Posts Tagged ‘Red River Brewing’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget about Enchanted Circle in Angel Fire.

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

— AmyO

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Marble won the round, but Blue Corn took the overall lead after two rounds of the NMIPAC.

SANTA FE — Many folks packed into Santa Fe’s Second Street – Rufina Taproom for the second round of the New Mexico IPA Challenge on Saturday afternoon. Sixteen IPAs were poured straight from the taps, cleaned by brewers Tom and Kevin the night before. The only major variable to note was the Santa Fe palate. As usual, Santa Fe has its own taste in beer, and as history has dictated, Santa Fe’s taste in IPAs is a beast of its own. But, all things considered, it was another well-run event, very smooth, and everyone left happy with their votes.

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Just a few people packed the Rufina taproom.

After the Second Leg, Blue Corn is in the lead with 38 votes, Red River is in second with 31 votes, Boxing Bear is in third with 29 votes, and Marble is in fourth with 28 votes after a round-leading 25 at Rufina. Fifth goes to La Cumbre, Stoutmeister’s pick in the first round, with 25 votes, and Quarter Celtic is sixth with 21 votes.

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That’s a lot of brewing talent in one photo!

With just a couple surprises, the NM IPA Challenge will be another competition decided in Bernalillo (though it’s town, not county this time). At this point, I’m really interested to see if the voters will choose a traditional New Mexico/West Coast-style IPA or a New England-style hazy IPA, because I think this is the year we make a statement to our brewers. Is the haze here to stay? Is it the direction we’re moving in? That’s up to you, voters. Tell the brewers what you think.

Red River Brewing Company’s head brewer, Chris Calhoun, said, “We’re a brand-new brewery, so we’re just excited to compete amongst the big boys of New Mexico. We’re really very proud and excited about our showing in the first rounds. And, we’re excited to see what happens in Bernalillo.”

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Hops from above!

The final leg of the New Mexico IPA Challenge will come to a thrilling conclusion at the brand-new Bosque North on Saturday, July 28. To all IPAs and the New Mexico brewers who painstakingly create them, cheers!

— Luke

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Luke with the brewers of Red River Brewing Company.

A newcomer takes the top spot at the first round of the NM IPA Challenge.

TAOS — After a long drive through some rather crazy construction zones, I (Stoutmeister) made it to Taos for the first round of the NM IPA Challenge. My reason for visiting was quite selfish, as it meant for a great chance to hang out with my friend Merril for the first time in far too long (she has never been in town during a beer event), but it also gave me a chance for a new perspective.

Albuquerque and Santa Fe dominate the state’s beer scene, as evidenced by 14 of 16 breweries participating in the knockout rounds from those two metro areas. The folks in Taos, and those from towns nearby, have a different perspective on what makes a great IPA. Need proof? Well, how about Red River Brewing’s Bad Medicine Honey Double IPA taking the most votes (23) in the first round of the NMIPAC.

More than 80 people showed up at the Taos Mesa Tap Room in downtown, a nearly four-fold increase from the last time the NMIPAC held a round up here (that was at the Mothership, which is admittedly quite far from town and not a safe ride home or to a hotel for those that drove). It was an impressive gathering, regardless.

This is always harder than it looks.

There were four obviously hazy IPAs on the tray, with a few others that might have been hazy, but not hazy enough, or just IPAs that weren’t clarified properly. I found Bow & Arrow (#1 on the tray) to be the best, but it garnered just five votes. Still, in a more haze-crazed city, it might conquer the masses.

As it was, Red River did a hell of a showing. Second and third were a tie between Blue Corn and two-time defending champion Boxing Bear with 14 votes apiece. I did not mind either beer, though my personal choice was the Simcoe-heavy entry from La Cumbre (#10 on the tray). Merril went with #14, which turned out to be Quarter Celtic. Other than the final vote, we agreed on almost everything (that is another reason we are friends, I suppose).

The first-round leader from just about every NMIPAC that we have covered has never managed to hold onto the lead, so it will be quite interesting to see how Red River fares as the competition moves south. The next round will be at Second Street’s Rufina taproom on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Get your tickets at the NM Brewers Guild’s website. If 80-plus are gonna show up in Taos, expect 100-plus in Santa Fe, so get those tickets in advance!

Finally, we close with a quote from Red River’s head brewer, Chris Calhoun, who could not stop smiling from before the votes were announced until well after.

“I’m pretty surprised, pretty happy,” he said. “When we advanced out of the (preliminary) round, I was just happy to compete with the big boys like Bosque, Boxing Bear, Marble and La Cumbre. This is our first year, so to make to the next round is remarkable. Our honey double IPA is not traditional; we use locally sourced honey. It takes out some of the hoppiness that can overwhelm people.

“But still, to stand out on a tray of 15 (other) IPAs, that means something.”

Congrats to Chris and the Red River team. Now comes the big test to see how the ABQ and Santa Fe crowds respond. Either way, if you have not put Red River on your list of breweries to visit, it should be there now.

Luke will have full coverage from Rufina on Saturday, and then all of us will be at the grand finale at Bosque North on July 28. Look for an updated photo-heavy story about Bosque North soon!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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If you’re gonna build a brewery in the mountains, go big.

A little back story: When I began learning about beer, real beer, all those years ago, it was because I had a dream of opening a brewery in a very specific location. This dream led to homebrewing, joining the local homebrew club, writing about beer for the Dark Side, and then working for a brewery for a minute or two. Long ago, I had wanted to open a brewery in Red River, one of my favorite mountain towns, a place I go every year for Oktoberfest. It’s been quite a few years after I had that initial dream, and since, I’ve found my place in the industry as a writer instead. And, though I no longer have any inclination to run a brewery, I still believed, wholeheartedly, that Red River wanted a brewery; no, it needed one.

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RRBC at Bacon & Brews prior to opening. From center to right, owner Michael Calhoun, son Chris Calhoun, and wife Sharon Calhoun. (I’m sorry I don’t know the other two nice ladies.)

Red River Brewing Company (RRBC) officially opened its doors to the public on Friday, May 25, right at the start of Memorial Day weekend. And, for one family, it’s been quite the ride from which they still have yet to come down.

I recently visited Red River with family from Norway. During that time, I was able to schedule an interview with the owner and his son, at some point between a hike and a chairlift ride. Though they wouldn’t be open for a couple of hours, owner Michael Calhoun let me in through the back with the grain. And, standing there next to the shiny brewhouse, I asked him how it all got started.

“The Calhoun family has always been into craft beer,” Michael said. “Sharon, my wife, and I grew up here. We were born and raised in Red River. And then, we were in Los Alamos for a while. When Bathtub Row (Brewing Co-op), opened up, we were having such a fantastic time at that place, that we realized that Red River could really benefit from having a brewery up there. And, my wife and I were looking for an excuse to get back up here to Red River. My dad, who’s involved in this business, had this awesome piece of land. This location, it’s phenomenal! My brother is an architect, and he was itching to do another project here in Red River. So, all these planets just lined up, and it just made sense. Everybody in the family was on board, so we just decided to do it.” (more…)

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

Hey, we know that brewer! Toltec’s Kaylynn McKnight and co-owner Diana Navarrette are getting the brewery ready for an opening this spring. (Photo courtesy of Toltec Brewing)

It has been a while since we busted out some Beer Notes, but the news was piling up in our inbox, so here we go again.

New brewery updates

By our count, there are 20 forthcoming breweries, plus one that just opened. Alas, there is also another that closed, as we note below. First up, the breweries with active small brewer licenses.

  • Callahan West Brewery (Mosquero): The brewery is open in this small town in Northeast New Mexico. It is located at 22 Main Street, on the west side of town, next to the Headquarters Restaurant. Details are scarce at this point, but there is a fledgling Facebook page, and we suppose it could make for an interesting summer road trip.
  • Cantero Brewing (ABQ-Brewery District): Slow but steady progress is apparent, with the brewing system now set up. We will drop the owners another line and see if we can get an advance tour/preview.
  • Elkins Brewing (Grants): There is still no website, no social media, or anything else about this brewery. If anyone out there has information, please send it over.
  • Red River Brewing: The staff seems to be putting the finishing touches on the interior of the completed building. Hey, someone had to benefit from the mild winter up north. It should be only a matter of time before we add Red River to our next Taos Trek (which we are way, way overdue to do again).
  • Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery (Santa Fe): Plenty of positive signs abound to the point of where we have to imagine it will be the next to open. Tumbleroot has begun brewing and distilling, and in addition is starting to book musical acts for its stage. Look for a preview in the coming weeks.

The snow finally showed up, but not before most of this new brewery was built. (Photo courtesy of Red River Brewing)

Now for all the breweries with pending small brewer licenses, who are, by and large, further away from opening.

  • 1933 Brewing (Rio Rancho): Located in the old Fat Squirrel building on Southern, we have seen construction getting underway. There is also a Facebook page and a website, finally, though neither have any real information.
  • BLUE (ABQ-Downtown area): We have no new updates about this brewery, which a source told us would be located somewhere along Broadway near Lead/Coal, similar in size and scope to Sidetrack.
  • Bonito Valley (Lincoln): The brewery’s Facebook page said it hopes to open by the summer along Highway 380 in Southeast New Mexico.
  • Brewstillery (ABQ-UNM area): We still have no information on this place.
  • Casa Vieja (Corrales): The existing event space may look to do some small batch beers, but will mainly use the license to sell beer and wine at the events it hosts.
  • Cloudcroft Brewing: Formerly known as Switchback Brewery, it will instead be named for the town it will call home in the mountains in Southern New Mexico. A full build-out is now underway, with a very rustic look to the site, which is quite appropriate.
  • Hollow Spirits (ABQ-Wells Park): The distillery/brewery has hired a head distiller, Trey Allen, but no projected opening date (or even month) has been listed.
  • Hopscotch Brewing (Artesia): First, the good news is that Deepwell Brewing is alive and well under a new name. The bad news is that it will take over the building previously occupied by Desert Water Brewing, which closed recently. Still, soon Artesia will be back to having two breweries, and that is a good thing.
  • Icebox Brewing (Las Cruces): There is a Facebook page, but beyond the address of 2825 W. Picacho Ave., there is no additional info.
  • Leaf & Hive (Santa Fe): One of two places looking to open in the capital city that will offer up mainly products that require a brewing license, but are not necessarily beer. The Facebook page says it will be honeybrew, a “heirloom cultured sparkling tea.”
  • Sourdough Mine Restaurant and Brewery (Socorro): Located in the old Twisted Chile space off the main plaza, the restaurant is already up and running.
  • Tall Pines Beer and Wine Garden (Ruidoso): This beer/wine bar has been in operation for a while. It remains to be seen how much (if any) beer it plans to brew.
  • Toltec Brewing (ABQ-West Side): The exterior signage is now covering all the entrances at 10250 Cottonwood Park NW. Inside, the brewery area appears ready, while the the taproom area is getting the final paint job. We can also confirm that former Nexus brewer Kaylynn McKnight will be running the brewhouse, while Adam Galarneau, formerly of Bosque, Marble, and Turtle Mountain, will be the general manager. Those are two talented and experienced people, a good sign of the commitment of the Toltec owners to putting their brewery on the map from the get-go.

That’s some swanky signage! (Photo courtesy of Toltec Brewing)

There are three other breweries we know are on the way, but have not yet applied for a license. We recently previewed Ex Novo Brewing and its plans to open in Corrales. HoneyMoon Brewery, a kombucha-centric operation, is coming to Santa Fe. Blu Dragonfly is coming to the northern town of Cimarron and has already joined the NM Brewers Guild far in advance of its opening.

If there are any other new breweries out there that we missed, please let us know.

We can also report that Guadalupe Mountain (Carlsbad) and Lost Hiker (Ruidoso) are now open and serving their own beers.

Politics and beer don’t mix here or anywhere

Well, so much for this legislative session.

One of the best things about breweries is how they are (usually) delightfully free of the venomous political discourse that has infected our country. Sadly, politics has a way of getting into the beer, and it rarely turns out well for any beer drinker, regardless of his/her affiliation.

Here in New Mexico, even after it passed both houses in the legislature, Senate Bill 204 died with a whimper when outgoing Governor Martinez killed it with a pocket veto. SB204 was designed to give breweries the ability to obtain private celebration permits. Currently, only distributors have these permits. Who knows why the governor did not like this bill, which had bi-partisan support.

It could be worse, however, as craft brewers in Maryland suffered a devastating defeat in Annapolis. Small breweries in Maryland face significant restrictions in how much beer they can brew and sell. Efforts to lift many regulations have failed, as the combination of macrobreweries and distributors have been opposed to giving craft breweries any advantages. Hopefully more progressive politicians will take another look at the situation next year.

Meanwhile, the announcement of pending tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum imports have left some in the craft beer industry worried. Those worries may be valid, as this story in the Wall Street Journal shows. (Thanks to Boxing Bear’s David Kim for the link.) A rise in the price of American steel and aluminum would benefit the manufacturers, but not everyone in the market may be able to afford those increases. That could hamper an industry that uses a hell of a lot of both metals. Ultimately, though, it is still early in the process, and time will tell what the full impact will be on the brewing industry.

Sampler tray

  • Little Toad Creek got some good news when its first taproom outside Silver City cleared a major hurdle. The City of Las Cruces has given its approval for the location at 119 N. Main St. Now all that remains is for state approval, which hopefully will come in advance of the Blazin’ Brewfest in May.
  • Red Door is looking to hire a new head brewer. We are working on finding out the details behind the departure of founding brewer Wayne Martinez.
  • Tart at Heart is returning to Sister for a fourth time on April 14. We will have more details as we get closer to this fun annual event.
  • Second Street will host the first Pilsner and Crab Fest at the Rufina Taproom on June 16-17. It will not be a competition, but a celebration of the style. We would love to see what other breweries bring to at least give us all the opportunity to do a side-by-side tasting.
  • Rejoice, haze lovers, for the Brewers Association has heard your cries. Three new hazy or juicy ale categories (pale, IPA, double IPA) have been added to the official ranks of the Beer Style Guidelines. Other categories have been added as well to reflect the ongoing evolution of craft beers. Click that link for more details.

That clears out the notebook for now. If anyone out there ever has any craft beer news to share, big or small, drop us a line at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com, or via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or just tapping on a Crew member’s shoulder if you spot one of us out and about at a brewery, taproom, or beer bar.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister