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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

Red Door soars toward year number four

Posted: September 12, 2018 by Franz Solo in Events, News
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Red Door brewer Matt Meier has a new beer ready for us on Friday!

Another year has passed for Red Door — wait, how did this year just, wasn’t it just GABF, ahem, never mind! — and they will be celebrating this Friday at the Candelaria brewery location (we recommend utilizing Lyft and such as parking is at a premium). Stoutmeister and I sat down with head brewer Matt Meier, owner Matt Biggs, and taproom manager Ali Cattin to get all of the details.

Solo: So you have a fourth anniversary coming up.

Cattin: So for the actual day of we are doing anniversary pint glasses as we do every year. We have a logo for this year that we think looks like a Zia, which has the Red Door logo in each of the four quadrants. The company that does our T-shirts, Risen, (is) coming to do a live screen printing of that anniversary logo. We are not going to do a run of shirts, so if you want that four-year logo on anything, you have to come on Friday the 14th. We will start giving away pint glasses at 5 o’clock, music will start at 8 p.m., Ryan Painter and Jake Phillip’s band will be here, and we will do a big set up with the doors to the patio open so there will be a good indoor/outdoor experience happening. Our food truck, the Side Door Kitchen, will have some specials that night and we are also bringing in Nomad’s BBQ as well. 

Solo: He’s the best. 

Cattin: Albuquerque Axe, our neighbors over here, are bringing their mobile unit so we are super excited about that. So we will have Nomad’s and Albuquerque Axe out back, music inside, pint glasses, T-shirt printing, (and) the Cornavore will also be here with a special birthday blend for us. 

Biggs: 94 Rock will be here promoting the Storehouse Hops for Hunger event, too. They will do some live broadcasting from 5 to 7 p.m. 

Meier: We will be releasing a Double Vanilla Cream Ale which is going to GABF, as well.

* * * * *

That all sounds good to us, so head on down this Friday evening for a night of great beer, including the awesome-sounding Double Vanilla Cream, excellent food and BBQ, anniversary pint glasses, T-shirt screening, music, local popcorn, 94 Rock, and one of my personal favorites, axe throwing!!!! Also of note, $1 from each pint of Dunkel (delicious German wheat) will go to the Storehouse, so do some good while enjoying a pint. 

See you all there and Skål!

— Franz Solo

That red building back there is the future home of Blue Grasshopper’s brewery and taproom in the Wells Park neighborhood.

The brewing conditions at the original Blue Grasshopper Brewery and Pub in Rio Rancho have always been more than a bit cramped. That will be changing in the future, but not through any expansion of that location. Instead, Blue Grasshopper is building a full-sized brewery in a renovated warehouse on the corner of Summer and Second Street in the Wells Park neighborhood.

I stopped by to visit brewer Peter Apers, who is overseeing the construction, on a smoky morning a couple weeks ago. (Remember the compost fire in the South Valley? Yeah, those were some unpleasant conditions to drive into.) Peter gave me a quick tour of the half of the 10,000 square-foot building that will be home to a taproom and a kitchen. The construction/demolition that day was largely focused on the half where the brewery will go.

“We needed a place to brew beer,” Peter said. “Neither of our places over there (on the West Side) really have the room. Rio Rancho can benefit from a full kitchen, so we need to get that brewing system out of there.”

The small brewhouse will become the pilot brewery at the new location, right on the north side of the bar/taproom area where customers can watch the brewers at work.

“This will be our pilot brewing system section,” Peter said. “We’re going to bring that small brewery over from Rio Rancho. We’ll do our recipe development here. The big space that you saw next door is going to be our main (brewing) area.”

The new brewhouse has not been ordered yet, but it could be one of the biggest in town.

“It’s still open for discussion, anywhere between 24 and 48 (barrels), but time will tell,” Peter said. “We’ll see how our beers are developed here and how that justifies growing that quick. If not, we’ll just do a co-op in there and put in a brew system we can co-op with the smaller brewers, give them a chance to go bigger. We have the space.”

A shot from earlier in the summer, courtesy of Blue Grasshopper, showing the ongoing interior construction.

Blue Grasshopper will still carry a large swath of beers from across the state. Peter said the cold room they are building can hold around 200 kegs, with the expectation of 100 beers on tap at any time.

“We’re going to represent all the brewing in New Mexico,” he said. We’re trying to get as many of their beers as we can. That’s been the whole idea from the beginning.

“The more beer you put on tap, the more space you need. It’s tough for our existing places to make that switch. They don’t the space to put in the (bigger) cold rooms, or the time to tear it all apart. It’s a bit premeditated.”

There will be a full kitchen on the south side of the taproom area to support all of that beer.

“This area also needs food,” Peter said. “There’s a lot of breweries here, but there’s really no food. For (Rio Bravo and Tractor) it was an afterthought, and it’s tough to do. Here we do it (in advance).”

Blue Grasshopper will also have a sizable patio on the east side of the building facing Second Street. As for the opening date, that is a long way from being set.

“We’re somewhere in the middle,” Peter said. “We’re taking it easy, baby steps. We’re in no hurry.”

There are still issues with the surrounding neighborhood that are beyond the control of Blue Grasshopper and the other nearby breweries. Peter said he hopes over time that the City of Albuquerque will be able to come with an actionable plan to deal with those issues.

“I think this area has tremendous potential as a brewery district, and it’s affordable,” he said. “That’s why we’re taking our time because (the City) is still trying to figure out how to grow this area, so to speak … figure out the infrastructure, all that stuff.”

The Crew will be sure to keep track of the ongoing progress for Blue Grasshopper. Thanks to Peter for the quick tour and interview.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Get your ABQ Hopfest beer lists here

Posted: September 7, 2018 by cjax33 in Events, News
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It’s almost time for the 11th annual ABQ Hopfest, which kicks off Saturday at Isleta Casino.

It is a couple weeks later than usual, but the annual Albuquerque Hopfest is back at Isleta Casino this Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. (2 to 6 for extra hoppy hour and VIP ticket holders)

There are a few subtle changes this year, but for the most part it will be the same mondo-sized beerfest you have all become accustomed to over the past several years. There will be some new bands between the different stages, which will now include a stage in the VIP area. Pizza 9 will also be roaming about, offering up free pizza samples, so that should go over well since pizza and beer always go together.

As per usual, we advise everyone to either take the Rail Runner south to the Isleta stop, or rely upon Lyft/Uber/taxis to get back and forth. Or, if you have that one awesome friend/relative, get ’em to be your designated driver. Tickets are still available online here and should be available at the door. You want that extra hoppy hour ticket ($40, and as of this morning those were 85% sold out), because it gives you a much more chill hour in which to try all the great beers you really want to try without waiting in line for too long.

So what beers are going to be poured? Well, we have the list from the event program, with a few updates from the local breweries. Here is the most up-to-date list that we were provided. Breweries in bold have changes since the event program was printed.

  • Bathtub Row: Mexican Lager, Irish Red, Hoppenheimer IPA, Cebolla Wild Hop Pale Ale
  • Bosque: Lager, IPA, Scotia, Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale, Elephants on Parade
  • Canteen: Laid Back Lager, Flashback IPA, Pecos Trail Brown, La Luz Wheat
  • Chili Line: Lucky Luke (Blueberry Lavender Saison), Que Picante (Red Chile Rauchbier)
  • Dialogue: Jurassic 5 What’s Golden Ale, Raspberry Sour
  • Enchanted Circle: Hells Bells Helles Lager, Panty Tosser Peach Wheat, Red River Red Ale, Bourbon Vanilla Porter, Glory Hole IPA
  • Flix Brewhouse: Luna Rosa, Lupulus IPA, Das Umlaut (Oktoberfest), Velvety Puppet Love (Raspberry Witbier)
  • Hops: Dad Joke (Kentucky Rye Common), Hop Hill IPA, Chica (American Pale Ale)
  • Kellys: American Lager, Apricot Wheat, Red, IPA
  • Kilt Check: Campbell-Toe IPA, Kilt Rocks Imperial Red, Covfefe Hefeweizen
  • Marble: Desert Fog, Eastside IPA, New Mexico State Fair Hazy Pale Ale, Double White (Ringleader for VIP)
  • Nexus: New Mexico Snow IPA, Imperial Tribble Red Ale, Coffee and Cream Ale, Lemon Wheat
  • Rio Bravo: Snakebite IPA, Roadkill Red, Pinon Coffee Porter (all in cans), Cherry Wheat, Blurred Lines NEIPA, Wildcard Weissbock, Level 3 IPA, Lemongrass Wit, Blueberry Mint Gose (all on draft)
  • Santa Fe: 7K IPA, Merky IPA, Pepe Loco Mexi Lager, Oktoberfest
  • Second Street: Agua Fria Pilsner, Boneshaker Special Bitter, 2920 IPA, Barrel-Aged Skookum, Chin Gose, MBV Stout
  • Steel Bender: Skull Bucket IPA, Lloyd’s 3 O’Clock Kolsch, Raspberry Dynamite, Compa Los Ranchos Lager (Tangerine Dynamite for VIP)
  • Toltec: Rye Lager, Altbier, Stout, Dr. Rudi Single Hop
  • Tractor: Simcoe Single Hop Pale Ale, Azacca Single Hop IPA, Green Bullet Drop Hopped Cider, Almanac IPA, Delicious Red Hard Apple Cider, Farmer’s Tan Red Ale, New Mexican Lager, Milk Mustachio Stout

Sierra Blanca also informed us that it the brewery will not be attending, which came as a surprise to us and the event organizers (if we get a further update about what is happening, we will share it here). If any additional brewery updates come in, we will update those as well.

New breweries at the event will include locals Hops, Second Street, Steel Bender, and Toltec, plus Bell’s Brewery and Austin Eastciders. There was also hope that Cantero Brewing would make its debut at Hopfest, but that has not yet been confirmed whether or not it will attend.

However it pans out, have fun out there, beer lovers. Just make it home safely, OK?

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The Red Door taproom in simpler times. And no, we don’t know what happened to all those floating red doors.

The abrupt closure of Red Door’s taproom at Wyoming and Comanche caught many people by surprise last Friday, but it had actually been the culmination of a month-long disagreement. During a stop at the main brewery to talk about the upcoming fourth anniversary party on Sept. 14, I learned a little more about the reason behind the taproom’s closure from owner Matt Biggs.

It all boiled down to a clause in the lease with 3517 Wyoming LLC, the landlord, that stated that Red Door would have the only taproom in the complex, Matt said. Meanwhile, next door, Poki Poki Cevicheria was expanding into adjacent suites in the building, but it was not a restaurant expansion. Poki Poki put in a boba bar in one suite, and what appeared to be a taproom in the next.

In the eyes of Red Door, that was a violation of the lease, Matt said. Red Door and the landlord tried to work a resolution for pretty much the entire month of August, but when they reached an impasse, Matt made the decision to shut down the taproom. Red Door filed a complaint in district court on Tuesday, beginning a lengthy legal process to reach a solution with 3517 Wyoming LLC. The LLC’s listed manager is Steve Coe, of the developer Coe & Peterson.

It is another sign of the difficulties in leasing commercial properties in Albuquerque.

To counter the bad news, Red Door also had some good news to share. Matt said the brewery recently signed an agreement for distribution with Premier.

“We balanced the pain of losing our taproom with this agreement,” Matt said.

For now, it will only be keg distribution, but Matt said “they want us to put the beer in cans.” That will take time to set up, but the current plan will be to start with Mother Road Mobile Canning and go from there. Matt and head brewer Matt Meier are working with Premier to figure out which beers to can, and then they will see what sells best and stick with that going forward.

We wish Red Door the best of luck going forward, both with distribution and with sorting out everything with its former taproom landlord. We will have more on the upcoming anniversary party next week.

Cheers!

— 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

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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

There will soon be two locations to get your Quarter Celtic beer-and-food fix!

We got some good news earlier today (Monday) in the form of an email from Quarter Celtic Brewpub co-owner Ror McKeown. He let us know that QC’s first taproom is now in the works at 1930 Juan Tabo, between Indian School and Menaul, with a projected opening date that “will loosely be February/March 2019.”

The taproom will be about 3,000 square feet, making it smaller than the original pub at San Mateo and Lomas. The taproom will still serve about 10 to 12 beers, like the original, and will have the full food menu as well. It will seat roughly 90 people, Ror wrote.

The location is on the east side of Juan Tabo, just north of Indian School and south of Menaul. Long ago, it was the location of the original Tomato Cafe.

QC will be joining what is quickly becoming a potentially crowded little area for beer. The new Black Snout Brewhouse will open in a few months at 11500 Menaul in a shopping center on the southeast corner of the Menaul/Juan Tabo intersection. That brewery has a pending small brewer license with the State of New Mexico.

Boxing Bear was long rumored to be opening a taproom in the still-unbuilt Snowheights Promenade at Eubank and Menaul. The status of both the taproom and the development is unknown at this time.

As more updates about the new QC taproom become available, we will share them with all of you.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

 

The metal frame of the future brewery building at Steel Bender, just west of the existing building.

Anyone stopping by Steel Bender Brewyard recently may have noticed a bit of construction going on just west of the brewpub. The Crew certainly noticed, so I swung by to talk to owners Ethan and Shelby Chant and head brewer Bob Haggerty about just what is going on in Los Ranchos.

The brewery, which is not even a year-and-a-half old yet, is already expanding its brewing space to keep up with customer demand.

“It’s honestly because we’re moving a lot quicker than we thought,” Ethan said. “There are some opportunities that we were presented with that we really weren’t able to take advantage of. Bob has just been working, making this work, and it’s just too small (in the brewery), but he’s been doing a heck of a job.”

The new 8,000-square-foot building will serve as the primary brewing area, double the size of the existing brewing space.

“It’s going to have lots of fancy space, lots of square footage,” Ethan said with a smile. “It’s 8,000 square feet, with a section of offices, and the brewer’s office. Then most everything else is just brewing space, canning space, keg washing space.”

It is a bit crowded inside the existing brewery space.

Bob, whose current work space has gotten a bit compact, is all too eager to be able to stretch out again.

“We’re going to move the brewhouse over and we’re going to add a whirlpool vessel and add potentially some extra hot liquor storage,” he said. “The idea is to be able to basically bring that brewhouse up to everything it can produce. … A 15-barrel brewhouse can pump out a lot of beer, if you do it right. With the addition of a whirlpool vessel, we should be able to easily push out three turns in a day, but what I’m hoping for is four.”

To help make that happen, 60-barrel fermenters will also be installed alongside a canning line for Steel Bender.

“We got Mother Road (Mobile Canning) in to do our canning for us,” Bob said. “We have plans for our own canning line to come in very soon and then we’ll be moving it over into the new building when that is complete. That’s projected to be complete early next year.”

At the current rate of progress, things could be done even sooner than that.

“To be conservative I was thinking the first of the year, but the building is moving a lot faster than anticipated,” Ethan said.

As for the current brewing space, that will not go unused.

“The existing brewery space will be populated with barrels, hopefully some foeders, then the production will all take place in the new building,” Bob said.

The trench drain is already in place for the new building.

Things have certainly accelerated for Steel Bender so far in 2018. Six-pack cans of Red Iron Red, Skull Bucket IPA, Lloyd’s 3 O’clock Kolsch, and Steel Bender Lager have all been hitting the shelves. The popularity of Raspberry Dynamite and its cousin, Tangerine Dynamite, have also necessitated canning runs.

“The Tangerine, we got enough to do two batches, so we were always going to do two batches,” Bob said. “It was a question of where those two batches were going to land, whether it was going to be two draft or if we’re going to allocate some to package. As soon we put it out on draft, we immediately got people asking if we could package it. Since we had planned for the second batch anyway, we just allocated a little bit to package. The labeling of the cans allows us to be flexible in what we’re canning. Thanks to no small bit of scrambling on Shelby’s part to get the labels designed, ordered, and in, we were able to get that onto the shelves.”

More packaged beers are on the way in the coming weeks, so Shelby will not be any less busy. With the help of Calindo Creative, the labels will be ready when it comes time to package the beers.

“Being able to be that flexible, it’s still crazy, creative work running at the last minute, but it’s working,” Shelby said. “We’re getting the process down. We just had to crank out one more last week that we’re getting ready to can. We’re canning the Compa (Los Ranchos Lager) a week from tomorrow. Then the following week is our Oktoberfest, which we’re calling Oktoberfiesta. That one it’s a funky label for sure.”

Shelby added that the popular Balloons & Brews event will be repeated this year, where patrons can sit on the patio at Steel Bender during the Balloon Fiesta and watch the mass ascensions while enjoying beer and breakfast.

Even in a crowded brewery, there is room for more new beers set to debut in the coming weeks and months.

Bob also had some additional news on more packaged products coming down the pipeline.

“We’re into the cider game at this point,” he said. “We have our house cider recipe down, Steel Bender Cider #4. We’re working on our sweet cider, which is going to be a Perry. It’s going to be called Perry Maison. That’s in fermentation right now. We are also working with a local orchard. We’ll be putting up as much local cider as we can. Pressing is going to start next Friday. We are going to be pressing and bottling all of those. The draft cider that we’ve got on right now will continue to be as it is, and then the local apples will all go into bottles.”

The more eclectic beers will not be disappearing from the Steel Bender lineup, as more of those are also on the way in bottles.

“We’ve got five different bottle releases to keep an eye out for,” Bob said. “Three mixed culture releases. We’ve got a Flanders-style amber, we’ve got a Belgian single aged in brandy barrels, and then we’ve got the same Flanders-style amber aged with boysenberry. Those are mixed-culture sours. We’re also doing a Grissette with Amarillo and Pearl hops. Then we’re also doing a collaboration with Jubilation, the Belgian-style double aged in fresh Taos Lightning barrels. Those are all conditioning and waiting for release. We’ll be releasing all of those over the next four to six months. Keep your eyes out, those will all be coming out soon.”

With all of those packaged products coming out on top of the regular draft beers, the need for an expanded brewing space is quite apparent. Having all of it come so quickly after opening has left the Steel Bender staff with little time to breathe.

“We don’t have time to be surprised,” Bob said. “Yeah, it is surprising that we opened with such a bang and it has continued to bang. We’re all very grateful.

“We’re pretty ambitious to have the number of draft offerings that we do. So we’re trying to keep up the taproom along with the distribution model. It’s just learning how to do all that.”

It’s blue skies ahead for Steel Bender.

The new brewery building will be the key.

“We’re building this building anyway, so we just decided make it big enough so that we can grow into it,” Ethan said. “We plan to, but we’re not delusional and expect that we’re going to kill it right away. We just want to make sure we have the ability to grow into it. We just want to be prepared.”

Congratulations to everyone at Steel Bender for the amazing job they have done so far. We cannot wait to see what will be in store in the future.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Quite a few of the Lizard Tail beers will soon be available at their first off-site taproom.

I was pretty bummed out when I found out that the Grant Brewing Taproom in Carnuel (just east of town in Tijeras Canyon for the uninitiated) was shutting its doors earlier this summer. It was a great spot to stop when you are heading to the East Mountains.

Then I learned that the friendly folks from Lizard Tail Brewing (located at 9800 Montgomery Blvd NE, Suite 7) have come to save the day. I stopped in over the weekend to grab a pint on my way to dinner and was able to speak with Lizard Tail owner Dan Berry.

Although I knew they were reportedly going to take over the spot in Carnuel, I had no idea it was happening so soon. Yes, it was already a completed taproom space, but these things always take longer than anyone imagines due to the various permits and regulations.

The old Grant Brewing taproom in Carnuel will soon become the Rock Canyon Tap Room.

I almost fell off my barstool when I asked Dan if Rock Canyon Tap Room, their new name, had a target opening date yet, and he said he is hoping for sometime in mid-September. As in next month, not next year. As always, it depends on local/county government paperwork, so we cannot lock in an exact date right now.

Dan said they should have seven of their own beers on tap, plus some cider. They will also sell local wines. Additionally, they plan on adding a kitchen, which is something Grant did not have.

Good luck on the new taproom, Lizard Tail! I can’t wait to rock some beer in the canyon once again.

Cheers!

— AmyO