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Help out our furry friends by enjoying a pint or two this Sunday!

We have noted before that sometimes stories slip past us. This latest edition of The Week Ahead in Beer, we focused on Tractor restarting its Beer For Burque program, while missing out on Rowley Farmhouse Ales preparing to restart its charity endeavor for 2018. Let us rectify that.

Pulls for Pups kicks off again this Sunday at 11:30 a.m. The basic setup is that RFA sets aside one tap handle where $1 from every full pour will go to a charity involved with animals. The charities change on a quarterly basis throughout the year. The first one this year will be New Mexico Pets Alive/NextGen Animal Shelter Project.

As RFA wrote on its Facebook page: “This is a truly remarkable, progressive organization that helps more animals find forever, loving homes through innovative means. Their methods are truly exciting, and we can’t wait to introduce them to Santa Fe!”

La Cumbre is donating a keg of Elevated IPA, as well as other beers (including La Negra!) for a tap takeover. All sales from the Elevated keg will go to the charity. For the rest of the next three months, there will be the one designated tap handle rotating between numerous standout beers.

Oh, and there will be animals available for adoption from 1 to 5 p.m., just in case you wanted to take a furry friend home, too.

Get out there and do some good this weekend while still enjoying some great beer.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Folks will be gathering again at the Taos Ski Area for the annual Brewmasters Festival.

The Taos Brewmasters Festival returns for its 22nd edition this Saturday from 4:30 to 7 p.m. As in the past, it will be held at the base of Lift #1 at the Taos Ski Area, inside Tenderfoot Katie’s and the Martini Tree Bar.

This year’s event will feature 10 New Mexico breweries and a long list of out-of-state breweries, most of which will be represented by their distributors. The out-of-state breweries will include Alaskan, Bell’s, Big Sky, Full Sail, Left Hand, New Belgium, Odell, Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, Shiner, and Upslope.

As for the locals, we asked for their beer lists and half of them responded so far. If others add theirs late, we will update this story, as always.

  • Bosque: TBA
  • Dialogue: TBA
  • Eske’s: unavailable
  • La Cumbre: Project Dank, A Slice of Hefen, Malpais Stout, Imperial Red (collab with Taos Mesa)
  • Marble: Double White, IPA, Red Ale, Pilsner, Oatmeal Stout
  • Santa Fe: TBA
  • Steel Bender: The Judy, Red Iron Red, Skull Bucket IPA, Brickie American Stout, Die Dunkel Seite
  • Taos Mesa: TBA
  • Three Rivers: Float the Rivers (American lager), Pineberry (IPA), Coco Negro (Imperial stout with Toasted Coconut), Black Lilly (BBA imperial stout)
  • Tractor: Almanac IPA, Mustachio Milk Stout, NM Lager, Delicious Red Apple Cider

If you feel like getting out of town for a weekend, this is always an event worth attending. The entry fee is $30 at the door and you get a commemorative tasting mug.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Brewmaster/owner Rod Tweet is a happy guy these days now that he has a second brewhouse at his disposal.

It was the middle of the afternoon when I strolled into Second Street Brewery’s newest (third) location at 2920 Rufina Street. I had already done a preview article, but since they opened back on August 18, I had only been back a couple times — once, for the very well-run IPA Challenge, and a second time for a small Brew Crew meet up. It was high time for a follow-up story. I wanted to see how the new place was doing and talk about Second Street having just celebrated its 21st year in the industry. What better way to do that than with the Look Back/Look Ahead Series? I grabbed a quick taster of their new (old) 1000 IPA, and caught up with President/Brewmaster, and friend, Rod Tweet.

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The swanky Second Street Rufina Taproom, located over by this place you might have heard of called Meow Wolf.

For the original location, a.k.a. “The Oldery” to Santa Feans in the know, and the Railyard location or “The Newery,” it’s been business as usual, and business has been good.

“We had a great year,” Tweet said. “And, our sales at the other two locations have been really good. When you have three locations in a fairly small geographic area, you kind of worry about cannibalization. But happily, the numbers have been great, and this place has been doing well, and I kind of take that as proof of concept.”

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Long-time employees like this familiar tattooed tapster keep the Railyard location pumping like a well-lubed piston. See? I did a car thing.

The major highlight for Second Street this year was getting their third taproom (and second brewing facility) up and running.

“It’s sort of the dominating thing. It’s hard to even think about much else,” Tweet said.

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The second Second Street Brewery facility is a 20-barrel system.

The staff began brewing on the new 20-barrel system on October 4. The first beer was the Breaking Plaid, a super heavyweight 9.1-percent ABV Scotch Ale. It was made with almost exclusively Golden Promise malt, packed to the kilt with flavor. Certainly it was one of my favorite brews of the year from anywhere.

“It’s big,” Tweet said. “The next step is getting that beer into barrels. That beer is just made for barrels.”

I was assured that will be coming soon. Since the first beer on the new system, the staff has brewed about a dozen times, and though they are extremely pleased with the finished products, they’re still working on small adjustments like hop utilization when compared to the old system. They’re definitely through the learning curve at this point, Tweet said.

Also, something else that was very important this year was staffing all three locations with the right people. In 2017, Second Street expanded their employees from between 60 to 70 to about 110.

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It’s a bit chilly to be out on the Rufina patio now, but come summer, it should be packed most nights.

Getting a new location running is never without its challenges.

“With Rufina here, from an engineering point of view, it was fairly complicated,” Tweet said. “This building had zero infrastructure. We literally took over a shell.”

They needed plumbing. They needed power. They needed new sewer lines.

“It was definitely a big project,” Tweet said.

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It took a while to finish, but now the brewery is humming along at Rufina.

There were timing setbacks. And, with the brewing operations, full kitchen, the silo outside, and outdoor patio seating, just getting through inspections proved to be a lot of hoops for one location to jump through within Santa Fe city limits. But, within the city limits was the point. Though they might have been about six months off of their original projected opening date (what brewery hasn’t?), it was all worth it in the end. Second Street now has a huge space that it can continue to grow into for the next 20 years, still in town.

“The reason we’re in this location is because we can get the square footage we need at a reasonable price, and it’s a busy part of town. I knew we could run a taproom here,” Tweet said.

Being in the center of town between some major streets like Cerillos and Agua Fria doesn’t hurt. It also doesn’t hurt at all that the taproom is directly AROUND THE CORNER from Meow Wolf. Has anyone heard of that little place yet? Tweet said people like to come get dinner and a beer at Rufina before heading into a show. That sounds like a game plan to me.

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The taproom interior is unique among the three Second Street locations.

It also doesn’t hurt that the taproom is easy on the eyes.

“We worked hard on it,” Tweet said. “Myself and several other people here made a lot of contributions of their own talents and skills. Mariah (Scee), the front-of-house manager (at Rufina) did the mural, which is amazing. A lot of us put a lot of heart and soul into the physical finished product.”

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We’re digging those Zia light fixtures.

Having been to the third location, it certainly doesn’t feel like Second Street Part III. It’s very different, and that was also Tweet’s intent. It is indeed ambitious, and intended to be so.

“This part of town is just coming into its own,” Tweet said. “And, we shot long. We’ve got lots of room for growth (20,000 square feet in total).”

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Did someone say space? Rufina has space.

Rufina was major, but it wasn’t the only accomplishment of the year. Second Street turned 21 years old this autumn. I won’t make the overused legal-to-drink joke, as I made clear to Tweet. Instead, I asked him what being in the industry (and being successful in Santa Fe) for 21 years has meant to him and the brewery. He took a pull from his beer and thought for a moment before replying, “I’m really pleased with how successful we’ve been. The people of Santa Fe have been pretty good to us. We take that responsibility very seriously, and we try hard with all of our operations, front-of-house to back. The time goes fast. It’s hard for me to even believe we’ve been in the business for 21 years.”

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Second Street Brewery’s original location, nicknamed “The Oldery.”

Second Street is one of the oldest breweries in New Mexico at this point. (Only Santa Fe Brewing, Eske’s, Canteen, Kellys, and High Desert are older, though only Eske’s and High Desert have been in the same original building for that entire time. — S)

“Which is also, kind of amazing to me,” Tweet said. “This was a big step for us, but we’ve never stood still. We’ve got three properties and two brewhouses. We were always working on some big project, but we’re in a good situation now. Being open 21 years, if there’s any reward in it, part of it is being able to grow and have a chance to expand your abilities, grow your employees, and give them more opportunities. And, it takes a while to do that, (especially) in Santa Fe.”

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The original location has a certain rustic vibe.

It hasn’t always been easy. Twenty-one years ago Second Street did something pretty unique. Tweet opened up a brewpub at a special time, in a small town, and all before the big craft-beer boom. Back then, banks wouldn’t talk about a loan. Family worried that saying you wanted to be a brewer was like saying you wanted to be a rock star or run away and join the circus. Second Street did it back when people were still calling every little place with its own beer a microbrewery. And, they did it with the ingredients the staff could get, and they did it Rod’s way, with the styles of beer he wanted to brew.

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The bar is as busy as ever at the original location on a Thursday afternoon.

The industry has changed over the years, but Second Street has changed with the times as well. The beer has continued to evolve. Classics have remained, but new series have popped up to satisfy a new discerning crowd who demand hops, barrel-aged goodness, and sours.

“The consumer, now, is a different animal than when we began,” Tweet said. “They’re much more sophisticated and they seek out certain styles. They’re more demanding, more informed, more exposed to what’s out there. The days of novelty are over.”

What seemed like an off-beat career choice back in those early days of craft beer has become a real industry. Becoming a real industry has forced good competitions, which in turn has forced brewers to brew better.

“And, the consumer wins,” Tweet said.

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Tweet on becoming a brewer: “My dad thought it was really cool. My mom was concerned.”

Currently, Second Street is doing what it does best — providing great food, beer, and live entertainment at all three locations. Much of the growth and continued success could not come without the help of the entire staff, who work hard every day to keep the daily operations running smoothly, whether it’s from the production side on the brewhouses, to the front-of-house staff and the kitchens, social media, marketing, and accounting.

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Chef Milton Villarrubia whipping up a dessert for the 21st anniversary party at the table.

Chef Milton Villarrubia and sous chef Tony have continued to keep the menus interesting and food delicious, as well as their major efforts in getting the Rufina kitchen in operation. Mariah Scee has been an integral part of launching, as well as maintaining, the great atmosphere in the Rufina location, including hand painting the big mural that can be seen from every table.

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This is much more impressive than the little drawings in the corners of our notebooks during high school.

Of course, the Rufina project wouldn’t have been able to get off the ground, let alone break ground, without much of Tweet’s devoted staff keeping the older two locations running like clockwork. As it is, there are so many staff members now, that if I were to list them all, it would read like a well-prepared Oscar speech. But, it should be noted that John Walker, the former head brewer who was loved by all, left for a job across the country. As a result, Tom Ludzia has stepped up to not only handle the day-to-day management of the 10-barrel brewhouse at the Oldery, but is achieving some great new things, and filling some quite hard-to-fill shoes.

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Second Street at the Railyard still has regular live music.

Second Street would have had to change its business model a long time ago if it didn’t have the beer to back up the other operations. The staff has made beer people wanted to drink; just ask the droves of folks that fill up each location after 5 p.m. Over the years, the staff has also pleased quite a few judges at GABF. Most recently, Second Street brought home bronze for Rod’s Steam Bitter, a tremendous turn-in from both Walker and Ludzia. It previously took home gold in 2013.

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Rod’s Steam Bitter, GABF bronze-medal winner in 2017.

Some of Rod’s favorite beers to work on now include the 2920 series of flagships for the new location. Most of those that the staff experimented with made the cut, with the 2920 IPA leading the charge, and a hoppy Pilsner having just joined the ranks, which will be called the Agua Fria Pilsner. Tweet said he is still excited about his IPA series that he developed with John Walker. Of the three (Fulcrum, Pivotal, and the former Trebuchet), Pivotal was my favorite beer in a can from anywhere, a bold statement for a bold beer.

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And there’s still plenty of room for more tanks.

