Posts Tagged ‘Starr Brothers Brewing’

Starr Brothers has organized a fundraiser to help the family of New Mexico United player Justin Schmidt. (Image courtesy of Starr Brothers)

Sad news came down this week that New Mexico United soccer player Justin Schmidt’s father, Jonathon David Schmidt, was killed in a car crash last weekend in Wyoming. As the brewery with the closest ties with the team, Starr Brothers is hosting a fundraiser for the Schmidt family this Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.

Justin Schmidt is a local player who graduated from Volcano Vista High School. His mother was also in the crash and is currently hospitalized.

During those six hours, 15 percent of all proceeds from beer and food sales will be donated to the Schmidt family. The brewery will have its usual sizable contingent of Liverpool fans on hand at 12:45 for the game against Newcastle, but everyone is invited to come by and contribute.

There will also be a table set up where people can make their own personalized armbands with a message of support to the Schmidt family. Fans will be encouraged to wear them to Sunday’s 5 p.m. game against San Antonio at Isotopes Park.

Before the game on Sunday, there will be live screen printing at the tailgate co-hosted by Starr Brothers and The Curse New Mexico, United’s primary fan club. Any print featuring the logo above purchased by fans will see $5 donated to the family. There will also be a special bucket for direct donations to the family, and anyone who cannot attend Saturday’s fundraiser and/or Sunday’s tailgate can donate directly online here.

Kudos to Starr Brothers, The Curse, and everyone else involved in setting up these fundraisers for the Schmidt family.

Somos unidos!

— Stoutmeister

Look at us, all happy and positive, mostly because that dreadful game had not yet started.

Dear lord, that was probably the worst Super Bowl we have seen since … man, maybe Super Bowl XXXV? (The one where the Ravens annihilated the Giants, if your memory is too fuzzy.) At least we had lots of stout!

Four members of the Dark Side Brew Crew, plus our good friend Tim, gathered on Super Bowl Sunday to judge 14 stouts from around the ABQ metro area in a blind taste test. For the first time in eight years, a past winner took home its second title.

We judged the stouts on aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and finish, with a maximum score of five points per category, for a total maximum of 20 points. A few breweries from our projected list were left off, either due to the stout not being eligible (no coffee/chocolate/milk/imperial stouts), or not being available for us to pick up.

For now, here are the results of Stout Challenge VIII, from bottom to top. As always, these are just our opinions, we could be wrong.

The helmet is headed back to a prior haunt, while the beers and ribs were vanquished.

14. Turtle Mountain Stauffenberg (16): The toughest thing about these blind taste tests is when a brewer you know, who is a really good dude and an award-winning brewer, nonetheless presents a crushing disappointment. Sorry, Mick, but that was this. The stout had a medicinal flavor, a thin mouthfeel, an aroma that came off lie fertilizer/band-aid to some, Franz Solo picked up on a heavy amount of DMS, and, well … we still love the other TMBC beers. That counts, right?

13. Palmer Switch Stance (17.5): An Irish dry stout, we have had it before at the brewery and it tasted far different (better) than this batch. The aroma was all smoke, with Maureen even picking up a little curry, while Brandon thought it was more of a burnt gose/kettle sour. There was a weird, tobacco-like flavor, with an exceptionally thin mouthfeel and almost non-existent finish. We have no idea what went wrong here.

12. Hops All About the Stout (34.5): Maureen was really the only one of us who liked this Irish dry stout. She enjoyed the aroma (“smells like breakfast”), smooth mouthfeel, and “a little bit of bite” on the finish. The rest of us, well, we found the aroma ranging from a mild roast to downright sour, with an astringent flavor, possibly from using too much Black Patent malt.

11. Toltec Oatmeal Stout (37.5): If the nose knows, then our noses knew little as the aroma was barely there. The flavor was mild, with a hint of burnt caramel and toffee. The mouthfeel was thin at best, with a dry, barely-there finish.

10. Tractor Double Plow (46.5): The 2014 champion failed to shine through this time. The dark roast aroma was pleasant, but the flavor (slight coffee), mouthfeel (thin), and finish (bitter) were just off.

9. Kellys Sleeping Dog (47): The 2018 runner-up, and a past champion when it was still Chama River’s beer, this batch did not live up to its predecessors. The aroma came off as either minimal or a bit like burnt coffee. The flavor was roasty, with a hint of nuts. The mouthfeel was more like what you would expect from a schwarzbier. The finish produced mixed reactions from clean to funky.

8. Boxing Bear Standing 8 (48): The demotion from year-round to seasonal has taken a bit of the bite out of this one. The aroma was not really there, with a tinge of roast mixed with some sort of odd chemical that no one could quite identify, though Brandon wrote that it came off like a musty Merlot. The flavor packed some roast and a hint of dry chocolate, but it produced an unusual off flavor in the finish. The mouthfeel was a bit thin in our opinion.

7. La Cumbre Malpais (59): The 2013 champ ended up in the middle of the pack in many categories. Most of us found the aroma to be a bit light, with a slight whiff of coffee/roast. Thoughts on the flavor ranged from cake frosting to light roast. The mouthfeel was average-to-thick, while the finish ranged from sharp to balanced. We still don’t mind those random nights at Launchpad when they have cans of this for $5. It’s a tall boy for a more sophisticated metalhead.

6. Quarter Celtic MacLomas (60.5): Another Irish dry stout, this one still held up fairly well. Our thoughts seemed to be all over the place on it, with some picking up a dark fruit aroma, almost like black currant, while others got a lot of coffee and toffee on the nose. The flavor comes off closer to a porter than a stout, with some light chocolate, more dark fruit, and little roast. The mouthfeel was thin, which one would expect from the style (though, of course, we did not know what beer we were drinking).

5. Red Door Mail Order Stout (61): This new stout is not on tap yet, but head brewer Matt Meier nicely asked us if we would include it, since he wanted to see how it stacks up to the local competition. We all got a little something different on the nose, ranging from mild chocolate to hoppy fruits to cookie dough. The flavor was heavily roasted, with a dry, fairly thick mouthfeel. The hops all pop up on the finish, leaving it a little dry and slightly bitter.

4. Bosque Driftwood (63.5): The aroma on this oatmeal stout produced a lot of different responses, ranging from coffee to dried fruit to cookie dough. The flavor was heavy on the malty sweet/roast, but the mouthfeel was not quite up to par. Feelings on the finish ranged from clean to cocoa to dry.

3. Canteen Dark ‘n Lusty (76.5): The 2018 champ just missed out on being our first back-to-back winner. There is a lot of roast on the aroma, with a tinge of dark fruit. The flavor was heavy on the chocolate, with a bit of an unexpected alcohol burn, which some liked and others were not too sure of, while the mouthfeel was thick and chewy. The finish was clean and yet complex.

2. Marble Oatmeal Stout (77.5): Our first champion, way back in 2012, came oh-so-close to a second title. A sweet, almost floral aroma from the hops draws you in. There is a chocolate flavor, almost cookie-like, with a rich mouthfeel and a sweet finish. We are gonna have to go pick up a couple sixers of this one. Never underestimate a classic!

And, that means the winner is …

1. Starr Brothers Foggy Monocle (80): The 2017 winner reclaimed the title! We all got a lot of oats on the aroma, though responses ranged from doughy to smoky in addition to that. The flavor and mouthfeel was all oatmeal and cream, with a clean finish. After tumbling far down the list last year, we were told by head brewer Rob Whitlock that he recognized what had gone wrong in 2018, and that he would correct it for this year. Well, Rob was a man of his word. Congratulations!

In the end, we had cake. Stout cake. Because of course we did.

For each Crew member, the rankings varied, of course. Here are everyone’s top three picks.

Stoutmeister: 1) Starr Brothers 18.5, 2) Bosque 16, 3) Canteen 15.5

Franz Solo: 1) Canteen 16, 2) Marble 15, 3) Starr Brothers 14

Brandon: 1) Starr Brothers 17.5, 2) Marble 14.5, 3) Canteen 14

Maureen: 1) Hops 18.5, 2) Marble 18, 3) Boxing Bear, Red Door, Starr Brothers tied with 17

Tim: 1) Marble 17, 2) Canteen 16.5, 3) Red Door 14

A big thanks to the breweries for their contributions to the Stout Challenge. We always encourage everyone to go out and try all the beers for themselves. Let us know which is your favorite from around town, and beyond!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The Starr Brothers command staff includes, from left, general manager Derek Minero, co-owner Heather Starr, head brewer/part-owner Rob Whitlock, and assistant brewer Matthew Pullen.

