Archive for the ‘Commentary/Analysis’ Category

The reddish lettering in the upper left amounted to the totality of the initial announcement that the NIPAC was canceled for 2019.

The NIPAC is dead.

Over the weekend, in the quietest way possible, the Brewing News left a small note on the front page of the National IPA Challenge website that the annual competition was canceled for 2019. It was perhaps the final, inevitable outcome after last week’s national furor over a story by publisher/owner Bill Metzger that ran in the Great Lakes edition of Brewing News, a national publication with multiple regional editions that comes out every two months.

Metzger chose to resign over the controversy following the publication of his blatantly sexist/misogynistic story. He later claimed it was satire in a futile effort to save himself, but few in the national brewing community saw it that way. A number of New Mexico breweries withdrew from the NIPAC in protest, making public statements condemning Metzger.

From Bosque Brewing: “Hey, Bosque Family. It is with serious disappointment that, in light of a recent article published by Brewing News, we are writing to let you know that we are pulling our beers from the National IPA Challenge effective immediately.

“The sexist and racist remarks made by editor Bill Metzger were deeply upsetting and do not reflect our sincere belief that the brewing industry should be an inclusive community free of misogyny, racism, or any behavior of the like.

“This decision was a very obvious one to make, and we appreciate your understanding.”

(more…)

The National IPA Challenge has been sullied after the publisher of the Brewing News, which organizes the competition, wrote a sexist and offensive article this month.

Late Monday night, during a final perusal of Beer Twitter posts, I stumbled upon something truly horrific. Bill Metzger, the publisher for the Brewing News — that little once-every-two-months, regional mini-newspaper that you see scattered around breweries — had published an article in the Great Lakes edition (UPDATE: link now disabled) that could be best described as … well, horrific. It’s the one titled “Scottish Hopping to Real Ale.” (See below for a link responding to the original article.)

You only need to read the part on the front page to get the gist of how wholly inappropriate, and downright offensive, that the article is, and why it never should have been written in the first place. Heck, even just as an article about cask beers in Scotland, it is quite terrible, and deeply insulting to anyone with even an ounce of Scottish DNA in their bones.

Though Bill has since attempted to claim it was just satire in one of those non-apology-apologies, the damage has been done. Other beer writers are tackling this misogynistic catastrophe far beer than us, so we will let them do the primary talking here. So why bring it up? The National IPA Challenge, that’s why.

Originally, we were going to write a post today that breaks down the NIPAC for all the New Mexico entries. For those who need a refresher, the NIPAC is an annual competition for breweries around the country to have their IPAs compete in a bracket-style format. It is organized by, you guessed it, the Brewing News. Even as multiple breweries are pulling their advertising from the publication and demanding that it no longer be distributed in their taprooms, the beers for the NIPAC have already been shipped out.

We would not expect, nor demand, that any New Mexico brewery is suddenly going to pull its entries from the competition. It does have to give all the participants pause, however, not merely for this year, but certainly next year.

In our humble opinion, no brewery that claims to support equality can ever again associate itself with the Brewing News as long as Bill Metzger is publisher.

It is truly a shame that one man has undone the good work of many people, from the writers and editors who contribute to the publication, to everyone who has helped organize and judge at the NIPAC.

The craft brewing industry, and those industries associated with it such as the “beer media,” have taken major steps to address a lack of diversity and equality in what was traditionally a white male-dominated scene. It is clear we still have a ways to go, however.

Brandon wanted to add this: The craft beer community should be based on one thing: love and appreciation for craft beer. That has no room for racism, sexism, misogyny, or any other discriminatory behaviors.

We welcome all of your comments and input on this issue, but please, keep it civil. This is not a red-blue political issue, so let’s not make it one.

No cheers today, folks.

— Stoutmeister

Red Door abruptly closed its taproom on Wyoming last Friday, but patrons were able to enjoy one last pint or two.

The last month-plus has seen good and bad news coming out of several off-site taprooms around Albuquerque, ranging from two openings to two closings to other potential developments that have left folks wondering if the bubble is bursting. As a public service, we tried to sort through the rumors and figure out the solid facts.

On the good front, La Cumbre Westside and Tractor Westside are both humming along. Tractor opened first on McMahon, just east of Unser, and quickly captured the vibe of its other locations. La Cumbre opened to huge crowds with a touch of the original location blended with a more modern atmosphere. We also got good news that Quarter Celtic will open its first taproom in early 2019.

Then, there was everything else. First came the news at the end of July that Monks’ Corner was closing its doors. The location at Third and Silver was never able to draw in the crowds like Abbey Brewing had hoped, and in the end, the decision was made to shut down that taproom. Whether or not a replacement ever opens is something that will be decided at a later time.

Of course, since then, events might have given Abbey a reason to pause. All of us in the Crew were as surprised as anyone when Red Door abruptly announced the closure of its Northeast Heights taproom at Wyoming and Comanche. The taproom was packed with folks on Friday night, answering the call to help drink up as much of the beer on hand as possible. By the time I arrived around 9 p.m., there were only four house beers and the cider left on tap. All the seasonals were long gone.

I missed owner Matt Biggs by mere minutes, he later told me, but we will be meeting this week to discuss Red Door’s upcoming fourth anniversary. The reason given by Red Door in its social media posts was “a landlord dispute,” which sadly is not all that shocking around Albuquerque. Anyone remember when Pi Brewing had to shut down after its corporate landlord put off repairs to the damaged building for six months? (It had been hit by an out-of-control pickup truck that crashed off Coors.)

The specter of a bad landlord, or something similar, then seemed to crop up with the Soo-bak food truck posted that it was no longer going to park outside Tractor Nob Hill due to an unexplained dispute with the new property owner. That, in turn, led many to suspect Tractor would also shut down its original Albuquerque location, which has been serving folks since 2011. I contacted president/co-owner Skye Devore via email, and she said no one should panic, that Tractor is not closing the taproom.

“The building was purchased last year and we are working on adjusting to the new dynamic, which includes having a cafe next door, but we have no intention of shutting it down,” she wrote. “The food truck situation is delicate. In no way does Tractor want food trucks to cease service and their food will always be welcome in our Nob Hill location.”

So far, it seems this is an isolated incident rather than a radical change to the long symbiotic relationship between Tractor and the food trucks. Considering that the new landlord was also helping Tractor out by giving the brewery the space to expand its walk-in cooler and add more bathrooms, overall the relationship seems to be OK.

Now that everyone is breathing easy again, we feel that we can now report that the Duel taproom in downtown Albuquerque is closing some time in the near future. Real estate ads, like this one on Craigslist, have shown that the space is up for lease, though there has been no official announcement from the brewery in Santa Fe. Events are still listed through Saturday, September 15 on the taproom’s Facebook page, so it seems the closure is not necessarily imminent. We will keep an eye on the situation as it develops.

Before anyone starts screaming that the bubble is popping around here, most of these closures appear unconnected. It is possible to draw the line between Duel and Monks’ Corner, and the general difficulty of staying open downtown. People can point to the crime and other issues there, but we have long felt that downtown is simply a different animal as far as the crowd goes. It is not an area populated with craft beer lovers who want to kick back and relax, but is instead a more high-energy area of rising and falling trends. Basically, the downtown crowd is incredibly fickle, and with a few exceptions (Anodyne, looking at you), it can be very hard for any bar or taproom to gain a foothold there. Then throw in the issues with crime and the ongoing exodus of businesses from the area (which impacts lunchtime and happy hour crowds), and it pretty much conspired to kill Monks’ Corner and, apparently, Duel.

The boom times may be coming to a close, that is true, but it does not necessarily mean a massive contraction is at hand. Breweries and taprooms will not be shutting down en masse, but fewer and fewer are on the docket to open. At present, there are only three confirmed breweries pending for the ABQ metro area, plus three off-site taprooms.

In other words, yes, we have seemingly hit our saturation point. The remaining areas in town that lack craft beer are either too expensive in terms of rent, or too stricken by poverty. Darn, guess we will have to live with the award-winning breweries that are already here, instead of always looking to see who is coming next.

If anyone out there ever has any information for us on our local breweries, please, never hesitate to send it to us at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com, or contact us via our social media pages.

Until next time, stay positive, Burque.

— Stoutmeister

The haze craze is alive and well in nearby Tucson, but is it here to stay, or just another passing phase among craft beer drinkers?

An interesting article about craft beer trends was shared to the New Mexico Lets Talk Craft Beer page on Facebook this morning. It asked if a brewery could be considered a sellout if it goes all-in too heavily on hazy IPAs, putting profit ahead of variety and quality.

Well, leaving out the fact that the entire article is purely regional to the New York City/New England area (save for one quick mention of Monkish Brewing in Torrance, California), it does raise the point of whether or not it is a good thing for breweries to follow the current popular trends. I recall years ago at a Marble Septemberfest (yes, a while ago) when someone told me that saisons/farmhouse ales would supplant IPAs as the most popular beer styles. Then we all heard how sour ales were the future, and would likewise replace IPAs. Now, in essence, we have (hazy) IPAs replacing (clear) IPAs as the new great standard of craft beer.

Are hazy IPAs truly ascendant over their clearer brethren? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. New Mexico craft drinkers are a different breed than those on the East Coast. We have long been a much more hop-forward-loving bunch, and by sales figures alone, we are still an IPA-centric bunch. Other than Marble, where Double White is number one, the other major breweries in New Mexico all still feature IPA as their top selling brand.

Then again, down in Tucson, hazy IPAs are all the rage. Some of that can be attributed to the younger population centered around the University of Arizona, which is larger than UNM and armed with wealthier students more willing to spend on craft. Crooked Tooth Brewing only featured hazy IPAs and pale ales, as did Pueblo Vida Brewing (both had non-IPAs, too, it should be noted). Dragoon Brewing, the largest in Tucson by barrel production, still features a classic West Coast-style IPA that remains its top seller, even in the face of the cloudy competition. Conversations with the customers and staffs at the various breweries showed a clear divide, with a mostly younger, trendier crowd favoring the haze. There were few people who seemed to like both styles.

In that regard, then, one could argue that the hazy IPA trend is not an IPA trend at all. Rather, it is another style, with distinct differences in flavor as well as appearance. The Brewers Association has now created hazy categories for pale ales, IPAs, and double IPAs. It will be interesting to see if the National IPA Challenge creates a separate bracket for haze next year, as those were mixed in with the regular ones this year.

All of this really just comes down to personal preference. It is fun (sometimes) to debate the merits and qualities of various craft beer styles. It is all subjective in the end, and that goes for the hazy IPAs as well as just about every other style that has come across our palates. The Crew has lots of varied opinions about the haze craze, ranging from mild annoyance to downright dislike. We are not trendy types, favoring music that has largely disappeared from the mainstream. As beer writers, though, we are obligated to try everything and give it a fair shot. Sometimes we do like the hazy IPAs, when done well, just like any other beer. Other times we would rather just stick to the originals.

Today (Friday), La Cumbre is releasing Make IPA Clear Again, a collaboration made with the excellent Comrade Brewing of Denver. This comes after La Cumbre released a popular series of hazy, single-hop, double-dry-hopped DIPAs. Whether this all sparks some renewed local debate about the haze-vs.-clear, or people just take it all in stride, we are intrigued to know what do all of you think. Take the poll below and leave a comment as to why you feel the way you do.

See you all at La Cumbre.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister