After visiting all four breweries in the southeastern part of the state last weekend, Luke and I decided to take the long way around from Carlsbad to Silver City. We wanted to check out Toadfest, the annual street event collaboration between Little Toad Creek and the New Mexico Brewers Guild. There was plenty of rain and wind as we actually dipped down through Texas, re-emerging into blue skies upon reaching El Paso. After a hearty lunch at the Hoppy Monk (yes, they have food in addition to an epic beer selection), we continued up Interstate 10, past Las Cruces and over to Deming, before taking Highway 180 up to Silver City.
Little Toad Creek is located in the heart of downtown now at the corner of Broadway and Bullard Streets. They have left behind the little mountain resort where it all started. Now they have a three-storefront location, almost like a smaller version of Three Rivers Brewery in Farmington. There is the bar area, a larger venue with a stage and a pool table, a small patio in the back, and a retail store with merchandise and bottles of their spirits for sale.
The event was a bit different in setup this year. LTC was not able to get a street permit, so instead they had an extended patio area in the alleyway out back. The beers from other New Mexico breweries were poured either at the main bar inside or via a jockey box on the patio. Despite some wind, a few drops of rain, and even a few snowflakes, it was still a lively time. There were a few tourists mixed in with the crowd of locals, who were easily identifiable by the fact they were covered in head to toe with outdoor clothing (the North Face love is strong in Silver City).
There was live music, the kitchen was buzzing, and folks were crowding around Guild director John Gozigian to talk beer and buy merchandise. For many of the locals, it was a rare chance to try beers from Albuquerque, Taos, and Santa Fe that are not available in bottles or cans year-round. I tried a Kolsch from Taos Mesa (it had been a while) and then a LTC porter, which was quite toasted and tasty.
What it showed us more than anything was that Silver City, just like the towns in the southeast, has begun to have a thriving craft scene thank to the local brewery. With that in mind, LTC co-owner/brewer/distiller Dave Crosley and his wife and co-owner Teresa Dahl-Bredine are already working on taking things to the next level. Dave invited me, Luke, and John to take a walk a couple blocks down Bullard to Mill Road, where the second building on our left had quite the history. Once upon a time, it was the liquor depot for all of Silver City, where the trains serving the mines would back up and drop things off for the thirsty citizens. In later years, it was a roller skating rink, with some of the old interior artwork still on the interior walls. Now, it will be something quite different.
The new production facility for Little Toad Creek will soon be churning out even more beer and spirits. A shiny new 15-barrel brewhouse sits next to one of the biggest stills we have seen in the state (admittedly, we have only seen the ones at Broken Trail and Left Turn, so we cannot say it is the biggest overall). There are plans to eventually start canning and distributing LTC beers, though Dave said they have not decided exactly how far outward those beers will be shipped.
Still, the very fact that a brewery/distillery combo that started at a nearby mountain resort has now been able to move into such a large facility is a good sign indeed. It shows the popularity of drinking local, both for residents and for the tourists flooding into the area to keep cool(er) in the summer months. We all know our big breweries up here along Interstate 25 are doing great, but to see expansion and ambition in the small towns warms our hearts even more.
This summer, we are planning to take another trek to Taos and the breweries around it. We also plan to visit Las Cruces to see how things are going down there, after which I think we will be able to say we have visited every brewery in the state at least once. Until another half dozen open this year. Oh, darn, guess we will have to go back.
Craft beer culture is alive and well in all the corners of New Mexico. Let us all raise a pint to that this weekend!