There are occasions where we can actually properly time the release of one of our Look Back/Look Series articles with a major event at the subject brewery. Sometimes, though, we almost miss the opportunity, and a mad scramble ensues to get the story done in time. That was almost the case this week, but the good folks in charge at Starr Brothers Brewing made it easy for us to get this article up before their third anniversary party kicks off Saturday.

Co-owner Heather Starr, head brewer (and now part-owner) Rob Whitlock, and general manager Derek Minero were able to join me for a quick interview on Wednesday afternoon, going over the entirety of 2018 and what is to come in 2019.

First up, Saturday’s anniversary bash will run all day, with plenty of fun on deck.

“We haven’t done the bands before, this is kind of our first time doing that,” Heather said. “But, I think it will add to the celebratory atmosphere. We’ve got (souvenir) cups, we’ve got merch, we’re doing a live screen print.”

The participating bands are Rise of Seekalae (2 to 4 p.m.), RoyalHills (5 to 8), and Kevin Herig (8:30-10:30).

“Our beer release, we’re going to do the Lost Cities of Gold (Hazy IPA) that I had up at WinterBrew,” Rob said.

“Then some raffles and stuff, just an all-day party,” Derek added.

Heather also noted that the west parking lot has been expanded, with crushed gravel instead of dirt. Any time a brewery can add more parking, it is a good thing.

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It’s time to gather with 700 of your closest beer-loving friends at WinterBrew.

WinterBrew 2019 is so close we can almost taste all the great beers that will be poured at the Santa Fe Farmers Market on Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. If you were not one of the lucky 700 to get a ticket, well, you might be able to land the extra pass the Crew has in hand for the festival.

I love tapping into New Mexico beer history, so the first person to correctly answer the following question will be the winner. Since this event is in Santa Fe, we stuck with a theme for that town.

Q. What current Santa Fe landmark was a brewery way back in the 19th century? Hint: It currently has a connection to someone famous beyond just New Mexico.

Send us an email at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com with your answer. We will announce when the contest is over on social media (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram), so keep an eye out there. The winner will be informed directly via email. If you are the winner, just meet the Crew out front at 5 p.m. (we will have our shirts on for easy identification). This is just one small way to give back to you, our loyal readers.

UPDATE: The question was answered correctly on Thursday at 5:30. It was the Jean Cocteau Theater, owned by George R.R. Martin. He’s kinda famous, right?

Now, for everyone that is going, we present the beer lists for 16 of the 18 attending breweries. Hopefully we get the other two before long.

  • Abbey: Monks’ Ale, Monks’ Dark Chocolate, Monks’ Tripel Reserve, Monks’ Grapefruit Wit
  • Bosque: Driftwood Oatmeal Stout, Open Space Haze, Elephants on Parade Tart, Frostbit Wit, Fistful of Churros, Bosque Cider
  • Bow and Arrow: TBA
  • Chili Line: TBA
  • Cloudcroft: Chai Spiced Porter, Oatmeal Stout, Railspike Red Ale, Trainwreck IPA
  • HoneyMoon: Camellia Flor, Camellia Blanco, Cidrucha
  • Lost Hiker: Snowpocolipse (Winter Warmer), Midnight Squirrel Stout, Rye Knot (Belgian Pale w/ Rye), Connectivity IPA
  • Marble: Desert Fog, Double White, Coffee Porter (NEW! Replacing Cholo Smooth), Sympathy for the Pork Chop (Smoked Marzen)
  • Picacho Peak: I Heart Chocolate Porter, Twisted Windmill (DIPA), 575 Scottsman, Dirty Blonde, Javelina Black (American Stout)
  • Red River: Lazy Bear Blonde, Midnight Meadows Oatmeal Stout, Back 40 Farmhouse Ale, Super Bad Medicine Bourbon Barrel-Aged Honey DIPA
  • Rowley Farmhouse Ales: No B.U. IPA, Petite Blanche (available from 5 to 6:10 p.m.), Cote d’Or Double Cerise (6:10-7:20), Sin Barreras Mole Barrel-Aged Stout with fresh raspberries (7:20-9)
  • Santa Fe: 7K IPA, Getta Witness (Witbier), Pepe Loco (Dark Lager), Chicken Killer 2.0
  • Second Street: 2920 IPA, Jackplane Imperial Porter, Agua Fria Pilsner, Boneshaker Special Bitter, 2018 Anniversary Ale, 2018 Skookum (Barleywine), Barrel-Aged Skookum, Chin Gose, Kolsch, MBV Stout
  • Sidetrack: Hobo King Lager, Dark Engine Stout, Turntable IPA, Buzz Bomb, plus cask of Dark Engine with cacao nibs and coffee
  • Starr Brothers: There Gose Them Boyzz, Brown Chicken Brown Cow, Lost City of Gold (Hazy IPA), Zombies in the Manger (Biscochito Stout)
  • Truth or Consequences: Bad Santa (Spiced Winter Ale), Good Juju (American Brown Ale), Irish Red, Palomas Porter, Supernova Hazy DIPA, Truth Serum (Barleywine, in bottles)
  • Tumbleroot: Captain SMASH (Rum Barrel-Aged SMASH Barleywine), Orange Chocolate Stout (nitro), Farmhouse Saison, Pale Ale
  • Turtle Mountain: Tiempo Mañana IPL, Darker than Darkness (Schwarzbier), Stockholm Syndrome (Baltic Porter), Deep Depravity (Barleywine), plus the archived 2016 Depravity and then 2017 Infinitesimus

Those are a lot of big, malty, chewy beers, so make sure to pace yourselves. WinterBrew is always a blast of an event, whether you take the Rail Runner or drive and spend the night in Santa Fe (please do not drive up and back if you are drinking). There will be food inside, but it might not hurt to load up at Second Street Railyard next door beforehand.

See you all tomorrow night.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Remember when Marble shared this photo of happy brewery representatives in Washington D.C.? Yeah, gonna guess they are not too happy with the government right now.

Most of us are aware of, yet personally unaffected by, the current partial shutdown of the federal government. Leaving the politics aside, it has nonetheless made things difficult on both federal employees and those businesses and people who rely on certain federal agencies. It did not occur to any of us in the Crew how this might affect breweries until we saw a tweet by a brewer out of town who complained about the shutdown of the TTB.

The TTB (Tax and Trade Bureau) is the government agency that handles almost everything related to breweries, and many other businesses, at the federal level. It has the greatest impact on breweries that package and forthcoming breweries, which of course means it has an impact all around New Mexico. To figure out just what that impact has been, I emailed two people who have extensive knowledge of such affairs, NM Brewers Guild executive director John Gozigian and La Cumbre president/master brewer Jeff Erway.

“The shutdown affects breweries in planning with pending brewer’s notices and existing breweries with label approval applications in the pipeline,” John explained. “Brewer’s notices (federal brewers permit) and COLAs (certificates of label approval) are both issued by the TTB, which is a federal agency.”

That is not good news for breweries in planning.

“Any federal brewers notice is in limbo right now and they will be set back by this,” Jeff wrote.

It also has a negative impact on packaging breweries such as La Cumbre.

“If a beer is to be sent out of state, it needs a COLA and those are also in limbo,” Jeff wrote. “We are having to hold on shipping a few beers to AZ and CO specifically because of this shutdown.”

To sum it up: The shutdown is bad for breweries. Just like it is for everything else.

New breweries update

Originally, we were just going to lead Beer Notes with this list, but obviously events in Washington are putting all of these places on hold, to some degree. Nonetheless, here is every brewery with either a pending state small brewer license or an active one that is not yet open. Here are the breweries projected to open in the ABQ metro area in 2019. We realize there are probably more than these, but no pending license means we will not include it yet.

  • Black Snout Brewhouse (pending): We already took a tour of this new brewery located in a shopping center on the southeast corner of Menaul and Juan Tabo. The brewery had hoped to be open by the end of the month, but that seems unlikely now.
  • BLUE/Gang of Four (pending): This very small brewery is set to open on Broadway next to the Exhibit 208 gallery, just south of Gold.
  • Brew Lab 101 (pending): The next brewery to open in Rio Rancho is moving along. Located on Southern near Unser, its owner has already contacted us and we are in the process of setting up our first visit/interview.
  • Brewstillery (active): We still have no info about this brewery/distillery combo that is set to open somewhere in the 87106 zip code (physical addresses are not provided beyond zip codes, FYI), or how it relates to the next entry.
  • Differential (pending): Listed as owned by Brewstillery, we do not know how this entry, located in the same zip code, differs from the other.
  • Colonia/San Mateo Beer Co. (pending): It appears as though this new brewery will move into the current Bosque Brewing location on San Mateo when that is relocated to the forthcoming Open Space Project. In other words, it seems to be a long ways off.
  • Ex Novo Brewing (pending): We just toured this forthcoming brewery in Corrales.
  • Looking Glass Spirits & Long Lost Brewing (pending): The newest addition to the list, we have been contacted by one of the owners and are working on setting up an interview time. It will be located somewhere in the downtown area.

Red River was not the last new brewery to open in the outskirts of New Mexico in 2018, and more are on the way in 2019.

2018 saw a lot of new breweries open up across the state, well outside the Albuquerque/Santa Fe corridor. Among the many were Blu Dragonfly in Cimarron, Bonito Valley in Lincoln, Cloudcroft Brewing, Hopscotch Brewing in Artesia, Red River Brewing, and Second Alarm Brewhouse in Jemez Springs. There are still a few more coming down the pipeline.

  • B3-BBQ, Burgers and Beer (pending): This Las Vegas-based restaurant is already open. We do not know if its owners plan to actually brew beer, or if they are going to use the license to keep guest taps flowing.
  • 575 Brewing (pending): Alamogordo is getting its first brewery in many years, but we do not know the exact location or its current progress.
  • Icebox Brewing (active): The newest Las Cruces brewery will be located on Picacho Avenue, east of Picacho Peak Brewing and basically due west of High Desert. No opening date has been announced.
  • Leaf & Hive (active): The latest addition to the Santa Fe scene has a soft opening scheduled for this Saturday.
  • Public House 28 (pending): We know nothing beyond the name for this brewery in Anthony, on the Texas border.
  • Rail Brewery (pending): This Santa Fe project for the Railyards area has been pending for a long time now. We do not know its status.
  • Santa Fe Spirits (pending): The existing distillery is either going to start making beer, or it just wants to be able to sell beer.

New taprooms update

Yes, 2018 was basically the year of the off-site taproom, but there are still more on the way. Someday, every commercial space in the state will be a taproom. (Hey, we can dream, right?) All of these are pending licenses.

  • Boxing Bear on Central: We already wrote about the brewery taking over the former 5 Star Burgers space on West Central.
  • Desert Valley: There are two pending licenses for DV taprooms, one located in the 87110 zip code, and the other in 87111. It is certainly ambitious, though not unprecedented, to open two taprooms at once.
  • Enchanted Circle ABQ: The Angel Fire-based brewery is opening a taproom in the shopping center on the northwest corner of San Mateo and Osuna.
  • Nexus Blue Smokehouse and Taproom: The long-awaited BBQ version of Nexus is getting closer to finally opening on Broadway south of Cesar Chavez. We will get more details in our forthcoming Look Back/Look Ahead Series on Nexus.
  • Quarter Celtic on Juan Tabo: We already wrote about the first off-site location, which will be on the west side of the road between Indian School and Menaul.
  • Red Door Clovis: Once again, we already wrote about the first bowling alley-based taproom, which will also be the first craft beer-specific place in the eastern town.
  • Starr Brothers Alehouse: This one has been pending for quite a while now, so we do not know if it is still happening or not. If it does, it will be somewhere near UNM.
  • Tall Pines Beer and Wine Garden Alamogordo: The Ruidoso-based small brewery is opening a second location down the mountain.

Got info on any of these pending breweries or taprooms, or any we missed? Drop us a line at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com.

A good deed note

Tractor has named the four nonprofits for its annual Beer for a Better Burque (BBB) program. The New Mexico Gay Men’s Chorus, New Mexico Horse Rescue at Walkin N Circles Ranch, Three Sisters Kitchen, and Albuquerque Area Firefighters Random Acts will be the beneficiaries for 2019. There will be special BBB nights on Tuesdays throughout the year where patrons can donate, plus special quarterly beer releases for each nonprofit sees $1 donated per pint, and other special themed events. You can donate at all four Tractor locations.

Good on ya, Tractor.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Greetings, New Mexico craft beer lovers. Stoutmeister here with The Week Ahead in Beer. This column covers all the breweries in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, with Santa Fe’s seven breweries, one in Los Alamos, one in Moriarty, one in Red River, and one in Las Cruces also joining the party.

Stoutmeister puts on his serious face to handle The Week Ahead in Beer.

Stoutmeister puts on his serious face to handle The Week Ahead in Beer.

Forget about self restraint this week, and we are not just talking about eating too much on Thanksgiving. No, Black Friday has become a beer holiday, enabling all of us sensible people the right to escape shopping madness and settle down with some delicious stouts and porters. We already previewed the awesome Blackest Friday event at Rowley Farmhouse Ales, so please click that link to refresh your memory and make that commitment to drive to Santa Fe. If you cannot leave ABQ for whatever reason, there are still plenty of local options. Starr Brothers has happy hour prices all day. Bosque is releasing its wonderful Fresh Start Breakfast Ale, a maple and coffee stout, in four-pack cans at all locations. Jubilation has its annual Black Friday cellar sale starting at 10 a.m. Line up early if you want to grab the good stuff, which will include the annual Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout release (plus variants) and should see other great beers including the ultra-rare Barrel-Aged Expedition Stout from Bell’s. I will be in line with the rest of the crazies before heading to Santa Fe. Again, though, if you are not headed to RFA, then Boxing Bear is going all out with its own selection of dark and malt-forward beers, including the release (finally) of Vantablack Russian Imperial Stout in bottles. Vantablack will also be on tap, in both the regular and 2-year-barrel-aged versions (whoa). There will also be Barrel-Aged Oso Otoño (2 years) and Chocolate Milk Stout (18 months) on tap, and yes, you can fill growlers of those. Iron Lung Smoked Porter is also back, and there is a limited supply of bottles of Barrel-Aged Standing 8 Stout available to take home as well. UPDATE: If you are headed south instead, stop at Truth or Consequences Brewing for a special release of six bottles. A kind person might be willing to pick up a bottle of the barrel-aged Truth Serum Barleywine and bring it back here for the Crew to sample.

In terms of hours, every brewery appears to be closed Thanksgiving except Blue Corn, which will be open and serving food and beer from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Red Door, which will be filling discounted growlers from noon to 4 p.m. at the brewery on Candelaria. Apparently everyone will be right back to normal operating hours Friday. As for tonight (Wednesday), a few breweries could close early if the crowds die down, so take note when heading out to fill your growlers or pick up packaged beer directly from the source.

Do not forget, all of our breweries count as small businesses, so keep them in mind when shopping on Small Business Saturday. They have plenty of merchandise beyond just the beer (our annual Merch Guide will be out soon, we promise). Marble Westside will have a holiday market at noon and Boxing Bear will have a pop up market at 1 p.m.

On the new beer front this week, there are a few options to check out. Bosque is also feeling tropical with Guavango. Bow & Arrow has a limited supply of its barrel-aged barleywine, Thief of Time, back on tap. Canteen spices it up with more Sichler Chile Lager, plus Wee Bit Loco, a Scottish Wee Heavy. Marble put Joe Pumpkin on nitro, while more cans of Imperial Red will soon be available. Ponderosa brings back Hop-Mosa, a hazy IPA, on Saturday. Sidetrack has more Railhead Red available, plus the new C4 IPA. Starr Brothers quickly got Brown Chicken Brown Cow back on tap. Steel Bender has Ich Bin Cranberry Kettle Sour on tap (for real this time), plus this Saturday will see a double-bottle release of Ned’s Sour Pail and Ned’s Sour Pail with Boysenberry, as well as an on-tap release of The Whole Shoe, a Belgo IPA. Toltec has special new beer-and-food pairings every Wednesday, and today will feature the arrival of the new Vienna Lager. Tractor brings back a seasonal favorite of ours, Turkey Drool!

