Author Archive

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From left, Wes Burbank, Elissa Ritt, Tyler King, Jeffrey Kaplan, and John Rowley.

It’s 1 p.m. on an unseasonably warm Saturday at Rowley Farmhouse Ales (RFA). Before I could even ask my first interview question, a couple variants of Perennial Sump Imperial Coffee Stout are popped, poured into mini snifter glasses, and shared around the table.

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The best interviews are the ones where beers are present.

Just about the whole RFA crew is in attendance. Sitting around the long outdoor picnic-style table out on the patio are assistant brewer Tyler King, co-owner Elissa Ritt, chef Jeffrey Kaplan, head brewer Wes Burbank, brewmaster John Rowley, and of course, what would their gatherings be without friends? It’s a familiar scene with this crowd, a bottle share amongst buddies, furnished with beers just like Sump Coffee Stout, one of the many fruits of RFA’s keen networking labors with breweries from all over America. As it is, it’s quite unlikely to find another brewery that does more out-of-state collaborations in New Mexico, and that’s not going to stop any time soon.

The day before, I let the RFA crew know I wanted to do the Look Back/Look Ahead story for 2018-19, and asked, “Who’s in?” Thankfully, everyone was obliged to join me for a chat.

2018 has been another successful year at the small gastro-brewpub tucked away just off of Cerrillos Road. One of the major highlights was the silver medal win at GABF (Great American Beer Festival) for their Berliner Weisse, Germophile.

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Yes, that’s the RFA crew way down there on the stage.

“For me, it just means we’re on the right track,” Burbank says.

King then adds, “It legitimized all of our long days, 24-hour weekends, and all the hard work getting this place up and running.”

“And, it’s nice to be recognized for all of our hard work,” Rowley finishes.

Bringing on Burbank as head brewer was a strong push for Team Rowley last year.

“He’s a fantastic brewer, brings a lot of talent to the table,” Rowley says.

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Head brewer Paul Mallory and assistant brewer Dominic Crandall toast to a successful year

In 2018, Blue Corn Brewery seemed like quite the dark horse when it won the New Mexico IPA Challenge. To many, it was a win that seemed to come out of nowhere. Seemed, being the operative word. But, why wasn’t it thought of as a major contender?

Perhaps it’s because Blue Corn is mostly known as that cozy little neighborhood staple (at their Southside location), keeping things just safe enough for the steady stream of regulars to come back every week. Or, perhaps that statement is entirely wrong, and we’ve just forgotten that Blue Corn has been making great IPAs (and other beer styles) for years.

Blue Corn has always kept talent working on the brewhouse. Brewers like John Bullard (Bosque Brewing Co.) and James Warren (Santa Fe Brewing Co.), to name a couple Blue Corn alumni, are fine examples of that. Even Marble Brewery president/brewmaster Ted Rice started at Blue Corn as an assistant brewer back in the late 90s. But, it’s because Blue Corn has consistently stacked the deck, and it’s because these talented brewers are given room to grow, and carte blanche on the brewhouse, that they’re able to produce big, great, and award-winning beers on the regular, hitting all the hoppy high notes that the beer-geek-favorite breweries do. And, in turn, Blue Corn makes great brewers out of newcomers and incoming assistants.

Blue Corn regularly sees a changing of the guard, be it in management, or even with chefs and brewers. But, instead of having to overcome huge obstacles associated with change, this time, the transitions were smooth. And, with Paul Mallory still in charge of the tanks, BCBC seems to be hitting its stride and cruising into the new year with higher hopes than before.

In order to get the story on what Blue Corn Brewery’s been up to and what direction they’ll be headed in for 2019, I sat down with Paul and brand-new assistant brewer Dominic Crandall.

As mentioned, Blue Corn had a solid 2018, punctuated by a big win at the IPA Challenge.

“(This year) we had a little bit of increased popularity, increased sales,” Mallory said. “As far as making exciting beer styles, we tried our best.”

Winning the IPA Challenge is definitely the highlight of the year for Blue Corn, he said.

“I think it really had a lot of people re-visit Blue Corn,” Mallory said. “A lot of people have already made up their mind about Blue Corn, so it was nice to have people feel compelled to come in and try our beer once again.”

Back in July, Blue Corn beat out the competition with Gatekeeper IPA at the culmination of the Brewers Guild IPA Challenge at the brand-new Bosque North facility in Bernalillo.

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That’s one happy brewer with his trophy.

Riding the Gatekeeper wave, Blue Corn didn’t have too many low points in 2018. If it could in fact be called a low point, it might have been when assistant brewer Andy Lane moved on to Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. But, Mallory only calls it a personal low-point, as he quite enjoyed working with Lane.

“He and I felt like he had outgrown the space here, which I’m really proud that we were able to sort of push him out,” Mallory said. “I think he’s ready for bigger and better things. So it’s (still) a bit bittersweet to lose him.”

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Andy Lane (left) is now learning the ropes in distilling at Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery. Paul Mallory (right) is tall.

Together, Lane and Mallory worked on a lot of interesting beers and styles in 2018.

“For most of the beers I made for the first time, a lot of the one-off batches, I think I’d still like to tweak one or two things,” Mallory said. “But, generally I’m happy with them. But, then every once in a while I did feel like I hit it right on the head on the first try. Like with this beer.”

Mallory gestured to the Scotch Ale in front of me.

“I’m pretty excited about that one,” he said. “We almost treated it like a bock. We added a lot of Munich malt, so it almost has a bock flavor to it, and of course we added the caramel that makes the Scotch Ale a Scotch Ale. It was kind of a merging of two styles. And, that technique worked out pretty well.”

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An “interview pour” of the 2018 Scotch Ale.

Blue Corn also did a series of three different goses this year — Blueberry Gose, Pineapple Gose, and Pomegranate Gose.

“I thought they turned out well,” Mallory recalled. “We took a little lighter approach to the sourness, lighter on the salt to make them more drinkable. Those are beers I’m really trying to make for the customer. We notice they sell really well with fruit in there. I’m curious to see if we make them a little more tart next year, (if) they’ll sell faster or slower.”

Mallory’s kettle sours were among some of his favorite to make (and drink) this year.

“I also really liked the Oktoberfest,” he said. “I went on the lighter side with the color, kind of like a Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, which might even be more like a Dortmunder, something like that.”

I was fortunate enough to make it in for most of those beers, but I really wanted to talk about some of the stranger brewing trends and styles that he’d worked on. In line with the rest of the industry, this year, Blue Corn brewed a Brut IPA, a sort of champagne-meets-IPA, a style I’m still trying and failing to understand.

“I just did a little research,” he explained. “I found that people were using the enzyme on the hot side, which kind of left it with some residual sweetness. And, I’m glad I took that approach because it was dry, but not bone-dry. It’s all aroma. It kind of drinks more like a pale ale, and it’s nice and effervescent.”

Mallory explained that each new trending style is just a challenge to him. If there’s a new style, whatever it is, he simply wants to make a good, drinkable version of it.

Blue Corn also brewed a hazy IPA this year.

“We have one in the tank right now,” Mallory said. “It should be out soon. It will definitely be on the menu at the beer dinner.”

At the interview Mallory thinks it’s a bit young yet, but he’s happy with the direction it’s going in. For a while Mallory resisted brewing one, but in the end, it was the challenge of the brewing process that ultimately intrigued him to make one.

They’ll also be making their Apparition again this year, which is their white stout with coffee, cocoa nibs, and lactose. This should also be available at the Winter is Here beer dinner, scheduled for tonight at 6:30.

Blue Corn is still gaining a reputation for making great beer, but the brewery is already well-known in Santa Fe for its beer dinners. I asked Mallory how attendance was for 2018.

“I think they did well,” he said. “I think we had better attendance than last year. There seems to be a lot of excitement for them. We have a great time with them.”

Speaking of which …

Blue Corn is hosting its Winter is Here Beer Dinner. Hope you got your tickets! Here’s all the info you need if you’re headed out to join us tonight (even Stoutmeister will be there).

Winter is Here

Please leave your Direwolves at home.

One major development that occurred this year that bears mentioning is the hiring of new assistant brewer Dominic Crandall back in the fall. Mallory headed to the back to finish up part of the brew they’ve been working on sporadically throughout the interview so we could talk to his new assistant.

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DSBC: Where are you from Dominic?

Crandall: Originally, Southern California.

DSBC: Paul was from California. Did you know him? California must have been a tiny place, you know, like Santa Fe.

Crandall: (Laughs) I didn’t. It’s kind of a weird story coming in here. We’re both from California, have the same birthday, same goals, our girlfriends are very similar.

DSBC: You’re both very tall.

Crandall: Same size clothes. (Laughs) I was in California until about ’15, then moved to Los Alamos, graduated high school there. Right after that, moved to Kansas, learned how to machine weld, had two kids. Came back to New Mexico and started working for Bathtub Row Brewery in Los Alamos.

DSBC: Where did you start brewing? Were you a homebrewer?

Crandall: So, I started homebrewing, but I didn’t love it by any means. I actually started at Bathtub Row as a bartender. Then the brewer just got up and left. So they kind of just pushed me back there in the brewery. I wasn’t too excited about it at first, but then I started learning how it was really done, and it was completely different than a homebrew scale. And, I just fell in love with it. There’s the repetition of the brewing and the science behind it, which I love. And, now that I’m here, and it’s a little more professional, it’s even better.

DSBC: What are your favorite beers to brew, or how about drink?

Crandall: Now that I’ve been brewing with Paul, my spectrum has definitely changed. Favorite beers to drink though? Simple wheats, then probably the browns. Definitely the wheat and the complexity. People say, oh, this is light and easy drinking, but there’s a lot of stuff behind it.

DSBC: And, favorite ones to brew?

Crandall: Probably the IPAs, more technical, lot of hops. And, probably these new seasonals we’ve done, (like) the Scotch.

DSBC: What’s been your favorite beer you’ve worked on while you’ve been here?

Crandall: Probably our Black Rye (Black By Popular Demand), because we did pull all the aged-water out of the barrels and use it in the mash.

DSBC: What’s the biggest thing you hope to learn at Blue Corn and from Paul?

Crandall: I struggle with repetition, creating a good schedule, so that’s something I want to see myself get better at. But, in the long run, I would like to become a head brewer and/or start my own brewery. That’s like the big dream.

* * * * *

When Mallory returned, I asked him if he could sum up the year for us. He paused for a moment and then said, “We have a new management team, a great new chef, Chef Josh Ortiz, and I think we’re hitting our stride in the brewery. I think people are starting to notice. We’re all just excited to be in a rhythm here.”

Things are looking bright for Blue Corn as the staff heads into 2019. They’re going to keep their beer dinners going strong. In the immediate future, Mallory said they’ll be doing some bigger beers. On the docket will be … drum roll please … an imperial stout and a barleywine. They’ll be aging some more sours, not kettle sours this time around, but aged sours in the copper tanks (up front). For those, they’ll be experimenting with more Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces.

Blue Corn is also aiming to do more collaborations in 2019.

“We did a few this last year, but not as many as I typically do, so I think we’re going to ramp that up a bit more,” Mallory said.

They are also in the market for more tap handles in Albuquerque.

As far out as this summer, they’ll aim to do more goses due to their popularity. And, for similar reasons, they’ll also be working on Mexican Lagers, both amber and light. So be sure to look for those as they come out.

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Sometimes we spot brewers out in the wild.

On a personal level, Mallory said he is looking forward to do more of the brewers’ gatherings such as the P.O.E.T.S. (Piss Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday) meetings, which are once-a-month opportunities for the Santa Fe beer and distilling industry members to get together to hang out, talk shop, and of course, drink beer. He’ll be doing more bike brewery crawls with friends. And, Mallory said he will definitely be adding onto his Santa Fe home and working on his shed as the weather improves, something he takes a lot of pride in.

When Stan Hieronymus spoke at the technical conference in Albuquerque, he said a few things about hops and brewing IPAs that stuck with Mallory.

“I pretty much do only bittering hops and knockout hops,” Mallory said. “I don’t do any 5-, 15-, 30-minute hop additions. And, I also boil at a lower volume and then top up with cold water so I’m putting all my ‘into boil’ hops at, I don’t know, 185-188 degrees. So I do that with all my IPAs, pale ales, all my hoppy beers.”

Those tips came before the IPA Challenge.

2018 was a great year to reaffirm that Blue Corn is still headed in the right direction. You should make 2019 your year to get to know them better, or get reacquainted with them. If you haven’t made the trip out to the brewery, there’s no better time than now. Gatekeeper IPA is back on tap (while supplies last), and there are definitely some exciting brews flowing down the pipeline.

For me, Blue Corn Brewery is definitely one of my go-tos here in Santa Fe, as there’s always something new to try on the rapidly-rotating menu. And, if that doesn’t give you the beer-geek-goose-bumps, well, I don’t know how I can help anymore. One thing is for certain, after the IPA Challenge win, they should definitely be on Burqueños radars for next year’s competition.

To a great year of success for the brewery, and to what the future holds for Mallory and crew, cheers!

— Luke

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They shouldn’t let me hold the IPA Challenge trophy.

For more @nmdarksidebc info and #CraftBeer news, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro.

Winter is Here

If this isn’t the type of beer dinner that you would think we would be happy to present, you must be new around here.

It’s almost time for Blue Corn Brewery’s winter beer dinner! If you haven’t snagged your tickets yet, I’d get on that right away, as these things have a nasty habit of selling out like iheartradio concerts. On December 13, Blue Corn Brewery is bringing us a special pairing of wintry beers and the foods that love them, in a special event sure to live up to, well, every Blue Corn beer pairing dinner that’s preceded it.

I recently got a hold of Blue Corn head brewer Paul Mallory for a few words on his upcoming event.

DSBC: How did you and Chef Josh come up with the food and beer pairings?

Mallory: Chef Josh, (Manager) Michelle and I sat down and discussed ideas. I told Chef Josh what beers we had coming up and which beers I could brew to go with his menu. We often like to serve our seasonal beers for the dinners, so our guests can have something different each time they come for an event. We are pouring four beers that haven’t been brewed before, and many of them are malty and appropriate for the season and weather.

(more…)

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Dave Merkin, workin’ it. Hails!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, if you’re a Target shopper, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas way back in September. Well, now that Turkey month is basically over, and we’re sleighing full-speed toward Saturnalia, it’s time to get our holi-day-drinking priorities straight.

Let’s face it, either we did the shopping or we didn’t. And, whether we’ll be enjoying some well-earned end-of-the-year-relaxation, or we’ll be last-minute dashing through the snow through packed parking lots toward pre-picked-through aisles, you deserve a good, hearth-warming craft beer. It’s been a long year, am I right?

Let’s take a breath together. Ah, that’s the good stuff.

Maybe it’s your first time in New Mexico, or maybe you’re simply new to our blog and didn’t know, but every year, Santa Fe Brewing Company hosts the “12 Beers of Christmas,” a special event during which, from the 13th to the 24th of December, SFBC taps a fun, usually Christmas- or Winter-themed (typically one-off) special beer to celebrate the season in style.

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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.

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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