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We know we can’t safely drink all of these in one day, but damn, are we tempted.

As the cold chill creeps across the windshields of our state, we Nuevo Mexicanos tend to head indoors, finally abandoning the patios we’ve held onto through the fall. Winter is finally here, and the eves of pumpkin beers and brut experiments are soon behind us, and only the memories of wet-hop and Oktoberfest beers remain, buried deep down on our Untappd lists.

As winter closes its icy talons around our hearts, something changes. A lever inside is pulled. A switch of self-preservation is flipped for many of us beer drinkers. Now bundled in our warmest coats and our touchscreen-friendly gloves, we belly up to the bar to navigate a new menu of wonderful winter offerings of delicious dark-ish delights. Gone from our minds (and even menus) are the liquid-sunlight lagers, fruit-basket bubblegum beers, and lawn-gnome-wrecking porch pounders. Instead, we find dark spots on our beer lists, voids, blackholes of boozy goodness during this, the darkest of daylight savings times.

Yes, Stout Season is upon us, and to some of us in the Crew, it’s beginning to look a lot like Festivus. Oh, my friends, Stout Season is a wonderful time of the year when we turn down the lights, curl up in front of the fire in our warmest plaid pajama banana hammocks, and get ready to Netflix-and-Chill with a snifter of Bourbon Barrel-Aged Tweak.

In celebration of the season, the Santa Fe kings of the collab, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, are bringing us lucky folks yet another edition of Blackest Friday, a hit parade of beer’s darkest and most doom-fully metal beer, with a cosmically colossal collection of big barrel-aged stouts.

On Black Friday, November 23, RFA will be tapping nearly 20 rare and barrel-aged stouts for all those who aren’t afraid of the dark. Such an event promises to test the mettle of even the most intrepid spelunker. It will pummel the palate, trounce the taste-buds, and just make our inner stout monsters sit up and chuckle a deep, bellowing and satisfied laugh. Mm-hm-hm-hm-hm-hm!

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Raise ’em high to celebrate the season!

In mid-October, in the mountains of northern New Mexico, a certain familiar sound can be heard through the little valley of Red River. It’s not the rustling of the wind through glimmering gold, fresh-changed aspens, nor the honking of the horns of people-packed caravans. It’s the chorus of clinking glasses and the raising of toasts. It’s the deep brass bellowing of an Oom-pah band that lets us know that Oktoberfest has once again returned, and has completely transformed this sleepy Alps-esque village into a one-of-a-kind experience that will keep you coming back for more, time and time again.

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The weather was decidedly warm for this year’s event.

Though it is worth the travel for the changing leaves alone, just a brief but beautiful stop along the Enchanted Circle, Red River is much more than that. And, beyond the picturesque views, the many outdoor activities, and the deer that will walk right up to you without batting an eye or flicking an ear, there’s beer, and plenty of it here.

In the past few years I’ve been attending the festival, there were only about five breweries and about the same count for wineries. This year, however, there were far more breweries than I’ve ever seen at this event, making it more of a brewfest than I was expecting. I don’t even believe that I got a final count.

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The sun did not deter the crowd.

Set in Brandonburg Park, as well as the Red River Conference Center just behind, there was much ground to cover, and I’m sure we didn’t make it to every brewery in attendance, so I apologize if a brewery was there and didn’t get a mention. There’s only so much time and so many sampler tickets, and so much room after a delicious brat with sauerkraut.

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A man cannot live off beer alone.

The Red River Oktoberfest veteran breweries included neighbors Comanche Creek and Enchanted Circle, plus Santa Fe Brewing. I didn’t see Taos Mesa, Eske’s, or Abbey Brewing, but I’m sure they were representing somewhere.

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One of the great partnerships of our state.

New to Red River’s Oktoberfest this year (to my knowledge) were The 377, Bombs Away Beer Co., Lost Hiker from Ruidoso, Palmer Brewery & Left Turn Distillery, Rio Bravo Brewing, Starr Brothers Brewing, and the new hometown heroes, Red River Brewing Company, plus my dark horse of the festival, Colfax Ale Cellar.

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Rio Bravo brought the beer and the merch.

While I had some great beers from many of the breweries (very few bad ones), my favorites were fun, exciting, in some cases surprising, and in some cases not surprising at all. My picks are as follows:

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What else can I say? “Dammit, Dave.” Ha!

Santa Fe Brewing’s Pepe Loco: To me, it’s a perfect recipe for a Mexican Lager. While it may seem somewhat out of season, it was perfectly refreshing in the unusually warm weather. I wouldn’t be surprised if that limited beer finds its way into cans some time soon.

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Comanche Creek served up a winner!

Comanche Creek brewed up an Oktoberfest that stood out for all the right reasons.

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Ginger Beer from The 377 FTW!

The 377 made the first Ginger Beer that I’ve ever really enjoyed. It reminded me of a Ginger Ale, and then I thought, wait … is the beer made after the soda, or is the soda made after the beer? Either way, wow! Excellent stuff! Cheers!

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Enchanted Circle closes out the festival with smiles.

Enchanted Circle is doing some great things with their beers these days, but they get my Gold Medal for best name: Glory Hole IPA. That’s all I’ll say about that.

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That’s one hefty pour of bronze medal-winning Lampshade Porter!

Starr Brothers brought their GABF bronze medal-winning, heavy-hitting Lampshade Porter, which was just a joy to drink. Luckily that’s on tap at their brewery, year-round, so head in anytime and rent that blockbuster hit.

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Red River Brewing head brewer Chris Calhoun raises a toast.

Special mentions go to Lost Hiker and Red River Brewing Company. I don’t think they make a bad beer between them, and certainly deserve a special trip to see them in their beautiful towns.

My “Best of the Fest” award goes to Colfax Ale Cellar, up in Raton. They had so many wonderful, interesting, and creative (yet perfectly executed) beers, on draft and in bottles.

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Brewmaster Jim Stearns stands beside his wife Karen Stearns and brewdog Pippen, as well as their excellent beer selection.

“The Red River Oktoberfest was our first time at that event,” said head brewer and owner Jim Stearns in a follow-up email. “We brewed three lagers specifically for that event. We sold very little. Unfortunately, we probably sold less than 10 percent of what breweries who were located outside sold, but we weren’t alone in that position along with Starr Bros, 377 and Rio Bravo Brewing Co.”

In my opinion, I think that’s because no one knew there was beer in the conference center. That kind of thing is tough to deal with as a former brewery event coordinator. The struggle is real. At least Colfax brought enough interesting beers to gain some new fans.

Maxwell Pils (5% ABV) — an international pilsner style, very mildly hopped

Fest Lager (4.6% ABV) — a Vienna-style amber lager, also very mildly hopped

Yülbock (5.25% ABV) — a rauchbier made with 20-percent beech-smoked malt, also mildly hopped

Karaiba (3.3% ABV) — a Berliner White ale, lightly sour, with essence of passion fruit and mango, no hops

In 22-ounce bottles:

Double Tipple (8.7% ABV) a blended double stout with a portion aged in rye whiskey barrels

Chicorica (8.3% ABV) — a strong golden ale brewed with trappist ale yeast

La Belle Otéro (6.5% ABV) — classic Wallonian saison ale, dry and peppery

Banks of Orkney (8.2% ABV) — a strong Scotch ale, light toffee and bread pudding

I have no hesitation in saying that they are a must visit on the road to or from Denver. Forget Colorado Springs or Pueblo and stop there instead for lunch and enjoy something that will surprise you. Colfax Ale Cellar should be on everyone’s radar this year and in the years to come.

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And one Double Tipple for the Dark Side, please!

The Colfax Ale Cellar taproom was recently closed due to inclement weather, as apparently winter has come early. For that, I blame the Starks, Target, and Kohls.

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Blue Corn head brewer Paul Mallory “Captains” to another great festival.

It was another great festival of beer and food in the mountains. I only wish folks had known there was a brew fest attached to the usual festivities. I believe it’s now my job to reach out to the organizers to get the word out. I was certainly surprised to find a whole group of new vendors/breweries in the conference center, in which there had never been before. But, if you missed them this time, or missed the festival this time around, there’s always next year and next time.

Until we meet again, Red River! For now, I will be counting the days until one of my favorite festivals rolls back through town. I should probably book my cabin now to be safe. To another unforgettable Oktoberfest in the mountains!

Prost!

— Luke

 

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For more #CraftBeer info, and @nmdarksidebc news, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro. Untappd: SantaFeLuke. My birthday is today (Thursday). You know what to do! I’m kidding.

This dirt lot on the corner of Alameda and San Pedro will be the future home of a new Santa Fe Brewing taproom.

By now, you’ve probably have already heard of Roy Solomon’s new Green Jeans-style project coming soon to the Northeast Heights in Albuquerque. If you haven’t caught the story, click on over to our friends at ABQ Business First for the details about the new shipping-container project called Tin Can Alley. They have the scoop on the restaurants and other establishments that will reside on the northeast corner of Alameda and San Pedro.

But, if you’re not bent on switching over, and because we’re the Dark Side Brew Crew, we’ve got a few more details on the beer side of things.

The story mentions that Santa Fe Brewing Company will open yet another taproom in this new Albuquerque location. But, how can that be, since they are maxed out with three existing off-site taprooms?

Friend to the industry and Crew, Brian K. BikeRider asked, on Facebook: “According to the report (…), a Santa Fe brewing taproom will be located at this new development. As most know, State law allows local brewers to have a tasting room at their brewery and three off-side taprooms. Right now, Santa Fe Brewing has three off-site taprooms: Green Jeans Farmery (Albuquerque), Eldorado (Santa Fe), and the Brakeroom (Santa Fe).

He continues, “This begs the question when this SFBC taproom opens at the new Tin Can Alley development in Albuquerque, which existing taproom is going away?”

Good question, Mr. BikeRider, good question.

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SFBC owner Brian Lock enjoying a beer after getting fully permitted for the new event space in 2016.

For answers, we decided to go straight to the source, Santa Fe Brewing owner Brian Lock. In an email, he replied, “Santa Fe Brewing Co. has applied for a Small Wine Grower License with AGD (Alcohol and Gaming Division) back in August and will be going in front of the BCC here in Santa Fe on October 30 for the license approval. Santa Fe Brewing Co. has been doing R&D for the past four months producing its own cider and provided the license is granted, then three additional taprooms will become available under that license. So my plan is not to close any existing taprooms, unless the approval does not go through, in which case I will have to make a decision.”

So, there you go. I think we got the answer we were looking for, for now. And, we’ll have to wait and see how things press out. Ha. And, bonus, we got to take a sneak peek into the future direction of Santa Fe Brewing! How do you like them apples?

Now, in case you didn’t grab the details from the other article, they’re aiming at doing much of the same as they had with Green Jeans Farmery with a lot more space to work with, this includes taking care of previous concerns, for example, doubling the parking. And, if you previously had trouble finding a seat on their rooftop patio at Green Jeans, there will be about 7,000 square feet of space with mountain views to enjoy SFBC’s latest creations paired with some international cuisine.

The new SFBC taproom will be around 4,500 square feet, but the plan is that the entire complex will be permitted, so you can take your beer and wander around with it like a Hawaiian shirt-wearing party guy in Vegas or New Orleans.

The new shipping container mega facility will be located on the corner of Alameda and San Pedro. They’re looking at a July opening, so it’s my guess/opinion that it’ll be another September opening for Solomon and company. (You know how things go with permitting/licensing in ABQ.)

To another fun location for families with adults to play in the ABQ area, and to Santa Fe Brewing Company’s future success, cheers!

— Luke

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Ballast Point tour and stuff.

For more #CraftBeer news, @nmdarksidebc info, and my beer ‘reviews,’ follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftbro!

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RFA at GABF, from left: Charlie Papazian, head brewer Wes Burbank, assistant brewer Tyler King, Kaley (the girl under the tree), Chef Jeffrey Kaplan, friend of the brewery Jim Steinbach, badass Elissa Ritt, and Hoss. (Photo courtesy of Rowley Farmhouse Ales)

Denver is a city of liquid dreams and harsh mornings. From all over the country, much of the beer industry flies or drives into town for the annual Great American Beer Festival, a week-long bout of beer tasting and bonding, followed by an immense awards ceremony, a culmination that becomes the true test of one’s mettle. And, there’s medals, too.

GABF 2018 has come and gone, and once again there hasn’t been so many disappointed bearded folk since Smaug moved into the Lonely Mountain. I kid, though. Honestly, win or lose, there are few such ginormous gatherings that bring the brewing industry together like this one.

At the end of the weekend, however, what you take away from GABF is truly up to you, well, and the 293 judges in attendance. Was it that woman you met? The memories you (may or may not have) made with your bearded and pink-booted buds? Or, was it that all-important recognition of taking home a medal in one of the 102 categories? 2,404 breweries entered 8,496 beers in the competition this year. Not all were going to return home victorious, but our state did as well we’ve done in the past with seven medal wins.

Stoutmeister, our fearless editor, whose own mettle rivals Thorin Oakenshield himself, already caught up with a few of our other medalists in the midst of the mile-high festival, there at the mountains of madness. But, now that we’ve all made it safely back to land of enchanted beers, and all of the Crew is accounted for, even me, with livers and fancy Bierstadt glassware intact, it was high time we got back to business as usual and catch up with the rest of our New Mexico winners to find out what it’s like to bring home those shiny coveted awards.

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My view of the awards ceremony.

Since Santa Fe is my hometown and turf, I caught up with silver medalist, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, a brewery that just celebrated its second year in the business.

In the small but friendly taproom, head brewer Wes Burbank and brewmaster John Rowley joined me for a sampling of one of their yet-untapped creations.

Though it’s a first GABF win for Rowley Farmhouse Ales, these guys are no strangers to beer competitions or medals. For Burbank, it’s his eighth GABF medal with a brewery, having worked with the likes of Backcountry, Crooked Stave, Dry Dock, and Left Hand to name a few, but this was his first fist bump from Papazian. For John, it’s certainly not his first GABF rodeo either, just the first medal he got to bring home with him. Yet, for their plentiful past experience, this GABF was special to both.

“I gotta say it feels pretty good,” Rowley said. “We were sitting there, waiting for our name to be called. All the breweries were there. You’re kind of getting disappointed because you’re not hearing your name, category after category. I was actually kind of looking at my phone at that point. Then, when I heard Germophile, I said, ‘Fuck yeah!’”

And, if it’s not currently under his pillow right now, I’ll eat my hat. I will eat my hat, sir!

“We had all of our (tasting) glasses on the floor,” Burbank said. “When I heard them say our beer, I accidentally kicked one of those little plastic glasses halfway across the hall!”

The RFA crew celebrated here and there with other breweries and beer friends while working three events that day at Hops and Pie, Falling Rock, and Goed Zuur. It wasn’t until after, that they really processed the win.

“When I was finally alone, after all the celebrating, I lost it,” Burbank said. “It all hit me, what we did, how hard we worked. I was overwhelmed. It was a great feeling.”

“By that point in the night we were pretty torched,” Rowley added.

As previously mentioned, Rowley had won competitions for his beers before but not quite like this. He had won a medal at the National Homebrew Competition, and many local awards.

“It’s not the same,” Rowley said. “This is such a greater magnitude. This is definitely another level.”

Homebrew competitions are still important. Homebrewing is where many of us start that journey towards brewery ownership and GABF awards. It has been that way for so many in our industry. Speaking of which, The Santa Fe Open homebrew competition is coming up soon.

“Go to santafeopen.org. It’s coming up the weekend of November 8, but you have to get your entries in now. There’s posters all over the place, in most of the breweries and Southwest Grape & Grain. If you want your beer to be evaluated by a reasonably good group of judges, and I know they’ll have some certified National Judges, this is your thing,” Rowley said.

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The Winner – Germophile. Image courtesy of head brewer Wes Burbank

Germophile won silver in the Berliner-style Weisse category. It had 115 entries.

“Berliner Weisse is a very simple style of beer,” Burbank said. “Which is why I couldn’t be more proud that we won with this one, because this beer is all about execution. Pretty much every Berliner Weisse is the same recipe with different tweaks here and there. It’s just a super wheat beer that’s soured. Ours is 50-percent wheat, 50-percent pilsner. It’s super easy.”

With sour beers there’s a lot of sliding on that quality and flavor scale, but it comes down to how the brewery controls that slide that makes the beer successful.

“I think our process is dialed in,” Rowley said.

“The only thing I really tweak with it is water profile, to see if I can make it just a little bit better,” Burbank added.

It was just the second batch of Germophile made by Rowley Farmhouse Ales, and Burbank’s first batch.

I asked the guys, out of all the beers they’d sent in to be judged at GABF, which beer would they want to win for?

Rowley said, “Actually I’m most happy with this beer winning. This beer is a beer we can make all the time. It’s a core offering. We sell it all the time, make it all the time. It hasn’t been a huge seller for us, but it’s steady. It moves.”

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As seen at GABF!

“This is one of the first times I can say there’s nothing I could have done better with this beer. For me, as a brewer, this is the best one for me, because it’s not about exotic ingredients or how many hops you can stuff into a keg. It’s a very simple beer, and it’s just down to execution,” Burbank said.

For next year, Rowley assured me they’re just going to keep on brewing, and brewing more Berliner Weisse, for sure.

I would like to congratulate the entire crew at Rowley Farmhouse Ales on their Silver Medal win and all of our other winners this year at the Great American Beer Festival. As always, I can’t wait to see how everyone does next year. To all the brewers in New Mexico making amazing beers, to continuing to challenge yourselves, your equipment, and our palates, we raise up the glassware!

Cheers!

— Luke

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For more #CraftBeer news and @nmdarksidebc stories, follow me on Twitter at SantaFeCraftBro. Untappd: SantaFeLuke

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From left, John Rowley, Wes Burbank, and Jeffrey Kaplan. Cheers to more years, gentlemen!

This Sunday, Rowley Farmhouse Ales (RFA) is throwing a huge party for their second anniversary, and I sat down with the guys to get the details on where they’ve been, what they’ve seen, and where they’re going.

Rowley Farmhouse Ales opened in 2016. In two years, they’ve experienced a few changes, pumped out a ton of different beer styles (not just farmhouse ales and sours), and solidified themselves as a great bistro for beer geeks in the Santa Fe area. In two years, they definitely had more highs than lows.

I asked the guys what their favorite thing about being open for two years was.

“That we’re still open!” co-owner and chef Jeffery Kaplan joked. “In two years, we’ve gotten some really awesome accolades and appreciation from the local community.”

One such accolade came from CraftBeer.com, naming Rowley Farmhouse Ales best beer bar in New Mexico for 2018. They also received a Local Hero Award for 2018 from Edible New Mexico for Best Gastropub.

Local Hero Award

RFA wins Best Gastropub 2018

“A lot of the local community has come back again and again,” Kaplan said. “(RFA) has turned into this local neighborhood spot that people are enjoying. That’s kind of been my favorite thing.”

Two years haven’t been without its choppy waters, but the Rowley crew have always been able to weather the storms. Who could forget the one time when the wind blew the big tent away from the patio area? Tent season was indeed over. And then, there was the Great Deluge of 2018. My mother and I actually got stuck at RFA for that event, and I’ll say, it is not a bad place to get caught in a storm.

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A packed house on a Monday night, taking pics of the storm.

Over the past two years, RFA has earned the respect of Santa Fe foodies by always trying out fresh ideas and keeping what works. It’s pretty simple. Every season they change their menus, keeping popular plates, and ditch the dishes that didn’t work out as well. They’ve also made tweaks to everything from the kitchen to the brewhouse. Some were larger tweaks than others, like the construction of a new patio covering to rearranging equipment in the brewhouse.

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That cover should not blow away in the wind.

“We just ran out of space,” co-owner and brewmaster John Rowley recalled. RFA reached a point where they had to move equipment outside. They got a trailer, which now houses everything they don’t use on a daily basis. Now they have space they need to bottle and move around.

Sitting on two years, the guys are pretty happy where they are.

“We brewed 250 barrels last year, which, for a brewery of our size, is a pretty good start,” Rowley said. “Yeah, we’re on the right track. I think our beer quality is good. We’re brewing the stuff we want to brew.”

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Age away, you beautiful beers.

I also talked to their new head brewer Wes Burbank about the immediate future of Rowley Farmhouse Ales. He’s very happy to have found a good home here in Santa Fe, and he’s pretty optimistic about Rowley’s future.

“We’ve got a solid foundation right now,” Burbank said. “I want to do what we’re doing, but more of it, and get it into more people’s hands, which we’ve already started doing. We’ve got quarterly drops in Denver, which might increase. There’s more of a market there for these types of beers. New Mexico is kind of still untapped for us. It’s a huge market (for RFA) to break into.”

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From barrel to glass.

“We’re trying to focus on our current markets, trying to grow those,” Rowley added. “We will have a lot bigger capacity next year with our 40-barrel foeders.”

Rowley will be getting the two foeders in about 12 weeks. With them, RFA will have two stock sour beers, souring all the time. And, with the size of their brewhouse (seven barrels), they can pull seven barrels out. They can put seven barrels of wort in. They can constantly be pulling solera. If you want to know what that means, take a look at this wiki article from our friends at Milk the Funk.

“Once filled, the foeders will never be empty again,” Burbank said. “Unless we move.”

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Take-home bottles and cans are great for RFA fans who don’t actually live in Santa Fe.

Party Down

Where: Rowley Farmhouse Ales

When: Sunday, noon to 7 p.m.

What: They’ll have seven hours of live music, including several solo artists, Shake Alert, and Nacha Mendez. There will also be a silk screener making custom shirts.

Why us beer geeks should go: RFA will be pouring tons of their rare barrel-aged beers from their backlog. About 19 of them, including Cerise Redux, Mixed-Dubbels Curling, the Ab Initios, a raspberry Oud Bruin, and the Framboisen, a special beer made for the event, as well as some other really cool barrel-aged goodies.

Additional: No cover charge. Plus, Wes said Slayer might show up. I’m hesitant to promise that, however.

*****

When Rowley Farmhouse Ales opened back in 2016, they only had one beer on tap made on their 1-barrel brewhouse. It wasn’t even quite ready, Rowley said. Today, they have a huge catalog of beers they’ve made that they can pull out anytime they want for a good time. Some of them have been aging down below in the barrel room for two years. To say they’ve come a long way is an understatement. But, they keep growing, and everything keeps getting better with age.

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After this toast with a certain imperial stout, things got blurry.

So, head over to Rowley Farmhouse Ales on Sunday and help them drink a few of their rare beers. Wish ‘em a happy birthday, and tell ‘em Luke sent you. Maybe don’t do that last one. To the whole crew at Rowley’s, we’re so glad to have you here in town. Thank you for your excellent hospitality and delicious food and beers. To your continued success and many more years in the business, cheers!

— Luke

Also on RFA’s plate:

NMDOG Meet & Greet and Fundraiser!

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Join us to meet adorable, adoptable NMDOGs today (Saturday) from 1-5 p.m.! As always through Sept. 30, $1 from every full pour from the Pulls for Pups handle will benefit NMDOG.

For more @nmdarksidebc info and #craftbeer news, follow me on Twitter at @SantaFeCraftBro. Untappd: SantaFeLuke

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In their finest bow ties, the Blue Corn boys heft the hardware

SANTA FE — It has now been a few weeks since Blue Corn Brewery brought home the New Mexico IPA Challenge trophy. With their busy late-summer schedules, and their transition to a new chef and menu, the staff just now got around to celebrating. Well, they did it in true Blue Corn fashion with another epic beer dinner to give Santa Fe a chance to cheer Blue Corn’s big win, as well as introduce us to the new man behind the menu.

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General manager Michelle Kyle introduces head chef Josh Ortiz.

Chef Ortiz had just moved across town from Rio Chama, one of Santa Fe Dining’s more upscale establishments, just a 5-minute stroll from the Plaza. It was there that he truly sharpened his knife as the sous chef. Before that, he worked under Kelly Rodgers at La Casa Sena, another fine downtown eatery.

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Baby arugula, fresh pomegranate, triple cream brie, avocado, basil vinaigrette, pine nuts, pomegranate balsamic reduction, all paired with Pomegranate Gose.

“We’re all really excited that (Ortiz) is here,” assistant brewer Andy Lane said. “His new dishes (on the updated menu) are amazing.”

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Shrimp Tempura, jumbo lump crab salad, crispy wonton chip, spicy mango chutney, micro cilantro, all paired with La Marcha Wedding Lager.

Across four courses, we really got to know what Ortiz brings to the table. From the arugula salad with fresh pomegranate, pine nuts, and brie, to the jumbo lump crab salad with shrimp tempura, to the duck confit with orange segments and orange glaze, and finally to the dessert course of dark chocolate custard with whipped cream mousse and macerated strawberries, we all got a thorough introduction to Ortiz’s chops.

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Duck confit, white bean summer succotash, roasted cipolini onions, orange segments, frisee, orange glaze, all paired with Gatekeeper IPA.

Having been to several of these beer dinners now, I thought that the food was much better in practice than it was on paper. I’ve seen arugula salads and duck confit dishes in a few multi-course prix fixe menus, but at Blue Corn that night, each course was so creatively crafted, balanced, and paired that each dish felt fresh and exciting. Each bite was a new trip down the rabbit hole, chaotic and uncertain of where you’ll land, but in a very good way. I regret that I didn’t take a look at the new and updated regular menu, but after stuffing myself with so much deliciousness, I couldn’t possibly think about more food for a few days. Can you blame me?

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Dark chocolate custard, graham cracker-hazelnut crust, whipped cream mousse, macerated strawberries, all paired with Oatmeal Stout.

That night in Santa Fe, Blue Corn brewers also hoisted up the IPA Challenge trophy for the second time in the brewery’s history. The first win came from John Bullard in 2013 with his Resurgence IPA. Blue Corn is still the only brewery to win this coveted trophy from outside the Albuquerque metro area. Last year, head brewer Paul Mallory wasn’t as pleased with how his IPA ultimately turned out.

“I wanted more from it,” he said.

This year, he and Lane really worked on getting the recipe to where they thought it should be.

I reached out to Mallory to get an idea as to what the IPA Challenge win means to him, to Blue Corn Brewery, as well as the New Mexico craft beer industry.

DSBC: What does winning the IPA Challenge mean to you, personally?

Mallory: Winning the IPA Challenge means a lot to me. It was a really great way to get people excited about trying our beer. It was really amazing to be able to celebrate with family, friends, co-workers, and customers as well.

DSBC: How does winning the IPA Challenge impact Blue Corn’s current production?

Mallory: We have had trouble keeping the Gatekeeper on tap since the win. We have all of our other beers we’re trying to keep up with at the moment, too. But, we will do our best to keep brewing the Gatekeeper. As long as people keep enjoying it, I’ll keep brewing it.

DSBC: When will it be available again?

Mallory: We currently have it on tap now. I hope it will be on for another week or so, but you never know how fast it will go.

DSBC: Plans for next year’s challenge?

Mallory: I haven’t thought about next year’s competition yet. I’m not sure if we’ll change it up or not.

DSBC: Why do you feel it’s important that we have competitions like this?

Mallory: I think competitions like this are great because they push brewers to be their best or most extreme, depending on the competition. In New Mexico, I really feel the competitions help build camaraderie as well. The NM Brewers Guild does a great job with that aspect of it.

DSBC: Lastly, what’s Blue Corn taking to GABF?

Mallory: We are taking the Gatekeeper IPA, Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout, End of the Trail Brown Ale, Barrel Aged Cosmic Darkness, and Pomegranate Gose to GABF this year.

Blue Corn Brewery will have a booth at the event.

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Cheers to more beer dinners!

I would personally like to thank all the staff at Blue Corn Brewery for their hard work and incredible hospitality. To your well-deserved victory, to your new chef, we raise ‘em up!

Cheers!

— Luke

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I don’t always drink fancy cocktails… But when I do, I do it in a Maiden shirt.

For more #craftbeer news, @nmdarksidebc info, and shameless Untappd check-ins follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro. Untappd: SantaFeLuke

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Photo courtesy of Santa Fe Brewing Co.

Santa Fe Brewing Company (SFBC) is celebrating a very big and important birthday. This year, New Mexico’s original craft brewery is celebrating its “Dirty 30,” and you’re invited! In honor of this amazing anniversary, SFBC is getting down with a whole week’s worth of events at the Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing from today (Tuesday) through Sunday. Not only that, nearly all of the events will be giving back to the community that has given the brewery so much, so you have every reason to be amped about this! They said amped in the 80s, right?

I recently reached out to owner Brian Lock to learn a little about where SFBC has been, what he’s seen in his time at the head of the company, and where they’re headed in the coming years.

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SFBC owner Brian Lock cuts the ribbon on many new projects in the works for SFBC

DSBC: Thirty years of Santa Fe Brewing. What sorts of changes have you seen the company go through?

Lock: During the last 30 years there has been so much evolution with the SFBC as a brand. From bottle conditioning back in 1988, to releasing cans in 2010, and just recently a complete can redesign, things here are constantly changing, which makes the job so fun and interesting. There is never a dull moment.

DSBC: What were some of the major highlights in 30 years?

Lock: Major highlights for me over the last 30 years — being the first brewery in the state of New Mexico to offer craft beer in a can, opening three offsite taprooms (Eldorado in 2011, ABQ Green Jeans in 2015, Brakeroom in 2018), and being the first brewery in the state to surpass 15,000 barrels. Lastly, moving from a micro to a regional brewery.

DSBC: What were some of your favorite moments, personally?

Lock: Favorite moments would be working festivals and talking to all the craft beer fans about beer and culture. Creating a beer culture in New Mexico and creating a brand that attracts a family-like vibe both for employees and for patrons.

DSBC: What was the funniest thing(s) that ever happened at the brewery?

Lock: I think the funniest story is the infamous Chicken Killer Barley Wine story. The name of the beer came from an event that happened out in Galisteo, NM, where Petey the miniature dachshund mauled over 30 chickens.

DSBC: What’s the original craft beer company of New Mexico currently focusing on?

Lock: We are focusing on being relevant in the craft beer space. It is so competitive these days that you have to be innovative, and always coming out with new offerings to keep the brand fresh and interesting, otherwise you will be forgotten about.

DSBC: We know about the (main brewery) taproom is currently being built. But, with your 30th anniversary in mind, what do you think the next 30 years look like for SFBC?

Lock: Yes, new taproom is the focus along with a very large beer garden. It’s hard to speculate about the next 30 years, but for the next five years I see a new brewhouse in SFBC’s future, and some other exciting products to add to our portfolio.

30th Anniversary Events

  • Today (Tuesday): Steel Pulse & Tribal Seeds will be live at The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing with rad special guests Iya Terra. Ages 21+. Tickets are $28 in advance, $33 day of show (including all service charges). 6–10 p.m.
  • Wednesday: 30th Bash — Chicken Killer 2.0 Release Party. Party hard with the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society! They’ll will be at SFBC to host an onsite pet adoption from noon to 3 p.m. 15 percent of the beer sales from this event will be donated to the shelter. There will be food trucks as well as live music by the, like, totally gnarly cover band Chango. Free admission 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Thundercats hooooo!
  • Thursday: 30th Bash — Beer Dinner with Pig and Fig. To celebrate 30 years in the biz, SFBC is teaming up with Pig + Fig Cafe for what will prove to be an unforgettable beer and food pairing dinner. The meal includes six righteous courses prepared by award-winning, world-renowned chef Laura Crucet. The dinner will take place in SFBC’s packaging hall. Santa Fe Brewing’s bad-to-the-bone brewmaster Bert Boyce will host the evening’s festivities. According to SFBC: “The dinner will be paired with a wide variety of SFBC brews, including a few old favorites from the vault and some never before seen new releases.” Tickets are available through holdmyticket.com. $5 from every ticket sold will be donated to Feeding Santa Fe, Inc. 5-8 p.m.
  • Friday: 30th Bash — “Santa Feighty-Eight” Party. SFBC is going Back to the Future with a celebration worthy of a 30th anniversary. Because the brewery was ‘born in the 80s,’ the staff is hosting an 80s-themed birthday bash with karaoke, a costume contest, beer specials, and food trucks. So get out your best denim jackets and neon spandex and don’t forget to Aqua Net that do! 15 percent of the proceeds from the event will go to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association: New Mexico Chapter. 7-10 p.m.
  • Saturday: 30th Bash — Brews and Body Art. SFBC is hosting a totally bodacious live body art competition with Rock Your Body Face and Body Art. In front of a live audience, body artists will battle each other with live canvasses, and the audiences will vote for their favorites with wicked cash prizes on the line. For the occasion, SFBC is releasing Merkin’s brand-new “Pepe Loco” Mexican Lager (their newest creation in the Ever-Changing series). DJ Orign and DJ Kota will provide the jams. You can bet it’ll be turned up to the max! 15 percent of the sales during this event will be donated to ARTsmart New Mexico. For more information go to: info@rockyourbodyfaba.com. 3-10 p.m.
  • Sunday: 30th Bash — “Hair of the Dog” Beer Olympics. And, the word of the day is “Hangover.” Ahhh! If you’ve still got any fight left in you after a week full of fun beer events, SFBC is closing out the festivities with a “bloody beer bar,” Brass Monkey (an old favorite) small-batch release, and food trucks featuring brunch items to help with your inevitable yet awesome week-of-beer hangover. If that’s not enough for you, you can participate in the 2018 “SFBC Beer Olympics!” Or, if you’re like us in the Crew, will be happy to watch from the side, through very dark sunglasses, Brass Monkey-in-hand. 15 percent of the beer sales from this event will benefit the Adaptive Sports Program New Mexico. Noon-5 p.m.

“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits eighty-eight miles an hour, you’re going to see some serious shit.” — Doc Brown

To many more years of great beer and great times!

Cheers!

— Luke

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Luke – SFBC Oktoberfiesta Circa 2014

For more #craftbeer news and @nmdarksidebc info, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro. Untappd: SantaFeLuke.

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Rich Headley, and his epic goatee, pours us a cold one.

Back in June, even we were feeling the sweltering heat all the way up here in Santa Fe, it was hard to escape the slow simmer of city life even in the Sangres. And, when it gets too hot in the city, us Santa Feans just gotta get out of town. Well, one Wednesday, I did just that. I headed down Highway 14, passing Tumbleroot’s new brewing/distilling/taproom on my left, and Santa Fe Brewing Company’s main complex on my right.

And, vowing not to pick up any hitchhikers, as requested by the signs preceding the state pen, that is, unless they showed the right amount of leg — with my windows rolled down, Iron Maiden screaming across the Bluetooth, I breezed down the two-lane road with a cool sense of freedom. I was getting out of town, and loving the gorgeous, greenish landscape that sprawled out before me.

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Dat vista, tho.

Before I knew it, and I truly mean that, I was there, missing the turn. It was exactly across the road from the Shell Station and Lone Butte General Store. How had I gotten here in 17 minutes from the middle of town? When I’d lived in Albuquerque, last year, it was 30 minutes to anywhere from my corner of the grid. But, here I was at 3810 State Highway 14 N, the exact location of Beer Creek Brewing Company. (For the reader who keeps calling me out on not giving exact addresses. You are not forgotten, ma’am.) (more…)

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That’s one sexy lineup, Second Street.

Since Second Street opened a third location on Rufina Street in 2017, their second brewing facility has acted as a testing-ground for the Rufina location flagship beers and what would be future Second Street can offerings. Back when I spoke with President/Brewmaster Rod Tweet for the Look Back/Look Ahead Series article for 2017-18, they were looking at releasing cans during the second quarter of 2018.

Well, here we are somewhere in the middle of the third, but, as promised, Second Street is currently labeling their cans and shipping them off to stores near you. That’s right, Second Street has cans at last! Again. Well, this time from their own canning line. And this time, for good. You might remember the short run with Mother Road Mobile Canning. Well, Second Street is doing its own thing now, and Dark Side’s got the scoop for you.

As La Cumbre, Marble, Santa Fe Brewing, Bosque, Canteen, Rio Bravo, etc., all well know, packaged goods are just another product on a shelf without a bold, eye-catching, and ultimately memorable design. The brewers work hard to put something excellent in cans and bottles that consumers can bring home from the store, but the brewery’s job is not finished there. The package has to hold its own against hundreds of other designs, especially to folks who don’t already know what they’re looking for, and indeed are judging a book by its cover. For example, Santa Fe Brewing and Marble have both majorly overhauled their packaging to ensure that what they put out there on the shelves would 1) stand out to the public in an ever-shrinking market, and 2) represent their brand to the fullest potential with a certain stylistic cohesiveness, so the consumer can not only return to what they know and love, but also be confident in trying another can or bottle from the same company. (more…)

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Recently I was attending a little meet-up of the Santa Fe brewers at Rowley Farmhouse Ales, and after many delicious beer samples from the local brewers, as well as some recent RFA collabs, RFA let me in on a little secret. Rowley Farmhouse Ales and recent IPA Challenge winner, Blue Corn Brewery, had a collaboration in the works. Seeing as there had never been a collaboration between these two breweries before, I wanted to get the story out to the public as soon as I could. During a very busy weekend, I caught up with both brewers to find out what exactly was going down in my town.

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RFA head brewer Wes Burbank at a recent collaboration with Pipeworks Brewing Company in Chicago.

First up, I met with Wes Burbank, the head brewer at Rowley Farmhouse Ales.

DSBC: I heard you guys are doing a collaboration with Blue Corn soon. Does Rowley Farmhouse Ales (RFA) have an official statement?

Burbank: Official Statement from RFA — Barleywine is dead, long live the new life, Pilsner! #PiL

DSBC: You guys are the kings of the collab over there at RFA. In one aspect or another RFA has been involved in at least six completed collaborations this year with many in the works. What do you feel collaborations bring to breweries and to the beer drinkers?

Burbank: Collabs are great because you get to see how other people brew on different systems. I’ve learned so much this way. It’s really great to be able to exchange little tips and tricks of the trade on brew days to make all our lives easier. There are lots of little things that pop up and you can say, “Oh, I have a clever trick for this!” I think specifically for us at RFA, we just think it’s fun, and we have the ability to do it. We don’t have a lot of core beers, and we love being able to brew new things when the (creative) spark hits. I think it’s great for the beer drinkers, because we’ll usually try stuff that we might not otherwise, either by combining things our breweries are known for, or just doing something crazy. I think it builds a sense of community, not just within the participating breweries, but sometimes with the consumers as well.

DSBC: Whose idea was the collaboration on this one? How’d it come about? Was it from the meeting?

Burbank: I’m not sure exactly where this originated, to be honest. We have been talking about doing one for a while, but usually it’s one of those several-beers-deep situations where it’s, “We should totally do a collab!” And, we finally found some time in our schedules to make it happen when we met for the first POETS (Piss Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday) meeting. We are lucky at RFA to have a great Mayhem Coordinator (the fantastic Elissa Ritt), and she actually will follow up with this type of thing, which I think is a large part of why we do so many collabs.

DSBC: What are you looking forward to most about this collaboration?

Burbank: There are two things that really excite me about this. The first is we are going to do two versions of this beer — one traditionally at Blue Corn, then followed up by the same recipe at our place with our house culture, so with some added funk. It’ll be exciting to showcase both beers side-by-side!

The second thing I’m excited about is brewing with Paul (Mallory) and Andy (Lane). They both have been great to me since I moved here a couple months ago from Colorado, so I’m excited to work with them. I’ve recently been trying to get the Santa Fe brewing community together once a month to hang out and discuss beer. We just recently had our first get-together and I think it was a huge success. That actually started with Paul and I drinking on the patio at RFA, and we both thought it would be great for everyone to have a place each month where we can exchange ideas, talk shop, or just showcase our new beers. We brewers are a busy bunch, so having a planned time allows us the chance to schedule some time out to see what we’re all up to around town.

* * * * *

I also was able to get a statement from 2018 IPA Challenge winner, head brewer of Blue Corn Brewery, and all around good guy, Paul Mallory.

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Paul Mallory hoisting up the hardware at the 2018 IPA Challenge!

“I feel excited to be doing a collaboration with another brewery in Santa Fe,” Paul said. “I also am eager to see how things turn out, considering we’re doing something a little different in regards to collaboration.

“What inspired the collaboration was just running into John (Rowley) at his spot. We have both always enjoyed doing collaborations with other breweries. We got to talking and came up with a game plan.

“We are doing two different brews, one at Blue Corn, the other at Rowley. It’ll be the same malt bill, but we’ll pitch different cultures in each one. At Blue Corn we’ll be pitching a traditional Hefeweizen yeast, while at Rowley, they’ll be pitching their mixed house culture. It should make for two very different beers.”

When asked if Blue Corn will consider doing more collaborations in the future, Paul had this to say: “We are always looking for ways to make things more interesting for us as brewers, and for our customers. We enjoy doing collaborations with other breweries and local suppliers.”

* * * * *

Two Bavarian Hefeweizens from two different breweries — one thing’s for sure, whatever they do with them, whether it’s the more traditional handling or taking a bit of a more funkadelic approach, you can bet these beers will be well-brewed and delicious. These collaborations are good for our beer community, because we ARE a community. In times like these we have to remember that we’ve really got only one big enemy, and they have Super Bowl commercials and brewery-buying power. Through these collaborations we’re not so much worried about shelf space and sales figures. Instead, we declare that dilly dilly ain’t our dilly, yo. We’re one nation under a groove, gettin’ down just for the funk of it, and making good and interesting beer is all we need to focus on (from the beer-making side of things). To the independent craft beer community, we raise ‘em up!

Cheers!

— Luke

Also on tap for Rowley Farmhouse Ales:

Wednesday: In collaboration with metal band Veil of Maya, RFA is pouring their Ale of Maya at Anodyne.

“Ale of Maya is a double IPA brewed with Veil of Maya for the Summer Slaughter show on Weds 8/15 at the Sunshine Theater. Our friends at Anodyne are pouring the beer for us. It’ll be on tap Wednesday! Maybe you’ll see myself and some of the band there after the show having a couple. Ale of Maya is a West-Coast style DIPA, with lots of citrus notes. 9%ABV, and 66.6 IBU’s. \m/”  ~Wes Burbank

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Thursday: Join Rowley Farmhouse Ales at Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery for American Funk. They’ll be pouring Greyscale and Kaffeeklatsch alongside Tumbleroot’s Gose and brand new Sour Red! Get four 5-ounce pours for $13 and enjoy live music from Earle Poole & the Girls, and Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers! I’ll be there for the whole funk and nothing but the funk!

American Funk

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I would like to thank my mother. And Oprah. And the Crew. And Chuck Norris. And Pete! No one like you, but you still fly! This one’s for the ladies! Fine… You can have it back, Paul.

Follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro for Untappd Snaps and #DarkSideBrewCrew Shenanigans. Also, follow @lostgramsofluke on IG if you’re so inclined. Quality not assured.