Looking ahead to 2018, Second Street aims to really get its barrel program running, as it has the tanks and the space for something on a larger scale, Tweet said. As I mentioned before, Breaking Plaid will be going into barrels soon. Second Street will also test the new equipment with a big Barleywine (its first in six years). Some of that will be barrel-aged, divided into three different kinds of barrels — scotch, bourbon, and something Tweet said he is still figuring out. Finally, the staff will also bring back Preacher’s Share, the St. Paddy’s Day Imperial Stout, which will be aged in a Colkegan Whiskey barrel from Santa Fe Spirits. (HAILS! — S) These will all happen within the next couple of months, and there will be about 15 to 20 barrels of, OK, I will make this joke — barrels of fun.

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All new beers. All worth visiting the new space.

Once those beers are established, the staff will get into more esoteric beers, using brett, lacto, and more. Yet, the staff has already puckered some mouths with the enjoyable Summer Rain Sour, of which Ludzia and Tweet just made a winter version. The winter version will have a little more color, body, and cherries! And, it will be out in about a week from this article’s posting. Look for that at Winter Brew.

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The Summer Rain Sour, which apparently I saw fit to Instagram.

Also, as part of the ongoing 21-year celebration, Second Street will be pouring 21 beers from the archives, at 1996 prices ($3.50) on the 21st of every month. I’m ecstatic to say that one of my favorite Second Street brews is back on the list, the Winter Warmer. Oh, how I’ve missed it! The staff has kicked off the celebration with the IPA 1000, a 15-yr old recipe, before we had such familiar hops as Simcoe, Citra, or Mosaic. You’ll have to thank Tom Ludzia for this great idea.

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The promise of package. This 4-head filler will soon be put to work.

In 2018, Second Street will be anything but business as usual. There will be so much room to play with new beers, unlike the staff has ever had before. Physical expansion is mostly finished for the time being, although, I have it on good authority that there will absolutely be Second Street beer on draft around both Santa Fe and Albuquerque. This can be considered the precursor to packaging. So expect the first can, the 2920 IPA, sometime in the second quarter. That is, if I haven’t drank that one dry, first. Other cans (beer styles yet to be determined) will soon follow.

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Waiting for Red Light Cameras to come back.

Status Quo is the name of the game at the older locations, because, why fix what ain’t been broke in 21 years? Rufina, on the other hand, will continue to push new boundaries to establish itself as a go-to location for a completely new crowd. With a much larger stage and Eliza Lutz (of Matron Records) behind the talent booking, anything from punk, indy, reggae, to even metal shows will help fill a void in Santa Fe that really needs some fillin’ right now. Most of those will be ticketed shows.

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Oh, what fun that night was.

Luke: Going back to 21 years in the business, what have you learned? What’s some advice that you would give to, say, some of the younger breweries, or breweries about to start out?

Tweet: It’s a complicated business, especially if you’re running a restaurant. It’s easy to get distracted. Maintaining focus is everything. It’s easy to get off track, and it’s inevitable, but basically, in the end, if you focus on what you know is important, it will keep you on track. That works. You have to remember that quality is always important. You have to pay attention to your clientele, for example, being responsive when something doesn’t work out quite the way we wanted, to everyone’s satisfaction, or when you get some feedback from customers – once you have that information, you shift gears and you respond. You have to pay attention to what works, but still always be open to new information, and willing to adjust and evolve. And, don’t neglect the nuts and bolts, and don’t neglect advertising. That can take up a whole lot of headspace if you don’t know what you’re doing. Pay attention to business. If you can’t pay attention to business, yourself, then get help with it. At the end of the day, though, if you got into this because you were passionate about good beer, don’t ever forget about that. That works.

* * * * *

The Rufina location has been open since August, and it has already survived a good part of the Santa Fe winter. It’ll be some time before it is established in the minds of Santa Feans, but as Tweet and the whole hard-working crew of Second Street Brewery has proved, time and again — they are not going anywhere. They are just getting better with age, and they are just getting started. So, my thirsty friends, to 21 years, and to many, many more, cheers!

— Luke

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Fun fact: My first story with the Dark Side Brew Crew was the first leg of the IPA Challenge at Second Street Brewery on July 14th, 2014. You can read it HERE, just for fun.

Check back soon for stories on Chili Line, Duel, Santa Fe Brewing, and two secret articles in the works.

Everything we are looking forward to in 2018

Posted: January 2, 2018 by cjax33 in Events, News

The World Beer Cup is back in 2018, and we expect more smiles from our brewers as they bring back awards. Hopefully Jeff Erway remembers to bring his award to the interview this year.

After publishing a recap of the biggest news stories of 2017 last week, the Crew begins the new year with a look ahead to what we think will be some of the biggest stories of 2018. Some of these come from the articles in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series that we have already published, others are from as-yet-unpublished stories in that series, and the rest is just from our vast databank of beer news knowledge. (Hey, no laughing!)

Organizing all of that into a post was not an easy task. There are far too many things with undetermined dates attached. We have also been covering the beer scene long enough to understand that when it comes to opening a brewery or a taproom, never, ever, EVER attach a fixed date. The City of Albuquerque alone all but guarantees some sort of bizarre, nonsensical delay because an inspector finds a sink is two inches too far to the left or something. Add it all up, and this is gonna be one hodgepodge story, but hey, we are still recovering from New Year’s Eve. If there is something you, gentle reader, thinks we are missing, send us an email or comment here or on social media.

Awards and competitions

Will Bosque become the first three-time winner of the NIPAC? Or will it be La Cumbre?

First up, the National IPA Challenge is bound to get underway just about any day now. There are multiple brackets as breweries pit their finest IPAs, Imperial IPAs, weird/experimental IPAs, and Session IPAs. The main IPA bracket will have 128 entrants. New Mexico has won the last four of these, with La Cumbre’s Project Dank taking the title in 2017 and 2014, sandwiched around back-to-back wins for Bosque’s Scale Tipper in 2015 and 2016. Prior to this, no brewery had ever won one or more, much less back-to-back, and no state had ever had more than one champion. The final votes will be cast in mid-March, right around the same time as you are fretting over another non-beer bracket.

