Posts Tagged ‘Colfax Ale Cellar’

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Raise ’em high to celebrate the season!

In mid-October, in the mountains of northern New Mexico, a certain familiar sound can be heard through the little valley of Red River. It’s not the rustling of the wind through glimmering gold, fresh-changed aspens, nor the honking of the horns of people-packed caravans. It’s the chorus of clinking glasses and the raising of toasts. It’s the deep brass bellowing of an Oom-pah band that lets us know that Oktoberfest has once again returned, and has completely transformed this sleepy Alps-esque village into a one-of-a-kind experience that will keep you coming back for more, time and time again.

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The weather was decidedly warm for this year’s event.

Though it is worth the travel for the changing leaves alone, just a brief but beautiful stop along the Enchanted Circle, Red River is much more than that. And, beyond the picturesque views, the many outdoor activities, and the deer that will walk right up to you without batting an eye or flicking an ear, there’s beer, and plenty of it here.

In the past few years I’ve been attending the festival, there were only about five breweries and about the same count for wineries. This year, however, there were far more breweries than I’ve ever seen at this event, making it more of a brewfest than I was expecting. I don’t even believe that I got a final count.

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The sun did not deter the crowd.

Set in Brandonburg Park, as well as the Red River Conference Center just behind, there was much ground to cover, and I’m sure we didn’t make it to every brewery in attendance, so I apologize if a brewery was there and didn’t get a mention. There’s only so much time and so many sampler tickets, and so much room after a delicious brat with sauerkraut.

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A man cannot live off beer alone.

The Red River Oktoberfest veteran breweries included neighbors Comanche Creek and Enchanted Circle, plus Santa Fe Brewing. I didn’t see Taos Mesa, Eske’s, or Abbey Brewing, but I’m sure they were representing somewhere.

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One of the great partnerships of our state.

New to Red River’s Oktoberfest this year (to my knowledge) were The 377, Bombs Away Beer Co., Lost Hiker from Ruidoso, Palmer Brewery & Left Turn Distillery, Rio Bravo Brewing, Starr Brothers Brewing, and the new hometown heroes, Red River Brewing Company, plus my dark horse of the festival, Colfax Ale Cellar.

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Rio Bravo brought the beer and the merch.

While I had some great beers from many of the breweries (very few bad ones), my favorites were fun, exciting, in some cases surprising, and in some cases not surprising at all. My picks are as follows:

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What else can I say? “Dammit, Dave.” Ha!

Santa Fe Brewing’s Pepe Loco: To me, it’s a perfect recipe for a Mexican Lager. While it may seem somewhat out of season, it was perfectly refreshing in the unusually warm weather. I wouldn’t be surprised if that limited beer finds its way into cans some time soon.

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Comanche Creek served up a winner!

Comanche Creek brewed up an Oktoberfest that stood out for all the right reasons.

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Ginger Beer from The 377 FTW!

The 377 made the first Ginger Beer that I’ve ever really enjoyed. It reminded me of a Ginger Ale, and then I thought, wait … is the beer made after the soda, or is the soda made after the beer? Either way, wow! Excellent stuff! Cheers!

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Enchanted Circle closes out the festival with smiles.

Enchanted Circle is doing some great things with their beers these days, but they get my Gold Medal for best name: Glory Hole IPA. That’s all I’ll say about that.

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That’s one hefty pour of bronze medal-winning Lampshade Porter!

Starr Brothers brought their GABF bronze medal-winning, heavy-hitting Lampshade Porter, which was just a joy to drink. Luckily that’s on tap at their brewery, year-round, so head in anytime and rent that blockbuster hit.

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Red River Brewing head brewer Chris Calhoun raises a toast.

Special mentions go to Lost Hiker and Red River Brewing Company. I don’t think they make a bad beer between them, and certainly deserve a special trip to see them in their beautiful towns.

My “Best of the Fest” award goes to Colfax Ale Cellar, up in Raton. They had so many wonderful, interesting, and creative (yet perfectly executed) beers, on draft and in bottles.

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Brewmaster Jim Stearns stands beside his wife Karen Stearns and brewdog Pippen, as well as their excellent beer selection.

