Archive for the ‘Brewery Reviews’ Category

The science theme is the defining trait of the new Brew Lab 101 in Rio Rancho.

On July 4, I stopped in to try the beer at Beer Lab 101 at 3301 Southern Blvd. SE in Rio Rancho. Immediately upon walking in, patrons will notice the science theme and the polished tap room.

Overall, this is a great addition to the Rio Rancho beer scene, having softly opened in early June after a long process to get to that point. Now there are three breweries within just a few blocks of each other on Southern, with Turtle Mountain and 1933 Brewing just a few blocks to the east.

The light fixture is made in part from an old beaker.

The servers were very friendly, and were happy to let me taste the three Beer Lab 101 beers and two ciders they had they had that day. There are also guest taps, but I was definitely there to taste their beer. Below is what I had.

  • Newton’s Apple Cider and Cherry Bomb Cider — I liked the cherry more than the apple, because there was an abundance of tart cherry flavor, giving it a super fresh taste. I felt both ciders were still just a touch on the watery side.
  • The Bull IPA — Not overly hoppy, but solid. This is what I ordered for my pint.
  • Sassy Brunette Amber — More complex than typical ambers, it feels more like a slightly hoppy red.
  • Event Horizon Oatmeal Stout — Very light mouthfeel, easy drinking. On such a hot day, though, I went for the IPA.

The brewing equipment is not in use quite yet, but patrons will be able to see the brewing team in action soon.

Beer Lab 101 is aiming for eight on tap, the five house styles, and three seasonals. The next beer they are hoping to put on tap is a hazy IPA. They are not yet brewing on their in-house equipment because they are still tweaking some of the engineering. They are contracting right now with Rio Bravo, but are hoping to switch over very soon.

The taproom does not serve food, but they are working with food trucks and there are several restaurants in close proximity that will deliver over to the taproom.

The science theme really is everywhere inside.

It’s the attention to detail in the taproom that is worth mentioning. The science theme is everywhere. The sample glasses are the cutest little beakers ever, and the wine decanters are a different style of beaker (flask). Also, the old-fashioned filament-design light bulbs rest inside large flask beakers. It is seriously pretty freaking adorable. The back of the shirts the servers were wearing say, “No science no beer.” That just about sums it up.

Cheers to science!

— AmyO

Full disclosure: This is a taster of Hazillionaire, their New England-style IPA.

Fans of the distinctive, funky flavor characterized by brett beers will not have to venture far from home or wait for seasonal releases to get their fill. And, it seems that this often-experimental style may have found a perfect home base at Bow & Arrow Brewing. Cosmic Arrow, a saison and the first in their series of brett beers, debuts today (Friday) at a special tapping that begins at 4 p.m. The brewery is located off 6th Street and McKnight Avenue, just in case you still have not made it over there.

Head brewer Ted O’Hanlan set a beautiful tulip glass of Cosmic Arrow before me for tasting. The color brought muddled lemons to mind, and the beer presented itself as a classic saison on the nose. At first sip, it released fruity notes and an extremely mild tartness. The Cosmic Arrow (7.1% ABV; 27 IBU) is a very dry, very sessionable saison with only minor hints of bitterness or sweetness and light effervescence. Aged in red zinfandel barrels for three months, the beer retained traces of oak that didn’t overpower the smoothness.

The second beer that will be released today is the excellent Hoodoo Monster Imperial American Red (9.3% ABV; 50 IBU). Named for the rock spires that decorate the southwest (and including “monster” because of the ABV), this beer honestly surprised me with its sophistication. I expected something much sharper, likely due to the imperial in the name, and its deep red-brown color didn’t lead me to believe otherwise. However, I found a classic American hop profile layered over a rich caramel flavor. For such a big beer, the Hoodoo Monster is incredibly smooth and (dangerously) drinkable.

How they got here

The beer hall is often packed with customers. (Photo courtesy Shyla Sheppard)

When I sat down with Bow & Arrow owner Shyla Sheppard at the beginning of the year, she mentioned the brewery would be expanding the barrel-aged program they launched in 2016 with the assistance of the new head brewer they were bringing on in the spring (Ted). Ted and Shyla share a palpable excitement about these brews, and it’s easy to see that the match — both in terms of style and experimentation — was a good one.

Though he recently hailed from Black Tooth Brewing Company in tiny Sheridan, Wyoming, it’s worth noting that Ted used to spend summers as a child in Albuquerque because his mother grew up here. Ted was eager to join Bow & Arrow as head brewer earlier this year to put his experience and creativity to work. Before Black Tooth, Ted entered the industry at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, N.C., where he worked with barrel-aged beers. Shyla said that Ted has, in addition to brewing, a culinary background.

“I think that lends a unique and interesting perspective to the way he approaches developing new beers and pushing the envelope with unusual ingredients,” she said.

Ted O’Hanlan, head brewer, has past experience in North Carolina and Wyoming.

“It takes a long time to brew brett beers, but it’s so expressive and it makes beer really unique,” Ted said. “It’s really taken off in other parts of the country, and it seems there are one or two breweries per state that are taking on this challenge. I like the complexity, and the challenge of working with it, because you have to wait.”

His willingness to experiment is an ideal complement to Shyla’s vision of the Bow & Arrow of the future. The brewery is moving towards mixed fermentation beers overall, and will explore American wild brett style, traditional sour, kettle sour and barrel sour beers. The popular El Breakfast stout is currently barrel-aging as an imperial in rye whiskey barrels (Ted sources these barrels directly from Wyoming Whiskey, as his friend is the head distiller there), with an upcoming October release date. Four other brews hitting the barrels this month include a second round of Cosmic Arrow, an American brett pale ale in a neutral oak barrel, a quad sitting on brett in more Sheehan barrels, as well as another brett sour beer that will turn more quickly than Cosmic Arrow. They are experimenting with a method to turn a mixed culture sour beer in months rather than years.

What’s tapping next

Shyla Sheppard, owner of Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.

Ted’s past experience at Fullsteam in their plow-to-pint and foraged beer programs intersects nicely with Shyla’s original vision for Bow & Arrow. The brewery was created to celebrate community, cultural heritage, and a rich appreciation for the land. Shyla was born and raised on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, and is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes. Her partner and co-owner, Missy Begay, was raised on the Navajo Nation. Ted’s experience with foraged beer — a community affair where community foragers were paid market price for ingredients — only underscores the vision Shyla and Missy said they share for Bow & Arrow.

This vision of celebrating what the land has to give is reflected in the next beer in their Way Out West kettle sour lineup. The first release was a dry-hopped farmhouse ale, and the second (Way Out West-Sumac) will be a Berliner Weisse brewed with locally sourced sumac berries. Sumac, indigenous to New Mexico, lends a crisp, tart, citrus taste, and Shyla attributes a long history of the indigenous people making pudding and a lemonade-type drink with the berries. The distinct aroma has transferred to the beer with a chile powder effect on the nose at first. However, when tasting it, Way Out West-Sumac (4.1% ABV; 7 IBU) is an exceptionally smooth summertime brew. At that low alcohol level, it should top your list of summer session beers.

Also, look for Bow & Arrow’s second release in their rotating stout series to be released shortly.

Where they’re headed

Shyla and Ted pose with the ever-growing collection of barrels.

From their earliest conversations, a willingness to push the envelope where brett was concerned united Ted and Shyla. Now, 36 barrels sit within full view of the beer hall behind the glass that separates it from the brewing area. Shyla just installed a sliding barn door for easy access to the barrels. Barrels holding sours are tucked under the stairs in the beer hall. It’s clear that the barrel-aged program is going to be a defining factor for the brewery in years to come.

Beyond what’s happening in the brewery and beer hall, Shyla said they are participating in more tap takeovers, and is working on increasing their distribution. Having launched with a 15-barrel system right away, they have room to grow without having to expand the brewery immediately. Bow & Arrow currently has taps at Slate Street, both Slice Parlor locations, Matanza Beer Kitchen, Pueblo Harvest Café, and Monk’s Corner Taproom. More beer pairing and collaborative dinners are in the works.

“This was a dream for a long time,” Shyla said.

After moving to New Mexico from the Bay Area, she left a career in social impact investing to launch Bow & Arrow with her partner, Missy, a physician. A hobbyist home brewer, she did the research necessary to decide that designing, building, and opening a brewery was indeed a viable business venture. She took the leap, and in their first year, they landed awards and accolades from the commercial construction industry to being named a Local Favorite by New Mexico Magazine.

The bones of the brewery are made for fostering community. Giant tables in the expansive beer hall give way to cozy nooks and large classroom-style spaces upstairs that can be rented for group events. Shyla’s passion for supporting local entrepreneurship is rooted in this brewery, and she actively seeks opportunities to help others on their business journeys.

This white buffalo head hangs above the entrance, facing the bar. Shyla told me it’s because her grandfather raised buffalo, and buffalo always face the storm. It faces the bar as a reminder to stay true to her dream, and to be the storm.

“Any startup will consume your life, and at the end of the day it has to be worth it,” Shyla said. “I’m really pleased with where we are today, and looking forward to where we’re headed.”

If Cosmic Arrow is any indication of where Ted’s skilled hand will help lead Shyla’s vision, it looks like this collaboration will be a resounding success.


— Julie


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.

* * * * *

Hops Brewing_(3)

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.


— Luke and Franz


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.

A local artist added this awesome image to the new Little Toad Creek production facility.

After visiting all four breweries in the southeastern part of the state last weekend, Luke and I decided to take the long way around from Carlsbad to Silver City. We wanted to check out Toadfest, the annual street event collaboration between Little Toad Creek and the New Mexico Brewers Guild. There was plenty of rain and wind as we actually dipped down through Texas, re-emerging into blue skies upon reaching El Paso. After a hearty lunch at the Hoppy Monk (yes, they have food in addition to an epic beer selection), we continued up Interstate 10, past Las Cruces and over to Deming, before taking Highway 180 up to Silver City.

The taproom was buzzing away during Toadfest.

Little Toad Creek is located in the heart of downtown now at the corner of Broadway and Bullard Streets. They have left behind the little mountain resort where it all started. Now they have a three-storefront location, almost like a smaller version of Three Rivers Brewery in Farmington. There is the bar area, a larger venue with a stage and a pool table, a small patio in the back, and a retail store with merchandise and bottles of their spirits for sale.

Luke did all the driving before Silver City, so Stoutmeister let him release the hounds at LTC and finished the drive later that night.

The event was a bit different in setup this year. LTC was not able to get a street permit, so instead they had an extended patio area in the alleyway out back. The beers from other New Mexico breweries were poured either at the main bar inside or via a jockey box on the patio. Despite some wind, a few drops of rain, and even a few snowflakes, it was still a lively time. There were a few tourists mixed in with the crowd of locals, who were easily identifiable by the fact they were covered in head to toe with outdoor clothing (the North Face love is strong in Silver City).

It was quite the crowd out in force for Toadfest.

There was live music, the kitchen was buzzing, and folks were crowding around Guild director John Gozigian to talk beer and buy merchandise. For many of the locals, it was a rare chance to try beers from Albuquerque, Taos, and Santa Fe that are not available in bottles or cans year-round. I tried a Kolsch from Taos Mesa (it had been a while) and then a LTC porter, which was quite toasted and tasty.

It may not look like much from the outside, but this new facility is about to start churning out some quality beers and spirits.

What it showed us more than anything was that Silver City, just like the towns in the southeast, has begun to have a thriving craft scene thank to the local brewery. With that in mind, LTC co-owner/brewer/distiller Dave Crosley and his wife and co-owner Teresa Dahl-Bredine are already working on taking things to the next level. Dave invited me, Luke, and John to take a walk a couple blocks down Bullard to Mill Road, where the second building on our left had quite the history. Once upon a time, it was the liquor depot for all of Silver City, where the trains serving the mines would back up and drop things off for the thirsty citizens. In later years, it was a roller skating rink, with some of the old interior artwork still on the interior walls. Now, it will be something quite different.

There is plenty of space to grow inside.

The new production facility for Little Toad Creek will soon be churning out even more beer and spirits. A shiny new 15-barrel brewhouse sits next to one of the biggest stills we have seen in the state (admittedly, we have only seen the ones at Broken Trail and Left Turn, so we cannot say it is the biggest overall). There are plans to eventually start canning and distributing LTC beers, though Dave said they have not decided exactly how far outward those beers will be shipped.

That is one shiny still.

Still, the very fact that a brewery/distillery combo that started at a nearby mountain resort has now been able to move into such a large facility is a good sign indeed. It shows the popularity of drinking local, both for residents and for the tourists flooding into the area to keep cool(er) in the summer months. We all know our big breweries up here along Interstate 25 are doing great, but to see expansion and ambition in the small towns warms our hearts even more.

Dave with his “son,” Earl, who guards the brewery in exchange for back scratches and belly rubs.

This summer, we are planning to take another trek to Taos and the breweries around it. We also plan to visit Las Cruces to see how things are going down there, after which I think we will be able to say we have visited every brewery in the state at least once. Until another half dozen open this year. Oh, darn, guess we will have to go back.

Craft beer culture is alive and well in all the corners of New Mexico. Let us all raise a pint to that this weekend!


— Stoutmeister

Things were hopping at Milton’s when we visited.

Our trip to the southeastern part of New Mexico continued over this past weekend with stops at Desert Water Brewing on the northern edge of Artesia, followed by Milton’s Brewing in the heart of Carlsbad. For the recap of our visits to Roosevelt Brewing in Portales and The Wellhead in Artesia, click here.

These two breweries were just as different in vibe and approach as the prior two that we visited. The one thing they both had was a definite following among locals. Milton’s, in particular, has really generated a huge buzz for craft beer in Carlsbad, a town booming with the better fortunes of the oil industry. That, in turn, has created quite the ambitious goals for the staff at the young brewery.

“My goal is for Milton’s to be the brewery that bridges the gap between north and south,” co-owner/head brewer Lucas Middleton said.

Now that is something we would truly like to see.

Desert Water enters period of transition

The outside belies the inside decor at Cottonwood/Desert Water.

Up on the north end of Artesia, just off Highway 285, Desert Water Brewing opened in 2013 as the beer-centric half of Cottonwood Winery. The outside building is fairly nondescript, but the inside is a unique little taproom. Wine is clearly the primary business, with dozens upon dozens of bottles for sale. It boasts a definite country/western theme. There is no kitchen, but a food truck was parked outside while we visited. The crowd appeared to be made up mainly of locals, all of whom knew the staff.

The big news when we arrived: Desert Water is not currently brewing beer. There was an explanation, of course. Owner Mike Mahan and his wife required outside investors to help open Cottonwood and then Desert Water. From the beginning, their goal was to eventually buy out those investors and take full control of the business. Well, the good news is that they have done just that. In one of those technicalities, though, it required them to apply for a new small brewer license with the State of New Mexico. While that license is pending, they cannot brew for the time being.

Our samples of the milk stout were accompanied by some Bosque Lager, one of the guest taps.

That being said, Mike was nice enough to go to his last remaining keg, which featured a roasty, not overly sweet milk stout, and pour us a couple of samples to try. It had the thickest mouthfeel of any beer we had on our trip. It also showed us that once Desert Water is brewing again, it will be worth the return trip to see what else Mike has to offer. Until then, he will rely on guest taps from across the state, plus of course the many, many wines on the shelves.

Milton’s is the place to be in Carlsbad

It was rather crowded at Milton’s the night we visited, but we’re told that’s a regular occurrence.

We were told by more than one other brewer or brewery owner over the course of our trip that Milton’s would be jam-packed whenever we arrived there. After a quick drive down Highway 285, followed by a stop at our hotel, and a bite to eat, we arrived at the small brewery at the west end of Mermod Street, just a couple blocks off the main downtown area. As was predicted, the joint was full of lively locals, listening to a touring band from Tucson, and enduring a sudden uptick in the wind that was making life interesting on the patio on the north side of the building.

The building was once a storage facility, with a pair of garage doors on the north and sound ends. It had a long rectangular shape, but without the high ceilings of Roosevelt. Heck, one could fit all of Milton’s inside Roosevelt with room to spare. In this small space, the layout is similar, minus the kitchen (food trucks, again, provide the sustenance). The main taproom area is up front, with the brewing equipment along the east wall. The equipment, well, shows the relative youth of the brewery, which has been around for just about a year now. The mash tun and the boil kettle are both square-shaped, and open on top. We have heard of open fermentation at some breweries, but not an open brewhouse. The fermenters are small and plastic.

Yes, that is a square, open mash tun.

The good news is that Milton’s is on the verge of expansion, which will mean not just new, modern equipment, but also a much larger brewing space. The Frito Lay distribution building, located just to the west of the brewery along the train tracks, will become Milton’s new brewery building. They will soon have a 10-barrel brewhouse setup, with stainless steel fermenters, and more. It will open up more space in the taproom (which they need), and keep the brewing area clear of everything from customers to strong gusts of wind whipping through in the evening, as to get to the north patio, one has to walk past the brewhouse.

Lucas, once the staff alerted him to our arrival, and then once he finished talking with some of the regular patrons, spoke to us about all of it. My phone, however, did not record most of it, so I had to go off the somewhat blurry memories of the end of the night and what it did record, which ended up being a lot of random conversation about craft beer in general.

The most important thing Lucas told us about the aftermath of the expansion will be this: “I want to get our beer in cans. We’ll roll in the Mother Road (Mobile Canning) guys. My goal is for us to be in Albertson’s here in Carlsbad by the end of the year.”

Milton’s already has its kegs ready to go.

What will go in those cans is still to be determined. One of the most popular beers they have made so far is a red chile-infused stout.

“We were doing a Frijole Mole, but I had to take it off,” Lucas said. “We were using a bunch of different chiles. The first two batches did great. People were drinking the shit out of it in the middle of the summer. … It didn’t go the way I wanted to (last brew). I’ll do the (Mullet) Milk Stout for now, then get back to it.”

Milton’s was able to take it to WinterBrew back in Santa Fe in January, where it proved to be a hit. It was the first major festival for the brewery, but more are right on the horizon with the Blazin’ Brewfest in Las Cruces on Saturday and then the Microbrew Festival on the Pecos, right in Carlsbad, on May 13. It will mark the first time a local brewery will be able to attend in full.

They have one of those ever popular buy a friend a beer boards here, too.

Lucas said he found an advertisement from the early 20th Century saying that Carlsbad was ripe for a brewery and ice company. It did not happen then, but it has now (minus the ice).

“It took from 1908 to 2015 to get a brewery in this town,” Lucas said.

By all accounts, it was worth the wait. The other beers on tap during our visit were the Red Stapler Red Ale (bonus points for the Office Space reference), Hoprunner’s Hefe, and the 62/180 IPA. The latter is named for the highway that connects the town to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. That tourist draw has left Milton’s with quite the mixed crowd to date.

“We get a lot of tourists, we get a lot of people from all over the U.S.,” Lucas said, later adding that he knows his brewery might be the first introduction to New Mexico craft beer for many travelers from other states and even other countries. It is a task that Milton’s seems ready to take on in full in 2017 and beyond.

That’s brewer Lucas Middleton, Stoutmeister, Dan Middleton and his awesome beard, and Luke from left to right.

We would like to thank Lucas, his father Dan, and the rest of the staff at Milton’s for their hospitality on such a busy, windy night. We admire their ambition and dedication to the craft, and for so quickly creating a thriving craft culture hundreds of miles from the bulk of this state’s breweries.

Good luck to Milton’s in 2017 and beyond.

* * * * *

That visit wrapped up our time in Southeast New Mexico. With the bad weather closing in, we called it a night. The next day we set out on the aforementioned Highway 62/180, down past the caverns, into Texas, and eventually all the way to El Paso. We will chronicle the final leg of the trip, highlighted by our visit to Little Toad Creek’s new production facility, on Wednesday.


— Stoutmeister

Our trip to visit the breweries of Southeast New Mexico began in this charming town.

Weird spring weather be damned, the Crew did indeed set out on our planned trip to visit the breweries in Southeast New Mexico over this past weekend. Luke and I hit the road and were able to make stops at Roosevelt Brewing in Portales, Desert Water and The Wellhead in Artesia, Milton’s in Carlsbad, and then head to the southwest for a stop at Little Toad Creek.

We found that craft beer culture is alive and well in these smaller towns, though it is often quite different from what most of us are used to in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Despite the small sizes of the towns and the breweries, we found five places all looking to move forward and further expand the reach of craft beer to all corners of our state.

Matt Boin, the brewer at The Wellhead, said the southern half of New Mexico is ripe for a craft beer boom similar to what the north has already experienced.

“I definitely think it is,” Matt said. “I’ve been talking to our owner about possibly expanding our footprint, possibly into one of the nearby towns like Carlsbad. We have a lot of people down here working in the oil fields, natives and people coming from (out of state). Just seeing Milton’s being packed all the time, I think people are literally and figuratively thirsty. … I think we’re definitely on the cusp of coming into our own. I’m excited for it.”

To keep this story from rivaling, or likely surpassing, The Week Ahead in Beer in length, we have split it into three parts, all in the order that we visited the breweries. First up, Roosevelt and The Wellhead.

Roosevelt speaks softly and carries big flavors

Located in an old JC Penny storefront in downtown Portales, Roosevelt has quickly made a name for itself.

Our journey started on Interstate 40 until we reached Santa Rosa, where we took Highway 84 southeast toward Fort Sumner. From there, it was a straight shot east on Highway 60 to Clovis, then southwest on Highway 70 to Portales. Roosevelt is located in the middle of the town, diagonally across the street from the county courthouse that dominates the small downtown.

To simply call Roosevelt quaint would be selling it short. It is one of the more unique setups for a New Mexico brewery, simultaneously charming and sensible. The building gives it a long, rectangular shape from the front entrance to the kitchen and brewing area in the back. It sports high ceilings, but despite a sizable lunch crowd made up of locals, tourists, and college students from Eastern New Mexico, it was not as loud as some ABQ breweries tend to get.

The brewery equipment is visible from the dining area. The kitchen is to the right of the frame.

It is all one open space, save for the mostly enclosed kitchen and then an office on a second floor in the far back. The brewers were not on hand Friday, but on the days they are working one could sit around, enjoy a beer and/or eat a meal, and watch them work. The brewhouse was small, though listed at 10 barrels, with four fermenters and a small mill. In what was likely not a coincidence, there were four beers on tap, plus four guest taps from Bosque, Marble, Santa Fe, and Tractor. Our server told us the Clovis IPA is their most popular offering, showing us that hopheads are not limited solely to the I-25 corridor. Of course, being so popular, it was not available when we visited.

Roosevelt boasts a full menu, with a number of specialty burgers and pizzas listed alongside the appetizers and other sandwiches. Patrons also have the option to build their own burger or pizza. The food was good and filling, made to order, and cooked just right. As Milton’s would show us later in the trip, a small-town brewery does not necessarily have to be a brewpub, but Roosevelt took that form and it has worked out well. The mixed crowd seemed pleased with what was offered.

The hefe, stout, and food were all solid offerings.

We met briefly with owner Justin Cole, who was busy coming and going. The weekend rush was likely on his mind. Cole was originally from Clovis, but attended school at New Mexico Tech in Socorro. He was inspired by Socorro Springs Brewery to start a brewpub in a smaller college town. It has worked out for him, his staff, and Portales since Roosevelt opened in 2012.

The four beers on tap were Golden Lager, Happy Heifer (Hefeweizen), Coffee Porter, and Softly Spoken Stout. The lager was clean and crisp, with just enough sweetness. It is definitely the kind of beer to get a land of macro drinkers interested in craft. The hefe hit the notes one would expect, lots of banana and clove, with a light mouthfeel and a definite easy-drinking status. The porter was good for just being a porter, but the coffee did not pop out very much. The stout was of the sessionable variety (4.6% ABV), so the mouthfeel was light as well, but it did have a fair amount of roasty flavor, with a slight creaminess to it.

The staff of Roosevelt will bend over backwards to help.

Overall, we both enjoyed Roosevelt. It is certainly a brewery we look forward to revisiting in the future. So yes, it is quite worth the 3-hour drive from Albuquerque.

The Wellhead aims to drill up new business

The Wellhead looks simple from the outside, but is quite the raucous local hot spot inside.

We left Portales via Highway 70, continuing on to Roswell, where we merged onto Highway 285. We did want to see the town as we passed through, but good lord, the traffic lights are not timed there in the least. It delayed our arrival in Artesia by nearly a half hour. Our need to get to The Wellhead was to help out brewer Matt Boin, who told us he only had a limited window to meet up due to some car (well, truck) trouble. As it turns out, Matt was able to work things out and meet us in downtown Artesia’s long-standing brewpub.

The Wellhead came into being in 2000, when Frank Yates of Yates Petroleum decided to open a brewpub along Main Street. His brother, Mike Stegall, was the first brewer. Many other brewers have come and gone since, with Matt being the latest to join the brewery back at the start of 2016.

“We’re still growing,” Matt said. “We’ve got a lot of blonde drinkers and wheat drinkers. There’s nothing wrong with that. I try to push the boundaries a little bit, one beer at a time. I made the IPA a little hoppier, made the dark beers a little darker. Milton’s has definitely helped out with that in Carlsbad. I think all together we’re starting something down here.”

The beer lineup during our visit to The Wellhead.

The story that Matt told us was similar to what we used to hear from the brewers just starting out in Albuquerque many years ago. He learned to home brew from his brother-in-law, and it became his primary hobby/passion project. When he got the chance to brew on a commercial level, Matt jumped at the chance.

Oh, but there is a twist one does not find in the northern reaches of the state.

“I actually moved down here for an oil field job,” Matt said. “I do that during the day and I do this in the evening. I’m pretty busy.”

Matt said the chemical process between working in the oil fields and working in a brewery are not all that different. The mechanical process has similarities as well, all of which fit his interests.

Plenty of regulars were filling the seats at The Wellhead during happy hour.

Currently, The Wellhead offers up six house beers and three rotating seasonals. The latter are all Matt’s recipes, with a Black Rye IPA, Brown Ale, and Winter Warmer currently on tap. Slowly but surely, hops are becoming popular, but the primary customers in Artesia are more in favor of beers with less kick.

“I definitely think there’s more of a vibe for IPAs with the younger crowd,” Matt said. “(But) I think the major challenge is people are set in their ways of drinking Miller and Dos Equis. I’ve got a lager strain going right now. I’ve got a Mexican lager fermenting right now. I hope to compete for our Dos Equis crowd. I’m doing a SMASH lager, Vienna and Saaz, which I hope to compete with the Budweiser crowd. I hope to open the door that way.”

The good news for Matt and The Wellhead is that after 17 years, the brewery has quite the loyal customer base, even as the oil jobs surge up and then decline with the fluctuating price of crude on the market.

“There’s definitely some awesome loyalty,” Matt said. “There are guys who have their beer. When I got here, they said I like this beer, we’ve had brewers before who’ve tried to change things, don’t do that, especially with the wheat and the blonde. I’ve definitely been learning to be more consistent.”

The menu offers up a wide variety of foods to pair with the beer.

The Wellhead offers up a full menu with a variety of dishes, ranging from high-end steaks and seafood to more traditional pub fare. Because it has a restaurant license, it also offers wine and hard liquor. The happy hour crowd in the bar was boisterous, a mix of locals and oil field workers, plus a few families, though most of those were in the separate dining room to the right (east) of the bar area. The place was plenty crowded, though many people were skipping the pints of house beers for cans of macro brews and other drinks. Those that did order a house beer went with either the Cisco Canyon Blonde Ale or Indian Basin Wheat.

For now, Matt will keep plugging away. We wish him luck in his quest to push for an off-site taproom, whether in Carlsbad or Roswell or anywhere in the area. The more craft beer, the better, and the more converts Matt and all the breweries of the southeast get only improves our state.

A big thanks to Matt for hanging out and chatting while we downed our samples. The Black Rye IPA had a nice kick from his addition of Citra hops to the mix. The Roughneck Red and Crude Oil Stout were our top picks among the house beers. I guess our palates are a bit different than the folks in Artesia, but we still respect that they are drinking at least some craft.

* * * * *

Roosevelt and The Wellhead offered up two wildly different vibes, but in a way, both fit their towns. The former was in a laid-back farming and college town. The latter was in a booming oil town. Overall, both managed to impress us in their different ways.

Our next two stops brought us to two more wildly different places. Check back Tuesday for our visits to Desert Water and Milton’s.

Until then, if you have a little time off coming up and a hankering to get out of town, you can also look to the south for a craft beer trip. Just a suggestion.


— Stoutmeister

Three Rivers is upping its game along Main Street in Farmington.

As we bask in the splendor that is the glorious New Mexico beer scene, it can be easy to forget about the great breweries that exist outside of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Oh, there are many others out there. MANY. Do yourself a favor and grab a brewery map from the NM Brewers Guild so that you can find a new place to stop in during your next day trip or weekend away. I did just that a few weeks ago, back at the end of January when I spent some time at Three Rivers Brewery in Farmington on my way to Durango. I got the chance to sit down with head brewer Brandon Beard, and assistant brewers Patrick Liessmann and Austin Jacobs.

First of all, for those who are not familiar with Three Rivers, its website tells the story of how it all started as a corner brewery and restaurant in 1997, and has grown to consume almost an entire block of Main Street in downtown Farmington. It now includes a taproom, game room, pizzeria, and soon a tasting room (don’t worry we will get to that). All of the locations offer delicious Three Rivers brews. Being somewhat isolated in the northwest part of the state has made it challenging for Three Rivers to project their name out into the statewide scene but they have been working diligently to evolve.

The brewhouse is constantly churning.

“The last like year and a half we’ve been doing a lot of changes like doing different yeast,” Patrick said. “We started messing a lot more with the water, and really dialing in our water chemistry. And then, we started messing with barrels and souring, so over the last year and a half we have really been trying to push what the place has been doing.

“All of our standard beers, we have been trying to slowly tweak those down. We changed the IPA entirely. We scrapped the old IPA because we just felt it wasn’t up to today’s standards of IPAs, so we completely re-did that one.”

The hard work seems to be paying off as the re-engineered IPA (IPAC Nugs) took third place in the New Mexico IPA Challenge this past summer.

Three Rivers also recently scored some great feedback from their showing at WinterBrew in Santa Fe. I was not present in SF, however I was fortunate that they had saved some of the Double Stuffed Truffle Butter that was all the rage. It was good stuff. (Decadent stuff. — S) It boasts an in-your-face peanut butter aroma and flavor without being overpowering. It is still a beer, and an easy-to-drink beer at that. Patrick described how they took their standard Truffle Butter (as he handed me a bottle of it) and turned it into the double-stuffed variant.

Those are a lot of lines going from the brewery to all the different rooms.

“So here’s the Truffle Butter right here,” Patrick said. “We took the base beer for that and pretty much just went crazy with the peanut butter. Because we didn’t really get the peanut butter that we wanted out of this one, but we thought it was OK. It’s definitely more on the stout side with all the peanut butter. But, it really … we wanted to go over the top, and we took some of the leftovers that we had and went over the top and took it to Santa Fe.”

Beyond that they also had their Framboise, a sour blonde that is oak-barrel-aged with raspberries, Cerberus, an imperial stout aged in Malbec wine barrels, and a malt liquor aged in a cabernet sauvignon barrel called Brass Monkey. To top it all off, they also brought El Coco Negro, which required the use of the pizzeria.

“We hand toast coconut at the pizzeria, in the big ovens over there, and then we hand add it to the beer and then as it’s done fermenting we will let it sit on the beer,” Austin said. “It’s a really amazing beer. It’s one of my favorites.”

I was happy to hear that WinterBrew was just as much fun for the guys at Three Rivers as it was for the guests at the event. Brandon suggested that they want to make the trip south more often.

“We are so far north that we have really never gone down south to show to people what we’re making, so that has kind of … we are kind of being oriented this year with that,” Brandon said. “We are going to try to do as many festivals down there (in Central New Mexico) as possible.”

The swanky new tasting room at Three Rivers.

In the midst of all of this, the upcoming addition to the Three Rivers block should help carry the momentum, if any additional help is even needed. Included in my tour was a walk-through of the as-yet-unopened tasting room, which was already quite impressive in every little detail, a true display of craftsmanship and creativity but with a genuine feel of sophistication and class.

“A construction supply went out of business, so (we picked up) a lot of old lumber from there and another old lumber yard,” Austin said. “All of that stuff is made out of old military ammunition crates and stuff like that, like the seats, and some of the chairs, and the lining of the bar, and all of the metal they found, and it’s all recycled … like the only thing new in there is the floor.”

The plan is to have plenty of Three Rivers’ beer flowing, along with many other top-notch beer options, but the crown jewel will be the offering of cocktails crafted from Three Rivers’ own in-house products from their new on-site distillery. Patrick gave me the lowdown on when we can expect everything to happen.

The distillery is going to be running soon.

“We’re hoping March and it’s going to be just in-house pretty much, there will be bottles to go,” Patrick said. “There’s going to be spiced rum, regular rum, (and) white whisky for now, until we start aging in barrels to make bourbon. We’ll have gin and we’re going to be making our own tonic and our own sodas, and hand-making everything for the cocktails.”

The tasting room will have its own menu, too.

“We’re really trying to up the game here to really try and draw (customers) in and draw a different crowd is the whole idea,” Patrick said. “And offer things that aren’t available (in the eatery) or the taproom or the pizzeria.”

“They are going to have their own artisan dishes,” Austin added. “And they’ll pair maybe some beer pairings and some cocktail pairings.”

If that wasn’t enough, Three Rivers is looking ahead to its 20th anniversary party this summer. Preparations are already underway. Austin struggled not to grin while explaining what is already in the works.

So … many … barrels …

“We have our 20th anniversary, which will be in July of this year, and what we are going to release there is imperial stout aged in Woodford Reserve double oak barrels, and that is kind of the higher end Woodford Reserve,” Austin said, “and then we have two Mount Gay Rum barrels that we are also aging the same base stout beer in, and then one of each of those barrels is going to be aged with coconut as well. So, in a sense there’s going to be four different variants of that beer. We’ll release those (in) bottle only. Then, we have a hopscotch ale aged in a Malbec wine barrel that we’re aging right now, and another stout that we’re aging in … I believe a (Cabernet Sauvignon) barrel … and I’m not sure what’s in the other one … it’s a surprise I guess.”

I had to wipe the drool off of my chin after he finished talking.

The Brew Crew looks forward to hearing and seeing more of Three Rivers Brewery. We also encourage our followers to stop in. Whether it is on the way to Durango, or elsewhere in the region, it is well worth your time. The truth is that Farmington would make a very good base camp for visiting some great sites. Places to check out nearby that I have enjoyed include Mesa Verde National Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument, Salmon Ruins, and Chaco Canyon National Historic Park. Others that Austin insisted are great include Canyon de Chelle National Monument and Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness.

Head brewer Brandon Beard also has his hands full with this little angel.

Lastly, I can’t forget to mention that the food in the eatery was excellent, and that the same quality can be expected on the whole block as all of the food programs are managed by the same chef.

We wish Three Rivers Brewing the best of luck with the opening of their tasting room and congratulate them on their upcoming 20th anniversary.


— Deezbeers


Alexander Pertusini, Chili Line head brewer, is not closing up shop after all.

I dipped into Santa Fe’s Pizzeria da Lino last week to catch up with Alexander Pertusini, head brewer of Chili Line Brewing, to get the story on what’s really happening with the brewery. Let’s set the record straight — they’re not closed and there are no plans to close.

A recent social media post kicked up rumors of this nature, but what really happened was a change in ownership that aims to solve problems that are typical when family members try to partner up in business. A difference in vision, management styles, and blurry lines between the brewery and the restaurant side of the business led to Alexander’s father, Lino, folding the brewery under his sole ownership.

Soon, Alexander’s only role will be head brewer. He plans to resign his position as restaurant manager to someone who he will promote from within, in order to focus on his brewing. He’s also going to be working alongside the brewers at Duel part time. This is good news for Chili Line, because Alexander is inquisitive and preaches a compelling sermon on smoked grains, but as a young brewer there is still a huge opportunity for growth. After graduating from New Mexico State last year, he brewed a little at High Desert and Spotted Dog in Las Cruces and Mesilla, respectively.

“I just want to brew,” Alexander said. So, let’s get to the heart of what we’re here for, the beer. The backstory is that he joined his father on a trip to see the family in Italy, before he headed to Vietnam for a brewing job. Bored one day, he got in the family’s tiny car and drove to Bamberg, Germany, where his love affair with smoked grains proved enough to lead him to drop the job in Vietnam and decide to open a brewery in the spare room of the pizzeria in Santa Fe.


A bottle of smoked beer from Brauerei Heller Bamberg

Smoked Beer 2.0

“Bamberg’s the heart of smoked beer. That’s where I discovered smoked hefeweizen,” he said as he set a bottle on the bar that he brought back with him. “I found it incredibly smoky and well-balanced, and knew I wanted to try to make it.”

Alexander noted that people familiar with the German smoked beers are often disappointed in his brews, which have been toned down for the market.

“They expect a campfire in their mouth,” he joked.

He went on to explain that Bamberg beers generally have a 50/50 ratio of smoked to non-smoked grain, and his top out about 20 points less than that.

Chili Line’s version of the smoked hefeweizen, “El Jefe” (5.6% ABV; 33% smoked grain) was the most heavily smoked on the tap list. The slightly smoky mouthfeel and aftertaste was more balanced with this style than some of the others, I found. It’s a cloudy, mid-toned hefeweizen that paired well with the tre manzini — cheese and dates wrapped in prosciutto with balsamic greens — that Alexander brought out from the kitchen. (It should be noted that he overhauled the majority of the restaurant’s menu with his grandfather’s recipes when he assumed management last year, moving away from frozen pasta and opting for fresh ingredients.)


Pizzaria da Lino’s tre manzini appetizer (I’m definitely NOT a food photographer)

“We’re trying to complement the smoky quality of the wood-fired oven pizza we make here,” he explained.

That made sense to me, and so I asked what other pairings Alexander usually suggests to his customers. “Parmesan and balsamic vinegar also pair well with smoked beers, and we obviously have a lot of that on our menu,” he said.

Alexander said they are focusing on lagers, and will migrate away from stouts. He finds that bitter lagers and IPLs blend well with the food they’re serving up. There was a stout on the tap list (6.8% ABV; 2% smoked grain) that was the least smoked beer available, and boasted chocolate and roasted coffee flavors. Another nod to popular tastes included a Cascada Lager (5.0% ABV; 8% smoked grain). It uses all cascade hops, but the big citrus profile was darkened by the smoky flavor.


John Young, owner of La Mesilla Construction, enjoys the Imperial Pilz

One customer further down the bar was enjoying the Pineapple sIPApu (8.6% ABV; 10% smoked grain), billed with “smoked IPA German Polaris, Sazz and Azacca hops with notes of pineapple, mint and a touch of smoke.” Another customer chose the Imperial Pilz (10% ABV; 10% smoked grain) as his pint of choice. I tended to agree, and thought the bitterness was a better offset to the smoke. The hefeweizen and dunkelweizen (5.6% ABV; 25% smoked grain) carried the smoky flavors better than the IPA styles, I thought. The dunkelweizen needed a bit more effervescence, but the banana and clove notes found in both the hefeweizen and dunkelweizen styles were surprisingly pleasant complements to the smoked grain.

A taproom celebrating Santa Fe beers

So, what’s next for Chili Line other than the shifts in management? Alexander said they want to expand the tap offerings and make their patio space a proper beer garden. “It’s the perfect hole-in-the-wall location, and there are a lot of interesting things happening with Santa Fe beers. We want to celebrate that,” he said. Aside from their own brews, they’ll have a rotating selection of local beer occupying four to six guest taps. Currently, the only other location that you can find Chili Line beer is at the New Mexico Hard Cider Taproom in the Luna Building in Santa Fe. One of their ciders was also on offer at the pizzeria.

If you’re looking to try Chili Line, the best place to do it right now is at their home base, Pizzeria da Lino. They’ll be hosting special events for the holidays, and also after parties in the new beer garden/taproom for Cinefesta Italia next summer.


— Julie


When I first heard about a new brewery opening in Santa Fe, it was just a small rumor overheard at a bar between buzzed beer fans. I didn’t know who was opening the brewery or what kind of brewery it was going to be, and man, now that I think back on it, neither did those guys at the bar. But, the prospect of another brewery in Santa Fe, and this small town inching its way closer to the status of say, Bend, Oregon, was pretty exciting.

Soon, word got out, and it was more than just a rumor. The word was that this new brewery was going to be focused on mixed-fermentation and bottle-conditioned beer. It wasn’t long before the internet was abuzz. Over Twitter and Facebook, the shrill shriek of sours rang out from among many of those that tend to, shall we say, over-simplify their understandings of the industry. They were right, partially. Yes, a brewery was opening in Santa Fe. Yes, there would be sours, but there would also be salt and fruit and funk and much more in between.

It was about that time when a name popped up. A familiar name — John Rowley. Among many in the industry and home-brew community, Rowley was already well known and respected. I mean, despite the fact that the man wasn’t a professional brewer (yet), it’s very hard to deny that he makes good beer. Rowley might not be the kind of guy (and, hell, he might be) to have a trophy or ribbon wall in his house, but he certainly could if he wanted to with the many brewing competitions he’s excelled in. With his considerable experience and skill, he was exactly the kind of home brewer that you want to open up a brewery.


Rowley’s first handle is up!

I sat down with Rowley a little over a year ago and we talked the details of the new brewery plans, back when it was Sub Rosa Cellars, and back when it was to be the fifth brewery in Santa Fe. The name has since changed — and another brewery opened before it — but the idea never did. During that conversation, there were a few promises made. We were promised food. We were promised a well-curated guest beer list. And, we were promised the brewery would be “about having a good time and having a good experience for everyone,” as Rowley said back then.

Recently, I spent some time at the fully armed and operational Rowley Farmhouse Ales to get the full story. I attended the industry soft opening, and I’ve gone back a couple times to try more of the full menu, and other beers. After all, I wanted to see if Rowley’s new place delivered on those promises he made.


It was only as they got closer to opening that Rowley publicly revealed that Jeff Kaplan was one of his partners and the chef. This was only because Kaplan still had a very good gig making very good food elsewhere at the time. I won’t go too far into that, but having tasted several of their dishes now, I can attest that a brewery really benefits from the chops of a solid chef.


Cheese plate from Cheesemongers of Santa Fe

The menu leans towards the gastropub style, with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and terms like aioli here and Wagyu there. The great thing about the menu at RFA is that it’s varied enough to suit any mood, whether you’re starving or just need something delicious to pair with your beer. The food ranges from brewery fan favorites to something more suitable to the skills of an iron chef. The menu isn’t huge, but you’d be hard pressed not to find something that would pique your interest.


The popover was delicious.

If you’re looking for something to warm up your palate, you could order the spicy nut bowl, cheese plate, popover, or Korean-style chicken wings. On the lighter, leafier side, you could get a fresh farmer’s market salad, or roasted Brussels sprouts. For a little comfort food, you could try the À la Minute New England Clam Chowder, or the Braised Flat Iron Poutine with Lone Mountain Wagyu beef. You can even grab current brewery favorites such as the Mac ‘n Cheese baked with mozzarella, parmesan, and bleu cheese, or the Waffles with fried chicken, or if you prefer crispy braised Kyzer Farms pork belly.


Duck Mi? Duck You!

If you’re just looking for a sandwich to go with your beer, you’ll be plenty satisfied with the BLT with green chile aioli, the “Duck Mì, Duck you!” sandwich, the Warm Prosciutto Pear Sandwich, or even the sirloin burger, made with Zoe’s bacon and melted cheddar cheese, locally sourced from the Old Wind Mill Dairy. On the more upscale end, you could try the marrow and mushroom bruschetta or the farmer’s market risotto.


Risotto, anyone?

For the soft opening, I took my gal, and we had the popover, risotto, and Duck Mì sandwich. All of the vegetables were fresh, the risotto was creamy, and the duck was very flavorful and tender. The popover was light and fluffy, and the gruyere sauce was so incredible, I still dream about it.

On a separate trip, the cheese plate from Cheesemongers of Santa Fe had a good selection of quality cheeses and charcuterie, and the sirloin burger with green chile was, to quote my friend/coworker, “Bomb.” I’ll certainly be back to see what else Chef Kaplan has in store for us. My lady has already asked for a second date at RFA.

Curated Beer List


Nice array, guys!

The list of beers was fun and creative, representing a nice variation of styles. The tap list is always changing, or at least I never saw the same list the three times I was there. There were IPAs, saisons, goses, brown ales, red ales, Scotch ales, lambics, sours, and pilsners from breweries like Evil Twin, Firestone Walker, Deschutes, Avery, Odell, Founders, Upslope, and Anderson Valley. The local list was short, but I wasn’t at all disappointed by that. Aside from Marble Red, I’ve seen La Cumbre’s Monzón Wet-hop Pale Ale and even Santa Fe Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Java Stout (where the hell did they get that keg?).

And, of course, Rowley had at least one of their beers on tap, the Notorious BdG, a dark Bière de Garde, with a smooth body and a nice funky tartness to it. “It’s a pretty malty Bière de Garde,” Rowley said. “It’s on the edge of the style in terms of color. It’s got a lot of malt. I think it has eight different malts in it. It’s meant to be malt-forward, very little IBUs. Twenty-two IBUs, I think. I fermented it with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Drie strain, which is the Drie Fonteinen culture. We called it the Notorious BdG because a buddy of mine in Atlanta had a homebrew called that, and so we wanted to give him props because he couldn’t be here tonight. So, it’s kind of a fun beer, definitely not an IPA. That’s not our focus, but we’ll do some IPAs.”


Notorious BdG on tap!

It bodes well, if that’s the quality of mixed fermentation that Rowley has been talking about. As for the list, only a super beer geek could look at it and say, “I’ve tried all those before.” But, even for them, with Rowley’s understanding of what a curated beer list means, that super beer geek will be happy to revisit at least one of those beers, because it’s a good one, and probably hard to get in New Mexico. The rest of us will be excited for the latest permutation of the list.


A great Gose from Anderson Valley, one of two that day.

I asked Rowley about how close they were to brewing there at the facility, which had the equipment, but seemed a little more like storage at the time being. Rowley said, “I still feel like there’s a lot to do. We’re not really close to brewing here yet. We’re actually going to start brewing on a 1-barrel system here. And, we’ll brew on that for a little while. It’s actually getting prepared right now. That’s what we’re going to be brewing on for the next few batches. I think we can start brewing on that in about three-to-four weeks. We’ve got basically everything in place; it’s just a matter of getting everything hooked up.”


Happy customers!

Overall experience

All in all, it’s truly a great new place to grab a beer and have a meal. Whether you’re there to try something new or different, or just enjoy something you already like in a very comfortable space, Rowley Farmhouse Ales is my new pick in town to do just that. The ambiance works so well. While the taproom is a little small, it doesn’t feel cramped at the rail. The outdoor beer garden has plenty of room for serious beer contemplation or just kicking back and having dinner in a quiet, serene setting in the middle of town.


The outdoor patio is great!



The beer list is certainly a reason to come in to see what John and the guys are drinking, or what they’ve just brewed, but if you don’t order food, you’re seriously doing yourself a disservice. The food is of a quality that suggests it was absolutely not an afterthought. The wait staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and are happy to help if you’re having trouble deciding on any menu item, be it a pilsner or poutine. And, say hello to our pal, Kimmie, while you’re there!

True, the brewhouse hadn’t quite been finished by the soft opening, but you can absolutely see all the hard work that Rowley and company have put into the whole establishment. There’s a lot of love (and probably sweat) that went into that space, and you can almost feel the will and passion emanating from the walls. The whole crew is very proud of what they’ve accomplished. And, they should be.

RFA is a great place to bring a group of beer geeks, business partners, or a date, even if he/she is ‘not that into’ craft beer. Now, if your date is not into good food, then you’ve got bigger problems, my friend. I think it would be very hard to go to Rowley Farmhouse Ales and not enjoy yourself. They have, indeed, kept their promise of creating the kind of space that’s all about having a good time and a good experience for everyone. I’ll certainly be back.


— Luke


Ain’t that pretty?



For more #craftbeer news, @Untappd check-ins, and @nmdarksidebc info, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro!

Surprise! They're open! (All photos by the awesome Mario Caldwell)

Surprise! They’re open! (All photos by the awesome Mario Caldwell)

Quiet weekends can be nice sometimes. Other times, they get downright boring. Luckily for craft beer drinkers in Albuquerque, this weekend saw the surprise opening of Sidetrack Brewing downtown.

I originally visited Sidetrack back in September and they looked to be a month or so from opening, but things went a bit quiet after that. In the end, though, the staff had told me they did not plan to open until they comfortable with the beers. After an almost double-secret probation opening on Friday, while most of us were tending to our hangovers, they made a more public announcement on Facebook on Saturday.

Sidetrack's Dan Herr serves Red Door brewmaster Wayne Martinez, while a certain beer writer has a weird look on his face to the far right.

Sidetrack’s Dan Herr serves Red Door brewmaster Wayne Martinez (blue shirt), while a certain beer writer has a weird look on his face to the far right.

After lunch with friends I trekked over to the spot on 2nd Street between Lead and Coal (next to Zendo Coffee). I lucked out on parking and headed inside, where I was not terribly surprised to see some familiar faces among the customers. Marble’s Tony Calder was there early on and Barbie Gonzalez stopped by later. Tractor’s Karl Gass and Melissa Martinez popped in for a bit. Red Door’s Wayne Martinez grabbed a spot at the bar next to me. There was quite a bit of beer knowledge and influence present.

We all found ourselves in a charming neighborhood pub. Brewer/owner Dan Herr was busy pouring pints (no shaker pints, for those of you who yearn for good glassware) and flights. It never got so crowded people could not find a place to sit. It was also nice in that the volume never went through the roof. Yes, we could hear each other talk, a welcome break from the increasing volume in our brewery taprooms across the city.

The full beer list on opening weekend.

The full beer list on opening weekend.

As an aside, for those wondering about food, Dan said you could bring outside food into the taproom. They do not ever plan to have a kitchen, and the limited curb space outside will probably preclude any food trucks (though you never know, those folks have some serious parallel parking skills).

Of course, anytime a new brewery opens, the number question is about the beer itself. Well, for a brand-new brewery, it was some pretty decent liquid, as Tony would say. Each beer had some pluses, but each had room for improvement. It is the same at any other brewery when they open. There were six beers on tap, plus two cask variants.

Line 'em up!

Line ’em up!

Pub Ale (5.1% ABV, 30 IBU): The primary yeast used at Sidetrack is an English yeast, and that is quite present in this simple ale. The flavor is rather biscuity, somewhat dry, but quite sessionable. This is the beer you start with before climbing the ladder.

RailHead Red (5.5% ABV, 33 IBU): Tony and I agreed there was something slightly off in this one flavor-wise. It did not have quite enough malt. Certainly it leans toward the Irish red style, as opposed to the West Coast red style favored by Marble. We imagine this beer will be reworked in the near future.

3:10 to Belen Brown (5.3% ABV, 38 IBU): An early nominee for the 2016 edition of the best beer name in New Mexico, this is a classic English brown. It is a little bit nutty, quite smooth, and otherwise similar to a lot of other brown ales. There are some similarities to the Pub Ale, probably from the yeast and some shared malts. There was also a cask version, but an added ingredient crossed it off my list. Stupid allergies getting in the way of my beer drinking. Again.

Switchgear IPA 1 (6.1% ABV, 70 IBU): Dan created two variations of his IPA recipe, though both used the same hops. The difference was in the yeast and also the malt bill. This version was the better of the two, though it falls below the typical ABQ-area IPA. Several people told me both IPAs were under-carbonated. They could also use a touch of dry hopping; there was almost no aroma. This version was also offered on cask, and that batch was dry hopped with Ahtanum. You could make the argument the cask batch was better.

Switchgear IPA 2 (6.6% ABV, 55 IBU): The less hoppy of the IPAs, it just did not pack enough of a punch. The flavor vanished pretty quickly. It was also a bit dry, probably from the malt bill. Expect version 1 to become the house IPA going forward.

Never underestimate the power of the dark side (of beer).

Never underestimate the power of the dark side (of beer).

Dark Engine Stout (6% ABV, 33 IBU): Color yourselves shocked as this ended up being my pint after I finished my flight. It has elements of both an oatmeal and an Irish dry stout, though it leans more toward the latter. There is both an initial roastiness on the front end and a creamier flavor on the back. As it warms, some of those roasted elements fade out. Unlike a lot of places when they start out, the mouthfeel on this was much more stout-like, whereas others often feel like a dark ale or lager.

Overall, the lineup showed a lot of promise. The Stout and Pub Ale started out the strongest for their respective styles. The Switchgear 2 and Red need the most work. The usage of not one but two casks at a time was a nice decision. If you are going to be featuring a lot of English-style beers, you might as well go all-in.

Head on over to Sidetrack this week and let us know what you think. Just remember to be patient. It is just the beginning and there is plenty of future growth ahead.


— Stoutmeister