The Albuquerque metro area is now home to 30-plus breweries.
And, finally, one hop farm.
Red Hat Hops is looking to keep things even more local in terms of beer ingredients. Located at the edge of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, off Rio Grande north of the overpass above Montano, this new operation occupies 4.5 acres. Tom Brewer and Tim Arnold are the men in charge.
“Well, the obvious answer is we have, what, over 60 breweries in New Mexico now, and no commercial hop yards,” Tom said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t people growing hops, people just want to keep it secret for some reason.”
Tom previously served in the Air Force and then worked at Intel for many years before he was laid off. His desire to start a hop farm was born out of two passions.
“I love growing things and I love beer, so they kind of go together,” he said.
So far only one acre has been set up for the hops. A combination of planting too late and a few too many scorching days this summer conspired to keep the first crop small.
“My goal, we’re going to fill this field up,” Tom said. “I have this four-and-a-half acres, this is only one acre planted now, but we have the full acres back to the Bosque. I lease the property, I don’t own it. There are three farmers that farm here. I’m already working with the Village of Los Ranchos, we’re already looking at other places to expand to.”
Tom also said he has been sure to establish a good relationship with the resident brewery of Los Ranchos.
“Obviously, I have a good working relationship with a brewery here in Los Ranchos. “They’re pretty interested and Bob (Haggerty, head brewer) is a great guy. He’s been out here. I talked to him on Friday.
“It’s a win-win situation. They grow great here. We’re getting everything established this year.”
Tom is also working with Rio Bravo director of brewing operations John Seabrooks on future projects.
“I went to the Master Brewers out-of-towner at Rio Bravo a couple weeks ago,” Tom said. “One of the big things we saw was there is a disconnect between the agricultural and brewing communities. I’m working with John Seabrooks. We’re going to put something together in the next few months. We’re going to get farmers together and brewers and brewery owners, this time, together.”
That goes beyond farmers growing hops.
“We’re not just talking about hops,” he said. “In the brewery (business) they’re using all kinds of stuff now. We’re going to be bringing in all kinds of farmers. … There’s a lot of stuff going on this property alone, along with the whole valley. We have breweries that want ingredients and we have farmers who have ingredients to sell.”
Santa Fe Brewing does have its own hop farm in Rinconada, south of Taos, and one of the main state universities now has a hop farm as well.
“I have my USA hops growers number (so) I’m the only registered hop yard in New Mexico,” Tom said. “I know there are others. I collaborate with New Mexico State University. They have an experimental hop yard up in Farmington.”
NMSU will be present at an upcoming private event that will be hosted by Red Hat Hops, bringing another element into the mix — education.
“Obviously, the main intent is as a business and (to) supply local breweries, but we also want to use it as an educational opportunity,” Tom said. “CNM has got a brewing program. The breweries have the opportunity to bring their staff here for field trips. It may eventually become an agri-tourism thing, but it may not. This is private property. We are working with some other entities that have public property.”
Tom said his long-term goal was to be at 20 acres in 10 years, but he said now it looks like he will reach that mark much sooner.
“The big thing now is we’re going to get through our introductory stage, which is this year,” he said.
Now it is just about getting the word out to the breweries and the public, for the future could be bountiful.
“We want that to become more of the norm because this is a huge not only a business opportunity for everybody, but it’s a huge marketing opportunity for New Mexico,” Tom said. “Colorado already has an all-Colorado beer. We have that opportunity here.”
An all-New Mexico beer? We will raise a glass of that when it comes to fruition.
Thanks to Tom and Tim for the tour and the beer.