Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Boxing Bear is preparing to open its first taproom in West Downtown, but the brewery is not necessarily planning to stop with just that location.

In the blink of an eye, a little rumor recently whispered to us became reality this week when Boxing Bear Brewing officially announced it was opening a taproom in the former 5 Star Burgers space on West Central.

To get a little better idea of how it all came together this quickly, I sat down with head brewer/co-owner Justin Hamilton.

“So after 5 Star closed, we saw the building (at 1710 West Central),” he said. “We’ve been hunting (for) taprooms. It wasn’t like 5 Star approached us. We were actively looking for taprooms, not just one, but multiple for a long time.”

Boxing Bear was given a short time to make a decision on leasing the space.

“The timeline was really quick,” Justin said. “Five Star was one of our accounts, so that gave us the heads up. That spurred our interest in that location and that allowed us to pursue (it). We also know there’s lots of breweries looking for that perfect taproom space, so we had to really try to harness it as quickly as possible. I love that location. It’s so much culture, a really, really up-and-coming area. It’s right down the street from the revitalized El Vado (Motel), it’s literally across the street from Albuquerque staple Duran’s, and we’ll be right next to Amore Pizza. All those things are a sure fit for us.”

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Winter is Here

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

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

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

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

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

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Dave Merkin, workin’ it. Hails!

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

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

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

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

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The taps are flowing and the packaged beers are available as well now at Southwest Grape and Grain.

Our friends at Southwest Grape and Grain recently completed their growler-filling/pint-pouring (beer, while you shop for making more beer) station, with package sales as well so bombers and cans aplenty. I, Franz Solo, headed over and talked to owner Donavan Lane about what we can expect from this lovely development going forward and about the looming holiday season — it is an annual Crew favorite owing to the plethora of barrel-aged, barrel-aged, barrel-aged … yes … but that’s a dark tale for another ramble — and what that means for his fair establishment. 

Solo: Here we are, you’ve got all of your taps in place and pouring and beer for sale in the store. How cool is it seeing your vision for this space beginning to come to fruition?

Donavan: It is definitely satisfying, a long time coming with the moving process earlier this year and the remodel, and the licensing, and then getting all of the taps set up has definitely taken a while and a lot of effort, but it is finally getting there. We’ve been selling beer for about a month and a half now. More people know that they can get a beer while they are shopping, so (it is) definitely nice to see it going. 

Taps as far as the eye can see!

Solo: Any interesting future plans for what you might do with all of these taps?

Donavan: Well, we have a few things to finish up in our brewing room. The goal is to try to get all of that done by the end of December, or the first part of January. We’ve been brewing a few little 5-gallon batches that we’ve put on tap, where we are having some fun playing around with recipes. Once we get the bigger system set up, we will be able to do bigger 1-to-2-barrel batches and put those on tap. And, then we will start looking at figuring out the logistics and price points to be able to start offering brew on premises, where customers can come in and brew a batch here and then split it up amongst friends, or take it all home for themselves. So during the first part of next year we will look into getting that going and then working with the various beer clubs in Albuquerque, whether it is Dark Side Brew Crew, the Worthogs, or the Dukes of Ale, or any of the other ones that are out there about doing collaboration beers, having them come in a brew a beer that we put on tap, doing some competitions with the clubs, as well. Definitely a lot of fun stuff there. 

As far as the growler fill goes, we are continuing to reach out to more and more of the local breweries to get more of their packaged beer in. Our taps are basically full, but those will continue to rotate. Whenever one goes out we will bring in something new. (Between procuring grains and such for my own batches and trying all of the many special/seasonal offerings on tap, I may never leave, well, unless it involves other actual beer-related work.) We are also going to look into bringing in some local wine as well.

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You can take home packaged beer in addition to supplies to make your own beer now.

So all told, this is pretty great out the gate in concept and execution, with a lovely swath of unique offerings from our favorite local haunts on tap, ready to fill your growlers or slake your thirst while you browse the many fermentation-related necessities on site. Grape and Grain has a patio available for beverage consumption as well, but as it is nearing full winter this will not be open until spring, when the brewing room will hopefully be in full swing. Also of note are a few holiday sales going on this month and throughout the holidays, so here are the details on those for all of your fermentation/homebrewing needs, or gifts for your friends or loved ones who have fallen for the craft.

From now through December 14 there is a raffle going on with an entry for each pint purchased and some very cool prizes being offered to boot. 

Black Friday sale: 10 percent off Friday and Saturday, and a coupon for 20 percent off one item on Sunday with coupon from Facebook or store email list (I definitely recommend getting on this list for other perks, which I have most certainly taken advantage of in my three-plus years of homebrewing).

Coming in December, an all-grain sale on the first 25-percent all-grain by the pound or 10 percent off bulk bags.

There will also be some sales going on closer to Christmas and New Years as well, but those are still TBA.

So it’s a grand time to stock up on supplies for those lovely imperial stouts or hefty lagers and such as the season demands. For any additional information on events, classes, sales, and so forth do check out southwestgrapeandgrain.com or find them on Facebook. Better yet, give the store a visit or three, or just keep going back for more batches, which is what homebrewing tends to do to you once you start down the path to darkness, oh delicious …

On that note, I bid you all happy brewing, happy shopping, happy drinking, happy festivities, and so on an so forth!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Head brewer Rob Whitlock was all smiles after winning his first GABF medal.

Life has not slowed down after the Great American Beer Festival for any of us in the Crew, much less for the brewers and brewery owners around town. In an effort to still catch up with most of the medal winners, I managed to track down our last missing first-time winner, head brewer Rob Whitlock of Starr Brothers, late last week.

Then I went to Denver again and saw an epic metal show. Now that my hearing has recovered enough to transcribe the interview, here is what Rob had to say after Starr Brothers brought back its first GABF medal, a bronze for Lampshade Porter in the Other Strong Beer category.

“You go in hoping for the best, but you’re ready for the letdown,” Rob said. “Every time I looked down when they got to one of our categories. I don’t look at the (video) board. I heard them say, ‘Lampshade Porter, Starr Brothers Brewing Company.’ I was like, ‘what?’ and then I was like, ‘bullshit!’ Then I looked at the board and it was up there on the screen. I was like, ‘Yeah!’”

The Starr Brothers team — Rob, assistant brewer Matthew Pullen, owner John Starr — was sitting on the aisle, so it was an easy walk to the stage to get the medal and the fist bump from the legendary Charlie Papazian. The Boxing Bear staff was also sitting across the aisle and had plenty of colorful, yet supportive words.

“Justin (Hamilton) and those guys were sitting on the other side of the aisle, and they’re (yelling), ‘Fuck yeah, Rob!’” Rob said with a laugh.

Rob had never been a professional brewer when he got the job at Starr Brothers. He was a retired plumber and accomplished home brewer, and he did spend several months as a sort of unpaid intern at Boxing Bear, learning all he could from Justin.

Now it has all paid off. Starr Brothers has already earned recognition for its food, and now it has the beer medal to match, if not surpass those accolades.

“It validates us, it validates my beer, that’s what it does,” Rob said. “I always try to be humble, but I know I make good beer. I have a pretty good palate. I’m never 100-percent happy with it, there’s always things that can be done, it can always be made better, but there’s nothing wrong with it.”

Doing it with a year-round offering is even better.

“This is one of our staples, yeah,” Rob said. “I’ve brewed it a thousand times in my garage before I came down here. It was the first beer we brewed on this system. Over the last year, year-and-a-half, I started whittling away at the recipe, really doing this with it, really dialing it in.”

The category proved key for Starr Brothers, as Lampshade had never advanced far enough in the Robust Porter category.

As many other brewers have learned, it is not only all about the quality of the beer, but what category is chosen.

“I always enter it in robust porter and it always advances (up to a point),” Rob said. “This time I really started looking through the categories. I found Other Strong Beer, and there’s a sub-category Strong American Porter. I read the thing and that description fits Lampshade. It’s going to go up against all these other strong beers, there’s three sub-categories. It made it.”

In the end, all the hard work, from making the beer, to refining the beer, and self-transporting it all the way to Denver, has paid off.

“It just lets me know that I can do it,” Rob said. “You go in there and it’s just overwhelming, the (sheer) number of beers. This is my third GABF and I’ve done one World Beer Cup. You start to think, it’s $160 per beer to enter them, and you go to all this trouble and expense and (think) nothing’s going to happen, but then something happens. I can do it.”

Congrats to Rob and the Starr Brothers team. It is always nice to see so many first-time winners among our breweries (New Mexico had four of the 31 first-time winners, in fact).

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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

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

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

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

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

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My view of the awards ceremony.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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As seen at GABF!

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

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

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

Cheers!

— Luke

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

The old brewhouse is still going strong at Chama River, now brewing most of the beers for Kellys Brew Pub.

There are still faint echoes of the brewpub that was at Chama River. The booths are still there, the copper-top bar is still present, and much of the kitchen equipment remains. It has all gathered some dust since Chama closed its doors in August 2017, but one thing remains operational — the brewhouse.

Yes, there are still beers being made at Chama, even with the rest of the business shut down. That is where Andrew Krosche, the director of brewing operations for Santa Fe Dining, spends most of his time. With a year to reflect on what happened, I sat down with Andrew at that copper-top bar recently over pints of his crisp and clean American Pilsner.

“So when we took Kellys over and Chama was still open, plus Blue Corn, we had three breweries working independently under one umbrella,” Andrew said. “Once Chama was closed, we continued working out of Chama, that’s (assistant brewer) Cordell (Rincon) and I at the time, brewing for inter-company distribution under the Chama name cause there was a few beers throughout the restaurants that were staples.”

With the Chama brewhouse still at his disposal, Andrew soon decided how it would best be used.

“Somewhere around that time, when you’re only brewing enough to keep a few restaurants going, it’s hard to make sure the product is fresh,” he said. “So in response to that, also knowing that Kellys with pretty slow with lots of drama that happened right before we bought it, I decided to bring all the brewers together under one roof and work out of Chama’s system, that being the best system in the company. I spent a lot of time rebuilding this facility in the two years that Chama was still open. Also, it kind of gave everyone a chance to work on the same level, to understand my terminology and what was expected. Everyone was on the same page.”

The tanks are still full of beer in Chama’s walk-in cooler.

Andrew, along with Blue Corn head brewer Paul Mallory and Kellys head brewer Dan Cavan, have been able to stay on that same page since.

“Fast forwarding to now, we’ve got the eight house beers at Kellys, (plus) a few inter-company accounts up in Santa Fe,” Andrew said. “It works out very nicely to continue working out of here (because), one, we can brew smaller batches, keeping everything fresh, keeping the quality up. Everything is served out of kegs over at Kellys, so it’s easy enough to have them to place an order for the week and then we can just use the delivery van. In that case, it’s really nice.”

It also helps in one other area for Kellys.

“Kellys, obviously, doesn’t have a barrier between the brewery and the restaurant,” Andrew added. “It is kind of nice brewing here and not worrying about say guests wandering into the brew space. Not that it’s their fault, you would have no idea you couldn’t come back there. For me, it’s just a huge liability because if we’re CIPing and some caustic sprays onto some innocent bystander, it’s not the best of things.

“That’s kind of where we are with this facility. We’ve definitely been enjoying it with this little retreat.”

On occasion, the Kellys brewhouse does get fired up to make a beer or two.

“We have been brewing, or had been brewing, occasionally over there, keeping the machinery still going,” Andrew said. “It’s like an old car, you don’t want to let it sit too long or more problems start. That, and obviously we have to keep our small brewing license and we have to have a minimum of barrelage. So we do that to supplement, usually with some of our top sellers or brews that work really well on that system, as opposed to the ones here.”

Certain styles of beer actually tend to turn out better on Kellys’ system, as opposed to the Chama brewhouse.

“The water in this city is great for stouts, and they’ve got minor filter system and no softener,” Andrew said. “Brewing over there for something like the stout or apricot (wheat) is fine with the city water. Whereas over here, I would never brew the lager there. Here I’ve got a water treatment facility to ensure it’s the best I can make it for the water.”

What was once a bar is now a brewer’s office.

Andrew has managed to turn the bar area into his own office. His laptop and a pile of paperwork sit atop the bar. He keeps a few clean glasses behind the bar as well, for quality control and that sort of thing. Those couches that were over by the entrance have been moved to where the tables used to sit by the bar. There is one TV still running, with the laptop hooked up to it. A pile of beer books sits on one of the remaining tables below it.

As for how long this setup will continue for Andrew, Chama River, Kellys, and all the rest, it is a bit of an ongoing mystery.

“Honestly, I don’t even know,” he said. “I know we own it and (Santa Fe Dining president) Gerald Peters likes that he owns it. As far as I know, selling is not something that is an option. I’ve definitely written game plans for any scenario, mainly because if and when something happens, I want to make sure that my crew is ready, that we can handle it. Just a little preemptive planning, but you never know. This isn’t like moving some kitchen equipment, this is going to require weeks of moving. ”

The craft beer world around the old-timers like Kellys and Blue Corn continues to evolve, but for the most part, the brewpubs have seen neither a sharp rise in business, nor a sudden decline.

“Looking at numbers, if we’re just going to go barrelage-wise, nothing has really changed, at least since I’ve been running things,” Andrew said. “Blue Corn’s barrelage has been the same for the last four years or so. Chama’s was for the two years I was here with it. Kellys is about the same. We’re not getting massive growth. I think a lot of reasons for that is there’s a lot more places to go. There’s a lot more neighborhood pubs. The traffic of going to the places nearest to you is not ours nowadays.

“But, being steady and consistent, that’s a plus. I’m confident that with Paul already (winning) the IPA Challenge, I’m sure that his numbers are growing right now, which is great. With the changes that Dan and myself have kind of put (into) Kellys, working on recipe development and really trying to show the public that it’s different, I feel that we can start seeing a rise soon. Maybe not through this winter, but by next spring I feel like things will change for the better.”

With so many other craft beer options out there, Andrew said it has been tough convincing folks to give Kellys another chance.

“Unfortunately, yes, (but) then our marketing team is doing their best to let the public know that things are different,” he said. “I think the challenges that we run into is a lot of times Kellys is obviously one of the oldest breweries in Albuquerque and they had gained a (bad) reputation over so many years, that a lot of times people I feel when they hear Kellys they just kind of zone out.

“They’re not even paying attention that it is a new ownership, a new brewing team, a lot of it is word of mouth. I’ve been pushing a lot of festivals for Kellys. If we can’t get the public to hear us, let’s get some samples in their hands so we can prove to them right there, real time, that this product is superior to what it used to be.”

One of the ways to do that was to move some of the Chama recipes to Kellys.

“We did cross a few beers over to Kellys,” Andrew said. “The Sleeping Dog Stout is now a Kellys beer. We didn’t change it at all, it’s a strong, solid stout that’s been around forever. The Kellys IPA, for lack of a better word, is practically the Jackalope.”

Even brewers need a comfy spot to take a break now and again.

After a brief chat about the many late summer/early fall festivals, Andrew explained one of his other strategies with Kellys that differs from many of the other breweries around town.

“The way I’ve focused Kellys right now is, cause you were asking about what we’re taking to festivals and if we’ve changed it or not, we have eight house beers as opposed to your typical six and four specials,” he said. “What brings in regulars is your house beers, not your specials. We wanted a good, broad menu that caters to everyone’s tastes and really focus on those to make sure those are the best that we can give, and not worry about specials as much.

“When we build a menu for a festival, we typically don’t change it and we are very rarely going to take a special, because we want the house beers to be the focus. We want people to know they can come into the restaurant at any time and that beer will be there just as the way that they remembered it.”

Of course, just like any mad scientist brewer, Andrew is still cooking up some innovative seasonal/specialty beers from time to time.

“Speaking of specials, it’s very rare that we do one so when we do one we get pretty pumped about it, not sure when this is going to be released because we have to taste it over the next few weeks, but I just transferred an American pale ale into the server onto cocoa nibs and coconut extract,” he said. “So we’re making like a chocolate coconut pale ale, and it’s very hop forward. It drinks almost like an IPA, but the alcohol is like a pale ale. We’re pretty excited about it. It smells great. We picked the hop bill to match the coconut.”

We definitely look forward to trying that rather offbeat-sounding beer whenever it is ready. I will highly recommend the American Pilsner, as well, and Canteen head brewer Zach Guilmette swung by later to hang out for a bit, whereupon he declared it to be one of his favorite lagers in town.

For the most part, it is just good to see a great brewer like Andrew still getting to showcase his talent, even if the current setup between Chama and Kellys is a bit unusual. We encourage everyone to head back to Kellys and give the beers there another shot. We will certainly be stopping by after we get back from the Great American Beer Festival later this week.

Thanks to Andrew for the interview, the beers, and the tour through the ghostly little building he still inhabits.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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

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

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General manager Michelle Kyle introduces head chef Josh Ortiz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I wanted more from it,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSBC: When will it be available again?

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

DSBC: Plans for next year’s challenge?

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Corn Brewery will have a booth at the event.

* * * * *

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Cheers to more beer dinners!

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

Cheers!

— Luke

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

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

Brewmaster John Bullard stands before his now complete production brewery. Well, leans, because he probably could use a nap at this point.

During my visit with the Bosque Brewing command staff at their new office/warehouse space last week, we also spent a lot of time talking about the final preparations for Bosque North and its series of openings. There was an industry-invite-only opening on Wednesday, and it will host the final round of the NM IPA Challenge on Saturday, before concluding with the grand opening Monday.

It has been a long, laborious process for Bosque to get the combined production brewery and taproom space up and running. From a lengthy delay caused by construction on Highway 550 (or, more aptly, waiting to figure out how that construction should proceed), to then converting an old building into a state-of-the-art brewery, it has not been easy.

We had Luke do a little photoshopping to show how much things have changed since our first trip to Bosque North in March, putting some similar photos side-by-side, including this one of the brewery interior.

The trio of managing director Gabe Jensen, director of operations Jotham Michnovicz, and director of culture and engagement Jessica Griego took me through the final days of preparing North for occupancy. I then took another tour with director of brewing operations John Bullard for a fresh set of photographs to show just how far the construction has come since my last visit in early March.

“I was telling Gabe yesterday, every time we’ve opened a taproom, it’s all hands on deck for 12 to 16 hours a day,” Jotham said. “Yesterday, I had a meeting with Gabe in our office and everything that needed to be handled was being handled by our team over in that spot. I didn’t even have to be there yesterday, which is really cool to see our team come together and be able to handle (everything).”

Another shot of the brewery looking down from the second floor, albeit from a slightly different angle, since the original view is now a solid wall.

While John and production manager Tim Woodward have things handled in the brewery, the front-of-house staff has come together to take charge of the taproom area.

“We actually have as our taproom liaison, he moved up from Las Cruces, his name is Max Portillo,” Jessica said. “He’s been an essential leader on our Las Cruces team for four years now. We’ve been nudging him every time we saw him to move up here and he did. We’re super excited for him. He’s stepping into a new role, but he’s a seasoned leader at Bosque.

“We’ve had maybe one or two other transfers internally, but otherwise it’s all new people. Well, our kitchen manager, he transferred from Nob Hill, his name is Mitch O’Connor. The key management positions are internal, but for the most part we’ve hired from the community, Bernalillo and northern Rio Rancho. That was really a goal of ours to make sure we hired from within the community and were representative of it.”

The front patio is now ready to go, with tables just out of sight and the window to the interior bar ready to go.

The team led by Max and Mitch was going through training while I was taking the tour with John, making sure everything would be ready for the inevitable crush of humanity headed their way.

“I think that’s one of the funnest things about opening a restaurant in general, is that camaraderie than happens whenever there is a launch team,” Jotham said. “We’ve got 30 new hires, they were all in this (conference) room doing orientation, getting to know each other and building that rapport with each other. They were there yesterday, putting everything away. It creates a little bit of ownership for the staff. You get to be a part of setting the building up, knowing where everything is going to go. Some of my fondest memories are of opening a restaurant.”

The view from the second floor patio/deck is looking better by the day. Now if they would only finish up on Highway 550’s bridge.

The brewing staff did have to get bigger as well.

“A lot of our brewing staff came over from San Mateo,” Jotham said. “It’s a pretty light staff over there now. We did bolster the team as well, we hired some new positions. I’d say the majority of the people that were on our brewing team are now at Bernalillo.”

“They were brewers or they moved from elsewhere on staff to join the brewing team, packaging team, cellar, all that,” Gabe added.

The interior of the tower now features a big screen TV and a bar just to the right of frame.

The canning line is already up and running, meaning that at last, all Bosque packaged beer is being brewed and canned in New Mexico.

“We’re doing it,” Gabe said. “We got our last shipment of IPA a week ago. That was the last (overall). Everything from here on out that’s produced will be at Bernalillo.

“It’s getting to that point where I can’t keep up. They’ve already canned Elephants on Parade twice. That was the one thing that we were super nervous about because we hadn’t done it. The first run was like oh, that went perfect.”

The silo has its logo. John swears it glows in the dark, but we’re a bit skeptical (someone has been working some very long shifts, FYI).

Bosque did receive a large number of unused cans from Sleeping Giant in Denver, so try not to get confused if you still see the old labeling.

“We’ve had some other hiccups with packaging, but that’s going to happen,” Gabe said. “We got permission from the TTB to put beer in the cans that (still) say Denver, and we’ll just have to stamp them on the bottom to say NM next to the date, just so we can use up those cans. There will be a transition period of a couple months of where we’re brewing it here, but it will still have Denver packaging.”

The first cans with a full New Mexico label, as opposed to an underside stamp, will be the 1888, but Gabe and Jotham said they are waiting on the cartons to arrive before they can can the beer.

Think that’s enough cans to keep all of you happy? What? It’s not? Jeez, people, you just can’t get enough Elephants on Parade, can you?

What will really get beer geeks excited, however, is what else will be going into cans in the near future.

“We’ll be doing some one-off can specialty releases as well,” Jessica said. “That’s probably our biggest (project). … I’m the most excited about that, to be able to release some specialty beers in cans, and showcase our quality and what we can do out there.”

“I think that’s one of the things that’s John is most excited about,” Gabe added.

The canning line is already getting a workout, with lots more to come, including specialty releases!

John confirmed that he does have four specialty cans on the docket, all of which will come in 16-ounce cans in four packs, as opposed to the 12-ounce six-pack cans for the regular offerings.

So what will a couple of those cans contain? Well, one just might be a past two-time National and New Mexico IPA Challenge winner, and the other might be a former Great American Beer Festival medal winner of a certain fresh hop persuasion.

“There’s a good variety in there, too,” Jessica said. “We’ve got a wide range of styles. We still have to figure out the dynamics of how we release them. Do they hit all the taprooms at the same time? Are they only at Bernalillo first and then they hit the taprooms? We have some logistics to work out on that still. We’ll make sure to communicate that clearly on social media for everyone.”

Clearly, Bosque employs some folks who do not share our fear of heights.

Overall, Bosque North is an impressive creation in all aspects. It is just another sign of how far our local craft beer industry has come in just the past six years. The days of jamming tiny brewing systems into strip malls and hoping for the best have come and gone. The bar has been raised and will continue to be raised, which is good news for all of us that love craft beer.

Here are some additional pictures from Wednesday night’s industry-only invite opening for a final look before the public gets to join us.

The interior of the downstairs taproom. There’s a second bar to the right of frame.

A whole lotta brewery folks gathered on the second floor patio/deck.

Good night, Bosque North. We will see you again soon!

Once again, it is a very good time to be a fan of local craft beer in New Mexico. Thanks to Gabe, Jotham, Jessica, and John for everything.

See some of you at the NMIPAC on Saturday.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Find your way to Innovation Way, the home of Bosque’s new offices and warehouse.

Last month, Bosque Brewing sent out a short press release about moving its offices to a new location in Rio Rancho. It seemed surprising that the brewery’s ownership would make such a move, especially with Bosque North in Bernalillo still unopened. After finally being able to work out a time to meet (never easy with all of our busy schedules), I ventured over to 7701 Innovation Way NE to see the new space, learn why the move was made, and also catch up on everything else Bosque related.

The trio of managing director Gabe Jensen, director of operations Jotham Michnovicz, and director of culture and engagement Jessica Griego greeted me in a second floor conference room. Yeah, they have a conference room. Yeah, they have two floors. It’s quite different than the crowded, fully open space they had at the San Mateo location (we would always meet in the taproom due to a lack of space).

This conference room was filled with the new Bosque North employees during their recent orientation.

“I’ll take you back a little bit,” Gabe said. “Bernalillo has taken much longer than anything I’d ever want something to take. When we designed the office over there, it had seven offices and a conference room, plus a little fore room, and we were like how would we ever need that much space.

“About a year ago, we said we’re gonna need more space than that pretty soon after we open. I looked at some office warehouse type of places out here. Bernalillo is large and tall, which is great for production, but it’s kind of an expensive space and we don’t want to add more to just store things like empty cans and boxes. All the storage things that if you’re in an industrial area paying industrial prices you can afford.”

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You gotta put all those unopened growlers somewhere.

The combination of the need for an off-site warehouse and the growth of the office staff sent Gabe on a mission to find a nearby space that could handle both.

“I found plenty out in Northern Rio Rancho and Bernalillo like a year ago,” he said. “I thought there’s no reason to get it now. When we got closer (to North opening), there was nothing, which is good for the economy and everything, but there was nothing left for us. I was thinking a 6,000- or 7,000-square-foot office warehouse and probably not in great shape, just to throw some stuff in and have some sales offices and distro offices and stuff like that. That didn’t work. Once we got close to opening Bernalillo, we contemplated stuffing everyone in there and also keeping our offices (at San Mateo), that big open mess.”

Space, glorious space!

Gabe’s business connections, however, gave him a heads up that there was a building available.

“Kind of on a whim, I came out and looked at this place,” he said. “Some economic development people had told us about it. This had been vacant for about three years. We got a good deal. There’s more to that story as well, just relationships and things like that, but we were able to (close on it). Anytime I showed anybody this place, and that includes all of us, Jess and I walked out of here and thought no, it’s silly, we couldn’t do this.

“But, when I did the math, it made sense. The math still worked out, especially considering there’s 8,000 square feet of warehouse here, which makes storing cans (easy); it’s only a mile away from Bernalillo. That sounds like a long time, but it happened (fast). Three days and a week later and we had a lease. We’ve never pulled that off.”

Bosque now has a building in which to grow. There are some additional offices that will eventually be leased out to other small businesses on the south end of the building.

“If we can get the other side leased, which we plan to do, our actual monthly expense is going to be the same (as San Mateo),” Gabe said.

The north (right) half of the building is all for Bosque.

At first glance, the building almost seems too big. After a post-interview tour, I could already see where the staff still has room to expand in the future.

“This size of a building that we’re in, we need this much space,” Gabe said. “We have 18 people housed here. I can already feel a difference in the efficiency of people. I can close my door and bang something out instead of having to navigate all working in the same open space. I didn’t have a desk in the end. Well, I finally did once John (Bullard) was at Bernalillo all the time, I stole his. I think at the end of being at our offices on San Mateo, we had six people sitting around a single table. That’s not efficient.”

No one is going to particularly miss the old San Mateo office, which was always being squeezed by storage demands.

“I’m usually pretty sentimental about things and I was so happy to move out of that place,” Jessica said. “I was not sad at all. It was getting really inefficient with everyone sitting on top of each other. Not having a door to have (private) conversations, all of the things.”

The pink boots are a nice touch in Jessica’s office.

Our conversation took us to the impending opening of Bosque North and all that will entail. We will have more on that in a separate story, with new photos of the finished space, later this week.

As for some of Bosque’s other upcoming projects, those have been on the back burner until North was completed. Now the staff will begin moving those along as well.

“We can say Restoration Pizza will happen first,” Jessica said. “I think once we get Bernalillo open we’ll be able to dive into and start kickstarting these projects off.”

The replacement for the San Mateo taproom/brewery will follow soon after.

The warehouse space in the back is already filling up with kegs, cans, and more.

“Open Space, we could go pull the permit right now and get started, but we’re working on financing for that one,” Jotham said. “It’s all of the pre-construction stuff that is going on. We hope to really hit the ground running right after we open Bernalillo (on) both of those projects. It’s just that Open Space is going to be a longer build. It’s a seven-month construction timeline that we’ve put together. Restoration Pizza should be way faster than that, because it’s just a buildout of an existing space. That one won’t be as crazy.”

Even after those projects are done, do not expect Bosque to kick back and take it easy.

“We actually have been really strategically planning the next three-to-five years,” Jessica said. “We have goals and things we want to do, but nothing is set in stone yet.”

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Gabe and Jessica are quite proud of the new space. And yes, they have an employee bar back there, because of course they do.

Look for more on Bosque North in a couple days. Thanks to Gabe, Jotham, and Jessica for the interview and the tour.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister