Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico Brewers Guild’

Good news from the state legislature? What sorcery is this?!

Glorious news from Santa Fe, as House Bill 398, the last remaining piece of legislation aimed at increasing the excise tax on local breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries, has been tabled in committee. HB398 was squashed by a 5-2 vote in the House Health & Human Services Committee this morning.

The bill seemed to stand little chance of passing after its companion piece, Senate Bill 314, was tabled in committee weeks ago. With the legislature’s website currently offline, further details were not available, but in the end the bill was tabled, and that is all that matters.

A huge thanks to NM Brewers Guild director John Gozigian for sending us the good news.

Hopefully in the waning days of this session, the governor and legislature can agree upon a budget that helps fund New Mexico schools, creates jobs, and protects local business. For now, though, the breweries that are already taxed at twice the national average will not be taxed any further. They will still be able to grow, create jobs, and help our state’s economy beyond simply paying more taxes.

Now we can just get back to enjoying beer and writing about it. That, more than anything, is the best possible way to start our weekend.

Well, that and attending the Steel Bender Brewyard event tonight. Look for our full preview on the newest brewery in the metro area early next week!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The bills have passed! Thank you, Governor Martinez and everyone who works in this building!

The folks in the Senate have done good, but the situation is far from over.

Pardon the delay, computers/wireless were down at work for most of the morning. Here is the official statement from the New Mexico Brewers Guild on last night’s committee hearing regarding SB314:

SB 314 was finally debated yesterday evening, beginning at 8 p.m., in a hearing that resulted in the bill being tabled by a majority vote of senators on the committee. This is good news; this means that the committee members agreed that the proposed tax rate was thoroughly unreasonable and made the bill unviable as written.

Another point that came up in the hearing was the tone and tenor of rhetoric coming from some opponents of SB 314. To be clear, the Guild, and the brewers of New Mexico we represent, are committed to a policy of civil discourse in all of our interactions with those on either side of issues that impact our industry. Passion is a useful tool; passion tempered with civility and reason is even more powerful.

Looking ahead to HB 398, the House bill that mirrors SB 314, we’ll continue to work with our many supporters on both sides of the aisle in the New Mexico Legislature. A hearing on HB 398 has not yet been scheduled, but we will keep you up to date on developments as they occur.

All right, so the good news is SB314 is basically dead, and it seems reasonable to hope that the members of the House committee will vote the same way on HB398.

The Guild has a point, though, in that second graph, to please keep things civil when contacting your representatives to voice your opposition to these bills. The supporters of the bill have claimed the moral high ground, so logical discourse, not passion, is the true key to defeating them.

We will have more info as events continue in Santa Fe.

Until then, well, by golly …

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Spread the word!

Today is the day SB314 goes before a committee, which could vote to keep it from ever reaching the Senate floor.

The seemingly glacial pace of the state legislature is thawing, with the now-infamous Senate Bill 314 finally getting its hearing today (Monday) before the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. The bill is listed second on the docket, though it does not necessarily mean it will be heard in that order. There are eight bills in total scheduled to be heard today.

Based on our communication with the New Mexico Brewers Guild, this could be the end of the line for the bill that seeks to substantially raise the excise tax on beer and other forms of alcohol. Of course, it does not mean the fight is over, as House Bill 398 has also been introduced, offering up almost the exact same wording.

The sponsors of the two bills, Albuquerque-based Senator Cisco McSorley (D) and Las Cruces-based Representative Joanne Ferrary, will be hosting a press conference in Santa Fe around the same time SB314 will be learning its fate. In a surprise to no one, this presser was announced by Peter DeBenedittis, the leader of the group Alcohol Taxes Save Lives & Money. It has always been his group, which seeks to eventually ban alcohol in New Mexico, that has been behind these bills.

Here is the full text of the email that DeBenedittis sent to the media (we were not included, but another reporter was kind enough to send it to us). It lays out his reasoning, though it does not include just where he gets all of his statistics from, but basically, if you like to go out and drink beer, you are painted as his enemy.

Please join Senator Cisco McSorley (D-Bernalillo) & Rep. Joanne Farrary (D-Dona Ana) for a Press Conference on their bills to address the deaths, health problems being subsided by New Mexico’s low alcohol taxes.

The Press Conference will be held at 10:30 AM in Room 318 of the Capitol on Monday, Feb.20.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, New Mexico leads the nation in people drinking themselves to death. 1 in 6 working age New Mexicans die from excessive drinking.  SB 314 and HB 398 would raise alcohol taxes 25¢ per drink, leading to a 10% reduction in alcohol consumption. The immediate health benefits for New Mexicans will be:

52 Lives Saved the first year
More than 300 acts of violence prevented
Over 12,000 cases of alcohol abuse and dependence prevented annually
Over 7,000 fewer underage drinkers a year.

Data from Research and Polling shows 76% of New Mexicans support these bills.

Right now state taxpayers foot an $800 Million a year bill for the extra police, court cases, detention, ambulances and medical care caused by excessive drinking. These bills help correct the problem by raising $160 Million in revenue from those causing the problems. Half of New Mexicans haven’t had a drink in the last 30 days and won’t be affected by an alcohol tax increase. Responsible drinkers will pay an average of less then $10 a year more, while the 19% of New Mexicans who drink excessively will pay 3/4ths of the increased tax.

Please join Senator McSorley and Representative Farrary at 10:30 AM on Monday, February 20 in room 318 to hear their statements and answer your questions.

Blessings,
Peter D.

Peter DeBenedittis, Ph.D.
Director, Alcohol Taxes Save Lives & Money

We would love to see where he gets some of that data. The 76 percent support the bills part is bad enough. Honestly, though, half of the people in New Mexico have not had an alcoholic in the last 30 days? Is that just adults or is he including children in that?

Also, for those who have criticized our coverage of this issue by arguing that breweries and other entities must pay their share to help fund our schools, take note that nowhere above does it say these new taxes will go to education. Instead, they are aimed at covering one-fifth of the total cost of excessive drinking in New Mexico, or so DeBenedittis wrote.

Due to our day jobs and such, it is unlikely that any of the Crew will be in attendance. If anyone out there is able to go to the press conference, please, record the session and send us the audio. We will give you a Crew supporter T-shirt for free or buy you a couple pints. Other media entities may be present to take notes, and hopefully someone from the Guild will be there to represent the breweries, but the more sources we have, the better.

We will monitor how these events turn out today and report back to all of you as soon as we have the confirmed information.

Stay vigilant, craft beer lovers.

— Stoutmeister

SB2382

Yup, they’re at it again in Santa Fe, with members of the House of Representatives introducing a bill to raise the excise tax.

It appears that the old cliche, monkey see, monkey do, is alive and well at the New Mexico State Legislature. House Bill 398 has been introduced as the mirror version of Senate Bill 314, with both seeking to make serious increases to the excise tax on multiple forms of liquor, including craft beer.

This bill has been sponsored by representatives Joanne Ferrary, Miguel Garcia, and Rudy Martinez, a trio of Democrats. Ferrary is from Las Cruces, Garcia is from Albuquerque, and Martinez is from Bayard, a small town near Silver City. It will head to the House Business & Industry Committee, though no date for a hearing has been scheduled.

Just like SB314, it will raise the excise tax from 41 cents per gallon to $3.08 for all beer produced above 15,000 barrels per year. That would likely cap any future growth by rapidly expanding breweries such as La Cumbre and Bosque. It might also force Santa Fe and Marble, both of which are already producing more than 15,000 barrels, to rethink their strategy going forward. The only difference between the two bills that we can see (note, we are not lawyers, so there could be subtle bits lost in the legalese of the seemingly identical paragraphs) is that there is no mention of cider in HB398. Hooray for that, at least, though these bills change so often they might add that again later.

