Every now and again, amid the spam and the weirder information requests, the Crew gets an email of some value. Sometimes it can be a small tip, other times it can be a full-on news item. We received one of the latter at the end of last week, a welcome update to a brewery project that has been in the works for some time.
Raton is one of those small freeway towns that we have all passed through at one point or another heading towards or coming back from Colorado. Other than a few gas stations or a fast food joint or two, there has never been much reason to stop there. That will be changing in the near future with the arrival of the Colfax Ale Cellar. Thanks to Karim, a longtime friend of the Crew, we got in touch with brewer Jim Stearns, who will also be the owner, along with his wife. Jim has prior experience at Hallenbrick Brewery before it closed a few years back, followed by a stint at Nexus while he was going through the American Brewers Guild program.
Jim sent us an introductory email, explaining his entire project. Rather than paraphrase or summarize it, here is the entirety of what he had to say about his forthcoming brewery.
“We moved to Raton from Albuquerque in December 2014 after purchasing a building on Main Street in the historic downtown area. Raton is an interesting old place with some history that overlaps that of central New Mexico, but because of its position where the high plains meet the mountains, the area is best known for cattle trails, wagon trains, Buffalo Bill, and Annie Oakley, and an endless list of outlaws, scoundrels, and heroes, haunting vistas, supreme swaths of well preserved montane habitat, ranch lands where Comanche, Kiowa, Ute and Apache hunted and clashed with New Mexicans and each other before and during the westward expansion of the 1850s-90s.
“By the time Raton was purchased from the Maxwell Land Grant in the 1870s, it had served as a gateway along the Raton Pass of the Santa Fe Trail. So, like that area of Santa Fe surrounding the Capitol building, many of the fine old homes of downtown Raton were built at a time when coal and railroads ruled the economic expansion.
“I told Karim that to really explain our brewery requires the curious to visit this place and see this old building. I would expect 30 percent of New Mexicans would say they know and have visited Raton, but stopping at the McDonalds off I-25 doesn’t really count. Probably 9.5 out of 10 New Mexicans don’t know what we have here. Each new visitor to our town is surprised. I would like to exploit that factor of the unknown.
“The City of Raton and various utility agents have all welcomed our project here with open arms and assistance. Our aim is to return their generosity of spirit by drawing more visitors to the area, and so it will be a parallel aim of mine to market our products solely within Colfax County, which receives many thousands of tourists in all four seasons.
“If you’ve ever had the good fortune to visit Cantillon in Brussels, Belgium, you would recognize some of what we’ll be doing here. Our 7-barrel brewery will be located in a 7,000-square-foot cellar of our building. About 2,500 square feet of space will be kept at 50 degrees Fahrenheit to cellar bottled barrel-aged and traditionally soured ales. Over time, our cellar stock of bottle-conditioned gems will grow and develop, and that’s what we hope to serve the public demand. But, the tavern will be located on the ground floor and will serve three standard house ales (Stout, Golden Ale, and Pale Ale) as well as up to three taps of seasonals to allow a variety of strong ales, lagers, and braggots to represent the huge variety of beers that are not represented in northeastern New Mexico at this time.
“So, that’s my introduction. My joints are aching, it’s a huge undertaking that has been going on for a year and a half now. Because my wife and I are the owners, we have to spend a certain amount of time as landlords. She runs a successful civil engineering office in a separate address of the ground floor. We searched for the right building, the right underserved area, cleaned up the place, sketched our design, drafted our own plans, made compromises and are continuing with the schedule which has taken longer than desired, but we haven’t blown the budget quite yet.”
Jim invited the Crew to stop by in October, when we will be traveling to and from the Great American Beer Festival (in case you do not follow us on Facebook or other social media, we secured press passes for this year). We are certainly interested in seeing what he wrote about here and look forward to making Raton a frequent stop on our treks to Colorado.
The Crew will keep everyone as updated as we can on the progress of Colfax Ale Cellar and all the forthcoming breweries in New Mexico. Got news about a new place? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.