April marks the return of the biennial World Beer Cup, which is held in conjunction with the annual Craft Brewers Conference. It all goes down in Nashville this year. Barring an unexpected lottery win, the Crew will sadly not be able to attend (we were invited to apply for press passes, so there’s that, at least). New Mexico breweries brought home six medals in 2016, including golds for Boxing Bear (Chocolate Milk Stout), La Cumbre (BEER), and Nexus (Honey Chamomile Wheat).

After those come the more familiar competitions, namely the NM IPA Challenge in July and of course the Great American Beer Festival, which will be held September 20-22 this year (weird, we know) instead of in October. We covered some potential changes that could be coming to the NMIPAC in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series article on the NM Brewers Guild.

Best of the fests

We look forward to another Friday night in Santa Fe as WinterBrew returns January 12.

So far, we have not heard of any new festivals coming to New Mexico this year, but most of our favorites are returning. First up, the Taos Brewmasters Festival is this Saturday at the ski area. We will have more on that later this week.

WinterBrew is set for Friday, January 12 at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Get your tickets now, as this one always sells out.

The Stout Invitational is back at Bathtub Row in Los Alamos on February 17. Another Guild event, the Blazin’ Brewfest, will go down in Las Cruces on Cinco de Mayo (godspeed with that, everyone).

ABQ Beer Week returns May 24 and runs through June 2. Blues & Brews is the biggest event, as per usual, and will be held May 27 at Sandia Casino.

We are still holding out hope that BearFest will return some time this summer.

Fall festivals will include Hopfest, likely in August, and NM Brew Fest, likely in October. The Beer Premiere will also be back, location TBD. There figure to be plenty of other events scattered throughout the year, from Pajarito Summerfest to the Red River Oktoberfest and many others in between.

Oh, and of course the Crew will be holding our annual Stout Challenge on Super Bowl Sunday. Will this be the year a brewery finally earns a second title? In six years, we have had six different winners, capped by Starr Brothers last year.

Breweries get bigger

Construction is well underway in Bernalillo. (Photo courtesy of Bosque)

There are not as many construction projects on deck for our existing breweries as in years past, but there are quite a few that we are looking forward to in 2018.

Bosque is the big mover and shaker, with the Bernalillo production/packaging facility looking to open some time in the first quarter of the year. The Open Space project, a three-story brewery and taproom, will replace the original San Mateo location later in the year. That building is going up at Venice and the Interstate 25 frontage road. It will be one of only a handful of purpose-built breweries (as opposed to a retrofitted warehouse or restaurant) in the state.

Though there is no permit application posted yet on the State of New Mexico’s website, we have heard through the grapevine that Blue Grasshopper is aiming to open a brewing facility in the Albuquerque. The tiny brewing space at the original location in Rio Rancho was never going to cut it once they expanded to two taprooms. Whether this production facility will also have a taproom attached is unknown at this time.

We still await final confirmation that Boxing Bear will be opening a taproom on the East Side, specifically at the Snow Heights Promenade being built at Eubank and Menaul.

There are three breweries in Albuquerque that we know are opening off-site taprooms in 2018. Ponderosa is putting a small taproom in the El Vado Motel redevelopment near Central and Rio Grande. Tractor is opening its third taproom on the West Side near McMahon and Unser. Starr Brothers has a pending license for a location somewhere in the Southeast.

Other breweries rumored to be looking at/considering taprooms include Hops Brewery, Quarter Celtic, Rio Bravo, and Turtle Mountain, but nothing has been confirmed with any of them.

Up in the Santa Fe area, we know that Santa Fe Brewing has a pending license for a location near downtown.

Otherwise, we are mainly looking forward to seeing all the creative new beer releases, both on tap and in bottles/cans, from breweries across the state this year. The expansion of the barrel-aging programs at places like Bow & Arrow, La Cumbre, Marble, Tractor, and more should be enough to keep us all satiated throughout 2018.

Yes, more new places are on the way

Say hello to the first officially open new brewery of 2018. (Photo courtesy of Guadalupe Mountain Brewing)

Quite a few breweries are scheduled to open in 2018, though as we noted in our intro, attaching a fixed date more than a week out would be foolish.

The Crew will have to take another trip to Southeastern New Mexico this year. Drylands Brewing opened in Lovington after our last pass through the region, so we have to go back there. Monday also marked the grand opening of Guadalupe Mountain Brewing in Carlsbad. Lost Hiker Brewing in Ruidoso has an active small brewers license, so we should be seeing a grand opening announcement for them some time in the near future as well.

Other breweries hoping to open in the south/southeast include Switchback Brewery in Cloudcroft, Bonito Valley Brewing in Lincoln, and Deep Well Brewing in Artesia. The Las Cruces area will also see the opening of a Little Toad Creek taproom in 2018.

The northern half of the state could also see some new openings in 2018. Red River Brewing is taking advantage of the balmy winter weather to finish construction on its building. There are also Callahan West Brewing in Mosquero in the northeast, while Elkins Brewing is still looking to open in Grants to the west.

Santa Fe will soon see the arrival of its seventh brewery and first combined brewery/distillery operation in Tumbleroot. The small brewer license is already active, so now it is just a matter of finishing the last of the construction and getting everything up and running.

There are three breweries in Albuquerque moving closer and closer to opening here in the early part of 2018. Cantero Brewing, in the brewery district, is nearly ready to go. Lava Rock Brewing is also almost ready on the West Side. Throw in High & Dry Brewing in the Southeast, and the Crew has quite a few advance tours to take here in the coming weeks.

All of those breweries now have active licenses, while things are still pending for the likes of BLUE (near downtown), the Brewstillery (southeast), Hollow Spirits (Wells Park), 1933 Brewing (Rio Rancho), and Toltec Brewing (West Side). Those figure to be farther off, though at least of the five, Hollow Spirits is run by our old friend Frank Holloway (formerly of Red Door), who is keeping us up to date via Facebook.

Will additional breweries be announced as the year goes on? Of course. We promise to let you all know about them as soon as we find out.

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That is all from us. What are you looking forward to in 2018 from our craft beer scene? Drop us a line and we may share it the next time we choose to look ahead.

Cheers, and happy New Year!

— Stoutmeister

Was Boxing Bear’s repeat victory at the NM IPA Challenge the biggest beer news story of 2017? You can decide by clicking on the poll below.

The year is nearly over, so it only makes sense that the Crew would sit down to review everything that happened in the last 12 months. We ultimately decided that while we could pick out the top news story, this site would not exist without the support of our readers, so we are asking all of you to voice your opinion. To start, we picked out what we feel were all the major news stories involving craft beer in our state, everything from January through December.

  • The year began with the news that La Cumbre was buying the building next door and expanding its footprint to set up distribution to Arizona and increasing production.
  • Senate Bill 314 emerged to threaten the breweries with an increase in excise taxes. A fiery town hall followed with the bill’s sponsor, Senator Cisco McSorley. Soon a House bill of similar structure was announced. Ultimately, however, support for small business outweighed a desire for an increase in taxes, or perhaps it was just a realization that the bills were more about pushing the state toward a neo-prohibitionist stance. The bills were both defeated.
  • The Albuquerque Rapid Transit project was a huge thorn in the side of breweries, taprooms, and beer bars up and down Central Avenue. It ultimately led to the closure of the Albuquerque Draft Station. Other businesses kept fighting to stay alive, and the fight was not over by the end of the year as businesses looked for new ways to bring customers back.
  • In a stunning move that seemingly came out of nowhere, Chama River Brewing suddenly closed its doors. One of the most established brewpubs in the city, and one of the oldest, was gone in the blink of an eye.
  • Even as Chama closed, other breweries were opening across the state. Aztec finally landed a brewery as 550 Brewing arrived. Truth or Consequences Brewing opened down south. Hub City Brewing gave Valencia County its first brewery since Tractor had pulled up stakes and moved to ABQ years ago. In the metro area, Steel Bender Brewyard brought craft to the Village of Los Ranchos. The Southeast Heights landed a new brewery as well in the form of Bombs Away Beer Company. Nob Hill added one more brewery as Hops Brewery opened after years of struggles to get open.
  • A huge surge in off-site taprooms was also notable in 2017. Tractor went to Four Hills, Red Door went to the Northeast Heights, Desert Valley moved into the old Stumbling Steer spot on the West Side, Broken Trail popped up near Uptown, and Grant Brewing from Chama opened a taproom near Tijeras. Construction continues on a new taproom for Ponderosa as well.
  • Not one, but two local breweries, Dialogue and La Cumbre, were selected to participate in SAVOR, the prestigious food-and-beer pairing event held in Washington D.C.
  • New Mexico breweries picked up a major award at the Great British Beer Festival again. This time, Canteen and Rio Bravo shared the bronze award for best American cask ale with two wildly different beers.
  • The New Mexico IPA Challenge started off with a preliminary round surprise, before eventually finishing with a repeat champion again as Boxing Bear barely held off past winner Bosque.
  • Real world disasters dominated much of the news cycle, including three separate strikes by major hurricanes. In response to Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in the Houston area, Tractor brought together 24 New Mexico breweries for Hops for Harvey, a fundraiser to help breweries in Texas.
  • Speaking of hops, by the end of the year local hop farms were starting to make news. This sudden upsurge in the growth of local agriculture to support local breweries made a lot of sense. More on this ongoing story will be shared in 2018.
  • Bosque Brewing had a huge year, opening a larger taproom in Las Cruces, expanding its Nob Hill Public House, and announcing plans to replace the original San Mateo taproom and brewery with a larger building along the Interstate 25 frontage road. Construction on the Bernalillo production-and-packaging facility also finally got underway after a lengthy delay.
  • It was another standout year at the Great American Beer Festival, with five New Mexico breweries bringing home six medals. Marble landed another bronze for its Pilsner and then snagged gold for Cholo Stout. Nexus earned gold for its Imperial Cream and Sierra Blanca also picked up gold for its Cherry Wheat.

Those are the big news stories, in our humble opinion. Now we ask for all of you to select which one was the top news story of 2017. If you would like, leave comments below or on social media.

This poll will be up for one week, so we will reveal your choices on January 4.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Cheers to the BA for all it does.

Yeah, it is definitely that time of year. The recaps and top 10 lists are being posted, the year-in-review stories are rolling along (like, uh, our Look Back/Look Ahead Series). When it comes to recapping the year in craft beer for the entire country, no one sums it up best quite like the Brewers Association.

It was another big year for craft beer, to say the least.

“Craft brewers continue to thrive, if at a slower pace, fueled by a passionate community dedicated to bringing innovation, jobs and beer across America—on Main Street and beyond,” said Bart Watson, the chief economist of the Brewers Association, in a press release. “Today, 83 percent of the population lives within 10 miles of a local brewery, meaning that the positive impact of breweries is being felt in communities all over the country.”

OK, that is pretty cool. What other stats does the BA have for us?

  • The number of breweries nationwide has now surpassed 6,000, with 98 percent of those falling under the craft banner. By the Crew’s count, 68 of those are in New Mexico, with at least six more active licenses for places that have yet to open their doors, but should in the next couple months (more on that down below).
  • All those breweries have created 456,373 jobs, a 7.5-percent increase from 2014. In turn, that has generated $67.8 billion for the U.S. economy, a 21.7-percent increase. Craft breweries in turn donated $73.4 million to charities.
  • The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act has support from both parties and will potentially pass through both houses of Congress and become law during this current session. So, yeah, I guess we will have to say that Congress will do one good thing.
  • It appears the term “beercation” is becoming more and more of a reality. The average craft beer drinker visits 3.5 breweries near home and 2.5 breweries within two hours driving distance (take note: the press release did not say whether this was 3.5 per week, per month, or per year; for the Crew, it would certainly be per week, sometimes even per day, when we are feeling frisky with our Lyft/Uber accounts). A survey by the BA found that 64 percent of craft drinkers like to visit breweries to try new beers on a regular basis. We will raise one to that.
  • The New Mexico stats on the BA website are for 2016, but they still tell a positive story. By the end of that year, there 57 breweries, ranking 26th in the country. More notably, the 3.9 breweries per capita (100,000 adults) ranks 11th nationwide. Breweries had an economic impact of $333 million (40th) or $226.26 per capita (35th). A total of 111,237 barrels (32nd) were produced, amounting to 2.3 gallons consumed per adult (21st).

Yeah, it is still a good era for craft beer. Here is hoping it continues into 2018 and beyond.

Embrace the darkness at beer bars, too

The quality of dark beers around town is straight fire.

Our friends over Rock & Brews wanted you all to know that the current dark beer lineup is fairly epic. As fun as it is to hit up the breweries first, don’t forget the beer bars, as they often pull in some exclusive styles from out of state that you can usually only get in bottles or cans.

Rock & Brews currently has Dogfish Head’s Vanilla Oak-Aged Worldwide Stout, which is otherwise a pricey purchase in four-pack bottles. The ubiquitous Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout lines up next to Worldwide. There is also the most recent iteration of the ultimate beer geek beer, Stone’s Imperial Farking Wootstout. The real surprise gem, though, is Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout. No, really, it is on tap. If that hefty price tag for a bomber is scaring you off, but you really want to know if it is worth it (we think so, but we’re biased), head over to Rock & Brews to try it first before you commit to a 22-ounce bottle or two.

Down at Sister Bar, at least as of the Gatecreeper show this past Monday (gotta say, impressive crowd showing, ABQ-area metalheads), there is still some of La Cumbre’s La Negra on tap. It has been out at the brewery for a while, so get some while it lasts (if it’s even still there, we apologize if it is gone by now).

Nob Hill Bar & Grill has a strong lineup, which you can find anytime via Untappd. The current black beasts of ahhh available are Bell’s Black Note and Kalamazoo Stout, plus 2016 and 2017 Bourbon County Brand Stout, and two old favorites in Oskar Blues Ten FIDY and Stone Xocoveza.

So much dark beer, so little time.

New breweries update

Hello to a new small town brewery!

Sticking with tradition in beer notes, here are the most recent updates on all the forthcoming breweries across New Mexico. As always, we only list breweries with pending or active small brewer licenses with the State.

  • BLUE (Albuquerque): Nothing new on this small brewery located somewhere near Broadway and Lead/Coal.
  • Bonito Valley Brewing (Lincoln): A newcomer to the list located in a small, historic town west of Roswell along Highway 380. There is a Facebook page that says the owners are aiming for a summer 2018 opening.
  • Brewstillery (Albuquerque): We still have no info on this combo operation in the Southeast.
  • Callahan West Brewery (Mosquero): The small town brewery has been in touch with the NM Brewers Guild about joining up in 2018, so it appears to be a go.
  • Cantero Brewing (Albuquerque): Now armed with an active license, the final parts of construction are underway.
  • Elkins Brewing (Grants): We have no new info on this business.
  • Glencoe Distillery and Brewery (Ruidoso): The license is active, but there is still no website that we can find, nor any social media. It remains a mystery.
  • Guadalupe Mountain Brewing (Carlsbad): The license is active here, too, and beer is now being brewed. We await the announcement of opening, which could come any week now.
  • High and Dry Brewing (Albuquerque): Construction appears to be mostly complete down near Adams and Lomas. The Crew is in touch with the ownership and we are working to set up an advance tour when they are ready.
  • Hollow Spirits (Albuquerque): Construction continues on this new combo spot in the Wells Park neighborhood. It is the brainchild of former Red Door co-owner Frank Holloway.
  • Lava Rock Brewing (Albuquerque): The West Side brewery is getting closer and closer to opening on Unser just north of Ladera.
  • Lost Hiker Brewing (Ruidoso): Yes, the license is active, now only a few final touches must be completed and there will be local beer in the mountains down south. Keep track of the progress on the Lost Hiker Facebook page.
  • 1933 Brewing (Rio Rancho): Another newcomer to the list, we have no info beyond a name and a zip code for RR. It is unknown if this brewery is related in any way to the former 1933 Brewing of Fort Collins, Colo., which closed at the end of 2016.
  • Red River Brewing: All this mild winter is not helping the ski industry up north, but it should enable RRB to finish construction and remain on track for an early 2018 opening.
  • Switchback Brewery (Cloudcroft): There is still no info online on this place. We would like to remind everyone, though, that there is a Switchback Brewing in Vermont, so a name change may ultimately be necessary.
  • Toltec Brewing (Albuquerque): The forthcoming West Side brewery took a big step by hiring a head brewer, but we have been asked not to reveal the identity of this individual just yet. Let us just say, however, that we are excited.
  • Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery (Santa Fe): There are lots of construction photos on Facebook, so it looks like a good bet to open sooner than later. The small brewer license is now active.
  • The pending licenses for off-site taprooms remains as follows — Little Toad Creek in Las Cruces (new!); Ponderosa at El Vado Motel redevelopment (getting close); Santa Fe Downtown Taproom; Starr Brothers Alehouse (location TBA); Tumbleroot in Santa Fe (they will not sell beer out of the production facility down the street). Also, the Milton’s taproom in Roswell has an active license, but it is not yet open as far as we know.

That is all for now. As always, if you know anything about anything, please drop us a line at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com or contact us via direct message on Facebook or Twitter.

Have a great weekend, and good luck with any last-minute Christmas shopping!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Black Note is a beauty, especially on tap.

December is here, and you have one more chance to snag a taste of one of the true wonders of the barrel-aged world with one last keg of Bell’s Black Note on tap at Nob Hill Bar & Grill this evening. This beer, a.k.a. Voldemort, is just as insidious as he who shall not be named. You will not notice the darkness as it creeps over your palate until it is far too late. A thoroughly delicious end, if I do say so myself.

This batch was added to freshly retired bourbon barrels, so it has a good, wet presence of bourbon that extends from the aroma and melts throughout the entire experience. I found hints of light cinnamon, vanilla, and plenty of roast and black malts in this one, with an incredibly smooth, sweet chocolate middle, finished off with fresh bourbon.

This beer does not mess around at all. A quintessential winter warmer with hints of creamy chocolate that coats your entire palate with sweet sweet darkness. But, don’t take my word for it, go forth and enjoy this black diamond of winter’s looming chill and decide for yourself!

You can still find this delicious offering in six packs around town.

For that matter, Bell’s is a brewery that has multiple stouts to choose from, as they put it themselves, a “stout portfolio,” ranging from the somewhat sweeter Special Double Cream Stout to the tart Cherry Stout all the way to Expedition (Russian Imperial) in all of its glory, not to mention Kalamazoo and of course Black Note. These alone are only some of the delightful darkness that has landed in our fair desert oasis on the wings of the tolling of the Bells. But, as I’ve said, don’t take my own musings for it, go forth and explore with your own palates and sensibilities! Deep was the darkness with no light at all, and it was good.

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Kaktus went ahead and remodeled the interior of its Nob Hill taproom.

Kaktus Brewing had the unfortunate timing of opening its Nob Hill taproom just as construction began on the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. Now, as the last of the orange cones have been removed, Kaktus is looking to finally find its niche with a taproom remodel.

“As you know, right when we opened this location, they started A.R.T.,” owner Dana Koller said. “We were just up against it hard, the challenge right there for a while. We just got motivated as they were completing A.R.T., supposedly they’re about to run any day now, we decided to recreate ourselves along with that. All of our changes would be done December 1. So, we didn’t close to make the changes, we’ve been incrementally creating them, and then December 1 is when it’s like this is where we’re at.”

The new interior is both cozy and pseudo-industrial.

Kaktus tossed out the old, almost 1960s-style mod furniture. The bar is now one solid piece with a concrete counter top. The new vibe is almost a sort of throwback style, but mixed with a little bit of the eclectic fun that the original brewery in Bernalillo has been sporting since day one.

“We’ve been trying to figure out our niche here,” Dana said. “We’ve got an incredible niche in Bernalillo. I mean a niche in the whole industry, a brewery on the way to Santa Fe, on the way back from the Jemez. So we’ve been trying to figure out our niche here. We decided to go with this really aggressive social environment. We’re pushing those social hours between 2 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.”

Kaktus is moving away from being seen as a restaurant with beer, Dana said.

“That’s the niche we’re trying to create, a social environment more away from the restaurant to focus more on the taps and the drinks,” Dana said. “Before you walked in and we felt like people weren’t too sure if we were going more restaurant or more taproom. Now we’ve just decided to go much more taproom, more bar oriented.”

Relax after a long day with a pint or two.

The menu is quite different from anywhere else in Nob Hill.

“Our menu is all about those fine hors devours and flatbreads, more bar menu style, but pretty nice,” Dana said. “It’s something you’re not going to find anywhere else. We’re doing duck wings, squash and goat cheese flatbreads, a unique grilled cheese.”

The changes have not been limited to the downtown taproom space. Head on upstairs for a new experience as well.

“We did the same thing with the rooftop patio,” Dana said. “We added some new lights up there. It’s all lounge furniture from one end to the other. It’s super comfortable. We’ve even got new staff coming on board this week. It’s almost a full overhaul, to a degree. We have a nice new feel, so when people walk in it’s going to be a whole new experience.”

Dana shared this photo of what the rooftop patio now looks like at night. The plant holders will be replaced soon by mini-fireplaces.

Capturing some of the Bernalillo experience, but also giving the taproom its own voice, has been the goal.

“That was the other thing, we tried to match our Bernalillo spot with its eclectic-ness, and we still did, but we’re definitely taking it up a notch at Nob Hill to identify ourselves more,” Dana said. “Bernalillo is outdoorsy, kick your feet up, chickens are running around the property. This is going to be nothing like that at all. We’re going to be the opposite of that, a real clean, fun environment, the start of your social night.”

The timing could not be better for Kaktus to make these sorts of moves. A.R.T. coming to an end is one thing, but this Saturday will feature the annual Twinkle Light Parade, and the following Saturday will feature Shop and Stroll.

“I thought we offered something different to begin with, but it wasn’t enough for people to talk about,” Dana said. “It wasn’t enough for people to be like oh, my experience was great there. We started the aggressive changes with the menu. The day after Thanksgiving, we were open that Friday and Saturday and that’s it, we already got a really good response to the style those two days. People walking in the door were so positive. I’m so excited about this week.”

All of us in the Crew wish Kaktus luck in finding that niche. We look forward to chilling out with pints like the delicious new Oatmeal Raisin Stout in the near future.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Red Hat Hops and the Village of Los Ranchos recently held a forum to bring together local farmers and breweries.

Hop growing has expanded in the United States from the Pacific Northwest to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to coincide with the rising tide of craft beer. At long last, it is beginning to grow roots here in New Mexico, as we are still growing as a brewing destination.

I had the chance to attend a forum hosted by Red Hat Hops and the Village of Los Ranchos earlier this month, and was pleased to be included in the first collective meeting between hop growers, breweries, farmers, brewery chefs, and other related officials from the Guild and the state. Above all, the intent for this gathering was to open a dialogue to foster community, collaboration, and communication between the farmers who would like to supply our local breweries with local ingredients, and the breweries.

John Seabrooks, formerly of Rio Bravo and with over 26 years in the brewing industry, started us off by illustrating the impetus behind local collaboration.

“It is important to start the dialogue and figure out what all of the needs are (of breweries),” John said, “so we can go to the state and other federal agencies and begin to see what we can do to begin to get the appropriate funds to support the initiative of local growers.”

Starting an industry from scratch is no easy task, with much of the equipment required to grow the ingredients needed for making beer costing more than your typical startup business is able to afford. Thus, creating a group for our local growers much like our Brewers Guild is quite important, so as to be able to foster collaboration and cooperation to get our local hop business going. As of this writ, we are up to four total hops growers in the state of New Mexico, with representatives from Red Hat Hops, Crossed Sabers Hops, Stone Lizard Hops, and White Crow Hops all in attendance.

With the recent explosion of some tremendous wet-hopped beers appearing at the end of this year’s growing season, which built on the success of prior years in magnitude and availability, the general consensus is to push for that as a stepping stone for our local hop growers initially, and build on the success of such beers as Bosque’s Acequia IPA and wet hop series, La Cumbre’s Wet Hopped Elevated, and Santa Fe Brewing’s Wet Hopped Strong Ale, to name a few. The possibility of a future Wet Hopped IPA challenge to go alongside our annual IPA challenge was also broached, and is certainly a mouthwatering and palate-destroying possibility, which we will certainly keep on our radar for any developments.

When it comes to brewing beers with wet hops, freshness is king. As we are in relatively close proximity to hop growers in Colorado, our breweries can sometimes see hops harvested and brought down within one to two days or so, and added to beers in the process of being brewed almost immediately. If we were able to cut that time down to a matter of hours, our collective palates would all benefit from the added oils and luscious flavors and aromas that wet hops are known for.

So where are we in terms of hop production in our state now and where are we headed? As Tom from Red Hat Hops put it, “This year we all established what we are doing. I think most of us are doing expansions for next year already. So, for 2018, we are looking at between 10 and 12 acres of harvestable hops in New Mexico. The following year that will likely double and if we get the support of brewing community it’s going to take off exponentially.”

Here’s hoping this will take off, which would benefit all of us hopheads, brewers, and local growers alike. On the topic of hops and how they are used, a typical brew will use strictly dried hop pellets, which keep their magical powers of flavoring substantially longer than fresh hops, so a longer-term goal will be for our state to grow our hop business enough to support the procurement of a large scale hop-drying facility or oast house, likely with some help from the state via the NM Brewers Guild.

You may ask yourself why now? Why are locally sourced ingredients from private businesses so vital to the future of the craft brewing industry? The answer lies with the elephants in the room, the evil empire that is AB InBev and its ilk, which have been procuring malt and hop suppliers to drive their own costs down and put pressure on their competitors, which limits or in some cases eliminates (as was the case with South African hop varieties this past year) availability of those ingredients for craft breweries. These types of market manipulative, monopolistic practices are a huge reason to forge ahead with locally grown and sourced ingredients for beers not beholden to the deplorable multi-billion dollar “beer” conglomerates.

As John so excellently put it, “As a result of AB InBev’s hold on the market, they essentially said we will no longer sell the hops that some craft brewers throughout the world are using that are produced in South Africa. They essentially told everyone that we are saving those hops so that we (InBev) can give them to the craft breweries that we own. In my mind this is the tip of the iceberg. I don’t believe what they are saying in terms of there being a shortage of these hops. What they are doing is essentially taking care of their own business first at the expense of other craft breweries in the world who need to use these South African hops. So, as these huge conglomerates continue to get bigger and buy up more and more craft components, they begin to exert market forces which make it even more difficult for craft brewers to keep their doors open.”

As John went on to illustrate, this also hits the home brewer as well, with the conglomerates wanting to have complete dominance over alcoholic beverages worldwide from the macro to the micro all under their banner for their own profit. So it is essential that we do all that we are able to fight this attempt at utter monopoly by looking to our local providers, which will remain local rather than caving to the self-serving dumptruck-of-cash approach of these conglomerates.

Those of you who know your hop varieties are probably asking which ones are being grown in our state and the answer is quite a few, including the following — Chinook, Cascade, Neo Mexicanus, Centennial, Columbus, and Nugget. There is definitely a lot to look forward to in light of what I learned here about how well hops grow in our climate, and the possibilities for growing not only hops at the local level, but also grain and other fruits and vegetables used in brewing beer or supporting brewery kitchens to bring us good quality locally sourced cuisine.

This was a well attended and successful first gathering of growers, farmers, and brewers, and here’s hoping for a successful harvest this coming year and for good collaboration going forward. Thanks to Red Hat Hops for bringing all of this together and I look forward to future meetings like this as our local brewing community expands from brewery to farmland and beyond.

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Everything is ready to take flight at the new Red Door taproom at Wyoming and Comanche.

The staff at Red Door Brewing expected to have their second offsite taproom open by now. As usual, though, the red tape piled up and slowed the process to a crawl. Now, however, there is light at the end of the tunnel after the taproom received its license from the State of New Mexico.

“This was definitely one thing after another,” said co-owner/head brewer Wayne Martinez. “It ended up being pushed back further than we’d like it to (have been). It’s just (finishing the) small things now.”

With luck, those small things will be done by the end of this week, and the taproom will be open by this weekend. Located on the southwest corner of Wyoming and Comanche, it will bring Red Door beers to a new audience while also appeasing long-time fans who live closer to there than the original or downtown taprooms.

“I’ve heard several people say they could walk home from here,” Wayne said.

Wayne provided a quick tour of the space on Monday evening.

“It will fit about 90 people,” he said. “The (taps) tower should be here, hopefully at the end of the week, but we’ll see. And then we still have to have (the final) inspection.”

All that is missing is the taps tower.

As soon as the taps are ready, there will be 14 total, two more than downtown. Wayne said that will enable the brewery keep more seasonal and specialty offerings on tap, so look for an even greater variety of beer in the future.

The taproom occupies the southern end of the building, which also houses the Poki Poki Cevicheria restaurant. Wayne said patrons can bring food from Poki Poki (or any outside eatery) into the taproom, as there is not enough space for a food truck to park outside.

The space inside will feature a bar and tables on the ground level. There is a small area on the west side of the building where a familiar feature will be set.

“This will be the retro gaming area,” Wayne said. “We’ll have a couch, we’ll have a TV with probably a (Nintendo) 64 again.”

The loft area upstairs will be a popular feature.

There is also a loft area above the west side.

“If we have any kind of groups that want to a have a (private) party, we’ll be able to accommodate that,” Wayne said.

Another interesting motif is a number of red doors hanging above the main bar area. Sound padding is on top of each one to help with the echo effect of the high ceiling.

The large garage doors on the south side will open up in good weather. While not a true patio, it will at least take advantage of sunny and pleasant days.

With luck, the last piece of equipment will arrive this week, the final inspection will go smoothly, and Red Door Wyoming will open its doors by Saturday. Stay tuned for further updates.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister