Archive for the ‘Look Back/Look Ahead Series 2018-19’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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That’s one happy brewer with his trophy.

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

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

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

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

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

Mallory gestured to the Scotch Ale in front of me.

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

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An “interview pour” of the 2018 Scotch Ale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Corn also brewed a hazy IPA this year.

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of which …

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

Winter is Here

Please leave your Direwolves at home.

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

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DSBC: Where are you from Dominic?

Crandall: Originally, Southern California.

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

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

DSBC: You’re both very tall.

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

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

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

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

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

DSBC: And, favorite ones to brew?

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sometimes we spot brewers out in the wild.

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

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

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

Those tips came before the IPA Challenge.

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

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

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

— Luke

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

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

The light shined brightly upon Marble Brewery again in 2018.

There are plenty of challenges in life, for brewery employees and beer writers. While Marble Brewery had to deal with some surprising challenges in 2018, I presented myself with the challenge of choosing to interview six key staff members separately, and then typing up those interviews in a very short span of time.

In the end, though, both the Marble staff and I have come out of this year with our heads held high. On two days across two weeks, I managed to corral, in order, Geraldine Lucero (marketing and events coordinator), Tammy Lovato (off-site event and festival coordinator), Barbie Gonzalez (director of tap room operations), Ted Rice (president/brewmaster), Josh Trujillo (brewmaster), and Leah Black (public relations and social media director). Marble is a big company, with so many aspects to cover for our Look Back/Look Ahead Series, so yes, all of their input was needed.

Big picture ups and downs

An unexpected aluminum shortage hit Marble this year, just as it release many, many more beers in cans. (Photo courtesy of Marble)

“2018 for Marble was filled with many highs and many unexpected situations and challenges,” Ted said, noting the positive impact of the big on-site festivals, something Geraldine would cover in greater detail.

The unexpected situations and challenges occurred elsewhere.

“The (aluminum) tariffs were definitely a factor into our ballooning supply chain,” Ted said. “In the heat of summer, at the height of demand, we were shackled. We didn’t have the supplies we needed to put beer in a package and get it to market. That was completely unforeseen and extremely challenging. It was a wrench in the cog of the craft machine that is Marble. So looking towards 2019, we want to alleviate those unforeseen challenges in the supply chain.”

Josh said the brewing staff did manage to learn from the sudden can shortage.

“We learned not to freak out, completely panic and lose your shit when something out of your control goes wrong,” he said. “Really, I think 2018 really reinforced our overall confidence and my confidence in the staff that we have. I really look forward to 2019 and coaching everybody along even further and really getting the best attributes out of all of our employees.”

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It was a busy, but fun year for Bombs Away.

It’s been a busy first year for Bombs Away Beer Company owners John and Hilary Degnaro, and they show no signs of slowing down, as we found out for our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series.

By 3:30 p.m. on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, the side streets outside the brewery were lined with cars, and the taproom was already packed with thirsty patrons ready to celebrate the long holiday weekend ahead.

Another recent holiday weekend was a significant landmark for the brewery — the Degnaros adopted Veteran’s Day 2017 as their first official opening. But, local residents and employees from Kirtland Air Force Base wouldn’t have noticed too much fanfare either for last year’s grand opening or for their one-year anniversary, since Hilary said it isn’t really their style.

Nevertheless, the brewery has had a considerable list of accomplishments in just a little over a year since opening.

“We’re sitting in the major accomplishment,” John said as he enjoyed a beer on the patio, which was completed near the end of July this year.

“(The patio) really opened up the square footage of the taproom,” Hilary said. “It’ll be standing-room-only in there, which amazes us.”

“People find us,” she continued. “We don’t put up a lot of signage. People like that it’s kind of a hidden gem.”

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Sam, left, and George Boese are proudly opening their second location this weekend.

Long, long ago, the Crew was tipped off by a reader that the area of town where he lives, near Tramway and Paseo del Norte, was potentially getting a brewery taproom. He asked us what brewery might be heading to just about the most northeast corner of the city, but at the time, we had no idea.

A while later, we noted that Boese Brothers Brewery had a pending off-site taproom license pending with the State of New Mexico, but it was listed for a zip code in the Southeast Heights. Well, it turned out that was a typo, since as we now know, the Boese Brothers Brewpub is the taproom taking the spot on Tramway, just south of the Paseo intersection.

The taproom’s grand opening will kick off Friday at 4 p.m. and run all weekend, so to preview both that and take care of Boese Brothers’ entry in our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series, I met up with George and Sam Boese at the new space on Wednesday afternoon.

“Probably early last year we started looking around for places, maybe in the February timeframe,” George said. “We hadn’t really gotten anything that we liked until we found this place. It’s the right combination, we think. We looked a couple of neighborhoods. We really liked this spot. It was probably the view that got us.”

This picture really doesn’t do the view of the mountains justice, but it will have to suffice.

Admittedly, I already told Sam about how impressive the view is of the Sandia Mountains out the front windows. The exact address is 7849 Tramway Blvd, Suite C. To get to it from either northbound or southbound Tramway, just turn west at the light at San Bernardino. It is located in the middle of the building just north of the CVS Pharmacy, next to the Dominos restaurant.

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It was another banner year for La Cumbre, and more is yet to come for 2019.

It is tradition around these parts to start our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series, which focuses on the year gone by and the year to come at almost every New Mexico brewery, with La Cumbre Brewing. I managed to catch up with owner/master brewer Jeff Erway just before he left on a well-earned vacation to talk about another big year for his award-winning brewery.

“You know, it’s funny, we have seen really steady growth the last few years,” Jeff said. “We’re never trying to hit a home run with our yearly growth. We just keep on hitting singles and doubles. Some of our specials this year were home runs, our seasonal releases. I feel like we’ve continued to do probably a better job of that than anybody as far as getting things out there that the public gets really excited about.”

The specialty beers may have stirred the pot in 2018, but the biggest move of the year was the long-awaited opening of an off-site taproom. La Cumbre Westside opened in August to huge crowds and positive reviews.

“We opened up a new taproom,” Jeff said. “That was about as much ambition as I’ve put toward anything since we opened La Cumbre. It’s been a very good year for us as a company and I feel like it’s been a great year for our management team both professionally and personally.”

The La Cumbre taproom took a lot of hard work to get open back in August.

Of course, with such a recent opening, there is little chance that La Cumbre is eyeing a third location this soon. Right?

“I won’t lie, I am actively seeking out that next right taproom location,” Jeff said. “I know I move a little slower than some would on this, but I don’t like the idea of swinging and missing. I take my sweet time about things like that. When I find the right one, I’ll pursue that.”

Fire up the speculation engines, people! There is no pending license or anything like that, so we believe Jeff when he says he is looking, but has not yet set things in stone.

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