heard and used the phrase “big shoes to fill,” a lot. In my early opinion, I think Paul definitely has a chance, and of the Bunyan and Babe size. He’s both tall and very knowledgeable, but in either event, he won’t talk down to you. As a brewer, he’s at a good age for what he’s doing and where he is. At 31, he seems to understand the industry in a longitudinal sense, while still being young enough to not be set in his ways.
He’s confident in his abilities, yet seems ready to learn from anything and anyone. He trusts his brewing process, and so seems excited to test his new system in the name of beer experimentation. He’s happy to brew traditional styles while also keeping up with “what the kids want,” to quote former head brewer James Warren.
If Paul’s Brew-Fu style is as strong as his knowledge, hands-on experience, and passion for the craft, then I’m sure his future will be as bright as those of his predecessors. Welcome home, Paul. We’re all excited to see what you’ll have waiting in the fermenters for New Mexico in the coming months. Cheers!
— Luke (Craft Crusader)
For more New Mexico #CraftBeer news and info, follow @nmdarksidebc and me, Luke, at @SantaFeCraftBro!