The Year in Beer: 2022 saw a return to some normalcy amid new challenges

The events returned this year, and a few times, multiple Crew members actually got to attend. From October’s New Mexico Brew Fest, left to right, AmyO, Andrew, Stoutmeister, Franz Solo, and Luke. It was good to get back out there again!

The best-laid plans tend to come undone at the end of the year. Like this story, for instance, which should have run during the week, but ended up appearing here on a Saturday.

All (or at least most) of the Crew will have our picks for things like best beer, best event, and so on next week. This is a roundup of the biggest stories of the year in New Mexico craft beer, with lots of links to the original articles.

Here an event, there an event, everywhere an event

We will start with the biggest development of the year, which was the full-force return of events, a sign of a return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

It was not easy to get there, however. Two wintry events came back, but with some changes. First up was WinterBrew, which had to be held outdoors at The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing, as a large-scale indoor gatherings were still largely a no-no in January. It was fun for everyone that had booths out in the sun, less so for those consigned to the shade of the building.

The Stout Invitational returned, a month later than usual in March, with patrons again asked to sit outdoors. Luckily the Los Alamos weather cooperated, and for all the adjunct-filled stouts, La Cumbre prevailed by simply submitting Malpais Stout.

New events would soon pop up. Sidetrack successfully hosted the Alley Cask Festival in April. The Brewers and Distillers Cup, a combined soccer tournament and festival, was a hit later that month. Ex Novo brought its homage to all things lager, LagerHosen, down from Portland to The Corral for a mid-May extravaganza.

One of the best new events to grace our state in 2022.

ABQ Beer Week was able to return at the end of May for the first time since 2019.

Another new event, the Great New Mexico Beer Festival, took over Balloon Fiesta Park in June.

As summer ended, Marblefest returned to the downtown brewery taproom in August. After their spring festival was canceled due to the threat of wildfires, the folks in Los Alamos ascended Pajarito Mountain in September for Ullr Fest. October kicked off with the return of New Mexico Brew Fest to the state fairgrounds.

Many New Mexico breweries, some local beer lovers, and a couple of us in the Crew headed back to Denver in October for the first in-person Great American Beer Festival since 2019. That month would close out with Tractor bringing back its popular Stranger Things Arcade Carnival to the Wells Park location.

The final event of the year successfully gambled on good weather in November, as the new Enchantment Festival was the third such fest to take over Balloon Fiesta Park.

Putting the fun in fundraisers

Canteen called this fundraiser one of their best events of the year.

While some of the big events had a charitable component, many smaller fundraisers were being held again at breweries. Some were back from past years, others were for new causes.

ReSource stood up for women in the industry by taking part in the nationwide Brave Noise collaboration in March. It was then the first brewery to step up for Ukraine, brewing a special stout that other breweries also carried. Canteen would pitch in later to help Ukraine.

The wildfires that devastated parts of New Mexico in the spring brought about several fundraisers, such as JUNO teaming up with Las Vegas-based Wanted Distillery, Second Street hosting a fundraiser, and La Cumbre creating a special IPA.

Canteen gave us the opportunity to combine a Simpsons reference with an old Saturday Night Live skit in the headline for a story about their Drink Beer, Save Turtles event in May. Canteen later called upon its fellow breweries to help raise funds when beertender Mike Thrall was diagnosed with cancer, the first of several events to help his family throughout the remainder of the year.

Hoppy Grandma, who became an Instagram star for her brewery trips with her granddaughter in 2021, her had legacy honored with a special fundraiser to create a scholarship for brewers. Ex Novo was a gracious host for this and other fundraisers throughout the year.

Life is a competition

The beer geeks spoke loud and clear, picking Gravity Bound as the IPA Challenge winner, much to the delight of co-owner Chris Frigon.

It was a pretty darn good year for New Mexico breweries, near and far, on the competition front.

The Crew hosted our 11th annual Stout Challenge, with Marble’s Cholo Smooth topping the field.

Rio Bravo was the lone medalist at the Best of Craft Beer Awards in March, but New Mexico breweries brought home five medals from the more prestigious World Beer Cup in May. Four local breweries then combined to win eight medals at the North American Beer Awards in June.

In terms of local competitions, the Great New Mexico Beer Festival was preceded by an all-local competition that saw a few places claim their first medals. The IPA Challenge had its ups and downs, but ultimately a beer geek favorite, Gravity Bound, took home its first title with the first hazy to win this long-standing competition.

Four New Mexico breweries then earned medals at GABF, with two winning in the same category for the first time.

