Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico Brewers Guild’

Can anyone pry the trophy from Justin Hamilton’s hands this summer?

There was just enough news piling up to require a short notebook this week. The NM Brewers Guild released the list of 30 participating breweries in this summer’s NM IPA Challenge. We also have news on some of the new breweries coming to our state, plus a couple notes on American Craft Beer Week.

Thirty breweries will enter, only one will leave (with the trophy)

With more than 70 operational breweries in New Mexico, the annual IPA Challenge cannot possibly accommodate everyone in the state. There are 30 spots available for the preliminary round, so the Guild simply offered them up on a first-come, first-served basis this week (save for the defending champion, which always gets an automatic bid).

The NMIPAC will start off with the preliminary round July 14 in Albuquerque, followed by rounds in Taos on July 18, Santa Fe on July 21, and then back to Albuquerque on July 28. The host breweries have not been named yet.

Here are the preliminary round participants, with past championships in parentheses for those that have won.

  1. Blue Corn (2013)
  2. Bombs Away (first time participant)
  3. Bosque (2014, 2015)
  4. Bow & Arrow
  5. Boxing Bear (2016, 2017)
  6. Canteen (2004, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)
  7. Cloudcroft (first time participant)
  8. Duel
  9. Flix Brewhouse
  10. High Desert
  11. Kaktus
  12. Kellys
  13. La Cumbre
  14. Little Toad Creek
  15. Marble
  16. Nexus
  17. Ponderosa
  18. Quarter Celtic
  19. Red Door
  20. Red River (first time participant)
  21. Rio Bravo
  22. Roosevelt
  23. Santa Fe
  24. Second Street
  25. Sidetrack
  26. Starr Brothers
  27. Taos Mesa
  28. Three Rivers
  29. Toltec (first time participant)
  30. Tractor

For those wondering about the missing years, Chama River (R.I.P.) won in 2006 and 2008, while Turtle Mountain won in 2009, but is not participating this year.

Other notable breweries not participating include Abbey, Bathtub Row, Boese Brothers, Cazuela’s, Desert Valley, Dialogue, Enchanted Circle, Milton’s, Picacho Peak, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Sierra Blanca, Spotted Dog, Steel Bender, and Tumbleroot.

When the host breweries have been named, we will let everyone know.

American Craft Beer Week is back

In case you missed it, and if you don’t check into Untappd, you have probably have, but American Craft Beer Week is happening right now. There aren’t really any local events going on around New Mexico, mostly because a good chunk of the state’s breweries are gearing up for ABQ Beer Week, which starts a week from today.

The main goal of ACBW this year is to get people to seek out breweries that have adopted the Independent Craft Beer logo. You can find the list of New Mexico breweries by going here and searching by our state. Most of the craft breweries here have adopted the logo.

If you would like to have a little more fun, you can always print out the ACBW bingo card. For those who enjoyed running all over town for the Beer Passport last month, this one might be for you.

New brewery updates

Grants has a local brewery again as Elkins Brewing is now open.

There have not been too many additions to our list, but there is some news on openings.

  • Well now, after months of being a total mystery, Elkins Brewing in Grants has a Facebook page. Not only that, but it has either opened or is awfully close to opening. Located at the Lavaland RV Park off Exit 85 of Interstate 40, Elkins is right by the entrance to El Malpais National Monument. Per the Facebook page, Elkins was scheduled to open Tuesday, but there is no official confirmation that it did open. The plan was to have an American IPA, English IPA, Blond Ale, Rye Ale, Gose, and Imperial Stout on tap. One or more of us from the Crew will head out there soon enough to check it out. Welcome to the scene, Elkins!
  • Another brewery now in possession of an active small brewer license is Bonito Valley Brewing in Lincoln. So when will this small-town brewery open? Bonito Valley has announced that its grand opening weekend will be August 3-5. If you are not heading up to Denver for the LA Galaxy-Colorado Rapids game that weekend like some of our friends (the power of Zlatan compels them), then this might make for a nice alternative trip if you need to get out of ABQ.
  • A restaurant in Las Vegas, B3-BBQ, Burgers & Beer, has a pending small brewer license, which give that town its first local craft since New Mexico Craft Brewing closed down years ago (and was later reborn down here in ABQ as Desert Valley).
  • It sure looks like Red River Brewing will be open this weekend (we await an official notice), but even if it’s not, head to town for the Bacon & Brews festival this Saturday. Brandenburg Park will host the event from noon to 5 p.m. Participating breweries will include Abbey, Comanche Creek, Enchanted Circle, Red River, Santa Fe, and from all the way down in Ruidoso, Lost Hiker. There will also be wine, games, music, and more.

That is all from us for now. If you know of any news we have missed about breweries in New Mexico, please contact us via social media or at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Take a trip to Silver City this Saturday for Toad Fest at Little Toad Creek.

Last year, the Crew was heading back from our tour of the southeast breweries when we made the rather crazy decision to suddenly head over to Silver City to catch Toad Fest at Little Toad Creek. This small-but-fun festival, run by the NM Brewers Guild, is a fun way for folks in the southwest corner of the state to try some unique beers from up north.

This year is no different, as the Guild is taking 19 beers* from Albuquerque and Santa Fe breweries. Many of them are specialty and seasonal offerings, rather than just the usual packaged or house beers. Toad Fest will take place Saturday from 2 p.m. to midnight at the Little Toad Creek Taproom on the corner of Broadway and Bullard Streets. The beers will be tapped inside at the main bar and outside in the courtyard/patio area on the east side of the building. There will be a beer garden in the alleyway with games, too.

The live music lineup is Amos Torres at 2 p.m., Sissy Brown at 5 p.m., and Shotgun Calliope at 8 p.m.

Now, as for those beers, here are the 19 we were informed about (hence the * above). Little Toad Creek said on the event’s Facebook page that there will be 24 available, including some from its own supply.

  • Bombs Away: Hellfire Green Chile Golden
  • Bosque: Strawberry Sabotage, The Good Place (PA)
  • Broken Trail: Pepe the Mule, Double Black Ale
  • La Cumbre: Project Dank, Slice of Hefen
  • Marble: Session IPA, El Gabacho
  • Nexus: Imperial Cream Ale, Scotch Ale
  • Red Door: Roamer Red, Vanilla Cream Ale
  • Santa Fe: 7K IPA, Twisted Root
  • Tractor: Lemon & Honey, Goathead Hador (Doppelbock)
  • Turtle Mountain: Copper Lager, Amnesia Ale

Per the event page, Sidetrack and Taos Mesa are also scheduled to be available, so if we learn the identity of those beers, we will update this list.

Luke and I had a great time at Toad Fest last year. The event was packed, but not overly crowded. The staff and crowd were friendly and helpful. It was a great way to enjoy some beers and soak in the culture of the mountain town.

If you need to get out of town for the weekend, consider Toad Fest.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Guild executive director John Gozigian has remained at the forefront of supporting New Mexico breweries in our state and beyond.

In the past, the Look Back/Look Ahead Series has focused solely on individual breweries. Tractor Brewing president/co-owner Skye Devore felt that we had been missing something, so she let me know after our interview last month. Namely, the Crew had never done one of these for the New Mexico Brewers Guild, so today, that absence is remedied. I sat down with Guild executive director John Gozigian last week at Bosque Brewing to go over how 2017 went and what to expect in 2018.

“It was good,” John said of 2017. “We added a fair amount of new brewery members, new associate members. We had legislative success at the beginning of the year in the form of blocking some pretty damaging legislation (Senate Bill 314 and its house counterpart). We’ve been helpful on the national level with promoting and moving the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act forward. I think one of the things we’re most proud of is that New Mexico is the only state in the country whose entire Congressional delegation, on both sides of the aisle, are sponsors of the (CBMTRA). And, all members of their respective parties’ caucuses.”

For beer lovers across the state, the most tangible thing the Guild does every year is sponsor a slew of festivals. From WinterBrew in Santa Fe every January, to the Stout Invitational in Los Alamos in February, to Blazin’ Brewfest in Las Cruces in May, to the NM IPA Challenge across the state in July, and finally to the Beer Premiere in Albuquerque in October, it was a strong year.

“The festivals went well,” John said. “WinterBrew, the first festival of the year, sold out, as it always does. The next one of the year, the Stout Invitational up in Los Alamos, sold out, too. Blazin’ Brewfest in Las Cruces was good. Our attendance was down. We had a major freak thunderstorm blow through in the first hour of the festival, right as the gates opened. That dampened attendance, but there were still a lot of people there.”

The NMIPAC was a big hit for Boxing Bear brewer/owner Justin Hamilton and the Guild as a whole.

The 2017 NMIPAC was a smashing success in terms of attendance, with the final round at Steel Bender Brewyard selling out, but that does not mean the Guild is fully satisfied with the format going forward.

“That’s one that we’re struggling with, trying to figure out what to do with, whether we keep it small and keep it brewery-based, which has been our tradition for almost 20 years now,” John said. “Or, do we find a larger venue at least for the final round? Then more people could attend. That’s kind of an existential crisis that we’re having right now. It’s worked well the way we do it and it’s a lot of fun the way we do it and it’s our tradition. We sold out the last event, the final round this year. A lot of people were not able to get tickets. It’s challenging to execute that in the space of a brewery, even the big breweries now, even the biggest. You’re pouring flights of 15 beers for hundreds of people. It’s definitely a difficult endeavor to pull off. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

The obvious issue there would be finding and then paying for renting said venue, while hoping increased attendance would cover the loss of revenue for the Guild, as host breweries do not charge. The NMIPAC is the single biggest Guild fundraiser every year, and that money is needed to keep fighting the good fight in Santa Fe.

“There is a chance that in 2018, the IPA Challenge, at least the final round, might end up at a venue that’s not a brewery to accommodate more people,” John said. “The cool thing is because there’s so much attendance now, it’s really legitimized the IPA Challenge as a competition. The old days when you’d have 20 to 30 people per round, if you had 15 to 20 people from one brewery show up and identify their beer, it would really skew the numbers. That’s really hard to do now.”

Being on the Guild Board of Directors can be an adventure, such as that one time the RV broke down between Farmington and Taos. (Photo courtesy of the NMBG)

While final decisions on the fate of the NMIPAC will be made later in 2018, one set of changes is already afoot. The Guild currently has a seven-person Board of Directors, with elected members serving two-year terms, capped at three consecutive terms. Voting alternates between four seats and three seats every year. This year, three seats came open as the sitting members did not run again.

“Skye had served two terms (and) Gabe (Jensen, of Bosque) had served two terms, and they felt like they needed a break,” John said. “James (Warren) was up for reelection and he has served one term, but you can’t have a member from a brewery that already has a board member. If you remember, he got elected when he was with Santa Fe Dining and then moved to Santa Fe Brewing. He can finish out his term, there’s no rule against that. If you’re running for election, you can’t run against another candidate from your brewery or a serving member.”

The election results came in after our interview, with Nexus owner Ken Carson, Bosque director of culture and engagement Jessica Griego, and Bombs Away head brewer David Kimbell taking over the three vacant spots on the board.

All of them will hit the ground running in 2018.

Legislative changes loom in 2018

There are no cool photos of legislation, so how about a cool photo of a Guild goblet from October’s Beer Premiere instead?

The coming year will feature a 30-day session of the State Legislature, which will also be the last year in office for Republican governor Susanna Martinez, meaning big changes could await on the political playing field in 2019. For now, though, the Guild has a couple small items targeted.

“For 2018, there’s a couple things,” John said. “One, we have a legislative session coming up. We are introducing a bill. What we’re seeking is to modify the Sunday sales hours, because right now we can’t serve alcohol until noon on Sundays. That got addressed for specialty permit holders a couple years ago. If you have a full liquor license, you can open at 11 o’clock on Sundays. It didn’t specifically allow small brewers and winemakers to open at 11 o’clock. We’re going to run a bill that will hopefully clean that up.”

For everyone who has gone to a brewery to watch the NFL games that start at 11 a.m. on Sundays, or even earlier to catch some Premier League soccer, not being able to order a beer until noon has always been a major bummer. John said he did not foresee much resistance on this bill.

“It’s a 30-day session, so the key will be to get the bill introduced, through the committees, and onto the floor before the session times out,” he said. “I don’t foresee this being particularly controversial. We’re talking about one hour on one day of the week. It’s something that’s already happening at every other licensed establishment besides breweries and wineries.”

Something else the Guild would like to see changed is the current inability of breweries to exclusively serve their wares at private events.

“Another thing we’re going to do is we’re going to work on the public celebration permit,” John said. “Right now the public celebration permit is specifically for public events, so we can use it for things like New Mexico Brewfest, the IPA Challenge, Blazin’ Brewfest, because they’re open to the public. But currently breweries and winemakers can’t cater a private event and serve your product. On the other hand, dispensers permit holders can get a special dispensers permit and they can do either or. They can do public celebrations or private events. We’re asking that the public celebration permit become the celebration permit, so it can be used for public and private.”

John said that it could especially be key for smaller breweries in the outlying communities, giving them an opportunity for added revenue. That could be important for those that do not package and sell their beers across the state. John said there might be some push back against a change, but ultimately he feels a move to help more small businesses will be approved.

Something else that will help smaller, rural breweries could soon appear on your phone.

“The other thing is we’re looking at having an app built for our breweries,” John said. “It will have an interactive map and tour. People who download the app can visit breweries and there will be incentives for visiting X number of breweries, completing X number of ale trails throughout the state.

“Some of our fellow guilds across the country have begun to use them. I think it could be particularly helpful in a state like New Mexico, driving people to the more rural breweries. You can incentivize particular ale trails more heavily if they’re more challenging to complete.”

You mean the Crew might have to retake some of our past brewery road trips? Back to the Southeast and the Taos area and even more beyond that? Oh, gosh, darn, twist our arms.

WinterBrew is up first among Guild-sponsored festivals in 2018.

As for the festivals, many of those dates are already set in stone. WinterBrew will return January 12 at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. The Stout Invitational will be back February 17 at Bathtub Row. Blazin’ Brewfest is set for Cinco de Mayo in Las Cruces. The NMIPAC will kick off with the preliminary round July 14 and conclude with the finals July 28, locations TBD.

“All of our festivals, we’re always looking at ways to keep them up to date, to tweak them,” John said. “We want to keep them fun and exciting. People should be looking for some new and exciting things this year. We do have some new plans in the works.”

A big thanks to John for taking some time to chat. Clearly, he has a lot on his plate going into the new year. All of us in the Crew look forward to supporting the Guild again in 2018 and beyond, and we thank John and the board members for their service on behalf of our craft beer scene.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Cheers to the BA for all it does.

Yeah, it is definitely that time of year. The recaps and top 10 lists are being posted, the year-in-review stories are rolling along (like, uh, our Look Back/Look Ahead Series). When it comes to recapping the year in craft beer for the entire country, no one sums it up best quite like the Brewers Association.

It was another big year for craft beer, to say the least.

“Craft brewers continue to thrive, if at a slower pace, fueled by a passionate community dedicated to bringing innovation, jobs and beer across America—on Main Street and beyond,” said Bart Watson, the chief economist of the Brewers Association, in a press release. “Today, 83 percent of the population lives within 10 miles of a local brewery, meaning that the positive impact of breweries is being felt in communities all over the country.”

OK, that is pretty cool. What other stats does the BA have for us?

  • The number of breweries nationwide has now surpassed 6,000, with 98 percent of those falling under the craft banner. By the Crew’s count, 68 of those are in New Mexico, with at least six more active licenses for places that have yet to open their doors, but should in the next couple months (more on that down below).
  • All those breweries have created 456,373 jobs, a 7.5-percent increase from 2014. In turn, that has generated $67.8 billion for the U.S. economy, a 21.7-percent increase. Craft breweries in turn donated $73.4 million to charities.
  • The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act has support from both parties and will potentially pass through both houses of Congress and become law during this current session. So, yeah, I guess we will have to say that Congress will do one good thing.
  • It appears the term “beercation” is becoming more and more of a reality. The average craft beer drinker visits 3.5 breweries near home and 2.5 breweries within two hours driving distance (take note: the press release did not say whether this was 3.5 per week, per month, or per year; for the Crew, it would certainly be per week, sometimes even per day, when we are feeling frisky with our Lyft/Uber accounts). A survey by the BA found that 64 percent of craft drinkers like to visit breweries to try new beers on a regular basis. We will raise one to that.
  • The New Mexico stats on the BA website are for 2016, but they still tell a positive story. By the end of that year, there 57 breweries, ranking 26th in the country. More notably, the 3.9 breweries per capita (100,000 adults) ranks 11th nationwide. Breweries had an economic impact of $333 million (40th) or $226.26 per capita (35th). A total of 111,237 barrels (32nd) were produced, amounting to 2.3 gallons consumed per adult (21st).

Yeah, it is still a good era for craft beer. Here is hoping it continues into 2018 and beyond.

Embrace the darkness at beer bars, too

The quality of dark beers around town is straight fire.

Our friends over Rock & Brews wanted you all to know that the current dark beer lineup is fairly epic. As fun as it is to hit up the breweries first, don’t forget the beer bars, as they often pull in some exclusive styles from out of state that you can usually only get in bottles or cans.

Rock & Brews currently has Dogfish Head’s Vanilla Oak-Aged Worldwide Stout, which is otherwise a pricey purchase in four-pack bottles. The ubiquitous Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout lines up next to Worldwide. There is also the most recent iteration of the ultimate beer geek beer, Stone’s Imperial Farking Wootstout. The real surprise gem, though, is Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout. No, really, it is on tap. If that hefty price tag for a bomber is scaring you off, but you really want to know if it is worth it (we think so, but we’re biased), head over to Rock & Brews to try it first before you commit to a 22-ounce bottle or two.

Down at Sister Bar, at least as of the Gatecreeper show this past Monday (gotta say, impressive crowd showing, ABQ-area metalheads), there is still some of La Cumbre’s La Negra on tap. It has been out at the brewery for a while, so get some while it lasts (if it’s even still there, we apologize if it is gone by now).

Nob Hill Bar & Grill has a strong lineup, which you can find anytime via Untappd. The current black beasts of ahhh available are Bell’s Black Note and Kalamazoo Stout, plus 2016 and 2017 Bourbon County Brand Stout, and two old favorites in Oskar Blues Ten FIDY and Stone Xocoveza.

So much dark beer, so little time.

New breweries update

Hello to a new small town brewery!

Sticking with tradition in beer notes, here are the most recent updates on all the forthcoming breweries across New Mexico. As always, we only list breweries with pending or active small brewer licenses with the State.

  • BLUE (Albuquerque): Nothing new on this small brewery located somewhere near Broadway and Lead/Coal.
  • Bonito Valley Brewing (Lincoln): A newcomer to the list located in a small, historic town west of Roswell along Highway 380. There is a Facebook page that says the owners are aiming for a summer 2018 opening.
  • Brewstillery (Albuquerque): We still have no info on this combo operation in the Southeast.
  • Callahan West Brewery (Mosquero): The small town brewery has been in touch with the NM Brewers Guild about joining up in 2018, so it appears to be a go.
  • Cantero Brewing (Albuquerque): Now armed with an active license, the final parts of construction are underway.
  • Elkins Brewing (Grants): We have no new info on this business.
  • Glencoe Distillery and Brewery (Ruidoso): The license is active, but there is still no website that we can find, nor any social media. It remains a mystery.
  • Guadalupe Mountain Brewing (Carlsbad): The license is active here, too, and beer is now being brewed. We await the announcement of opening, which could come any week now.
  • High and Dry Brewing (Albuquerque): Construction appears to be mostly complete down near Adams and Lomas. The Crew is in touch with the ownership and we are working to set up an advance tour when they are ready.
  • Hollow Spirits (Albuquerque): Construction continues on this new combo spot in the Wells Park neighborhood. It is the brainchild of former Red Door co-owner Frank Holloway.
  • Lava Rock Brewing (Albuquerque): The West Side brewery is getting closer and closer to opening on Unser just north of Ladera.
  • Lost Hiker Brewing (Ruidoso): Yes, the license is active, now only a few final touches must be completed and there will be local beer in the mountains down south. Keep track of the progress on the Lost Hiker Facebook page.
  • 1933 Brewing (Rio Rancho): Another newcomer to the list, we have no info beyond a name and a zip code for RR. It is unknown if this brewery is related in any way to the former 1933 Brewing of Fort Collins, Colo., which closed at the end of 2016.
  • Red River Brewing: All this mild winter is not helping the ski industry up north, but it should enable RRB to finish construction and remain on track for an early 2018 opening.
  • Switchback Brewery (Cloudcroft): There is still no info online on this place. We would like to remind everyone, though, that there is a Switchback Brewing in Vermont, so a name change may ultimately be necessary.
  • Toltec Brewing (Albuquerque): The forthcoming West Side brewery took a big step by hiring a head brewer, but we have been asked not to reveal the identity of this individual just yet. Let us just say, however, that we are excited.
  • Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery (Santa Fe): There are lots of construction photos on Facebook, so it looks like a good bet to open sooner than later. The small brewer license is now active.
  • The pending licenses for off-site taprooms remains as follows — Little Toad Creek in Las Cruces (new!); Ponderosa at El Vado Motel redevelopment (getting close); Santa Fe Downtown Taproom; Starr Brothers Alehouse (location TBA); Tumbleroot in Santa Fe (they will not sell beer out of the production facility down the street). Also, the Milton’s taproom in Roswell has an active license, but it is not yet open as far as we know.

That is all for now. As always, if you know anything about anything, please drop us a line at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com or contact us via direct message on Facebook or Twitter.

Have a great weekend, and good luck with any last-minute Christmas shopping!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Red Hat Hops and the Village of Los Ranchos recently held a forum to bring together local farmers and breweries.

Hop growing has expanded in the United States from the Pacific Northwest to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to coincide with the rising tide of craft beer. At long last, it is beginning to grow roots here in New Mexico, as we are still growing as a brewing destination.

I had the chance to attend a forum hosted by Red Hat Hops and the Village of Los Ranchos earlier this month, and was pleased to be included in the first collective meeting between hop growers, breweries, farmers, brewery chefs, and other related officials from the Guild and the state. Above all, the intent for this gathering was to open a dialogue to foster community, collaboration, and communication between the farmers who would like to supply our local breweries with local ingredients, and the breweries.

John Seabrooks, formerly of Rio Bravo and with over 26 years in the brewing industry, started us off by illustrating the impetus behind local collaboration.

“It is important to start the dialogue and figure out what all of the needs are (of breweries),” John said, “so we can go to the state and other federal agencies and begin to see what we can do to begin to get the appropriate funds to support the initiative of local growers.”

Starting an industry from scratch is no easy task, with much of the equipment required to grow the ingredients needed for making beer costing more than your typical startup business is able to afford. Thus, creating a group for our local growers much like our Brewers Guild is quite important, so as to be able to foster collaboration and cooperation to get our local hop business going. As of this writ, we are up to four total hops growers in the state of New Mexico, with representatives from Red Hat Hops, Crossed Sabers Hops, Stone Lizard Hops, and White Crow Hops all in attendance.

With the recent explosion of some tremendous wet-hopped beers appearing at the end of this year’s growing season, which built on the success of prior years in magnitude and availability, the general consensus is to push for that as a stepping stone for our local hop growers initially, and build on the success of such beers as Bosque’s Acequia IPA and wet hop series, La Cumbre’s Wet Hopped Elevated, and Santa Fe Brewing’s Wet Hopped Strong Ale, to name a few. The possibility of a future Wet Hopped IPA challenge to go alongside our annual IPA challenge was also broached, and is certainly a mouthwatering and palate-destroying possibility, which we will certainly keep on our radar for any developments.

When it comes to brewing beers with wet hops, freshness is king. As we are in relatively close proximity to hop growers in Colorado, our breweries can sometimes see hops harvested and brought down within one to two days or so, and added to beers in the process of being brewed almost immediately. If we were able to cut that time down to a matter of hours, our collective palates would all benefit from the added oils and luscious flavors and aromas that wet hops are known for.

So where are we in terms of hop production in our state now and where are we headed? As Tom from Red Hat Hops put it, “This year we all established what we are doing. I think most of us are doing expansions for next year already. So, for 2018, we are looking at between 10 and 12 acres of harvestable hops in New Mexico. The following year that will likely double and if we get the support of brewing community it’s going to take off exponentially.”

Here’s hoping this will take off, which would benefit all of us hopheads, brewers, and local growers alike. On the topic of hops and how they are used, a typical brew will use strictly dried hop pellets, which keep their magical powers of flavoring substantially longer than fresh hops, so a longer-term goal will be for our state to grow our hop business enough to support the procurement of a large scale hop-drying facility or oast house, likely with some help from the state via the NM Brewers Guild.

You may ask yourself why now? Why are locally sourced ingredients from private businesses so vital to the future of the craft brewing industry? The answer lies with the elephants in the room, the evil empire that is AB InBev and its ilk, which have been procuring malt and hop suppliers to drive their own costs down and put pressure on their competitors, which limits or in some cases eliminates (as was the case with South African hop varieties this past year) availability of those ingredients for craft breweries. These types of market manipulative, monopolistic practices are a huge reason to forge ahead with locally grown and sourced ingredients for beers not beholden to the deplorable multi-billion dollar “beer” conglomerates.

As John so excellently put it, “As a result of AB InBev’s hold on the market, they essentially said we will no longer sell the hops that some craft brewers throughout the world are using that are produced in South Africa. They essentially told everyone that we are saving those hops so that we (InBev) can give them to the craft breweries that we own. In my mind this is the tip of the iceberg. I don’t believe what they are saying in terms of there being a shortage of these hops. What they are doing is essentially taking care of their own business first at the expense of other craft breweries in the world who need to use these South African hops. So, as these huge conglomerates continue to get bigger and buy up more and more craft components, they begin to exert market forces which make it even more difficult for craft brewers to keep their doors open.”

As John went on to illustrate, this also hits the home brewer as well, with the conglomerates wanting to have complete dominance over alcoholic beverages worldwide from the macro to the micro all under their banner for their own profit. So it is essential that we do all that we are able to fight this attempt at utter monopoly by looking to our local providers, which will remain local rather than caving to the self-serving dumptruck-of-cash approach of these conglomerates.

Those of you who know your hop varieties are probably asking which ones are being grown in our state and the answer is quite a few, including the following — Chinook, Cascade, Neo Mexicanus, Centennial, Columbus, and Nugget. There is definitely a lot to look forward to in light of what I learned here about how well hops grow in our climate, and the possibilities for growing not only hops at the local level, but also grain and other fruits and vegetables used in brewing beer or supporting brewery kitchens to bring us good quality locally sourced cuisine.

This was a well attended and successful first gathering of growers, farmers, and brewers, and here’s hoping for a successful harvest this coming year and for good collaboration going forward. Thanks to Red Hat Hops for bringing all of this together and I look forward to future meetings like this as our local brewing community expands from brewery to farmland and beyond.

Skål!

— Franz Solo

So much new beer goodness awaits!

The Beer Premiere, the final fundraising event of the year for the New Mexico Brewers Guild, returns this Saturday with a lineup of 18 never-before-released offerings from local breweries. The event will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. at Bow & Arrow, with tickets still for sale online for $25 apiece.

I sat down with Guild executive director John Gozigian to chat about just why this is an event people cannot miss.

“It’s only $25,” John said. “You sample from 1 to 4 (p.m.), in a 13-ounce goblet, then you get a fill of whatever one you want at the end. These are high gravity beers, aged beers, sours, really expensive beers to produce. You get to actually mingle with the brewers. I think we can sell about 200 tickets. Right now we’re about halfway there. It’s going to sell out. I hope people will buy their tickets early if they want to go.”

The Beer Premiere has had an up-and-down history as an event. The first edition was held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in the summer back in 2013.

“It was a great festival if you went to it, but it wasn’t very well attended,” John said. “I think we scheduled it the same day as one of the Summerfests. I’m pretty sure it was the Nob Hill Summerfest.”

Year Two saw the move to The Yards, where blazing hot temperatures and a lack of clarity about sampling-versus-full pours led to confusion for attendees and breweries. After a one-year hiatus in 2015, the event returned to the NHCC last summer.

“It was a great venue, but this is a small festival, and we’d like to keep it small,” John said. “The purpose is to keep it from being a big festival with long lines and you get a sample but the brewer doesn’t have time to talk to you because they’re too busy. Our purpose last year and this year is to get the brewers out from behind the booth and have volunteers pour.”

Most festivals just turn into work for the brewers and their staff members who are pouring, with little time to get out from behind the taps and talk to their favorite customers.

“We want to make it more fun for the brewers, too,” John said. “Festivals are hard on breweries. They have to show up with a ton of equipment — a tent, jockeybox, beer. They don’t get to drink anything, then tear it down and go home. This one, they send the beer a couple days ahead of time, one six-barrel, and all they have to do is show up, get a glass and talk to their fellow brewers and a small group of attendees who are looking to try new beers. I like it like that.”

Bow & Arrow stepped up to volunteer its spacious beer hall for the event, and in the future the event could rotate between other local breweries. That will help the host brewery, of course, but it also keeps costs down for the Guild and allows more of the money to go future endeavors, most notably those involving the state government in Santa Fe.

“It lends itself to a smaller venue,” John said. “I like to have it, if possible, at a brewery. It exposes that brewery to more customers. Logistically it’s a lot easier. … You have inside and outside. In this type of weather it should be a nice environment. It’s good for the host brewery. It brings attention to them. They get some spillover business. We give a percentage to the host brewery to cover their expenses. Mostly, it provides the Guild a place to retain most of the total sales that goes toward our efforts at the (state) legislature. We’re going to run a bill and we may have to play defense again, and we’ll have to hire a lobbyist.”

The Guild is also pushing the Hollywood movie premier theme, with attendees encouraged to show up in costume (which further makes sense as to why it was moved to late in the fall near Halloween).

“It’s a Hollywood theme; it always has been, we just didn’t do a very good job of promoting that,” John said. “It’s called the Beer Premiere, so it’s like a movie premier. I can’t think of another festival in the country, let alone just New Mexico, where it’s all new releases. If there is one, I’m not aware of it.

“This is the one festival where you’re guaranteed you’re not going to drink a beer that you’ve had before. That’s kind of a cool thing. It would be almost impossible to put that together on your own. You’d have to visit 18 breweries on your own. We have breweries coming from around the state.”

Without further delay, here are the 18 brand-new beers that breweries will be pouring.

  • Bosque: Chocolate Mint Stout (5.1% ABV, 15 IBU), a creamy mix of mint and milk chocolate decadence
  • Bow & Arrow: Coyote Waits Imperial Mole Stout (10.5% ABV, 27 IBU), aged in Wyoming Whiskey Rye barrels, brewed with cocoa nibs, cinnamon, and Guajillo chiles
  • Boxing Bear: Bulldog English Style IPA (6.1% ABV, 50 IBU), made with 100-percent English malts and hops
  • Canteen: Panama Jose (8% ABV, 45 IBU), variant of the award-winning Panama Joe, brewed with chiles, cinnamon, cocoa, and vanilla
  • Duel: Lourd of Funk (stats TBA), imperial Scotch ale aged for six months in a rye whiskey cask
  • La Cumbre: Mochavation (7.3% ABV), a nitro oatmeal stout made with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, and Trifecta espresso
  • Marble: Ol’ Maverick Barleywine (11.7% ABV), a dry-hopped American-style barleywine that has been aged for nine months
  • Ponderosa: Red Chile Chocolate Porter (5.8% ABV, 35 IBU), a robust porter with organic coca nibs and Chimayo red chile in the mix
  • Quarter Celtic: S’More Than Beer (5.75% ABV, 20 IBU), a London brown base brewed with actual graham crackers, lactose, vanilla, and chocolate
  • Red Door: WyPA (5.9% ABV, 75 IBU), a special hoppy brew made for the forthcoming Northeast Heights taproom
  • Rio Bravo: Barrel-aged Cherry Wheat (6% ABV, 15 IBU), the popular beer has been aging in oak barrels since July
  • Santa Fe: Sweet Dutch (8.7% ABV, 35 IBU), a tobacco-infused old ale does not require a smoking jacket for one to drink it, but one would not hurt
  • Sidetrack: Vagabond Brown (5.1% ABV, 28 IBU), a light-bodied brown ale that will be served from a cask
  • Steel Bender: Figgy Pudding (9.15% ABV, 20 IBU), a Belgian-style strong ale made with actual figs, perfect as a holiday winter warmer
  • Taos Mesa: Chocolate Berry Stout (6.5% ABV, 26 IBU), berry puree added to a chocolate stout base, a perfect dessert beer
  • Three Rivers: Chucker the Fook Out (8.1% ABV), a Scottish wee heavy aged for 18 months (!) in a fresh Malbec barrel
  • Tractor: Plum Spice Berliner Weisse (5.4% ABV, 5 IBU), sweet plums and spicy ginger combine with the tart flavors of a Berliner Weisse for a unique combination
  • Turtle Mountain: Prickly Parasol White IPA (6.3% ABV, 60 IBU), a local dessert beer for those who do not wish to spend all afternoon in the dark

If and when any of these beers go on tap in the future at their respective breweries, we will let everyone know. Just in case, though, you should probably buy a ticket and have fun Saturday! Just remember, parking is limited around Bow & Arrow, so please, take a cab/Uber/Lyft or cash in a favor for a designated driver. With some of these beers, you are gonna need someone else behind the wheel afterwards.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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

Here are your results from round two of the NM IPA Challenge!

The IPA Challenge continued today in Santa Fe at Second Street’s brand new third location on Rufina Street. That’s right, THIRD LOCATION! Second Street hasn’t quite opened fully to the public, but they are just about ready for business, and without spoiling anything (because we’ll have the whole full review after they open), it’s one fantastic space with a ton of potential. But, since this a post about the NM IPA Challenge, I’ll get straight to the results:

Brewery – Tray# — Total votes

Boxing Bear – #14 – 52 (1st)

Canteen – #15 – 42 (2nd-tie)

Quarter Celtic – #1 – 42 (2nd-tie)

Bosque – #3 – 39 (4th)

Starr Brothers – #6 – 34

Marble – #11 – 31

Tractor – #10 – 30

Second Street – #8 – 28

Bow & Arrow – #2 – 26

Steel Bender – #4 – 21

La Cumbre – #13 – 16

Ponderosa – #9 – 12

Picacho Peak – #12 – 7

The 377 – #5 – 7

Blue Corn – #7 – 5

Choices, choices, choices …

These are the aggregate totals, so the big winners of the round were defending champion Boxing Bear (37 votes), Quarter Celtic (33), Canteen (29), Starr Brothers (24), and Bosque and Tractor (23 apiece). Those who found Second Street to be a much tougher venue included Steel Bender (4, after 17 in the first round), as well as Blue Corn (4) and The 377 (4), which led in the elimination round, but has not made an impact so far with the voters in Las Cruces or the City Different.

It was a another well-run event by the NM Brewers Guild. Everyone in attendance had a great time. It was definitely tougher than usual to choose a winner. Of course, there were some outliers on both sides of the coin, but another great testament to how good and diverse our IPAs are in New Mexico.

Why yes, Second Street’s Rufina location is awesome!

Someone asked me during the event if we’ve reached a saturation point. I think that with more breweries, more people have a greater opportunity of trying good beers, and becoming more discerning. The more discerning we become, the harder our brewers have to work at keeping up the quality. Quality floats, in my opinion. But, with these results, we see some familiar names.

Plus, we all know the rules always change on the last leg in Albuquerque. See you at Steel Bender next Saturday!

To all of our great New Mexico IPAs and the fearless brewers who brew them, cheers!

— Luke

If the first-round results are any indication, this is gonna be a close battle to the end! (Photo courtesy of Skye Devore)

First off, pardon the fact I did not publish this last night. I actually received the photo above while driving on I-40 back home (pulled off at Clines Corners to do the social media post) from Tractor co-owner Skye Devore (thank you!). Anyway, let us delve into the first-round results of the NM IPA Challenge, held Wednesday night at Picacho Peak Brewing in Las Cruces.

There was quite a bit of social media commotion after the elimination round last weekend, when many folks seemed to object to the fact all three hosts of the main rounds get byes. As if the universe needed to slap them upside the head with irony, Steel Bender, which only got six votes in the preliminaries but still advanced, ended up leading everyone in Cruces. So, yeah, all that griping that the final-round host didn’t belong? Good job, universe!

It was not a runaway win, however, as Steel Bender nabbed only 17 votes. Lurking right behind were two heavyweights, with two-time champion Bosque (2014-15) picking up 16 votes and defending champion Boxing Bear snagging 15 votes.

Three breweries then tied for fourth place with 13 votes. It was a good showing from Marble, which surprisingly never won this event, while four-time champion Canteen was right there, as was relative newcomer Bow & Arrow. Another fairly young brewery took seventh place as Starr Brothers earned 10 votes.

Quarter Celtic and Second Street, the host of the second round, tied for eighth with nine votes apiece. Tractor was 10th with seven votes, while La Cumbre had six votes for 11th place. Ponderosa, which was Brandon’s pick off his tray in the elimination round, only got four votes for 12th place. The 377, which racked up the most votes in the elimination round, only earned three votes from the folks in Las Cruces. Tying for 14th place with just one vote apiece was Blue Corn, a past champion, and host Picacho Peak.

Overall, 137 votes were cast, which is a pretty good showing for Las Cruces, or anywhere outside of Albuquerque. The second round, set for Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at Second Street’s new Rufina location, should get around the same, or hopefully even higher. It will be fascinating to see how the Santa Fe faithful vote in comparison to their southern brethren (which included a lot of folks making the drive up from El Paso). Rarely has the first-round leader held onto that distinction after round two.

The elimination round in Albuquerque had about 300 votes cast, so we fully expect a massive turnout on July 29 at Steel Bender, likely with well more than twice as many votes cast as the first two rounds. A lot will still be decided, but for now at least, some breweries have to be feeling good about their chances, while others figure to be heading back to the drawing boards for 2018.

As for the ongoing complaints on social media, we agree that the NMIPAC is not a perfect setup. It is designed first and foremost to be the single largest fundraiser for the NM Brewers Guild, not to be the perfect competition. That is the primary reason host breweries are willing to give up four hours-plus of business in the middle of their busiest season, all while offering up what is likely the single most expensive beer they brewed all year long for people to drink for free. They know that the Guild needs this money to fight the good fight against the anti-alcohol and tax-everything-to-death forces in the State Legislature. For a small but vocal minority of beer drinkers to spend all their time on social media trying to tear down this event, you are doing a disservice to the entire brewing community. It is one thing to offer up suggestions on future improvements (we, for one, believe that the other two host breweries should have followed Picacho Peak and not participated in the elimination round at all, thus freeing up those 18 votes that went to Second Street and Steel Bender to be distributed to the other 33 competing breweries), but it is another to rant about non-existent bias, to call this whole thing flawed. Is it perfect? Again, no, but it is the setup we have and what we must deal with until/if the Guild membership votes to make changes.

In other words, get out there and have some fun, damn it! Craft beer is all about that, right?

Thanks to everyone down south for heading out to vote and to Picacho Peak for hosting. Thanks to John Gozigian for his tireless work every round, and again, thanks to Skye for keeping us updated, even when on the (literal) road.

Luke will be covering the second round for us from Santa Fe, so look for his updates Saturday afternoon. A whole slew of us will then be at the finale.

Until then, I need a really, really long nap.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The voting totals on the right, the number on the trays on the left.

Another year has passed, so it is time for our New Mexico breweries to see who will claim the throne with the state’s best IPA, as the 2017 NM IPA Challenge kicked off today. With the prominence of our vast amount of great IPAs around these parts, this annual event has become a popular event for both craft beer fans and brewers alike.

Will this year see a repeat win from 2016 champs Justin Hamilton and Boxing Bear Brewing, or perhaps a third title in four years for John Bullard and Bosque Brewing, or will a new face claim top honors? Today gave some clarity to those answers as competition commenced.

This year’s event begins, as last year’s did, with an elimination round hosted by Duel Brewing at their downtown Albuquerque taproom. With a reported 39 entries this year, last year’s elimination format was expanded a bit, as patrons were given a flight of approximately 13 beers to sample and vote on. Since this was an elimination round, that means there was bound to be surprises … and, lo and behold, there were. 

Check out the results:

1. The 377 27 votes
2. Bosque 21
TIE 3. Boxing Bear 17, Starr Bros. 17
5. Blue Corn 16
6. Tractor 15
7. La Cumbre 14
TIE 8. Marble 12, Bow & Arrow 12, Second St. 12
11. Quarter Celtic 11
TIE 12. Canteen 10, Ponderosa 10
14. Sierra Blanca 9
TIE 15. Bathtub Row 7, Rowley 7, The Wellhead 7
TIE 18. Dialogue 6, Duel 6, Santa Fe 6, Palmer 6, Rio Bravo 6, Steel Bender 6 (AUTO BYE TO NEXT ROUND)
TIE 24. Chama River 5, Drafty Kilt 5, Kellys 5, Spotted Dog 5
TIE 28. Desert Valley 3, Nexus 3, Sidetrack 3, Turtle Mountain 3
TIE 32. Cazuela’s 2, Red Door 2
TIE 34. Enchanted Circle 1, Three Rivers 1

UPDATE: There will be 15 breweries advancing, as Picacho Peak will automatically advance as a host of a future round. The folks from the Las Cruces brewery elected not to enter their IPA into the preliminary round, since it did not matter how they finished. Second Street and Steel Bender also advanced under this rule, though Second Street would have advanced no matter what due to its vote total above.

This seemed to be a year of cross style IPAs, at least in this writer’s opinion. I personally was given a flight of beers 14-26, in which I noticed the following:

  • The “juicy” IPA trend is in full effect: a handful of entries on my flight were of the hazy, Northeastern-style that is becoming more popular these days. I had one of said beers as a top notch brew.
  • Belgian style: Another noticeable trend was the Belgian style popping up in a few samples on mine and other patrons trays. A yeasty base could be found in several competition beers. Yeasty notes, with clove, banana, and spices were paired with lots of hops splashed in.

All in all, it was a successful event, with the up and coming The 377 Brewery taking the bulk of the votes, but NM IPA Challenge vets such as Bosque, Boxing Bear, and La Cumbre still moved on to the next rounds of the challenge. With a good cross section of sub-styles represented, the next few rounds will be quite interesting!

— Brandon Daniel