Archive for January, 2019

Ponderosa head brewer Antonio Fernandez was a busy man in 2018, and that won’t change this year.

Every brewery that opens an off-site taproom hopes that it provides a decent boost in sales and revenue. For the folks at Ponderosa Brewing, they had those hopes when the small taproom at the renovated El Vado Motel on Central opened this past summer. The results, however, went well beyond what head brewer Antonio Fernandez expected, as he explained when we sat down for the Ponderosa entry in our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series on Wednesday afternoon.

“2018 was crazy,” Antonio said. “Of course the biggest thing was getting the taproom at El Vado open. None of us were ready for what was going to happen with that. I was thinking like most taprooms it would probably give us a little kick when it first opened and then ramp up business. But, man, we just hit the ground running, selling tons of beer out of there and it never slowed down until like Thanksgiving.”

That was all well and good from a sales perspective, but not necessarily from a brewing perspective. Antonio said he had to scramble to keep up with double the usual demand.

“I took a big hit over here, actually,” he said. “We have draft accounts, I was brewing beer for (putting beer in) cans, and the next thing you know we had gone down to only five beers on tap at both places while I tried to get caught up. I had to modify my brewhouse slightly so I could double-batch in a single day without taking 14 hours. That was a big change. I had to get on the new paradigm.

“I was brewing twice as much beer as the year before. Our output was way up compared to the past. This is our fourth year now. We brewed and sold way more beer than we ever had before and it’s been our most profitable year as a company, also.”

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Greetings, New Mexico craft beer lovers. Stoutmeister here with The Week Ahead in Beer. This column covers all the breweries in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, with Santa Fe’s eight breweries, one in Los Alamos, one in Moriarty, and one in Red River also joining the party.

Stoutmeister puts on his serious face to handle The Week Ahead in Beer.

Stoutmeister puts on his serious face to handle The Week Ahead in Beer.

The beer industry can still surprise us from time to time, and not always in the best of ways. We were dismayed, but not overly shocked, when Santa Fe Brewing announced that State Pen Porter is being discontinued as a year-round offering. All week, you can stop at any SFBC location and buy a six-pack for $5 or a case for $15 to help them clear out the inventory. That is a good deal for a solid beer, which we would guess is one of the first darker craft ales that many of you probably tried. It is a sign of the changing tastes of beer drinkers, for whom sweet seems to top all (see, juicy hazy IPAs, pastry stouts, fruit-infused sours, etc.). Still, it has made us rather nostalgic for the simpler beers of yore. (At least until we tried the Churro Bandito at Bow & Arrow, because that pastry stout is wonderful.) Anyway, head over to the SFBC taproom at Green Jeans on Saturday for a final farewell party. Stock up on a solid brew to get you through the rest of the winter. Raise one farewell pint to the past.

This Friday, we should have a post up with the hours of operation (should they be different than normal) for breweries this Super Bowl Sunday. We want to make sure you get those growlers/crowlers filled for the big game, so you can also root, root, root against the damn Patriots. Take note that any brewery with a regular Sunday event, such as Canteen or Kaktus, will not have music or other live entertainment due to the game this weekend.

On the new beer front this week, there are a few options to check out of the non-stout/porter variety. Bosque has a Dry-Hopped Cider rolling out to all locations this week. Cantero shines with an American Golden Ale. High and Dry and Ponderosa unveil their collaboration, Shut the Lights Black IPA, on Friday. La Cumbre rolls out Blood Orange Sour on draft and in cans Friday. Marble hops it up with Southside IPA, and then goes big with Barrel-Aged Quadruple. Quarter Celtic is seeing Prague-ress with a new Czech amber. Rio Bravo flips a coin and lands on a new Copper Lager. Sidetrack has more In-Crowd Pale Ale available. Starr Brothers goes dark with more Foggy Monocle stout. Steel Bender feels the love with The Village Innuendo, a cherry wit, returning Thursday, plus George Porter debuts Friday. Tractor plows ahead with Acreage IPA and Pecan Ale.

Up in Santa Fe, Blue Corn goes big with Round Midnight Imperial Stout. Rowley Farmhouse Ales moves on to Agent Scully — Season Two, Episode 5 IPA, and also brings Steindock’d, its barleywine, out of the barrels, plus there is more No BU for You IPA available.

Continue reading for all the news that is fit to blog for the week of January 28.

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The new project from outgoing Brewers Guild executive director John Gozigian.

The news that New Mexico Brewers Guild executive director John Gozigian was stepping down at the end of March did not catch us by complete surprise when it was announced last week. We were aware of John being involved in a new project coming to replace the Bosque San Mateo taproom/brewery, and seeing as how the Guild bylaws prohibit the director from having a financial stake in any brewery, that meant his time would eventually be up.

That time is almost here, so I sat down with John over lunch on Monday to talk about his new project, La Reforma, as well as his time with the Guild and what is coming down the line.

“It’s been in the works for a little while,” he said. “When Bosque announced that they were going to developing the Open Space (location), and I learned that they were basically going to leave the space on San Mateo, it got me to thinking. I never intended to get back into the brewing industry. Even less so, was I interested in getting back into the restaurant business.

“But, from an entrepreneurial point of view, you look at a second generation restaurant/brewery space becomes available, and you can potentially cut in half the cost of developing it for that use. The infrastructure is already there.”

John said he talked to managing director Gabe Jensen and ended up “shocked” that no one had approached Bosque about taking over the space. That led to John making a call to an old friend.

“I ran the idea by my former Marble and Santa Fe Dining partner Jeff (Jinnett) about his level of interest in getting back into the brewery/restaurant business,” John said. “Jeff was kind of the same mind I was after we left Marble, don’t need to do (another) brewery, don’t need to do a restaurant. It’s like the Mob, you know, every time you try to get out, they pull you back in. We tend to gravitate back to what we know and what our area of expertise is.”

Our first photo of John Gozigian as Guild executive director was snapped at Starr Brothers three years ago. My, how time flies.

It was Jeff who came up with the idea for La Reforma, which will bring a new theme and approach to a brewery in a town loaded with options.

“Over the years, Jeff had always talked about the restaurants he went to when he was a kid in Mexico City, because he grew up there,” John said. “He would go to these carnitas restaurants, these huge places that specialized in carnitas and tacos, and it was a real family (friendly) thing. There was beer, too. We had talked over the years that if we ever did a brewery again, we would do a Mexico City-style culinary experience, and do some Mexico-style beers, lagers, obviously.”

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The first competition of the year is in the books.

The first national beer competition of the year is in the books, and once again, New Mexico breweries have pulled off a strong showing. The Beer Army Beer Wars awards were announced last week, with five local breweries bringing home 20 medals.

Flix Brewhouse came in seventh overall with one gold, four silvers, and one bronze. Quarter Celtic added one gold, two silvers, and one bronze, while Three Rivers tacked on two silvers and three bronzes. Rounding out the list were Santa Fe (one gold, one silver) and Steel Bender (three silvers).

“It felt pretty darn good, man, I’m not going to lie,” Flix head brewer Will Moorman said. “We entered six beers, too, and well, all of them got a medal. I can’t complain about that at all. We were thoroughly surprised.”

Will said he learned from Steel Bender brewmaster Bob Haggerty, who had gotten an early look at the medal winners.

“It was good to see, there were some heavy-hitting breweries in there, too,” Will said. “It wasn’t just a pay-to-play kind of thing. Even in the small categories, they didn’t award medals if there wasn’t something that was worthy. It was nice to see that lend credence to how they operated a slightly smaller competition.”

The full list of winners by category is below.

