Posts Tagged ‘Rio Bravo Brewing’

No beer recipe was safe in a year of change for Rio Bravo.

No beer recipe was safe in a year of change for Rio Bravo.

For this edition of our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series, I caught up with Rio Bravo head brewer Ty Levis at the end of last week. Ty is seemingly always in motion, befitting his position. Rio Bravo has endured its share of ups and downs since opening in late 2015, but he and the rest of the staff remain optimistic for the future.

“It’s been a pretty crazy year around here, just like you could imagine,” Ty said. “(It was) our first full year of operations under our belt, getting things figured out, what’s working in the market. And then, really just focusing on super high-quality beers, driving people in here.”

Rio Bravo went big from the beginning, even putting multiple beers into cans as soon as its line was up and running. In retrospect, Ty noted that the brewery may have overreached.

“We went to market with six different products at once, just because we could with labels,” he said. “But, we found a much more focused approach on two or three core brands is how we’re going to continue forward. Those two main brands right now are our Snakebite IPA and the Pinon Coffee Porter, which are selling extremely well for us and helping to get out name out there.”

Rio Bravo will still offer up a wide variety of beers, but those will stay home, so to speak.

“Then, on premise, the sky’s the limit,” Ty said. “Thirteen-percent alcohol (imperial beers), plus wood aging, plus sours, plus everything we’ve done in the last six months, just really pushing the quality. Because in this market, you’re just not going to make it if you don’t have that quality there, if you don’t put your best effort, beers that blow people’s minds. It’s a crucial aspect that just because you’re good at technical brewing doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to get out there and wow people with what you do.”

Ty said the plan is to eventually have 23 different beers on tap at the brewery, plus one cider from Sandia Hard Cider.

“We still want to get more warm chairs,” he said. “I feel like having the killer variety of really crazy, good beer is going to help drive that. My challenge to people is if they haven’t set foot in here in six months, then they owe it to themselves to come in and check it out, because things like this imperial stout (Grab ’Em by the Putin) and things like the Level 3 IPA that aren’t available anywhere else. We’re not planning on canning a beer that has $1,500 worth of hops in nine barrels. We would never make any money on that. We can break even over the bar, at least.”

Cans of the Pinon Coffee Porter have taken off for Rio Bravo.

Cans of the Pinon Coffee Porter have taken off for Rio Bravo.

Ty has definitely embraced the company motto, “Live Bold,” in challenging beer drinkers around town to return to Rio Bravo and re-try his beers. A number of recipes have been completely redone, with one beer being completely renamed.

“From the original (recipe), we revamped the (Karl’s) Sommerbier,” Ty said. “We dried it out quite a bit more and basically renamed it La Luz, because it could sort of fall into any generic light lager category the way it’s brewed. We got a silver medal at Best of Craft Beer. This is the second time we’ve brewed this exact same recipe with a slightly drier character.”

The plan is now to get La Luz as that third beer in cans, as Ty said he felt it would sell quite well in the warmer months coming up.

“We’ve been focusing on pushing sales for our core brands now,” he said. “We’ve decided what those are. We’re in the middle of trying to get new labels going that will more closely match what the Pinon Coffee Porter looks like, on our Snakebite and our future cans. That way we can tie the branding together. The silver, while it looked cool, it’s too washy when you get on a shelf, it doesn’t stand out, it doesn’t have enough contrast.”

Rio Bravo is working on improving just about every aspect of presentation, from the look of the cans to how they handle social media and more.

“We feel like that’s one of the things we’re learning — marketing and image are crucial parts of what we do,” Ty said. “If you want to make the best beer, you have to see where your market is, you have to make sure you’re figuring out what your customers are looking for. We’ve done that with the Pinon Coffee and we’re doing that with the Snakebite. We’re getting it up there.”

Of course, with every beer success story, there have been some that have not lived up to expectations. Ty said the Duke City Pilsner will likely bite the bullet so they can focus on La Luz as their light lager offering. The Amber will no longer be canned, though it will remain on tap at the brewery, where it has sold well.

“The Amber is doing so well on draft-wise over our own bar, but we just didn’t really move a lot of cans of it,” Ty said. “We’re probably pulling the plug on Amber cans, even though it made a second-round judging at GABF and just got a silver medal at Best of Craft Beer in the American-style ESB category. It’s a top-notch, high-quality beer with just the right balance of hops and malts to be that kind of British chewy style. But, we can’t give it away (in cans). That’s harsh to say, but that’s the reality in this crowded marketplace with so many products out there that are world class. How do you get people to notice?”

That silo out back should be a game-changer for Rio Bravo in 2017.

That silo out back should be a game-changer for Rio Bravo in 2017.

Rio Bravo also earned a bronze medal in the Fruited Wheat Beer category at the Best of Craft Beer Awards with its Rubus Ruckus. The brewery technically considers it a sour, but it was only the second sour Ty has made so far. He has a peach sour, name TBA, due up next. Another beer debuting this week will be the Salted Caramel Belgian Strong Golden, which has been aging in the barrels upstairs. Overall, expect more sours and more barrel-aged offerings to come in 2017, Ty said, as Rio Bravo will keep the taps flowing with as many unique styles of beer as possible at the brewery.

“I think when you first came here to this empty shell and we talked when we were under construction, I had 182,000 miles on my car,” Ty said. “Right now I’m at 261,000. I’m a good 80,000 miles into this project here in Albuquerque, and I still look forward to coming to work every day to see what we can do better with a little bit more quality, with a little bit more flavor. Because, I want to make sure everybody knows that whatever we came out with at the very beginning — conservative, malty — we were still learning our system. Now we’re at a point where it’s kind of no holds barred and we’re really putting it out there.”

The next time you get the chance, stop in at Rio Bravo and take Ty up on his challenge to retry his beers. He is looking for as much feedback and constructive criticism as the public is willing to provide. What kind of adventurous beer drinkers would we be in Albuquerque if we just left him hanging?


— Stoutmeister

Our sixth annual Stout Challenge brought about a sixth different winner.

Our sixth annual Stout Challenge brought about a sixth different winner.

Amid all the seriousness of the weekend, the Brew Crew was still able to gather to hold our annual Stout Challenge before the start of the Super Bowl. While the game featured an improbable rally by the favorite, our blind taste test featured an upset by one of the newer breweries in town.

For the sixth time, we have a new winner. A past winner came oh-so-close to becoming our first two-time champion. We structure the event similar to the IPA Challenge, but with variations. We go around the day of the event, fill our half-growlers (or full growlers for last year’s top finishers), and then bring them to Franz Solo’s house. Our friend Margaret then pours them into numbered glasses out of sight, and we try them one by one, rather than put all on a tray. We take notes and score them from zero to five points in the categories of aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and finish, and add them up.

We were short quite a few Crew members this year. Illness knocked out Brandon, Luke, and Shawna. E-Rock was unable to make it back from his musical adventures in Texas in time. Shilling was studying. Porter Pounder was on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise again. Thus, only myself, Franz, Mrs. Solo, Kristin, and guest judge Tim (Margaret’s husband) were available.

Also, after reporting 16 stouts Friday, we ended up two shy, as Bow & Arrow did not open until it was too late for us to pick up their Storm & Hearth, and Twisted Chile was unable to deliver their Irish stout from Socorro.

As always, these are our opinions. We could be wrong.

14. Cazuela’s Beer for my Horses (19.5 points): This was the only truly disappointing stout among the batch. The flavor was almost sour (my opinion) or salty (Franz’s opinion). It was too thin in the mouthfeel. We have no idea what happened with this batch.

13. Santa Fe Dysphotic Stout (45.5): None of us disliked this robust, almost hop-forward stout, it was just that when stacked up against a field of mostly oatmeal variants, it stood out almost as more of a black IPA than anything. Basically, it is a stout that stands alone in the current available field in the ABQ metro area.

12. Rio Bravo Oatmeal Stout (46): While it did not move up in the standings that much, Rio Bravo’s entry scored much better this time around. The aroma scored the highest, with some mixed feelings on the flavor and mouthfeel. Overall it just came off as a bit light for what we look for in a stout.

11. Boxing Bear Standing 8 Stout (47.5): Every year there seems to be one of the top stouts from the previous year that falls way down the ladder. The main complaint here was in the bitter, overly smoky flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel. It was similar to Dysphotic, but with more malt and less hops.

10. Bosque Driftwood Oatmeal Stout (48): We found this batch to be a little on the thin side, with the most negative marks coming in terms of its mouthfeel, or lack thereof. The flavor was good, quite a bit sweet up front, but it faded pretty quickly.

9. Turtle Mountain Stauffenberg Stout (52.5): This was the first stout we sampled, so in many ways, it served as the base line for all that followed. In general everyone liked it, though it was noted as being just a tad short in all four categories. Still, we would call it perfectly drinkable.

8. Sidetrack Stoker Stout (53): A significant improvement on their stout from last year, this batch was quite a bit smokier and more roasted. Those were probably the biggest attributes, good or bad, with our voters.

7. The 377 Full Booty Stout (56): The top word used to describe our newest brewery’s oatmeal stout was “dry,” which accounted for much of the flavor and mouthfeel for folks. Some scored that well, others did not. The thickness of the mouthfeel scored the highest with most of us.

6. Chama River Sleeping Dog Stout (58): The 2016 champion could not pull off the repeat. The flavor and aroma this time around was sweet, with a pronounced vanilla element, but otherwise it lacked enough mouthfeel and overall complexity. It remains quite good, but not quite on par with last year.

5. Marble Oatmeal Stout (59): If there is a stout deserving of the title of “old reliable,” it is our 2012 champion, which still ranks among the best in town. There was a sweet, almost vanilla flavor and aroma at the front. The mouthfeel and finish saw some contrasting opinions with the five of us.

4. La Cumbre Malpais Stout (61): Unlike most La Cumbre beers, this did not have much of an aroma to draw you in. It did have a smokier, heavier flavor, scoring highest in mouthfeel and finish. The 2013 champion remains one of the best in town, though it is definitely not for those who like their stouts sweeter.

3. Canteen Dark n’ Lusty Stout (62.5): No stout has yo-yoed up and down more in our Stout Challenge the last six years than Canteen’s staple. It has finished seventh (out of eight), fifth (out of 10), 10th (out of 10), second (out of 14), 11th (out of 14), and now it’s third. This batch had a lot of chocolate flavor. It was sweet and solid, but just lacked the flavor complexity to claim its first title.

2. Tractor Double Plow Oatmeal Stout (70): My personal favorite in the bunch, it came up just short of being our first two-time winner (2014 was its previous victory). That cookie dough-like flavor was back at the front, with lots of chocolate up front and hints of smoke on the back end. The mouthfeel was solid throughout.

1. Starr Brothers Foggy Monocle (71.5): First Stout Challenge, first victory! Brewer Rob Whitlock said he actually prefers his Roisin Dubh, an Irish dry stout, to this. Guess he will have to change his mind now. The flavor (roasty coffee) and mouthfeel (thick and creamy smooth) scored especially high with our group.

We will have our Stout Challenge helmet trophy ready soon to be presented to Starr Brothers. Congrats to Rob and their entire staff!

As always, here are our individual point totals for each beer, to see where we agreed and disagreed on each.

  • Stoutmeister: 1) Tractor 13.5, 2) Chama River 11, 3) Canteen 10.5, 4) La Cumbre and Marble 9.5, 6) Boxing Bear and The 377 and Starr Brothers 9, 9) Bosque 8.5, 10) Sidetrack and Turtle Mountain 8, 12) Santa Fe and Rio Bravo 7, 14) Cazuela’s 3
  • Franz Solo: 1) Tractor 16.5, 2) Starr Brothers 16, 3) Canteen 15.5, 4) La Cumber 15, 5) Boxing Bear and Sidetrack 13.5, 7) The 377 12.5, 8) Chama River and Turtle Mountain 12, 10) Marble and Santa Fe 11, 12) Bosque and Rio Bravo 7, 14) Cazuela’s 3
  • Mrs. Solo: 1) Starr Brothers 16.5, 2) Tractor 15.5, 3) Canteen and Sidetrack 12, 5) La Cumbre and Marble and The 377 and Rio Bravo 11, 9) Bosque 10.5, 10) Chama River and Turtle Mountain 10, 12) Santa Fe 7, 13) Boxing Bear 6, 14) Cazuela’s 4
  • Kristin: 1) La Cumbre 16.5, 2) Starr Brothers 16, 3) Marble 15, 4) Chama River 13, 5) Rio Bravo and Turtle Mountain 12.5, 7) Bosque 12, 8) Boxing Bear and Canteen 11.5, 10) The 377 and Tractor 11, 12) Sidetrack 10.5, 13) Santa Fe 10, 14) Cazuela’s 5
  • Tim: 1) Starr Brothers 14, 2) Tractor 13.5, 3) Canteen 13, 4) The 377 and Marble 12.5, 6) Chama River 12, 7) Santa Fe 10.5, 8) Bosque and Turtle Mountain 10, 10) La Cumbre and Sidetrack 9, 12) Rio Bravo 8.5, 13) Boxing Bear 7.5, 14) Cazuela’s 4.5

Once again, these are just our opinions. We invite everyone to go out and try all these stouts, whether it’s for the 100th time or the first time. Our local breweries are doing a great job with the darker side of beer, and we couldn’t be happier on the whole.

We will have more on the weekend’s serious news about Senate Bill 314 and the contentious town hall meeting on Tuesday, once we put everything together.

Until then, keep supporting local breweries!


— Stoutmeister

Beer Notes: Tart times at Rio Bravo

Posted: October 14, 2016 by cjax33 in Beer Notes
The Raspberry Sour makes its debut today at Rio Bravo.

The Raspberry Sour makes its debut today at Rio Bravo.

Rio Bravo head brewer Ty Levis said, long ago, that he fully planned to take advantage of the many barrels in his possession to branch out beyond simply doing standard barrel-aged stouts, porters, and barley wines. A sour program was coming, at least as soon as things finally settled down in terms of production at the brewery at Second Street and I-40.

“The pressure of regular production kept us from doing this until now,” Ty said. “We have volume considerations that have to come first.”

The quiet time of year, when brewers can get back to their mad scientist roots, is now upon us. Rio Bravo will release their new Raspberry Sour today (Friday) at the brewery.

“This beer is really cool,” Ty said. “I’m definitely happy with it. I started out by talking our pilsner and aging in it wood barrels for nine weeks. We had about 120 gallons up there.”

From there, Ty added the raspberry puree to the fermentation process. For the souring process, he took notes from other breweries in the area that had produced kettle-soured beers in the past.

“We used Nancy’s Pro-Biotic Yogurt,” Ty said. “It worked really well. We saw a pH drop from 5.1 to 3.5, which is just crazy.”

The resulting beer can almost serve as an entry-level sour ale. It has the color and aroma of raspberries, while the flavor is more tart than truly pucker-ish.

“We used the right yeast, too, a dry, British pale yeast,” Ty said, which helped keep the fruit sugars in check.

A Cherry Sour is also in the barrels upstairs and should be ready in about two weeks. That should offer up a considerably different flavor profile, with even stronger sour elements.

“I’m super happy with how this (the Raspberry) turned out,” Ty said.

Surprise layoffs at a craft beer heavyweight

The news that Stone Brewing was laying off 75-plus employees in Escondido, Calif., shocked the craft beer community on Thursday afternoon. So, what does that mean for New Mexico’s breweries?

Absolutely nothing.

Stone is not the start of some trend, not the beginning of the feared bursting of the craft beer bubble. The company sent out an official statement, clearly written by a team of lawyers and publicists, that said Stone is reorganizing/restructuring. These things happen to breweries, just like any other business, though usually not on such a large scale. Then again, for most breweries, getting rid of 75-plus employees would be impossible as few in New Mexico employee nearly that many people.

We have seen past instances of brewers, owners, and managers quietly departing from our local establishments. The great Marble re-branding/restructuring of 2014 saw the departure of co-founders Jeff Jinnett and John Gozigian, but it did not lead to the mass upheaval that many feared. It was handled professionally and life continued normally.

For now, the Stone layoffs can be treated as an isolated incident. If it starts becoming a trend, then people can start to panic. For now, all is well, let us move along.

Sampler tray

  • One of our readers informed us that a small brewing operation will not be renewing its small brewer license the next time that comes up, which is actually next week, as it turns out. Instead, the business will function simply as a bar/taproom. When we receive official confirmation, we will reveal the name.
  • Construction has begun at last on the newer, larger Las Cruces taproom for Bosque Brewing. The existing taproom will stay open until the new one is ready to go. Both are located in the same complex across from New Mexico State.

That is all for now. I gotta get back to work on the beer history book. Oh, OK, I can share one little bit of history for you all …

Ty was telling me how his father, Mike Levis, who founded Santa Fe Brewing, liked to claim that it was the first brewery to open in New Mexico since Prohibition was enacted in 1920. Well, not quite, as it turns out. The New Mexico Brewing Company operated from the summer of 1936 until January 1937 in a building at Second Street and Marquette in downtown Albuquerque. It went bust and was sold at auction to a new owner, who renamed it Rio Grande Brewing Company. That brewery was up and running from 1937 until 1939, when it went bankrupt with an astounding $120,000 worth of debt (think of the era, that was a lot). From there, the state was silent on the brewing front until the Levis family brewed up Santa Fe Pale Ale in 1988.

Oh, and once again, if anyone out there has any pictures or images from the ABQ beer scene in the 1990s or early 2000s, I would love to scan them and use them in the book!


— Stoutmeister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


— Stoutmeister

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.


— Stoutmeister

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

One IPA to rule them all!

One IPA to rule them all!

Hopheads! Assemble!

The 2016 edition of the New Mexico IPA Challenge kicks off this Saturday at noon with the preliminary round at Rio Bravo Brewing. If you need a reminder of how it will be set up, we wrote about that a while back. To further help you out, we asked Rio Bravo brewer Ty Levis for additional details.

“We are going to host the IPA Challenge in the brewhouse,” Ty said in an email. “We have decided to have participants file in through the doors at the east end of the taproom (like you were going to go out to the stage area) and we will have all the service and jockey box setups right there. From there participants will enter the main brewery through the side gate, where you will be able to sit at one of six-to-seven picnic tables set up inside along the row of brite tanks or alongside the brewhouse. We will allow participants to go out back to the bier garden where we will have some tents shading additional picnic tables, trying to keep all those IPAs out of the sun!!! Who let in the skunk?

“An important aspect to the IPA Challenge is that there are two huge flights of 14 beers and you will not be allowed to choose which flight you are given. Only the seven most voted for beers in each flight will move on to round two, which will probably lead to some amazing IPAs being left behind in round one. We hope to be in the running, but as you know ABQ is IPA Valhalla and I suspect that if you aren’t putting in 6-10 pounds of hops per barrel, you’re going to get left behind, thus the reason that a lot of these beers aren’t available anytime other than right around IPA Challenge competitions.

“You’re welcome to bring palate cleansers, but understand that you get your flight assigned to you, you won’t know who’s beers are in it and only your vote will decide the fate of the brewery’s beers that you taste in your flight. (Brewers Guild) Director John Gozgian will be the sole person who knows what brewery’s beer is located at what place in each flight, and I hear he’s signed up on ebay for this knowledge to be sold to the highest bidder. We will have a lot of fun hosting this event, John (Seabrooks) and I will be helping pour and serve flights all day.”

Get there early to make sure you get to enjoy your tray inside. And as noted, you can bring palate cleansers, so start stringing those pretzel necklaces after a hearty breakfast.

That brings us to the part of this that those of you who have been to an NMIPAC round before can skip over. For all of you planning to make this your first, here is how to get through it.

  • Get there early. You probably could have guessed that, but this lessens the chatter around you that might influence your selections.
  • Bring those aforementioned palate cleansers. Pretzels tend to work best, but figure out your personal favorite. These beers are not going to be kind to an inexperienced palate. Yours could be worn out before you get all 14 sampled, so give your palate a little break here and there. Water is good, but that is more for hydration than anything else.
  • Remember, you might have Bosque or La Cumbre on your tray, but that is not your standard Riverwalker or Elevated on there. These are all specialty IPAs. Heck, they might not even be the ones later sold as Scale Tipper or Project Dank at the breweries or in bottles. Do not try to guess which IPA came from your favorite brewery; just vote for the best one on your tray. Be honest with yourself. You might be rewarded, you might be surprised.
  • Take your time. This event is four hours long. Assess everything, from aroma to initial flavor to mouthfeel to finish. Take notes. Be thorough. These brewers put a lot into these beers, so give them an equally strong effort in your evaluations.
  • Do not pick the beer you think everyone else would like. The hoppiest or heaviest need not win. Pick your favorite. This is your opinion, not your friend’s opinion, not your significant other’s opinion, just yours. One person. One vote.
  • Try to avoid driving yourself, especially if this is your first NMIPAC. These beers will sneak up on you. Carpool with friends, bum a ride, use Uber, take a taxi, whatever. Yes, Rio Bravo has more parking than most breweries, but it will be gone in the blink of an eye. Plus, it is a summer weekend. APD and BCSO will be out in force. Don’t be dumb. If you have to drive, be willing to leave your car parked in the area overnight, if necessary.
  • Most of all, have fun. This is a serious event, but remember, it’s also about expressing our love for our local breweries and supporting the Guild.

Got any questions? Comments after this is all over about what you did and did not like? Send them our way at or just drop us a line on any of our social media platforms. And if you spot Brandon or I over there, stop by and say hello.


— Stoutmeister

One IPA to rule them all!

One IPA to rule them all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


— Stoutmeister

We are off and running with 14 events on the opening day!

Turn off the lights, the party’s over …

And so it ends.

After 11 days, ABQ Beer Week 2016 comes to a close. The theme of the final day is kick back and relax, enjoy a final few tastings and pairings, and generally reflect on all the awesome that just transpired.

A big thanks to the breweries, beer bars, and everyone else who helped get us this information every day. It wasn’t easy (especially since I’ve been out of state since Memorial Day), but it was a lot of fun to provide this every day.

And most of all, thank you to the wonderful, tireless work of Marne Gaston. Without her, we would have no Beer Week. Raise your pints in her honor today!

Featured event

Every day we will pick what we consider the biggest, most interesting, most unique event. This does not mean you should go to only this event and ignore the rest. All of them deserve your attention, but realistically, you can probably only attend a few. So we will make our daily pick, and you can either jump on it, or declare the Crew is foolish (we kinda are) and pick your own.

What: 8th Annual New Mexico Brewers Guild Golf Tournament. Where: Santa Ana Golf Course. When: 7 a.m. Cost: $110 per player.

Details: Hit up the Santa Ana GC with some of the best beer lovers/golfers around. The price gets you free range balls, a golf cart, a breakfast burrito, a full round of golf, beer on the course, lunch, and a chance to win swag (for first, second, third place) from the Guild. The shotgun start will be at 8 a.m.

Why you should go: Get out there and support the Guild! And yell “FORE!” a lot.

All the other great events

What: Goose Island Brunch. Where: Nob Hill Bar & Grill. When: 11 a.m. Cost: TBA. Details: Goose Island is teaming up with Sofie’s Mimosas and Waffles to bring you the ultimate end-of-ABW brunch. Why you should go: Kick that hangover in style.

What: ABQ Bike & Brew Tour. Where: Routes Bicycle Tours, 404 San Felipe NW. When: 1 p.m. Cost: $60, or $65 if you need to rent a bike. Details: Take a guided tour of three TBD local breweries via bicycle. Intermediate riders are welcome. It’s a 10-12 mile round trip. Why you should go: Stay in shape, still drink beer.

What: Joe S. Sausage Super Sunday Sausage Fest Sampler Sausage and Beer Bliss Extravaganza. Where: Marble Downtown. When: 2 p.m. Cost: $25. Details: Get your tickets ASAP for this annual bit of fun as Joe brings his best sausages to pair up with your favorite Marble Beers. Alex Maryol will provide the music from 3 to 6 p.m. Why you should go: Chow down, listen to local music, drink great beer. It’s what Sunday Funday is all about.

What: Special Firkin Tapping. Where: Santa Fe ABQ Taproom. When: 2 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: A Blood Orange Hefeweizen will be tapped in the cask. Why you should go: If that’s your kind of beer, go for it!

What: Porter Party & Chocolate Pairings. Where: Rio Bravo. When: 2:30 p.m. Cost: $7 for porter flight, $4 for chocolate assortment. Details: They will have four porters — regular, barrel-aged, vanilla, and pinon. Pair it up with chocolates, then kick back for some live music between 3 and 7 p.m. Why you should go: This just sounds like a treat, so go treat yourselves.

What: Pizza Cooked by the Brewer. Where: Albuquerque Brewing. When: 5 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: Carnie will be making pizzas paired up with specific beers. Why you should go: Finish Beer Week with some pizza and beer, as the beer gods intended.

* * * * *

Got any questions, comments, complaints, send them to, or leave them here on our site, on Facebook, or on Twitter (@nmdarksidebc).

Enjoy yourselves out there, but please, do it responsibly.


— Stoutmeister

We are off and running with 14 events on the opening day!

Nearing the end on Day Ten, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had.

The party isn’t over yet, so it’s time to gear up for one last Saturday full of events.

There are two big fundraisers today, one at Tractor Wells Park and the other at Marble Westside.

Throw in some more beer releases, special tappings, sampling events, and more, and you should stay plenty busy as we wind down to the end.

Featured event

Every day we will pick what we consider the biggest, most interesting, most unique event. This does not mean you should go to only this event and ignore the rest. All of them deserve your attention, but realistically, you can probably only attend a few. So we will make our daily pick, and you can either jump on it, or declare the Crew is foolish (we kinda are) and pick your own.

What: Planned Parenthood Beer & Bands Annual Fundraiser. Where: Tractor Wells Park. When: 5 p.m. Cost: $15.

Details: Tractor is turning the entire front parking lot into an event space. All proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood. There will be live music from Keith Sanchez, Le Chat Lunatique, and more, plus performances by the Desert Darlings, the ABQ Aerialist Collective, and more. Music, art, beer, all in one place.

Why you should go: It’s a big old block party. Go have some fun.

All the other great events

What: Marble Special Release. Where: 5 Star Burgers Central. When: 11 a.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: They’re tapping another keg of Saison #1. Why you should go: Beer, burgers, bliss.

What: Sidewalk Chalk Contest. Where: Ponderosa. When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost: $20. Details: They provide the chalk, you make the art. All contestants get a T-shirt. The prizes are a $20 gift card for third place, a 1-year mug club membership for second, and a $100 gift card for first. Why you should go: Make some art, drink some beer, win some swag.

What: Albuquerque Brewing Tour. Where: Albuquerque Brewing. When: Noon. Cost: No entry fee. Details: Brewer Carnie will give a tour of the inner workings of ABC. Why you should go: See how they make the beer, then drink the beer.

What: Barrel-Aged Beer Release. Where: Tractor Nob Hill. When: Noon. Cost: $12 for a flight. Details: For the first time, the general public gets to try Tractor’s three new barrel-aged beers, Scotcholate, Barley Wine, and Luna de los Muertos. Why you should go: Because barrel-aged beers are delicious. And a limited number of bombers will be available for purchase.

What: Car Show & Live Music. Where: Rio Bravo. When: Noon. Cost: No entry fee. Details: Check out a car show outside and then listen to Reverend Catfish at 4 p.m. and Dirty Brown Jug Band at 6 p.m. Why you should go: If you love cars and/or tunes, this is for you.

What: Beer Baked Goods Cake Walk and Circus Day. Where: Albuquerque Brewing. When: 1 to 4 p.m. Cost: $5 per person. Details: Bring a baked dish made with beer to participate. Why you should go: Enjoy some food and beer on the patio.

What: Upslope Tasting. Where: Jubilation. When: 2 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: Come check out the full lineup of Upslope beers. Why you should go: Free beer!

What: Watermelon Mountain Ranch Fundraiser. Where: Marble Westside. When: 2 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: There will be live music and a portion of proceeds will be donated to Watermelon Mountain Ranch. Why you should go: Support a good cause while enjoying a beer or two.

What: Raven and Co. Where: Santa Fe ABQ Taproom. When: 4 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: Live music at Green Jeans. Why you should go: Support local music.

What: Sierra Nevada Special Tapping. Where: Nob Hill Bar & Grill. When: 5 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: They are tapping three heavyweights in Five Hop DIPA, Bigfoot Barley Wine, and Hoptimum Imperial IPA. Why you should go: Big hops or big malts, you can’t lose.

(Five stars)

Got any questions, comments, complaints, send them to, or leave them here on our site, on Facebook, or on Twitter (@nmdarksidebc).

Enjoy yourselves out there, but please, do it responsibly.


— Stoutmeister

We are off and running with 14 events on the opening day!

Time to finish with a flourish as Beer Week is nearly wrapping up!

The end of Beer Week is in sight.

There is still fun to be had, however. From one of the biggest events — the Beer Premier — to a whole lot of smaller tastings and tappings and other fun will be going on.

Through the breweries you can also support other businesses, musicians, and artists. It’s a whole lot of local helping local, and that’s always a good thing.

Featured event

Every day we will pick what we consider the biggest, most interesting, most unique event. This does not mean you should go to only this event and ignore the rest. All of them deserve your attention, but realistically, you can probably only attend a few. So we will make our daily pick, and you can either jump on it, or declare the Crew is foolish (we kinda are) and pick your own.

What: NM Brewers Guild Beer Premier. Where: National Hispanic Cultural Center. When: 6 p.m. Cost: $35 per person.

Details: We went in-depth on this major event, which supports the Guild. There will be 16 brand-new beers from 16 different breweries (we had nine of them announced by press time), plus matanza pits to keep your bellies full.

Why you should go: Support the Guild, try lots of new beers, chow down on some roasted pork, and have fun!

All the other great events

What: La Cumbre Special Tapping. Where: Gecko’s (both locations). When: 11:30 a.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: No beer is officially listed, so think of it as a Friday surprise with your lunch. Why you should go: Sometimes it’s fun to be surprised.

What: Marble Firkin Friday. Where: Marble (both locations). When: Noon. Cost: No entry fee. Details: The brew team will put some unique creations in the casks. Why you should go: You know it’s gonna be something good.

What: Alaskan Sampling. Where: Total Wine (both locations). When: 1 p.m. (Cottonwood), 4 p.m. (Uptown). Cost: No entry fee. Details: Taste some of Alaskan’s finest ales on either side of town. Why you should go: Free beer!

What: IPA Tap Night. Where: Rio Bravo. When: 2 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: Compare Rio Bravo’s three IPAs — DRB, Snakebite, Magnum 44 — to three guest taps from La Cumbre, Second Street, and Sierra Blanca. Why you should go: If you like hops, this is for you.

What: Santa Fe Special Release. Where: Santa Fe ABQ Taproom. When: 2 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: The next beer in the Ever Changing Series, Lemon Skynyrd, will debut on tap and in bottles. Why you should go: Check out this summer-themed beer and take some home.

What: New Belgium and Hof Ten Dormaal Tasting. Where: Jubilation. When: 4 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: It’s a whole lot of Belgian-style beers, including a collaboration between the two craft giants. Why you should go: Free beer!

What: Odell Special Tapping. Where: Two Fools Tavern. When: 4 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: It’s another mystery keg. Why you should go: Solve the mystery, drink the beer.

What: Palmer Brewery and Left Turn Distillery Special Release. Where: Imbibe. When: 4:30 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: Try M.W.A. (Malt With Attitude), an 8-percent ABV blue corn malt liquor. Why you should go: New brewery, new beer, gotta try it, right?

What: Tractor Tap Takeover. Where: Hooters San Mateo. When: 5 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: They’re taking Cerveza New Mexican and their four packaged beers, along with Felix y Los Gatos to provide music on the patio. Why you should go: Grab some wings and a pint and listen to the music.

What: Marble Special Release. Where: Uptown Sports Bar. When: 5 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: It’s another tapping of Saison #1. Why you should go: Watch some baseball and enjoy a pint or two.

What: Odell Special Encore Tapping. Where: Nob Hill Bar & Grill. When: 6 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: The Russian Pirate, a rum barrel-aged imperial stout, is back for another run. Why you should go: A big, beautiful beer for happy hour and to start your weekend.

What: Upslope Tap Takeover. Where: Mezcal (formerly Stereo Bar). When: 6 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: There will be a huge onslaught of Upslope beers available. Why you should go: Haven’t found a favorite Upslope beer yet? This is your time to find it.

What: Minute 16. Where: Albuquerque Brewing. When: 7 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: Minute 16 is a band, apparently. Why you should go: Support local music!

What: Beer Themed Art Fight. Where: Tractor Wells Park. When: 7 p.m. Cost: No entry fee. Details: Grab a pint and watch a whole lot of artists create new works, all including images of beer. When all is said and done, you can vote on your favorite and maybe even take it home. Why you should go: Support local art!

* * * * *

Got any questions, comments, complaints, send them to, or leave them here on our site, on Facebook, or on Twitter (@nmdarksidebc).

Enjoy yourselves out there, but please, do it responsibly.


— Stoutmeister