Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Who wouldn’t be smiling after taking over as a head brewer?

A few months ago, the Crew was surprised to see an advertisement for a head brewer position at Red Door Brewing. We were less surprised by the identity of the person who eventually earned the right to succeed founding brewer Wayne Martinez.

Matt Meier, formerly of La Cumbre and Marble, has taken the reins at Red Door after crossing off every box on the checklist of owner Matt Biggs.

“We solicited resumes from a ton of people, a lot of them from out of state,” Biggs said. “I think for us, it was really nice to be able to hire in state and preferable, because we know the quality of beer inside New Mexico and we don’t necessarily know the quality of beer outside of New Mexico, which can be hit or miss. When we look at people trained by certain breweries, we have no idea what (quality) that brewery was.

“We got a (lot) of resumes from people locally, and we narrowed it down to a few people, and at the end of the day in terms of experience and kind of personality and all the different factors, we had a really tough time making the decision when we started interviewing New Mexicans. We just felt Matt fit the bill of what we’re looking for, which is somebody that’s ready to take that next step (and) really excited about doing that, also. I’m pretty happy that we did that so far.”

For Matt Meier, the chance to take charge of his own brewhouse was too good to pass up.

“For me, I saw it as kind of like when you’re shopping for a house,” Meier said. “It’s got good bones. I want to put my twist on it. It’s got a good group of regulars. It’s got its two other taprooms. It’s ready to blast off. It just needs something to stand apart, to make it separate. In this town, there’ s a brewery every quarter of a mile it seems. I want to give people a reason. It’s easy to pass us on the way to La Cumbre. I want people to peek in the parking lot to see cars, (say) oh, man, something is happening over there. I want this place to, like I said, just start popping up on people’s radars.”

Matt Meier, left, handled his first Crew interview with aplomb.

Meier started his brewing career on the other side of the country.

“Before we moved out here, my wife and I, she landed a job at UNM, we were in South Carolina,” he said. “I brewed at a 3-barrel brewhouse called Conquest, and that’s in Columbia. That’s where I cut my teeth brewing. Before that, I was a lowly bottle line guy at Thomas Creek Brewing in Greenville. I’ve been in the industry for seven years, but only brewing in Albuquerque for two.”

Meier said he learned a lot in those two years, mainly from one brewmaster in particular.

“When I first moved here two years ago, I got a job at Marble. I was working up at the Heights with (Josh) Trujillo. He was probably the greatest influence on my brewing that I could ever ask for, he’s like frickin’ Yoda. He is, he’s like a brewer Yoda. I learned so much under that guy, and I will forever be indebted to him.

“That led me to getting a job at La Cumbre, and that was my most recent place, shift brewing for them. When this came open, I jumped at it. I finally got a place where I can stretch out my creativity and put my spin on some beers. That was my Albuquerque brewing experience.”

Meier is certainly not the first new head brewer to spring up from the ranks at the two biggest breweries in town. Kaylynn McKnight (Toltec/Nexus) and David Kimbell (Bombs Away) both cut their teeth at La Cumbre, while Mick Hahn (Turtle Mountain) and Andrew Krosche (Kellys/Chama River) got their brewing starts at Marble.

Matt tells us all about his New England IPA (full haze was not yet in effect when we visited).

During his time in Albuquerque, Meier said he learned what the local craft beer-loving crowd likes.

“Oh, hops,” he said. “As long as we can afford it, I’ll give it to them. Hops are expensive. I was lucky enough that the owner here, Matt Biggs, kind of let the leash off me on my first beer so I could spend a little bit on some hops and different yeast. I’ll throw hops at a few beers every now and again. It’s not sustainable to do it every beer, I wish I could.”

That first beer was the New England IPA that debuted Friday. Franz Solo went ahead and reviewed that beer for us already, and if our resident chief hophead liked it, it should be a popular beer with most folks around town.

“That’s my first special that they let me write, that I could actually fit my beer into the schedule,” Meier said. “That has Mosaic, Citra, and El Dorado. Now I’ve got a good portion of all those great hops in the back. Future beers will be designed around them. Getting rid of those hops is a tough, tough task.”

Meier was smiling when he said that last line. He was still smiling when he went over the other beers he has on the schedule.

“The next special I’m brewing (is) an English-style IPA, it’s a little toned down, a little malty, English malt, English hops,” Meier said. “It’s sessionable, well, my definition of sessionable. It’s still above 5 percent. That came from inspiration from our (distribution) guy, David Garcia. Him and I were talking and he’s really been looking for a good English IPA around (town). I’ve got the yeast for it coming off this New England IPA, let’s do an English IPA. After that, I’m going to keep that yeast strain going, do an ESB.”

Fans of some of the most popular past seasonals at Red Door need not panic that those beers are all going by the wayside.

“I’ve got plans to bring back the Blackberry Hefeweizen that was popular last summer here,” Meier said. “So yeah, I am going to listen to what the regulars want, what the employees said sold (in the past). I’m not trying to rock the boat too much. That will be out probably right around Albuquerque Beer Week.

“I’ve (also) got a Berliner Weisse and a pilsner planned. That probably covers the next two months of specials. Then we’ll see what so far I’ve made, what the feedback is, and if the people want me to bring back New England (or) bring back English.”

It is a rare thing indeed to get three Crew members in on one interview. The power of the beer, and actual free time, compelled us.

To brew all those new beers, while also keeping the year-round beers in good supply, Meier said he will need some new equipment.

“It’s funny you mention that, we are ordering a new hot liquor tank,” he said. “We currently do not have one. We have an empty 30-barrel fermenter that I heat up all my hot water in the kettle. I mash in from the kettle, fill it up, heat it, and send it over to the fermenter for my sparge water. Then send it back over top while I’m sparging. That’s not sustainable, that’s not going to work forever. Right now I can only do one batch of beer a day. We’ve got a 7-barrel brewhouse and 15-barrel fermenters, so I have to brew twice to fill them. It’s just time consuming.”

Meier made a list of everything else the brewery needs to move forward.

“First order of business, I gave Matt Biggs an inventory of what I think we can use,” he said. “It kind of goes with his thoughts of let’s grow. He wants this taproom filled, he wants distro to be able to step it up. Right now we have the reins on distro because we have to keep up with the taprooms. I don’t want to ever hold back from selling more beer.”

Another major benefit of having the hot liquor tank will be to free up that 30-barrel fermenter, which is the biggest tank in the brewery.

“(Once) we’ve got that hot liquor tank, we’re going to be filling up that 30-barrel vessel that has been a holding tank,” Meier said. “We’ll get that moved out, get the glycol hooked up, and I’ve asked Matt to purchase a 30-barrel bright. Then we’ll brew into that full-time. Then I’ll only have to brew IPA once a month. That frees up a fermenter every two or three weeks for another special.”

As anyone working in a brewery knows, there is no sense in putting an exact timetable on the arrival of the equipment, but it should be sooner than later.

“Right now, we’re at the mercy of tank manufacturers and their backlog of orders,” Meier said. “Once we get that hot liquor tank and bright in here, we’ll get rocking and rolling.”

Red Door will also be increasing its supply of kegs.

“Every day we find ourselves cleaning six to 10 kegs just to make sure tomorrow’s kegs get full,” Meier said. “I want to make sure that we’re not depending on collecting empty kegs to fill orders for tomorrow. We want to have a little bit of a backlog of kegs and that will open up things for distro.”

Franz Solo went back and got the New England IPA to take home.

An ideal outlook for the future at Red Door would see more growth, possibly beyond the city limits, Meier said. That will all depend on finances, of course.

“I would love to see it grow into production,” Meier said. “If we can prove in town that this is a brand people respect and will continue to visit, then it’s worth taking it outside of Albuquerque. Which, without money being an issue, (means we) get a bigger brewhouse. Then we get rid of the 15-barrel fermenters and brights; then we get 30s. Baby steps, we’ll get there.

“I would love that to be the vision of this brewery, just to keep growing it. It’s in a good spot right now with its three taprooms and this core brewery, but growing into other markets, growing this Albuquerque market, trying to grow our pie share, we’ll see what happens.”

If everything goes right and Red Door eventually outgrows its space on Candelaria, Meier said he has a plan for that as well.

“We’ve got plenty of room to grow for this facility, by no means are we talking about a new building at this point,” he said, before adding with a laugh, “But hey, if it comes to it and money is not an issue, we’ll build a huge Bernalillo brewery right next to Bosque.”

All of us in the Crew are looking forward to what the two Matts can do with Red Door going forward. The New England IPA is a great start. Head on over to any of the three locations and let us know what you think.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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It’s party time, excellent! (Image courtesy of Marble)

In case anyone has somehow missed it, Marble Brewery is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week. The first in a wave of modern craft breweries in New Mexico, Marble has set so many standards for the industry that we felt it would only be appropriate if we went out and put together a week’s worth of stories.

First up, of course, is letting everyone know what is happening this week. To make sure we had all the info, I sat down with marketing and events coordinator Geraldine Lucero.

Today (Monday)

“The series of events, it all starts on Monday,” Geraldine said. “We’re collaborating with Farm & Table for our 10-year anniversary beer dinner. We put (two) of our gold medal (winning) beers on the menu, so we’re going to be doing the triple-berry gose, the Cholo Stout and Imperial Red — those are our two golds — and then we added a Smoked Helles, and Ringleader, our 10-year anniversary ale.”

All of that represents the good news. The bad news is the dinner already sold out last Tuesday, so if you did not make a reservation in time, our condolences. You can still try most of those beers at any of the taprooms, and of course visit Farm & Table on another night to still indulge in some great food.

Wednesday

This will mark the official release of the 10th anniversary beer, Ringleader, at all three taprooms. Ringleader is basically Double White that has been bottle conditioned (or stainless steel keg conditioned) with brettanomyces added into the mix. Bottles will be for sale in addition to the beer being on tap.

“Brett fermentation under pressure creates a different spectrum of flavors than the fermentation in barrels,” head brewer John Heine said.

There will also be live music downtown by The Dirty Shades from 6 to 9 p.m.

Thursday

The Westside taproom is throwing a party of its own, one with a specific theme.

“Thursday we’re doing something pretty fun at the Westside, an 80s-themed prom with DJ Wae Fonkey,” Geraldine said. “We’re encouraging patrons to dress up in their 80s prom attire. It’s from 7 to 10. The Westside is all about 80s dance parties. It’s so much fun. It’s prom season, so let’s do 80s prom. We’re pretty stoked about that.”

Admission is free, and the best dressed will be crowned as king and queen. We can confirm that one brave member of the Crew is going to this event, so please, send us lots of ridiculous photos of Brandon if you can find him in the crowd.

