Box Canyon Brewing prepares to join booming Socorro craft beer scene

Owners David Chavez and Paula Sims in their almost-finished brewery. (All photos courtesy of Box Canyon Brewing)

Despite being just 70 miles from Albuquerque and sporting a college of its own, Socorro has previously struggled to establish its own craft brewing culture. We say previously because all of a sudden, things are taking off in this grand little town.

Box Canyon Brewing will become the second brewery in town, located within walking distance of the Capitol Bar and Brewery, and the future Baca House Brewing. After cycling through the likes of Socorro Springs Brewery, Twisted Chile Brewing, and Sourdough Mine in years past, at last it seems like Socorro is building a scene worthy of praise, and due a visit from its friends to the north.

I caught up with old friend David Chavez, whom most up here know from his multi-brewery-roaming open mic/karaoke show, The Draft Sessions, over the phone late last week to discuss his entry into the beer scene with Box Canyon.

“We’re just trying to start a small nano (brewery), very community focused, very music focused,” he said. “Our whole ethos is to be a good steward of our community. Our intention is to do a monthly beer benefit. We’ll brew a seasonal a month and a dollar from every pint will go to the senior center or to the animal shelter, places like that. We really want to focus on the music, because what attracted us to Socorro besides our family (ties), was the music and arts scene pre-pandemic was unbelievable. We want to create another space to listen to music.”

Yup, looks like a cozy space to us.

Box Canyon will take over the space at 110 Manzanares Ave, which is right next door to the aforementioned Capitol Bar and Brewery. Both are one block east of California Street, the main north-south road through Socorro, and right on the historic plaza. Box Canyon will be smaller than its neighbor, with about 1,700 square feet of space.

“The space is small, (but) that’s what we’re going for,” Chavez said. “We’re more about keeping it manageable, keeping it local and small. The taproom area is about 1,200 square feet. There’s a small corner stage that’s really cool. It was there when we took over the lease. We refinished it and we’re going to definitely use that. We hope to get a lot of roots music, solos, duos, trios, acoustic stuff.”

Chavez noted that when he was younger, he played in some punk and heavy metal bands, so Box Canyon will sometimes let groups from those genres take the stage, as well. No style of music will be boxed out, so to speak.

Expect a variety of musicians to occupy this stage.

As for the beer, Chavez said the plan is to start simple, and then branch out into the non-traditional styles as time goes along.

“Coming out of the gate we want to brew the usuals, because we want people to walk in and have something (familiar),” he said. “We’ll have a very light lager, we’ll have a red, we’ll have a West Coast-style IPA, a hazy IPA, and a stout. And then, seasonally, we’re kind of vacillating on what we’re going to do, because we don’t know when we’re allowed to (start to) brew. We’re still waiting on the state and city as well. We have on deck a cream ale. If we were going to open earlier, it would have been a horchata cream ale. We’re going to do a gose if we can get prickly pear, and then the stout we’re going to try to do a Russian imperial version. The stout is called under the Big Black Sun. If things move along at the pace (we hope), that will be the one that makes sense for winter.”

Chavez said he has been planning Box Canyon as far back as 2014. He was inspired not only by his time with The Draft Sessions, which gave him the opportunity to see the inner workings of multiple breweries, but from all the way back to his first times having craft beer before it was even called by that moniker.

“Years ago, over 30 years ago, my first experience with craft beer was the original Rio Bravo Restaurant and Brewery,” he said of the long-ago downtown Albuquerque brewpub. “I was the head server. I got to meet (head brewer) Brad Kraus and really grew a love for craft beer, so after that, I’d always go back to the breweries.”

These small fermenters will soon be full.

Chavez also worked with current La Cumbre director of brewing operations Daniel Jaramillo, first at Rio Bravo and then at Assets Grille, another brewpub from the 90s.

“I went to Assets years later, I was an assistant manager and GM,” Chavez said. “I got to learn more from Daniel. He was really coming into his own. From there, I ended up working for Red Door, I worked at Restoration Pizza for Bosque, and then before moving here I worked at High and Dry. I worked at Southwest Grape and Grain for a year and a half.”

Chavez did help out with the brewing, from time to time, at High and Dry and at Harmon Lane inside SWGG, but most of his experience has come from decades as a homebrewer. Both use smaller brewing systems, and Chavez he will be working off a 1-barrel brewhouse to start with at Box Canyon.

Still, it ultimately came down to the right location for Box Canyon to become a reality.

“And, the other thing is, we found the right place,” Chavez said. “We talked about this, my wife and I have been talking about it for three years. Pre-pandemic, we almost had a place, and then the deal feel through. In retrospect, we’re very thankful for that. Then this space opened up, and it was the right space, the right time. The landlords are awesome. Since I’ve been working the plan, we decided it was time to pull the trigger.”

The brewhouse is ready to be fired up.

Chavez does not have an exact opening date, as he is still waiting on the final licensing, but he hopes it will be before the end of the year.

“As far as the taproom area and all that stuff, we’re almost done with it,” he said. “As far as the brewing equipment, all of that is in place. The brewhouse is hooked up, the fermenters, tanks, those are there. I just need to hook up the glycol to those. I am waiting on cooperage, that’s been an ordeal. If we get the word we can open at the beginning of December, we can open within a week (of receiving the licensing).”

It looks like we will be making a trip south in the near future. Any local metal bands want to join us?

A big thanks to David, and his wife, Paula Sims, and an advance congrats on making their dream a reality.

Keep supporting local!

— Stoutmeister

One Comment Add yours

  1. Robin Howard says:

    This is awesome. Looking forward to trying out some different beers and performing music at your place.

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