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Fire & Hops Gastropub in Santa Fe

The arrival of Bell’s Brewery in New Mexico led to plenty of special tappings and tap takeovers. One of those took place in Santa Fe, at an establishment that is becoming a go-to place for craft beer lovers.

“Bell’s reputation precedes it,” said Josh Johns, co-owner and cicerone of Fire & Hops Gastropub. “I’m always on the lookout for new beers to bring to Santa Fe, and I’ve been impressed with what I’ve tasted from Bell’s before.”

Bell’s recently raised some eyebrows when Zymurgy, a magazine dedicated to homebrewers, named their Two Hearted Ale as the best beer in America. Bell’s finally took over the lead spot that Russian River’s Pliny the Elder held for eight straight years.

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Two Hearted Ale, complete with proper glassware

I’ve had Bell’s in the past, while traveling in Arizona and in the Midwest. I remembered the Two Hearted Ale (American IPA, 7.0% ABV), but not much beyond that. So, I was looking forward to tasting a wider swath of what they’ve been brewing when I sat down with Josh at the tap takeover last Wednesday at the restaurant.

Elsewhere in Santa Fe, the Piñon Pub at Whole Foods Market was tapping their Best Brown Ale (5.8% ABV) and Violet Crown was set to tap a few the following day. My choice was a simple one of where to go, however, because Fire & Hops has been a favorite local haunt since they opened their doors three years ago, and Josh’s presentation of the craft brews he serves up is always impeccable.

All of Bell’s primary brews are stylistically classical, yet their smaller-batch experiments show a willingness to explore. The Kiwi Gose that I sampled was fruity on the nose and tart, retaining the kiwi flavor all the way through. The staples that will be available in New Mexico regularly will delight the purists among us. The Two Hearted Ale was clean, balanced, and smooth. There’s nothing particularly hop-forward about this IPA, though it has a full profile while drinking it, the slightly bitter aftertaste does not linger. I do love a hoppy IPA, but find that more classically balanced ales like this one are easily drinkable. That’s why Two Hearted Ale will likely be on regular rotation in this hop-head’s repertoire.

Bellsbrews

From left to right, Lager of the Lakes Bohemian Pilsner, Kalamazoo Stout, Two Hearted Ale

Brushing aside the known quantity of the IPA, I suddenly found myself a stout fan. The Kalamazoo Stout (6.0% ABV) is an American-style stout with lots of coffee on the nose and a great mix of bitter coffee and dark chocolate on the tongue. Both flavors stick while drinking it, and they don’t fade. That’s long been my beef with stouts that can’t hold what they promise at first taste, but it’s not the case with Bell’s take on the classic American stout. It also has a nice foundation of hops, which is possibly another reason why I liked this brew so much.

Next up, the Amber Ale (5.8% ABV) was, again, classically American. Very smooth, with a beautifully rich amber color, it’s a highly drinkable ale. Clean, with just the right amount of bitterness provided by the underlying hops, its most notable feature is the slightly toasted caramel flavor. This was a favorite in my party of four, and it’s a welcome addition to the current lineup of amber ales we have available here in the state.

Finally, the surprise hit of the evening was Bell’s excellent Lager of the Lakes (Bohemian Pilsner, 5.0% ABV). A true-to-form Czech-style pilsner, this immediately shot me back to the streets of Pilsen and Prague in the Czech Republic. Seriously, it’s that good and that authentic. The crisp hop profile is balanced by an even-tempered malt. Hoppy on the nose, it’s refreshing and immensely sessionable. This will be my new go-to pilsner, I predict.

Sliding into the seat next to me, Bell’s national sales manager Tina Anderson told me that their head brewer was trained in German techniques, and that’s why it shows through so clearly with their pilsner.

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Tina Anderson, national sales manager for Bell’s Brewery

“The Lager of the Lakes will be going exclusively into cans in February,” Tina said. And, more of their experimental series will find their way into cans at the same time, she added.

Tina, who is based in Atlanta, has been with Bell’s for eight years now after successfully recruiting them for a distributorship in Georgia. At the time, she was an area brand manager and took a leap of faith when Bell’s entered the state by going to work exclusively for them. She had tried their Two Hearted Ale at GABF and loved it during her tenure in Colorado working for Vail Resorts. That’s where her love of craft beer blossomed, after getting to know Ska and Oskar Blues breweries back in the late 90s.

When asked what she’s been drinking lately, Tina named the Oarsmen Ale (Tart Wheat Ale, 4.0% ABV) and called it her go-to, lounging-at-the-lake beer. She said it’s tart and refreshing without being overly astringent like a sour.

Switching gears, I asked Tina about the label graphics. While each of them were interesting in their own right, there didn’t seem to be a cohesive theme. She said the owner, Larry Bell, supports a lot of local artists in the Michigan area. The famed trout on the Two Hearted Ale is from a watercolor he bought, as is the artwork on the Amber Ale label. The Kalamazoo Stout features rotating sketches of locals from Kalamazoo, drawn by a taproom regular who was a third-shift worker and who would sketch anyone who bought him a burger and a beer. Larry bought the entire set, and the sketches will rotate as the graphics when the stout is canned.

Larrys-Sour-Ale

Tina gave me a preview of the new artwork for Larry’s Latest Sour Ale, a “kettle soured ale with a dry hop burst,” from their new innovation series.

What’s next for Bell’s, closer to their Michigan headquarters? Even though they just completed a $52 million expansion at the Comstock location, they are adding new tanks to accommodate their experimental forays. Larry’s Latest is one of the first to be packaged from their new Innovation Series, which these new tanks will support. Their second location, the Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo, continues to be a busy hub for locals and supporters of their beer.

Tina said she noted a synchronicity between Bell’s local focus and homebrew roots, and New Mexico’s hyper-local beer community. Bell’s is not distributed in Colorado as of yet, as they’ve put their faith in us instead to carry their growth. After the sampling at Fire & Hops, I think we’ll rise to the challenge.

Cheers!

— Julie

Note: look for a deeper dive on Fire & Hops Gastropub later this fall.

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Your weekend just got more crowded with yet another event. But it’s for a good cause, so get out there and enjoy a pint!

Just when you thought we had all the weekend’s events covered in The Week Ahead in Beer, two more popped up, and we thought we might provide some additional details on one other. We will have our first review of the Desert Valley Brewing taproom up later today.

Oktoberfest at Taos Ski Valley

This Saturday and Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., skedaddle on up to The Bavarian Lodge & Restaurant for the annual celebration of the German harvest. There will be plenty of food and beer, naturally, and you can reserve your stein in advance if you click here.

That same link will also help you find a discounted hotel room, since you might as well stick around in the beautiful ski valley before the snow shows up and Leah Black reclaims her favorite mountain.

Get on up there and have some fun!

Mariposa Fun(d)raiser at Bow & Arrow

The Mariposa Fund is holding their annual fundraiser this Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. The fund provides reproductive healthcare to women who are otherwise not eligible. There will be fun and games, and of course plenty of Bow & Arrow beer on tap. If you would like to contribute to the fund but cannot attend, click here.

In other Bow & Arrow news, they have re-done their Scotch ale recipe and renamed it True Aim Scotch Ale. We are always supportive of bigger and better Scotch ales. B&A has also added Fast Luck Dry-Hopped Pale Ale for the weekend, and will have Wolf Eyes Oktoberfest on tap this coming Thursday. From Sept. 25-30, B&A will donate $1 from every pint sold of Wolf Eyes to the UNM Alumni Association in honor of homecoming week.

Golden Days Brew Fest at Santa Fe Ski Area

We mentioned this one before, but thought you could use a few more details. It runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The cost to enter is $18, which gets you a silicone pint glass, three samples, and one pint of your favorite beer. There will be extra runs of the 255 Mountain Trail Bus as well, so no need to drive up. Click here for more details.

As for the attending breweries, Boxing Bear, Broken Trail, Dialogue, Drafty Kilt, and La Cumbre will be heading up from Albuquerque. Locals on hand will include Chili Line, Santa Fe, and Second Street. New Mexico Hard Cider will also be on hand.

* * * * *

The Crew will be bouncing around to various events and beer releases all weekend. We will also be attending the memorial/tribute show to our late friend and fellow beer geek/metalhead Justin Shearer on Saturday night (8-11) at The Moonlight Lounge. If you knew Justin, come on by and join us and his family and friends from around the country. Local bands Futilitarian, Jagged Mouth, The Extinction, and Distances will perform.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

A hop farm springs up in the North Valley

Posted: September 12, 2017 by cjax33 in News
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By this time next year, there will be a wall of green from this viewpoint.

The Albuquerque metro area is now home to 30-plus breweries.

And, finally, one hop farm.

Red Hat Hops is looking to keep things even more local in terms of beer ingredients. Located at the edge of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, off Rio Grande north of the overpass above Montano, this new operation occupies 4.5 acres. Tom Brewer and Tim Arnold are the men in charge.

“Well, the obvious answer is we have, what, over 60 breweries in New Mexico now, and no commercial hop yards,” Tom said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t people growing hops, people just want to keep it secret for some reason.”

Tom previously served in the Air Force and then worked at Intel for many years before he was laid off. His desire to start a hop farm was born out of two passions.

“I love growing things and I love beer, so they kind of go together,” he said.

So far only one acre has been set up for the hops. A combination of planting too late and a few too many scorching days this summer conspired to keep the first crop small.

“My goal, we’re going to fill this field up,” Tom said. “I have this four-and-a-half acres, this is only one acre planted now, but we have the full acres back to the Bosque. I lease the property, I don’t own it. There are three farmers that farm here. I’m already working with the Village of Los Ranchos, we’re already looking at other places to expand to.”

Tom also said he has been sure to establish a good relationship with the resident brewery of Los Ranchos.

“Obviously, I have a good working relationship with a brewery here in Los Ranchos. “They’re pretty interested and Bob (Haggerty, head brewer) is a great guy. He’s been out here. I talked to him on Friday.

“It’s a win-win situation. They grow great here. We’re getting everything established this year.”

One of the more bountiful vines on the property.

Tom is also working with Rio Bravo director of brewing operations John Seabrooks on future projects.

“I went to the Master Brewers out-of-towner at Rio Bravo a couple weeks ago,” Tom said. “One of the big things we saw was there is a disconnect between the agricultural and brewing communities. I’m working with John Seabrooks. We’re going to put something together in the next few months. We’re going to get farmers together and brewers and brewery owners, this time, together.”

That goes beyond farmers growing hops.

“We’re not just talking about hops,” he said. “In the brewery (business) they’re using all kinds of stuff now. We’re going to be bringing in all kinds of farmers. … There’s a lot of stuff going on this property alone, along with the whole valley. We have breweries that want ingredients and we have farmers who have ingredients to sell.”

Santa Fe Brewing does have its own hop farm in Rinconada, south of Taos, and one of the main state universities now has a hop farm as well.

“I have my USA hops growers number (so) I’m the only registered hop yard in New Mexico,” Tom said. “I know there are others. I collaborate with New Mexico State University. They have an experimental hop yard up in Farmington.”

NMSU will be present at an upcoming private event that will be hosted by Red Hat Hops, bringing another element into the mix — education.

“Obviously, the main intent is as a business and (to) supply local breweries, but we also want to use it as an educational opportunity,” Tom said. “CNM has got a brewing program. The breweries have the opportunity to bring their staff here for field trips. It may eventually become an agri-tourism thing, but it may not. This is private property. We are working with some other entities that have public property.”

Hello there, Neo Mexicanus.

Tom said his long-term goal was to be at 20 acres in 10 years, but he said now it looks like he will reach that mark much sooner.

“The big thing now is we’re going to get through our introductory stage, which is this year,” he said.

Now it is just about getting the word out to the breweries and the public, for the future could be bountiful.

“We want that to become more of the norm because this is a huge not only a business opportunity for everybody, but it’s a huge marketing opportunity for New Mexico,” Tom said. “Colorado already has an all-Colorado beer. We have that opportunity here.”

An all-New Mexico beer? We will raise a glass of that when it comes to fruition.

Thanks to Tom and Tim for the tour and the beer.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Choose from among 25 breweries’ most excellent beers and have the proceeds go to a good cause? Sign us up!

The staggering toll of Hurricane Harvey is still being felt across Texas, with many homes and businesses lost to the destructive flooding. Included among those are craft breweries, and their employees, many of whom no longer have a job as a result. The MBAA (Master Brewers Association of Americas) Texas District reached out to neighboring states for help. Tractor Brewing president Skye Devore responded by creating Hops for Harvey, a special event this Wednesday running from 3 p.m. to midnight.

Tractor and the New Mexico Brewers Guild have pulled together 24 other local breweries to each provide one keg of a special beer, with 100 percent of all profits going to the MBAA Texas District. Throw in one to-be-determined Tractor beer, and that will mean 25 different beers will be available at the Wells Park taproom for one night.

“I think it’s really cool, because it’s like a miniature brew fest,” said Tractor marketing director Jeremy Kinter. “What I like about it is the New Mexico breweries were really quick to jump on board. The day of (announcing), we had like 19 breweries jump on board. They’re not just regular beers, not the flagships, either. They’re throwing some special beer at us. It’s just amazing, the reaction has been extremely impressive. I’m proud to be a part of the Albuquerque brew scene.”

The original plan was to just have a pizza party, Jeremy said, as national Papa John’s was going to donate all of its profits from Wednesday to the relief effort. That changed once the MBAA Texas District made contact.

“MBAA Texas District reached out to see who might be able to provide support to breweries in the Houston area as some are underwater,” Jeremy said. “Flood insurance for businesses is only available through the government and does not cover lost business or lost wages, only physical damages. Brewery employees who may have been lucky enough not to be flooded out at home could arrive to work to find their brewery and employment gone or temporarily closed. Government aid takes time to reach them.”

Any money that is not needed by the breweries in Texas or their employees will then be donated to other parts of the relief effort, Jeremy added.

There will be growler fills allowed at the event. As for what breweries are participating, we have that list below, and as they name the beers they are bringing, we will keep updating this list right up until the doors open at Wells Park.

  • Abbey: TBD
  • Bombs Away: TBD
  • Bosque: IRA (India Red Ale)
  • Bow & Arrow: TBD
  • Boxing Bear: Crystal Kolsch
  • Broken Trail: Pepe the Mule
  • Canteen: Exodus IPA
  • Chama River: TBD
  • Dialogue: TBD
  • Duel: Marcel (Sour Wit)
  • La Cumbre: TBD
  • Marble: Double White (freshly brewed batch)
  • Nexus: TBD
  • Ponderosa: Blueberry Stout
  • Quarter Celtic: Clark IPA
  • Red Door: White AF IPA
  • Rio Bravo: Cherry Wheat
  • Rowley Farmhouse Ales: Germophile (Berliner Weisse)
  • Santa Fe: TBD
  • Sidetrack: Pub Ale
  • Sierra Blanca: Single Hop
  • Steel Bender: The Village Wit
  • Taos Mesa: TBD
  • Tractor: TBD
  • Turtle Mountain: Lemongrass Honey Wheat

No, that is not a typo, one of the last kegs available of a Chama River beer will be there. Hey, better this than throwing it out, right?