Friday

Yes, we know it is the infamous 4/20, and brewers around town know that as well. Expect a lot of hop-forward beers, and Marble will be in on the fun with the return of DIPA Especial at all locations. Pherkad will provide the music downtown from 8 to 11 p.m., while Ray Anthony and Powerslyde will be at the Heights from 7 to 10, and The Deal will be at the Westside from 8 to 11.

Saturday

There is gonna be quite the gathering down there this weekend.

This is the day of the main anniversary party that will take over not only the entirety of the downtown taproom, but Marble Street outside and the north parking lot as well.

“Saturday is the big day, the big anniversary festival,” Gerladine said. “We’re opening at noon. We’re going to have a Marble Market in our north parking lot with 12 vendors. This lot will be closed down. We have a pretty good mix of people with some really, really cool stuff. We have a photo booth that’s going to be sponsored by the Watermelon Mountain Ranch. We’re going to take donations for that.”

There will also be a dunk tank and a raffle for Southwest Airlines tickets.

“The money that these non-profits make is all for them,” Geraldine said. “We just wanted them to be a part of this.”

Out front will be the main party area.

“Marble Street is going to be shut down with two extra beer stations,” Geraldine said. “Then inside the tents we’ll have a stage for performance artists, magicians, dancers, belly dancing. We’re setting up a fortune teller underneath the stairs, that will be kind of cool.”

Customers are encouraged to get in on the carnival/circus theme, so grab your best costumes or throw something together. The idea is anything goes (within the realm of decency, of course).

Geraldine said the food truck lineup is set, with Don Choche leading off from noon to 8 p.m. That truck has been with Marble since almost the beginning. Street Food Institute will join the fun from 2 to 10, and Gourmet Doner Kabob will be on hand from 4 to 11:30.

The music lineup runs as follows:

  • Silver String Band noon-1 p.m.
  • Tres Pendejos 1:15 p.m.-2 p.m.
  • Concepto Tambor 2:20 p.m.-3:20 p.m.
  • Reviva 3:40 p.m.-4:40 p.m.
  • Baracutanga 5 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • Mondo Vibrations 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m.
  • Red Light Cameras 8:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.

The event is free up until 3 p.m., then it costs $5 to get in. Children are permitted with an accompanying adult until 8 p.m.

“We’re putting a lot of energy into this party on Saturday,” Geraldine said. “I’m so excited for it, it’s going to be awesome.”

Monday, April 23

The final event is for brew club members only at the downtown location.

“Then on Monday the 23rd we’re having our brew club appreciation party,” Geraldine said. “That’s on the rooftop deck from 6 to 8 p.m. Music by DJ Leftovers, he’ll be doing a vinyl set, with small bites provided by Artichoke Cafe. We’ll be doing a sneak peek of some beers not on tap at any location yet. That will be fun.”

Having recently tried a few unreleased beers at the Mav Lab in the Heights (thanks again, Josh), I can say you are all in for a treat.

We will continue with our look at 10 years of Marble with a bit of a history lesson from president Ted Rice on Tuesday.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

It was a festive atmosphere at Tart at Heart last year.

Sour lovers can rejoice for the fourth time as Tart at Heart is set to return to Sister on April 14 from 2 to 5 p.m. To get the scoop, I sat down with organizer Angelo Orona of Craft King Consulting over beers this week.

“It’s going to be a similar approach as the (three) last years,” Angelo said. “Of course, we have a couple tricks up our sleeve. We’ve got really great beers. We’ve got some local breweries, some regional breweries, and of course we’ve got some stuff from Europe as well. We’ve got some ringers.”

VIP tickets are $50 apiece and available online only. That is so customers can order the right size commemorative T-shirt that comes with the ticket. VIP gets customers in one hour early at 1 p.m. with a custom beer glass and unlimited tastings.

General admission tickets cost $35 apiece and can also be purchased online, or at Sister itself or Jubilation. Angelo said that if there are any tickets remaining on the day of the event they will be sold at the door, but Tart at Heart is limited to 300 tickets total. Last year, only about two tickets were available at the door.

One complaint from last year was how jammed it felt inside, so Angelo said they will correct that this time around.

“Last year we got some feedback about how crowded it was,” he said. “Obviously Sister Bar has limited space. They’re known for being a pretty intimate concert venue that has great beer and great food now. But, what we noticed is last year we invited 300 people to Tart at Heart, we’re going to have the same number of tickets, but we’re going to spread the breweries out over a larger area so they’re not all in that U-shape inside the dance floor. Hopefully that will get some better flow in there, spread the crowd out a little bit, so everyone is not bumping while mingling. That was probably the most consistent feedback I heard from last year.”

Fans should expect a little more elbow room at Sister this year.

The popularity of sours has not ebbed since the first Tart at Heart in 2015, and if anything the availability of the style has increased significantly, especially on a local level. Angelo said it would be nice to believe that has event has helped broaden the palates of local beer drinkers, but he explained that it probably goes beyond that.

“We’d like to think so, but honestly it’s really about I think the beer IQ of the common craft beer drinker is way higher than it was when we started,” he said. “I think people go through phases of wanting the highest ABV, hoppiest IPA that they could find. Eventually I noticed a lot of them end up at sours as they progress at stuff. I think the natural evolution of a craft beer drinkers’ palate is to gravitate towards more esoteric and unique beers as they get more experienced.”

The rise of dedicated sour programs at local breweries means more local entries will be present this year.

