Posts Tagged ‘Enchanted Circle Brewing’

Enchanted Circle is already building out a patio area outside of the new taproom.

During my brief first visit for one pint during their opening week, I was unable to try any of Enchanted Circle’s food, due to the City of Albuquerque neglecting to supply the green sticker (even though the staff said that the City said they would have it in time for the opening) to the first off-site taproom for the Angel Fire brewery. I went back over the weekend to try some of the menu items as well as more of the beer.

One change was already immediately evident as Dave and I pulled into the parking lot on the northwest corner of Osuna and San Mateo. It was clear they were in the midst of building a patio out in front of the building. It was good, and surprising, to see even more progress so soon after their opening.

I felt the same pleasant vibe walking in there the second time as I did the first. They honestly have done an amazing job transforming the space, so much so that it is easy to forget you are in a strip mall. Dark wood, Tiffany-style table lamps on the large bar, and some barrel tables contribute to an upscale pub feel.

Both times that we visited, we sat at the bar and had the same wonderfully exceptional service from our bartender. Also both times, owners Steve and Shelley Larson were on-site and pleasantly hands-on. I asked Steve about the patio and he said even though it looks like they just started cutting out the space, they hope to have it open within two weeks! It will be covered with fabric and have misters, so it should be a cool spot to hang out with your pup, even in the summer. Steve and Shelley are animal lovers, and they wanted a dog-friendly option for their customers.

One thing to be prepared for upon arrival: an overwhelming number of beers to choose from. Enchanted Circle continues to brew at their original location in Angel Fire and transport it to Albuquerque, up to 35 kegs at a time in a van. They have a ton of equipment up there, a 20-barrel system with 400 barrels in process, and motivated brewers. A big reason the Larsons wanted to open a taproom in Albuquerque is to move the huge amount of beer they were producing. They just can’t move the quantity in Angel Fire.

There were more than 20 of their own beers of many styles on tap during my visit, and a couple of guest taps. Steve was extremely generous with the samples, meaning we tried a lot. With that quantity, I expected some to have off-flavors, but I didn’t find any. Steve said that one of the more unusual beers on tap (a plum sour that was cloudy and creamy) is one of their more popular styles in the Albuquerque taproom. This would never be the case up in Angel Fire, where they constantly have to run big batches of both their pilsner and lager. In fact, just after we arrived, the first person who sat next to us ordered a pint of this plum sour. While it’s true that there are no over-the-top hop bombs, there are a few IPAs. And, if you can’t find a style of beer you like here, well, maybe you just don’t like beer.

The food menu, in contrast, is concise, but well thought-out in terms of a variety of options. There are appetizers, a few salads, several burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips, and pot pies. Weeknights feature a different dinner special each night. We ordered a pulled pork sandwich with a side salad, and a gyro with fries to try and get a feel for how some of their beers paired with different menu items. Shelly also brought us a complimentary small sample of the artichoke appetizer to try. We finished with a heaping serving of the Bourbon Bread Pudding. Yes, I had to take home half of my food!

Our writers were gifted with just a few beers to sample.

Dave and I both chose the Juicy Pale Ale #1 for our pint to start off. Some of our other favorites from the samples were the Lemon Shandy (way, way too easy to drink, especially for that upcoming patio!), Nice Day IPA, Glory Hole IPA (with food), Raspberry Nubbin Fruit Lager, Shred-It Red, and the Whiskey Barrel Belgian Quad. We only learned after ordering it that the Juicy Pale Ale #1 is the first beer they have brewed with hops extract. They are going to try a series of it to determine the best version.

As far as what paired best with our food, the Raspberry Nubbin and the 70 Chilling (smoked) Scottish Ale both paired differently, but equally well, with the pulled pork. The Hells Bells Helles Lager unsurprisingly took the top spot with the gyro. The Glory Hole IPA was the right match for the artichoke dip, and we much preferred the Glory Hole with food than without. And, finally, the Whiskey Barrel Belgian Quad was the only beer that could stand up to the sweetness and richness of the bread pudding. Well, except strangely for our Juicy Pale Ale; that sort of worked in a weird way also, just not as good as the quad. Dave said that eating the bread pudding with the quad totally tricked his brain into thinking that the quad tasted like a port wine. He was honestly kind of blown away by that.

There were some small, nitpicky things with the food that I am sure will get worked out. They were out of several things we wanted due to a mix up with the supplier. Next time, I would ask for a small side of extra BBQ sauce for the pulled pork. It was a good sauce, and it was only spread on top. Now, the pork was totally flavorful and juicy enough without the sauce, but I like my sauce, so that’s probably just my preference! And, the presentation could be tightened up a bit. I did only see one person working in the kitchen, and it’s a pretty big taproom, so this might be why. It was mostly noticeable with the gyro; it was a bit messy. The tzatziki was haphazard, and the small amount of lettuce was placed between the meat and the pita, so it got really hot and wilted. It would look better and retain more integrity if it was placed on top, but again, that’s some minor and hopefully constructive nitpicking.

I want to return for a weekday happy hour in hopefully a couple of weeks to try the Juicy #2. I am also looking forward to a unique appetizer that is quite the deal during happy hour — a smoked salmon spread, with toasted mini bagels and toppings. I am a sucker for happy hour offerings that are different from the norm. Now, which of those 20-plus beers will be the one that goes best with the smoked salmon?

Cheers

— AmyO

These guys are gonna be the next brewery to open in Albuquerque this Friday!

All of us in the Crew figured we would have a nice, relaxing June after ABQ Beer Week ended. Then, a new brewery opened. And, another one. And, another one. It has left a lot of people’s heads spinning, trying to remember what is open, and what is still on deck. To help out everyone else, and maybe even to help ourselves, we present the great guide of everything that has opened since about May 20, will be open soon, and what is much further down the road.

ALREADY OPEN

Ex Novo Brewing, Corrales: If you have not been to this most excellent NM version of the popular Portland, Oregon brewery, you are missing out. Its beers are now popping up at bars and restaurants around town, and you can pick up six-packs and four-packs, but really, you should drive up Corrales road a ways and enjoy the most excellent taproom that is adjacent to the big production brewery. It is right across the street from the fire station and Corrales Bistro Brewery (which does not, alas, brew its own beer). Just please remember to adhere to the strict 30 MPH speed limit.

Enchanted Circle Brewing Taproom, San Mateo and Osuna: The Angel Fire brewery’s taproom also opened during Beer Week. They have a full kitchen, and all the beers from up north. They are tucked into the same shopping center as Amy’s Donuts, right near Cliff’s amusement park.

Blue Grasshopper Brewing Taproom, Second Street and Summer: The latest addition to the Wells Park brewing scene is almost a carbon copy of the other two Blue Grasshopper locations, and that is just fine. Enjoy a wood-fired pizza and a huge beer list (mainly guest taps). They are still working on building the brewery in the other half of the building.

Hops Brewery Taproom, Los Ranchos: Located at 7226 Fourth Street, north of Osuna/south of Paseo del Norte, this charming little spot has a lot of beer, not much parking (carpool, please), and a limited food menu, but it often has food trucks pulling up for special occasions.

Thirsty Eye Brewing, Broadway and Gold: The neighborhood pub for EDo (East Downtown) is now open, serving coffee starting at 7:30 a.m. and beer in the afternoon/evening. We got a full preview of this spot from the good group of people who have made it a reality at 206 Broadway SE.

La Reforma Brewery, San Mateo and Alameda: We got to chow down in advance of the opening of this brewery in the old Bosque taproom space at 8900 San Mateo. The taqueria food, done Mexico City-style, is excellent, the beers are tasty, and as a result we think this is gonna be a popular joint for a long time to come.

Brew Lab 101, Rio Rancho: We did a full preview a while back, but now this long-awaited addition to the RR scene has opened as of Tuesday night. Featuring beer and cider, it is just west of Turtle Mountain on Southern, past the post office and before you get to Joe’s Pasta House. Speaking of which, you can bring in food from there and other local establishments so that you do not drink on an empty stomach.

ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE OPEN

Black Snout Brewhouse, Juan Tabo and Menaul: The good news is that we will be able to move these guys to the open list as of Friday night. The grand opening is set, so make sure to head on over and tell us what you think of the beers, the space, the whole thing. One of our writers is planning on a review to run early next week, just in case you want us to test the waters first.

Quarter Celtic Brewpub Taproom, Juan Tabo: Just around the corner from Black Snout, the QC taproom is very close to opening. How close? We just got invited to a soft opening/trial run for the spot. It should be ready for everyone well before July 4 rolls around.

FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD

Among those breweries still in the planning/built-out stages are the B2B Garden Brewery, on Comanche just west of Wyoming; Turquoise Trail Brewing, on Central near Juan Tabo; Hausammann Brewhaus, on Central across from UNM; Looking Glass Spirits & Long Lost Brewing, on Sixth Street just a few blocks south of Bow & Arrow; Desert Valley Brewing’s taproom on San Mateo, just a block south of where Enchanted Circle opened; and Tractor Brewing’s taproom in Los Lunas.

Breweries outside the ABQ metro area still on the docket include 575 Brewing (Alamogordo), Boogie’s Brewery & Distillery (Deming), Lauter Haus Brewing (Farmington), Piedra Blanca Brewery (White Rock), Public House 28 (Anthony), and off-site taprooms from Boese Brothers (Los Alamos), Icebox (Northeast Las Cruces), Lost Hiker (Downtown Ruidoso), Picacho Peak (Alamogordo), Red Door (Roswell), and Truth or Consequences (Las Cruces). Oh, and then of course there are the new Bosque taprooms coming to Santa Fe and Las Cruces (yes, a third one), but those do not have pending licenses yet with the State of New Mexico.

Got all that? We will do our best to keep you continuously updated. In the meantime, enjoy the new ones, support the old ones, and just in general have fun with the vast variety of breweries that we have across New Mexico.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The new Hops Taproom in Los Ranchos is ready for its grand opening this weekend.

Now that I am back at work (yay, money), the beer news is starting to pile up, so let us get to a few pertinent items.

First, though, in a moment of self-promotion, I will be giving a free talk about the history of brewing in Albuquerque this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Special Collections Library, which is located on the northwest corner of Central and Edith, directly across from the Artichoke Cafe. I will have copies of Albuquerque Beer: Duke City History on Tap for sale ($20, cash only), and this talk will include the story of how an Old West shootout impacted the first Southwest Brewery in 1884.

Moving along …

Here a taproom opening, there a taproom opening

We already chronicled how the third Blue Grasshopper location at Summer and Second Street opened its doors during ABQ Beer Week. It was far from alone among new offsite taprooms holding soft openings.

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Say hello to the forthcoming Thirsty Eye Brewing, under construction now at Broadway and Gold. (Photo courtesy of Thirsty Eye)

It is a relatively quiet week out there, spring winds aside, so it felt like a good time to dust off the old beer notebook.

New brewery updates

We keep waiting for the number of forthcoming breweries to dwindle down, but that has not happened yet. There are currently five breweries with active small brewer licenses around the state which have yet to open their doors, another nine with pending licenses, and a handful of places adding a brewing license to an existing business.

  • 575 Brewing, Alamogordo (pending): This new brewery is being built from the ground up, with foundation construction having commenced on April 19 at 234 W. 8th Street.
  • B2B Garden Brewery, Albuquerque (pending): We do not have any updates on this space, located on Comanche just west of Wyoming.
  • Beer Creek Brewing, outside Santa Fe (pending): Our last trip out there found that business was going well and the brewing system was finally in place. For now, stop by and enjoy a pizza, guest beers, and even some collaboration beers made at other local breweries.
  • Black Snout Brewhouse, Albuquerque (active): The Crew will be stopping in early next week, which means that this brewery is nearly ready to open its doors on Menaul just east of Juan Tabo.
  • Boogie’s Brewery and Distillery, Deming (pending): There are no new updates for this long-awaited successor to Mimbres Valley Brewing.
  • Brew Lab 101, Rio Rancho (active): The projected timetable is for a late May opening. For more info, see our last story.
  • Ex Novo Brewing, Corrales (active): The first test batches are now running in the brewery hall, while renovations continue on the adjacent taproom building across the parking lot. We expect to return soon for a final preview story.
  • La Reforma Brewing, Albuquerque (active): The goal of opening in early June in the old Bosque location, on San Mateo north of Alameda, has not changed.
  • Lauter Haus Brewing, Farmington (pending): Progress continues on this new brewery, spearheaded by former Three Rivers head brewer Brandon Beard. The fun news? They have purchased some vintage arcade games for the taproom.
  • Looking Glass Spirits & Long Lost Brewing, Albuquerque (pending): We finally dug up an address for this newcomer, which will be located at 1803 Sixth Street NW, just three blocks south of Bow & Arrow. There is still no social media with which to follow the progress, so we will remain patient.
  • Piedra Blanca Brewing, White Rock (pending): We have no updates at this time on this brewery located in the town next to Los Alamos.
  • Public House 28, Anthony (pending): Other than the fact that this newcomer has already joined the NM Brewers Guild, we have no new info. It will be located outside Anthony at 10108 Highway 28.
  • Rail Brewery, Santa Fe (pending): We have no new updates.
  • Thirsty Eye Brewing, Albuquerque (active): The Crew has made contact with the owners and we hope to make our first trip over to 206 Broadway Blvd. SE sooner than later. You can follow their progress on Facebook.
  • Turquoise Trail Brewing, Albuquerque (pending): We have no new updates on this brewery, located on Central near Juan Tabo.

In addition to those breweries with pending or active licenses, we did learn more about the mysterious Context Brewing that popped up on the Brew to Do list that we wrote about recently. It is apparently the brewery going into a space at 816 Third Street NW. Former Brewers Guild executive director John Gozigian tipped us off to a possible brewery going into that space, but again, there is no pending license yet, so it figures to be a ways off.

New taproom updates

The home of the future Truth or Consequences Brewing taproom in Las Cruces. (Photo courtesy of T or C Brewing)

Yes, there are also more off-site taprooms still in the pipeline. Because of course there are, right?

  • Blue Grasshopper, Albuquerque (pending): Located in Wells Park, we wrote on this one before, and when there is more news to share, we will head back. We assume a license for the brewery half of the building is still in the works.
  • Boese Brothers, Los Alamos (pending): Our man Reid still has not figured out where this taproom is going to be located.
  • Desert Valley, Albuquerque (active): Progress continues on Wyoming near Comanche, which is where this taproom is replacing the former Red Door spot.
  • Desert Valley, Albuquerque (pending): Wait, what? There are two DV taprooms in the works? Yes, we have now confirmed a second one is indeed happening at 5231 San Mateo Blvd. NE. Located a block south of Osuna and the next taproom listed below, this space was under construction/renovation the last time we drove by.
  • Enchanted Circle, Albuquerque (active): The last batch of construction photos show the bar is in place, and states that the taproom is about two weeks away from being ready for opening at Osuna and San Mateo, in the shopping center on the northwest corner of the intersection.
  • Icebox Brewing, Las Cruces (pending): Even though the main brewery opened only recently, an off-site taproom is already in the works, though its exact location has not been revealed.
  • Picacho Peak, Alamogordo (pending): We have no new updates on this first off-site taproom for the Las Cruces brewery.
  • Quarter Celtic, Albuquerque (active): Construction continues apace up on Juan Tabo between Menaul and Indian School, but no opening date has been set.
  • Truth or Consequences, Las Cruces (pending): Yes, T or C is heading south to Las Cruces for its first off-site taproom, as that city is suddenly filling up fast. It will be located on East Lohman, not too far west from Interstate 25.

We will do our best to keep everyone up to date on all of these forthcoming places, as well as keeping an eye on the news at the existing places. May is going to be one heck of a busy month, including the Blazin’ Brewfest in Las Cruces (which will now be preceded by the new Las Cruces Beer Week!) on May 17 and then ABQ Beer Week, which begins May 23. Throw in some expected openings from some of the places above, and there will be no rest for the weary Crew this coming month.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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

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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.

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

Another Hopfest is in the books.

Yeah, this story should have run Monday, but Sunday featured soccer in the morning, work in the afternoon, and Isotopes coverage in the evening. Anyway, just figured the Crew could share a few of our thoughts on the latest edition of Hopfest, which was held back on Saturday at Isleta Casino.

Wherefore art thou, 377?

One of the weird little moments was the fact that The 377 Brewery had a space reserved but never showed up. No word was ever given as to why. That, plus the sudden closing of Chama River, left one corner of the main room somewhat barren. They were supposed to be right next to each other. (Before anyone panics, The 377 is still open and doing fine, by all accounts.)

A little light on the crowd

One thing that was quickly apparent was a visible drop in attendance. Two mitigating factors could have been all the people who were elsewhere, preparing for the Mayweather-McGregor fight, or more likely all the folks on the West Side of ABQ preferred to attend Summerfest in their backyard. Of course, with fewer people, things seemed to go much smoother. Most importantly, the bathroom lines were short if not non-existent. That alone is a victory.

NM weather is not your friend

The side room that used to host a lot of breweries was instead reserved for the Dukes of Ale and the NM Brewers Guild Educational Pavilion, which meant a lot of breweries had to go outside beyond the patio. Many of these were local breweries, which meant they had to endure a fair amount of wind, plenty of heat, and even some rain. It would not be the late summer in New Mexico without some wacky weather (as I type this on Monday, the Isotopes are in a rain delay, which means I may be filing this from the ballpark at some point in the weird hours).

As Crew member Shawna put it best: “Hopfest was a lot of fun! (But) it was disappointing to see so many local breweries outside. The outdoor situation seemed like a hot mess (literally).”

Hail to the Dukes

Franz Solo’s next project is to assemble a kit like this one.

AmyO got to hang out over at the Dukes of Ale display, which included the ultimate homebrew setup (pictured). She added this: “Really liked getting in to that first room early just before extra hoppy (hour) and having the Dukes of Ale over there. I enjoyed that coconut, etc., vanilla, etc., etc. beer, but there was a little too much going on — so much so I can’t even remember the name(s) of what was in there.” She also enjoyed the doppelbock, but one of her friends liked the IPA better than she did.

Shawna chimed in: “I really loved the Dukes of Ale setup. My favorite was the dopplebock.”

Our picks for best beers of the fest

I will let the ladies go first.

AmyO: “You know my favorite beer was that imperial red (Ol’ Lassy) from Enchanted Circle. My second favorite was, strangely, Lava Rock’s Hefeweizen. Now, one reason might be just plain uniqueness when you kind of get fatigued from the same old beers sometimes. I thought the Blueberry Stout at Ponderosa was nice, and not too overpowering on the blueberry.”

Shawna: “Bow and Arrow had a very good IPA (Hazillionaire). I also enjoyed Ponderosa’s Blueberry Stout! I’m proud to see Antonio (Fernandez) making so much progress! Oddly enough, considering I lean towards darker beers, I kept going back to Flix Brewhouse’s So It Gose. That was a very well rounded gose, not too sour or too sweet.”

As for me, I kept the sampling to a minimum since I had to give a seminar on the history of brewing (yes, shameless book promotion moment). The top six that I tried were:

  • Bathtub Row Krosscut Kolsch: If there was a perfect beer for the scorching temps outside, it was this one. Wonderfully sweet and refreshing. If they canned or bottled this and shipped it down to ABQ, I would buy it every summer.
  • Bow & Arrow Hoodoo Monster Imperial Red: Fairly tasty red, without the hop kick of Marble’s Imperial Red. Both sweet and yet dry. Overall, solid.
  • Bow & Arrow Desert Dynamo IPL: Fresh batch was tapped later in the session. Sweet, floral, fairly juicy. I was impressed by the B&A offerings, definitely gotta revisit the brewery as soon as baseball season ends.
  • Duel Oui Lourd: I was initially skeptical, but curious, about a sour Scottish wee heavy. I don’t know if I would drink a full pour, but it was pretty good, and this is coming from a non-sour guy. If nothing else, it was different.
  • Quarter Celtic Bruce (Black IPA): This batch was done in a hazy New England style. Yes, a hazy black IPA. Lots of flavors at play here, with the roasted malts coming through even amid the hops. It was just tapped that morning, so it will be interesting to see how it settles in at the brewpub.
  • Rowley Farmhouse Ales Agent Scully – Season 1, Episode 3: The latest in a series of revolving IPAs from RFA, this one is a sweet, floral delight, with berry/melon flavors. I have no idea what the hop combo was, but man, I hope they use that again.

Apologies to those local breweries that I did not visit. I will make it up to you at your actual location or an off-site taproom.

A special thanks to Marne Gaston (and her mom), John Gozigian, Angelo Orona, and Carlos Contreras.

Even if I didn’t sell many books (people had beers to drink, I understand), it was still a good festival. I only rambled on at the seminar for about 20 minutes, too, which is remarkable considering how long-winded I can get. Anyway, until the next major festival (GABF!), it is back to the regular grind. Let us hope that there will be no additional brewery obits between now and then.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Hello again, Hopfest!

Hello again, Hopfest!

Newcomers and summery, fresh-tasting, hoppy beers helped to keep interest alive for the ninth annual Albuquerque Hopfest. Each year the crowds get larger, and each year I wonder how in the world Marne Gaston puts on such a large production. But, she does, flawlessly, and I am in complete awe of her. I would be a quivering puddle of goo. But, Marne is the calm in the eye of a hurricane (there is currently a Hurricane Gaston in the Atlantic that reformed on the day of Hopfest; I can’t even make this stuff up). Our heartfelt thanks, once again, to Marne and her staff and volunteers for another fantastic event.

As always, it was “so many beers, so little time,” so for me it was all about being selective. I focused on mostly local beers I have not tried and those that are not readily available at taprooms. A few of those beers stood out, and some were big surprises.

Enchanted Circle made a positive debut at Hopfest.

Enchanted Circle made a positive debut at Hopfest.

Even before the doors opened, a musician friend of mine who was setting up to play on one of the outdoor stages told me, “You have got to try the Enchanted Circle ESB if you like malty beers.” Well, yes, I do, and yes, I did! It really was very good. In fact, I thought in general the Enchanted Circle beers out of Angle Fire were one of the two biggest surprise hits of Hopfest. Even though IPAs are not my favorite, I was extremely impressed with their IPA (7.3% ABV). For such a new brewery, they have really done well with a solid beer to please the West Coast-style IPA lover. I also want to thank them for actually displaying the stats (O.G., IBU, and ABV) as well as the names. Not too many did, and I wish more of the breweries would have.

The Dukes of Ale booth was a big hit again.

The Dukes of Ale booth was a big hit again.

The second big surprise (based on consensus among my group of four attendees; one of whom is very much a hophead) was not an IPA. It didn’t come from a big name. Heck, it wasn’t even from a local brewery. It was the German Hefeweisen from the Dukes of Ale Homebrew Club.

Other favorites included Quarter Celtic’s McLomas Dry Stout and #GFF (Grapefruit Forever) IPA, Ponderosa’s Wry Ale, and Red Door’s Nieuwe Bruin. Albuquerque Brewing Company’s Dunkleweisen did not disappoint. It’s one of their semi-regular beers, but it seems it is always out when I stop by. It was wonderful to be able to finally taste it on Saturday. Surprisingly, I quite enjoyed the Green Chile Pilsner from Bathtub Row, because I don’t usually care much for pilsners or chile beers. This one was an outstanding version.

The Quarter Celtic staff left everyone else smiling, too, with their new stout.

The Quarter Celtic staff left everyone else smiling, too, with their new stout.

Notably missing from the vendors was B2B. They had a table set up, but there was no B2B beer and nobody from their brewery manning the spot. Also, I believe Firkin was in the program but I did not find them in the room or outside. If I missed them somehow, I apologize. (You did not miss them, they informed me that they were withdrawing late last week. — S)

Since I was unable to attend the New Mexico Brewers Guild Sensory Analysis Seminar presented by Craft King Consulting, LLC, the Crew would welcome and appreciate any feedback on that portion of the event from our readers.

The VIP beer list was quite impressive.

The VIP beer list was quite impressive.

I tried a few, but not all, of the beers in the VIP room. Mother Road’s Coffee Lost Highway, Founders’ Devil Dancer Triple IPA, and Sierra Nevada’s Narwahl Imperial Stout were my favorites. I didn’t attend the VIP pouring of Hop Pact from BJ’s Brewhouse because there was also a limited supply out in the main room, and I had it on Monday night at a Green Flash beer dinner at BJ’s. Hopefully many attendees were able to sample this fantastic collaboration beer between BJ’s Brewhouse and Green Flash. It is completely unique and refreshing, with more subtle hops, crazy amounts of floral notes, and the ability to cleanse your palate.

Speaking of palates, near the end I was suffering major palate fatigue. I started to slow down just as the rain chased the outdoor flock into the already crowded main room. At about 5:40 p.m., we gathered our swag (why do I keep collecting so many pint glasses? I could pretty much open a store at this point) and headed for the shuttle to the Railrunner, awash with post-festival beer glow.

Cheers!

— AmyO

Just embrace the beer and the metal and everything will be just fine during your stay in Albuquerque.

Due to work commitments, most of the Crew will not be at Hopfest this year. Raise a glass and the horns in our honor while you are there.

Ah, late August, when the hints of cooler weather arrive, the kids go back to school, football (both American and international) revs up, and Hopfest takes over Isleta Casino. Hey, at nine years old, we can pretty much declare Hopfest an annual tradition.

The largest beer festival in New Mexico returns this Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. If you not bought your tickets yet, get them now, particularly if you want VIP or extra hoppy hour, which we highly recommend. For tickets and info, click on the event website.

There are 18 breweries from our state that will send beers to the event this year. We did our best to get you the beer lists, or at least confirm if the event program has the right beers listed. We will update this post if we get any late corrections/additions.

  • Albuquerque Brewing: Imperial Red Ale, Duke’s Pale Ale
  • B2B: Coconut Porter, Raspberry Wheat
  • Bathtub Row: Red Hammer Ale, Hoppenheimer IPA, Wit Rock, Green Chile Pilsner
  • Cazuela’s: Agave (American Wheat), Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, Papacabra DIPA
  • Duel: TBA
  • Enchanted Circle: Hells Bells Lager, ESB, Red River Red Ale, Session IPA, Glory Hole IPA
  • Eske’s: Rat Queen DIPA, Wheat IPA
  • Kellys: Amber, Session IPA, Apricot Ale
  • Marble: Double White, Imperial Red, Dang Pale Ale, Stout Americano
  • Oso Loco Brewery (Sandia Chile Grill): Irish Red, Chocolate Brown
  • Pi: Discordia IPA, Scotty Doesn’t Know, Pineapple Express, Cardinal Sin
  • Ponderosa: Berliner Weisse, Cascadian Pilsner, Wry Ale, Crosscut Kolsch
  • Quarter Celtic: Pedro O’Flangan, Dusk’s Early Night, MacLomas Stout, #GFF
  • Red Door: Trapdoor Belgian Wit, Roamer Red, Threshold IPA, Paint It Black Milk Stout, Unhinged Cider, Vanilla Cream Ale, Blackberry Hefeweizen, Nieuwe Bruin
  • Rio Bravo: Karl’s Krystal Weizen, Duke City Pilsner, Rio Bravo Amber, Dirty Rotten Bastard IPA, Snakebite IPA, RoadKill Red, Old Town Porter
  • Santa Fe: Oktoberfest, Autonomous Collective IPA, Imperial Java Stout
  • Sierra Blanca/Rio Grande: IPA, Pancho Verde Chile Cerveza, Sun Chaser Pale Ale, Bone Chiller Brown Ale
  • Tractor: Farmer’s Almanac IPA, Farmer’s Tan Red Ale, Milk Mustachio Stout, Delicious Red Hard Apple Cider, Dank Johnson DIPA, Hillario DIPA, Kolsch

Definitely take the time to try Enchanted Circle, they just opened in Angel Fire back in April. Eske’s has new ownership, so it might be interesting to see what that has done to their beers. Otherwise, among the beers worth trying are Hoppenheimer IPA (Bathtub Row), Stout Americano (Marble), Scotty Doesn’t Know (Pi), MacLomas Stout (Quarter Celtic), Nieuwe Bruin (Red Door), Old Town Porter (Rio Bravo), Autonomous Collective (Santa Fe), and Dank Johnson DIPA (Tractor). Or, try as many as you safely can, and let us know what were your favorites.

Also present, of course, will be the Dukes of Ale. You need to visit their booth to try all the excellent home brews and help vote for a winner.

Broken Trail will also be there, but they are only listed as bringing their rum and vodka, no beer. If you are into ciders, Sandia Hard Cider will be present.

As for the many, many national brands, a few have some beers worth checking out. BJ’s has Hop Pact IPA, a collaboration with Green Flash. Boston Beer (Samuel Adams) has the new (?) Toasted Caramel Bock. Firestone Walker, still fairly new to our state, has the wondrous Luponic Distortion. Mother Road usually brings something extra from Flagstaff beyond the usual beers, though Tower Station IPA and Lost Highway Black IPA are worth your time if you have not had them before. If you have been remiss in checking out the Imperial IPA from Upslope, here is your chance. Also, new to the state is The Dudes Brewing Co. No beers were listed for them in the program, but I tried a DIPA at the brewery in Torrance, Calif., two months ago and it would stand up to our local hop bombs. There are many other beers to try, as well, from old favorites to seasonals to new ones, so please, sample away and let us know which are your favorites.

Above all else, have fun, try not to go overboard, and celebrate craft beer this Saturday. Do it because I cannot, since the Isotopes suddenly decided they want to win their division and I have to be out here covering them.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister