Archive for the ‘Year in Review’ Category

We sure have fun writing about beer. We hope all of you enjoy reading about it. And, drinking it, of course.

A whole lot of ups and downs happened in the New Mexico craft beer scene in 2018. We wrote about a lot of it, but not all. So apologies in advance if there are things we missed in this here recap of the year that was, particularly outside of the ABQ and Santa Fe areas. If there was a theme to 2018, it was the proliferation of off-site brewery taprooms, as well as a few of those taprooms shutting their doors.

January

Our first new brewery opening of the year was a big hit.

The year got off to a bit of a slow start. There were a couple of festivals, with the Taos Brewmasters Festival making a rare foray into this month (it went back to December by the end of the year, making it the rare twice-in-a-year fest), plus of course WinterBrew was rather awesome again up in Santa Fe. The most popular story of the month with all of you was when Rio Bravo gave us a sort of mea culpa over issues of beer quality and organization. The month concluded with a soft opening for High and Dry Brewing. Then there was the opening of Tap That, a new beer bar concept, at least for ABQ.

February

We got our first look inside Lava Rock, before some major challenges arose for the new brewery.

It is always good to start a month with some medals, as four local breweries combined to win nine at the Best of Craft Beer Awards. The Crew handed out a seventh different winner in our seventh annual Stout Challenge on Super Bowl Sunday, with Canteen’s Dark ‘n Lusty taking home the honors. We got our first look inside Lava Rock Brewing on the Westside, but could not anticipate all the problems that the newcomer would have in getting its brewhouse hooked up and running (as the year ends, Lava Rock is still brewing only on a small pilot system). The biggest news of the month was La Cumbre announcing its forthcoming Westside taproom. As the month ended, the National IPA Challenge was underway.

March

John Bullard sported the finest in hard-hat fashion for a first tour of Bosque North.

After four straight NIPAC wins by New Mexico breweries — La Cumbre in ’14 and ’17, Bosque in ’15 and ’16 — there would be no “one for the thumb” as Canteen’s Hop Baller did not advance to the finals. There was more tough news as Kaktus shut the doors on its Nob Hill taproom, but the brewery staff still sounded optimistic about the future of their Bernalillo operation. The rest of the month featured a lot more good news than bad. Quarter Celtic brought home medals from a competition in New York. We were able to officially share the news that Ex Novo Brewing was coming from Portland, Oregon, to Corrales, the hometown of owner Joel Gregory. Another fun day required a hard hat as I got to tour the under-construction Bosque North with John Bullard. Up north, Luke got to take a tour of the new Santa Fe Brewing taproom downtown.

April

 

Brewer Kaylynn McKnight was all smiles as Toltec Brewing neared its opening date.

For whatever reason, this is usually a slower month, perhaps as we all brace for the start of festival season in May. It was not that quiet this year, however, as we got our first look inside the forthcoming Toltec Brewing, which would officially open in May. We also got to meet the new man in charge at Red Door, where Matt Meier took the reins as head brewer. Of course, the biggest event every April usually revolves around Marble’s anniversary party, but this year was the 10th, so boy did the staff go big. I got to tap into more of that beer history I love so much, while also getting the take of some of the longest tenured staff members on what a decade of Marble meant to them.

May

Tumbleroot opened its doors to customers and lots of live music.

We knew this was going to be a big month when the good folks at Founders sent us some KBS ’18 to drink and review, and boy, did we go off the rails again. From there, we expected big things from the biennial World Beer Cup and … oh, yeah, that happened. It still stings almost eight months later. There would eventually be redemption, but first we saw the long-awaited opening of Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery in Santa Fe, as well as Southwest Grape and Grain moving to a bigger, better space near Candelaria and Carlisle. Bosque went and made us all smile with the announcement of the Restoration Pizza project. Then, of course, our time and livers were dominated by the annual fun that is ABQ Beer Week. Not everything went to plan *cough, Battle of the Beer Geeks (RIP), cough* but it was the usual great variety of fun events and tasty brews. Oh, and Franz Solo and I did our stupidest/greatest one-night metal adventure when we skipped out in the middle to go see Insomnium in Denver, but that is a story for another time.

June

Red River Brewing opened big in the northern ski town.

Even as Beer Week came to a close, there was more good news on the medal front as the locals cleaned up at the North American Beer Awards and Burning Can. Broken Trail did good and teamed up with several other breweries for its annual St. Baldrick’s Day fundraiser. There were a pair of taprooms opening in town as Tractor Westside and Ponderosa’s El Vado location were finally unveiled. Outside of the metro area, Luke ventured up to the impressive Red River Brewing for the first time, while Franz Solo and I took a short road trip to Grants to hike the El Malpais and visit Elkins Brewing.

July

Blue Corn brewer Paul Mallory hoisted the NM IPA Challenge trophy.

It turned out that St. Baldrick’s event was the last of its kind at the original Broken Trail location, as big changes were underway there that included taking out the taproom space. We got some bad news, however, when Monks’ Corner announced it would shut down by the end of the month, ending its short-lived run in downtown. Bosque took us inside its new business offices and warehouse, while also helping us preview the final round of the IPA Challenge at Bosque North. Speaking of the NMIPAC, it was another year with some issues at the preliminary round, but things went much smoother at the Taos Mesa Taproom and Second Street Rufina. It all concluded with Blue Corn taking home the trophy for the second time in its history.

August

The La Cumbre staff put the final touches on the taproom before its long-awaited opening.

After all that happened up to this point, I had earned a vacation, so off I went to visit friends (and breweries) in Portland and Eugene. The news did not stop while I was away, however. AmyO got us our first look inside the forthcoming Cantero Brewing. It was good news for Flix, Santa Fe, and The 377 at the US Open Beer Championship. The 377 then capped a very good month with a third-place finish in the American cask competition at the Great British Beer Festival. It was the fifth brewery from New Mexico to medal in the past seven years. Up north, Second Street unveiled its first lineup of canned beers, while Santa Fe prepared to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Back in the ABQ area, Steel Bender talked about its upcoming expansion, while Quarter Celtic announced its first off-site taproom. Oh, and it was finally time for La Cumbre Westside to open, to much fanfare and happy folks on that bank of the Rio Grande.

September

La Cumbre’s Jeff Erway chews on another GABF silver medal for his Malpais Stout.

As the first wonderful hints of autumn began to fill the air, it was not the most wonderful news around town. Red Door was forced to shut down its Northeast Heights taproom due to a dispute with the landlord. Needing some positive news, we got our first look inside the future Blue Grasshopper brewery/taproom coming to Wells Park. Then it was time for Cantero Brewing to open its doors at last. After all that happened here, the Crew hopped on a plane to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival. As per usual, we spent too much time sampling beers and not enough time interviewing people, but in the end, we were able to drag ourselves to the awards ceremony, where seven of our breweries brought home seven medals, including the first gold medal in the 19-year history of Turtle Mountain. The month ended with a marvelous Marblefest, unless you were like Brandon and I and instead went to see Amorphis, Dark Tranquillity, Moonspell, and Omnium Gatherum in Denver. The metal was not well-timed in regards to beer events this year.

October

Another new brewery is on its way to the Northeast Heights.

Just when we figured things would start to slow down, they did not. Santa Fe Brewing will again be an anchor tenant of the forthcoming Tin Can Alley, the sequel to Green Jeans Farmery. Then came the sad, but not unexpected, news that the Duel ABQ Taproom had closed its doors. Crew writers took solace at the ninth annual New Mexico Brew Fest and Red River’s Oktoberfest. We finished the month with our first look inside the future Black Snout Brewhouse at Menaul and Juan Tabo.

November

Sam, left, and George Boese proudly opened their second location.

Apparently, this month was meant to give thanks for taprooms, because the news was dominated by off-site locations. Red Door announced its plans to open a taproom in a Clovis bowling alley. The Rock Canyon Taproom near Tijeras, now owned by Lizard Tail, got a makeover and opened its doors again. Finally, Boese Brothers went to the farthest corner of the Northeast Heights for its new taproom.

December

The sizable Ex Novo production brewery building is nearly complete in the center of Corrales.

The year concluded with news about, you guessed it, yet another taproom. Boxing Bear went into detail about the process of selecting the former 5 Star Burgers location on West Central for its first off-site location. While most of our month was dedicated to the ongoing Look Back/Look Ahead Series, we did get a chance to see the significant progress at Ex Novo Brewing in Corrales. Otherwise, the winter slowdown went into effect even before the temperatures dropped like a rock and the sorta-kinda-blizzard hit. Oh, what a year it was.

Stuff coming in 2019 that has us excited

Well, we know Ex Novo is coming soon, and that Boxing Bear taproom should be fun for people who are averse to crossing the river for beer. Black Snout is moving along, and other breweries are en route as well. From Brew Lab 101 in Rio Rancho to the just announced Looking Glass Spirits & Long Lost Brewing, there should be plenty of new to check out in the metro area. Outside of ABQ, we are overdue to visit places to the north like Colfax Ale Cellar in Raton and Blu Dragonfly in Cimarron, or to the south with places like Lost Hiker in Ruidoso, Guadalupe Mountain in Carlsbad, and the forthcoming Icebox Brewing in Las Cruces (among many, many others). Throw in all of our favorite annual events — WinterBrew on January 11, our Stout Challenge on Super Bowl Sunday, ABQ Beer Week in May, the NMIPAC in July, and GABF in October — and it should be another fun year. We hope you all enjoy the ride as much as we do, but fear not if you cannot get out enough, we will keep you all in the news about the beer scene once again!

Cheers and Happy New Year!

— Stoutmeister and the Crew

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Happy New Year’s, friends. 2012 was a big year for us. It was the start of the Brew Crew, we got to meet many of our local brewers and brewery owners, we got to check out many of our local beer festivals as well as the Great American Beer Festival, and we got to watch three new local breweries open with success. Oh, and not to forget that we survived the world ending three different times.

When you look at the year like that, it doesn’t seem like much but this is what all went down in the Year of the Apocalypse That Wasn’t.

From left, Stoutmeister, Shilling, Franz Solo, and E-Rock gathered for the first Beer Battle back in February on Super Bowl Sunday.

From left, Stoutmeister, Shilling, Franz Solo, and E-Rock gathered for the first Beer Battle back in February on Super Bowl Sunday.

Earlier this year, the core members of our group came up with the idea for what is now the Dark Side Brew Crew. Stoutmeister (Chris) came up with the name at 3 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2012, while finishing off a growler of Tractor’s Smoked Porter and staring up into the night sky. He texted me the name and we were off. We all gained a new hobby (and something to keep Chris busy during the baseball off-season) with something that involved one of our favorite things — beer! In no time at all, our blog and Facebook page went public, and the Brew Crew was born. We have gone from having our friends and family follow our shenanigans to gaining 150-plus followers on Facebook and our blog, many of whom we end up meeting whenever we are out at the metro area’s many breweries.

With the expansion of our postings to Twitter and Reddit, we’ve been able to reach readers all around the world (Editor’s note: Jon isn’t kidding; we’ve had folks from as far away as Latvia, the UAE, Bangladesh, Togo, Slovenia, and Kenya check out the site. — Stoutmeister). It is something that we are still blown away about.

The Crew had a rare almost-full-staff (no Derek) meeting at Il Vicino back in October. One of these days all six of us will be in the same place at the same time.

The Crew had a rare almost-full-staff (no Derek) meeting at Il Vicino back in October. One of these days all six of us will be in the same place at the same time.

Many of the Crew members have been able to be a part of many of the local beer festivals including Blues & Brews (Stoutmeister and E-Rock), Hopfest (Stoutmeister and I), Brew Fest (Brandon), the IPA Challenge (Stoutmeister and E-Rock), and Septemberfest (Stoutmeister). It has all given us a chance to try many other beers from around the state and country, plus it also allows us to step back and watch how our fellow Burquenos swarm the booths with great enthusiasm.

Stoutmeister and E-Rock were able to cross off a huge bucket list item by representing the Brew Crew at VALHALLA, the Great American Beer Festival, in Denver back in October. They slowly conquered the regions of hard-to-find beers for Albuquerque residents. Franz Solo was able to show us some of the great breweries in the Midwest, while I uncovered a hidden gem in the Denver Bicycle Cafe, and we can’t forget the folks up at Taos Ale who were kind enough to save us the last two pints of a nitro Irish stout on a visit from Stoutmeister and E-Rock back in April.

We have been all over the Southwest (Stoutmeister and E-Rock have also trekked to Durango and down to Phoenix/Tucson), yet there is still so much more out there to visit we know we are not done yet.

Stoutmeister, left, and Shilling, right, get the tour from Turtle Mountain owner Nico Ortiz. (Photo by E-Rock)

Stoutmeister, left, and Shilling, right, get the tour from Turtle Mountain owner Nico Ortiz.

We were able to meet some of our top brewers and brewery owners, including Brady at Il Vicino, Ken and Manuel at Nexus, Dave from Tractor, Nico from Turtle Mountain, and Jeff from La Cumbre. All of these folks have been awesome and we are honored to have been able to meet them and talk about beer and the history of our craft beer scene. We have also been fortunate enough to meet the folks from ABQ’s newcomers, Broken Bottle Brewery and Bosque Brewing Co.

And of course we can’t forget the Tractor growler fiasco. Stoutmeister dedicated many hours a day brushing up on our local laws, neighborhood association ordinances, contacting our friends at Tractor and the City of Albuquerque, and attended many of the government meetings. Stoutmeister really stepped up and did a fine job covering this topic, putting that old journalism degree of his to good use (well, besides his excellent coverage of the Albuquerque Isotopes and the occasional high school/UNM sports story for the Journal).

I threw it out to the other Crew members to share their favorite memories/experiences of 2012. Here is what they had to say.

Stoutmeister may not put himself in the picture very often, but he could not resist at GABF.

Stoutmeister may not put himself in the picture very often, but he could not resist at GABF.

Stoutmeister: You know you have made an impression when folks start referring to you by your blogging nickname when they see you at a brewery. This has been a wild first year, a little uneven and sometimes frustrating, but all in all I like where we are at with the Crew and where we are going in the future. I have been the prolific writer of the group because, well, I am a professional writer, plus I do not have a full-time job at the moment or a girlfriend/wife who actually makes me do valuable things in my spare time. But what is truly more valuable than enjoying quality beer? To recap the year, things took off for us with Tractor’s misfortune of running afoul of Nob Hill’s arcane regulations. It took me back to Reporting Public Affairs, a pain-in-the-ass journalism class and my lone “C” grade in my major. Hey, at least I didn’t fall asleep at any of those Environmental Planning Commission Meetings like I did at the Oro Valley (AZ) Town Council meeting back in 1999. It was a wild ride with Tractor, but everyone stayed strong on their end and came out victorious. Through it all we made friends with the friendliest bar staff in town, and maybe someday Lauren will invite us to appear in a Lynette video.

The good folks at Taos Ale House saved E-Rock and I pints of their Nitro Patty (Irish) Stout. It was our first "we've arrived!" moment.

The good folks at Taos Ale House saved E-Rock and I pints of their Nitro Patty (Irish) Stout. It was our first “we’ve arrived!” moment.

Anyway, beyond that the haphazard, but still fun, Super Bowl beer battle was a highlight as we debated what truly makes my favorite beer style (if you haven’t guessed by now … oy) great. From that February fun we moved into March, when E-Rock and I visited breweries and baseball games throughout Phoenix, followed by my solo trek to my college town, Tucson. Arizona has a ways to go to catch up to New Mexico (can’t say that about much else besides beer, so, yay!). April kicked off with our Taos Trek, where we visited the awesome little breweries Blue Heron, Comanche Creek, and Taos Ale House. Eske’s was a disappointment, but hey, I’ll take a 3-for-4 trip anytime. May saw the arrival of ABQ Beer Week, an awesome event I mostly missed as the darned Isotopes were in the midst of an epically draining 12-game (they’re usually 8-game) homestand. Matt Kemp even had to show up and rehab with the Topes, causing me to miss half of Blues & Brews. I know, I know, priorities and all.

Stoutmeister took a shot of the final night of GABF in one direction while E-Rock, bottom left, shoots in the other direction. It was that huge.

Stoutmeister took a shot of the final night of GABF in one direction while E-Rock, bottom left, shoots in the other direction. It was that huge.

June saw E-Rock and I back on the road (we like the same music, thus we do fine in the car together), this time visiting Durango and enjoying once again 3-of-4 breweries (sorry, Steamworks). We stopped at Farmington’s 3 Rivers on the way back; I have no idea why I never wrote it up. Darn, we’ll have to go back. In July I was asked to write for Tractor’s blog, which was more fun that I thought it would be. We then drove out to Rio Rancho and joined Nico Ortiz for a long, fun, informative talk about Turtle Mountain and brewing in ABQ.

After the IPA Challenge we seemed to hit a collective wall, but the Crew regrouped heading into the fall, even with Shilling and Brandon back in school. We hit Hopfest (big thanks again to Marne Gaston for the special passes) and Septemberfest, met with the staff of the soon-to-open Bosque Brewing, celebrated the return of growlers at Tractor, and then of course came VALHALLA. We followed that up with more in-depth interviews with Jeff Erway at La Cumbre and the Fab Five (up from four) at Bosque. We will have more of those interviews, plus possibly some actual videos (courtesy of our resident filmmaker, Derek) in 2013.

Overall, we may not have been the most consistent group of writers, with some weeks featuring an onslaught of posts and others almost none, but I think for a first-year, multi-writer blog we did pretty well. I am looking forward to our one-year anniversary coming up in January (the full details/date will be posted soon), plus the New Mexico Cup (yes, we’ve been tasked to serve as “celebrity judges”) in February, another Super Bowl-timed beer battle, and plenty more. I could not have asked for a better Crew to work with on this little passion project. Thanks, guys, now let’s go out and kick this thing to the next level in 2013!

Yeah, we pretty much re-ran this photo of Brandon just because of the hat. And that look on his face.

Yeah, we pretty much re-ran this photo of Brandon just because of the hat. And that look on his face.

Brandon: I feel I should start this by saying that I am in no way a professional writer. Technical writing was never a strong point of mine; thankfully we have Stoutmeister as our trusty editor to clean up the bad grammar in our posts after we’ve had a few pints! I had been trying my hand at other writing projects that weren’t going so well, so this was a perfect attempt to try something new and write about something I love: delicious pints of beer. Although I have known Derek and Shilling for a while, I actually met the other Crew members just around the time that we started. I was introduced to everyone over (you guessed it) a beer, specifically a nice pint of Malpais Stout from La Cumbre. I remember it like it was yesterday (sniff) … I’m getting sentimental, so I’ll move on!

And we re-ran this picture of Brandon (from Halloween) just for how he has his pinky finger extended while drinking Black Eyed P.A. at Tractor.

And we re-ran this picture of Brandon (from Halloween) just for how he has his pinky finger extended while drinking Black Eyed P.A. at Tractor.

Though it has been a hectic year for me personally, I’ve had an amazing time working with every member here at NMDSBC. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to write with and hang out with. Starting off with the Brewology series was something extremely fun and I enjoyed bringing info and the minimal experiences I have in homebrewing to you, our readers. Although I haven’t been able to brew these days, mainly due to a full work and school schedule and limited space at home, Derek has been brewing fairly regularly and is continuing the series. He has already produced some tasty batches, so keep an eye out for future posts from him. Aside from that the weekly (usually) Saturday Night Sixer column gives me a chance to share some great craft beers from outside of our mini beer mecca here in New Mexico, and more will be coming in the new year. I had a chance to sit down and talk to some great folks around the beer community, such as Chris Chavez and Donavan Lane at Broken Bottle Brewery, and Jeff Erway at La Cumbre, all of whom are great individuals who live the dream of making great beer. I have to say that covering the NM Brew Fest was a personal highlight for me. Getting to sample beers from New Mexico’s best, and some from beyond the state, was a great experience. It also was an exercise in how to properly cover a beer festival without having a few too many, as my handwriting deteriorated as the day wore on. Nonetheless, it was wonderful and I look forward to covering more events — with a voice recorder next time!

This next year is already shaping up to be exciting for us. Our first anniversary is rapidly approaching, and we have kindly been asked to serve as celebrity judges at the NM Cup Beer & Wine Invitational in February; that last part alone makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! We will have some other things in the works, new features on the site, and hopefully a new look for it here in the near future. I couldn’t be happier to do my part to spread the word about our great craft beer scene here in NM and all the wonderful craft beer across the country. Cheers!

E-Rock has smiled over pints and samples of beer all year long, in between his various musical gigs.

E-Rock has smiled over pints and samples of beer all year long, in between his various musical gigs.

E-Rock: I was one of the last members to do my recap of 2012, so I had the advantage of reading everyone else’s pieces. As such, I’ll skip the brewer interviews and festivals that everyone else already talked about and head straight to the other stuff.

My favorite aspect about being in NMDSBC is that I get to be an active member of New Mexico’s craft brewing community. I posted very few posts the first few months that the blog was up. I was finishing up my masters’s degree in math and it took me forever to write posts. I kept telling Stoutmeister that I would start week a weekly column when I finished my degree in May.

When May rolled around, Albuquerque-area brewers were beginning preparations for Beer Week. There were multiple tastings occurring every day around town for the span of about nine days. The only Brew Crew members that could cover any of Beer Week were Franz Solo and myself. Since I didn’t have any more excuses not to write, I found myself going to several tastings a day and then having to go home and write something. I took that experience and channeled what I learned into maintaining a weekly column.

The first Monday after Beer Week, I wrote my first Week Ahead in Beer. My initial idea was to do a beer listing that was similar to movie listings in the newspaper. I asked for any ideas that might beef up my column a bit. Stoutmeister suggested calling up each brewery a half hour before they opened, put a short write-up on a beer or two for each brewery, and throw together a little intro to each week.

E-Rock, left, and Stoutmeister have known each other since high school. They still bond over beer, as it should be.

E-Rock, left, and Stoutmeister have known each other since high school. They still bond over beer, as it should be.

I started by gathering phone numbers and operating hours of each brewery. Originally, I just asked each brewery about new beers that were being tapped that week. Eventually, I decided that I would keep track of seasonal beers. For newer breweries that did not have any set regular and seasonal beers, I listed all of their beers. At first, I didn’t know if I was annoying busy brewery staffs just to create a column that no one reads. In time, word got out and I learned that many brewers were reading my column to keep up with what other brewers were doing. I also had the privilege to meet other readers who recognized me from my picture that accompanies my column each week.

Nowadays, I look forward to my weekly calls and talking to a lot of the friendly beeristas (a term coined by Stoutmeister) around town. Other than my weekly column, I usually just add little blurbs to group posts and try to join other members whenever they visit different breweries. I want to expand my column to include breweries and tap rooms in other New Mexico cities and towns. 2012 was fun, but I am looking forward to the possibilities, challenges, and people we will meet in 2013.

Franz has been a busy man in 2012, but hopefully he will have more time to write and enjoy great beer in 2013.

Franz has been a busy man in 2012, but hopefully he will have more time to write and enjoy great beer in 2013.

Franz: Well, this is Stoutmeister writing Franz’s piece. As some have noticed, one of our founding members has not written much lately. We hope he will have more time to write in 2013, but he is married, just bought a house, works full-time, and his wife works full-time and is back in school. So to say Franz is busy is an understatement. Basically, he is the complete opposite of me in terms of having free time to write.

From time to time, he has managed to join us at places like La Cumbre, Il Vicino, and Broken Bottle. He is still planning to host the Super Bowl party/Beer Battle II in February. We will just have to come up with a way to ensure he can contribute with the small window of time he has to write every week.

The best news, I suppose, is that he is still drinking great beer whenever he can (his wonderful wife even let him have a beer-only refrigerator in the garage). He has not had to sacrifice in that regard.

Derek: 2012 has held some really special memories for me. Not only have I joined the amazing group of writers/bloggers/brewers at the New Mexico Dark Side Brew Crew, but I really stepped up my game in my own home brewing and adventures in experiencing all types of crafted beers from all over the country.

The Crew enjoyed Derek's pumpkin ale and Scotch ale that he created in his kitchen this year.

The Crew enjoyed Derek’s pumpkin ale and Scotch ale that he created in his kitchen this year.

I joined this group as a resident home brewer.  I’ve created a handful of tasty selections from amber to pumpkin ale to chocolate stout. I even had the privilege to help two of our other members learn how to brew themselves, and help them create some tasty concoctions.

My most notable home brews of the year were my Pumpkin Ale, which I have also written a step by step guide for the NMDSBC site for anyone who wants to learn to brew their own beer, and a very heavy Scotch Ale, one of those nice, let it sit and age for half a year before you even get to taste it, kind of beers.

As I’ve traveled to various parts of the country I was also able to experience and review some microbrews outside of our home base here in Albuquerque. Primarily on my trip to Florida I had the chance to review 7th Sun Brewery and Orlando Brewing, and found some really amazing beers from each. Also, while I was there I was able to taste on tap other local brews from the region whose breweries I wasn’t able to visit.

2013 is going to be exciting for us in the beer world. We’re working on our first anniversary party and our first collective NMDSBC batch of home brew. We’ll be judging beer for the NM Cup in February. Beyond all that, I’ll be traveling to various parts of the country again and am really looking forward to comparing each of their resident and local styles with what we have here. This group is always moving forward and tasting and experiencing all over, and there will be so many more home brews by the group as well. The upcoming year looks bright for us all!

* * *

Shilling raises a pint in thanks to all of our readers. The rest of us do as well.

Shilling raises a pint in thanks to all of our readers. The rest of us do as well.

2012 was our first year and a very successful year at that, if we do so say. We will continue bringing you more beer news and reviews in 2013. Look for us at Winter Brew in Santa Fe on Jan. 25 and at the inaugural New Mexico Cup on Feb. 16. Beyond that, we might be making some road trips to check out breweries across the state, from High Desert (Las Cruces), Mimbres Valley (Deming/Las Cruces), the Wellhead (Artesia), Roosevelt Co. Brewing (Portales), NM Craft Brewing (Las Vegas), and all the breweries in the Taos area, including Blue Heron, Taos Ale House, Taos Mesa, and Comanche Creek. A return trip to VALHALLA could also be on the horizon, plus we imagine there will be a few other side trips to various parts of the country.

The Week Ahead in Beer, Saturday Night Sixer, and other regular or semi-regular features will also continue. We hope to have some beer videos up on YouTube later this year, plus expect more in-depth interviews with local brewers and brewery owners.

To all of our readers, we would like to thank you for all of the amazing support for making our first year so successful.

Prost!

— Jon “Shilling”