“This year Dialogue is sending us some beer,” Angelo said. “They’re going to send us a blood orange gose. We have Rowley Farmhouse (and) they’re going to send us three separate beers. They’re going to be pouring out of bottles. They’ll have one beer that’s exclusive to VIP. They’re keeping some of those under wraps, they’re pretty special, (and) they want to keep it a surprise until the event. Marble is going to send us two archived beers that they’re being a little tight-lipped about as well, which is good for us, we like the surprise element of that.”

Angelo said that Steel Bender is also confirmed to attend, and others are lined up, but have yet to confirm.

Among the international entries, one of note is Brewski’s Beet Me With Passion, Honey!, a Berliner Weisse from Sweden made with beets, passionfruit, and honey. Some of the others that have been confirmed are as follows (we will update this list as more beers are announced).

  • Goose Island Madame Rose and Foudre Project #2
  • Bell’s La Pianiste
  • New Belgium Apple Felix (Love Series)
  • Birra Toccalmato’s Salty Angel (from Italy)

There will also be a charity component to the event, with a portion of the proceeds going to a local family that has two children who have been diagnosed with Gaucher disease, a genetic disorder.

Get those tickets fast before they are gone.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

My Post-42

This Friday, Blue Corn is hosting their second annual Cask Festival at the southside location, bringing together at least half of the operational breweries north of La Bajada hill. OK, Burqueños, that’s that big hill between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Blue Corn organized this special event with seven excellent breweries on the roster, including one brand-new, not-yet-open (as of the writing of this article) place, Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. Blue Corn has always been a great host for beer dinners. If you’ve read my articles, you’d already know it’s going to be an excellent way to spend your Friday night.

Why cask ales, you ask? Well, we all have mixed opinions about cask ales. Some of us enjoy them, some of us are indifferent. Some brewers don’t like to serve beer in them, but they’re a part of the industry, and some would argue it’s draught beer at its best. And, though the process has been around for ages, it’s not likely to go away any time soon, because it’s a part of beer history, and another interesting way to experience something we love.

With cask ales, something else is going on in the beer that makes it different and special, not just a foamy pour from a tap. You see, the active yeast used to carbonate the beer in these metal vessels continues to age the beer all the way until it has been tapped. As the beer ages and conditions, the CO2 created by the yeast will dissolve into the beer, smoothing out the flavors, blending as a painter does colors, and toning down the sharpness of the hops.

Oftentimes, and in a few of the cases below, brewers will add special ‘extras’ to these beers to give them a significant change in flavor profile, something they (as businesses) couldn’t do on a much larger scale, such as additions of fruit, extra dry-hops, honey, and so on. These flavors continue to condition with the beer, and give it more complexity than it had at the outset. Perhaps it loses something in the mouthfeel and in the warmer temperature, but it is still a fun way to test your palate with new flavors. Just imagine, for a minute, that if you could just cut straight through some of the high rocky peaks, you could discover the dense and beautiful vegetation at the bottom of the valley. And, there’s a history lesson in the process, if you really want to get into it. But, let that be your icebreaker at the event.

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Casks from the first Cask Festival at Blue Corn Brewery last year.

Blue Corn Brewery is no stranger to cask beers. As the title of the festival suggests, it’s not the first rodeo for the brewery. In fact, it’s not even the second. Blue Corn has held a few of these sorts of events in the past, and to great success. At one time, the brewery even used to release cask beers every Friday at the Draft Station in downtown Santa Fe. (Ah, the good ole’ days.) The best part of this event is that seven breweries are coming together on one night, to chill out, to laugh, to talk about everything from brewing process to mash paddle size … er, you know, brewer stuff. And, they’re totally accessible to you, the customers, if you’re not shy.

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Dave “Merkin,” head of R&D at Santa Fe Brewing Co., pours us a beer.

Go up to the guys with beards, glasses, or fruit-forward shirts. You’ll find them in the corners of the event — they’re the ones laughing the loudest, and having the most fun because they’re all buddies. They know how to enjoy these things, but, it’s not an exclusive club. These guys are friendly and will absolutely tell you about their favorite beer styles, favorite (other) breweries, favorite brewed beers, and so on. And, if you’re not feeling as chatty as I am after a couple beers, just ask them which brewery they brew for, and thank them for the hard work they do. Not all heroes wear capes, my friends.

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An appetizer from last year’s event.

Included in the price of these seven cask ales are seven appetizers of Blue Corn’s chef’s creation. In my experience, these bites have always been worth the price of admission, even without the beer.

Menu:

Blue Corn Brewery: Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Cherries

            -Black Cherry Mousse with Chocolate Shavings

Santa Fe Brewing Co.: 7K All Day IPA

            -Marinated Pork Taco with Pickled Onions, Lime Cabbage and Cilantro

Duel Brewing: Fiction Belgian IPA with French Oak and Kaffir Lime Leaves

            -Salmon Ceviche with Habanero and Mango

Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery: Dry Irish Stout with Honey

            -Traditional Irish Stew

Second Street Brewery: XX ESB dry-hopped with Chinook and EKG

            -Beer Battered Alaskan Cod with Malt Vinegar Crisps

Bathtub Row Brewing Coop: Hoppenheimer IPA with Lemondrop Hops

            -Apple-Lemon Mini Cupcake with Mint

Rowley Farmhouse Ales: Biere de Garde with Brettanomyces

            -Gorgonzola Grilled Cheese with Herbed Portobello

Blue Corn was gracious enough to host this event, and we have a good number of participating breweries, but one is so new, that they haven’t sold a single beer in public, to my knowledge. Friday night at Blue Corn Brewery will be your first guaranteed chance to try a beer from Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. I reached out to Jason Fitzpatrick, co-founder and manager of business operations, and asked him a few welcome-aboard questions.

DSBC: What does it mean to Tumbleroot to officially join the Santa Fe (as well as the whole New Mexico) beer scene?

Fitzpatrick: Joining the ranks of the talent brewers and operators in New Mexico is quite an honor. (Jason) Kirkman and I hatched the idea that was to become Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery two-and-a-half years ago, and the road was tough to get to this point. After many ups and downs throughout the process, we certainly have a greater appreciation for all of those who paved the way.

DSBC: What do you look forward to most about becoming part of this very vibrant scene? And, what are your hopes for your new establishment?

Fitzpatrick: We look forward to bringing something new and exciting to Santa Fe and New Mexico. We are inspired by bits and pieces of our experiences at taprooms, bars, restaurants, cocktail parties, family gatherings, concerts, and travels, and aim to bring all the best of those into one community-centric space. With a capacity for 400 people, our taproom can serve many different experiences at once. We hope that we have succeeded. We hope to become a second home for Santa Feans, and to inspire others to explore and connect with the community.

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Tumbleroot is here, as we saw with Jason Kirkman at Winterbrew 2018.

Why you should go?

For one thing, it’s always fun to taste a beer that’s exclusive to one event. It’s not something everyone can say they’ve had. And, it’s not something you’re likely to find again. The cask beers are usually very interesting, and certainly on the ‘extra’ end of the spectrum.

The food will be excellent and inspired, as it always is, because Blue Corn has a reputation to uphold for its beer dinners. I haven’t been let down yet.

Finally, this is a great opportunity to actually go up to and speak with brewers about what they do, how they make your beer, and what kind of beers they might be making next. Who knows? Your crazy suggestion might just end up in one of their fermenters and on the chalkboards. Or, as in my case, you might convince the brewer to brew something you once loved that’s no longer in the rotation.

The second annual Santa Fe Cask Fest is THIS Friday at 6:30 p.m. The cost of $30 per guest gets you a pour of each cask ale and seven appetizers, and a chance to shake the hand of most of the Santa Fe brewers. It’s a ticket with a built-in VIP pass, and you’re cordially invited. I look forward to seeing you there! To more beer beer events in Santa Fe, and a rapidly growing independent craft scene, we raise them up, cheers!

For reservations call 505-984-1800, or email manager@bluecornbrewery.com.
Address: 4056 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87507

— Luke

2017NMIPACround2-3

If you see me at the event, say, “Hey!” I promise to be on my most reasonable behavior.

The haze craze is alive and well in nearby Tucson, but is it here to stay, or just another passing phase among craft beer drinkers?

An interesting article about craft beer trends was shared to the New Mexico Lets Talk Craft Beer page on Facebook this morning. It asked if a brewery could be considered a sellout if it goes all-in too heavily on hazy IPAs, putting profit ahead of variety and quality.

Well, leaving out the fact that the entire article is purely regional to the New York City/New England area (save for one quick mention of Monkish Brewing in Torrance, California), it does raise the point of whether or not it is a good thing for breweries to follow the current popular trends. I recall years ago at a Marble Septemberfest (yes, a while ago) when someone told me that saisons/farmhouse ales would supplant IPAs as the most popular beer styles. Then we all heard how sour ales were the future, and would likewise replace IPAs. Now, in essence, we have (hazy) IPAs replacing (clear) IPAs as the new great standard of craft beer.

Are hazy IPAs truly ascendant over their clearer brethren? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. New Mexico craft drinkers are a different breed than those on the East Coast. We have long been a much more hop-forward-loving bunch, and by sales figures alone, we are still an IPA-centric bunch. Other than Marble, where Double White is number one, the other major breweries in New Mexico all still feature IPA as their top selling brand.

Then again, down in Tucson, hazy IPAs are all the rage. Some of that can be attributed to the younger population centered around the University of Arizona, which is larger than UNM and armed with wealthier students more willing to spend on craft. Crooked Tooth Brewing only featured hazy IPAs and pale ales, as did Pueblo Vida Brewing (both had non-IPAs, too, it should be noted). Dragoon Brewing, the largest in Tucson by barrel production, still features a classic West Coast-style IPA that remains its top seller, even in the face of the cloudy competition. Conversations with the customers and staffs at the various breweries showed a clear divide, with a mostly younger, trendier crowd favoring the haze. There were few people who seemed to like both styles.

In that regard, then, one could argue that the hazy IPA trend is not an IPA trend at all. Rather, it is another style, with distinct differences in flavor as well as appearance. The Brewers Association has now created hazy categories for pale ales, IPAs, and double IPAs. It will be interesting to see if the National IPA Challenge creates a separate bracket for haze next year, as those were mixed in with the regular ones this year.

All of this really just comes down to personal preference. It is fun (sometimes) to debate the merits and qualities of various craft beer styles. It is all subjective in the end, and that goes for the hazy IPAs as well as just about every other style that has come across our palates. The Crew has lots of varied opinions about the haze craze, ranging from mild annoyance to downright dislike. We are not trendy types, favoring music that has largely disappeared from the mainstream. As beer writers, though, we are obligated to try everything and give it a fair shot. Sometimes we do like the hazy IPAs, when done well, just like any other beer. Other times we would rather just stick to the originals.

Today (Friday), La Cumbre is releasing Make IPA Clear Again, a collaboration made with the excellent Comrade Brewing of Denver. This comes after La Cumbre released a popular series of hazy, single-hop, double-dry-hopped DIPAs. Whether this all sparks some renewed local debate about the haze-vs.-clear, or people just take it all in stride, we are intrigued to know what do all of you think. Take the poll below and leave a comment as to why you feel the way you do.

See you all at La Cumbre.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Rock & Brews will host a special beer dinner Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of Rock & Brews)

Beer dinners are plentiful in this day and age, but they are almost always limited to a single brewery’s offerings. Well, the folks at Rock & Brews decided that it was time to pair up some of their excellent food with beers from more than one brewery.

The dinner will take place Tuesday night at 7, costing $40 per person, or two for $70. Guests will be greeted with a welcome pint of Santa Fe’s Freestyle Pilsner. The four-course meal will feature the following pairings with local and regional beers.

  • Cheese (goat, green chile cheddar, gouda) and cracker trio, paired with Great Divide’s Roadie Grapefruit Radler
  • Braeburn apple salad adorned with Strongbow Cherry Blossom Cider vinaigrette, paired with Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing IPA
  • Surf (garlic butter shrimp) and turf (grilled Asian-marinated tri-tip) with braised local greens and carrot ginger mash, paired with Bosque’s Scotia Scotch Ale
  • Pineapple upside-down cake with vanilla stout creme anglaise atop vanilla ice cream, paired with Avery’s Tweak

Tickets are available at Rock & Brews, but as the time goes closer make sure to call first at (505) 340-2953.

Thanks to Angelo Orona of Craft King Consulting for putting this together, and for the heads up.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Give ski season a proper farewell with craft beer on a mountain!

This Saturday, the Los Alamos Ski Club is hosting its 70th (!) annual Skiesta festival at Pajarito Mountain, just outside of Los Alamos. Given the extremely dry winter that’s wrapping up, the notion of a festival celebrating skiing may elicit a sigh or a yawn, but rest assured the show will go on! There will be skiing and snowboarding, of course, as well as:

  • Food from the cafeteria.
  • The band Escape on a Horse (alt-country/Americana), playing from 2 to 5 p.m.
  • A 1940s-themed costume contest.
  • And, you guessed it, local craft beer (served roughly from noon to 5 p.m.).

Breweries that will be attending and plying their wares include Bathtub Row, Blue Corn, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Santa Fe, and Second Street. We were told that Taos Mesa had to bail out at the last minute, which was too late to change the event poster above. At my request, Stoutmeister asked the breweries for their beer lists. The theme clearly seems to be more malt-forward than hop-forward to fit the colder conditions, plus a few Irish-style beers for St. Patrick’s Day. If any other breweries send their lists, we will update this post.

  • Bathtub Row: California Common, AK Pale Ale, Mexican Lager, Irish Red
  • Blue Corn: Peaches ’n Cream, Glasgow Garnet Scotch Ale, Atomic Blonde, Road Runner IPA
  • Rowley Farmhouse Ales: TBA
  • Santa Fe: TBA
  • Second Street: Imperial Stout, U2 Irish Stout, Jordy’s Irish Red, Kohatu IPA, Kolsch, and one more TBA

As usual, complimentary bus service will be running from Sullivan Field next to Los Alamos High School every 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., so take advantage of that.

Cheers!

— Reid

Has it really been a year since the Crew first plowed through the beers at Steel Bender?

The good folks at Steel Bender Brewyard are fond of pointing out the fact that they never technically had a grand opening last year. To make up for it, they are stretching out the one-year anniversary of Los Ranchos’ brewpub over four days this week.

Here is the lowdown of what is happening on each day.

Thursday

The actual anniversary date features the release of Ingenio, which is a version of the Village Wit with brett, aged in tequila barrels. Bottles will be for sale. There will be music from Lenin & McCarthy from 5 to 8 p.m. There will also be a cask of the Village Innuendo with brett and hibiscus that will be tapped at 4 p.m.

Friday

Steel Can Stout, a collaboration with Canteen, will be back on tap. There will also be a cask with anise added that will be tapped at noon. The Gershom Brothers will provide the music from 6 to 8 p.m.

Saturday

It’s a double celebration with St. Patrick’s Day (we’ll cover all the other brewery events for the holiday in The Week Ahead in Beer on Wednesday). Bottles of Bullet’s Reserve will be available. They took the Blue Bullet Stout, added brett, and aged it in red wine barrels for the past year. There will also be a cask of Blue Bullet with brett and boysenberry that has also been aged for a year. It will be tapped at noon. St. Patrick’s Day food items will include reuben egg rolls, lamb stew, and of course corned beef and cabbage with potatoes. Pawn Drive will provide the music from 6 to 8 p.m.

Sunday

Starting at noon, head out to the patio for a special re-release of the brewery’s past wild and sour ales. The Goose is Loose, The Village Tart, Ich Bin Ein, and Oh G’s will all be available, along with the current sour offering, Raspberry Dynamite. The brett-infused beers available will include Yogi Beera, Out to Pasture Ale, and the return of Who’s Brett IPA. Spankey Lee will provide the music from 1 to 3 p.m. There will also be a special cheese board selection from M’Tucci’s Market.

Add it all up and Steel Bender is throwing quite the celebration. For further details, check their Facebook page, or just head on over for whichever day (or days) look like the best bets.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

This rendering should give everyone a good idea of what Ex Novo Brewing will look like in Corrales.

A big Northwest brewery is coming to a small Southwest town. Ex Novo Brewing of Portland, Oregon, will open a new location in Corrales, which happens to be the hometown of its owner, Joel Gregory.

Joel and I sat down over lunch and brews at Steel Bender a while back. He just got the green light on financing this week, meaning the project is now going ahead in full.

“We’re doing it in phases,” Joel said. “Phase One is going to be a 10,000-square-foot production brewery. There’s going to be a little place that’s like a coffee shop, a little bitty building that we’re going to use as a tasting room. We’ll have a lot of outdoor seating, not a ton of seats inside. That’s Phase One.

“Then, after we get off the ground here and see what’s the market like, Phase Two will include more brewery space, another few thousand square feet in the brewery, and then like a full pub with a giant beer garden, and a barn for barrel aging and events.”

The brewery will be located in the heart of Corrales, specifically at 4895 Corrales Road, just a block north of the Corrales Bistro Brewery (which no longer makes its own beer). Joel founded Ex Novo almost four years ago, and the brewery has made a name for itself in the extremely packed Portland scene. Expanding the operation in Oregon, though, was proving to be more than a bit of a challenge. That led Joel to cast an eye towards his hometown.

“It’s a big, two-part thing,” Joel said. “I’m from here. I’ve been in Portland for 10 years this summer. I love it up there, I really do, but it’s a long way from family and I really like the direction that Albuquerque in general is headed, both in the beer scene and in general. I happen to know a lot of cool people that I grew up with that are part of that movement to continue making Albuquerque awesome.”

Another view of the production side of the future Ex Novo.

Physical space in Portland is at a premium, at least when it comes to expanding a brewing operation. Joel said that the popular Great Notion Brewing recently took over one of the last available buildings to increase its production.

“Portland is great, but there’s only so much you can do that’s awesome,” he added. “In a place like that, most things have been done before. My wife and I have looked for ways to come back here. The brewery is still in its toddler phase, it’s about three-and-a-half years old now.

“About a year ago, it really dawned on me that it would be possible since we’re at capacity. Do we expand in Portland? Look for more production space or try for something out of town? To be able to come home and to bring things that I’ve learned, what I’ve experienced, and the brand that we’ve built back with us and relocating here full-time, is kind of like a dream.”

Joel has spent enough time around the Albuquerque beer scene to know that simply copying and pasting what works in Oregon will not work here.

“It’s a great way to come home, not leaving something behind or sell it off or anything, we’re going to continue on what we’re doing,” he said. “It won’t be exactly like Portland, it’s a different town. Some things will be the same, some things will be unique to the Albuquerque area. I’ve been dreaming about it for a couple years what it would be like to do something here. It kept coming back to being from Corrales and spending most of my upbringing in the valley.”

Incorporating the outdoors into the brewery was something that appealed to Joel. He said the new Ex Novo will be built around its patio/beer garden, rather than adding that to a building down the road.

“Obviously Albuquerque has got so much great outdoor experiences to see day-to-day, whether it’s just abundant sunshine or the valley where things grow and it’s beautiful,” Joel said. “I think more breweries should focus on that and bring people into that. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it in the valley somewhere. It’s going to have an oversized lot where people can come (hang out). We’re going to focus on the outdoor aspect of it. Drinking beers outside, you can have the kids along, let them run around and play, not stress out. It’s awesome, I’ve experienced that in some places, but not in Portland, it doesn’t have the space.”

Ex Novo owner Joel Gregory is bringing his brewery to his hometown of Corrales.

Joel said his family here, particularly his father and sister, helped him find the right location in Corrales. That site was formerly occupied by the Rancho de Corrales, which burned down in 2012. The original building was built in the 1800s and was later the rather infamous Territorial Bar from 1972 to 1987.

“That’s perfect, there’s nothing else, it’s a blank slate, we get to build something,” Joel said. “That’s always been a dream. When you start a new brewery you always end up in a warehouse somewhere. We get to build something and design it. Anyone that’s been in this business (knows), to not have to retrofit, but to build it from the ground up, that’s also a lot of pressure. That’s the gist of it.”

Joel said he has been friends with Bosque Brewing co-owner Jotham Michnovicz long before that brewery started. While we were at Steel Bender, head brewer Bob Haggerty also stopped by to say hello, having met Joel in the past. Those connections will help Ex Novo not only get off the ground here, but help Joel and his staff understand what New Mexicans expect from a craft brewery.

“Way before I thought about opening anything here, it’s good to see what makes different methods work,” he said. “Albuquerque is super unique. I am looking forward to seeing how it changes in the next five years, how it evolves.”

Ex Novo produces a wide range of beers, from Eliot IPA to The Most Interesting Lager in the World to Damon Stoutamire (truly, Bear Down).

“I would say if there’s anything we love to do it’s bringing balanced and drinkable, a lot of session beers,” Joel said. “Our IPAs tend to be less on the bitter side, more on the balanced side. But we do make 13-percent (ABV) imperial stouts.”

Yeah, Joel brought the Crew a box of beers. That Nevemore Barleywine tucked in there was excellent. Quaker Shaker was another favorite, along with the New England-style IPA.

Ex Novo will hire a new staff for the Corrales location, rather than simply import folks from Portland.

“We’ll be hiring a head brewer to run the day-to-day in Corrales,” Joel said. “My current head brewer is going to be elevated to director of brewing operations. He’ll be the boss of this head brewer and the head brewer in Portland. He’ll make sure consistency is being maintained. He’ll be living in Portland, but coming down here quite often.”

The setup will be similar to what Ponderosa Brewing has, but Joel said his Corrales brewer will have more freedom, especially with the setup that he or she will have inside the brewery.

“We’re going to have a 20-barrel brewhouse and a 5-barrel brewhouse,” Joel said. “Obviously the 20-barrel will be geared toward production and packaging of our core beers. The 5-barrel will be the pub-only reserve stuff. We’re going to do more R&D, yeast propagation, all the things you want to have. Sometimes it’s a crazy beer, but sometimes it’s mild. Those might not sell that well, either. It’s important to not be constrained having 20 to 60 barrels of it.”

The first two beers that figure to be brewed and packaged here will be the aforementioned Eliot and Mexican-style lager.

“A couple core brands, our Mexican lager in six-packs, and our IPA, Elliot, we’ll probably jump right into those,” Joel said. “First year, we’re not looking at crazy numbers, maybe 2,500 barrels, something like that would be a fine target. We’ll have to feel the market out and the demands for the stuff we have. I think those two beers, obviously the IPA, I think it’s one of the better ones in Oregon in package, but we’ve got to come strong with the IPA game here.”

There will also be a lot of seasonal and specialty brews coming out of the smaller brewhouse that will be available on tap.

“We’ll be doing the cool stuff and doing the seasonal stuff with labels, keeping things fresh and interesting,” Joel said. “We’ve been dabbling in the New England IPA category. I think we did the right thing. We’ve been brewing it for a year. We don’t want to do it too frequently. We’re trying to figure out what we like about it. There’s a lot of examples out there right now, but not all of them are good. We just released our first batch in cans. We have some kettle sour stuff in cans. We brew up a lot of seasonal stuff. In Portland, we’ll probably release 70 new beers a year. We’ll probably do that here, if not more, with the 5-barrel.”

Joel said he hopes to get some of the specialty beers distributed in kegs to bars and restaurants, rather than only offering up the standards. In Portland, he said, breweries almost never distribute their core bands that way, but instead focus on a constant rotation of new and exciting styles.

“It leaves room for brewers to do more experimental stuff in larger volumes and distribute it more,” he said. “I think that’s really fun for beer people to go to any bar or restaurant and find beers they’ve never had before.”

This shows lots of parking. That is always a good thing.

That Phase Two construction of a barrel-aging room will be important in that regard.

“We’re super into barrel-aged beers,” Joel said. “We want to do a lot of mixed cultures, lots of wild and spontaneous. Just doing the gamut of beers. We haven’t had the space to really do that (in Portland). If we were here, we’d have one of the biggest barrel-aging programs in the state, but up there we don’t have nearly as much space as we’d like to have.”

All of that sounds quite good to us in the Crew. Our bicycle enthusiast members love the idea of someday riding the Bosque trails from Bosque North in Bernalillo, to Ex Novo, to Boxing Bear, to Steel Bender, and beyond. We will keep everyone as up to date as possible on the progress of Ex Novo. Until then, if any of you are traveling up to Portland, make sure to stop in and say hello to a New Mexico native at his brewery.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Three of the four medal-winning beers are currently on tap at Quarter Celtic.

A social media photo crossed our desks on Tuesday of the Quarter Celtic staff happy as can be in the wake of the New York International Beer Competition naming their brewpub the best of the best in New Mexico.

We had never heard of this competition before, so I braved the traffic on San Mateo (I-25 southbound is no longer an option) and headed over to talk to the QC team on Wednesday afternoon. The NYIBC awarded a gold medal to Crimson Lass, silvers to Test Batch #1 IPA and Come to the Dort Side, and a bronze to Mor-Buck IPA, all of which added up to naming QC the best brewery in our state.

“At GABF, I was talking to Tom Hennessey, who used to be our boss, (and) he was just saying that he only enters two competitions a year, GABF and the New York International,” said head brewer/owner Brady McKeown. “He was saying what a great job they do, how professional they are.”

That all led Quarter Celtic to sign up.

“Another interesting thing about this competition was the format,” said assistant brewer/owner David Facey. “Some are BJCP-certified, some are Brewers Association-certified. … The cool thing about this one was the judgment by the buyers and sellers. Stylistically, it may not be 100 percent, but it’s from the people whose job it is to sell beer for a living. They know their product.”

The competition included beers from 14 countries. Many of the American entries were from big breweries across the country, including Blue Point, Brooklyn, DC Brau, Jolly Pumpkin, Magic Hat, Rogue, Samuel Adams, and Saranac. Among neighboring states, Barrio Brewing topped the Arizona list, while Renegade Brewing claimed Colorado.

To achieve victory, Quarter Celtic had to shake up some past category entries for its beers. One notable change was moving Crimson Lass from Irish Red to Scottish.

“We were really pleased with Crimson Lass,” said general manager/owner Ror McKeown. “These guys did a great job of putting that beer where it belonged in the right category.”

“You know how it works,” David added. “They always talk about crafting a beer to a style. What we realized was sometimes you have to craft a style to your beer.”

Getting medals for two of the four QC house beers, Crimson Lass and Mor-Buck, was also important.

“That’s a great point,” Ror said. “You can tell people you made a really great beer (but) you have to come back next year to drink it. (With these) come on in, you can have it any day of the week.”

Congratulations to the Quarter Celtic staff on all their achievements. We look forward to how things turn out at the World Beer Cup in April and in competitions beyond that.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister