Hidden Mountain continues Blue Corn’s brewing traditions in Santa Fe

Hidden Mountain Brewing’s bar area, which is a great place to watch sports and drink craft beers

In what is probably one of the last of the Look Back/Look Ahead entries for the season (I’ve really dragged out my articles due to unending winter illnesses), I sat down with head brewer Andy Lane and assistant brewer Luke Macias of Hidden Mountain Brewing Company in Santa Fe. You may recognize Andy’s name, since he’s been in the business several years, but you surely know Luke’s name because he also writes for this esteemed blog. In late 2022, he started working at Hidden Mountain, and to avoid even a hint of impropriety, we all agreed that I should take this one and avoid the weirdness of having Luke interview himself. (Now that I live in Santa Fe, it’s not at all a burden to make the short drive over to the brewery.)

Andy shows off some of Hidden Mountain’s brewing equipment
The entire brewing area isn’t much bigger than what’s seen here

The biggest recent changes have been to the staff. Andy, the current head brewer, came from Tumbleroot Brewing last spring, taking over for Paul Mallory. Andy had worked with Paul as an assistant several years earlier, so the transition was fairly easy. (See Luke’s interview with Andy for more details.)

Luke looks comfortable in the brewhouse

Luke joined Hidden Mountain last December. He had known Andy personally for quite some time, and his previous job at a bank was wearing on him, so he decided to follow his passion and get into the beer-making business. Since Andy was overwhelmed trying to do everything in the brewhouse by himself, he was very happy to have the help. As Andy said, he was eager to “find someone that’s really passionate about it and is a right fit for the place. It’s a very intimate work setting.”

Luke had been thinking about making a change for a while.

“It was more scary to stay at my job than it was to take the leap and do something that I could just throw my creativity at, get my hands dirty, feel good about what I did after the day was over,” he explained.

Not being alone anymore has been helpful for Andy in subtle ways. He explained: “I think having to teach someone is the best way to really just solidify it in your brain. It really makes me feel way more comfortable in my ability to do things.” And, while he’s a fine brewer, having another person means there’s someone to bounce ideas off of.

One thing I learned in speaking with Andy and Luke is that a lot of people still don’t realize that Hidden Mountain is really Blue Corn Brewery version 2.0.

Blue Corn was one of the first craft breweries in New Mexico, opening its location near the plaza in 1991. In 1996, they expanded to their current south-side location near Santa Fe Place mall and moved brewing operations there. In a testimonial to their wisdom in buying the right equipment, it’s still in use today, 27 years later.

“We replace parts here and there as we need to, but not even that often,” said Luke.

Fast forward to 2020, and COVID took a toll on the business, like everyone else. Both locations closed, of course, and the original location never re-opened. It’s going to be leased to another restaurant instead (likely Boxcar, which is currently located in the Railyard area not far away).

During the shutdown, the owners of Blue Corn decided it was a good time to try something new and move away from their New Mexican-themed menu. BBQ was the new plan, and to really make a break, they decided to rename themselves to Hidden Mountain Brewing Co.

BBQ and beer sounds like a winning combination, but apparently it didn’t click with the community. In 2022, they switched the menu again, this time to a more traditional Mexican theme.

Throughout this turbulent period, the brewing didn’t change much. It’s stayed the same high quality. The frustrating thing for Andy and Luke is that they’re finding that they almost have to start anew, getting the word out about Hidden Mountain. With help from Hidden Mountain’s parent company, Santa Fe Dining, they’re slowly working on getting back to Blue Corn sales levels and awareness.

“We’re trying to get people in the door and not have to explain to everyone that, hey, we’re the old Blue Corn,” Andy said. He’s changed his approach recently, explaining “it’s the place that was over in the Blue Corn spot, but it’s not Blue Corn. We’re different.”

The standard house beers
The seasonal beers of the day

In keeping with the Mexican theme, they have added a few Mexican lagers to the standard beer menu. Other beers, such as the “Naranja Sanguinea” (orange wheat) and “El Monstruo” (barrel-aged oud bruin) seasonals available at the time of this article, have Spanish names. But, in keeping with the sports bar side of the house, they also named a recent beer “Halftime Helles.”

Relating to beer styles, they will continue to evolve with the times.

“Twenty years ago we were moving from malty IPAs. 10 years ago we were doing very piney IPAs. Now we’re moving towards more floral, fuity IPAs,” Luke said.

Andy said he is aware that trends can affect the success of the business.

“I think if you say hey, I made this really good stuff and then you stick with it for 10 years, no one cares anymore. If you want to stay relevant, you have to change with the times,” he said.

In that vein, one of the things he said he wants to try is a kettle sour.

A beer that they just brewed is a Czech pilsner. Luke explained that he wasn’t excited about it at first, but “we went out and bought a few, and I got the distinct hop characteristic. I really, really liked the idea.”

Another noteworthy beer that is coming soon is a Scotch ale, a collaboration with Beer Creek. That will probably be available in early April. After that, another seasonal IPA will be coming to the menu.

Hidden Mountain had to rely on some amount of package sales during COVID, but they have gotten away from that. Other than keg sales to restaurants and bars, they mostly sell in-house and in growlers and crowlers.

“Our business is a brewpub. We brew beer for people to drink at our pub,” Andy said.

Barrel aging some delicious brews

There is one exception.

“Every year we’re planning to basically brew a barrel-aged beer and bottle it. Usually that’s going to be around Black Friday,” Andy said.

Asked about how business has been, Andy said that things are finally recovering from COVID. Now, though, inflation is affecting the business along with everyone else. Even the cost of gas, which they use to fire their kettles and stoves, is an issue.

“We refuse to microwave your food,” said Luke with a laugh. They’re coping as best they can.

Events will continue to be important, including beer dinners and cask events. The next cask fest will be this Thursday, and will include special casks from six other area breweries. Visit the event’s website for more information about the fest.

As mentioned earlier, the brewing facilities have been around a long time and have proven their mettle. There are no plans (nor funds) to change anything there. One change that may be in the works is to expand the Hidden Mountain patio (which many people probably don’t even know exists) into the back parking lot area. There were no firm commitments about when it may happen, but if it does, it will allow them to host outdoor events and live music. As a dog owner, I’m always happy to hear about expanded patio seating!

I’d like to thank Andy and Luke for taking so much time out of their busy day to speak with me. If you’re reading this and missing Blue Corn, by all means, visit Hidden Mountain! And, if you’ve never been there, give it a try. The beers are top-notch as always, and the food has settled into a comfortable, tasty style.


— Reid

One Comment Add yours

  1. Nate says:

    It’s going to get hard to convince people to buy their bottled beers after the last one got infected. I had two bottles, and neither was drinkable after just 9 months of cellaring, and I know I’m not the only one. At $15/bottle, that’s not a mistake I plan on making again. I wish they would have spoken about it a little bit, because I’d like to support.

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