  • International Pale Lager: Quarter Celtic’s Pedro O’Flanagan’s (bronze)
  • International Dark Lager: Quarter Celtic’s Dark Pedro (silver)
  • Festbier: Quarter Celtic’s VP30 (gold), Three Rivers’ Festbier (silver)
  • German Exportbier: Quarter Celtic’s Come to the Dort Side (silver), Three Rivers’ The Hoff (bronze)
  • Baltic Porter: Flix’s Darth Malt (silver)
  • English IPA: Santa Fe’s Happy Camper (gold)
  • Dark Mild: Flix’s Brown Basilisk (bronze)
  • Wee Heavy: Three Rivers’ Chuckerout (bronze)
  • English Barleywine: Santa Fe’s Chicken Killer (bronze)
  • American Pale Ale: Three Rivers’ Merica (silver)
  • California Common: Three Rivers’ Common (bronze)
  • Belgian IPA: Steel Bender’s The Whole Shoe (silver)
  • Witbier: Flix’s Luna Rosa (silver)
  • Belgian Blond Ale: Flix’s James Blond (silver)
  • Belgian Dubbel: Flix’s H-E-Dubbel Hockey Sticks (gold)
  • Mixed Fermentation Sour Beer: Steel Bender’s Ned’s Sour Pail (silver)
  • Fruit Beer: Flix’s Oasis (silver)
  • Specialty Fruit Beer: Steel Bender’s Raspberry Dynamite (silver)

Will said smaller competitions like this one can still have a lot of value for a brewer, especially for someone who is still relatively new to a head brewer position.

“For me, personally, part of my goal in my career is to brew highly stylistically accurate beers,” he said. “Sales are obviously super important, customer popularity is a huge thing, too, but I feel this is a really great benchmark to hit. You can brew that medals on a set of commonly accepted style guidelines, then you’re doing all right.

“I’m still relatively new. This will be my third year as a head brewer. For me as a new guy, I want to make sure my base beer is solid before we make it smoked and soured and add some chocolate cake.”

For outgoing Three Rivers head brewer Brandon Beard, the medals were a fitting final salute to his time at the Farmington institution. He will be opening Lauter Haus Brewing in town in the future.

“Well, it feels great, I’m super happy that I have put together a good team that will continue to strive and grow at 3RB,” he said. “One of the beers that medaled was flagship from before me. One was a collaboration between Patrick and I, and the other three were my recipes. When I started brewing 10 years ago, I was like every beginning brewer and was all about the hops. Over the years, I grew out of that. When I started brewing at 3RB, we only did one lager a year (Oktoberfest), but I really wanted to start brewing lagers. So about four years ago, I made it a personal goal to start brewing more lagers.

“I love that three of the five beers were lagers that medaled. I don’t think I stand alone when I say a lot of brewers really want the lager to blow up like some of these other styles have in the last year. You can’t hide any flaws in a lager; that’s why I want to brew more and more of them. Now that I’m going out on my own, it shouldn’t be a surprise with the name we chose for our brewery (Lauter Haus) that we will be pushing lagers on people. But, I know that 3RB is in good hands it was just time for me to do my own thing.”

The next set of awards are the Best of Craft Beer Awards, which are set for February 11.

Congrats to all of the New Mexico winners of this event. It is good to see 2019 starting off on the right note, competition-wise.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Corrales has its own small brewery tucked inside this historic building.

Casa Vieja, located on Corrales Road in the heart of Corrales, is just what the name says — a very old house. Established in 1770, it has been many different things over the centuries, including a church and a small hospital. It is best known for its long tradition as a popular fine dining restaurant. It was a bit of a surprise, then, when we learned they started brewing beer and became a taproom.

As part of our Look Back/Look Ahead Series, I met with Gary Socha, owner and brewer at this new iteration of Casa Vieja, although his business card says his title is “Beer Whisperer.” It is this bit of whimsy that makes you want to root for him out of the gate. All throughout the interview, it was clear to see Gary has an impish way about him, and his passion for this project is evident. But, there is also a calmness that has helped him weather both the usual and unusual types of issues that have come up along the way.

Gary was a homebrewer and a member of the Dukes of Ale Homebrew Club, and won a gold medal in the 2015 New Mexico Pro-Am in the German Wheat category. The word Duke was soon to gain a whole new importance for Gary. But, we will get to that. First, I wanted to know the history of how Gary obtained ownership of the place, and how it came to be the newest brewery (until Ex Novo opens) in the area.

In 2011, Casa Vieja fell victim to the area’s economic hard times and repair issues. The long-time restaurant, a one-time home to some notable Albuquerque chefs such as Jim White and Jean-Pierre Gozard, closed its doors. Casa Vieja always held a special place in the hearts of Gary and his wife of over 40 years. In fact, they went there on their honeymoon.

In 2016, Gary’s family purchased the property, restored it, and turned it into an event space. They spent a great deal of money on renovation, and did not want to have to spend much more on a liquor license. Well, Gary was already a brewer, right? So a small brewer license made much more sense. Plus, the addition of a taproom meant the locals could have a relaxed and charming space in which to grab a craft beer.

The commercial kitchen was removed during the renovation, and now Casa Vieja has only a catering kitchen (for the events, mainly). Gary figured that many breweries rely on food trucks, so that should not be a big deal. Unfortunately, it proved difficult to book any trucks due to the location, amount of patrons, and being the last guy in line to request a truck. The only way to get them was to supplement them with a guaranteed amount. Luckily, another chef alumnus from Casa Vieja, Jon Young of ABQ BBQ, came to the rescue to provide catering. Eventually, they plan to park Jon’s bus that has seating as well as a kitchen in it right in the catering driveway attached to the catering kitchen. It is a win for everyone involved.

Most of Casa Vieja’s equipment had to be lowered into the brewing space through the roof.

One of the more unusual hurdles that Gary faced had to do with the brewing equipment. Old houses tend to have smaller entrances and challenges with preservation. Therefore, Gary special ordered brewing equipment to meet the specs of the house’s brew space. Unfortunately, a long battle ensued with the manufacturer regarding delivery of the equipment, and when it finally arrived many months late, it was two to three times the size it was supposed to be. The boil kettle was supposed to be 800 pounds, and it is 2,000 pounds. To sum up, they had to drop it in through the roof using a crane. The upside to this, I suppose, is that he has a larger brewing capacity (3-to-4 barrels) if he needs it. In July 2018, the taproom somewhat quietly opened to the public with limited hours.

Gary faced another annoying (to say the least) challenge over the Thanksgiving holiday. There is an “out building” behind the main house that was built as a walk-in cooler for the restaurant. This would serve as Gary’s keg storage area. Over the holiday, the control decided to fail. The building turned from a walk-in cooler to a freezer. All the kegs froze. He came back to find exploding kegs. He was also storing his yeast in there, so all the yeast died.

You never know what you might run in to in and around older properties. That said, not all of the surprises were troublesome ones. Prior to Gary’s purchase of the property, Casa Vieja developed a roof leak that needed repair. Like something out of a novel, the contractors found an old portrait painting in the wall. It was in pretty bad shape. The age and subject of the painting were unknown at the time. The previous owner stated the painting had to stay with the building and Gary agreed. The painting was evaluated in Santa Fe and carefully restored. The evaluation determined that the painting was likely done in Spain in the 1600s. It is an oil portrait of Jean Louis de Nogaret de la Valette, a French nobleman who held the title of Duke d’Epernon. And thus, the reference to Duke literally resurfaces! The painting is now prominently displayed near the entrance. In tribute to this French duke, Duke (of Ale) Gary brewed a house beer known as “Duke’s Red Ale.”

The taproom area is a charming space.

Gary said his plan for the rest of the year is to continue brewing and have around six of his own taps online, as well as a few guest taps. At the time of my visit, there were three Casa Vieja brews available — a hefeweisen, a lager, and Duke’s Red. Guest taps that day included a cider from Steel Bender, Steel Bender’s Blue Bullet Stout on nitro, and La Cumbre’s Elevated IPA. Current taproom hours are 5 to 8 p.m. every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

If any of our readers would like to visit the Duke (either of them, really) and try the beer, this Sunday is Arts Alive! in Corrales. Gary will be performing Art of Brewing demonstrations at 2 and 4 p.m. at Casa Vieja. The brewery will also feature art by Dave Sabo and Wanda Blake.

As the Duke d’Epernon himself might say …

À votre santé,

— AmyO

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Brewmaster Rod Tweet and head brewer Tom Ludzia are ready for more Second Street beer. Are you?

Second Street had another great year, with each of its taprooms humming along like well-oiled machines. The big news wasn’t the taprooms in 2018, although it should be noted that Second Street Rufina is steadily becoming just as much a fixture in the Santa Fe brewpub scene as the Oldery and the Railyard locations already are. The real star of Second Street’s 2018, however, was another machine altogether, one perhaps not as well-oiled (just yet), but one with multiple components whirring to life at the hands of a few good men and women. That machine includes the canning line, the wholesale shop, and the new lines of distribution of kegs and gorgeous cans chugging off the line.

Some time between counting inventory and working on the latest batch of one of his new flagship beers, president and brewmaster Rod Tweet made some time to sit down with me for the latest installment of our Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2018-19.

Tweet meets me after work on a Saturday at Rufina. We take one of the tall tables in the large Rufina space, and I have a hard time deciding on what I want to drink, for once. There’s more than a few exciting beers on the list these days, but I’m in the mood for the Brown. It’s good, and I can’t recall the last time I really enjoyed a Brown Ale as much in years.

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The Brown Ale does not disappoint.

After taking a couple sips, I start the recorder. I want to see how business was in 2018, and I want to hear all about the brand-new canning line, and how its first few months in operation went. As we all know, it ain’t easy getting one of those things firing on all pistons. I’m also looking to find out what they plan to do with all the beer they’re pouring into packaging in 2019, and which beers.

“We had a really good year,” Tweet says. “The new place continues to grow. The Railyard, and the original location are like an engine, relatively figured out at this point.”

Second Street is still fine-tuning Rufina, building on what they know, but tweaking everything from food to events as needed. With their restaurant business purring away, they have more time to focus on what we’re all interested in: beer.

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The Starr Brothers command staff includes, from left, general manager Derek Minero, co-owner Heather Starr, head brewer/part-owner Rob Whitlock, and assistant brewer Matthew Pullen.

There are occasions where we can actually properly time the release of one of our Look Back/Look Series articles with a major event at the subject brewery. Sometimes, though, we almost miss the opportunity, and a mad scramble ensues to get the story done in time. That was almost the case this week, but the good folks in charge at Starr Brothers Brewing made it easy for us to get this article up before their third anniversary party kicks off Saturday.

Co-owner Heather Starr, head brewer (and now part-owner) Rob Whitlock, and general manager Derek Minero were able to join me for a quick interview on Wednesday afternoon, going over the entirety of 2018 and what is to come in 2019.

First up, Saturday’s anniversary bash will run all day, with plenty of fun on deck.

“We haven’t done the bands before, this is kind of our first time doing that,” Heather said. “But, I think it will add to the celebratory atmosphere. We’ve got (souvenir) cups, we’ve got merch, we’re doing a live screen print.”

The participating bands are Rise of Seekalae (2 to 4 p.m.), RoyalHills (5 to 8), and Kevin Herig (8:30-10:30).

“Our beer release, we’re going to do the Lost Cities of Gold (Hazy IPA) that I had up at WinterBrew,” Rob said.

“Then some raffles and stuff, just an all-day party,” Derek added.

Heather also noted that the west parking lot has been expanded, with crushed gravel instead of dirt. Any time a brewery can add more parking, it is a good thing.

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Greetings, New Mexico craft beer lovers. Stoutmeister here with The Week Ahead in Beer. This column covers all the breweries in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, with Santa Fe’s eight breweries, one in Los Alamos, one in Moriarty, and one in Red River also joining the party.

Stoutmeister puts on his serious face to handle The Week Ahead in Beer.

Stoutmeister puts on his serious face to handle The Week Ahead in Beer.

Winter in New Mexico does not exactly behave in a normal fashion. It bounces back and forth between mild and frigid, not really adhering to the technical start and end dates for the season. In fact, we are only a little more than a third of the way through winter, and while it might not always feel like it, our breweries are sticking with the dark and decadent beers for a while longer. La Cumbre brings back its beloved Baltic Porter, Siberian Silk, on tap and in cans on Friday. It is just one of many Baltics on tap, with additional versions available on tap at Bosque (Grandfather Owl), Bow and Arrow (Buffalo Plaid), Toltec, and Turtle Mountain (Stockholm Syndrome). If we weren’t so close to our Stout Challenge on Super Bowl Sunday, the Crew might have done a mini-Baltic challenge. Speaking of stouts, Bow and Arrow is releasing the latest entry in its Bandit series, the Churro Bandito, on tap this Saturday. They threw actual churros into the imperial stout during the boil. Yeah, we cannot wait to try this one. There is also the T34 Imperial Russian Stout at Bombs Away. So much darkness, so little time. We will be cranking up the new Swallow the Sun album on Friday and trying to hit as many as we can.

Another cool event to highlight in Santa Fe is A Bitter Day on Saturday at Second Street Rufina. Anyone who has been to Second Street knows how much the brewery team there loves the bitter style of English beers, so now SSB has invited other breweries to make their own takes on the style and serve them all up at once. There will be live music from Fox White, a special menu, and more running all day.

On the new beer front this week, there are a few options to check out of the non-stout/porter variety. Boese Brothers recently brought back the popular Cascade Grenade IPA. Bombs Away also has S.A.F. Raspberry Sour and Oaked Claymore Scotch Ale. Canteen is feeling smooth with Vienna Lager, Smokin’ Joe Lager, and more Falconer’s Arm Pale Ale. Marble suffered no thorny injuries (we hope) making more Prickly Pear Gose. Quarter Celtic asks What’s the Wi-Fi Password? with its new Strata IPA. Rio Bravo is feeling saucy with Beer Against Humanity IPA. Sidetrack has brought back its American blonde ale, Güera, and this Saturday will have Second Side ESB, a collaboration with Second Street, on tap for the third anniversary party. Tractor resurrects an old favorite in Scotcholate, while also feeling sweet with the new Caramel Cider.

Up in Santa Fe, HoneyMoon will have Cidrucha available Friday. Tumbleroot had a big tap turnover, with everything from Double Brown to New School IPA to Captain SMASH, a rum barrel-aged barleywine, going on tap, plus there are new bottles of Dry Hopper Sour Golden Ale and Sour Red Ale with cherries.

Continue reading for all the news that is fit to blog for the week of January 21.

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The future location of the Nexus Blue Smokehouse could open its doors in February.

Nexus Brewery owner Ken Carson is a busy man these days. We had originally scheduled an interview for a Look Back/Look Ahead Series entry back in December, but it had to be postponed until last week. When we did have the time to sit down to talk about everything, from the early challenges in 2018 to the forthcoming third Nexus location tentatively expected to open in February, I also ended up getting a bit of a lesson in local history, which fits particularly well on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

First, a bit of background. Yes, the long-awaited Nexus Blue Smokehouse is getting close to finally opening its doors. Its location at 1523 Broadway SE, just south of Avenida Cesar Chavez, has a connection to the past that made it too important for Ken to pass up when he was looking for a third Nexus location.

“I know some people are probably wondering why that location,” he said. “My family is from Albuquerque. My dad, his parents brought him to that neighborhood back in 1929. Our family has been in that area for a long time. Now, the neighborhood doesn’t look like it used to be (because it was) the black neighborhood. That was the only place you could buy a house in Albuquerque back in those days.”

The demographic of the neighborhood has shifted in the decades since from African-American to Hispanic, but the previous owner of the building was still tied into the original history.

“The guys that owned the building were the Navajo Elks,” Ken said. “The history of the Navajo Elks was the Navajo Elks were all over the country, (they were) the African-American Elks. They separated from the regular Elks, in fact they just stole the name. They got sued over it, but then ultimately the Elks just gave up and said forget it.”

Segregation caused a need for separate establishments.

“Then what happened was because blacks couldn’t go to the nightclubs and stuff … they put various nightclubs across the country especially in parts of the country where the population of blacks was not that big,” Ken said. “The reason being, say you’re in a town in Mississippi where the population was 50 percent, there’s going to be a guy that owns his own nightclub. Well, in New Mexico, I don’t what it was in the 50s, but back in those days the population wasn’t big enough to support it, so they created these nightclubs across the country. I’ve been to ones in Denver, there was here in Albuquerque, (and) there was one in Phoenix. A lot of them were in the Southwest.”

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The Crew went to WinterBrew and again lived to tell the tale. Barely.

It is probably not the best sign that a full week has passed since WinterBrew, and those of us in the Crew who were in attendance are finally typing up our best-of-the-fest lists. As always, it was an amazingly fun event and a great time with so many of our beer geek friends and industry compatriots. It is also a festival loaded with some big, big, big beers, the kind that leave you wondering things like “did I try that beer or not?” and “did we lose Andrew again?”

Before I let Luke and Andrew recap their experiences, I wanted to say thank you to the NM Brewers Guild for organizing this event, which I must say seemed to run even more smoothly this year than in the past (and it has always run pretty smoothly by festival standards in New Mexico). Thank you also to the participating breweries for not just bringing us the same old beers, even if it left us in a sordid state afterwards.

Stoutmeister and two of Santa Fe’s finest, Tom Ludzia of Second Street on the left, and James Warren of SFBC on the right. This was before the Skookum started to take hold.

Anyway, onward and upwards, with some of the best of the fest (listed alphabetically by brewery). I am not including awesome beers like the latest version of the Sin Barreras Imperial Molé Stout from Rowley Farmhouse Ales, because that was just an event-only pour. However, it should be noted that anytime you see any variant of that wonderful beer being made available at RFA or anywhere else, GO GET IT. So bleeping good. The rest of these beers should be currently available at breweries, or they will likely be the next seasonal/specialty brew to be tapped.

  • Bosque: Fistful of Churros is a delightful brown ale that tastes like, well, you can guess. The nice thing about this beer is it checks in on the lower side of the ABV scale, so you can double up on dessert beer and not require a Lyft or Uber to get home. It should be available soon at all locations.
  • Bow and Arrow: Breakfast Bandit, the coffee-and-donuts imperial stout, is still available, but not for much longer. Go get this wonderful beer, for if nothing else, it will make room for the next beer in the Bandit series to become available. The Buffalo Plaid Baltic Porter is another top-notch dark beer on tap.
  • Cloudcroft Brewing: My first beer from these guys was an Oatmeal Stout, which is nice and roasty and creamy, like a good version of this style should be. Definitely gonna make a trip south soon, weather permitting.
  • Lost Hiker: When some notable Albuquerque brewers tell you to make a future trip to Ruidoso, you definitely listen. For this event, I snagged some Snowpocalypse, a delightful winter warmer that belongs in your glass by the fireplace while in the study, which smells of rich mahogany.
  • Marble: It was a double dose of goodness from the good folks from 111 Marble Avenue, with the Coffee Porter and Sympathy for the Pork Chop, a smoked märzen, hitting the spot with their roasty toasty tastiness.
  • Second Street: You can still find the barrel-aged version of Skookum Barleywine in those specialty packs for sale at the brewery and liquor stores such as Jubilation. Trust me, it is quite worth it. The MBV Stout was also a nice respite from the high ABV beers, and this delectable dry Irish stout made its way into my glass as my full pint.
  • Sidetrack: The Dark Engine Stout is always a delight, but this time they threw it in the cask not just with cacao nibs, but with some coffee from Zendo. Whenever they do this again at the brewery, we will be first in the door.
  • Starr Brothers: There were no cookies to go with it, sadly, but Zombies in the Manger Biscochito Stout was still a hit. You can get it at the brewery for a limited time, but we cannot guarantee cookies there, either.
  • Truth or Consequences: This was the brewery that I kept meaning to get back to, but for some reason never did. My apologies. I did truly enjoy the Good Juju, an American brown ale, and another Crew member was down in TorC informed me that we are now in possession of a bottle of Truth Serum Barleywine. Woots!
  • Tumbleroot: I have been advocating for some time for a local brewery to put some barleywine in a rum barrel, which I had out at Tustin Brewing in SoCal once, and finally, someone listened. Actually, the Tumbleroot folks just did it on their own, and I think them for creating a lovely elixir in Captain SMASH, which is a single-malt, single-hop barleywine. The rum-barrel version is just the first of four, with future versions coming soon from agave, gin, and whiskey barrels.
  • Turtle Mountain: Mick Hahn brought the big guns to Santa Fe, with Stockholm Syndrome being a particular standout. A big, chewy Baltic porter was actually my first beer of the fest, and it was all downhill from there. I later tried the Deep Depravity Barleywine at TMBC, and it is also worth the trip to Rio Rancho and construction chaos along Southern Blvd.

Rather than ramble on further, I turn this over to Luke and Andrew, my cohorts for the evening. As usual, Luke has a lot to say. Andrew, well, it was a tough night for him. Also, I am not taking responsibility for leaving a mostly dead, unnamed-for-his-sake brewer on the Rail Runner, but since he liked a photo I shared on Instagram the next day, I know he is still alive.

A recap of the past and a request for the future

Hey, look, it’s Wes from Rowley Farmhouse Ales. Thanks for the Sin Barreras!

WinterBrew this year was just as big as it ever is, with only a few glaring breweries missing, including some Guild members not on the roster. That seems a true crime to me. However, the event was a blast, as it always is, despite my showing up two hours late due to having to work. I was quickly caught up as to which beers were worth trying, and which were worth skipping. All the brewers and pourers were in fine form, happy to share their beers and the stories behind them.

Our man Jason from Tumbleroot offered up a wonderful take on a barleywine.

I enjoyed several exciting beers from Starr Brothers and Second Street, bringing their Biscochito Stout (Zombies in the Manger) and Skookum Barleywine, respectively. With Second Street’s second location, they were able to pour more beers than ever before, and the people took notice. And, they certainly weren’t your average fest beers. In fact, many of the beers poured were not average at all.

Tumbleroot’s Captain Smash, SMaSH Barleywine was big and exciting, and Rowley Farmhouse Ales’ Raspberry Molé Stout Sin Barreras, rang a few bells in the Crew. Certainly they woke us up and made us do a double take.

It’s just so darn festive inside, but man, we wish it could be even bigger for more breweries, more beer, and why are our livers send us 30-day notices to move out?

There were some excellent beers all around from the smaller new breweries like Lost Hiker, Cloudcroft, Red River Brewing, and Truth or Consequences Brewing, but it was an old veteran that really brought it home, to me. My best of fest goes to Turtle Mountain. Their whole lineup was big, mean, well-executed, fun, and exciting. They definitely understood what it was to show up ready to pour at a brewfest. Now, I didn’t get around to every booth, but of the ones I did, there were some hits, some misses, and a couple really lame disappointments, but the festival was just as great as it ever was. It was another fine example of why it sells out every year.

But, if I might make a suggestion — and of course, I may not — it’s time to grow, time to move to a new venue, unless the Farmer’s Market can accommodate more than 700 people and 18 breweries. But, that is just a suggestion pieced together from whisperings in and around the industry. To amazing festivals that showcase what we do best, in the most fun way possible, cheers!

— Luke

(Now, how about a big old stream of photos?)

Nothing good comes from Denny’s at 2 a.m.

Andrew, bottom right, probably looking for a replacement glass after his was unintentionally shattered by another customer.

Notable memories for me were, (1) getting my glass filled with the crazy barleywine at the Tumbleroot table, only to set it down for a photo and have some lady knock it onto the floor where it smashed into pieces before I was even able to take a single sip. (2) Taking an Uber to Tumbleroot’s after-party with the two Bosque folks, except our Uber had mixed up their directions and dropped us off on the Plaza, which resulted in requiring another Santa Fe Uber just to get to Tumbleroot. (3) Ordering a mysterious sandwich to-go from Denny’s at 2 a.m. and then having to find it in the container it came in, since it was covered in chile and cheese, etc., and then Luke proceeded to eat the whole thing with his hands.

— Andrew

(However, don’t we eat all sandwiches with our hands? — Luke)