The New Mexico Brewers Guild has been working hard to stop SB314 from even getting past the committee stage, but now it will have to double its efforts to stop HB398. As we have with SB314, we will keep an eye out for news about this new bill and share it with all of you. If anyone out there hears about anything, even a town hall involving the bill sponsors, please email us at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com as soon as possible.

In the meantime, keep supporting our craft breweries the best way you can, by attending their events and drinking their beer.

Stay vigilant, New Mexico.

— Stoutmeister

The Guild has a new four-person board of directors.

The Guild will be in a ‘defensive mode’ during this legislative session in Santa Fe.

It is that time of year again. No, not just the time for winter beer festivals, but time for the New Mexico State Legislature to get together and hash out all the bills and budget for 2017. Keeping a close eye on the proceedings, once again, is the New Mexico Brewers Guild.

Guild director John Gozigian and I sat down late last week at Bosque to discuss what the Guild will be facing during this 60-day session that begins January 18.

“I’ll be interested to see how it plays out,” John said. “We’re not running any bills this year (or in 2016). We’ve gotten a lot of the things that we needed to be competitive as an industry. There’s nothing pressing we need to work on.”

It will be more of a wait-and-see approach for the Guild.

“Actually, we’re going to be in a bit of a defensive mode now due to the specter of the increased excise tax being on the table,” John said. “We’ve had that 25-cent drink tax, that’s come up. I haven’t heard yet that they have introduced the bill. I don’t think they have yet, but it could pop up at any time during the 60-day session.”

One strategy for the neo-prohibitionist faction could be to sneak their legislation into a larger combined bill near the end of the session.

“Some of the legislators like (Michael) Sanchez, who’s no longer there, they famously kind of throw these into omnibus bills at the end, kind of take you by surprise,” John said.

So far, though, the idea of an excise tax increase has not met with much of a positive reception, even at lower levels of government.

“The 25-cent drink tax proposal didn’t make it through the Santa Fe County Commission as a non-binding resolution,” John said. “If it couldn’t make it through there, it’s going to be tough to make it through the legislature. I don’t know if they’re going to try it or not.”

New Mexico is in dire straits financially, which can often lead to short-term solutions with harmful long-term effects. It does not seem, though, like higher taxes on local breweries, wineries, and distilleries is the answer.

“People will say our excise tax hasn’t increased in 20 years or so, but it’s still double the rest of the nation,” John said. “That’s really going to be our focus going in.”

The Guild will have three meet-and-greet functions in January. First up will be one with new House Speaker Brian Egolf and Northern New Mexico legislators at Milton’s Brewing in Carlsbad on Jan. 5.

The next two meet-and-greets will take place at La Cumbre on Jan. 11 and at Rio Chama Steakhouse in Santa Fe on Jan. 31.

“It’s just part of the education, talking about what we do, how many people we employ, how much revenue we keep in the state by out-competing our out-of-state competitors for market share,” John said. “Just making the case in general that this is an economic boon for New Mexico and that it would really be counter-intuitive to do anything that slowed the growth and traction that our craft breweries have.”

In their weekly email, the Guild did take note of four separate bills for members to monitor: HB27 (Minimum Wage), SB36 (Minimum Wage), HB51 (Retail Craft Liquor Reciprocity), and SB37 (Liquor License for Distilled NM Spirits). Anyone wishing to look up all the details can click here, but that would involve a lot of legal-ese, so we will do our best to sum up each of these.

The first two are obviously aimed at raising the minimum wage, which would impact a number of brewery employees and potentially the bottom line of the breweries.

HB51 could be an interesting one. Right now, New Mexico craft distilleries cannot sell their products at restaurants and bars that do not have a full liquor license. This bill would allow local governments (cities/towns and counties) to vote to allow local establishments to serve distilled spirits made in New Mexico. That could greatly benefit places like Broken Trail and Left Turn.

SB37 would, in turn, allow craft breweries and wineries in New Mexico to sell locally made spirits under a reciprocity law similar to what already exists between the breweries and wineries. Basically, this could enable a major brewery to carry wine, cider, and liquor, so long as those spirits were made in New Mexico. In turn, the distilleries could offer up beer and wine from their counterparts.

The other Stout Challenge returns

The Guild will again be hosting their version of a Stout Challenge at Bathtub Row Brewing Co-op in Los Alamos. The event will feature a tray of 15 different stout samples, with folks able to vote on their favorite, which will earn them a full pint. It will take place Saturday, Feb. 18, from noon to 6 p.m. Stay tuned for more information and a list of the entries.

As for us, the Crew will have our sixth annual Stout Challenge on Super Bowl Sunday, featuring every house stout from around the ABQ metro area. Bosque, Boxing Bear (2015 winner), Canteen, Chama River (2016 winner), Cazuela’s, La Cumbre (2013 winner), Marble (2012 winner), Rio Bravo, Tractor (2014 winner), and Turtle Mountain should all participate. The eligibility of other breweries will be determined by whether or not they have a stout available at the time, as most do not have a regularly available stout.

Still time to vote in our beer polls

Voting is still open in each of our year-end beer polls this week. Voting will close for each set on a different day. Today will mark the final day for the first four polls, where there is currently a tie between La Cumbre’s BEER and Boxing Bear’s Body Czech in the Best Pilsner/Lager category.

The second set of five polls will see the voting close Tuesday. The closest category is Best Packaged Seasonal, with hopheads battling it out over Bosque’s Scale Tipper and La Cumbre’s Project Dank.

The final set of polls, which has seen a truly tremendous response (800-plus votes cast in most of them), will close Thursday, after which we will reveal the winners and how the Crew voted. Quarter Celtic has stormed out to the lead in Best Food, Best Staff, Best Atmosphere, and Best Brewmaster/Head Brewer, while Bosque is clinging to the lead for Best Brewery Overall.

If you have not already, get in there and vote!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The Guild has a new four-person board of directors.

The Guild has a new four-person board of directors.

Lost amid all the recent hustle and bustle was an email from the New Mexico Brewers Guild that announced the results of the election for a new board of directors. Thankfully, someone in the Crew (Luke) was paying attention, and suggested we do a quick write-up.

Each of the four new board members was gracious enough to provide us with a sort of mission statement for their upcoming tenure, which begins in January.

Bert Boyce, brewmaster, Santa Fe Brewing

“Quality is what sets our industry’s products apart from the rest, and I’d like to be a technical resource to help all member breweries achieve their quality goals. I believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that the stronger our collective culture and quality, the healthier everyone’s businesses will be. I also believe that our industry’s representation in Santa Fe is at a critical point, and I hope to help provide a unified voice both with the general public and state legislature to ensure that our contributions to the state economy and culture are recognized, and not drowned out by the neo-prohibitionist noise currently growing.”

Jeff Erway, owner and master brewer, La Cumbre Brewing

“I have always believed in and benefited from the community of brewers here in New Mexico. I fought diligently to help further the education and goals of all brewers during my first tenure on the Board of Directors, and I look forward to continuing that work with this latest group of industry leaders.”

Anne O’Neill, co-owner, Sidetrack Brewing

“I would like to encourage and strengthen partnerships in the brewing community to promote education to the public as well as fostering communication among those in the craft brewing industry to support and maintain the overall quality of the NM brewing community.”

Jayson Wylie, head brewer, Taos Mesa Brewing

“Having learned a great deal from the people I will be sitting with on this board, I can tell you without reservation that I am thrilled to be here. At Taos Mesa Brewing, we hope to inspire as we have been inspired (by our sister New Mexico breweries), to uphold and promote the same rigorous standards that have resulted in our small state producing some of the nation’s finest craft beer … indeed, we are proud to live and work in “the frontier of beer” … a place of adventure, excitement and enchantment, a place primed for export by tourists and distributors alike. Along with you all, I personally look forward to promoting our mutual success.”

It is a critical time for the growing beer industry in New Mexico, with forces arrayed against that growth due to the need for short-term tax gains. The Crew wishes the new board all the luck in the world and we are here to support them in whatever need they see fit.

Oh, and have a Merry Christmas this weekend, everyone. Bust out at least one cellar beer and enjoy!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

This would be the preferred location for a craft beer taproom in the UNM Student Union Building.

This would be the preferred location for a craft beer taproom in the UNM Student Union Building.

Those darn Millennials. Normally, that is how to start a story about young people these days. This is not one of those days. Instead, it is time to restore hope in the youth of America. That renewal of hope comes from college students like Gus Pedrotty and Sara Collins, who are spearheading an effort to bring a craft beer taproom to the University of New Mexico.

I had the chance to meet with both of them after doing beer history research on campus at the Center for Southwest Research earlier this week. They had a long list of well-thought-out reasons for why the university deserves a taproom, none of which were just “we want to drink beer.”

“Obviously, the brew scene here is unbelievably important,” Gus said. “It’s an industry that’s growing rapidly. We’re a top 10 brewery city in the United States. Our beer is constantly competing nationally and doing very well. It’s a social epicenter for our population and that should be represented at UNM as well.

“I really believe UNM represents what’s the best and brightest about this state and our brew scene is part of that now. Especially with CNM now starting a brew program, it makes sense for us to start creating infrastructure to guide more programs here, looking at microbiology (and other) pre-vocational programs can come out of this. … All of this can already be done with infrastructure that we have. That’s course work based in chemical engineering or microbiology. This is a great way for us to provide more higher education without needing to create large pieces of (wholly) new infrastructure like our own brewhouse or something.”

Furthering the brewing education process to create even more skilled workers. Helping people who might otherwise not have an interest in science or engineering move into those fields. OK, this is sounding good so far. That education can go beyond teaching folks simply how to brew or cultivate yeast. It can go to an area where college students are sorely in need of a change of perspective.

“As far as the social education goes, it’s really about normalizing and de-stigmatizing alcohol consumption,” Gus said. “As you know, the brew scene here is all about responsible consumption. Three-drink limits, it’s about quality, it’s about the taste, it’s about what people are doing differently and we want to bring that to campus.

“We want to show that the binge-drinking culture isn’t what drinking is about. We want to show the community a culture that’s actually cultivating something much larger than that. That’s a place for discourse and a place for exploration within the brewing sciences. We think that’s really apparent on campus that we can bring it here.”

Yes, folks, these are college students actually saying that it is not all about getting wasted every weekend. Rather than preach prohibition, as so many are wont to do on college campuses, they are instead calling for responsible drinking through the craft culture that already exists for those of us who have left college behind.

Seriously, sign them up to talk to that group that wants the new alcohol tax to stop DWIs by shutting down our craft brewing scene.

Of course, they will face an uphill battle in combating that image of college students as just wanting to get slammed on IPAs instead of Keystone. Not to mention the fact that UNM is technically a dry campus, though the athletic administration has found a way around that as far as the football stadium and The Pit go.

“Luckily the policy is in our favor,” Gus said. “We could totally implement a taproom on campus right now without any changes to the policy as it currently stands and as we see it. It’s pretty much that we’re a smoke-free campus (but) with (designated) smoking areas. It’s just as we serve at the stadiums and arenas on South Campus, these are spaces that already allow us to distribute.”

Craft beer is already available during Lobo football games. (Photo courtesy of Chama River)

Craft beer is already available during Lobo football games. (Photo courtesy of Chama River)

All of this will take cooperation from entities outside of the university.

“We would just need a liquor license from the State, which is what we’re in the process of looking at,” Sara said. “What would they need from us, what they want within that process? We’ve been working with Dr. Walt Miller, who’s the licensing agent for the university, so he’s been talking to him to see what documents they would need from us and what information they want before moving forward.”

Sara said they hope to complete the Board of Regents process in the next six months or so. Then it would be turning their targeted space on campus into a taproom that everyone over 21 can enjoy.

“The venue we’re looking at is Louie’s Lounge,” Sara said of the pool hall that has been there since my own father was a student in the 1960s. “There are lots of potential spaces on campus, but we think the SUB (Student Union Building) is the epicenter for student involvement, it’s an epicenter for everyone. There are at least 10,000 people going through there on a general day. Putting it there, (we would be) eventually looking at renovations to make it an open space (with) glass windows, but for now utilizing an existing space with what’s already there.”

The plan for the taproom would be to serve only local beers.

“Oh, of course, entirely,” Gus said. “We’re focusing on keeping money here, engaging the community here, creating an employable and excited populations to stay here and continue to grow. We’re just giving another place for breweries to sell their beer to, trying to decrease that (over) saturation and give another outlet to the growing scene. We just see it as a huge economic opportunity for the whole city as well.”

This could also be a wonderful opportunity for the breweries in town to gain brand-new customers, saving them from years of unfortunate purchases of terrible macro brews, and get them started on the right foot. As more and more breweries open, they are often competing for the same customers, instead of going after new customers. There is still a huge swath of people in New Mexico (and visiting our state) who do not drink craft beer. Trust us, it is a whole lot easier to convince someone in his/her early 20s to take up craft than someone who has been drinking the same mass-produced swill for 20 years.

Gus said they have reached out to the New Mexico Brewers Guild and several breweries for help. They want to learn from the most successful breweries and figure out how to make a taproom similarly successful in the heart of campus.

“We’re really looking to increase that engagement between local breweries (and UNM),” Gus said. “We’re going to look at their standards. We’re going to look at how they do it. We want to bring their knowledge, their know-how, and their experience to campus as well. Really give students the opportunity to get vocational work to understand the industry they’re going into as well. We want to create the most competitive people to enter that job market.”

Not only that, but they want to encourage students to remain in Albuquerque after graduation. It would give them a legitimately successful industry to aspire to join upon earning their degrees. Or, at the very least, it would give them a safer alternative to the traditional bar scene when it comes to socializing in town.

“Everybody is already coming here for the beer anyway,” Gus said. “You can see how full the microbreweries are around town on any given day. It’s great to see. No one is really too worried about the market yet and we really want to keep the excitement here.”

There is hope for the youth of America, and it comes in the form of craft beer. Yeah, we can get behind that, and we hope the rest of the craft beer community can as well.

Good luck to Gus, Sara, and their team. We will keep everyone updated on their progress and let the community know if they ever need some extra help, like, oh, say, adding your name to their petition.

Until then, raise a pint to these Lobos. Something tells us they will bring winning back to UNM.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Amid a sea of people taking pics on their cell phones, the Boxing Bear brewing team holds their NMIPAC trophy aloft!

Amid a sea of people taking pics on their cell phones, the Boxing Bear brewing team holds their NMIPAC trophy aloft!

Another year, another IPA Challenge is in the books. Only for the first time in a while, there will be a new champion holding onto the trophy.

Boxing Bear held off Canteen and 3 Rivers in the closest vote in NMIPAC history. The final round was decided by hundreds of beer lovers/hopheads on a (very) toasty afternoon at Tractor Wells Park. When everything was counted, Boxing Bear had 81 votes, Canteen finished with 79, and 3 Rivers garnered 68. That ended the two-year reign of Bosque as champion, as well as the three-year reign of brewer John Bullard, who had previously won at Blue Corn in 2013.

The final totals, for those who are interested in such numbers.

The final totals, for those who are interested in such numbers.

A whole lotta folks asked us about which beer was which. Here is the list (we did not get a photo, sorry) of the beers by their number on the tray.

  1. Red Door
  2. Taos Mesa
  3. Quarter Celtic
  4. Starr Brothers
  5. Bosque
  6. Sidetrack
  7. Santa Fe
  8. Tractor
  9. Canteen
  10. Chili Line
  11. La Cumbre
  12. Boxing Bear
  13. Second Street
  14. Blue Corn
  15. 3 Rivers

As for the victorious head brewer, Justin Hamilton was all smiles after he got to hold the trophy aloft with assistant brewer Dylan Davis.

“I think it’s great, honestly,” Justin said. “The reaction to it is a little bit of stunned, but we’re also super happy to represent New Mexico. All of us have been locals for a long time. I grew up here, so did Dylan. For the fact that we’re local brewers, that we’ve been involved in the brewery scene for a long time, we were able to bring it home to our new place, that’s really awesome.

“Being that I was a part of the IPA Challenge for the last decade, and not being able to bring one home, this is hard. A lot of these guys it’s their first year, second or third year, I’ve been doing it for a long time. After years of contention it’s nice to have that boy sitting on our bar top.”

A big thank you to the tireless efforts of Tractor co-owner Skye Devore, left, and Brewers Guild director John Gozigian.

A big thank you to the tireless efforts of Tractor co-owner Skye Devore, left, and Brewers Guild director John Gozigian.

Starting last September, the accolades have been rolling in for Boxing Bear. First came the silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival for Chocolate Milk Stout. Then came a gold at the World Beer Cup for the same beer. Being able to hang their hat on a totally different style for Boxing Bear is huge, as it shows they are not just a one-trick pony of a sort.

“It’s great to bring it home,” Justin said. “It feels good that we have hopefully set our niche in the fact that New Mexico has good beer and that we’re one of the really good breweries here in New Mexico that’s up and coming and we put a lot of pride into our beer. I think people saw that.”

Do not expect Justin or Dylan or anyone else at Boxing Bear to kick back and rest on the laurels of their victories in the last 10 months.

“This is a thing you see with breweries — you win things in a row, then you won’t win (anything) for years,” Justin said. “It’s good we’re doing well, but at the same time all of us have a very similar viewpoint in our breweries that we want things to be good, and if they’re not good we want them to be better. We are constantly looking for a way to improve our product, even if people say it’s good. Even if people tell us our products are good, we can tell if they need to be done better. I think that’s one of the reasons we are having a really good year.”

Justin credited his small, tight-knit staff for the victory. In a way, he said, being a bit smaller in size has helped Boxing Bear establish themselves alongside the state heavyweights.

“I think the fact we’re all pointing in the same direction, everyone in our building is contending for (creating) the best product that we possibly can (and) great service from the pub viewpoint,” Justin said. “And also we really want to show Albuquerque, New Mexico, in general that we’re here for beer, we’re here to put out a great product, we’re here to put out what New Mexico expects as beer as far as what you’ve seen from Marble, what you’ve seen from La Cumbre, what you’ve seen from Bosque. We want to be on the same level of amazing beer that is known locally, nationally, and worldwide. That’s our goal.”

There were tough calls all around on this tray.

There were tough calls all around on this tray.

Justin has worked at a number of breweries over the years, so he has shared in past glories. This one, though, is his own.

“We’re having a great year,” he said. “For me, my thing is, I’ve been a part of a lot of great breweries. And it’s nice to kind of carve my own niche right now. It’s nice to get recognition for that. I’ve worked for lots of great breweries, but this is mine now, this is ours now.”

Now it is just a matter of getting everyone else out there to continue to recognize just how good we have it with our local breweries in New Mexico.

“I think that’s the thing about New Mexico and Albuquerque in general — we have literally some of the best beer in the world,” Justin said. “There’s not a lot of states that can say that. Our city alone, not only our city, but our state has literally some of the best beer in the world. People are drawn to that, no matter where (they) are. I think that things like this are great for locals, and for people that are involved with it, but when we win stuff on an international and national scale, and it brings it back home and then we win a local event, it makes it even better.

