SANTA FE — It has now been a few weeks since Blue Corn Brewery brought home the New Mexico IPA Challenge trophy. With their busy late-summer schedules, and their transition to a new chef and menu, the staff just now got around to celebrating. Well, they did it in true Blue Corn fashion with another epic beer dinner to give Santa Fe a chance to cheer Blue Corn’s big win, as well as introduce us to the new man behind the menu.
Chef Ortiz had just moved across town from Rio Chama, one of Santa Fe Dining’s more upscale establishments, just a 5-minute stroll from the Plaza. It was there that he truly sharpened his knife as the sous chef. Before that, he worked under Kelly Rodgers at La Casa Sena, another fine downtown eatery.
“We’re all really excited that (Ortiz) is here,” assistant brewer Andy Lane said. “His new dishes (on the updated menu) are amazing.”
Across four courses, we really got to know what Ortiz brings to the table. From the arugula salad with fresh pomegranate, pine nuts, and brie, to the jumbo lump crab salad with shrimp tempura, to the duck confit with orange segments and orange glaze, and finally to the dessert course of dark chocolate custard with whipped cream mousse and macerated strawberries, we all got a thorough introduction to Ortiz’s chops.
Having been to several of these beer dinners now, I thought that the food was much better in practice than it was on paper. I’ve seen arugula salads and duck confit dishes in a few multi-course prix fixe menus, but at Blue Corn that night, each course was so creatively crafted, balanced, and paired that each dish felt fresh and exciting. Each bite was a new trip down the rabbit hole, chaotic and uncertain of where you’ll land, but in a very good way. I regret that I didn’t take a look at the new and updated regular menu, but after stuffing myself with so much deliciousness, I couldn’t possibly think about more food for a few days. Can you blame me?
That night in Santa Fe, Blue Corn brewers also hoisted up the IPA Challenge trophy for the second time in the brewery’s history. The first win came from John Bullard in 2013 with his Resurgence IPA. Blue Corn is still the only brewery to win this coveted trophy from outside the Albuquerque metro area. Last year, head brewer Paul Mallory wasn’t as pleased with how his IPA ultimately turned out.
“I wanted more from it,” he said.
This year, he and Lane really worked on getting the recipe to where they thought it should be.
I reached out to Mallory to get an idea as to what the IPA Challenge win means to him, to Blue Corn Brewery, as well as the New Mexico craft beer industry.
DSBC: What does winning the IPA Challenge mean to you, personally?
Mallory: Winning the IPA Challenge means a lot to me. It was a really great way to get people excited about trying our beer. It was really amazing to be able to celebrate with family, friends, co-workers, and customers as well.
DSBC: How does winning the IPA Challenge impact Blue Corn’s current production?
Mallory: We have had trouble keeping the Gatekeeper on tap since the win. We have all of our other beers we’re trying to keep up with at the moment, too. But, we will do our best to keep brewing the Gatekeeper. As long as people keep enjoying it, I’ll keep brewing it.
DSBC: When will it be available again?
Mallory: We currently have it on tap now. I hope it will be on for another week or so, but you never know how fast it will go.
DSBC: Plans for next year’s challenge?
Mallory: I haven’t thought about next year’s competition yet. I’m not sure if we’ll change it up or not.
DSBC: Why do you feel it’s important that we have competitions like this?
Mallory: I think competitions like this are great because they push brewers to be their best or most extreme, depending on the competition. In New Mexico, I really feel the competitions help build camaraderie as well. The NM Brewers Guild does a great job with that aspect of it.
DSBC: Lastly, what’s Blue Corn taking to GABF?
Mallory: We are taking the Gatekeeper IPA, Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout, End of the Trail Brown Ale, Barrel Aged Cosmic Darkness, and Pomegranate Gose to GABF this year.
Blue Corn Brewery will have a booth at the event.
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I would personally like to thank all the staff at Blue Corn Brewery for their hard work and incredible hospitality. To your well-deserved victory, to your new chef, we raise ‘em up!
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