The Southwest x Northwest Hazy IPA, a collaboration from Ex Novo and Bow and Arrow, is now on tap at the latter.

If anyone thought that this weekly feature died in the snow, well, it did not. We all just decided to enjoy our holiday stretch without writing down every beer that we consumed (well, we still have Untappd just in case our fuzzy memories need some clarity).

Anyway, keeping things rather recent, have I mentioned how much working on Saturdays can suck? This past Saturday definitely sucked, so after a quick dinner it was time to venture forth in search of beer. Reminding myself that I had been unable to visit Bow and Arrow the night before for a new beer release, I made the long drive (for me, anyway) to Sixth Street. The joint was packed inside, including a few folks in some zombie-like makeup (no idea what that was about). I found a seat at the bar and ordered the Southwest x Northwest Hazy IPA. No, really, I ordered a hazy IPA.

The beer was brewed as a collaboration between Bow and Arrow and Ex Novo Brewing, as noted in the last edition of The Week Ahead in Beer. I have had plenty of quality beers from B&A over the last year, and Ex Novo impressed me with their offerings at the original in Portland, Oregon, and those that I have been gifted in bottle or can format. It was no surprise that this beer lived up to the quality of both breweries. A lot of hazies are citrus-flavor dominant, but this also had a bitter little bite up front from some old-school piney hops. It was not too sweet, nor too tart, finding a nice balance. The mouthfeel was clean and smooth.

It went down quickly, leaving me with the chance to try another recent addition to the lineup. Buffalo Plaid Baltic Porter is one of the more flavorful examples of the style that I have tried in town. There are strong hints of dark chocolate and a little bit of coffee up front, with a smooth finish, and a fairly robust mouthfeel. I almost ordered a full pour, until I learned that Breakfast Bandit has nearly run its course. The rather infamous coffee-and-donuts stout is still a delectable beer, so I had to get some while it was still around.

Next time, however, I will indulge in some Buffalo Plaid. Bow and Arrow has come a long way over the past year, and is now firmly in my rotation of must-visit breweries. As for Ex Novo, that IPA is a good preview of what to come once the brewery in Corrales is open and ready for business.

Now to just get the damn federal government working again so things can progress.

While we wait for that miracle to happen, a couple of the ladies in the Crew ventured far and wide in search of beers to try.

Read the rest of this entry »

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BRB employees, left to right, Justin Sapp, general manager Doug Osborn, head brewer Brandon Venaglia, and Emily Mockler-Wood.

Bathtub Row Brewing (BRB) in Los Alamos will be entering its fourth year of operation in 2019, and the business is entering a period of relative stability. To get the lowdown on where things stand with the brewery, I sat down with general manager Doug Osborn and head brewer Brandon Venaglia.

“The Tub,” as it’s affectionately referred to by many, has now been around long enough that people can’t imagine a time when it didn’t exist. It’s become a mainstay in people’s social lives on the hill. But, it’s also only been four years, which is not a lot of time in the lifespan of a business. At this point, after establishing itself and proving its business mettle, it’s clear the place will be around for many years to come. After an unusually slow start in early 2018 (which Doug said he thinks may have been industry-wide), sales have been on a record pace, up nearly 15 percent over last year.

One of the main points I took away is that BRB is at the point where the staff and Board of Directors are trying to take care of all of its financial burdens and fine-tune its processes and facilities, while at the same time beginning to think about what the next major course of action should be. The initial funding needed to open BRB was in part funded by loans provided by 56 individuals in the community. Those loans are slowly being repaid. Like many people, Doug said he doesn’t want that debt over his head for any longer than is necessary.

“It’s a five-year loan from the time we start paying it off to the time we’re actually done with it,” Doug said. “If I have my way, (it) will be done in two and a half.”

Even with the loans being repaid, there will likely be new equipment purchases in 2019. Brandon and his crew have been working like mad to keep up with demand. The original plan was to brew 350 barrels a year, but they said they’re approaching 1,000. Their most popular beer is, of course, the Hoppenheimer IPA, and they do quadruple batches of that one to keep enough on hand.

They also will be continuing to brew plenty of lagers, including a Mexican lager, so they’re planning to invest in a lagering fermenter. Additional fermenters and a serving vessel are also on the wish list. And, in addition to equipment, the area behind the bar will likely be redone to promote better server efficiency.

“We’re probably going to redesign behind the bar to make it more efficient; we have a bit of a log jam,” Doug said. “Whoever put this bar in never had any idea that we were going to do the volume that we were going to do. It was designed more for comfort, and less for speed.”

At the time of the interview, BRB had two beers available on nitro. They said they plan to use nitro with their stouts and porters, as is common, but also with other styles, as well. They were very proud of their new gas system, which allows them to extract nitrogen from the air and customize the mixtures of the gases they use. They explained that altitude can play a large role in brewing, and at 7,200 feet, BRB is one of the highest breweries in the country. Only Red River Brewing, at 8,600 feet, is higher in New Mexico.

Staffing has been mostly consistent. At least one-third of the roughly 25 people on staff have been around since the opening. Doug and Brandon spoke glowingly about Justin, a former intern and now staff member, who they call their “Young Padawan.” Ashley, the front-of-house manager, will be stepping down to take a position at the National Laboratory, and will likely be replaced by someone in-house.  Doug credits much of his success to his wonderful staff, as well as the Board of Directors that guide the ship.

Addressing industry trends, they said that high ABV brews aren’t as popular as they once were. At one point, a year or two ago, every entry on their list was over 7 percent.

“People come in here to spend several hours,” Brandon said. “They don’t come in here to get really wasted on an 11-percent beer or triple bourbon barrel stout at 16 percent. They’re intriguing, people enjoy them, but we get groups in here that want to sit here for two or three hours of conversation. More of a pub atmosphere with their kids, their dogs, their friends.”

Brandon said he is happy to take suggestions for brews and likes to just do what’s fun, but he noted that he did cave in to a recent trend and is making a hazy IPA.

Longer term, Doug said he has big ideas about investing in renewable energy and water reclamation systems. He feels that a co-op (which BRB is) has an obligation to be more community-oriented and environmentally friendly.

“We go through a ton of water,” Doug said. “There’s the photovoltaic and then the thermal solar. You can heat water up to 500 degrees with a proper thermal solar setup up on a roof, which would save us a ton of money, time, and effort. It’s not cheap. It’s expensive. But, you know, every time I drive by the food co-op coming into town, I love seeing those solar panels. I’m like, they’re doing it right.”

This is an issue that will have to be given a great deal of thought by the Board of Directors of BRB, so don’t expect anything overnight.

Also, in terms of the big picture, Board members and staff are trying to determine what the next big steps should be. Should there be a new taproom in town or in neighboring White Rock? Should they start distributing BRB beers regionally or nationally? Doug wants to make sure things are running smoothly at the current location before anything else is considered.

Events at BRB have included many concerts, notably a few by Vanilla Pop, a very popular regional band. Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham stopped by while campaigning and shared a beer and gave a speech. The NM Brewers Guild’s Stout Invitational was held back in February, and it is turning into a reliable annual event, seeing as how there will be another held in 2019.

A charity golf event for the local charity “All Individuals First” (which provides assistance to adults with special needs) raised $10,000. BRB was given an award by Big Brothers, Big Sisters for raising so much money for that organization. Speaking of awards, they won their second Business of the Year award from the local Chamber of Commerce as well.

BRB also participated in Sierra Nevada’s national fundraiser, brewing an IPA with a recipe provided by them (and with grains and hops provided by Proximity and Yakima). All proceeds (not just profits) from the sale of the Resilience IPA will go to fire relief efforts in California. This reinforces how tight-knit and supportive the brewery community is in New Mexico and nationwide.

BRB is getting into a groove. The new patio seating and fire pit have been very popular.  The beers are excellent. 2018 broke records, and with some fine-tuning in 2019, expect things to be even better.

Cheers!

— Reid

Remember when Marble shared this photo of happy brewery representatives in Washington D.C.? Yeah, gonna guess they are not too happy with the government right now.

Most of us are aware of, yet personally unaffected by, the current partial shutdown of the federal government. Leaving the politics aside, it has nonetheless made things difficult on both federal employees and those businesses and people who rely on certain federal agencies. It did not occur to any of us in the Crew how this might affect breweries until we saw a tweet by a brewer out of town who complained about the shutdown of the TTB.

The TTB (Tax and Trade Bureau) is the government agency that handles almost everything related to breweries, and many other businesses, at the federal level. It has the greatest impact on breweries that package and forthcoming breweries, which of course means it has an impact all around New Mexico. To figure out just what that impact has been, I emailed two people who have extensive knowledge of such affairs, NM Brewers Guild executive director John Gozigian and La Cumbre president/master brewer Jeff Erway.

“The shutdown affects breweries in planning with pending brewer’s notices and existing breweries with label approval applications in the pipeline,” John explained. “Brewer’s notices (federal brewers permit) and COLAs (certificates of label approval) are both issued by the TTB, which is a federal agency.”

That is not good news for breweries in planning.

“Any federal brewers notice is in limbo right now and they will be set back by this,” Jeff wrote.

It also has a negative impact on packaging breweries such as La Cumbre.

“If a beer is to be sent out of state, it needs a COLA and those are also in limbo,” Jeff wrote. “We are having to hold on shipping a few beers to AZ and CO specifically because of this shutdown.”

To sum it up: The shutdown is bad for breweries. Just like it is for everything else.

New breweries update

Originally, we were just going to lead Beer Notes with this list, but obviously events in Washington are putting all of these places on hold, to some degree. Nonetheless, here is every brewery with either a pending state small brewer license or an active one that is not yet open. Here are the breweries projected to open in the ABQ metro area in 2019. We realize there are probably more than these, but no pending license means we will not include it yet.

  • Black Snout Brewhouse (pending): We already took a tour of this new brewery located in a shopping center on the southeast corner of Menaul and Juan Tabo. The brewery had hoped to be open by the end of the month, but that seems unlikely now.
  • BLUE/Gang of Four (pending): This very small brewery is set to open on Broadway next to the Exhibit 208 gallery, just south of Gold.
  • Brew Lab 101 (pending): The next brewery to open in Rio Rancho is moving along. Located on Southern near Unser, its owner has already contacted us and we are in the process of setting up our first visit/interview.
  • Brewstillery (active): We still have no info about this brewery/distillery combo that is set to open somewhere in the 87106 zip code (physical addresses are not provided beyond zip codes, FYI), or how it relates to the next entry.
  • Differential (pending): Listed as owned by Brewstillery, we do not know how this entry, located in the same zip code, differs from the other.
  • Colonia/San Mateo Beer Co. (pending): It appears as though this new brewery will move into the current Bosque Brewing location on San Mateo when that is relocated to the forthcoming Open Space Project. In other words, it seems to be a long ways off.
  • Ex Novo Brewing (pending): We just toured this forthcoming brewery in Corrales.
  • Looking Glass Spirits & Long Lost Brewing (pending): The newest addition to the list, we have been contacted by one of the owners and are working on setting up an interview time. It will be located somewhere in the downtown area.

Red River was not the last new brewery to open in the outskirts of New Mexico in 2018, and more are on the way in 2019.

2018 saw a lot of new breweries open up across the state, well outside the Albuquerque/Santa Fe corridor. Among the many were Blu Dragonfly in Cimarron, Bonito Valley in Lincoln, Cloudcroft Brewing, Hopscotch Brewing in Artesia, Red River Brewing, and Second Alarm Brewhouse in Jemez Springs. There are still a few more coming down the pipeline.

  • B3-BBQ, Burgers and Beer (pending): This Las Vegas-based restaurant is already open. We do not know if its owners plan to actually brew beer, or if they are going to use the license to keep guest taps flowing.
  • 575 Brewing (pending): Alamogordo is getting its first brewery in many years, but we do not know the exact location or its current progress.
  • Icebox Brewing (active): The newest Las Cruces brewery will be located on Picacho Avenue, east of Picacho Peak Brewing and basically due west of High Desert. No opening date has been announced.
  • Leaf & Hive (active): The latest addition to the Santa Fe scene has a soft opening scheduled for this Saturday.
  • Public House 28 (pending): We know nothing beyond the name for this brewery in Anthony, on the Texas border.
  • Rail Brewery (pending): This Santa Fe project for the Railyards area has been pending for a long time now. We do not know its status.
  • Santa Fe Spirits (pending): The existing distillery is either going to start making beer, or it just wants to be able to sell beer.

New taprooms update

Yes, 2018 was basically the year of the off-site taproom, but there are still more on the way. Someday, every commercial space in the state will be a taproom. (Hey, we can dream, right?) All of these are pending licenses.

  • Boxing Bear on Central: We already wrote about the brewery taking over the former 5 Star Burgers space on West Central.
  • Desert Valley: There are two pending licenses for DV taprooms, one located in the 87110 zip code, and the other in 87111. It is certainly ambitious, though not unprecedented, to open two taprooms at once.
  • Enchanted Circle ABQ: The Angel Fire-based brewery is opening a taproom in the shopping center on the northwest corner of San Mateo and Osuna.
  • Nexus Blue Smokehouse and Taproom: The long-awaited BBQ version of Nexus is getting closer to finally opening on Broadway south of Cesar Chavez. We will get more details in our forthcoming Look Back/Look Ahead Series on Nexus.
  • Quarter Celtic on Juan Tabo: We already wrote about the first off-site location, which will be on the west side of the road between Indian School and Menaul.
  • Red Door Clovis: Once again, we already wrote about the first bowling alley-based taproom, which will also be the first craft beer-specific place in the eastern town.
  • Starr Brothers Alehouse: This one has been pending for quite a while now, so we do not know if it is still happening or not. If it does, it will be somewhere near UNM.
  • Tall Pines Beer and Wine Garden Alamogordo: The Ruidoso-based small brewery is opening a second location down the mountain.

Got info on any of these pending breweries or taprooms, or any we missed? Drop us a line at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com.

A good deed note

Tractor has named the four nonprofits for its annual Beer for a Better Burque (BBB) program. The New Mexico Gay Men’s Chorus, New Mexico Horse Rescue at Walkin N Circles Ranch, Three Sisters Kitchen, and Albuquerque Area Firefighters Random Acts will be the beneficiaries for 2019. There will be special BBB nights on Tuesdays throughout the year where patrons can donate, plus special quarterly beer releases for each nonprofit sees $1 donated per pint, and other special themed events. You can donate at all four Tractor locations.

Good on ya, Tractor.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Greetings, New Mexico craft beer lovers. Stoutmeister here with The Week Ahead in Beer. This column covers all the breweries in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, with Santa Fe’s eight breweries, one in Los Alamos, one in Moriarty, and one in Red River also joining the party.

Stoutmeister puts on his serious face to handle The Week Ahead in Beer.

Stoutmeister puts on his serious face to handle The Week Ahead in Beer.

Happy New Year, everyone! Sick of the snow yet? As we all dream of warmer days, one of our local breweries and one of our future local breweries are teaming up with a nifty little collaboration beer that will be released Friday. Ex Novo Brewing of Portland, Oregon, which is opening a new production brewery in Corrales, the hometown of owner Joel Gregory, dispatched its brewer to Bow and Arrow recently to create Southwest x Northwest Hazy IPA. Loaded with Citra and Simcoe hops, this beer will chase the winter doldrums away, one pint at a time (or so we hope). The tapping begins at 3 p.m. on Friday, by which point at least part of this city should be thawed. Right?

On the new beer front this week, there are a only few options to check out, as one might expect after the holidays. Kaktus goes big with Barleywine and Imperial Stout. Marble hits all the right malty notes with Dupy’s Dunkel, Barrel-Aged Quadruple (Downtown only), and T. Gary Stout on nitro, which is named for president/brewmaster Ted Rice. Nexus brings back Bird of Prey IPA. Turtle Mountain busts out some Deep Depravity (Barleywine), as well as Tiempo Mañana (IPL), and Stockholm Syndrome (Baltic Porter) is on deck.

Up in Santa Fe, HoneyMoon adds a new kombucha, Persephone.

Continue reading for all the news that is fit to blog for the week of December 31.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

If you’ve had trouble in the past finding the turn off for Ale Republic, well, now you have no excuse for missing it.

Driving north on Highway 14 in the east mountains, I immediately noticed a change in front of Ale Republic, my destination for this entry in our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series. Instead of turning right by the post office into a nondescript entrance, there is now a bright turquoise grain hopper with a brewery sign, just south of the other entrance, announcing the new way to approach the building.

Entering using this access presents the building head-on rather than from the side, which is much more impressive. Two and a half years after Ale Republic’s opening, I have seen several changes, and this was only the first change just since my last visit a few months ago. There is now a covered patio in the front, with plans to add gas heaters. On the north side of the building, a stage is taking shape for live music outside. It will be covered in the same corrugated metal roof style as the patio.

Well, look at that, a food menu at Ale Republic!

The biggest news, however, is the addition of an on-site kitchen. I was excited to be able to grab lunch there with my beer, so I ordered a Cubano sandwich (with house-picked jalapenos added; a perfect compliment suggested by our “beerista”) and a cup of green chile chicken stew. Both items were outstanding. The only nitpick I can even bring up is that the side pickle was not very pickled compared to the jalapenos, making it taste a little like a side of cucumber. A very small slight.

Greta, our beerista, told us that in the front of house, Ale Republic is showcasing a featured artist each month, with an art show each first Friday. Anyone who is interested can submit their work. The art really warms up the taproom space and helps connect the brewery to the community.

The taproom is a cozy place.

Business partners Patrick Johnson and Zach Gould sat down with me to discuss these new improvements and what they foresee happening in the upcoming year. They said they have pushed expansion pretty rapidly on a shoestring budget. They have decided not to take on any investors, so they do what they can when they can. This week sometime, they are expecting another brand-new arrival (Patrick is a new dad, as well). A wood-fired pizza oven will be installed by the new year. If the rest of the food is any indication, this will be a great reason to make the short drive from town.

Zach said he is hoping to do special bottle releases on a regular basis this coming year. Also, they hope to get some taps going in Albuquerque. The addition of new brewing space in the building behind the taproom, and quite a few new fermenters, will help Ale Republic accomplish those goals. Patrick and the brewing team are still using a 3-barrel system, but can turn out the beer faster with their additional equipment. The installation of a tankless water heater provided the ability to almost constantly brew without needing a hot liquor tank. They are brewing two-to-three times per week and are keeping more styles available on tap. Hopefully, in 2019, they will move to a 10-barrel system, they said.

Patrick has a little more room to play in these days.

The large amount of space and high ceilings in the new building will allow for larger tanks, and Patrick said they are in the market to purchase some. I also asked him about the water at their location, because I know it is a big issue for some east mountain businesses. Patrick said it used to be an issue for them as well, but they changed the location for well extraction, and their particular source is perfect. One hundred yards away the water is not good, Patrick said. At Ale Republic, it comes straight out of the well pretty much pH neutral. It is always being tested and does not need to be treated. As far as they know, they are the only ones using untreated water right from the ground.

Ale Republic plans to launch its 2019 music series with a big party on 4/20. Yes, it is very intentional. It falls on a weekend this year, so it is just perfect. When they acquired the back building, they moved the lot line quite a bit and the property is much more spacious. We walked most of the property. Long-term plans include a beer garden back there in the next few years. It will be great because there are mountains and hills on all sides.

Is this not a reasonable place to park?

If you thought you knew Ale Republic, you might want to come back for the expanded beer selection and the thoughtful menu from the new kitchen. There is a chance for snow this week, something that turns the already lovely east mountains into a magical destination.

Wintry cheers!

— AmyO

Greetings, New Mexico craft beer lovers. Stoutmeister here with The Week Ahead in Beer. This column covers all the breweries in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, with Santa Fe’s eight breweries, one in Los Alamos, one in Moriarty, and one in Red River also joining the party.

Stoutmeister puts on his serious face to handle The Week Ahead in Beer.

Stoutmeister puts on his serious face to handle The Week Ahead in Beer.

This coming May 3, the day before my birthday (natch), Slayer will rain a final metal onslaught upon Albuquerque, with Amon Amarth, Lamb of God, and Cannibal Corpse (we hope) in tow. As the metal giants head into a well-earned retirement, the Crew had some advance knowledge of their tour stopping here, so we have planned out a tribute well in advance. Of course, if we are sharing it here, it means a tribute in the form of beer. In collaboration with our good friends at Red Door, this Friday marks the arrival of Raining Blood, an imperial red ale created with an obscene amount of hops. Franz Solo and head brewer Matt Meier designed this recipe to get us all through this season in the abyss. Put together your war ensemble, get in touch with your inner skeletons of society, and meet us south of heaven. Just don’t forget your dead skin mask!

On the new beer front this week, there are a only few options to check out, as one might expect between the holidays. Bow & Arrow is putting Cosmic Arrow Brett Saison in bottles this Friday. Boxing Bear brings back an old favorite in Standing 8 Stout, while Murkules double dry-hopped hazy DIPA makes its debut. Marble dreams of warmer days with American Pilsner. Nexus unveils its version of a Brut IPA, while this week in the King’s Keg Series, a special new small-batch beer available only at the brewery, is Pomegranate Pop-Tart. Rio Bravo hopes to have a fresh batch of Blurred Lines New England-style IPA on tap early next week. Sidetrack listened to our calls for more Buzz Bomb with, well, you guessed it.

Up in Santa Fe, things are quiet this week.

Continue reading for all the news that is fit to blog for the week of December 24.

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

It is almost a Merry Christmas for craft beer lovers living in Corrales. They can look to the heart of the village and see their own craft brewery rising up.

Ex Novo Brewing has gone from concept to almost-completed structure at 4895 Corrales Road. The 10,000 square-foot production brewery has taken shape in a lot on the west side of the street, across from the fire station and Corrales Bistro Brewery.

This will be the second Ex Novo, as the original is in Portland, Oregon. Owner Joel Gregory, however, is a Corrales native, and he wanted to bring his brewery home. Joel invited me to visit the construction site on Thursday afternoon.

“The last time we talked, all I had was dirt,” Joel said, referring to our first interview last year over beers at Steel Bender. “Now look at it.”

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Whether in Denver at the Great American Beer Festival, or in Santa Fe at the State Legislature, or in Albuquerque at multiple events, Brewers Guild executive director John Gozigian is one of the hardest working people in our local scene.

New Mexico Brewers Guild executive director John Gozigian and the board of directors had a busy, but fairly by-the-numbers year in 2018. That figures to change a lot in 2019, both in terms of events and at the legislative session in Santa Fe.

I sat down with John over lunch at Nexus last week to recap how the past year went and what is to come when the calendar flips in a few weeks for our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series. While the more immediate changes with events will affect the beer-loving crowd more right away, the more lasting changes for the entire industry will come when the state legislature meets in January.

“It’s going to be a busy session for us,” John said. “We’ve had an economic turnaround in the state, where our state government is not starved for funding. (That) means that we can go after some of the issues that have been in our back pocket for many years that it just had not been an opportune time to address.”

The first change the breweries hope to make is in the state excise tax. New Mexico breweries currently pay more than their counterparts in any other neighboring state, save for Utah. The current excise tax setup will end in 2023, but the Guild hopes to negotiate new terms now.

“We’d like to make that permanent so our small breweries can continue to benefit from a lower excise tax rate that allows them to grow,” John said, “And, it’s also a tax rate that’s in line with our surrounding states, as opposed to being double, or triple, or quadruple what our counterparts pay. So that’s on the agenda.”

A lower tax will allow the breweries to continue to grow, add more staff, and continue to make what is currently a sizable, positive economic impact upon the state. There are no guarantees, however, that it will pass in this session, even with state revenues in the black for the first time in a long time.

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It was another big, busy year for Tractor Brewing.

It would be perfectly understandable for everyone at Tractor Brewing to just take it easy in the coming year. After a year that saw so many new developments it was almost hard to recall every single one, no one could blame the staff if they just decided that they could rest on their laurels. That will not happen, of course, because Tractor will always continue to push forward.

Brewmaster/co-owner David Hargis and marketing and events director Jeremy Kinter joined me for a lengthy recap of all that happened in 2018, and what is to come in 2019.

“There’s 2018, it was a busy year,” David said. “Moving forward for us in 2019, we want to continue to innovate and get new things out there. But, I think a lot of effort is going to be taken in looking at how we do things, how we can always do them better, and taking a moment to just reflect on how big 2018 was, and continue to execute that well. From putting the right people in place, to finding out what different people’s skills are.”

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