Last night, the Crew paid a visit to Toltec Brewing to try the beer and food for the first time at an invite-only soft opening in advance of Saturday’s grand opening. We also brought along a laptop to watch the live stream of the World Beer Cup awards ceremony, which was going down in Nashville where the Craft Brewers Conference is taking place this year.
Category after category was announced, but no New Mexico breweries heard their names called. In the end, only Quarter Celtic earned a medal, taking a bronze in the International-Style Pilsner category for Pedro O’Flannigan. It was a stunning turnaround from the last WBC held in 2016, when seven New Mexico breweries claimed seven medals, including gold medals for Nexus (Honey Chamomile Wheat), La Cumbre (BEER), and Boxing Bear (Chocolate Milk Stout).
There are a few ways to look at these results, or lack thereof. First, congratulations to Quarter Celtic on claiming its biggest award to date, a tremendous accomplishment in a tough category to win. That is the most positive thing we can say.
As for everyone else being shut out, perhaps it is best to simply look at the lack of medals as motivation. While industry giants like Firestone Walker again cleaned up with multiple medals, there were numerous breweries popping up seemingly out of nowhere to take gold, silver, and bronze. Revision Brewing from Sparks, Nevada, took gold in the American-Style IPA category and silver in the Imperial IPA category. Honestly, we had never heard of Revision until those awards were announced (but yes, we are adding it to the list of places we need to visit). There are more than 6,000 craft breweries in the United States alone, so now more than ever, our local breweries will have to continue pushing the envelope if they want to break through and win more medals against an increasingly crowded field.
The countdown to the Great American Beer Festival starts now.
Speaking of Toltec
We did enjoy the fun of trying the new brewery for the first time. Head brewer Kaylynn McKnight had four of her planned six house beers on the menu — Hazy Pale, Imperial Agave Wheat, Toltec IPA, Altbier — while the kitchen was churning out its full menu.
Kaylynn told us that mastering her new 7-barrel brewhouse has proven to be a bit of a challenge. The beers she wanted to have higher ABVs came in lower than expected (notably the IPA), while others ended up higher in alcohol (wheat, altbier). As such, the flavors are not quite where she wants them, but we found the Altbier and Hazy Pale to be perfectly drinkable for a brand-new brewery. The IPA is a bit rough and bitter, and she told us that future batches will be more balanced between the malts and hops. The Imperial Agave Wheat was the favorite of many other customers, so while Kaylynn said she hoped for a more sessionable wheat beer, it looks like that recipe is going to stay as is for the foreseeable future.
On the food front, just about everything we tried was quite delicious. There is a beast of a burger called the Royale, and yes, you can order it with cheese. The BBQ bacon burger was my personal choice, and it was perfectly cooked, with a heaping side of seasoned fries. There are numerous other options, including personal pizzas, salads for all you healthy types, and there is even dessert. The kitchen staff and the servers did a good job of getting the food out in a timely manner, which is impressive for any brewpub right out of the gates.
The brewery has 11 televisions up and running, so we all had a great view of the NHL playoffs. Overall, Toltec is exactly the kind of comfortable brewpub that we expected. We will be back many times to see how the beers evolve. Oh, and since the Penguins won last night, it is also now part of our list of good-luck breweries for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.
- Drafty Kilt Brewing has officially been renamed Kilt Check Brewing. This ends a bit of a tumultuous run for the brewery, which had run afoul of the copyright a brewery in Atlanta had put on the name Drafty Kilt for its bottled Scotch ale. Make sure to head over and check out the new logo, but otherwise it will still be the same lineup of quality beers and laid-back atmosphere.
- Route 66 Junkyard Brewery announced on Facebook that it has permanently closed. The Grants brewery did not offer up any sort of explanation for the decision, but it was also embroiled in a legal battle over the usage of Route 66 in its name. If the mysterious Elkins Brewing ever comes to fruition (it still has an active small brewer license), then Grants will not go thirsty for local craft beer for long.
- There are four new pending small brewer licenses listed with the State of New Mexico. We had previously heard that Blu Dragonfly is on its way to Cimarron, so now that looks more official. The long-rumored Rail Brewery is coming to the Santa Fe Railyard some time in the future. Ravenswing Farm in Silver City has applied for a license. Then there is Black Cock Brewery in Roswell, which seems unlikely to open with that provocative name, as there is already a Black Cock Brewing Company in Orange, Calif.
- The Little Toad Creek taproom in downtown Las Cruces looks like it will open next week, just in time for Blazin’ Brewfest, which is set to go down Friday, May 11. For tickets and more information, head over to the NM Brewers Guild website.
That is all from us for this week. As always, if you have any beer news, notes, or tidbits you would like to share, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on any of our social media sites.
I am off to enjoy my 40th birthday today, which I refuse to turn into any sort of somber event. Instead, there will be many barrel-aged stouts, piles of delicious food, probably a round or two of Cards Against Humanity, and lots and lots of metal out by the fire pit.
May the 4th be with you!