People on the move

The year started with a farewell, of sorts, to a good friend to the Crew. Hard to believe we’re now two executive directors later.

The year began with a change at the top, as Leah Black concluded her tenure as the executive director of the New Mexico Brewers Guild, and Tess Vidalis soon took over. It would be a short run, however, as Vidalis resigned by year’s end, with Rowley Farmhouse Ales’ bar manager Ebbie Edmonston succeeding her. We will be kicking off 2023 with an interview with Edmonston as soon as schedules align.

After a couple years of things being fairly stable atop the brewhouses, we had quite a few head brewers on the move in 2022.

La Reforma brought former Blue Corn head brewer James Warren back to New Mexico. Sidetrack gave longtime local brewer Cordell Rincon his first (and overdue) shot at a top job. Ponderosa saw its award-winning brewer, Antonio Fernandez, depart to take over the program at Central New Mexico Community College.

Up in Santa Fe, Rowley Farmhouse Ales brought in Jennifer Treu to run the ship. Hidden Mountain had a reunion with its former assistant brewer, Andy Lane, who now takes the top spot.

There were numerous other brewery staff changes that we did not get to in 2022, and will have to catch up on in 2023.

Openings and closings

One of the most unique new concepts for a brewery opened in the late fall.

Stop us if you read this several times already, but after a couple years of relative inactivity, there was some movement on new breweries opening, mainly at the end of the year.

High and Dry opened a new sister concept, Public House, that was more wine-focused for the Nob Hill crowd in September.

Then came a mini-surge of new places, some in unusual spots, or with new concepts. Vision City Brewstillery opened in an indoor soccer arena, but as its very name suggests, a future production facility in Rio Rancho is in the works.

Sunday Service Motor Company combined a brewery with a coffee shop and a motorcycle repair shop down on Second Street. Echoes Brewery looked to revitalize a dormant stretch of Gold Street downtown. Unhinged Brewing became the first brewery open south of I-40 and west of the Rio Grande when it opened on 98th Street in December.

Outside of Albuquerque, a lifelong resident took his dream south to Socorro as Box Canyon Brewing was set to open before the year ended. And, it did just that, opening this past Friday.

While the openings were celebrated, it was not all good news. Second Street Brewery had to say good-bye to its original location in April, but was at least able to throw one heck of a farewell party.

Toltec Brewing ended its four-year run on the Westside, but Bosque Brewing kept the beer flowing by later taking over the location and turning it into a taproom with a secondary brewhouse, a much-needed development for the sprawling Bosque empire.

In one of the more unusual stories, Turquoise Trail Brewing publicly announced it was shutting down, but not for good. The brewery hopes to find a new location in a less crime-ridden part of town than East Central.

Outside of Albuquerque, The 377 Brewery’s taproom in Los Lunas closed, as did 1865 Brewing in Santa Rosa. Blü Dragonfly Brewing closed its Cimarron taproom, but still maintained its primary facility near the Raton Airport. On the positive side, Truth or Consequences Brewing took over the local bowling alley and rebranded it as Sidekixx, while Las Cruces’ Icebox Brewing added its third offsite taproom, bringing craft beer to nearby Hatch. We also had an ownership and name change, as Mosquero’s Callahan West Brewery became Dawson Rail Brewery.

And finally, stuff about us

The year was far from perfect for us, but we appreciated the support.

The Crew had an up-and-down year as well. We quietly celebrated our 10th anniversary in January. We got to finally brew a collaboration beer with Steel Bender, the Spring of Deception Maibock, which ended up being served at LagerHosen.

Life away from writing about beer was less fun, and we took a hiatus from June 23 to July 17. When we came back, we vowed not to work ourselves to the point of stressing out, and gradually found our collective rhythm again.

Finally, we have to thank everyone who donated to our GoFundMe for our trip to GABF. We needed just about every dollar of that with the increased prices for gas (Erin drove up), plane tickets (I flew up), Uber/Lyft rides (the price surges were brutal), and things like food and beer.

Oh, and did I mention that I got to attend the Rare Beer Festival in Denver? Yeah, a generous sales rep from Yakima Chief Hops gave us some comped tickets (normally $200 a pop) to attend this glorious offsite event during GABF week. That alone reinforced my love of the many great beers created with painstaking craft by the best in the business. The Revocation show later that night just capped a remarkable stay in Denver.

So I close this article with a thank you to everyone who has been reading our stories this year, and to all the brewery staff members we have interviewed and interacted with around the state. You’re all the reason we keep this silly not-for-profit website going.

Let’s all look forward to an even bigger and better year in 2023.


— Stoutmeister

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