“It just really brings it full circle because we still get the question of where are you, who are you, which is fine. People still ask that question about Bosque. But it’s a lot less people. This is a great thing that will let people know we are a great force of good beer in New Mexico and we will continue to do that.”

We will raise a pint (or two) to that sentiment!

Another IPA Challenge is complete. We look forward to the 2017 version.

Before that happens, however, we have a few special thank yous to hand out for the finale: to Brewers Guild director John Gozigian; to his hard-working team of volunteers who poured the beer (including Angelo Orona); to Skye Devore, David Hargis, and every single staff member at Tractor (Lauren, Melissa, Nicole, and on and on); and finally, to all of you, our fellow beer drinkers! We (barely) beat the heat and had a great time, all while reminding people just how strong and vibrant our local beer scene really is.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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It’s go time!

It’s IPA Challenge time again! The second leg of the 2016 NM Brewers Guild’s annual event continues Saturday at Santa Fe Brewing Company’s brand new venue, the Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing. And, just as that sentence was, this competition will be a mouthful. It’s the first leg after the elimination round where 28 IPAs were judged at Rio Bravo Brewing Company on July 9, and 13 were eliminated. That’s right, only 15 IPAs made the cut, those you chose and one whose brewery happened to be a host for the next legs of the competition.

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In case you need a reminder, those breweries with seven or more votes moved on to the next round, unless the brewery was hosting a following leg of the tournament.

Saturday at noon, the jockey boxes will begin pouring their hearts out. Fifteen IPAs will find their way onto each tray per ticket purchased. It’s a simple concept. You sample and choose your favorite. The numbers will then be counted and added to the following legs in the competition, where, at the final round, the numbers will be tallied up, and your 2016 IPA Challenge Champion will be crowned. Note: The numbers have all been reset from the elimination round, so everyone that moved on starts at zero votes.

After you select your favorite, stay for a complimentary pint of your favorite choice of IPA, or purchase any other beers that Santa Fe Brewing has on tap at the outdoor patio. At 5 p.m., local roof burners, Sean Healen Band, will take the stage for a free-to-the-public show. There will be food from Jambo Food Truck, Kebab Caravan, and Taqueria Gracias Madre in case you’re hungry, or just need to fill your stomach somewhere in the middle of 15 IPA samples and a pint. Remember, food is your friend at the beer events!

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Sean Healen Band will perform a FREE live show following the IPA Challenge.

As with every poor sap that sits next to me at one of these competitions, I’d like to share my IPA Challenge strategy, thanks to the wisdom of Duel’s Todd Yocham. You’re picking one winner, right? So, there’s no need to drink each sample down to the end. You can sample, and if you don’t like something, put it aside, right away. I like to keep a “maybe” section so I can return to them, but your final, critical decision section, which you deem the best of the rest should be down to about two or three samples — this way you don’t get too drunk to really decide, and it cuts down on palate fatigue. And, insider hint, ask for small refills of those last two you’re still considering. 15 IPAs. Do yourself some favors. Also, if you can’t make it, Santa Fe Brewing Company will be live streaming from the event, so stay tuned to the SFBC Facebook page.

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Things may get a little fuzzy after so many IPAs. Remember to hydrate and eat food, but not food that will wreck your palate!

For me, I have personal nostalgic feels for this event. It was the first story I ever did for the NM Dark Side Brew Crew. That was two years ago at Second Street Brewery. I’m thrilled to still be writing for the Dark Side, and I’m so honored to have found a place in the NM brewing industry because of them. So, special thanks to Stoutmeister and the rest of the Crew for taking a chance on an untested dude from Santa Fe. Cheers to our great industry, and see you at the Bridge for Round One! Fight!

— Luke (Craft Crusader)

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!