After publishing a recap of the biggest news stories of 2017 last week, the Crew begins the new year with a look ahead to what we think will be some of the biggest stories of 2018. Some of these come from the articles in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series that we have already published, others are from as-yet-unpublished stories in that series, and the rest is just from our vast databank of beer news knowledge. (Hey, no laughing!)
Organizing all of that into a post was not an easy task. There are far too many things with undetermined dates attached. We have also been covering the beer scene long enough to understand that when it comes to opening a brewery or a taproom, never, ever, EVER attach a fixed date. The City of Albuquerque alone all but guarantees some sort of bizarre, nonsensical delay because an inspector finds a sink is two inches too far to the left or something. Add it all up, and this is gonna be one hodgepodge story, but hey, we are still recovering from New Year’s Eve. If there is something you, gentle reader, thinks we are missing, send us an email or comment here or on social media.
Awards and competitions
First up, the National IPA Challenge is bound to get underway just about any day now. There are multiple brackets as breweries pit their finest IPAs, Imperial IPAs, weird/experimental IPAs, and Session IPAs. The main IPA bracket will have 128 entrants. New Mexico has won the last four of these, with La Cumbre’s Project Dank taking the title in 2017 and 2014, sandwiched around back-to-back wins for Bosque’s Scale Tipper in 2015 and 2016. Prior to this, no brewery had ever won one or more, much less back-to-back, and no state had ever had more than one champion. The final votes will be cast in mid-March, right around the same time as you are fretting over another non-beer bracket.
April marks the return of the biennial World Beer Cup, which is held in conjunction with the annual Craft Brewers Conference. It all goes down in Nashville this year. Barring an unexpected lottery win, the Crew will sadly not be able to attend (we were invited to apply for press passes, so there’s that, at least). New Mexico breweries brought home six medals in 2016, including golds for Boxing Bear (Chocolate Milk Stout), La Cumbre (BEER), and Nexus (Honey Chamomile Wheat).
After those come the more familiar competitions, namely the NM IPA Challenge in July and of course the Great American Beer Festival, which will be held September 20-22 this year (weird, we know) instead of in October. We covered some potential changes that could be coming to the NMIPAC in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series article on the NM Brewers Guild.
Best of the fests
So far, we have not heard of any new festivals coming to New Mexico this year, but most of our favorites are returning. First up, the Taos Brewmasters Festival is this Saturday at the ski area. We will have more on that later this week.
WinterBrew is set for Friday, January 12 at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Get your tickets now, as this one always sells out.
The Stout Invitational is back at Bathtub Row in Los Alamos on February 17. Another Guild event, the Blazin’ Brewfest, will go down in Las Cruces on Cinco de Mayo (godspeed with that, everyone).
ABQ Beer Week returns May 24 and runs through June 2. Blues & Brews is the biggest event, as per usual, and will be held May 27 at Sandia Casino.
We are still holding out hope that BearFest will return some time this summer.
Fall festivals will include Hopfest, likely in August, and NM Brew Fest, likely in October. The Beer Premiere will also be back, location TBD. There figure to be plenty of other events scattered throughout the year, from Pajarito Summerfest to the Red River Oktoberfest and many others in between.
Oh, and of course the Crew will be holding our annual Stout Challenge on Super Bowl Sunday. Will this be the year a brewery finally earns a second title? In six years, we have had six different winners, capped by Starr Brothers last year.
Breweries get bigger
There are not as many construction projects on deck for our existing breweries as in years past, but there are quite a few that we are looking forward to in 2018.
Bosque is the big mover and shaker, with the Bernalillo production/packaging facility looking to open some time in the first quarter of the year. The Open Space project, a three-story brewery and taproom, will replace the original San Mateo location later in the year. That building is going up at Venice and the Interstate 25 frontage road. It will be one of only a handful of purpose-built breweries (as opposed to a retrofitted warehouse or restaurant) in the state.
Though there is no permit application posted yet on the State of New Mexico’s website, we have heard through the grapevine that Blue Grasshopper is aiming to open a brewing facility in the Albuquerque. The tiny brewing space at the original location in Rio Rancho was never going to cut it once they expanded to two taprooms. Whether this production facility will also have a taproom attached is unknown at this time.
We still await final confirmation that Boxing Bear will be opening a taproom on the East Side, specifically at the Snow Heights Promenade being built at Eubank and Menaul.
There are three breweries in Albuquerque that we know are opening off-site taprooms in 2018. Ponderosa is putting a small taproom in the El Vado Motel redevelopment near Central and Rio Grande. Tractor is opening its third taproom on the West Side near McMahon and Unser. Starr Brothers has a pending license for a location somewhere in the Southeast.
Other breweries rumored to be looking at/considering taprooms include Hops Brewery, Quarter Celtic, Rio Bravo, and Turtle Mountain, but nothing has been confirmed with any of them.
Up in the Santa Fe area, we know that Santa Fe Brewing has a pending license for a location near downtown.
Otherwise, we are mainly looking forward to seeing all the creative new beer releases, both on tap and in bottles/cans, from breweries across the state this year. The expansion of the barrel-aging programs at places like Bow & Arrow, La Cumbre, Marble, Tractor, and more should be enough to keep us all satiated throughout 2018.
Yes, more new places are on the way
Quite a few breweries are scheduled to open in 2018, though as we noted in our intro, attaching a fixed date more than a week out would be foolish.
The Crew will have to take another trip to Southeastern New Mexico this year. Drylands Brewing opened in Lovington after our last pass through the region, so we have to go back there. Monday also marked the grand opening of Guadalupe Mountain Brewing in Carlsbad. Lost Hiker Brewing in Ruidoso has an active small brewers license, so we should be seeing a grand opening announcement for them some time in the near future as well.
Other breweries hoping to open in the south/southeast include Switchback Brewery in Cloudcroft, Bonito Valley Brewing in Lincoln, and Deep Well Brewing in Artesia. The Las Cruces area will also see the opening of a Little Toad Creek taproom in 2018.
The northern half of the state could also see some new openings in 2018. Red River Brewing is taking advantage of the balmy winter weather to finish construction on its building. There are also Callahan West Brewing in Mosquero in the northeast, while Elkins Brewing is still looking to open in Grants to the west.
Santa Fe will soon see the arrival of its seventh brewery and first combined brewery/distillery operation in Tumbleroot. The small brewer license is already active, so now it is just a matter of finishing the last of the construction and getting everything up and running.
There are three breweries in Albuquerque moving closer and closer to opening here in the early part of 2018. Cantero Brewing, in the brewery district, is nearly ready to go. Lava Rock Brewing is also almost ready on the West Side. Throw in High & Dry Brewing in the Southeast, and the Crew has quite a few advance tours to take here in the coming weeks.
All of those breweries now have active licenses, while things are still pending for the likes of BLUE (near downtown), the Brewstillery (southeast), Hollow Spirits (Wells Park), 1933 Brewing (Rio Rancho), and Toltec Brewing (West Side). Those figure to be farther off, though at least of the five, Hollow Spirits is run by our old friend Frank Holloway (formerly of Red Door), who is keeping us up to date via Facebook.
Will additional breweries be announced as the year goes on? Of course. We promise to let you all know about them as soon as we find out.
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That is all from us. What are you looking forward to in 2018 from our craft beer scene? Drop us a line and we may share it the next time we choose to look ahead.
Cheers, and happy New Year!