“The Red River Oktoberfest was our first time at that event,” said head brewer and owner Jim Stearns in a follow-up email. “We brewed three lagers specifically for that event. We sold very little. Unfortunately, we probably sold less than 10 percent of what breweries who were located outside sold, but we weren’t alone in that position along with Starr Bros, 377 and Rio Bravo Brewing Co.”

In my opinion, I think that’s because no one knew there was beer in the conference center. That kind of thing is tough to deal with as a former brewery event coordinator. The struggle is real. At least Colfax brought enough interesting beers to gain some new fans.

Maxwell Pils (5% ABV) — an international pilsner style, very mildly hopped

Fest Lager (4.6% ABV) — a Vienna-style amber lager, also very mildly hopped

Yülbock (5.25% ABV) — a rauchbier made with 20-percent beech-smoked malt, also mildly hopped

Karaiba (3.3% ABV) — a Berliner White ale, lightly sour, with essence of passion fruit and mango, no hops

In 22-ounce bottles:

Double Tipple (8.7% ABV) a blended double stout with a portion aged in rye whiskey barrels

Chicorica (8.3% ABV) — a strong golden ale brewed with trappist ale yeast

La Belle Otéro (6.5% ABV) — classic Wallonian saison ale, dry and peppery

Banks of Orkney (8.2% ABV) — a strong Scotch ale, light toffee and bread pudding

I have no hesitation in saying that they are a must visit on the road to or from Denver. Forget Colorado Springs or Pueblo and stop there instead for lunch and enjoy something that will surprise you. Colfax Ale Cellar should be on everyone’s radar this year and in the years to come.

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And one Double Tipple for the Dark Side, please!

The Colfax Ale Cellar taproom was recently closed due to inclement weather, as apparently winter has come early. For that, I blame the Starks, Target, and Kohls.

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Blue Corn head brewer Paul Mallory “Captains” to another great festival.

It was another great festival of beer and food in the mountains. I only wish folks had known there was a brew fest attached to the usual festivities. I believe it’s now my job to reach out to the organizers to get the word out. I was certainly surprised to find a whole group of new vendors/breweries in the conference center, in which there had never been before. But, if you missed them this time, or missed the festival this time around, there’s always next year and next time.

Until we meet again, Red River! For now, I will be counting the days until one of my favorite festivals rolls back through town. I should probably book my cabin now to be safe. To another unforgettable Oktoberfest in the mountains!

Prost!

— Luke

 

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For more #CraftBeer info, and @nmdarksidebc news, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro. Untappd: SantaFeLuke. My birthday is today (Thursday). You know what to do! I’m kidding.

There are a whole lot of Oktoberfest-style beers on tap around the metro area right now.

A whopping five more Oktoberfest-style beers went on tap in the Albuquerque metro area last week, joining multiple marzens that have already been on tap for a while. With so many wonderful lagers available, I just had to get out there and try as many as possible. My plan totally worked for two days, until a combination of sports (NHL openers and MLB playoffs mostly) and the need to watch season three of The Expanse caused me to fall behind. One of these years I will get to them all.

Anyway, my first three stops were Sidetrack, Boese Brothers, and Marble. I rather enjoyed Sidetrack’s offering, which did not overdo the sweetness. It was a solid, crushable beer, befitting the laid-back atmosphere of the pub. The Boese Brothers offering had been on tap for a while now. It did not quite have the flavor impact I had hoped for, but age may have been a factor. As for Marble, it was less of a marzen and more of a straight German lager. It is still a quality beer, as one would expect from brewmaster Josh Trujillo. I also got to try the Kottbusser collaboration beer, which was sweet yet bready, and the Jimmy Bock, a chewy little tribute to Shiner Bock.

Day two of the Oktober-quest took me to Toltec for lunch a pint of another tasty offering. I would like to try it side-by-side with Sidetrack, as both had many of the same tasty qualities. My final stop was at Bosque on the way home. Again, it was a bit lighter lager than the more copper-colored marzens of yore, but it was again a clean, balanced beer. A few years ago, the Oktoberfests had almost disappeared from taps in favor of the pumpkin beer fad, but thankfully that passed and now we are blessed with multiple marzens and lagers.

What is your favorite Oktoberfest on tap this fall? Yes, you can still include some from a few weeks back, like Santa Fe and La Cumbre.

Now for the rest of the Crew’s adventures from the past weekend.

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Red River was just as glorious as the pictures make it look.

Fall was suddenly and dramatically in the air recently as Dave and I trekked up north to visit some breweries we have been trying to visit for some time. We welcomed the cooler air and monsoonal rains as we made our way around arguably the most beautiful area of the state. Our plan was overly ambitious, and we knew that we were not going to get to everything we wanted to see with just one overnight stay in Taos. Sadly, some of our curiosity stays with us as we wait for another time, another adventure.

We did have a main goal, a must-do if you will. Having seen the amazing pictures online of Red River Brewing Company, we decided that would be our primary destination. If nothing else, we were bound and determined to make it to the brewery that was able to win the first round with its maiden entry into the NM IPA Challenge. An overall fourth place finish was also quite impressive.

Red River has one of the best atmospheres for a brewery in the state.

We were blown away. It’s even much, much nicer in person. Dave declared it the nicest brewery atmosphere in all of New Mexico and Arizona. We tried the winning entry, Bad Medicine DIPA. While not our style, it was easy to see why it impressed. Our pick of the sampler we ordered was the Amarillo SMASH.

When I was researching what route we wanted to take, I was looking at Google Maps and found something very interesting. A roadhouse-y kind of dive bar/beer hall in the middle of the northeastern part of the state. I guess technically it’s in Maxwell, but there is not much near there, for sure. Due to its name, I was fixated on getting there. The online reviews are great and it’s a 15-minute drive from Cimarron. The place, my friends, is Colfax Tavern & Diner at Cold Beer New Mexico. Let that sink in. Cold Beer New Mexico. Who the hell knew?

One of the more unique beer bars in the state can be found near Maxwell.

I saw a beer koozie on their website that I knew I needed to have. I bought one, so I am now a very proud owner. Speaking of owners, the owners of this place are incredibly welcoming. I even heard them telling another customer they had someone in there from Australia recently. I would be remiss if I did not mention that they have their “own” beer on tap — “Cold Beer.” But, it’s brewed by Full Sail in Oregon. The owner said nobody in New Mexico wanted to brew it for them. I am putting out the call, some Northern New Mexico brewery should step up and brew them a beer. This place is awesome. In fact, my personal opinion is (of course I do not know the possible reasons why this has not happened) that Colfax Ale Cellar in Raton should get together with them on this. They are neighbors, and Colfax is in the name, after all. Although we didn’t make it as far as Raton, I had one of their beers in Cimarron, a golden ale, and it was outstanding.

The beer isn’t quite ready yet, but the guest taps and the barbecue are reason enough to visit Blu Dragonfly in Cimarron.

I had the Colfax Rabbit Chaser Golden while having lunch at Blu Dragonfly Brewing and Smokehouse in Cimarron. Blu Dragonfly does not have its own beer on tap yet, but should have it on by Oktoberfest. The barbecue was outstanding, and that golden ale had just enough kick and a clean finish to cut through the richness of all the meat. I must admit to basically inhaling the mac and cheese as well …

Owner Colin is very civic minded. That day, Blu Dragonfly was welcoming all the bicycle racers in the race they organized with Philmont Scout Ranch. It was fun to cheer each racer as they came to the finish line and grabbed a much deserved beer (the riders were over 21, of course). Colin then surprised me by giving me one of their awesome pint glasses I was coveting. Thanks, Colin!

Don’t forget about Enchanted Circle in Angel Fire.

We took a different route on our way back to Taos and finally stopped at Enchanted Circle Brewing Company in Angel Fire. I forgot how beautiful that town is because I haven’t been there in forever. The Nice Day IPA was aptly named. We watched a massive rainstorm sweep through (the third or fourth of our trip already) and toasted to Zeus for bringing the weather.

It was time to get back to Taos and get settled into our hotel. We made one final trek that night to the Taos Mesa Brewing Tap Room near the plaza. It was our first trip to this location, though we have been to the Mothership outside of town. It is fantastic and not to be missed when in in Taos.

The Taos (Mesa) Tap Room in the heart of town is definitely worth the visit.

The next day, we made a few stops in Santa Fe on our way home to visit places that we cannot easily get to when we take the train. That day probably deserves its own story so I will save that for some other time.

Suffice it to say, it’s not just the weather that is getting cooler up north. The brew scene is as well. We cannot wait to get back up there to revisit our new favorites and visit the ones we missed.

Cheers!

— AmyO

Party time with Great Divide in a couple weeks!

Lots of stuff can fall through the cracks as far as beer news goes, especially when an editor goes on a road trip, so here is pretty much everything I know we missed over the last couple weeks.

Anniversaries and grand openings and soft openings

Today (Friday) is going to be a busy one. First up, Chile Line Brewing is celebrating the official grand opening of its new taproom, which is right next to Pizzeria Da Lino, at 204 N. Guadalupe St. in Santa Fe. There will be live music, special food samples, and of course plenty of beer starting at 4 p.m.

Duel Brewing has been celebrating its fourth anniversary all week long in Santa Fe. The party comes to Albuquerque tonight at 8 p.m. James Whiton will bring his solo loop bass, with a number of burlesque dancers performing. All sours will be $1 off all night.

Also, a reader has informed us that Colfax Ale Cellars in Raton will be quietly having a soft opening. New Mexico’s northernmost brewery had hoped to open last fall, but hit a few more bumps in the road. At last, they will open today at 3 p.m. The Run to Raton Bike Rally & Car Show is also in town, so a lot of the motels are already booked. Take note if you plan to drive up, you will have to designate a driver. The grand opening date will be announced soon.

Exclusive beers en route

Our buddy Thomas DeCaro, now representing Great Divide, is bringing some special new IPAs to town for a two-night tapping at two locations. They will happen at Sister Bar on August 4 at 5 p.m., and then at Nob Hill Bar & Grill the following night. The beers en route are Hazy, a New England-style IPA, Tea Ski IPA, brewed with black tea, and All the Buzz Words, a special collaboration with Weldworks. ABW is described as a “kettle sour session New England-style IPA.” It debuted back at the brewery in Denver on July 1.

Boxing Bear to the Heights

We are working on a time to go more in-depth on this, but yes, it appears that Boxing Bear is the brewery targeted to move into the forthcoming taproom space being built at the new Snow Heights Promenade at Eubank and Menaul. Head brewer Justin Hamilton pretty much confirmed it to the Albuquerque Journal. That’s official enough for us.

More taprooms and breweries?

That mystery taproom coming to Menaul just east of Louisiana has now been confirmed as Broken Trail, which will have beer and spirits available (unlike just spirits at Green Jeans). Owner Matt Simonds asked us to keep quiet until it was more official, but the word got out and now we can say, yeah, that’s Broken Trail.

Elsewhere, Hollow Spirits, the new venture from former Red Door co-owner Frank Holloway, has a pending small brewer license as well. Taking a similar path to Broken Trail is not a bad idea.

Down south, Lost Hiker Brewing has a pending license as well. It will be located in Ruidoso Downs. That mountainous region also has the Glencoe Distillery and Brewery coming east of Ruidoso, and Switchback Brewery in Cloudcroft. Unlike the others, Lost Hiker does have a Facebook page so everyone can keep track of the progress.

* * * * *

That is all the news we missed (that we know of). As always, if you know anything you feel we and the craft beer community should know, drop us a line via social media or at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

 

We gotta admit, Dialogue Brewing just looks like it will be another cool place to hang out. (Photo courtesy of Dialogue Brewing)

We gotta admit, Dialogue Brewing just looks like it will be another cool place to hang out. (Photo courtesy of Dialogue Brewing)

We have been doing our best to keep track of all the forthcoming breweries around town. Recently, we have been lucky to get first-hand updates on the progress of Steel Bender Brewyard and Colfax Ale Cellar in Raton. In addition, Ale Republic has opened in Cedar Crest and Rowley Farmhouse Ales is now open in Santa Fe. There are still a few that remain, which we have divided into three categories as per the status of their application for a small brewer license from the State of New Mexico.

Approved licenses

In addition to the aforementioned Colfax Ale Cellar, the following breweries are good to go as far as the State is concerned, all located in Albuquerque — Dialogue Brewing, Flix Brewhouse, and Hops Brewery.

Dialogue, located on 1st Street and Kinley (just five blocks north of Marble), is the furthest along of the group. Their Facebook page is a great way to keep up to date on their progress. They appear to have finished the buildout and have begun brewing their first beer(s). We hope to get over there, possibly next week at the earliest, and get you all the final scoop.

Come on, Flix construction crew, get it ready for Rogue One! (Photo courtesy of Flix Brewhouse)

Come on, Flix construction crew, get it ready for Rogue One! (Photo courtesy of Flix Brewhouse)

Construction is continuing at Flix, the movie theater with its own brewery, located on the West Side at Coors and La Orilla (two lights north of Montano). They are still projecting to open by the end of the year, with the aim of being ready in time for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in December. We do not know who the brewer will be, or what beers they will serve (word is they serve house beers and other local brews at their other locations around the country). Hopefully they reach out to us in the near future so we can fill in the blanks.

As for Hops Brewery, well, the last we heard in an Albuquerque Journal article back in April was that it was planning to open in Nob Hill over the summer. Well, we are past Labor Day and there is still no sign they are opening. Hops still has zero online presence — no website, no social media of any kind — so it has been tough to learn much more about them.

Colfax said they were hoping to be open by the time the Crew is driving to and from the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Oct. 6-8. The last set of pictures posted at the end of August on their Facebook page showed the brewing area is nearly complete as far as construction goes, but they still have to start making beer. We will try to stop by regardless, probably on the way back if Brandon goes through with his insane “let’s leave at 4 a.m.” plan for the 6th.

Pending licenses

These breweries are at different stages in the process, but all still await their licenses. They are Bombs Away Beer Co., Drafty Kilt, The 377 Brewery, Truth or Consequences Brewing, and the aforementioned Steel Bender Brewyard. All but TorC are located in Albuquerque.

We will be visiting next week! (Image courtesy Drafty Kilt Brewing)

We will be visiting next week! (Image courtesy Drafty Kilt Brewing)

Drafty Kilt is the furthest along of that group. How far? Brewer/owner Mike Campbell, formerly of Cazuela’s and Tractor, called me Thursday and said they are brewing their first beer next week. I will of course be heading over there to check out the place, while also getting some info on the old days from Mike for that ABQ beer history book I am writing. Drafty Kilt is located at 4814 Hardware Dr. NE. Hardware runs north-south between McLeod and Lumber, just west of San Mateo. Lumber is the street you would turn down to go to the Movies 8 for $1 flicks on the weekend.

At last check with brewer Lyna Waggoner, The 377 is still a ways away. The brewery, located near Yale and Gibson, is still in the process of buildout while awaiting all the necessary licenses and permits. They did have some beers ready for the Mountain West Brew Fest last weekend. Alas, none of the Crew was able to make it up to Bernalillo to sample those.

Now that is a distinctive logo. (Image courtesy of Truth or Consequences Brewing)

Now that is a distinctive logo. (Image courtesy of Truth or Consequences Brewing)

TorC Brewing is a long ways off, but the owners remain hopeful it will not take too long to get things ready once the various state, federal, and local permits come through. We are in contact with them on Facebook, so we should be receiving updates when they have something to share.

As for Bombs Away, well, we still have nothing but a name and a vague idea of where they might be located in zip code 87123. That area is bordered to the west by Wyoming, north by Lomas, east by the Sandia Mountains, and south by Kirtland Air Force Base. Considering the name, we expect it may be located either close to the base or near the Four Hills community. If anyone out there knows anything about Bombs Away, please contact us.

Still just rumors

Things are fairly quiet out there as far as breweries that are pure rumors go. Among the ones we have heard of lately, there is another looking to open in Cedar Crest, just down Highway 14 from Ale Republic. At least a couple people spotted a mention in a local newsletter about a brewery opening somewhere near the Greenside Cafe and Triangle Grocery, which would actually put it within walking distance of Ale Republic. This could be the rumored Bare Bones Brewery, which was said to be opening down in Edgewood before it allegedly eyed a new spot north of I-40.

Another still on the watch list is Lone Sun Brewing, which has a sign up along the Paseo del Norte frontage road, about halfway between Jefferson and Edith. So far, though, it is just a coming soon sign, nothing more.

There are no other projects that we have heard of, but of course, we are always looking for any information. If you know about any of the breweries listed above or about some others in the works that we do not know about, please get in touch with us at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com or you can contact us via direct message on Facebook or Twitter.

Until then, we will just have to be content with all of our existing, award-winning breweries.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Rejoice, Raton! You are getting a brewery soon.

Rejoice, Raton! You are getting a brewery soon. (Photo courtesy of Colfax Ale Cellar)

Every now and again, amid the spam and the weirder information requests, the Crew gets an email of some value. Sometimes it can be a small tip, other times it can be a full-on news item. We received one of the latter at the end of last week, a welcome update to a brewery project that has been in the works for some time.

Raton is one of those small freeway towns that we have all passed through at one point or another heading towards or coming back from Colorado. Other than a few gas stations or a fast food joint or two, there has never been much reason to stop there. That will be changing in the near future with the arrival of the Colfax Ale Cellar. Thanks to Karim, a longtime friend of the Crew, we got in touch with brewer Jim Stearns, who will also be the owner, along with his wife. Jim has prior experience at Hallenbrick Brewery before it closed a few years back, followed by a stint at Nexus while he was going through the American Brewers Guild program.

Jim sent us an introductory email, explaining his entire project. Rather than paraphrase or summarize it, here is the entirety of what he had to say about his forthcoming brewery.

“We moved to Raton from Albuquerque in December 2014 after purchasing a building on Main Street in the historic downtown area. Raton is an interesting old place with some history that overlaps that of central New Mexico, but because of its position where the high plains meet the mountains, the area is best known for cattle trails, wagon trains, Buffalo Bill, and Annie Oakley, and an endless list of outlaws, scoundrels, and heroes, haunting vistas, supreme swaths of well preserved montane habitat, ranch lands where Comanche, Kiowa, Ute and Apache hunted and clashed with New Mexicans and each other before and during the westward expansion of the 1850s-90s.

“By the time Raton was purchased from the Maxwell Land Grant in the 1870s, it had served as a gateway along the Raton Pass of the Santa Fe Trail. So, like that area of Santa Fe surrounding the Capitol building, many of the fine old homes of downtown Raton were built at a time when coal and railroads ruled the economic expansion.

“I told Karim that to really explain our brewery requires the curious to visit this place and see this old building. I would expect 30 percent of New Mexicans would say they know and have visited Raton, but stopping at the McDonalds off I-25 doesn’t really count. Probably 9.5 out of 10 New Mexicans don’t know what we have here. Each new visitor to our town is surprised. I would like to exploit that factor of the unknown.

“The City of Raton and various utility agents have all welcomed our project here with open arms and assistance. Our aim is to return their generosity of spirit by drawing more visitors to the area, and so it will be a parallel aim of mine to market our products solely within Colfax County, which receives many thousands of tourists in all four seasons.

“If you’ve ever had the good fortune to visit Cantillon in Brussels, Belgium, you would recognize some of what we’ll be doing here. Our 7-barrel brewery will be located in a 7,000-square-foot cellar of our building. About 2,500 square feet of space will be kept at 50 degrees Fahrenheit to cellar bottled barrel-aged and traditionally soured ales. Over time, our cellar stock of bottle-conditioned gems will grow and develop, and that’s what we hope to serve the public demand. But, the tavern will be located on the ground floor and will serve three standard house ales (Stout, Golden Ale, and Pale Ale) as well as up to three taps of seasonals to allow a variety of strong ales, lagers, and braggots to represent the huge variety of beers that are not represented in northeastern New Mexico at this time.

“So, that’s my introduction. My joints are aching, it’s a huge undertaking that has been going on for a year and a half now. Because my wife and I are the owners, we have to spend a certain amount of time as landlords. She runs a successful civil engineering office in a separate address of the ground floor. We searched for the right building, the right underserved area, cleaned up the place, sketched our design, drafted our own plans, made compromises and are continuing with the schedule which has taken longer than desired, but we haven’t blown the budget quite yet.”

Jim invited the Crew to stop by in October, when we will be traveling to and from the Great American Beer Festival (in case you do not follow us on Facebook or other social media, we secured press passes for this year). We are certainly interested in seeing what he wrote about here and look forward to making Raton a frequent stop on our treks to Colorado.

The Crew will keep everyone as updated as we can on the progress of Colfax Ale Cellar and all the forthcoming breweries in New Mexico. Got news about a new place? Please email us at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister