Posts Tagged ‘Little Toad Creek Brewing’

This year's many, many IPA entries.

This year’s many, many IPA entries.

And we are off! The preliminary round of the 2016 New Mexico IPA Challenge is complete, with 16 15 breweries advancing to the three main rounds that will begin next weekend at Santa Fe Brewing. This came out of the 28 beers that were sampled in a blind taste test Saturday afternoon at Rio Bravo.

Editor’s note: We have been updated by the Guild that Rio Bravo does not advance.

Were there surprises? Of course, both in some of the breweries that scored well and in some that did not. One of the new wrinkles in NMIPAC is that the three host breweries — Santa Fe, 3 Rivers, Tractor — were guaranteed to advance no matter their voting totals. In the end, only the first needed that bye to advance, as 3 Rivers (nine votes) and Tractor (seven votes) would have qualified regardless.

The results of the preliminary round, with the breweries listed by their numbers on the left, voting totals on the right.

The results of the preliminary round, with the breweries listed by their numbers on the left, voting totals on the right.

Every brewery that was eliminated garnered less than seven votes. Those are, with voting totals included, Bathtub Row (4), Cazuela’s (1), Chama River (2), Enchanted Circle (2), Kaktus (2), Little Toad Creek (4), Lizard Tail (3), Marble (6), Rio Bravo (3), Roosevelt (4), Sierra Blanca (6), Spotted Dog (1), and Turtle Mountain (2). While some of those breweries are newer or in more remote locations, seeing big names like Chama, Marble, Sierra Blanca, and Turtle were all surprising.

The advancing breweries, including the hosts, are Blue Corn (10), Bosque (13), Boxing Bear (33), Canteen (33), Chili Line (10), La Cumbre (13), Quarter Celtic (24), Red Door (7), Santa Fe (3), Second Street (7), Sidetrack (7), Starr Brothers (17), Taos Mesa (13), 3 Rivers (9), and Tractor (7). In terms of the two trays, numbered 1-14 and 15-28, the leaders were Boxing Bear and Canteen for the first tray and Quarter Celtic for the second tray. It was nice to see some of the newcomers, all of whom opened this year, make the final cut in Chili Line, Quarter Celtic, Sidetrack, and Starr Brothers.

In the interest of full disclosure, Brandon had the first tray and picked Canteen. I had the second tray and picked Starr Brothers, though it was close between their offering and Quarter Celtic.

The next round of NMIPAC will be Saturday, July 16, at Santa Fe, followed by a stop at 3 Rivers in Farmington on July 20, and the grand finale at Tractor Wells Park on July 23. Luke will have the SFBC stop covered for us, and the rest of the Crew will see you all at Wells Park.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

p.s. Kudos to the staff at Rio Bravo for putting on such a smoothly-run event. All of us attendees appreciated your hard work!

One IPA to rule them all!

One IPA to rule them all!

The announcement went out on Tuesday, and hopheads across the state rejoiced, for the New Mexico IPA Challenge is returning to the land. Now 28 breweries will do battle, as all seek to remove the three-time king, John Bullard, from his iron throne.

OK, fine, it is a bit of Game of Thrones there, but that is the theme this year, said NM Brewers Guild director John Gozigian. We met for some pints and a good old information download at Bosque Brewing on Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re kind of running with a Game of Thrones theme,” John said. “It all makes sense. The brewing community in New Mexico is kind of incestuous, it really is. Everybody’s worked here and there. All the houses have been mixed, kind of, so it kind of lends itself to that.

“You’ve got a guy like John Bullard who’s won it three years in a row for two different breweries. He’s the guy that everybody wants to dethrone. You’ve got all these usurpers out there that would love nothing better than to make him pay.”

Bullard has won three in a row, the last two at Bosque and two before that Blue Corn. His title defense starts on Saturday, July 9, at Rio Bravo for the preliminary round. After that, the scoring rounds will be at Santa Fe Brewing on July 16, at Three Rivers Brewery in Farmington on July 16, and the grand finale will be at Tractor Wells Park on July 23.

The other 27 combatants who will face off with Bosque are, deep breath, as follows (* = confirmed first-time participant): Bathtub Row, Blue Corn, Boxing Bear, Canteen, Cazuela’s, Chama River, Chili Line*, Enchanted Circle*, Kaktus, La Cumbre, Little Toad Creek, Lizard Tail, Marble, Quarter Celtic*, Red Door, Rio Bravo*, Roosevelt, Santa Fe, Second Street, Sidetrack*, Sierra Blanca, Spotted Dog, Starr Brothers*, Taos Mesa, Three Rivers, Tractor, Turtle Mountain

Last year there were 23 participants, so to get to 28 is immense in and of itself. Rather than copy the same format as the VIPA Challenge, there will instead be a new format for the opening round at Rio Bravo.

“It’s going to be a little different though it’s going to accomplish the same end,” John said. “Last year was the first time that we had to winnow the field down to a manageable amount of beers to take on the road, so attendees at the subsequent stops got all of them in one sitting.

“We capped it this year at 28 breweries. They can only enter one beer. It all goes back to the lunch lady trays that we’ve always used. You can fit 14 of those plastic tumblers on one of those trays. You can fit 2-to-3 ounces in there, a big enough sample where you can reasonably evaluate the beer. So, that limits it to 14 in a flight. Plus, given the quantity of each one, you can’t go less than 2 ounces, so that ends up (28) ounces of beer per flight, plus you get the complimentary pint. We don’t want people to over-consume.”

The format now will feature two separate trays, labeled A and B. One will have beers numbered one through 14, the other 15 through 28. Each attendee will only receive one of the two trays, and will rank the beers on his/her tray only. An equal number of the two trays will be distributed so all beers will have an equal chance, regardless of which tray they are on.

“We’re going to be smart, the ones that have done well in the past, they’re not going to all be on one flight,” John said. “They’re going to be spread out in a way that makes sense. We’re going to take the top 12 to 14 out of that first round at Rio Bravo and then take those to the next stops.”

Yes, you and your best friend/significant other/old drinking buddy can each get a different tray and sample from the other, but you can only vote for one. Basically, drink up as much as you want off your tray first for proper voting, then, if your palate can take it, try from the other tray.

“So, the first one is going to be fun,” John said. “That’s where we get the field down to where it’s supposed to be. Even with 28, there’s going to be some good IPAs that get left behind. There are a lot of good IPAs out there now. For sure, those top 12 or 14, they’re going to be some great beers.”

Tickets for all four rounds are now on sale online, and paper tickets will begin appearing at the breweries (full list TBA) in the next couple of weeks.

Get them early this year. Even as big as Rio Bravo is, and Tractor WP will be (they are going to close the front parking lot along 4th for additional capacity), there will be ticket caps. This should be the biggest NMIPAC ever, both in terms of participating breweries and attendees.

After the opening round, the remaining rounds should be what you have come to expect, 12 to 14 beers numbered on a tray for a proper blind tasting. As attendance outside of Albuquerque has always lagged behind, the folks at Three Rivers are trying something new this year to get their numbers on par with at least Santa Fe.

“Actually, those guys are going to try to get people from Durango,” John said. “They’re going to put up posters at the breweries in Durango. I hope we get some attendance from there because, I think New Mexico’s beers, especially the IPAs, are well enough known now, at least in our neighboring states, it’ll be worth the 30-mile trip for somebody from Durango to come check out. Especially when we have gold medal winners and National IPA Challenge winners all submitting beers.”

Start doing your hop homework people. Prep those palates, get your ticket(s), and the Crew will see many of you at Rio Bravo and/or Tractor sooner than later.

One IPA to rule them all! We can get behind this theme.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

And festival season is a go!

And festival season is a go!

The unofficial kickoff to festival season is upon us once again as Blazin’ Brewfest returns to downtown Las Cruces on Saturday. This annual event, put on by the NM Brewers Guild, is definitely the biggest and most important festival for craft beer lovers in Southern New Mexico and surrounding areas.

The festival runs from 5 to 9 p.m. at 211 Main Street. There will be 15 breweries present, plus food trucks, and live music. The cost is $15 in advance or $20 at the gate. You can still buy tickets at High Desert, Spotted Dog, the Bosque taproom, Main Street Bistro, and of course online.

While the Crew will be otherwise occupied Saturday up here in ABQ, we will have correspondents writing about the fest and the best beers to seek out after it’s over. That, of course, leads to the question of what will be served at the festival. We only heard back from eight nine of the participating breweries, but if anyone else sends us a late list, we will update this story.

Abbey: TBA

Bosque: Riverwalker IPA, Driftwood Oatmeal Stout, Brewer’s Boot Amber Ale, Scotia Scotch Ale, Bosque Lager, Elephants on Parade, Amber Rye, Beermosa

High Desert: TBA

La Cumbre: BEER, Elevated, Red Ryeot, Malpais, Slice of Hefen, plus there will be a special tapping of Project Dank at 7 p.m.

Little Toad Creek: TBA

Marble: Double White, Pilsner, Red, IPA

Pecan Grill: TBA

Picacho Peak: Javelina Black IPA, La Bruja Porter, High Noon Hefeweizen, Sunset Summer Saison, Smooth ‘n’ Stout

Ponderosa: Ghost Train IPA, Spanglish New Mexican Lager, Manzanita Milk Stout, Saison Chat Sauvage

Red Door: Unhinged Cider, Roamer Red, Shift Ender Golden Lager, Bad Moon Ryesing

Santa Fe: Gold, Black IPA, Nut Brown, Happy Camper, Western Bloc IPA

Sierra Blanca/Rio Grande: Pancho Verde Chile Cerveza, Red Beer, Bone Chiller Brown, Rio Grande IPA, Rio Grande Desert Pilsner, Alien Stout, plus a limited pour of Cranberry Sour

Spotted Dog: Milk Stout, Hop Dog, Prickly Beaver Wheat, Angry Beaver Wheat, Shep Farmhouse Ale

Taos Mesa: TBA

Tractor: TBA

Remember, this is a Brewers Guild event, so it needs all the support our community of beer lovers can provide!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Get off the couch and head southwest this weekend.

Get off the couch and head southwest this weekend.

Toad Fest, the street festival hosted by Little Toad Creek in Silver City, will not only feature live music and other fun this Saturday, but it will have 12 other New Mexico breweries serving up 20 different, unique beers.

The list, as provided to us by the NM Brewers Guild.

  • Abbey: Monks’ Tripel
  • Blue Corn: Fuzzy Snuggler
  • Bosque: Riverwalker IPA, Tu-Bock Shakur
  • Canteen: Marzen
  • Chama River: Class VI Golden Lager, Broken Spoke Wheat Ale
  • La Cumbre: BEER, Red Ryeot
  • Marble: Imperial Red, Double White
  • Red Door: Roamer Red, Bad Moon Ryesing
  • Santa Fe: Happy Camper, Santa Fe Gold
  • Second Street: Pivotal IPA, Schwarzbier
  • Sidetrack: Crossbuck Pale Ale, 3:10 to Belen Brown
  • Spotted Dog: Spring Thing (Belgian-style saison)

It’s a great opportunity for folks in Southern New Mexico, as well as those who wish to trek up from El Paso or from Arizona, to enjoy a lot of beers you can only get up north. Spotted Dog will represent the Las Cruces area, too. Plus, of course Little Toad Creek’s own beers will be available, and their spirits.

Admission is free to the event, which starts at 2 p.m. and runs until midnight. The music will be provided by Wylie Crazyhorse Jones at 2, Compas at 4, and JB & the Jackrabbits at 8. There will be games for kids and adults, too. Food-wise, look for a special menu featuring lots of grilled meats (ribs, brisket, etc.) and the like.

Remember, this is a Guild event, so a portion of the proceeds of beer sales will go to helping the Guild help breweries across our state.

Considering the weather right now in ABQ, it might not be a bad idea to trek south to Silver City for a day. Let us hope the sun stays out down there.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

WinterBrew is sold out for 2016, so 800 lucky people are going to have some awesome beers this Friday!

WinterBrew is sold out for 2016, so 800 lucky people are going to have some awesome beers this Friday! (Photo courtesy of the NM Brewers Guild)

Well, the good news is WinterBrew is as popular as ever. The bad news is that means 800 tickets disappeared in the blink of an eye and the event is completely sold out. So for the lucky 800 of you who are going, we did our best to compile the list of what the 17 participating breweries will be pouring.

Our best, however, was not great this time around (UPDATE: It’s gotten better!). Now 10 of the 15 breweries we contacted (we do not have contact info for either Taos Mesa or Little Toad Creek) responded with beer lists by our publication deadline. If any others do send us their list, we will update this post as many times as necessary.

On a side note, the majority of the Crew will not be present. Fear not, we are doing fine, one of our members is getting married Saturday and Friday night is the rehearsal dinner. Enjoy this one without us!

Abbey Brewing (Monks): TBA

Bathtub Row: Hindsight Doppelbock, Uncle Smokey’s Pumpkin, Asian White IPA, Wit Rock.

Blue Corn: Russian Imperial Stout, McLeonard’s Scotch Ale, Road Runner IPA, Atomic Blonde (NOTE: The RIS and McLeonard’s are already out at the brewery, so this is your last chance to get them if you have not tried them before.)

Bosque: Bosque Lager, Scotia Scotch Ale, Riverwalker IPA, Josh a Skosh Irish Red (Nitro), The Schwarz Awakens, Summer in Germany, Just for Fun Double India Black Ale, Slow Burn Red Chile Brown Ale (NOTE: Those last five beers are making their debut. See below for more details.)

Chama River: UPDATED — due to the change in brewers, Chama will not be attending

Duel: TBA

La Cumbre: TBA

Little Toad Creek: NA

Marble: UPDATED — Pilsner, Double White, El Mysterio, Imperial Red, Imperial Stout

Red Door: Gateway Blonde, Unhinged Cider, Dark Side DIPA, Strong Scotch Ale

Santa Fe: UPDATED — SF Gold, Adobe Igloo, Happy Camper, Snowflake IPA, Brown Session IPA, La Bete Noir, and Adobe Igloo randalled through surprise ingredients in R2Beer2

Second Street: We just got the update that they will not be attending.

Sierra Blanca: Pancho Verde Chile Cerveza, Bone Chiller Brown, Milk Stout, Cran Sour

Spotted Dog: IPA, Milk Stout, Smokey Oso (Porter), Winter Harvest (Belgian farmhouse winter warmer)

Taos Mesa: NA

Tractor: Luna De Los Muertos, Et Tu Brute Cider, Barley Wine, Mustachio Milk Stout, Pilsner #15, Scotcholate

Turtle Mountain: Heidelberg Helles, Hopshell IPA, O Tannenbaum, Stauffenberg Stout, Wilde Jagd

So, those five new Bosque beers all came with a description. Josh a Skosh Irish Red (5.6% ABV, 18 IBU), nicknamed the “malt monster” by the brewery staff, this red ale was born out of an attempt to make a lower ABV version of the Scotia; The Schwarz Awakens (5.4% ABV, 25 IBU), a Franconian-inspired schwarzbier; Summer in Germany (6% ABV, 25 IBU), a German-inspired summer ale dry hopped with a whole lot of Noble hops; Just for Fun Double India Black Ale (8.7% ABV, 90 IBU), roasted malts plus Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin hops; Slow Burn Red Chile Brown Ale (6% ABV, 15 IBU), a malt-forward brown ale infused with New Mexico red chile. Take note, Bosque will not guarantee all five of those will be ready in time, but they are doing their best to make sure all will debut at WinterBrew.

Considering how many of you have been asking for something exclusive at festivals, voila.

That alone has us a little jealous that we will not be there. But alas, duty calls. And you gotta see the bright green vests under our tuxes.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

This is the section of Rio Bravo where they have been planning to put in a canning/bottling line.

This is the section of Rio Bravo where they have been planning to put in a canning/bottling line.

After a slew of slow news days regarding the local brewing scene, the intrepid Stephanie Guzman of Albuquerque Business First posted a story today about Rio Bravo Brewing applying for a $5 million county industrial revenue bond. A surprising move? Maybe to some, not to others. Rio Bravo has been talking big since before they opened, planning to dive into packaging in distributing in a way that most breweries in New Mexico have so far avoided.

While the ethics of applying for public money as a private business are debated, the early public reaction seems to be focused on whether or not Rio Bravo should even do this. The line of reasoning is that if established packaging breweries like La Cumbre, Marble, Santa Fe, Sierra Blanca, and Tractor are not doing this, why should a new brewery that is still trying to establish itself? All of it bleeds into the bigger picture about brewing in New Mexico. Has it reached a crossroads of sorts? Is there a bubble forming? And what is the right path from here?

Well, to stoke the fires of public discourse and debate, here is a look at where the industry is now and the many directions it could be heading in the years to come.

The massive expansion at Marble continues to progress.

The massive expansion at Marble continues to progress.

Go big … or go medium … or go small

A salient point in numerous recent discussions between the Crew and our readers (these were in person, not online) was the question of how New Mexico can further establish itself as a craft beer destination. In the opinion of many people, that is best done through more packaging and greater distribution.

No one expects any of our breweries to grow to the size of a New Belgium or a Sierra Nevada or a Stone, but at least many feel they should aim to reach the size of San Diego’s Ballast Point or Colorado’s Upslope or Odell. Reaching more markets outside of New Mexico has not been a major priority for the breweries that do package and distribute. Only Santa Fe has truly extended their reach beyond bordering states. Marble has limited distribution outside of New Mexico, but only in bordering states like Arizona and Southwest Colorado. There is seemingly a market for good beer in neighboring states, though one would certainly argue it would make more sense to aim for West Texas or Arizona than to enter the intensely competitive Colorado market.

Ultimately, though, it does raise the question of whether or not packaging and selling beers in bottles or cans is truly the way to bring more positive attention and more customers and tourists. Some might argue that quality still trumps quantity, and that as some breweries have expanded locally and nationally, the quality has suffered.

As things stand right now, of all the new breweries coming to New Mexico, only Rio Bravo has even gone so far as to say they have packaging/distribution plans. Virtually every other planned brewery, or brewery that has opened in the last two years, has aimed much smaller. A few have kegged their beers and distributed them to bars and restaurants. By and large, though, packaging has not been on the table.

It is that debate of ambition versus caution, of going for it all quickly versus trying to grow naturally, that the brewing scene here must now confront. There is a growing notion among the public that too many breweries are playing it too safe; they are unwilling to grow beyond their current production levels. Of course, then there is the issue of just how fast a place should try to grow. As of right now, Marble and Santa Fe are engaged in major expansions. La Cumbre has just finished a major expansion. We are seeing more limited bottling runs from Bosque, and there is talk of future bottling/canning endeavors, and expansion, for Canteen and Second Street.

Breweries will point to the high excise taxes that they face once they pass a certain point of production as a detriment to growth. In some cases they must debate whether or not they can risk going from full sustainability to going into debt, even for a temporary period, in order to expand. Every brewery likely has a different take on expanding versus staying the course, growing fast versus growing slow. The Crew will be asking these sorts of questions when we start our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series in December.

The battle of tap space at bars and restaurants is taking a new turn for local breweries.

The battle of tap space at bars and restaurants is taking a new turn for local breweries.

Breweries versus bars

I was recently privy to a discussion between a group of bar managers who had gathered for a late-night drink at a local bar that caters to craft beer. It was a fascinating “fly on the wall” kind of moment, hearing them discuss what for them are the positive and negative aspects of the impact of the local brewing scene on their respective businesses.

To a man, and woman, they all agreed that right now, the breweries are far more popular destinations than most bars during traditional happy hour times (roughly 4 to 7 p.m.). The only bars that are seemingly exempt are those with traditionally strong food menus (though they did not mention any by name, I could infer that Two Fools was one of these). Otherwise the breweries are taking business away from the bars. The problem, in their eyes, then lies with the fact the breweries are still trying to sell their beer via those bars.

It certainly is another debatable point. Should bars try to promote local beers ahead of national brands (be they craft or macro), even though the breweries from which those beers are originating are taking away business from those bars? The bar managers said they often have a hard time selling local beers to customers, many of whom would rather just get it “fresh” from the brewery itself. These bar managers all hailed from locally owned establishments, which tend to attract far more locals than chain restaurants with bars (Applebees, Outback, TGI Friday’s, etc.), who tend to get more tourists and newcomers to the state who seek out what amounts to the food they are comfortable with as opposed to the local and unknown (we can all leave out the local vs. national food quality debate, we are sticking to beer here). So again, should the local bars with craft taps focus on NM beers, or out-of-state craft? What is the balance?

Another point they brought up was the new proliferation of taprooms. At this point, more and more taprooms are opening, especially with the new state law that grants breweries permission to have up to three taprooms beyond the central brewery. Bosque has taprooms in Las Cruces and Nob Hill, with a third possible taproom now being rumored for Bernalillo, though ownership would not officially comment on that site. Blue Heron has a taproom now in Espanola. Taos Mesa has a secondary location at Taos Ski Valley. Little Toad Creek does most of their business now in their Silver City taproom. Marble’s Westside location is booming, and they are still in the planning stages for a Northeast Heights taproom. Tractor’s Nob Hill taproom has been around for quite a long time now. Santa Fe just opened their Albuquerque taproom, a second satellite location. Duel, Kaktus, and Red Door have plans to open taprooms in 2016. La Cumbre and Nexus have been discussing taprooms for quite some time, though we still have no concrete details of either signing a lease anywhere.

These taprooms can be a financial windfall to the breweries that own them. The tradeoff is that for every new taproom that opens, particularly in parts of the ABQ area that are “under-served” by craft beer, it takes away from the bars in those areas that have long offered that brewery’s beers on tap. Or at least that is the view of the bar managers, and likely the owners as well.

So it all boils down to this question: What role should bars and restaurants play in helping to grow the craft beer scene? Do they really have any responsibility to help, especially if they feel the breweries are eating into their profits? What kind of relationship should exist here?

Take some time to think about the issues presented here. Then let us know your thoughts, by Facebook, Twitter (@nmdarksidebc), email (nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com), the comments section here, or by finding us in person. Once we have everyone’s comments and thoughts, we will do our best to organize a forum, of sorts, among as many brewers and brewery owners as we can in the near future. We deserve to hear their thoughts on the future of the industry and they deserve to hear yours.

Sound off, New Mexico!

— Stoutmeister

The last and arguably best NM beer festival of the year is this weekend!

The last and arguably best NM beer festival of the year is this weekend!

If your favorite brewery’s staff has a little extra kick in their step these days, it is probably because they all know that the final festival of the season is almost upon us. NM Brew Fest 6 is set for this Saturday at the State Fairgrounds from 1 to 6 p.m. (or 11:30 a.m. if you get a VIP ticket).

To get the lowdown on what is new and/or different this year from years past, I talked to NM Brewers Guild director Chris Goblet a while back.

“New Mexico Brew Fest 6, we got through five years, which is a great milestone for the Guild,” Goblet said. “This year the Guild has partnered with Hoppervision, who created New Mexico Brew Fest back in 2009. I kind of took the reins this year again and decided to follow the trail of legislation that we passed and focus on the reciprocity bill. So we’ve got four distilleries, a cider maker and a winery, and we’ll have 25 breweries. It kind of plays off this whole idea of drink local, which is our theme this year.”

A huge question with any VIP/early entry type of ticket is always what does someone get as a bonus with the extra money paid. Last year it was access to some rare, barrel-aged beers, that left a few of us (myself included) feeling a little overwhelmed later on.

“So for your early-bird entry, in addition to a number of specialty beers, you’re also going have your choice of a Blood Mary or a Beermosa to start the day,” Goblet said. “A beer festival that starts you off with a cocktail or champagne-beer concoction, not a bad way to begin the day.  Instead of being limited to a single beer station, Early Birds will have access to all of the breweries, wineries, and distilleries for that first hour.

“I really wanted to hype up the fact that we’re all manufacturing centers working together, playing together. We want this to become the largest local libations festival in New Mexico, so that every year we can grow and feature the new start-up producers. Our festival is a showcase of New Mexico-made alcohol.”

Another past problem with NMBF has been alleviated in terms of the space allotted.

“The big other change this year is we’re no longer in Villa Hispana,” Goblet said. “We’re going to move the festival to main street. It’s going to give us more square footage to accommodate up to 10,000 people. And we can have all the brewery trucks drive right into the festival to park.”

Of course, we know a major part of any event preview is to track down who is pouring what beers. The good news is that three of the four NM beers that won medals at the Great American Beer Festival will be available, as well as beers from BJ’s that won medals. These are all the lineups we received from attending breweries:

  • Abbey: Monks’ Ale, Wit, Dark, Dubbel, Tripel
  • Back Alley: Landon’s Lager (malt liquor), California Common, Hefen or Hell, Octoberfest
  • Blue Corn: Brown Paper Bag, Oktoberfest, Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout, Roadrunner IPA
  • Boese Brothers: La Onza White Ale, Steampunk Lager
  • Bosque: Riverwalker IPA, Brewer’s Boot Amber, Pale Ryder, Driftwood Oatmeal Stout, Scotia Scotch Ale, Bosque Lager, Oktoberfest, Humo Rojo
  • Boxing Bear: Body Czech Pilsner, Hairy Mit Hefe, Uppercut IPA, Standing 8 Stout, Oktobearfest, Noble Pale Ale, Body Slam Imperial Pilsner, Not Your Mom’s Cream Soda, and a special 1 p.m. tapping of the GABF silver-medal-winning Chocolate Milk Stout
  • Canteen: Dark and Lusty Stout, Dougie Style Amber, IPA, Pilsner
  • Cazuela’s: Acapulco Gold, Kilt Kicker, Calabaza, Papacabra
  • Chama River: Jackalope IPA, Pumpkin Ale, Sleeping Dog Stout, Rio Amber
  • Distillery 365: ESB, 4th of July Ale (plus Holy Ghost Vodka, Horsethief Rum)
  • Duel: Titian, Dark Ryder, Grunewald, Ara Pacis, Fiction, Bad Amber, Cezanne Denoument, plus a sneak peek beer
  • La Cumbre (which will be split between two tents): State Fair Cream Ale, A Slice of Hefen, Elevated IPA, Red Ryeot, Malpais Stout, Project Dank, Full Nelson, Witch’s Lit, VMO #3, Summer Strong
  • Lizard Tail: Belgian Abbey, ESB, Strawberry IPA, Biscochito Brown, India Black Ale
  • Marble: Wildflower Wheat, Farmhand Pale Ale, Red Ale, Imperial Red (2015 GABF bronze medal winner), Oatmeal Stout, Double White, Get Stoked, Mick’s Mac
  • Nexus: Honey Chamomile Wheat (2015 GABF silver medal winner), Cream Ale, Scottish Ale, Equinox
  • Picacho Peak: TBA, but we know they are bringing four kegs
  • Ponderosa: Rip Saw Red, Ghost Train IPA, Jubilee, Zatfig (Oatmeal Stout)
  • Red Door: Ryeson Sun Saison, Broken Arrow Pale Ale, Anniversary Double Red, Vanilla Cream Ale
  • Rio Bravo: Oktoberfest, Karl’s Hefeweizen, Rio Bravo Amber, Level 1 DRB IPA
  • Rio Nuevo: TBA
  • Santa Fe: Booth #1 — Happy Camper, Oktoberfest, Duke’s Anniversary Lager; Booth #2 — Nut Brown, Java Stout, Chicken Killer, and R2Beer2 will Randall the Nut Brown through roasted pinon (SFBC will also have one brewer at each booth to talk to customers about the beers being poured)
  • Second Street: Pivotal IPA, Fulcrum IPA, Trebuchet DIPA, Kolsch, Brown Ale or Red Comet, Boneshaker Special Bitter, The Preachers Share
  • Sierra Blanca/Rio Grande: TBA
  • Taos Ale House: TBA
  • Taos Mesa: 3 Peaks IPA, Cross Eye Rye, Great Scot Scottish, Wheeler Peak Wheat
  • Tractor: Almanac IPA, Farmer’s Tan Red Ale, Mustachio Milk Stout, Delicious Red Hard Apple Cider, The Ruggles, Traktoberfest
  • Turtle Mountain: Kosmonaut Kolsch, Altbier, Hopshell IPA, After Midnight Schwarzbier, Gourd Dammit

If I absolutely had to pick one beer that is not to be missed, it would be The Preachers Share, a barrel-aged imperial stout, at Second Street. Of course, that is probably the beer that did in the Crew in years past, so be careful.

All TBA lists above will be updated as soon as we get them, even the morning of the event, so if we are missing your favorite place, keep checking back. We will try to announce updates via Twitter and/or Facebook.

The Crew will be out for the VIP session, so if you see us, stop by and say hello.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Last year the Marble staff brought back some serious hardware from GABF. Who will be this year's big winner from NM?

Last year the Marble staff brought back some serious hardware from GABF. Who will be this year’s big winner from NM?

In case anyone has been living under a rock of late, the Great American Beer Festival, that annual homage to craft beer, begins Thursday and runs through Saturday in Denver. In addition to the thousands upon thousands of beer served up at the Denver Convention Center, there will be hundreds of satellite events, special tappings, and just about everything else you can think of related to beer. Hotel prices are through the roof, every Uber driver should make a killing (though possibly at the expense of their floor mats), and the streets of Denver shall be packed.

It is a one-of-a-kind, visceral experience that everyone should partake in once in his/her lifetime. For myself and E-Rock, that was in 2012, though we both hope to go back one of these days. New rules should eventually enable us in the Crew to get press passes, but alas, we are still poor, and between car maintenance costs, work schedules, and a lack of a viable place to stay that won’t cost us half our annual salary, we are sitting out 2015. It should be noted that some members of the Brew Crew Bullpen will be there, having (somehow) scored general admission tickets. I’m sure they will be filing stories later this week and the next about their experiences.

For most of us watching from afar, however, the most important thing is the giant beer competition that occurs every year. In the last two years, New Mexico breweries have brought home 16 medals, eight in each year, more than twice what they had ever won before. Five NM beers earned gold medals last year, with Marble taking home two for Imperial Red and Double White, a brace that earned them the Small Brewery of the Year Award, a massive accomplishment for our brewing scene.

This year to help preview the festival, I asked the majority of the 15 participating breweries from our state what beers they were taking to the festival for both competition and to serve at their respective booths on the floor. When the GABF phone app updates the lists for our missing breweries, we will update this story.

Think of this also as a good way to keep an eye on who has what entered when they announce the winners on Saturday via an online broadcast on the website.

Bathtub Row: Little Bird Blonde, Wit Rock, Big House Belgo, Red Hammer, Black Point Stout

Bistronomy B2B: Green Chile Pale Ale, Cucumber Cream Ale, Lemongrass Basil Blonde, Coconut Porter, ESB

Blue Corn: Oatmeal Stout, Brown Ale, Night Train, HALT!-Bier, 
Apple Brandy Barleywine (competition only)

Bosque: Acequia Wet Hop IPA, Scale Tipper, Scotia Scotch, Bosque Lager, Riverwalker IPA

Boxing Bear: Standing 8 Stout, Paw Swipe Pale Ale, Hairy Mit Hefe, Body Czech Pilsner

Canteen: Dougie Style Amber, Exodus IPA, Odin’s Imperial Red, Dark & Lusty Stout, 
2008 St. Bob’s Imperial Stout

Chama River: Radioactive, Wee Bit Loco, Obey the Darkside, Class VI, Kolsch

La Cumbre: Project Dank, Malpais Stout, Red Ryeot, Fievre d’Abricot, 
Elevated IPA (booth only), Southpeak Pils (competition only)

Little Toad Creek: TBA

Marble: Pilsner, Double White, Imperial Red, Imperial Stout, Brett IPA

Red Door: Roamer Red, Threshold IPA, Paint It Black Milk Stout, Ryeson Sun Saison, 
Broken Arrow Pale Ale

Santa Fe: Kriek, Black IPA, Nut Brown, Pale Ale, Single Barrel (competition only)

Sierra Blanca: Desert Pils (booth only), Pancho Verde, Bone Chiller Brown, Whiskey Stout (booth only), Alien Milk Stout, Alien Amber (competition only), Alien Wheat (competition only)

Taos Mesa: TBA

Tractor: Kristal Weizen, Chocolate Milk Stout, Berliner Weisse, Dark Horse Lager, 
Cowboy Blend Coffee Stout

And just for fun, if we had to pick one beer for each brewery to earn a medal, well …

Bathtub Row: Black Point Stout, Bistronomy B2B: Coconut Porter, Blue Corn: Oatmeal Stout (which won gold last year), Bosque: Scale Tipper, Boxing Bear: Body Czech Pilsner, Canteen: Dougie Style Amber (gold last year), Chama River: Obey the Darkside, La Cumbre: Project Dank, Marble: Imperial Stout, Red Door: Ryeson Sun Saison, Santa Fe: Kriek (bronze last year), Sierra Blanca: Bone Chiller Brown (two-time medal winner), Tractor: Cowboy Blend Coffee Stout

Certainly, as last year showed, breweries can win more than one medal. We hope everyone brings home at least one, though we realize that is unlikely. Still, it would be amazing to see our breweries double their haul from last year to this.

For any of you that are going to GABF, if you want to share photos, stories, news, or anything, you can contact us the usual ways: email us nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com, via Facebook, or via Twitter @nmdarksidebc.

For everyone going to Denver, have fun and please stay safe up there. (In other words, do not utter the words “Peyton Manning looks done” under any circumstances. Even if he looks done.)

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The weather cooperated with MWBF. We cannot overstate how amazed we were by this.

The weather cooperated with MWBF. We cannot overstate how amazed we were by this.

For all the concerns about preparation, organization, and everything else, the first edition of the Mountain West Brew Fest was a big hit over Labor Day Weekend. The four members of the Crew (myself, Brandon, Kristin, Laura) who attended on Saturday afternoon all had a blast.

Just about every concern we had was laid to rest quickly, such as …

  • Transportation: The Rail Runner was on time (!) and there were plenty of buses to shuttle us over to the event. Or, you could walk, it really was not that far from the station. Traffic outside the event did not appear to be overly congested, either.
  • Entry: There were separate lines for people purchasing tickets, people with pre-purchased tickets, and those with tickets on their phones instead of printed out. Genius.
  • Weather: OK, technically no one at the Fest had control over this, but for once the NM weather cooperated, with the rain staying away, the breeze never picking up too much, and overall it was not too hot.
  • Food: There were a slew of options all around the fest for different things to eat, further helping to combat anyone from drinking too much on an empty stomach.
  • Shade: When you needed a break from the sun, there were individual tents present and of course the main music tent where people could sit and take a break. Hey SPF50 only works for so long, right?

As per usual, the crowd was great. Friendly people were everywhere and no one that we saw went overboard with the samples.

Of course, since this is a beer site and all, our greatest concern was over the variety of beer that our local breweries were bringing. In the end, some could only bring their stalwarts, while others gave us a good mix of new seasonals and old favorites.

Some of our picks for the best of the fest included:

  • Bathtub Row’s Black Point Stout, an excellent, year-round offering that made its first trek down from Los Alamos
  • Blue Corn’s bizarrely wonderful Brown Paper Bag, an unfiltered malt liquor, and Alpha Reaper 2.0, a wet-hopped IPA
  • Bosque’s Imperial Lager, which is one of the sweetest imperials we have ever tasted
  • Kaktus’ solid Darkness Falls Stout and quirky Basil Lager
  • La Cumbre’s hop blast of Acclimated DIPA
  • Lizard Tail’s aptly named Smooth Tailed Oatmeal Stout
  • Marble’s funky Saison Brux, one of the better examples of the style we have had
  • Nexus’ sinfully smooth Kaylynn’s Altbier
  • Pi’s punchy Robust Porter
  • Rio Bravo’s Roadkill Red and the burly Black Angus Stout
  • Second Street’s delightfully different 3 C’s Porter, a porter with a hoppy bite
  • Tractor’s East Coast-style IPA, Big Sipper
  • And of course the new, GABF-bound version of Obey the Darkside Stout at Chama River, which is even better than the version we helped brew this past winter

Over in the Premium Tent, we grabbed some Blue Corn Barleywine, which is still outstanding and seems to be getting better with age, and La Cumbre’s new Summer Strong, a pale barleywine that is now on tap at the brewery (get over there ASAP!). In fact, just about all of these beers are on tap at their respective breweries. Seek them out, especially the seasonals, for they could (should) run out fast.

Got your own favorite beers from MWBF or anything else you would like to say about your experience? Share it with us and we will pass it along to the Brewers Guild. You can leave a comment here on the story, or on Facebook, Twitter, or email us at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com. Just remember, constructive criticism is always best when talking about anything you did not like.

A huge thank you to all of the participating breweries, the many volunteers, the town of Bernalillo, and to Chris Goblet, who is hopefully catching up on all that sleep he missed for a month (at least).

We will leave you with a photo album from Laura, who actually remembered to take pictures, unlike a certain editor.

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For many folks, this was their first opportunity to try the excellent beers from Los Alamos’ Bathtub Row.

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The longest distance traveled by an in-state brewery for MWBF was definitely by Silver City’s Little Toad Creek.

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Just about everything Second Street offered up was making its first appearance outside of Santa Fe.

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Tractor offered up a pair of seasonals and some of their house beers.

Peter Moore, who is taking over as head brewer at Back Alley, serves up some samples.

Peter Moore, who is taking over as head brewer at Back Alley, serves up some samples.

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Cazuela’s offered up their award-winning Beer For My Horses Oatmeal Stout.

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Look what Santa Fe brought out of the cellar.

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Is that Obey the Darkside we see on Chama River’s board?

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Brandon and Stoutmeister. Nothing more needs to be said.

Cheers to you, Mountain West Brew Fest! See you in 2016!

Cheers to you, Mountain West Brew Fest! See you in 2016!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

All the tools a beer writer needs to get the lowdown on the state's newest and biggest upcoming festival.

All the tools a beer writer needs to get the lowdown on the state’s newest and biggest upcoming festival.

Festival season arrives on Aug. 29 with old favorite Hopfest back at Isleta Casino. While that event is one we know well, many have begun to ask the Crew about the next big one on the New Mexico calendar, the Mountain West Brew Fest. The event will replace the old Labor Day weekend wine festival at Loretto Park in Bernalillo, running from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5, and Sunday, Sept. 6. It will feature over 50 breweries in attendance, from in-state and out-of-state, plus a whole heck of a lot more than just beer.

To get all the details, I met up with New Mexico Brewers Guild director Chris Goblet at Kaktus Brewing on Tuesday afternoon. Over a couple mugs of Berna Brown, we pretty much covered everything that you want to know, short of the specific beers available (a list that Goblet hopes to send over next week or the week after at the latest).

For now, to answer the first question most people have asked, here are the breweries scheduled to be in attendance.

New Mexico breweries: Abbey, Back Alley, Bathtub Row, Blue Corn, Boese Brothers, Bosque, Boxing Bear, Canteen, Chama River, Distillery 365, Duel, Kaktus, La Cumbre, Las Cazuela’s, Little Toad Creek, Marble, New Mexico Craft Brewing, Nexus, Pi, Ponderosa, Red Door, Rio Bravo, Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca, Santa Fe, Second Street, Tractor, Turtle Mountain

Out-of-state breweries: Anchor, Anderson Valley, Avery, Ballast Point, Big Sky, Boulder, Breckenridge, Deschutes, Full Sail, Green Flash, Lagunitas, Left Hand, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, Ska, Stone, Upslope

That is a lot of breweries, but if MWBF comes off as expected, it might be just the right number.

“We are planning to the largest craft beer event by population, by ticket sales, by attendees, that’s ever happened (in New Mexico),” Goblet said, noting that in its 27-year history, the Bernalillo wine festival had anywhere from a peak of 28,000 visitors to 14,000 last year. “As a part of this transition into this new craft beer era, we’re going to take a wine festival and somehow replace it with a craft beer event. So we have no idea how many people to expect. It’s a first-year event. We have no idea if some of those wine drinkers will come join us or if they’re going to go to the wine festival at Isleta. It could either be a couple thousand people or it could be 10,000 people.

“And that’s the part that’s really exciting. Whenever you step into something new, you kind of have a sense of a first-year event but it’s kind of also a 28th year event. And that’s the big unknown. How many glasses do we bring? How much beer do we need? We’ve had a lot of brewers who are used to smaller, more intimate festivals. And now you’re talking about potentially four- to five-thousand people per day, descending upon a festival expecting to have a great craft beer experience. We’re trying to gear ourselves up, or ramp up, to accommodate what we think will be a pretty strong demand.”

While there are some California and Oregon breweries in attendance (Anchor, Anderson Valley, Deschutes, Full Sail, Green Flash, Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, Stone), the hope is that the MWBF will grow into a major regional festival. New Mexico has long been a state caught between three regions — West Coast, Southwest, Rocky Mountain — but part of the thought in naming this festival Mountain West was to identify more with the latter.

“We chose the name Mountain West Brew Fest specifically because we’ve been wanting to continue to build our brand as one of the Rocky Mountain states for craft beer,” Goblet said. “Rocky Mountains, we’re the southernmost tip. The water from Colorado flows into New Mexico. We think that New Mexico has been doing an amazing job representing itself as a solid West Coast craft beer producer. So we wanted to make sure people identified New Mexico not just as a southwest (state) like Arizona, Texas, and Nevada, but really a Mountain West state.

“It also ties into the (college) sports teams and Labor Day weekend is the kickoff of athletics in the Mountain West Conference. There’s this idea that the beers coming out of the West are of the highest quality and we’re part of that brand. People say West Coast beer, but our identification is Mountain West beers.”

As one can tell from the list of in-state breweries, it is mainly those within spitting distance of the central Rio Grande Valley who are attending. Notables such as High Desert (Las Cruces), Spotted Dog (Mesilla), Roosevelt (Portales), The Wellhead (Artesia), 3 Rivers (Farmington), and Taos Mesa are absent. Well, only sort of absent, as Goblet explained.

“It’s a big holiday weekend, it’s an unknown event,” he said. “I don’t blame a few of our further-flung breweries, our frontier breweries as we call them, for calling this one in as an audible. We’ve made accommodations for our further-flung breweries to send their beers to the festival through our Premier Pass and Premier Tent. The idea being that they can’t come, but their beer can still be represented and poured by another brewery. So we’re going to try to have representation of all the breweries in the state that we can get. It’s a long haul, it’s an expensive weekend to come to Albuquerque so we understand for the first year that it was much easier for a lot of the Rio Grande corridor breweries to show up.”

That Premier Pass/Tent is the bonus setup for this event. It costs $10 extra and you can either buy it in advance or upgrade at any time while you are at the festival.

“So you’ve got your standard general admission of $20, a great price for a big, large-scale festival like this,” Goblet said. “You get your standard commemorative sampling glass with your two-ounce sampling line. It’s unlimited sampling like every other Guild festival. You can (also) purchase pints.

“But because this festival has traditionally drawn so many people, we wanted to create an upgrade for folks who wanted to get out of the sun, get a bit of space, have a bit more of an intimate experience. Each day we’ll have four or five bars inside the Premier Tent. The Premier Pass gets you access into an air-conditioned tent with 20 different beers that are not available in the rest of the festival that you can sample and purchase. We’re looking for rare, obscure, unique, interesting beer styles that aren’t (readily) available, limited edition, maybe some barrel-aged specialties.

“Plus, this is where you can go find beers from breweries not represented at the festival — Spotted Dog, High Desert, 3 Rivers, Taos Mesa, and a few others. So it’s kind of one step up, plus it’s air conditioned, so it has that creature comfort for folks who want a bit more exclusive experience.”

Considering the recent temperatures around New Mexico, something with air conditioning just screams “VISIT ME!” That it will also have unique beers available means you will probably find the Crew there.

In addition to all the beer, there will also be a farmers market on site, plus food trucks/vendors, and live music (Bottom Dollar String Band, Anthony Leon & the Chain, Detroit Lightning, Blaze the Nation, Squash Blossom Boys, The Porter Draw, and Soul Kitchen are all lined up to perform). Plus, in the spirit of Labor Day weekend, there will be beer games galore. No, not the traditional beer pong with beer (state law prohibits those, in case you were not aware), but stuff like corn hole, giant Jenga (thank Boxing Bear for that), and whatever else the breweries happen to bring along. Since it is also a giant grass field, picnicking is encouraged, and fear not, the breweries will protect you from any bears that wander in and try to steal your basket. (Right, guys? Right?)

“We all like to think about, it’s Labor Day weekend and what do you do on Labor Day weekend? You hang out with family and friends in your back yard, great beer, great food, you play games and sit in the grass and have a picnic,” Goblet said. “This festival provides that beautiful grassy landscape, (with the) Sandia Mountains in the backdrop. You have a farmers’ market on site where you can go get a picnic. You can go to one of the food vendors and grab a nice lunch. You can have a friendly competition with the games. You can go listen to a concert. The idea is that it’s one of these lounging kind of days, hanging out with friends, doing whatever everyone likes to do on Labor Day, which is kick back and enjoy.”

As for getting to and from the event, fear not, in addition to bribing that one friend/relative/spouse to be your designated driver, they are encouraging every alternative means of transportation that people can come up with for the weekend.

“We have orchestrated some special trains, so definitely check your Rail Runner schedule, there will be special trains coming to the event,” Goblet said. “So you’ve got your standard Rail Runner schedule, your special trains, whatever, by foot, by bike. If Trump will give you his helicopter you can land in the middle of the festival. The hope is that we’re centrally located, we’re between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. It’s an easy 35 minutes form Santa Fe, 15 to 20 minutes from Albuquerque, depending on how fast you drive.”

For the record, I got from ABQ to Kaktus, which is not far from the main site, in 10 minutes. But I drive like a lunatic. Just ask the rest of the Crew. There is a reason they will not ride with me unless absolutely necessary.

Come Labor Day weekend, however, I think the Crew will take advantage of those special Rail Runner trains. We will see many of you there, of that I am all but certain.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister