Beer Notes: Tart times at Rio Bravo

The Raspberry Sour makes its debut today at Rio Bravo.
The Raspberry Sour makes its debut today at Rio Bravo.

Rio Bravo head brewer Ty Levis said, long ago, that he fully planned to take advantage of the many barrels in his possession to branch out beyond simply doing standard barrel-aged stouts, porters, and barley wines. A sour program was coming, at least as soon as things finally settled down in terms of production at the brewery at Second Street and I-40.

“The pressure of regular production kept us from doing this until now,” Ty said. “We have volume considerations that have to come first.”

The quiet time of year, when brewers can get back to their mad scientist roots, is now upon us. Rio Bravo will release their new Raspberry Sour today (Friday) at the brewery.

“This beer is really cool,” Ty said. “I’m definitely happy with it. I started out by talking our pilsner and aging in it wood barrels for nine weeks. We had about 120 gallons up there.”

From there, Ty added the raspberry puree to the fermentation process. For the souring process, he took notes from other breweries in the area that had produced kettle-soured beers in the past.

“We used Nancy’s Pro-Biotic Yogurt,” Ty said. “It worked really well. We saw a pH drop from 5.1 to 3.5, which is just crazy.”

The resulting beer can almost serve as an entry-level sour ale. It has the color and aroma of raspberries, while the flavor is more tart than truly pucker-ish.

“We used the right yeast, too, a dry, British pale yeast,” Ty said, which helped keep the fruit sugars in check.

A Cherry Sour is also in the barrels upstairs and should be ready in about two weeks. That should offer up a considerably different flavor profile, with even stronger sour elements.

“I’m super happy with how this (the Raspberry) turned out,” Ty said.

Surprise layoffs at a craft beer heavyweight

The news that Stone Brewing was laying off 75-plus employees in Escondido, Calif., shocked the craft beer community on Thursday afternoon. So, what does that mean for New Mexico’s breweries?

Absolutely nothing.

Stone is not the start of some trend, not the beginning of the feared bursting of the craft beer bubble. The company sent out an official statement, clearly written by a team of lawyers and publicists, that said Stone is reorganizing/restructuring. These things happen to breweries, just like any other business, though usually not on such a large scale. Then again, for most breweries, getting rid of 75-plus employees would be impossible as few in New Mexico employee nearly that many people.

We have seen past instances of brewers, owners, and managers quietly departing from our local establishments. The great Marble re-branding/restructuring of 2014 saw the departure of co-founders Jeff Jinnett and John Gozigian, but it did not lead to the mass upheaval that many feared. It was handled professionally and life continued normally.

For now, the Stone layoffs can be treated as an isolated incident. If it starts becoming a trend, then people can start to panic. For now, all is well, let us move along.

Sampler tray

  • One of our readers informed us that a small brewing operation will not be renewing its small brewer license the next time that comes up, which is actually next week, as it turns out. Instead, the business will function simply as a bar/taproom. When we receive official confirmation, we will reveal the name.
  • Construction has begun at last on the newer, larger Las Cruces taproom for Bosque Brewing. The existing taproom will stay open until the new one is ready to go. Both are located in the same complex across from New Mexico State.

That is all for now. I gotta get back to work on the beer history book. Oh, OK, I can share one little bit of history for you all …

Ty was telling me how his father, Mike Levis, who founded Santa Fe Brewing, liked to claim that it was the first brewery to open in New Mexico since Prohibition was enacted in 1920. Well, not quite, as it turns out. The New Mexico Brewing Company operated from the summer of 1936 until January 1937 in a building at Second Street and Marquette in downtown Albuquerque. It went bust and was sold at auction to a new owner, who renamed it Rio Grande Brewing Company. That brewery was up and running from 1937 until 1939, when it went bankrupt with an astounding $120,000 worth of debt (think of the era, that was a lot). From there, the state was silent on the brewing front until the Levis family brewed up Santa Fe Pale Ale in 1988.

Oh, and once again, if anyone out there has any pictures or images from the ABQ beer scene in the 1990s or early 2000s, I would love to scan them and use them in the book!


— Stoutmeister

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