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This Friday, Blue Corn is hosting their second annual Cask Festival at the southside location, bringing together at least half of the operational breweries north of La Bajada hill. OK, Burqueños, that’s that big hill between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Blue Corn organized this special event with seven excellent breweries on the roster, including one brand-new, not-yet-open (as of the writing of this article) place, Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. Blue Corn has always been a great host for beer dinners. If you’ve read my articles, you’d already know it’s going to be an excellent way to spend your Friday night.

Why cask ales, you ask? Well, we all have mixed opinions about cask ales. Some of us enjoy them, some of us are indifferent. Some brewers don’t like to serve beer in them, but they’re a part of the industry, and some would argue it’s draught beer at its best. And, though the process has been around for ages, it’s not likely to go away any time soon, because it’s a part of beer history, and another interesting way to experience something we love.

With cask ales, something else is going on in the beer that makes it different and special, not just a foamy pour from a tap. You see, the active yeast used to carbonate the beer in these metal vessels continues to age the beer all the way until it has been tapped. As the beer ages and conditions, the CO2 created by the yeast will dissolve into the beer, smoothing out the flavors, blending as a painter does colors, and toning down the sharpness of the hops.

Oftentimes, and in a few of the cases below, brewers will add special ‘extras’ to these beers to give them a significant change in flavor profile, something they (as businesses) couldn’t do on a much larger scale, such as additions of fruit, extra dry-hops, honey, and so on. These flavors continue to condition with the beer, and give it more complexity than it had at the outset. Perhaps it loses something in the mouthfeel and in the warmer temperature, but it is still a fun way to test your palate with new flavors. Just imagine, for a minute, that if you could just cut straight through some of the high rocky peaks, you could discover the dense and beautiful vegetation at the bottom of the valley. And, there’s a history lesson in the process, if you really want to get into it. But, let that be your icebreaker at the event.

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Casks from the first Cask Festival at Blue Corn Brewery last year.

Blue Corn Brewery is no stranger to cask beers. As the title of the festival suggests, it’s not the first rodeo for the brewery. In fact, it’s not even the second. Blue Corn has held a few of these sorts of events in the past, and to great success. At one time, the brewery even used to release cask beers every Friday at the Draft Station in downtown Santa Fe. (Ah, the good ole’ days.) The best part of this event is that seven breweries are coming together on one night, to chill out, to laugh, to talk about everything from brewing process to mash paddle size … er, you know, brewer stuff. And, they’re totally accessible to you, the customers, if you’re not shy.

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Dave “Merkin,” head of R&D at Santa Fe Brewing Co., pours us a beer.

Go up to the guys with beards, glasses, or fruit-forward shirts. You’ll find them in the corners of the event — they’re the ones laughing the loudest, and having the most fun because they’re all buddies. They know how to enjoy these things, but, it’s not an exclusive club. These guys are friendly and will absolutely tell you about their favorite beer styles, favorite (other) breweries, favorite brewed beers, and so on. And, if you’re not feeling as chatty as I am after a couple beers, just ask them which brewery they brew for, and thank them for the hard work they do. Not all heroes wear capes, my friends.

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An appetizer from last year’s event.

Included in the price of these seven cask ales are seven appetizers of Blue Corn’s chef’s creation. In my experience, these bites have always been worth the price of admission, even without the beer.

Menu:

Blue Corn Brewery: Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Cherries

            -Black Cherry Mousse with Chocolate Shavings

Santa Fe Brewing Co.: 7K All Day IPA

            -Marinated Pork Taco with Pickled Onions, Lime Cabbage and Cilantro

Duel Brewing: Fiction Belgian IPA with French Oak and Kaffir Lime Leaves

            -Salmon Ceviche with Habanero and Mango

Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery: Dry Irish Stout with Honey

            -Traditional Irish Stew

Second Street Brewery: XX ESB dry-hopped with Chinook and EKG

            -Beer Battered Alaskan Cod with Malt Vinegar Crisps

Bathtub Row Brewing Coop: Hoppenheimer IPA with Lemondrop Hops

            -Apple-Lemon Mini Cupcake with Mint

Rowley Farmhouse Ales: Biere de Garde with Brettanomyces

            -Gorgonzola Grilled Cheese with Herbed Portobello

Blue Corn was gracious enough to host this event, and we have a good number of participating breweries, but one is so new, that they haven’t sold a single beer in public, to my knowledge. Friday night at Blue Corn Brewery will be your first guaranteed chance to try a beer from Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. I reached out to Jason Fitzpatrick, co-founder and manager of business operations, and asked him a few welcome-aboard questions.

DSBC: What does it mean to Tumbleroot to officially join the Santa Fe (as well as the whole New Mexico) beer scene?

Fitzpatrick: Joining the ranks of the talent brewers and operators in New Mexico is quite an honor. (Jason) Kirkman and I hatched the idea that was to become Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery two-and-a-half years ago, and the road was tough to get to this point. After many ups and downs throughout the process, we certainly have a greater appreciation for all of those who paved the way.

DSBC: What do you look forward to most about becoming part of this very vibrant scene? And, what are your hopes for your new establishment?

Fitzpatrick: We look forward to bringing something new and exciting to Santa Fe and New Mexico. We are inspired by bits and pieces of our experiences at taprooms, bars, restaurants, cocktail parties, family gatherings, concerts, and travels, and aim to bring all the best of those into one community-centric space. With a capacity for 400 people, our taproom can serve many different experiences at once. We hope that we have succeeded. We hope to become a second home for Santa Feans, and to inspire others to explore and connect with the community.

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Tumbleroot is here, as we saw with Jason Kirkman at Winterbrew 2018.

Why you should go?

For one thing, it’s always fun to taste a beer that’s exclusive to one event. It’s not something everyone can say they’ve had. And, it’s not something you’re likely to find again. The cask beers are usually very interesting, and certainly on the ‘extra’ end of the spectrum.

The food will be excellent and inspired, as it always is, because Blue Corn has a reputation to uphold for its beer dinners. I haven’t been let down yet.

Finally, this is a great opportunity to actually go up to and speak with brewers about what they do, how they make your beer, and what kind of beers they might be making next. Who knows? Your crazy suggestion might just end up in one of their fermenters and on the chalkboards. Or, as in my case, you might convince the brewer to brew something you once loved that’s no longer in the rotation.

The second annual Santa Fe Cask Fest is THIS Friday at 6:30 p.m. The cost of $30 per guest gets you a pour of each cask ale and seven appetizers, and a chance to shake the hand of most of the Santa Fe brewers. It’s a ticket with a built-in VIP pass, and you’re cordially invited. I look forward to seeing you there! To more beer beer events in Santa Fe, and a rapidly growing independent craft scene, we raise them up, cheers!

For reservations call 505-984-1800, or email manager@bluecornbrewery.com.
Address: 4056 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87507

— Luke

2017NMIPACround2-3

If you see me at the event, say, “Hey!” I promise to be on my most reasonable behavior.

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The fourth location will open today. (Courtesy of SFBC)

By now, we imagine that you have heard the news that Santa Fe Brewing Company is opening a third off-site taproom in downtown Santa Fe. With the announcements on social media and in the newspapers, the word has officially gotten out on the opening of their new little speakeasy. Believe me, the irony is not lost on me.

Well, this seemed the perfect opportunity for me to catch up with Santa Fe Brewing Co. (SFBC) and talk to them about their Look Back for 2017, and Look Ahead for 2018. Last week, I met with SFBC owner, Brian Lock, who gave me a tour of the still-unfinished taproom. There, he let me in on the history of the building, the vision he had for the speakeasy-like establishment, and exactly what you can expect to experience in this very cool space. We also chatted about their big accomplishments for the year, and their bigger plans they have for 2018 and beyond.

Beginning with a look back, I asked Lock what their major highlights were for the year.

“I think the biggest highlight for (2017) was our repackaging and redesign of all of our packages,” he said. “We decided we wanted to make the appearance of Santa Fe Brewing Company as uniform across the board as possible, and make it super easy for the consumer to identify which brands were ours.”

Lock said this arose from complaints from distributor partners and even confused consumers out there in the market. The new can designs are more solid, yet impactful, and now, each bears the Zia symbol, representing the state flag.

SFBC Can Lineup

Old brewery, new can designs.

In addition to the new designs, a big change this year was the release of Happy Camper, 7K IPA, and Freestyle Pilsner in both 16-ounce tallboys and 12-packs.

One of the goals for 2017 was staying relevant in the craft beer scene.

“Because it’s so crowded and there’s so much competition now, the only way to really set yourselves apart and stay relevant with your consumer is by coming up with innovative products, coming out with new and exciting beers,” Lock said.

For SFBC, 7K was the big objective in 2017. They needed an IPA that was current with the times. When Happy Camper was released in 2010, it was considered a pretty hoppy, but balanced beer by the craft drinking public. In the last eight years, however, tastes have certainly evolved in the direction of the West Coast style, as far as IPAs go. For Santa Fe Brewing, 7K was a good benchmark accomplishment, in my opinion, because even though many around are now brewing the hazy New-England style IPAs, I don’t believe these types of beers are a destination, but a stop (albeit delicious stop) along the way. Personally, I will never not want a good, hoppy beer leaning towards the piney, citrusy, or brightly floral. There, I said it.

7K has been very successful for SFBC this year.

“Right now, we’re on course to have 7K surpass Happy Camper in volume by May of this year,” Lock said.

On the new beer front, SFBC released Lust Garden, a dark lager with notes of chocolate and a healthy hint of raspberries.

“We really tried to focus on styles of beer that just didn’t exist out there, something that’s really unique that nobody else is really doing,” Lock said. “I’ve never seen a Dark Lager with an aseptic, organic raspberry puree.”

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It’s a dark lager with a lot of flavor.

Just recently, at the beginning of March, SFBC released the brand new Twisted Root, a blonde ale with ginger and lemongrass, yet another turn in the evolution of this brewery.

Twisted Root

Photo courtesy of Santa Fe Brewing Co.

For 2018, SFBC is looking to come out with five packaged seasonals, up from three seasonals last year. Lust Garden will be from January to February, Twisted Root from March to April, Sunsetter (a crushable farmhouse ale with lime and agave, currently in the works) will be from May to June. The other two seasonals are the still popular Oktoberfest and Adobe Igloo.

With the new seasonals coming out, one shouldn’t forget about the Ever Changing Series, which Lock has confirmed will continue to keep pumping out new beers quarterly. Schneeball Imperial Pilsner was recently released on February 16, and you may still be able to find it on draft at all of the SFBC locations. The Ever Changing Series is a New Mexico-only product, and now a draft-only product, so get thee to the taprooms! Follow them on social media for future release dates.

The “In and Out” rotating IPA series will continue as well. And, Small Batch Saturdays will continue, but in a different form. Instead of homebrewers coming in to brew 10 gallons, these small 5-gallon batches will solely be a rare taste of what’s going on in the mind of the head of research and development, Dave “Merkin.” You can bet they’ll push the boundaries of space, time, and beer style. The last small batch they did was an out-of-this-world vanilla porter. They’ll be tapped at the main location only.

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Think of it as drinking at a friend’s house in an old part of town.

As mentioned above, for 2018 the big news is the new taproom opening in downtown Santa Fe. It was not the focus at the beginning of the year, as it just sort of fell into Lock’s lap, but with a lot of hard work and a bit of a grind with the City of Santa Fe, they’re set to open a very unique space with a lot of history in the center of the historical district.

Lock said he had been looking for a location in downtown Santa Fe for the last 10 years or so. He was waiting for the right opportunity, due to the challenges all establishments face, which are parking and the lack of available building space to lease or purchase. He was looking for a standalone building, parking, and good character to the building that would fit with Santa Fe Brewing’s image, and history as a time-tested, long-standing establishment as well. They wanted something that fit with the brand.

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SFBC will reflect on 30 years in 2018.

His old partner (from 1996-2003), Carlos Muller, called Lock and informed him that he recently purchased the old Cigar Bar back in July. Lock’s interest was instantly piqued, having been a member in the late 90s early 2000s. Already having a soft spot in his heart for the space, Lock went to visit it.

“Man, this is so perfect,” he recalled thinking. “It’s already set up for a bar. There’s not much investment in a buildout. There’s no change of use, because it has already served liquor. It’s already got a liquor license. Already through zoning, and being the old brick house that it is, it was built in the early 1900s, so it’s over a hundred years old.”

It had everything Lock was looking for. It was as if the right train had pulled into the station at the right time. Parking, no change of use, and lots of historical character. Speaking of which, did you know that the bricks were once handmade by the inmates of the old state penitentiary close to 90 years ago?

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If walls could speak. How many years of interesting stories have they heard?

Even the new name comes from a piece of history surrounding the site, Lock explained that the name of the new establishment, the Santa Fe Brewing Company “Brakeroom,” which he had just named the day before I walked through the door, comes from the history of four similar brick establishments built in a row.

“This brickhouse,” Lock said, pointing to one side of the establishment. “That brickhouse. There are four in a row that look almost identical. These were built in the early 1900s for the brakemen. The brakemen were the guys working on the railroad. They were the guys that, back in the day, in order to bring the train to a stop, had to climb up the side of the rail car and turn this big wheel to slow the car down and stop it. It was a fairly dangerous job. And, so these guys would be working on the railroad all day long, and they would need a place to come take a break. And, so these four houses were built for the rail workers, the brakemen, to basically come take a break. That’s why we’re calling it the Santa Fe Brewing Company Brakeroom. It’s in honor of all the railroad workers back in the in the early 1900s. It’s got some good history, and it’s got a good story.”

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It’s downright cozy inside.

Through it was pretty much a no-brainer to snatch up the spot, there was still a lot of work to be done moving a taproom into downtown. This was Lock’s first full-foray into City of Santa Fe politics.

“It’s a very, very big challenge to get any business open in this city,” he said. “I don’t care what type of business it is.”

Because the Brakeroom falls within the historic preservation district, it meant that they couldn’t change any of the façades of any of the outsides of the buildings, the roofs, or anything without proper approval. Muller, the owner, had to get a lot of approval before changing the HVACs, making electrical upgrades, as well as duct work.

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That rustic feeling greets you at the door.

The other big challenge was making sure the Land Use Office, City of Santa Fe, building owner, and Santa Fe Brewing were all on the same page regarding land use. But, because there was essentially no change of use, there were far few barriers to opening.

“I wouldn’t have even gone down the road, had there even been a discussion,” Lock said.

But, in the end, every one seemed satisfied with the project.

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That monster from Stranger Things isn’t gonna come out of this wallpaper, is it?

In terms of the décor, SFBC wanted to preserve the historical skin and bones of the site, while turning-up the speakeasy volume a little louder, and modernizing it to be a comfortable, relaxing place to sit and really just take a break from it all. New wallpaper in one room, old wallpaper in the next. It’s not so much of a re-purposing of this history-rich site, but more of a retelling of the old story to a modern audience.

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It’s pretty darn old school in the Brakeroom. (Courtesy of SFBC)

As far as food goes, Santa Fe Brewing has partnered up with Restaurant Martín (two doors down) to do a full bar menu at the taproom.

“We’ve never wanted to be in the restaurant business,” Lock said. “I figured I’d just stick to what I know, which is beer. That’s why we reached out to Restaurant Martín. They serve our beer, they have a James Beard Award-winning chef. It’s going to be excellent food in here.”

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Yeah, that fits the mood. (Courtesy of SFBC)

There will be 18 taps full of SFBC beers, with the occasional guest tap from time to time. It will have guest ciders on tap and guest wines in the bottle, but the taproom will offer a larger selection of wine varieties than at the other SFBC establishments in anticipation of the tastes of the surrounding crowd.

The Santa Fe Brewing Company Brakeroom will open its doors to the public today (Thursday) at 510 Galisteo St.

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The doors swing open today.

What’s next for Santa Fe Brewing Company?

Last year, with the focus shifting to the downtown taproom, the big expansion plans for the three-story taproom and beer garden were put on the back burner for the time being, but Lock assured me that as soon as the downtown project is chugging along, all of his focus will swing back to the large destination taproom back at home base.

With the financing having been figured out just a few weeks ago, all the building permits already signed off on, and 100-percent of drawings acquired from the architects, Lock said he is planning to break ground on April 1, and the entire project is looking at a construction period of about six to eight months. Lock said he anticipates a tasting room opening for late fourth quarter of 2018, and a beer garden opening for spring of 2019 (give or take a few months for all brewery/taproom openings, now and forever, amen).

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The expansion of the main brewery will continue in 2018.

Lastly, Santa Fe Brewing turns 30 this year. Yeah, wow! A round of applause, please. No matter what your involvement is in the beer industry of New Mexico, whether you’re a brewer, bartender, manager, cellerperson, distribution, social alchemist, or beer drinker/local craft beer supporter, you have to tip your hats to the company. The New Mexico beer scene was a big, empty frontier since 1939. After SFBC opened in Galisteo in 1988, tons of brilliant pioneers were quick to enter the scene, pushing the boundaries of what beer could be and finding acres and acres of hoppy new territory to cover and claim for themselves, but it all had to start somewhere. And, humble though it was, someone had to believe that we could make better beer than what we were offered. Lo and behold, they did, and from the inside of a horse barn, on a small used system, “craft beer” was born in New Mexico.

SFBC is already in talks about hosting a big celebration, but I’ll make sure to give you the details for that as we grow closer to the anniversary date. Until then, I’ll leave you with a few of Lock’s final thoughts.

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Owner Brian Lock, serving beer at Red River Oktoberfest

I asked him, “After 30 years of the New Mexico brewing industry, and your involvement shortly after the beginning, what have you seen? And, what has it all meant to you, to be a part of this industry?”

“Being in this industry for 30 years, I’ve seen a lot of evolution in craft beer,” Lock said. “At the time that I got involved in 1995, there were just a couple breweries in the entire state. And, just trying to educate people on what craft beer is, and what it entailed, and to just get people’s interest in it was a difficult challenge. Now, there are so many craft beers, and everyone knows what craft beer is, it’s just a completely different landscape.

“Selling beer, back in the day, when I was doing all the sales and distribution, selling beer into an account was a challenge, because it was — hey, how am I going to get people to drink Santa Fe Pale Ale, instead of Bud Light, or Miller Lite, or the other seven or eight choices of domestic beers you had to choose from? So it was really difficult to get the consumers interested in craft beer in general, just to make the move into craft beer from domestic beer. So it’s really come a long ways in that respect.

“Back then, it was really just fighting to get a piece of mind of the general market and the consumers tendency to reach for a craft beer. To look back on it now, and to think of what Santa Fe Brewing was then, and where we are now, it’s been a very exciting 30 years. It’s been challenging, because just in the last 10 years, there’s been so much competition that’s come up, and I think it’s been good in that most breweries in this state are making really good beer.

“And, with all that competition, it helps everyone. It brings that level of beer to a different height, and what I think it does is that it helps consumers realize that craft beer really is better than domestic beer, and ultimately we’re just trying to steal share from the Bud/Miller/Coors drinkers, and that all the craft is really moving as one. That’s one of the nice things about being in this industry, and I love being in this industry and I’ll continue to love being in this industry, which is, for the most part, all the craft brewers in this state support each other. They want to help each other. They want to see each other grow and prosper and do well.

“And, you don’t find that in many industries. Most industries, it’s cutthroat. How do I kill my competitor? How do I get rid of them? How do I crush them? In this industry, it’s more about how can we ALL crush the big guys?

“In terms of a learning experience and being in a business for 30 years, looking back on it, probably the most rewarding part about it all, is that it’s an industry of people who want to help each other. It’s not cutthroat, and I appreciate the fact that I’ve been in an industry that’s not like that. I’ve learned that in our industry you can grow if you work hard at it. And, at each step, it’s been enlightening.”

To always innovating and remaining relevant in an ever changing industry, cheers!

— Luke

2017NMIPACround2-3

Untappd: SantaFeLuke

Twitter: SantaFeCraftBro

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Head brewer Paul Mallory (left) and assistant brewer Andy Lane (right) discuss whether to add more peaches to Andy’s beer. (We also approve of the TRVE shirt, Andy.)

Today (Thursday), Blue Corn Brewery is hosting a collaboration beer dinner with Beneficial Farms CSA of Santa Fe. Beneficial Farms is a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture collaborative, that provides fresh produce to its members, while supporting 30 local New Mexico farms. This particular beer dinner is also very special to our readers because Blue Corn Brewery will be debuting assistant brewer Andy Lane’s first commercially brewed recipe — Andy’s Peaches and Cream Ale.

The recipe comes from one of the first (all-grain) homebrew recipes Lane ever made (circa 2013). Lane said he loved the flavor combination of a cream ale with peaches, and his friends all agreed with his assessment when he brewed it for them around five years ago.

“It went fast,” Lane recalled. “It was really easy to drink, really palatable.”

It was one of his favorite beers that he’d made while starting out. So, after being hired on at Blue Corn, and having worked with head brewer Paul Mallory on learning some good solid commercial brewing lessons, the first beer Lane proposed was his Peaches and Cream Ale. After just two homebrew batches, where Lane dialed in the recipe, he impressed upon Mallory that it was ready for the larger system and for the public. Today, you’ll be able to try Lane’s creation, a true labor of love, a testament to this young brewer’s journey, and a stepping stone in his career.

Andy’s Peaches and Cream Ale is a very fruit-forward beer, made with Pilsner, two-row, and honey malt, and no hops to put the peaches up front and center. A great deal of work went into this beer, the peaches in particular. They had to process them, peel them, de-seed them, freeze them, cull them, boil them, and purée them, before finally adding them to the beer. It was labor intensive and time intensive. It took roughly 10-plus hours to get it all in a tank. But, of course Lane feels it will be well worth the effort. Andy said it’s on the sweeter side, perhaps ranging into dessert beer territory, but he’s pleased with his creation nonetheless. From my early taste of the still-fermenting wort, I would say it’s definitely peachy, in a literal sense. I definitely got more peach tea than candy or dessert. And, it weighs in around 6.2-percent ABV. I can’t wait to try it once I get back from San Diego.

Blue Corn Brewery and Beneficial Farms Collaboration Dinner menu

Starter: Salami, Asadero*, Jalapeño Jack*, Queso Fresco*, Peach Compote*, Black Sea Salt Crostini

Beer: Green Chile Lager Cask* (5.0% ABV, 20 IBUs)

Salad: Spring Mix*, Goat Cheese*, Roasted Tomato*, Cucumber, Honey Balsamic Reduction*, Red Chile Pecans

Beer: Glasgow Garnet Scotch Ale (9.5% ABV, 20 IBUs)

Main Dish:Farm Raised Grilled Chicken*, Mushroom Cream Sauce,Jalapeño-Asadero Potato Gratin*, Sautéed Greens*

Beer: SMASH Pale Ale (5.6% ABV, 40 IBUs)

Dessert: Vanilla Ice Cream, Milk Chocolate Drizzle, Peach Glaze*, Mint

Beer: Peaches n’ Cream Ale* (6.2% ABV, 14 IBU)

*#LocallySourced

* * * * *

All brewers get their start somewhere. Sometimes it happens in the blink of an eye, but sometimes it happens after a long, winding journey, and many guessed-at roads. If you haven’t read my previous articles on Andy Lane, you can certainly ask him about where it all began, where he’s been, and what he wants to do eventually. He’ll be there at the beer dinner, happy to share his hero’s journey with you.

I asked Lane what it meant to him, to be able to now commercially brew a recipe of his own design. He replied, “It’s exciting! I now get to professionally brew one of the first beers that got me into homebrewing. It’s rewarding. It feels like the last step in a long process. But, it also feels like the first step on the road to what I want to do, if that makes sense.”

Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. at Blue Corn Brewery (Southside). The cost is $45 per person. Call (505) 438-1800 to make your reservations.

To the beginning of what I hope is a very fruitful career (no pun intended), raise ‘em up, my friends!

Cheers!

— Luke

2017NMIPACround2-3

Untappd: SantaFeLuke, Twitter: SantaFeCraftBro

My Post-16

Calling all beer geeks! Many of you have tried, or at least heard of the amazing beer, “Bomb!” from Prairie Artisan Ales (Tulsa, Oklahoma). Maybe some of you haven’t, but that’s OK, too. I’m not calling you out. If you haven’t heard of it, Bomb! is a huge, 13-percent ABV imperial stout aged on chocolate, coffee, vanilla beans, and ancho chile peppers. According to Prairie, “The peppers add just the right amount of heat to complement the intense coffee and chocolate flavors.” For those of you who have had this, you know it’s a big, chewy, complex-yet-pretty-balanced beer.

This Sunday, Rowley Farmhouse Ales is hosting an event at the brewery surrounding this crazy amalgamation of four separate flavorful imperial stouts. It’s not like any beer event I’ve ever been to in New Mexico. It’s called Prairie Bomb! Deconstructed. Is RFA just tapping Bomb!? No sir/ma’am! These mad scientists are messing with the very fabric of creation itself! Well, not exactly.

Other bars and taprooms have hosted similar Bomb! Deconstructed events, tapping all four variants and letting the public blend to their hearts’ content, but this is where the mad science of RFA comes in. According to chef and co-owner Jeff Kaplan, they have the actual recipe straight from Prairie.

Bomb! is made up of a blend of four different imperial stouts with four different flavor components and RFA has a keg of each.

Deconstructed Bomb! Chocolate – Imperial Stout with cacao nibs (13% ABV)

Deconstructed Bomb! Coffee – Imperial Stout with Spaceship Earth coffee (13% ABV)

Deconstructed Bomb! Vanilla – Imperial Stout with vanilla beans (13% ABV)

Deconstructed Bomb! Chile – Imperial Stout with ancho chile peppers (13% ABV)

During this event, you’ll get a flight including each deconstructed stout, plus the constructed Bomb! and of course, a beaker, you know, for science! With that flight full of Bombs! (wow, that’s something you can’t say near a TSA agent), you’ll get a chance to blend your Deconstructed Bomb! variants together, and Rowley and Kaplan will take it back to “the lab.” Then, whoever gets closest to the official artisan blend will win a couple of Rowley bottles and achieve supreme beer geek fame for all time.

rowleyBomb!

Now, it wouldn’t be a Rowley event without puppies. That’s right, this, as with many of Rowley Farmhouse Ales events, supports a local nonprofit to help make life better for our furry friends, something very near and dear to the Rowley crew. This event in particular is supporting NM Pets Alive, a local nonprofit life-saving program for at-risk doggos and kitties. They’re will also have some adoptable puppies on-site during the afternoon.

The event is all Sunday afternoon beginning at 11:30 a.m. To more Bomb!-ass beer events for great causes, cheers!

— Luke

2017NMIPACround2-3

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Brewmaster/owner Rod Tweet is a happy guy these days now that he has a second brewhouse at his disposal.

It was the middle of the afternoon when I strolled into Second Street Brewery’s newest (third) location at 2920 Rufina Street. I had already done a preview article, but since they opened back on August 18, I had only been back a couple times — once, for the very well-run IPA Challenge, and a second time for a small Brew Crew meet up. It was high time for a follow-up story. I wanted to see how the new place was doing and talk about Second Street having just celebrated its 21st year in the industry. What better way to do that than with the Look Back/Look Ahead Series? I grabbed a quick taster of their new (old) 1000 IPA, and caught up with President/Brewmaster, and friend, Rod Tweet.

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The swanky Second Street Rufina Taproom, located over by this place you might have heard of called Meow Wolf.

For the original location, a.k.a. “The Oldery” to Santa Feans in the know, and the Railyard location or “The Newery,” it’s been business as usual, and business has been good.

“We had a great year,” Tweet said. “And, our sales at the other two locations have been really good. When you have three locations in a fairly small geographic area, you kind of worry about cannibalization. But happily, the numbers have been great, and this place has been doing well, and I kind of take that as proof of concept.”

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Long-time employees like this familiar tattooed tapster keep the Railyard location pumping like a well-lubed piston. See? I did a car thing.

The major highlight for Second Street this year was getting their third taproom (and second brewing facility) up and running.

“It’s sort of the dominating thing. It’s hard to even think about much else,” Tweet said.

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The second Second Street Brewery facility is a 20-barrel system.

The staff began brewing on the new 20-barrel system on October 4. The first beer was the Breaking Plaid, a super heavyweight 9.1-percent ABV Scotch Ale. It was made with almost exclusively Golden Promise malt, packed to the kilt with flavor. Certainly it was one of my favorite brews of the year from anywhere.

“It’s big,” Tweet said. “The next step is getting that beer into barrels. That beer is just made for barrels.”

I was assured that will be coming soon. Since the first beer on the new system, the staff has brewed about a dozen times, and though they are extremely pleased with the finished products, they’re still working on small adjustments like hop utilization when compared to the old system. They’re definitely through the learning curve at this point, Tweet said.

Also, something else that was very important this year was staffing all three locations with the right people. In 2017, Second Street expanded their employees from between 60 to 70 to about 110.

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It’s a bit chilly to be out on the Rufina patio now, but come summer, it should be packed most nights.

Getting a new location running is never without its challenges.

“With Rufina here, from an engineering point of view, it was fairly complicated,” Tweet said. “This building had zero infrastructure. We literally took over a shell.”

They needed plumbing. They needed power. They needed new sewer lines.

“It was definitely a big project,” Tweet said.

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It took a while to finish, but now the brewery is humming along at Rufina.

There were timing setbacks. And, with the brewing operations, full kitchen, the silo outside, and outdoor patio seating, just getting through inspections proved to be a lot of hoops for one location to jump through within Santa Fe city limits. But, within the city limits was the point. Though they might have been about six months off of their original projected opening date (what brewery hasn’t?), it was all worth it in the end. Second Street now has a huge space that it can continue to grow into for the next 20 years, still in town.

“The reason we’re in this location is because we can get the square footage we need at a reasonable price, and it’s a busy part of town. I knew we could run a taproom here,” Tweet said.

Being in the center of town between some major streets like Cerillos and Agua Fria doesn’t hurt. It also doesn’t hurt at all that the taproom is directly AROUND THE CORNER from Meow Wolf. Has anyone heard of that little place yet? Tweet said people like to come get dinner and a beer at Rufina before heading into a show. That sounds like a game plan to me.

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The taproom interior is unique among the three Second Street locations.

It also doesn’t hurt that the taproom is easy on the eyes.

“We worked hard on it,” Tweet said. “Myself and several other people here made a lot of contributions of their own talents and skills. Mariah (Scee), the front-of-house manager (at Rufina) did the mural, which is amazing. A lot of us put a lot of heart and soul into the physical finished product.”

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We’re digging those Zia light fixtures.

Having been to the third location, it certainly doesn’t feel like Second Street Part III. It’s very different, and that was also Tweet’s intent. It is indeed ambitious, and intended to be so.

“This part of town is just coming into its own,” Tweet said. “And, we shot long. We’ve got lots of room for growth (20,000 square feet in total).”

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Did someone say space? Rufina has space.

Rufina was major, but it wasn’t the only accomplishment of the year. Second Street turned 21 years old this autumn. I won’t make the overused legal-to-drink joke, as I made clear to Tweet. Instead, I asked him what being in the industry (and being successful in Santa Fe) for 21 years has meant to him and the brewery. He took a pull from his beer and thought for a moment before replying, “I’m really pleased with how successful we’ve been. The people of Santa Fe have been pretty good to us. We take that responsibility very seriously, and we try hard with all of our operations, front-of-house to back. The time goes fast. It’s hard for me to even believe we’ve been in the business for 21 years.”

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Second Street Brewery’s original location, nicknamed “The Oldery.”

Second Street is one of the oldest breweries in New Mexico at this point. (Only Santa Fe Brewing, Eske’s, Canteen, Kellys, and High Desert are older, though only Eske’s and High Desert have been in the same original building for that entire time. — S)

“Which is also, kind of amazing to me,” Tweet said. “This was a big step for us, but we’ve never stood still. We’ve got three properties and two brewhouses. We were always working on some big project, but we’re in a good situation now. Being open 21 years, if there’s any reward in it, part of it is being able to grow and have a chance to expand your abilities, grow your employees, and give them more opportunities. And, it takes a while to do that, (especially) in Santa Fe.”

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The original location has a certain rustic vibe.

It hasn’t always been easy. Twenty-one years ago Second Street did something pretty unique. Tweet opened up a brewpub at a special time, in a small town, and all before the big craft-beer boom. Back then, banks wouldn’t talk about a loan. Family worried that saying you wanted to be a brewer was like saying you wanted to be a rock star or run away and join the circus. Second Street did it back when people were still calling every little place with its own beer a microbrewery. And, they did it with the ingredients the staff could get, and they did it Rod’s way, with the styles of beer he wanted to brew.

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The bar is as busy as ever at the original location on a Thursday afternoon.

The industry has changed over the years, but Second Street has changed with the times as well. The beer has continued to evolve. Classics have remained, but new series have popped up to satisfy a new discerning crowd who demand hops, barrel-aged goodness, and sours.

“The consumer, now, is a different animal than when we began,” Tweet said. “They’re much more sophisticated and they seek out certain styles. They’re more demanding, more informed, more exposed to what’s out there. The days of novelty are over.”

What seemed like an off-beat career choice back in those early days of craft beer has become a real industry. Becoming a real industry has forced good competitions, which in turn has forced brewers to brew better.

“And, the consumer wins,” Tweet said.

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Tweet on becoming a brewer: “My dad thought it was really cool. My mom was concerned.”

Currently, Second Street is doing what it does best — providing great food, beer, and live entertainment at all three locations. Much of the growth and continued success could not come without the help of the entire staff, who work hard every day to keep the daily operations running smoothly, whether it’s from the production side on the brewhouses, to the front-of-house staff and the kitchens, social media, marketing, and accounting.

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Chef Milton Villarrubia whipping up a dessert for the 21st anniversary party at the table.

Chef Milton Villarrubia and sous chef Tony have continued to keep the menus interesting and food delicious, as well as their major efforts in getting the Rufina kitchen in operation. Mariah Scee has been an integral part of launching, as well as maintaining, the great atmosphere in the Rufina location, including hand painting the big mural that can be seen from every table.

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This is much more impressive than the little drawings in the corners of our notebooks during high school.

Of course, the Rufina project wouldn’t have been able to get off the ground, let alone break ground, without much of Tweet’s devoted staff keeping the older two locations running like clockwork. As it is, there are so many staff members now, that if I were to list them all, it would read like a well-prepared Oscar speech. But, it should be noted that John Walker, the former head brewer who was loved by all, left for a job across the country. As a result, Tom Ludzia has stepped up to not only handle the day-to-day management of the 10-barrel brewhouse at the Oldery, but is achieving some great new things, and filling some quite hard-to-fill shoes.

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Second Street at the Railyard still has regular live music.

Second Street would have had to change its business model a long time ago if it didn’t have the beer to back up the other operations. The staff has made beer people wanted to drink; just ask the droves of folks that fill up each location after 5 p.m. Over the years, the staff has also pleased quite a few judges at GABF. Most recently, Second Street brought home bronze for Rod’s Steam Bitter, a tremendous turn-in from both Walker and Ludzia. It previously took home gold in 2013.

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Rod’s Steam Bitter, GABF bronze-medal winner in 2017.

Some of Rod’s favorite beers to work on now include the 2920 series of flagships for the new location. Most of those that the staff experimented with made the cut, with the 2920 IPA leading the charge, and a hoppy Pilsner having just joined the ranks, which will be called the Agua Fria Pilsner. Tweet said he is still excited about his IPA series that he developed with John Walker. Of the three (Fulcrum, Pivotal, and the former Trebuchet), Pivotal was my favorite beer in a can from anywhere, a bold statement for a bold beer.

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And there’s still plenty of room for more tanks.

Looking ahead to 2018, Second Street aims to really get its barrel program running, as it has the tanks and the space for something on a larger scale, Tweet said. As I mentioned before, Breaking Plaid will be going into barrels soon. Second Street will also test the new equipment with a big Barleywine (its first in six years). Some of that will be barrel-aged, divided into three different kinds of barrels — scotch, bourbon, and something Tweet said he is still figuring out. Finally, the staff will also bring back Preacher’s Share, the St. Paddy’s Day Imperial Stout, which will be aged in a Colkegan Whiskey barrel from Santa Fe Spirits. (HAILS! — S) These will all happen within the next couple of months, and there will be about 15 to 20 barrels of, OK, I will make this joke — barrels of fun.

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All new beers. All worth visiting the new space.

Once those beers are established, the staff will get into more esoteric beers, using brett, lacto, and more. Yet, the staff has already puckered some mouths with the enjoyable Summer Rain Sour, of which Ludzia and Tweet just made a winter version. The winter version will have a little more color, body, and cherries! And, it will be out in about a week from this article’s posting. Look for that at Winter Brew.

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The Summer Rain Sour, which apparently I saw fit to Instagram.

Also, as part of the ongoing 21-year celebration, Second Street will be pouring 21 beers from the archives, at 1996 prices ($3.50) on the 21st of every month. I’m ecstatic to say that one of my favorite Second Street brews is back on the list, the Winter Warmer. Oh, how I’ve missed it! The staff has kicked off the celebration with the IPA 1000, a 15-yr old recipe, before we had such familiar hops as Simcoe, Citra, or Mosaic. You’ll have to thank Tom Ludzia for this great idea.

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The promise of package. This 4-head filler will soon be put to work.

In 2018, Second Street will be anything but business as usual. There will be so much room to play with new beers, unlike the staff has ever had before. Physical expansion is mostly finished for the time being, although, I have it on good authority that there will absolutely be Second Street beer on draft around both Santa Fe and Albuquerque. This can be considered the precursor to packaging. So expect the first can, the 2920 IPA, sometime in the second quarter. That is, if I haven’t drank that one dry, first. Other cans (beer styles yet to be determined) will soon follow.

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Waiting for Red Light Cameras to come back.

Status Quo is the name of the game at the older locations, because, why fix what ain’t been broke in 21 years? Rufina, on the other hand, will continue to push new boundaries to establish itself as a go-to location for a completely new crowd. With a much larger stage and Eliza Lutz (of Matron Records) behind the talent booking, anything from punk, indy, reggae, to even metal shows will help fill a void in Santa Fe that really needs some fillin’ right now. Most of those will be ticketed shows.

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Oh, what fun that night was.

Luke: Going back to 21 years in the business, what have you learned? What’s some advice that you would give to, say, some of the younger breweries, or breweries about to start out?

Tweet: It’s a complicated business, especially if you’re running a restaurant. It’s easy to get distracted. Maintaining focus is everything. It’s easy to get off track, and it’s inevitable, but basically, in the end, if you focus on what you know is important, it will keep you on track. That works. You have to remember that quality is always important. You have to pay attention to your clientele, for example, being responsive when something doesn’t work out quite the way we wanted, to everyone’s satisfaction, or when you get some feedback from customers – once you have that information, you shift gears and you respond. You have to pay attention to what works, but still always be open to new information, and willing to adjust and evolve. And, don’t neglect the nuts and bolts, and don’t neglect advertising. That can take up a whole lot of headspace if you don’t know what you’re doing. Pay attention to business. If you can’t pay attention to business, yourself, then get help with it. At the end of the day, though, if you got into this because you were passionate about good beer, don’t ever forget about that. That works.

* * * * *

The Rufina location has been open since August, and it has already survived a good part of the Santa Fe winter. It’ll be some time before it is established in the minds of Santa Feans, but as Tweet and the whole hard-working crew of Second Street Brewery has proved, time and again — they are not going anywhere. They are just getting better with age, and they are just getting started. So, my thirsty friends, to 21 years, and to many, many more, cheers!

— Luke

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Fun fact: My first story with the Dark Side Brew Crew was the first leg of the IPA Challenge at Second Street Brewery on July 14th, 2014. You can read it HERE, just for fun.

Check back soon for stories on Chili Line, Duel, Santa Fe Brewing, and two secret articles in the works.

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Say, Brettanomyces!

Our Look Back/Look Ahead Series continues today with Rowley Farmhouse Ales in Santa Fe. I wanted to find out how their first big year went, talk about their current brewer situation, and find out what direction RFA will take in 2018.

Directly after my interview with Blue Corn, I drove five minutes up the road to RFA, which was holding its Blackest Friday event, and I didn’t want to miss that. I had the day off, and I definitely had another interview in me.

Pulling up to RFA, just a ways down Maclovia Street, located somewhat behind Santa Fe’s best Indian restaurant (in my humble opinion), India House, I immediately noticed the parking lot was full, and cars were parked up and down the street. This didn’t make finding a spot difficult, however, and it certainly wasn’t a bad thing. I soon found owner John Rowley working with assistant brewer Tyler King, and friend and wife of Chef Jeffrey Kaplan, Elissa Ritt. Even on an event day, operations were underway.

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Assistant brewer Tyler King and all-around badass Elissa Ritt

It was a bustling scene. Folks were getting tours, while the brewhouse was firing on all pistons. Everyone was all smiles as it was a good day to be a craft beer fan and a good day to be a craft beer engineer. For the interview, Rowley led me away from the madness to the solitude of the barrel room down below. I felt like Maxwell Smart, and almost expected the cone of silence to descend from the ceiling. Instead, in true down-and-dirty brewery style, we grabbed a couple of crates and faced off between rows of barrels. It was hard not to feel at home.

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Folks gatherin’ ’round for the Black-est Friday event.

Rowley Farmhouse Ales opened on Labor Day Weekend 2016. The staff just celebrated their one-year anniversary.

“It’s been good, pretty steady,” John said. “We had a great summer; summer is kind of the bread and butter of Santa Fe’s lifeblood.”

In Santa Fe, the breweries I’ve chatted with over the years talk of the sales downturn in winter, which sets in typically after the Labor Day mark. There’s a marked slowing of foot traffic and a general thinning of the out-and-about crowd. Perhaps it is because precious beer money is reserved for shopping, or maybe the cold keeps Santa Feans in their cozy homes and drives the tourists away, but whatever it is, it’s pervasive of the scene, and business generally won’t pick up again until after the thaw.

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Looks more like a bottle share than a one-year anniversary party, but I did say they were beer geeks! (Photo courtesy of RFA)

To combat this sort of hibernation period, RFA has continued to have fun events like the Blackest Friday barrel-aged rare beer event, but also keeping the taps fresh with plenty of hard-to-get beers. The thinking here is, John said, beer geeks don’t stop wanting good beer just because it’s cold outside.

“We’ve focused on that as part of our gastropub side of the business,” John said. “We wanted to bring in, not just our own beer, but beer that’s really fucking cool.”

Beer they want to drink, in other words.

“And that’s the bottom line,” John said. “If I wanted to drink it, I would bring it in.”

But, it’s a group effort at RFA, as it always has been. Both Kaplan and Ritt have been integral in curating the tap list to create a haven for true beer geeks in all forms of weather. The outdoor patio, which is actually where the bulk of the seating lies, has evolved to be a good, warm place to get a cold one on a winter’s eve.

Part of the issue Santa Fe breweries have is awareness. For most of them, being established as a go-to place to get a brew has taken time. The locals know about the older guys like Blue Corn and Second Street, and as a result make them their choice Friday-night-with-the-family destination. The new guys, including Second Street’s Rufina location, have the tough task of just getting their name out there, making sure people know implicitly that we can go grab a beer there.

This year, Rowley Farmhouse Ales really got its name out there, being part of some great festivals, including two really big fests held out of state. The annual Midwest Belgian Beer festival in St. Louis, put on by Perennial Artisan Ales, included more than 60 top-tier breweries, and RFA was one of them. There, the staff poured Meier, a Meyer Lemon Gose, named after a fella, Troy Meier, who runs one of the homebrew clubs in St. Louis, in homage to his “Meierlemonparty.org” and clearly his sour sense of humor.

“We poured that beer at Side Project Brewing. For us it was a huge honor to pour at such a cool place,” John said.

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Pints for Prostates Denver Rare Beer Tasting IX. (Photo courtesy of Rowley Farmhouse Ales)

The more recent big pouring for RFA was at the Pints for Prostates Denver Rare Beer Tasting 9.

“That was a huge hit for us,” John said, as RFA poured an Oud Bruin, which had 80 pounds of raspberries in the barrel, and was one of the first beers to pour out at that event. “For us, as a new brewery, that means a lot.”

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Quite a line for Rowley Farmhouse Ales at WinterBrew.

Pouring locally, RFA started off at WinterBrew, which, for the staff, is one of their favorite events in Santa Fe or anywhere. They also did Skiesta up at Pajarito Mountain this year, as well as Pajarito’s Summerfest, which John likened to pouring on the moon.

“At Summerfest, you’re pouring in the dirt and there’s a fine dust that gets allover everything,” John said. “Your legs get all dirty, it’s just everywhere. But, Skiesta is great because we’re on the deck.”

RFA also did BearFest in Albuquerque; they just happened to be pouring right next to the speakers and the brewery got blasted.

“I love Kevin (Davis), and I love Boxing Bear,” John said. “Those guys are great. Hey Kevin, if you’re (reading), don’t leave it at 11. Turn it down to nine or eight.”

RFA’s IPA was also a big hit at Hopfest this year.

At home base, RFA has its own special events and brewery features. The staff is continuing to support the local animals with their Pulls for Pups, where they choose a new animal shelter every quarter and donate a $1 per pour of the designated tap. The beer may change, but the support hasn’t. They typically raise around $1,200 for the shelters and charities, per quarter from your generosity, so cheers to that!

The staff has also continued with a slew of tap-takeovers from big names like Great Divide, Firestone Walker, New Belgium, and the list goes on. Tap takeovers are truly a beautiful thing.

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RFA has grown a lot in a short time.

This year, RFA has worked hard at increasing its beer production. But, the kind of beers RFA is making aren’t the kind that have a quick turnaround. Naturally, it’s taken a bit of time getting a real pipeline going. Beers that needed time to age and condition are becoming more available, as the staff didn’t want to rush anything.

“Next year we’ll have more wood down here,” John said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer. We want to fill this place up and have more beer aging at all times.”

In the last year, the set of core beers has become a steady set, worthy of the good chalk and the big wall. Agent Scully, RFA’s flagship IPA, has a farmhouse grain bill with flaked oats and malted wheat, with a little ginger marmalade added to keep their Scully a true ginger, as well it should be. The hops have rotated from season to season, but in any event, it’ll turn the largest skeptics into believers.

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They do brew a good-looking beer at RFA.

Another beer kept in the pipeline is the Fields of Rye Saison. This beer has remained pretty consistent in flavor from my first tasting at Santa Fe Brewing’s Oktoberfiesta about a year ago. It’s subtle changes come mostly in ABV, to be a bit more crushable in the summer, John said.

Rowley’s Germophile, a clean Berliner Weisse, has enjoyed great feedback from the local crowd. It’s a refreshing staple at the brewery with malted wheat and pilsner malt, soured with lactobacillus, and finished with a saison yeast.

Ab Initio is a Brett Berliner Weisse, which is one of Rowley’s favorites to play around with. From the dry-hopping to the fruiting, RFA is keeping the promise of changing and evolving beers to keep their tastes fresh and interesting to the crowd and to the staff.

Saison Du Sarlacc is a Citra-Mosaic hopped-up Brett Saison that’s worthy of several more Untappd check-ins itself.

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And there will only be more, soon.

But for Rowley, it’s what’s in the barrels that are ‘The Cat’s Ass.’

“If I could only brew this beer, I would. But we can’t,” John said. “You can’t just live off mixed-fermentation saison, and think that everyone’s going to want to drink it. We’ve got to keep the lights on.”

Rowley’s is not the place to go if you want the same old beer, every time. There are places for that.

“This isn’t cheers,” John said. “I’m not Norm. You come here when it’s time for something fun. Go to a place you can get something fun and new. That’s our philosophy.”

Blackest Friday

We hope they do this again next year.

At the time of the interview, RFA was hosting an event with nine heavy-hitting barrel-aged stouts — impressive, interesting, and some much harder to get a hold of than others, from the likes of Deschutes, Great Divide, Dogfish Head, Odell, Marble, La Cumbre, North Coast, Firestone Walker, and Oskar Blues. It was a must-attend event, and there were a ton of people who got that message.

“It’s the most I’ve seen in a long time,” John said of their first (and hopefully annual) Black-est Friday event. “There were people waiting here when we opened.”

Knowing Santa Fe’s beer scene, I count that as a huge win, and a good start. Rowley was reminded of the Postcards from Hell release at La Cumbre.

“There were a lot of people,” he recalled, “and there was a sell-out in 90 minutes. We’re not California, but we’re getting there. Congratulations to La Cumbre and Modern Times; they did a great job. Loved that beer, and it’s setting up something new here in New Mexico.”

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Jami Nordby was super for RFA earlier in 2017.

Before we started looking torward to the future of RFA, we had to address the present situation. Recently RFA lost their head brewer, Jami Nordby, who is heading off to start up a new brewery.

“Jami has been a fantastic brewer for me,” John said. “He’s a standalone guy, he can just work without any guidance. He’s been with us from the beginning, and he’s leaving at the end of (November). I’m sad to see him go, but at the same time, I really want him to be successful. I’ve known him for a really long time. He’s a good friend. He’s the guy that can run the business and not need any help or hand-holding. He can be the guy, and he will be the guy at his new place.”

Without too many early details, Jami will be opening up a place of his own with friend Rich Headley off of Highway 14. (Editor’s note: Franz Solo will have more on this soon. — S) There he’ll be doing what he does so well, brewing.

“Jami has always been a part of the beer community, and he always will be. It was blow to us, of course, but we have to move on. The beer must flow on,” John said.

Changes await in 2018

Starting off the new year, RFA is currently (casually) looking for a qualified, hard-working, friendly individual with a background in mixed-fermentation and sours. But, until then, John said he is confident that he and the very capable assistant brewer, Tyler King, will tow the line. As a reminder, King has been there from the start as well, and he, too, has been one of their hardest working, intelligent assets. And, they’ve got a good amount of inventory to keep the lines full for a while.

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Work to be done.

New hires aside, Rowley said 2018 will be another year of steady growth, filled with events, festivals, and finding more ways to get the brewery name out there. In 2018, RFA plans to represent New Mexico at the Midwest Belgian Beer Fest again, and it is already slated to be the featured beer at the Rare Beer Tasting X up in Denver, brewing a special beer for the Rare Beer Club. The staff has already been working on an unusual recipe for a smoked juniper Gotlandsdricka, akin to Jester King’s beer, of which Rowley said he found inspiration. They will aim to brew at least 200 cases of bottles for that particular event. It’s a very limited event, so buy your tickets … yesterday.

Speaking of bottles, RFA will continue its current bottling program, selling 750-ml bottles to select local shops and out of the brewery on a smaller scale for now, but that could change as it grows.

As far as expansion plans, it’s more about barrels than square feet. RFA plans to buy a couple of 30-barrel oak foeders.

“We’re going to treat them like a solera,” John said, “where we’re going to pull seven barrels out, put seven barrels in, because we have a 7-barrel brewhouse. We’ll have to brew a lot, at first, to fill them. Over time we’ll have a lot more beer that way, because we’ll have a golden sour base beer to work from, and we’ll have a mixed-fermentation saison to work from.”

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These kegs will be filled in 2018.

Rowley Farmhouse Ales isn’t going to shy away from any beer style in 2018. Rowley told me that he currently has an imperial stout in the tank that he plans to barrel age. And, the staff will also be brewing an award-winning barleywine recipe from homebrew club friends, Jim Steinbach and Kent Steinhaus, appropriately called Steinwine (at the moment). I would personally Google the name, depending on the size of their batch, just to be cease-and-desist safe. (Yeah, Tractor might have something to say about that. — S)

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Kaffeeklatsch: a social coming together over coffee.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the delicious-sounding collaboration RFA did with Iconic Coffee Roasters.

“A Kaffeeklatsch is a social ‘coming together’ over coffee,” John said. “We collaborated with our good friends Chase and Dylan over at Iconik Coffee Roasters for this beer, and we went down a lesser traveled, but super fun path. Most coffee beers are stouts or porters, but we went to the opposite end of the spectrum for this beer. We started with our Germophile base, and hopped it lightly to 5 IBU in the boil with German Hersbrucker hops. We then whirlpooled this beer with a healthy charge of Lake Toba Sumatra, and then co-fermented with a blend of B. Brux var Drei, L. Delbrueckii, and German ale yeast. After a long rest, we dry-hopped the beer with more Lake Toba Sumatra. ABV is a bit high for the style, but we figured since it is coming into winter, this would be a good bonus. Special thanks to Chase and Dylan for helping us brew this beer, and to Iconik Coffee Roasters for the fun collaboration!”

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From left: Sarah Ritchie, John Rowley (RFA), Jay Mead, Noel Garcia of 12 West Brewing Co. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Ritchie, Craft Beer Betty)

Another collaboration RFA just did was with 12 West Brewing Co. in Gilbert, Ariz., on December 6.

“Sarah Ritchie is kind of the force behind them,” John said. (Big shout out to our favorite Craft Beer Betty!) “They also have a really good sour guy, named Jay Mead down there.”

Rowley said they are looking at putting something into the coolship that 12 West just built, and sometime after Christmas they’ll be brewing something interesting with Wren House Brewing Co. in Phoenix. It seems that RFA is really bearing down on Arizona at the moment, but that’s where Rowley’s folks live, and where he spent his college days, so it just makes sense all around, and, rumor has it they plan to be sending some beer down to Arizona pretty soon.

Next year, Rowley said he does plan to get more beer out closer to home in Santa Fe or Albuquerque. More beer capacity at the brewery means more opportunities to do just that.

With three spare tanks, look for new beers to hit Untappd lists soon, such as a French almost witbier called Petit Blanche. RFA will also be bringing back its mixed-fermentation saison brewed with Earl Grey Frances tea, from Artful Tea, called Tea for Two. And, RFA will also go through its list of successful small batches and see what else the staff wants to put in the tank. The public will taste new beers, and get another chance at beers folks may have missed in 2017. It appears that 2018 is going to be funky, and fresh, or funky fresh, if you will.

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I always feel like a baller at RFA. I’m not, but it’s a good feeling nonetheless. This was a great end to a great day of interviews. Look for more soon from the Crew!

“If you’re in town, come and try our kick-ass beer,” John said. “Welcome! Our doors are always open, we’re open seven days a week. We always try to give a great experience. If we don’t, call us out, we’ll fix it. Because, that’s what it’s all about — growing, learning, and doing better. We’ve got great food, and we’ll always have some cool new beers for you to try.”

* * * * *

Growing from special small releases of their own beers, to keeping them regularly on the menu, Rowley Farmhouse Ales has become the kind of brewery the staff first envisioned when they were beneath their first rose banner. Of course, RFA is always growing in barrelage and in seating options, and the beers are constantly evolving, so it’s a brewery that you should never make up your mind about in one sitting. You’ll have to come back, again and again, before you decide who and what Rowley Farmhouse Ales is. If not just to see what new fun beers are on rotation, or what exciting dish Chef Kaplan has just added to the menu, or if you’re simply interested in which fruits they’ve added to Ab Initio, there are plenty of reasons to return.

There’s a saying in New Mexico. If you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes. Well, if there’s not a beer you like yet on the menu (seems impossible), give it a week. And, speaking of which, every Wednesday they tap something special. So, during the winter lull, it really falls on us, my fellow beer drinkers, to patronize these establishments that are working so hard to stay interesting, stay fun, stay fresh, and stay open. Today, we raise ’em up to better beer options for folks searching for something different in the City Different!

Cheers!

— Luke

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Post IPA Challenge Selfie.

Buy me a beer; I’ll buy you two. And subsequently, I’ll probably pay for our Uber. Approach beer-writers responsibly.

 

 

 

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Blue Corn’s dynamic duo of head brewer Paul Mallory, right, and new assistant brewer Andy Lane.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, it’s Stout Season, and if you’ve been keeping up with us all these years, you know that also means it’s time for the Crew’s annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series. Not unlike Salvation Army Santas, it’s our busiest time of the year, as we scramble frantically to bring you the scoop on as many breweries as we can physically cover.

At the end of November, instead of boxing out old ladies at the Black Friday sales, I decided to side-step the shopping lines of Santa Fe’s Southside and slip into one of the city’s best local smile suppliers, Blue Corn Brewery.

My goal is simple, to catch up with the new brewing team, see how their year went, and see what they’ve got planned for 2018. Most of my articles for Blue Corn are about a new manager, or a new assistant brewer, a changing of the guard, if you will. I know the song by heart by now. Blue Corn’s been quite a revolving door since John Bullard was there, and probably even before him (If only someone had written a book detailing some of that. — S). But, I know, with fresh talent comes fresh ideas, and I wanted to get what’s flowing down the line into your glass.

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The copper icons are feeling a bit festive.

With a quick smile, I told the hostess I was meeting with the brewers, and that I was going to find a place at the bar. That statement means much more to me than it does to her, I realize. I greeted my tall copper friends, as if they’re glad to have me back in house, and took my usual spot at the bar, where I always wait a few minutes before I text the brewer to let him know I’ve arrived. Nothing says, “It’s show time,” like a taster tray of new Blue Corn seasonals.

After a few minutes head brewer Paul Mallory invited me back into the dining room. He and new assistant brewer Andy Lane were kind enough to let me interrupt their lunch. There were buffalo wings on the table, and for some reason, they made me think of Chama River. (R.I.P.)

2017 was a turbulent year for Blue Corn Brewery. Docked in the Capitol City, Blue Corn may have just missed the sudden tsunami that hit poor Chama River (also owned by Santa Fe Dining), but they endured their own share of rough waters and suffered a few men overboard themselves. Yet, Blue Corn Brewery proved, once again, that with a cool-headed captain, a solid crew, and keeping to the course, they are a sturdy ship that can weather the worst of storms.

Despite the difficulties, Blue Corn had plenty of highlights to mention

One of the big changes this year was getting Andy Lane (formerly of Santa Fe Brewing) in the brewery at the busiest time of the year.

“Andy’s been a kick-ass assistant, bringing lots of ideas to the table with beer and how to change the process,” Paul said.

Lane has been waiting for a chance like this. He cut his teeth as a beer sales rep for a craft beer distributor back in Texas, his home state, getting beer to the hard-to-penetrate niche markets as well as homebrewing in his spare time. With the dream of someday opening his own brewery, he took a risk and moved to New Mexico, starting at the bottom of the industry, packaging at Santa Fe Brewing. “I just want to learn everything I can,” I remember him saying back then. You might remember him from that one episode of Vice’s Beerland that made a brief stop in our state. After his 15 minutes of fame, Lane’s doing what he loves at Blue Corn.

“To have this opportunity is exactly what I wanted,” Lane said. “It’s a dream come true.”

After a brief period of adjustment, learning each other’s style and personalities, the chemistry is good. Though Lane is newer to the process, Mallory made sure to utilize his assistant’s unique sales experience.

“He definitely helps me choose the styles,” Paul said. “I could come up with beer ideas I want to brew, all day, but as for will they sell? That’s where I get Andy to weigh in.”

As for beer this year, Blue Corn focused a lot on doing collaborations with local suppliers, sourcing everything from malts and hops, to chocolate and whiskey barrels. Blue Corn, which has had a long-standing relationship with Santa Fe Spirits, put their Imperial Chocolate Porter in a Colkegan Whiskey Barrel to great success. They’d also done a really hoppy collaboration with Del Cielo Brewing Co. from Martinez, Calif., likely a connection Mallory made during his time brewing by the bay.

Mallory’s favorite beer in 2017 was an easy drinking Oktoberfest, which they were able to lager for a later release in the season. As it turned out, folks only complain when the Oktoberfest is released too early, if they complain at all. The beer showcased a malt sourced from nearby Proximity Malt’s Colorado location.

In ‘17, Blue Corn was not a bit shy with trying new things. One such beer was a Honey Ginger Braggot, which was one of Lane’s favorites to work on. He said,

“It was unusual, heavily drinkable, a perfect kind of crowd-pleaser,” Lane said.

It was their last collaboration with Chama River, as it turned out.

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Blue Corn Brewery has a solid core line-up, but it’s the constantly rotating beers that keep folks coming back again and again.

Speaking of which, it was not all smooth sailing for the Santa Fe Dining Fleet, with that one particular heavy-medaled flagship sinking into the history pages of Stoutmeister’s book. There was a change on the wind, says I, and for some, it blew harder than others.

Chama closed. Blue Corn lost their previous assistant brewer to a bout of school. Two delivery drivers walked the plank. Former Admiral of the Fleet, James Warren, left to join the pirates at Santa Fe Brewing. And Chef “D,” David Sundberg, moved on to make new waves as well.

“We’ve had a lot of turnover,” Mallory said, soberly. “And, I think we just do our best to keep this ship afloat. And, I think we’ve done a really good job with that. Hopefully no one up front noticed. We kept the beer flowing, and kept the beer tasting good.”

Gathering from the jubilant crowd that I had left back in the bar area, I would say they’ve done just that.

In 2018, the Blue Corn staff promised that their famous (Brew Crew Approved) beer dinners will continue. They aren’t sure what will happen as of yet with the uncertainty of the new chef hire, but a change in the guard has never set Blue Corn back before.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any expansion plans in the works. They said they definitely want more fermenters, and perhaps a grain silo. I can think of one that’s just sitting there off of I-25, probably still filled, floor-to-tip, with 2 Row.

I asked if there was any word on Chama River, but Mallory’s lips were shut tighter than a mermaid’s non-disclosure agreement.

As for beers in 2018, BCB may be planning to do a Smash Pale Ale, with Single Malt, And Seven Hops. That counts in my book. Blue Corn’s Russian Imperial Stout is currently in the tank, a beast of the abyss, just waiting to surface.

Something probably only Santa Feans know on the regular is that Blue Corn gets its hands on a barrel every now and then, and certainly fills it with something worth driving 40 minutes or taking the Rail Runner to try. The staff is looking at putting some of their Imperial Stout in the barrel and aging it a bit. Blue Corn isn’t rushing to barrel-age anything and everything at the moment. The staff is not looking to sour anything for the sake of souring, either.

“We’re going to try to keep it small, make sure we do it right,” Mallory said. “Because I think a lot of breweries, especially smaller breweries, run before they can walk. And, that’s not what we want to do. We want to keep them nice and clean. We want to do a few of them and do them right.”

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My current favorite beer at Blue Corn Brewery is their La Santa Oscura Black Lager. It was like a refreshing Mexican Hot Chocolate. They didn’t pull any punches on the spice, but it’s so easily drinkable it borders on dangerous. Delight yourself responsibly.

One of the very few they’ve been working on was a saison brewed last year, which should be ready any day now. (Farmhouse Funkalicious is now on tap. — S) They gave it a pinch of sour cherries and a dash of sour ale, to give it just a little bit of tartness, Mallory said. They did a little bit of blending and gave it a good amount of time on the brettanomyces.

I asked both Lane and Mallory what upcoming project most excites them for 2018.

Lane: “I think a little bit of everything. (Laughs) For me, getting to the point where I’m more involved with the recipe writing and stuff like that and actually creating beers. That’s what I’m excited for.”

Mallory: “I want to keep up the collaborations, build up on what we started last year. Then, one of our first beers will be a Mexican Lager. It usually calls for rice or corn to lighten up the body. We’re going to do locally sourced blue corn, to keep with the farm-to-table attitude of the restaurant. We also want to build on some of the relationships we’ve made in the past year with the chocolate and coffee makers. We look forward to getting the beer dinners up and running and tap into the local community with more events. And, people should expect to see us at more local beer events as well.”

Mallory’s parting words: “I think a lot of people have their mind made up about Blue Corn Brewery, because we’ve been around for 20 years. I think they should come by and check it out. If you’re a fan, or not a fan, I say come by and see what we’re working on. I guarantee, it’s different than last time.”

* * * * *

I say farewell to my friends for now. As soon as they were finished, they caught up to me at Rowley Farmhouse Ales to sample some of the darkest barrel-aged beers ever arrayed on tap in one location, a black hole of beers with a gravitational pull too strong for any of us to resist. This year for Thanksgiving, among family and friends, I was thankful for New Mexico’s beer scene and the strong community surrounding it. To you and your health, my friends, cheers!

— Luke

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If you see me at the bar, say, “Hey.” Let’s talk beer!

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Tonight (Thursday), Blue Corn is hosting another epic beer and cocktails dinner, with Santa Fe Spirits, at their south side location. Because we’ve had so much fun at these dinners in the past, we wanted to give you a quick look at what you’ll be enjoying tonight.

APPETIZER (1st Course) Paired with gin and tonic with Mosaic hop bitters
Crispy kale croquettes served with a herbal aioli

CHEF’S SALAD (2nd Course) Paired with Atapiño brown ale cocktail
Citrus-marinated chicken breast, roasted piñon nuts, orange segments and caramelized red onions on a bed of spring mix, with a sweet and tangy vinaigrette

ENTREES (3rd Course) Paired with a brandy honey wheat cocktail
Farm-raised Atlantic salmon poached in herb-infused extra virgin olive oil with baby carrots and 40K Honey Wheat jasmine rice

DESSERT (4th Course) Paired with a barrel-aged imperial porter, aged in a used Kolkeegan Whisky Barrel from Santa Fe Spirits
Chocolate volcano-molten bundt cake topped with vanilla ice cream and roasted-spiced pecans

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Why you should go: Aside from the always excellent food and beer, mixed with the award-winning guest-showcase of cocktails, these beer dinners serve as a great chance to mingle with other people who love crafted beverages as much as you. Personally, in addition to seeing plenty of other friends in the industry at these things, I’ve always met someone new, and each and every time made a new friend. Hell, I met the guy I bought my house from at one of these beer dinners at Blue Corn.

Also, in a fun, intimate setting, you get to sample special unique creations not usually found on your regular weeknight menu. You get to see the best of what these chefs and brewers have to offer, and then talk to them about it! It is completely underrated, being able to talk to a brewer about the passion he or she puts into their work. Better still, the brewers actually have a spare moment to sit and chat. Any event where the brewers and/or chefs/distillers will walk around and talk with you about what they’re trying to achieve, and the process involved, is worth its weight in gold. It will change your dining/drinking experience forever. To me, that’s worth the price of entry.

You might look at $45 per person as being pricey, but you certainly get your value from these events. Four-course dinners alone fall along that range. Pair them with craft beer, craft cocktails, and good conversation, and the experience is a steal. Get your tickets. Drink some craft. Make some friends. Here’s to keeping it local!

Cheers!

— Luke

For reservations, email manager@bluecornbrewery.com or call (505) 438-1800. The event is from 6-9 p.m.

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Twitter: @santafecraftbro

Untappd: SantaFeLuke

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Victory is theirs!

When a new brewery opens up in Albuquerque, it’s only a matter of time before the Dark Side is there on the scene to report our findings back to you good folks. Well, as it turned out, this particular brewery opened up a couple weeks ago, while our editor was on the road for a wedding. Franz Solo and I were more than happy to step in and get the story on the brand new space to open up in Nob Hill, Hops Brewery.

While I waited for Franz to finish up his own brew day, I took the opportunity to chat with head brewer Ken Wimmer about himself, his beers, and the direction in which he hopes to help Hops along. But, before I get to my brief interview, I’ll start with a dad joke. “Mayan: Hey, wanna beer? Other Mayan: I’m working on this calendar, but I guess if I don’t finish it won’t be the end of the world.”

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It’s a darned comfy space inside.

DSBC: How long have you been brewing?

Wimmer: I’ve been brewing off and on since the mid-80s. And, until I took this position, like most of us, I started out as a homebrewer. I brewed in my kitchen and in my garage.

DSBC: How’d you get the gig?

Wimmer: Actually, it’s funny, someone told me this place was opening, and said, “Ken, it’s right up your alley.” I said, “Who wants to hire me?” A couple weeks later he said, “Ken, I’m not kidding. Get in there and talk to these people.” And, I said, “OK, what’s the worst that could happen? I make some good friends, and find a new place to drink some beer.” And, I brought in a bunch of my homebrews. We talked beer. I said, “This is an audition. Try my beers.”

DSBC: Before Hops, where did you work?

Wimmer: I’m a retired school teacher.

DSBC: So, you wouldn’t have a problem teaching your ways to an assistant brewer, if need be?

Wimmer: Not at all. In fact, I’ve taught several folks, here in Albuquerque, how to brew.

DSBC: Homebrewers are no strangers to inspiration. What inspired the beer list?

Wimmer: It started with the honey wheat. The owner’s wife asked for something light, easy drinking. They’re light lager drinkers. So, I developed that recipe strictly for them. And, they loved it. And, it turned out that a lot of others loved it, as well.

The Warm Scottish Nights, my Scotch Ale (was second), because I work on a pilot system. (So) before we go to a big system, I wanted to see how it would handle a big beer.

As mentioned in our preview article, Hops crafts their recipes on their pilot system, and they contract brew through Rio Bravo Brewing. Also, please take note that after Summerfest, Hops was reduced to just two of the six beers we talk about below, Honey Wheat and Chica.

DSBC: You have six of your beers on tap. What inspired the others?

Wimmer: My Chica (Pale Ale), I enjoy the aroma of hops, but I’m not big on the real high bitterness. So, I wanted to make a pale ale that had a great aroma, but wasn’t over the top on the bitterness. So, I developed Chica. And, the two main hops in that (are) Chinook and Cascade, so Chi-Ca.

“Dad Joke” is actually from a buddy of mine who brews with me quite often. He wanted to try a beer from pre-Prohibition era, and so the Dad Joke is a Kentucky Rye Common. And, so we tweaked that until we got it where we wanted it. I changed it again. I need to change it back. It’s still a good beer. It’s just not where I want it, just yet.

DSBC: Why “Dad Joke?”

Wimmer: Because it’s rye and corny of course. (Laughs)

DSBC: Ha. And what about your milk stout, The Tipsy Cow?

Wimmer: A buddy of mine was having a party. He’s a big stout fan. And, we thought, well, what can we come up with here? So, I thought, you know, I’ve been wanting to do a real milk stout, something similar to Mackeson’s. So, I really overloaded it with the lactose, and realized, you know what? That kind of worked. I thought I could always tone that back in future generations of it, but it was one of those beers that just worked on the first round.

DSBC: Let’s see, we (also) have the English bitter, The Irish Tan.

Wimmer: I’m a big British beer fan. I like the ordinary bitters. And, basically here, the closest you can get is the ESBs. A lot of the ordinary bitters that you find in this part of the world, they’re still closer to an IPA than an English bitter. So, I specifically wanted something a little more malty. Still had a nice little hop balance to it, was easy drinking, light in color, so I came up with this. I was looking at it, and said, you know, this has a nice little orange color to it … and, oooh! It’s not an Irish red, but maybe it’s a nice Irish tan.

DSBC: Which is your favorite house beer?

Wimmer: The one I just ordered.

DSBC: My favorite is the first one after a long shift. That and the next one. So, Ken, what do you have planned for Hops as you go forward?

Wimmer: Seeing what the customers want. Number one is customer service.

DSBC: Now, I know people are going to start coming in and asking for an IPA. This is Albuquerque, and this brewery is called “Hops.”

Wimmer: Oh yeah, and I will develop one, but I’m not going to compete with the big beers that you see at La Cumbre and Bosque. If I do an IPA, it’s going to be more of an East Coast style, or even a British style.

As for seasonals, we’ll have three or four standard beers, and everything else will be rotating. And, you know, some people are going to love one beer, and if it’s a great beer, it’ll stay. If it’s not, maybe it’ll disappear forever, or maybe it’ll be a seasonal that comes back only once a season.

DSBC: What did you think sets Hops apart from other ABQ breweries? Or, what niche does Hops fill?

Wimmer: I think the niche we fill is that we’re in Nob Hill, and we’ve got the whole Nob Hill vibe going. And, the bar is gorgeous.

DSBC: Not to mention a 40-tap list.

 

Wimmer: Exactly.

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Head brewer Ken Wimmer is off and running.

* * * * *

Franz joined just as I was wrapping up the interview, and both of us were ready to try the beer. Franz, having the better palate than I, will walk you through the experience.

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A solid start of a flight.

So, this past Monday, after a lovely brew day making an oatmeal stout in honor of my wife’s upcoming graduation, the chance came that Luke and I were both free of commitments, and we took advantage of such a rarity and headed over to the newly opened Hops Brewery. Our luck was even better than expected as we ran into Hops Brewery’s brewer, Ken Wimmer who joined us as we enjoyed a flight of his creations. We began with their Honey Wheat, which had a light, crisp mouthfee,l and to my estimation a good gateway brew with a tasty malt base.

We ventured onward to the Chica (pale ale), which has quite nicely balanced malts, but does need a bit more whirlpool and more aroma from the hops to up the ante to the next level. In the current form it is more akin to a British pale than to an American pale ale, in my opinion. That may well change with further iterations.

Dad Joke (the name is part of a penchant for humor in this abode, which I found to be quite catching and excellent) begins sweet with rye and corn making for a solid California common, though it needs a tad more work on the finish, but a good solid start. We tend to see far too few of the California common beer style in Albuquerque, so I was pleased to find it on the initial rotation at Hops.

Next up we had the Irish Tan, an English bitter. This was spot on style, with a nice light bitter helping of hops with a sweet middle and a warm, bready finish. I’d certainly enjoy a few of these watching EPL or Bundesliga on the numerous large televisions throughout the establishment.

My personal favorite was Tipsy Cow milk stout. A blast of lactose with good, toasty aroma and flavor fills the mouth with dark goodness. Good dark roasted malts pervade and this is damn tasty all around. For 4.5-percent (ABV), this tastes closer to a 6-percent stout.

This town needs more milk stouts of this caliber, and that is a great start for Hops Brewing. Our final beer of the flight was Warm Scottish Nights Scottish ale. It begins with a sweet aroma and peated malt in the back. The flavor is sweet, then bready, then lingering notes of the crust of a Creme brûlée and smoked dark fruits. I wholeheartedly recommend a pint if this one, as well, and let it warm up a hair to release a plethora of different and distinct malty notes.

The guiding principle for the beers at Hops is British bases, and then mixing malts to achieve certain types of flavor combinations. I love that the name of the brewery is Hops and yet it’s a malt-forward brewery at least from these initial house beers. This is to Burque what Second Street is to Santa Fe, a true bit of English malty brews swimming in a sea of hop havens. This is not to say that there are no hoppy beers on tap here; quite the opposite with many local taps of quite a few of our favorite year-round hop bombs.

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Where do we recognize those chairs from? Oh, Hello Deli!

Two plus years of construction were needed to completely redo the space. This was two years very well spent, as there is a modern, yet cozy vibe to the joint. I bid you all to head over and enjoy a pint or two, and maybe catch a game or hang out on the front patio.

* * * * *

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Plenty of TVs for watching EPL, Bundesliga, World Cup, etc.

Well, Albuquerque, Hops Brewery has opened at long last, a true labor of love for owner Jim Shull, general manager Lauren Shull, head brewer Ken Wimmer, and manager Mario Ruiz. Ruiz, having spoken to us during the visit, told us exactly how much work went in before the brewery and bar space were up and running. It took two-plus years of construction, from ceiling to floor and wall-to-wall, as Franz mentioned above. These folks worked around the clock and built the place by hand and hard labor. Keep that in mind as you admire the well-thought-out atmosphere, which perfectly fits within the Nob Hill area. Think of the consideration that went into each detail as you enjoy one of the frothy house brews. With 40 taps, 12 or so food items planned, 10 TVs, and plenty of seating, Hops is well-equipped to become a favorite hang, a great go-to to just grab a beer. And, parking was not a problem at all, despite A.R.T. It may be a place named “Hops,” currently without an IPA, but it certainly fills a niche too often overlooked, and serves as proof that we are more than a hop across the pond away from an oversaturation point. Welcome to ABQ, Hops. To your continued success, we raise our glasses.

Cheers!

— Luke and Franz

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Luke is from Santa Fe, NM, currently living in Albuquerque. If it’s about beer in New Mexico, he, along with the rest of the Dark Side Brew Crew, will get the story.

Here are your results from round two of the NM IPA Challenge!

The IPA Challenge continued today in Santa Fe at Second Street’s brand new third location on Rufina Street. That’s right, THIRD LOCATION! Second Street hasn’t quite opened fully to the public, but they are just about ready for business, and without spoiling anything (because we’ll have the whole full review after they open), it’s one fantastic space with a ton of potential. But, since this a post about the NM IPA Challenge, I’ll get straight to the results:

Brewery – Tray# — Total votes

Boxing Bear – #14 – 52 (1st)

Canteen – #15 – 42 (2nd-tie)

Quarter Celtic – #1 – 42 (2nd-tie)

Bosque – #3 – 39 (4th)

Starr Brothers – #6 – 34

Marble – #11 – 31

Tractor – #10 – 30

Second Street – #8 – 28

Bow & Arrow – #2 – 26

Steel Bender – #4 – 21

La Cumbre – #13 – 16

Ponderosa – #9 – 12

Picacho Peak – #12 – 7

The 377 – #5 – 7

Blue Corn – #7 – 5

Choices, choices, choices …

These are the aggregate totals, so the big winners of the round were defending champion Boxing Bear (37 votes), Quarter Celtic (33), Canteen (29), Starr Brothers (24), and Bosque and Tractor (23 apiece). Those who found Second Street to be a much tougher venue included Steel Bender (4, after 17 in the first round), as well as Blue Corn (4) and The 377 (4), which led in the elimination round, but has not made an impact so far with the voters in Las Cruces or the City Different.

It was a another well-run event by the NM Brewers Guild. Everyone in attendance had a great time. It was definitely tougher than usual to choose a winner. Of course, there were some outliers on both sides of the coin, but another great testament to how good and diverse our IPAs are in New Mexico.

Why yes, Second Street’s Rufina location is awesome!

Someone asked me during the event if we’ve reached a saturation point. I think that with more breweries, more people have a greater opportunity of trying good beers, and becoming more discerning. The more discerning we become, the harder our brewers have to work at keeping up the quality. Quality floats, in my opinion. But, with these results, we see some familiar names.

Plus, we all know the rules always change on the last leg in Albuquerque. See you at Steel Bender next Saturday!

To all of our great New Mexico IPAs and the fearless brewers who brew them, cheers!

— Luke