Canteen and other local breweries step up to help one of their own fight cancer

Canteen beertender Mike Thrall and his family will be the beneficiaries of a special event Friday.

Mike Thrall has been a part of the local brewing scene for about as long as we can remember. Walk into a taproom, and there he would be, smiling from behind the bar, asking what you were drinking, and making sure you had a great time.

For the last few years, he has been a fixture at Canteen Brewhouse, usually behind the bar, sometimes roaming out among the tables, dropping off beer and food, sharing stories and laughs. While we often talk most about the beer itself around here, it is just as much the people like Mike who make our brewery experiences memorable. They are often the constants amid the ever-changing nature of the people in the industry.

A few weeks ago, we were informed that Mike had felt something off in his throat/neck area. He was not a smoker or anyone who engaged in risky behavior. He and his wife Marti had two little boys at home, after all. That made it all the more shocking when the doctor told Mike that he had cancer.

“Doctor just said bad luck,” Mike typed out on his phone, as he cannot talk right now following surgery to remove the tumor from his neck.

All told, Mike was still seemingly in good spirits when I met up with him and Canteen general manager Jamie Schwebach on the patio this week to talk about Friday’s Day Drinking for a Cause event. Ten other breweries will contribute one beer apiece, and all proceeds from the sales of those beers, plus all from Canteen’s High Plains Pils, will go to help Mike and his family. For any other Canteen beer, $1 per pint will also be donated. Baracutanga will take the stage from 6 to 9 p.m., and there will also be special raffles and prize giveaways from MST Adventures and Top Golf.

“We’re doing Day Drinking for a Cause, and the cause is Mike,” Schwebach said. “It’s pretty awesome. There’s 10 breweries who have donated sixtels. One-hundred percent of (the proceeds from) those beers are going to Mike and Marti.”

The official event poster also includes that QR code for direct donations.

In addition to the beers, raffles, and music, Monsoon Designs has donated new Day Drinking tank tops, as Jamie said Mike prefers those to regular T-shirts. He smiled and nodded at that.

“Mike is being very humble, and very strong through all of this,” Schwebach said. “He hates the fact we’re doing all of this, too. We’re trying to help as much as we can, because we know it’s going to be a long journey.

“It’s something so nice in the beer community, too, we’re all in the community trying to help. Mike has worked for Marble, Rio Bravo, Toltec. He’s such an integral part of our team here.”

The other participating breweries were all too happy to help. The idea of contributing beers came from a recent NM Brewers Guild social held at Canteen.

“We think this is going to bring a good crowd,” Schwebach said. “The fact that 10 breweries got together was great. Back when we had the Guild social here, Ali (Cattin) from Red Door and (Rob) Palmer from Palmer’s, both said they would donate a beer. And then, everybody (else) got together to do that.”

Those guest taps will include Marble’s Pink Lemonade Lager, Palmer’s Dunkel, Quarter Celtic’s Mor Buck IPA, Red Door’s West Coast IPA, Santa Fe’s Pepe Loco Mexican Lager, Sidetrack’s A Tribe Called Kolsch, Steel Bender’s COMPA Blue Corn Lager, and Tractor’s Blood Orange Cider.

While Friday is a single event, everyone at Canteen will continue to support Mike and his family with additional fundraisers throughout the rest of the year.

“This is going to be one of a few things (we do),” Schwebach said. “From our perspective, from our owners and management, is that we realize cancer isn’t just at the point of where you’re diagnosed or the start of treatment, it’s a long, long road. We’re going to try to do something once a month.”

For September, EnThrall IPA will make its debut in cans and on draft. Mike’s children seemed particularly amused at their father’s face appearing on the label.

A truly epic can label, isn’t it?

“Then, we’re still working out the details, but we’re hosting the Great Soup Off 2022,” Schwebach said. “Mike starts chemo and radiation this week, so he’s going to rest for a while, so we talked about how to stock his freezer and fridge with soup. We’re going to open up to 25 (cooks), we think, unless we can get more contenders. You have to bring a gallon-and-a-half of soup. The first 32 ounces are taken and put into a container so they can put it in their freezer. There are tickets where you get a sample soup, a bowl of soup, and a pint of beer, and you can vote for your favorite soup. We’re going to put it out to staff and all of our regulars. Then Mike gets all the soup, even though he hates soup. We’re trying to encourage him to like soup.”

That will take place in October, and that month will also see a special beer and barbecue dinner pairing with Hot Box BBQ on the patio during Balloon Fiesta, with proceeds from that going to the Thrall family.

Additional events are in the works for November and December, too.

Mike might be a little embarrassed by all the attention, but he wrote that he appreciated everyone stepping up to help.

“For someone with cancer, he’s really happy,” Schwebach said. “He has the best attitude. We make fun of him, but he’s amazing.”

Mike Thrall is amazing, indeed, and all of us in the Crew will be happy to show our support this Friday. We hope everyone else comes out, too, and buys a beer in his honor.


— Stoutmeister

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