12 Beers of Christmas returns to Santa Fe Brewing Company

Dave Merkin, workin’ it. Hails!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, if you’re a Target shopper, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas way back in September. Well, now that Turkey month is basically over, and we’re sleighing full-speed toward Saturnalia, it’s time to get our holi-day-drinking priorities straight.

Let’s face it, either we did the shopping or we didn’t. And, whether we’ll be enjoying some well-earned end-of-the-year-relaxation, or we’ll be last-minute dashing through the snow through packed parking lots toward pre-picked-through aisles, you deserve a good, hearth-warming craft beer. It’s been a long year, am I right?

Let’s take a breath together. Ah, that’s the good stuff.

Maybe it’s your first time in New Mexico, or maybe you’re simply new to our blog and didn’t know, but every year, Santa Fe Brewing Company hosts the “12 Beers of Christmas,” a special event during which, from the 13th to the 24th of December, SFBC taps a fun, usually Christmas- or Winter-themed (typically one-off) special beer to celebrate the season in style.

SFBC head of research and development, Dave “Merkin” is currently in charge of creating the 12 beers, so I called up my old friend and sat down with him at SFBC’s youngest taphouse, the Brakeroom. There, in the dim dank lights, amidst the smooth speakeasy-feels, we slugged some suds and talked about what beers will be on Ol’ Merky Claus’ list this year.

DSBC: Cheers.

Merkin: Cheers to all.

DSBC: How long has SFBC been doing 12 Beers of Christmas?

Merkin: Ever since I’ve been there, and I’ve been there six years.

DSBC: How did it start?

Merkin: It started out with the Sangre De Cristo homebrewers club. Twelve different people doing 12 different brews. Everybody did their own brew, and then premiered them the 12 days of Christmas.

DSBC: What’s it like now?

Merkin: Job security. (Laughs)

Right now, 12 Beers of Christmas is a chance for the R&D team to try out different beers that may or may not (in some version) make it into the three taprooms for the next year as one-offs or seasonals.

DSBC: The 12 beers of Christmas have always been exciting, year in and year out. What are we looking at this year? Are we talking all Christmas-style beers? Any other styles slip in there to keep things exciting?

Merkin: This year, I was in a very happy state of mind, and came up with 12 names and the styles (that) sort of fell into place.

DSBC: Looking at the list, it appears as though you did run over a few Christmas styles with your sleighing. What makes a good Christmas beer?

Merkin: Something that’s drinkable and festive. Something that warms the cockles of your heart. (Laughs)

DSBC: Like Adobe Igoo, SFBC’s Winter Warmer.

Merkin: Exactly.

DSBC: What’s your favorite beer on Satan, I mean Santa’s, list?

Merkin: Honestly, I actually just brewed it up today. It’ll be the Anti-Christmas Black Ale.

DSBC: Tell us about it.

Merkin: It’s a take on our Black IPA, but less, uh, bitter. It’s an experimental Black Ale that’s hopped around 55 IBUs.

DSBC: Sounds great. Sounds like your Street Tombs beer for Metal Monday (at Tumbleroot).

Merkin: It’s a tweaked version of that.

DSBC: Let’s talk about some of the other beers.

Merkin: The one that everyone will always remember is the Java Java, which I’ve re-named Sleigh-Oil.

DSBC: Great name.

Merkin: I thought it was an appropriate name. The newest one to the list is one that we’ve never done before, which is Snake Bit a Reindeer, and that’s a Snake Bite, which is a half-cider, half-Pale Ale recipe. That one’s going to be very interesting. But, the one that stands out the most from not being a Christmas beer is “X-Mas in TJ.” It’s a blonde ale with lime and salt.

DSBC: Jimmy Buffet would be proud.

Merkin: Exactly. It’s a pop-top beer.

DSBC: Love it. And, so your favorite beer is the Anti-Christmas Black Ale. Which was the best name you came up with?

Merkin: My favorite name, and the last one I came up with, was We Barley (Wine) Made it. And, that’ll be the last one on Christmas Eve, and that’ll be a big bad boy. 12-perecent (ABV) chocolate barleywine.

DSBC: Yikes! That’s one hell of a “life.” What’s your favorite beer in general, Christmas or no Christmas?

Merkin: This is for all the brewers out there … it’s hard to make a good, clean lager. And, if I’m going to drink anything, anywhere, anytime — Dos Equis lager.

DSBC: There you have it. Nice. Now for a serious question — who’s your favorite wrestler?

Merkin: My favorite wrestler? (Laughs).

DSBC: I mean, of all time. ‘Cause, I don’t know if they still do that.

Merkin: Macho Man Randy Savage.

DSBC: Ooooooh yeahhhh! So, what’s up next for you as R&D guy?

Merkin: I basically just work with James (Warren), the head brewer, and Bert (Boyce), the brewmaster, and anything that comes down the pipeline for 2019 that we need to breach the market with, we all collaborate together, trial run, over and over, and put out new beers. The last thing I did was Pepe Loco, (a) Mexican lager, 4.8 percent, and I’m so stoked to see that go big.

DSBC: It was a great beer. Makes me want to drink it out of a green or clear bottle. That’s been really well-received.

Merkin: Yeah, I think so, thanks. It competes with the Dos Equis market.

DSBC: Anything you’d like to add?

Merkin: 2019 is going to be a huge year for us, and the entire New Mexico brewing industry.

DSBC: We’re all over that here at the Dark Side Brew Crew.

* * * * *

2018 Schedule

12/13 – Fireplace Lager

12/14 – Snake Bit A Reindeer

12/15 – Santa’s Red Bag

12/16 – Mrs. Claus’ Cane – 12/16

12/17 – Sleigh Oil

12/18 – Spiced Cider

12/19 – Xmas in TJ

12/20 – Santa’s Gone Nuts

12/21 – Anti Xmas Black Ale

12/22 – Winter Really Warmer

12/23 – Smokey the Beer

12/24 – We Barely (Wine) Made It

* * * * *

Who: Santa Fe Brewing Company

What: 12 Beers of Christmas tapping, featuring 12 one-off beers for 12 days.

Where: Both the Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing taproom and Santa Fe Brewing Albuquerque Taproom

When: Dec. 13–24, 2:00 PM

Why you should go: Each beer was created by the mastermind behind some excellent seasonal and ECS (Ever Changing Series) beers, so they’re all bound to be fun and on the bolder side. 12 Beers of Christmas is certainly a fresh reason every year to visit New Mexico’s oldest operating brewery.

To holiday hangovers and warming those cockles!


— Luke


For more @nmdarksidebc information and #CraftBeer news, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro.

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