A big thumbs up to Skye and the staff at Tractor for organizing this, and to the Guild for making sure to bring everyone together. Thank you to all the breweries for donating kegs, especially for the fact that these are not the cheaper beers in their lineups, yet they are essentially giving them away for free.

Guess I know where I will be pregaming the Social Distortion concert on Wednesday.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

A sad and sudden farewell to Chama River

Posted: August 25, 2017 by cjax33 in Brewery Obit, News
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We will always cherish our opportunity to brew on Chama River’s system back in 2014. From left, then-head brewer Zach Guilmette, Brandon, Stoutmeister, and then-assistant brewer David Facey.

A relatively normal Thursday afternoon turned chaotic after a single text from a friend in the business: “Apparently Chama (River) is closing, as in right now. They just called last call and are done. Heard anything?”

This happened shortly after 4 p.m., and suddenly, while still standing in the Albuquerque Isotopes dugout as batting practice was winding down, I was quickly texting anyone and everyone who might be in the know. Confirmation from a source, who shall remain unnamed for now, followed, letting me know that the third oldest brewery in Albuquerque was indeed closing its doors for good. It was, to put it mildly, stunning.

The Albuquerque Journal was able to get the president of Santa Fe Dining, Chama’s parent company, to go on the record (sort of): “Unfortunately, we had to shutter the doors after 12 really wonderful years with our Albuquerque guests,” Randy Ropek told Journal reporter Jessica Dyer. That, and a comment about Kellys Brew Pub being in fine shape and in no danger of also closing, was about all the Journal got for the time being.

While the Crew and the rest of the media wait for a more official announcement, which we were told is coming next week, about all we can do for the moment is reflect back on Chama’s place in our local beer history. (A much more detailed version of this history can be found in a certain book which you can purchase online here or at local retailers.)

Chama got its start in August 1999 as Blue Corn Albuquerque, a spinoff of the popular Santa Fe brewpub. Within about six months of opening, there was a change of brewers. Ted Rice took over at Chama and helped put it on the map, at least as far as the beers went. He won three medals at the Great American Beer Festival — silver for Get Off My Bock in 2002, gold for Atomic Blonde in 2003, and gold for Rye On in 2004. He also snagged three silvers and a bronze at the World Beer Cup.

The name change to Chama River came in 2005 after the restaurant’s food sales continued to lag even as the beer sales increased. The New Mexican-style menu was replaced with more of an upscale pub selection of American dishes.

Farewell, old friend. (Photo courtesy of Chama River)

After that big change, the next was when Rice left in 2007 to start up Marble Brewery the following year. That left his assistant brewer, Jeff Erway, to take the reins. Erway picked up two silver medals at the 2008 World Beer Cup for Sleeping Dog Stout and 3 Dog Night (Baltic Porter). By 2010, Erway moved on to start La Cumbre Brewing.

Next up on the brewer docket was Justin Hamilton, assisted by Tim Woodward. Those two would also eventually leave to run their own brewhouses in 2014, Justin to Boxing Bear and Woodward to Turtle Mountain (and since moving on to Bosque, where he now works alongside John Bullard, also a former assistant brewer at Chama before moving up to his first top job at Blue Corn).

Zach Guilmette came over from Canteen to run the show in 2014, bringing David Facey along with him. David would eventually depart to join the ownership at Quarter Celtic with longtime Canteen/Il Vicino brewer Brady McKeown, which in turn prompted Zach to return to Canteen as head brewer. Before he left, Zach added to the Chama medal total with a gold at the 2014 GABF for Class VI Golden Lager.

Andrew Krosche, formerly of Ponderosa and Marble before that, then came over to run the show. He was still in charge Thursday when Chama was closed. We can only hope the future is bright for Andrew, but we have confidence things will turn out OK for him, considering his talent and ambition.

As for this beer writer, Chama River was the first local brewery I ever visited in Albuquerque. I was living in the Los Angeles area when the name change happened; before that, my dad does not ever recall visiting it as Blue Corn. That summer in 2005, while making a quick stop in town, my dad took me over to the brewpub next to what was then the best movie theater in town. I enjoyed a Rio Chama Amber before getting a pint of Sleeping Dog Stout, proudly declaring to our server that I would be drinking that stout on every subsequent visit. By the time I moved back in late 2008, the only local craft breweries I even knew about were Chama, Il Vicino, Kellys, and Turtle Mountain. I had seen Santa Fe, Sierra Blanca, and Rio Grande bottles in stores (not knowing the latter two now had the same owner), but otherwise it was a barren scene. (I would later have my first pint of Marble Red at the old Burt’s Tiki Lounge on Gold, but that is a story for another time.)

Chama ended up being instrumental in my willingness to embrace local craft beer in New Mexico. It was the place that told me that, hey, they could make beer here that would stack up to the heavyweights from Colorado, Oregon, and California. By the time we all came up with the idea of the Dark Side Brew Crew, Chama had long been a hangout, sometimes for a full meal, other times for a pint and maybe an appetizer before or after a movie. Even as nicer theaters were built and a slew of bigger breweries opened, Chama always kept a special place in our hearts. For many of us, it was the original local brewpub, the first place we ever had a local stout or IPA or just about any style.

The brewers may have changed, but the beer quality remained. As Andrew told us when he was hired, “I’ve been in here many, many times. I’ve been friends with the brewers in here for the last four or five years. As far as walking in here, expectations, I already knew what I was coming into, the history here. One of the things that was kind of exciting is the best way I can describe my first day was like coming into an archaeological dig. You just look at layers, you can see elements of each brewer here. Everyone has been putting it on top and on top. It’s like excavating an old, abandoned building and realizing, oh, there was another building here and they just piled on top of it. There’s really cool elements, just layers you can find.”

Yeah, we are gonna miss Chama River. Before anyone asks, no, we do not think this is the beginning of a sudden series of brewery closings. Until we get the official word from Santa Fe Dining (assuming we get one at all) about why it closed Chama, anything at this point is just pure speculation.

To the staff at Chama, we wish you all luck finding new jobs. Thank you for your service over the years.

All we have now are our memories of Chama River. Its place in our local craft beer history is secure. It is just unfortunate its place in our present and future was so insecure. We hope to have more information to share next week.

Until then, never take your favorite brewery for granted. Pay it a visit this weekend. After all, you never know what can happen these days.

— Stoutmeister

From circa 1995, a young Ty Levis, left, now of Rio Bravo, and his father Michael Levis, right, the founder of Santa Fe Brewing, pose with The Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson, at the old Galisteo location for SFBC. (Photo courtesy of Ty Levis)

New Mexico is back in the winners bracket at the Great British Beer Festival. After back-to-back years without a medal, two Albuquerque breweries shared bronze in the Michael Jackson Awards for best American cask beer. Both are new winners at the GBBF.

Canteen and Rio Bravo wound up in the third place tie with two wildly different beers. Canteen sent its Strawberry Basil Gose, while Rio Bravo sent its Grab Em By the Putin, a Russian imperial stout.

“What are the chances? Obviously better than we thought,” said Canteen head brewer Zach Guilmette of the tie. “I think it’s just fantastic that I tied with a brewery that’s right down the road from all of us. That’s thrilling, especially when it’s here in Albuquerque, you feel be proud that you can be a part of some of the successes that the more well-known breweries are achieving.”

New Mexico had three past winners from La Cumbre (gold in 2014) and Marble (gold in 2012, silver in 2013).

“We couldn’t get farther opposite,” said Rio Bravo head brewer Ty Levis. “You put that (stout) next to the Strawberry Basil Gose. I didn’t try it, but it sounds amazing. You can just imagine it being really good if it’s well done. You look in there, it’s 100 casks (competing). We’re happy to get our name on the board, seriously.”

Most American breweries still IPAs to England, where the hoppier American style is gaining more popularity. Sierra Nevada won the silver with its Hoptimum. Still, the gold went to Franklin Brewery’s Dragon Queen, a Belgian golden strong, followed by two more non-hop-forward beers sharing the bronze.

“It’s really thrilling because it’s not often that we send over send beer over to London,” Zach said. “It’s fun to try something new. We’re so used to doing beers the way we drink them here in America. To try and create something that you think that they may like in London, it’s just a fun challenge. To me it’s about finding a trend as well. I think that fruited goses have been trendy this year. There are breweries here in town that have done well with IPAs in years past. This year Sierra Nevada got silver with an IPA. But you can start to see the diversity in who’s winning.”

Ty said he was also looking for something different to send over as well.

“We put in Level 3 (IPA) last year,” he said. “That was our very first entry in the IPA Challenge. We took the same cask and added extra hops in the cask and then sent it. It made it. We got some good feedback. When I was thinking of a cask ale (for this year) I knew this was sleeping upstairs. We’re almost out of the regular non-(barrel-aged). I decided it was time to pull them down and check. I was like, wow, this is amazing.”

Both beers were highlighted by the folks behind the American cask bar on Twitter, a group that includes Albuquerque native Carlos Garcia, who handles the organizing and shipping of the beers to England. Strawberry Basil Gose was actually the first cask to run dry on the opening day of the event, a good sign if there ever was one. Zach was aware, but said he was not trying to pay too much attention.

“I’d heard through the grapevine that the cask had blown early or what not,” Zach said. “But at the end of it, I can’t pay attention. It gets me so nervous to watch stuff. I’d rather just wait and see what happens. I was actually at home Saturday, smoking a brisket and drinking some beer on the porch. That’s when I found out, so I was pretty excited.”

Ty said it was lucky that the beers got there at all. They were transported first to Boston, where a dock workers strike had them sitting around for a while before things were finally settled and they went on to London.

Luckily, the beers made it over just fine, and now some hardware will be coming back to both breweries soon.

“I like that, it really shows that it’s as much the flavor of the beer as it is the balance and the style itself,” Zach said. “I think what’s fun is that when we enter beers at GABF, we’re going against all these other beers in the same style. The cask event is pretty fun because it’s whatever you feel like doing, whatever creation comes to mind, you’re going up against great breweries from across the country. We’re putting in lots of different things, interesting stuff.”

The last of the barrel-aged Putin is still on tap at Rio Bravo, but the supply is limited. There is probably a decent chance that Canteen may bring back Strawberry Basil Gose for another run in the near future.

Until then, thanks to Zach and Ty for taking time out of their busy schedules. Congratulations to both breweries.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

A.R.T. construction remains a major headache for local businesses along Central west of downtown.

The area west of downtown along Central Avenue suffered a black eye earlier this year when the owners of Draft Station announced it was closing. The prime spot for craft beer in the area was gone, snuffed out by a disastrous sewer spill caused by the construction of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit system.

All these months later, the construction remains, but craft beer has not disappeared from the area. Two local businesses are still carrying only local beer taps, and both are doing everything they can to still attract customers even amid the ongoing headaches on the road outside.

Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria and 5 Star Burgers, next door neighbors just to the east of where Draft Station once stood, both still have their local-only beer taps in place. Each offers up a fairly different lineup at present, meaning if you feel like a burger instead of a slice, or vice versa, your beer options can differ as well. The important thing is both places, also locally owned and operated, continue to keep New Mexico brews on tap.

Half of the all-local beer taps at Amore.

Amore currently has beers from Boese Brothers, Bosque, Boxing Bear, Ponderosa, Red Door, and Santa Fe. They include some specials like Boese’s Patriot Porter on nitro, Boxing Bear’s Tropic Thunder IPA, Red Door’s Rye Steam, and SFBC’s hugely popular 7K IPA. Every Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m., pints are $3.

Across the sidewalk at 5 Star, Bosque, Boxing Bear, La Cumbre, Marble, Red Door, and Santa Fe are all available. There are always two rotating taps, usually from La Cumbre and Marble. The former has the popular El Jugo on tap at the moment. 5 Star has a daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. with $3 pints.

The taps at 5 Star Burgers.

For those who prefer exact addresses to punch into the Google Maps on your phones, 5 Star is located at 1710 Central Ave. SW, while Amore is at 1700 Central. Some folks told us that when Draft Station closed, it took away one of their favorite gathering spots for local beers in that area. Well, we just wanted to let you know that there are still two more options, and with football season just around the corner, options are good.

In addition to just the beer and the great food, every Saturday this September from 1 to 4 p.m., Immastar Productions is bringing live music to the space between the two restaurants. Alto Estilo will perform free shows once every weekend. Local beer, local food, and local music all add up to a big win.

Brave the construction and help keep these local businesses alive. Now is not the time to abandon them. And, yes, there is plenty of parking!

Thanks to our friends Brian and Carlos for the heads up on all of this.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Marble officially unveils State Fair Pale Ale

Posted: August 14, 2017 by cjax33 in News
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A nice, laid-back porch beer for the start of autumn.

Marble Brewery has been subtly promoting the special release of a new canned beer over the last few weeks. That all built up to a Monday afternoon press conference on the rooftop deck at the brewery, where State Fair Pale Ale made its official debut.

Brewed for the 2017 edition of the New Mexico State Fair, this new pale ale was made with wildflower honey from here in the state. It follows the State Fair Cream Ale made the last two years at La Cumbre.

“We’re really glad to partner with Marble this year,” said Dan Mourning, the general manager of the State Fair. “This is the second different beer that we’ve had. The State Fair’s mission is also to promote those industries that are important to New Mexico. There’s not one any bigger than the craft brew industry, it’s absolutely blowing up all over the country and New Mexico is probably at the top of its game. We’re glad to be able to bring this to represent this at Fair.”

The cans will be sold in six packs at retail locations throughout the state, starting today (Monday). Marble president Ted Rice said only 4,000 cases were produced, so it will go quickly.

“We’re truly honored that we were selected to brew this beer,” Ted said. “This beer is a pale ale so it features four different hop varieties. It’s citrusy with floral aromas. It features New Mexico wildflower honey. It’s a really sessionable pale ale, balanced, really bright, a great refresher this time of year.”

Switching over to a pale ale style was an easy decision for Marble.

“Hop-forward beers, India pale ales and pale ales, are the most popular styles in the craft beer industry,” Ted said. “We wanted to feature a bright, balanced pale to really highlight what craft brewers do best.”

The setup between the State Fair and Marble was organized by the New Mexico Brewers Guild. The contract is for two years.

“The number one factor was that whatever beer we did, it had to include a local ingredient,” said Guild executive director John Gozigian. “It also has to be at a brewery large enough to dedicate tank space and resources to get it to market.”

It all goes back to the Guild having the goal of its members working with as many other industries in the state as possible.

“I would like to say that brewers of New Mexico are proud of the economic impact we have here in this state,” John said. “One thing we want to push forward is the vertical integration of the brewing industry, whether in manufacturing (or) agriculture. This uses a locally sourced product, something we’d like to do a lot more of.”

The State Fair is more than willing to be a part of that integration.

“We look at the Fair being (about) partnerships, being things that are part of New Mexico,” said Larry Kennedy, the chairman of the State Fair commission. “Having our own beer is just part of New Mexico. It promotes New Mexico and outside of New Mexico, you say Marble and they think New Mexico.”

The State Fair will run from September 7-17, with the SFPA available in beer gardens at the event. Until then, swing by your favorite store and snag a six pack, or head over to Marble today after 5 p.m. and head up to the rooftop deck to try it out.

Oh, and my own personal verdict: Mild and sweet, but not overly so. The honey is pronounced early but blends seamlessly into the background with the floral hops and light malts. Definitely what we in the Crew refer to as a porch beer.

Drop us a line and let us know what you think when you try this beer.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Long after it was first announced, everything is full-steam ahead at Bosque’s Bernalillo site.

After being stuck in a holding pattern for a while, everything is suddenly coming together for Bosque Brewing. In summation, everything is a go at Bernalillo, the Nob Hill taproom is growing bigger, Las Cruces is proving whatever is old is new again, and the wet hops are coming. Got all that? Here is the full breakdown, courtesy of Bosque director of operations Jotham Michnovicz.

Bernalillo is a go at long last

Bosque started contract brewing at Sleeping Giant in Denver with the idea of it only being a temporary situation until the completion of the new production facility at the old Jackalope location along Highway 550 in Bernalillo.

It has not worked out according to plan, but there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Bernalillo has been the thorn in my side for several months now,” Jotham said. “There are so many different governmental agencies and municipalities that are playing into the permits. The (Department of Transportation) wants one thing and that sets the whole permit (process) back because it has to be reviewed all these different people. It slows everything down. So, basically, it’s just been really, really difficult. All of our equipment is in. Everything that we were supposed to do has been done. We were waiting on a final permit.”

The wait ended Monday.

“I got a call (Monday) that the permit is in hand and was delivered to Bernalillo,” Jotham said. “So, basically, they are full-steam ahead now. They have been doing all the work that they can do up until having the permit. Now that they have the permit in hand they can just go full force. So you’re going to start seeing a lot of movement out there and a lot of progress being made. The landlord called me, the contractor called me, it was a big deal.”

The big hold-up with the DOT relates to the plans to expand and revamp 550 through Bernalillo. Anyone traveling along that road during morning or evening rush hour knows how badly traffic can back up coming from or heading to Interstate 25. The plans for the road are now settled, so the DOT in turn has granted Bosque permission to start full reconstruction of the old Jackalope building. Once it is complete, it will house the primary production brewery for all of the canned and bottle Bosque beers (seasonal/specialty beers will still be done on the old brewhouse at San Mateo), plus it will have its own taproom space.

That alone should have been a huge relief to the Bosque staff. It was not the only recent good news, however.

Public House set to double in size in Nob Hill

It has been quite some time since the Bosque taproom’s neighbor, Wise Pies Pizza, closed its doors in Nob Hill. The space sat vacant for months, but that is about to end. Bosque is expanding into the space, taking over the entire building near Girard and Central.

“As with everything at Bosque, that was delayed quite a bit,” Jotham said. “But we finally got a permit for that one as well. We started construction on that last week. We took over the Wise Pies space. What we’re going to do is convert it to a full kitchen since we have the same setup we had here at San Mateo, just panini presses and limited equipment. That’s going to be a full commercial kitchen. The full menu you see at San Mateo will be available there. There will be a lot more seating. It’s just going to be a lot more comfortable like you see here.”

The wall between the two spaces will be knocked out in the coming months so that the two will truly feel like one space.

“The whole space is going to be ours,” Jotham said. “We’re creating the space to be a lot more cohesive. I think when you go to a lot of restaurants and they add on, it’s like you put me in the little kids room or something. We’re designing it so the whole space is going to function as one. It’s going to be awesome.”

The goal is have everything done before the end of the year in Nob Hill, Jotham said.

“I’m really interested to see what’s going to happen down there,” he added. “(Albuquerque Rapid Transit construction) is about to finish up. Love it or hate it, ART’s a thing. Everybody has been experiencing a down time in that area. We’re going to open our doors to a taproom that’s twice the size with ART being finished up and school back in town. I think it has the potential to be pretty crazy. We’re also going to be installing a really cool shade structure on the patio. It’s going to have those shade sails, so it’s going to be really nice.”

Two for one taprooms in Las Cruces

Down south, Bosque’s popularity is through the roof. The brewery moved its taproom to a larger space in the same complex across from New Mexico State University, but it was still packed to the gills. The good news is that Bosque never gave up the old taproom space, so now it will reopen as a no-frills beer bar.

“So the old space, you’re right, we closed it down after we opened the new space,” Jotham said. “The new space is located about three doors west of the old space. We have three to four times the amount of space. We have a full kitchen there, just a lot more area for people to roam around. But people have definitely been clamoring for that old space to (re)open. They like the small bar feel.”

The primary reason for the closure was the rather desperate need to finally fix up the original spot.

“That space had been used by another taproom before us, so it had been pretty beat up,” Jotham said. “We put a fresh coat of paint on it. … We went ahead and just made it look and feel like the other (taprooms). We got some new tables in there, those will come in this week, and we got a bigger draft system. We fixed up the patio a little bit. That should all open within a few weeks.”

The new taproom space has a full kitchen, making it more of a true brewpub. The original spot will cater more to the beer-only crowd.

“It’s going to kind of work in tandem with the other place, but they will be (distinctly) separate spots,” Jotham said. “One spot will have Bosque food (while) the beer bar will be a place where people can bring in their own food if they want to. Only communal tables and a bar top. The patio is going to have backyard-style furniture, so it will have a more backyard feel, I guess. It’s going to be focused on packaged beer, merchandise, a lot of that kind of stuff.”

All the Bosque fans in Las Cruces, and their friends from El Paso, will rejoice that there will be more space for drinking beers, eating food, and getting beer to go.

A new can and a new beer series

Anyone visiting a local liquor store or supermarket lately has probably seen Elephants on Parade now appearing in six-pack cans. The decision to make EoP the fourth canned beer was an easy one, Jotham said.

“When we started selling that beer, it came out as a specialty beer,” he said. “We saw that every table in the taproom had a pink beer on it. And then we rolled it out again for another one and we couldn’t keep it on. It was flying off the shelves. We realized that we had a product that beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers alike really loved. That’s what was remarkable about it.

“We decided to put it on as one of our staple beers, we replaced Pale Ryder with that one. Just because of the popularity of it, selling at other accounts, and the popularity at our taprooms, we decided it was the next best release. We were talking with our distributor, they were getting multiple requests for it as well.”

If you have not gone out in search of EoP in cans, well, now you know.

As for the big autumn beer releases, one of the first that Bosque has planned is of course Acequia, their award-winning wet-hop IPA. This year, though, it will come with a fun twist.

“The biggest thing coming up is we’re going to do a wet-hop beer (series) release,” Jotham said. “It’s going to focus (around) Acequia. We always bottle that every year and we usually do a pretty limited run of it. We’re going to do a limited run again this year. But, we’re going to surround it with a few different beers that are all going to be wet hopped. I don’t have much more information on it than that at this point, but we’re in the process of putting all that together.”

The as-yet-unnamed wet-hop series will release before the Great American Beer Festival in October, though as Jotham noted, an exact date has not been set. Whenever it happens, it should be a fun time for beer geeks and the Bosque staff.

“We were able to source wet hops from a couple different farms,” Jotham said. “It will be kind of cool to release a series that allows us to play with different varietals and regions. It’s something we don’t get to see a whole lot of in New Mexico. Last year, I was up in Portland (Oregon) and everywhere I went had at least three or four wet-hop beers on. I was kind of jealous of that. In New Mexico, we get access to wet hops sparingly. They have them in their backyard. It’s a lot of fun that we get to do this. I’m going to drink a lot of beer over the next couple months.”

As always, the Crew will be around to keep everyone updated on all of the projects at Bosque. We cannot wait for the wet-hop series, the Las Cruces reopening, the Nob Hill expansion, and to finally see Bernalillo in full bloom. Good times are ahead, beer lovers!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Local artists, musicians, and vendors are joining forces for special events at Dialogue in September.

One of the great things our breweries have done over the last several years is embracing other local businesses and a long list of musicians, artists and other vendors. Usually, there is one creative element per night, but the folks at Dialogue Brewing and Immastar Productions decided that it would be even more advantageous to bring multiple creatives and businesses together all at once on specific nights.

Immastar’s Carlos Contreras, who used to handle all the events and promotions at Tractor, is the brains behind “Hand Crafted.” He sent us a release detailing the plans, which will start up September 7.

“Hand Crafted is exactly as it sounds — an experience put together ‘by hand,’ featuring incredibly delicious brewed beer by our host Dialogue Brewing, and featuring the sounds of a different musician each week, paired carefully and thoughtfully with a visual artist who will create/paint LIVE during the event,” Carlos wrote. “The live artist will be new each Thursday as well. This will all be going on while a local craft vendor slangs his or her wares to the crowd — here’s the catch, that vendor will be there all month. That’s right — every Thursday night.”

Dialogue gives these artists, musicians, and vendors a venue with a diverse crowd. Since Dialogue itself is one of the more innovative and experimental breweries out there, it all fits together perfectly.

“Dialogue Brewing and Immastar Productions are opening the doors to the possibility of a partnership that we think will help to create visibility and continual opportunities for success for our craft vending friends,” Carlos wrote. “Knowing where a food truck is per their schedule has lent to their sustainability and success, sometimes the opening up of brick and mortar and static locations that gained a following while on four wheels — why wouldn’t it work for our folks who create things you take and wear or put in your homes?”

The September schedule is already set for every Thursday. Danny Hart Designs will be the vendor on site for all four nights. The musicians and live artists will be as follows.

  • September 7: Musician — Garry Blackchild, Live Artist — David Santiago
  • September 14: Musician — Still Closed for Repairs (solo), Live Artist — Cloudface
  • September 21: Musician — Keith Sanchez, Live Artist — Chris Lopez
  • September 28: Musician — Cali Shaw, Live Artist — Stephanie Eichelberger

Look for more info as these events get closer to happening. As always, we are happy to see our breweries working to promote and support everything local.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister