There have long been stories of brewers helping out one another in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It is rare, however, to see much interaction between the brewers in cities and those in the smaller rural towns around the state.
Rio Bravo head brewer Ty Levis recently shared a story with us about the day he spent helping one of the smallest breweries in the state, Callahan West, in the tiny town of Mosquero.
The fastest route from Albuquerque to Mosquero, population 93 (per the 2010 census) in town and 695 in the surrounding county, is to take Interstate 25 to Wagon Mound, then take Highway 120 east and Highway 39 south. It was a little closer for Levis, who still lives in Santa Fe, but not by much.
Levis was in the area for a family reunion three weeks ago when he spoke to his aunts and uncles about Callahan West, which had actually not yet brewed its own beers. One of the aunts has been working with New Mexico MainStreet, a company working to revitalize small towns across New Mexico.
“She’s been working really hard to get economic monies from Main Street Inc., but the director for that whole setup just retired,” Levis said. “When he started there were three districts in the state; now there are 32. These are all small communities trying to gain access.
“That particular organization got Pete Callahan a few grand to help him get started. He had a lot of infrastructure (issues) because his building was 119 years old and hadn’t been occupied for a while. He had to do electrical and (installing) some draining. I know he wished he did more draining.”
Up until now, Callahan West had exclusively sold guest taps provided by Colfax Ale Cellar in Raton.
“He only has three on tap,” Levis said. “It’s a little tiny place. When you say it’s the middle of nowhere that’s not just being figurative. It’s the last watering hole for 110 miles.”
Levis’ grandparents on his mother’s side owned a large ranch in the area that was divided up among their children after they died. Much of his extended family still lives in the area.
“When we’d come to visit my grandparents we’d drive right through (Mosquero),” Levis said. “My cousin is one of the teachers there at their little elementary school. It started with two of my aunts. One of them has a little bed and breakfast that she has available in Mosquero. She has the nun rectory behind the church that she renovated into a beautiful house that you can rent. That’s where they had their reunion. It’s literally five doors down to the right from the brewery.”
Once Levis made contact with Callahan, they agreed to work together on a first brew. Mosquero Blonde (5% ABV, 15 IBU) was brewed with flaked wheat and Styrian Golding hops.
“I didn’t bring much,” Levis said. “I brought my pH meter, a little bit of flaked wheat, and some yeast nutrient and a little bit of yeast because he didn’t have anything. I think he’s going to use dry yeast, that’s what I told him to do because it’s so much simpler. It keeps everything a lot cleaner.”
Levis also noted that he was impressed with the small restaurant, Headquarters, that is right next door to the brewery.
“Then there’s the little restaurant, it’s like a food truck inside a room,” he said. “It has a permanent bathroom and everything. My aunt bought us lunch from that place and it was awesome. They’ve been working really hard to renovate these towns, get something going that keeps people there. They know their efforts are paying off because they saw the first population increase there in decades.”
Ultimately it was all about giving back to a place that Levis used to visit as a child, and one where he still has family living in the area.
“It was one of those things where I kind of gave back to my aunts’ community where they all grew up,” he said. “If I can help (Pete) get more organized with his business, get over the hump with his first brew, gain some knowledge, get some experience, get confident, he’s not relying on outside kegs. As they’re closing the loophole, especially, he needs to be able to start brewing his beer and have it on site and have it be good, as least as good as what he’s been serving. Everybody needs to make good beers.”
Colfax Ale Cellar owner/brewer Jim Stearns will continue to help Callahan West with its beers, and Levis said he may brew again out there when his cousin gets married in October. Overall, it is a start for the small brewery.
All of us in the Crew applaud any and all brewers who are still willing to lend a helping hand to their compatriots across the state, and keep the community of craft beer humming along in towns big and small.
Thanks to Ty for sharing this story with all of us.