A Look Back/Look Ahead for the entire New Mexico brewing industry

Posted: January 13, 2017 by Luke in Look Back/Look Ahead Series 2016-17
These were some seriously happy brewery staffers after they brought home a fairly major award.

An enduring image of 2016 will always be the Boxing Bear staff celebrating after being named Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival in October.

Looking back over the year, 2016 was a doozy, to put it lightly. The political, social, and economic struggles of 2016 made us glad we have plenty of great places to go for a beer. Fortunately, the New Mexico brewing industry enjoyed many successes in 2016, with very few losses along the way. We saw brewers recognized in major competitions, breweries expand their craft operations, new breweries open up, and opponents of the industry beat back, or at least silenced (for now). Here, we take a look at just a few of New Mexico beer’s many achievements brought about by the hard work of so many passionate people. Much thanks to Stoutmeister, for helping me to wrangle so much info into one small story.

Major awards

Once again, our brewers did us proud, highlighting 2016 with the glint of shiny medals. Eighteen “Big Ones” were awarded to several very deserving breweries, not to mention Boxing Bear enjoying just a wee bit of success as the Great American Beer Festival’s Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year, as well running away with the coveted New Mexico IPA Challenge trophy. Although many awards were given out to New Mexico beer makers this past year, below we are listing some of the most notable.

World Beer Cup (7 total)

Gold — Nexus: Honey Chamomile Wheat, Boxing Bear: Chocolate Milk Stout, La Cumbre: BEER

Silver — Second Street: Trebuchet Imperial IPA, Canteen: High Plains Pils

Bronze — Marble: Pilsner, Bosque: IPA

Great American Beer Festival (6)

Gold — Boxing Bear: Chocolate Milk Stout and The Red Glove

Silver — Bosque: Lager and Acequia IPA

Bronze — Marble: Pilsner, La Cumbre: Siberian Silk

North American Beer Awards (5)

Gold — Blue Corn: Oatmeal Stout, Boxing Bear: Chocolate Milk Stout

Silver — Blue Corn: End of the Trail Brown Ale, Quarter Celtic: Pedro O’Flannigan’s Mexican Lager

Bronze — Rio Bravo: Karl’s Krystal Weizen

Also of note, Bosque became the first back-to-back winner of the National IPA Challenge, hosted by The Brewing News. Scale Tipper claimed victory early in the year, while Bear Knuckle IPA from Boxing Bear and Adrift IPA from Turtle Mountain also made it to the quarterfinals.

Major expansions

It was a big year for New Mexico’s largest breweries. In 2016, Marble made some huge additions to their real estate, significantly expanding their Westside Taproom. They opened up a third location, the Heights taproom and brewery. They cut the ribbon on a rooftop deck at their original taproom, and moved into their new fermentation hall, complete with towering 150-barrel fermenters and a shiny new canning line.

Speaking of canning, up in the state capital, Santa Fe Brewing Company unpacked their new line as well, and made the switch from their longtime bottled products to cans, now produced in their vast new packaging hall. This was the first year that the new music venue, The Bridge, got a chance to rock out, under the management of the brewery with names like Ziggy Marley and Atmosphere hitting the stage.

A few other new taprooms opened their doors in Albuquerque as well. If you haven’t yet done so, go check out the new locations for Canteen on Tramway and Red Door downtown, and stop in at Nexus Silver on the west side, and Monk’s Corner downtown, for some crafty deliciousness, if you’re in the neighborhood.

Legislation

It wasn’t all cheers for the brewing industry in 2016. Earlier in the year, the industry experienced a bit of a shot across the bow, from the radical neo-prohibitionist group, Alcohol Taxes Save Lives and Money. The group proposed a sizable increase on the alcohol excise tax at the wholesale level, which would raise the state tax to the highest in the nation, by far. If passed, NM breweries large and small would be hit with a devastating tax that could potentially shut down operations for many, and just to keep the doors open, breweries would pass that tax on down to us consumers per pint, six-pack, and so on. The average consumer would likely seek out a cheaper alternative. Thankfully, that legislation was quickly tabled, but only time will tell when that grim reaper will rear its ugly head.

Brewery Openings

As a sign that our ever-growing industry has no fear of saturation, a whopping 16 new breweries opened their doors to the public this past year, and there will be more to come in 2017. Enjoy beers now at the breweries below.

Santa Fe

Rowley Farmhouse Ales

Chili Line Brewing Co.

Southeast NM

Milton’s Brewing (Carlsbad)

Western NM

Route 66 Junkyard Brewery (Grants)

Northwest NM

Farmington HUB Brewery

Outside ABQ

Hub City Brewing Co. (Belen)

Ale Republic (Cedar Crest)

Albuquerque

Sidetrack Brewing Co.

Firkin Brewhouse & Grill

Starr Brothers Brewing Co.

Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.

Quarter Celtic Brewpub

Dialogue Brewing Co.

The 377 Brewery

Flix Brewhouse

Drafty Kilt Brewing

Brewery closings

Now for a moment of silence as we pour one out for our friends at Firkin Brewhouse, which shut down operations less than a year after it opened. If we didn’t dare to live the lives we want, to do what drives our passions in the face of failure, we wouldn’t be an industry, only a collection of bearded and pink-booted dreamers. To those that do, instead of just sitting around and talking about it, cheers.

Opening in 2017

Looking forward to this year, we remain hopeful that New Mexico will continue to have great options for craft beer. We will have plenty of good, solid brews, and new and interesting styles coming to our taps, and as far as that goes, we can rest assured that there won’t be a shortage of taprooms to get the cold pulls. In 2017, there’s no doubt that we will hear of more expansions and new taprooms. New breweries, beers, and brands will emerge onto the scene, and there’s nothing the radical anti-alcohol groups can do to stop us.

Stoutmeister was kind enough to also round up the list of breweries with pending small brewer licenses with the state, offering more hope for 2017.

Albuquerque

Hops Brewery (Nob Hill)

Steel Bender Brewyard (Los Ranchos) — projected February opening

Lava Rock Brewing (West side)

Desert Valley Brewing (adjacent to The Craftroom)

Bombs Away Beer Co. (near Lomas and Eubank)

Outside of Albuquerque

Truth or Consequences Brewing

Drylands Brewing (Lovington)

Bare Bones Brewing (Cedar Crest)

2017 planned breweries without license application

Red River Brewing Co.

Lone Sun Brewing (Albuquerque)

Hausammann Brewing (Albuquerque)

* * * * *

Happy New Year, New Mexico! See you at WinterBrew!

Cheers!

— Luke

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