Up in Santa Fe, Blue Corn pops a new porter, Black by Popular Demand.

Continue reading for all the news that is fit to blog for the week of November 19.

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Raise ’em high to celebrate the season!

In mid-October, in the mountains of northern New Mexico, a certain familiar sound can be heard through the little valley of Red River. It’s not the rustling of the wind through glimmering gold, fresh-changed aspens, nor the honking of the horns of people-packed caravans. It’s the chorus of clinking glasses and the raising of toasts. It’s the deep brass bellowing of an Oom-pah band that lets us know that Oktoberfest has once again returned, and has completely transformed this sleepy Alps-esque village into a one-of-a-kind experience that will keep you coming back for more, time and time again.

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The weather was decidedly warm for this year’s event.

Though it is worth the travel for the changing leaves alone, just a brief but beautiful stop along the Enchanted Circle, Red River is much more than that. And, beyond the picturesque views, the many outdoor activities, and the deer that will walk right up to you without batting an eye or flicking an ear, there’s beer, and plenty of it here.

In the past few years I’ve been attending the festival, there were only about five breweries and about the same count for wineries. This year, however, there were far more breweries than I’ve ever seen at this event, making it more of a brewfest than I was expecting. I don’t even believe that I got a final count.

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The sun did not deter the crowd.

Set in Brandonburg Park, as well as the Red River Conference Center just behind, there was much ground to cover, and I’m sure we didn’t make it to every brewery in attendance, so I apologize if a brewery was there and didn’t get a mention. There’s only so much time and so many sampler tickets, and so much room after a delicious brat with sauerkraut.

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A man cannot live off beer alone.

The Red River Oktoberfest veteran breweries included neighbors Comanche Creek and Enchanted Circle, plus Santa Fe Brewing. I didn’t see Taos Mesa, Eske’s, or Abbey Brewing, but I’m sure they were representing somewhere.

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One of the great partnerships of our state.

New to Red River’s Oktoberfest this year (to my knowledge) were The 377, Bombs Away Beer Co., Lost Hiker from Ruidoso, Palmer Brewery & Left Turn Distillery, Rio Bravo Brewing, Starr Brothers Brewing, and the new hometown heroes, Red River Brewing Company, plus my dark horse of the festival, Colfax Ale Cellar.

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Rio Bravo brought the beer and the merch.

While I had some great beers from many of the breweries (very few bad ones), my favorites were fun, exciting, in some cases surprising, and in some cases not surprising at all. My picks are as follows:

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What else can I say? “Dammit, Dave.” Ha!

Santa Fe Brewing’s Pepe Loco: To me, it’s a perfect recipe for a Mexican Lager. While it may seem somewhat out of season, it was perfectly refreshing in the unusually warm weather. I wouldn’t be surprised if that limited beer finds its way into cans some time soon.

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Comanche Creek served up a winner!

Comanche Creek brewed up an Oktoberfest that stood out for all the right reasons.

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Ginger Beer from The 377 FTW!

The 377 made the first Ginger Beer that I’ve ever really enjoyed. It reminded me of a Ginger Ale, and then I thought, wait … is the beer made after the soda, or is the soda made after the beer? Either way, wow! Excellent stuff! Cheers!

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Enchanted Circle closes out the festival with smiles.

Enchanted Circle is doing some great things with their beers these days, but they get my Gold Medal for best name: Glory Hole IPA. That’s all I’ll say about that.

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That’s one hefty pour of bronze medal-winning Lampshade Porter!

Starr Brothers brought their GABF bronze medal-winning, heavy-hitting Lampshade Porter, which was just a joy to drink. Luckily that’s on tap at their brewery, year-round, so head in anytime and rent that blockbuster hit.

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Red River Brewing head brewer Chris Calhoun raises a toast.

Special mentions go to Lost Hiker and Red River Brewing Company. I don’t think they make a bad beer between them, and certainly deserve a special trip to see them in their beautiful towns.

My “Best of the Fest” award goes to Colfax Ale Cellar, up in Raton. They had so many wonderful, interesting, and creative (yet perfectly executed) beers, on draft and in bottles.

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Brewmaster Jim Stearns stands beside his wife Karen Stearns and brewdog Pippen, as well as their excellent beer selection.

“The Red River Oktoberfest was our first time at that event,” said head brewer and owner Jim Stearns in a follow-up email. “We brewed three lagers specifically for that event. We sold very little. Unfortunately, we probably sold less than 10 percent of what breweries who were located outside sold, but we weren’t alone in that position along with Starr Bros, 377 and Rio Bravo Brewing Co.”

In my opinion, I think that’s because no one knew there was beer in the conference center. That kind of thing is tough to deal with as a former brewery event coordinator. The struggle is real. At least Colfax brought enough interesting beers to gain some new fans.

Maxwell Pils (5% ABV) — an international pilsner style, very mildly hopped

Fest Lager (4.6% ABV) — a Vienna-style amber lager, also very mildly hopped

Yülbock (5.25% ABV) — a rauchbier made with 20-percent beech-smoked malt, also mildly hopped

Karaiba (3.3% ABV) — a Berliner White ale, lightly sour, with essence of passion fruit and mango, no hops

In 22-ounce bottles:

Double Tipple (8.7% ABV) a blended double stout with a portion aged in rye whiskey barrels

Chicorica (8.3% ABV) — a strong golden ale brewed with trappist ale yeast

La Belle Otéro (6.5% ABV) — classic Wallonian saison ale, dry and peppery

Banks of Orkney (8.2% ABV) — a strong Scotch ale, light toffee and bread pudding

I have no hesitation in saying that they are a must visit on the road to or from Denver. Forget Colorado Springs or Pueblo and stop there instead for lunch and enjoy something that will surprise you. Colfax Ale Cellar should be on everyone’s radar this year and in the years to come.

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And one Double Tipple for the Dark Side, please!

The Colfax Ale Cellar taproom was recently closed due to inclement weather, as apparently winter has come early. For that, I blame the Starks, Target, and Kohls.

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Blue Corn head brewer Paul Mallory “Captains” to another great festival.

It was another great festival of beer and food in the mountains. I only wish folks had known there was a brew fest attached to the usual festivities. I believe it’s now my job to reach out to the organizers to get the word out. I was certainly surprised to find a whole group of new vendors/breweries in the conference center, in which there had never been before. But, if you missed them this time, or missed the festival this time around, there’s always next year and next time.

Until we meet again, Red River! For now, I will be counting the days until one of my favorite festivals rolls back through town. I should probably book my cabin now to be safe. To another unforgettable Oktoberfest in the mountains!

Prost!

— Luke

 

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For more #CraftBeer info, and @nmdarksidebc news, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro. Untappd: SantaFeLuke. My birthday is today (Thursday). You know what to do! I’m kidding.

You know it is truly autumn when the New Mexico Brew Fest returns to the State Fairgrounds.

One of our favorite annual beer festivals, the New Mexico Brew Fest, is back at the State Fairgrounds this Saturday afternoon. The ninth edition starts at 1 p.m. (noon for early entry ticket holders) and runs until 6. Tickets are available online here.

What makes this a favorite fest of ours? Well, to start with, it’s outdoors. Formerly in the Villa Hispana courtyard, it has now moved out onto Main Street, due to a combination of poor access for the breweries to bring in the kegs, and because it was getting a wee bit too crowded in Villa Hispana. The weather is usually beautiful, so cross your fingers that those projected morning rains are long gone by the time this year’s fest kicks off.

Another fun part is that this festival is made up of only New Mexico breweries. A total of 21 are listed as attending, ranging from stalwarts like Bosque, Boxing Bear, Canteen, La Cumbre, Marble, and Santa Fe, plus breweries from far corners of the state, including Lost Hiker (Ruidoso) and Taos Mesa.

There will be plenty of food trucks (Nomad’s BBQ, Street Food Institute, Soo Bak, and more), live music (Cali Shaw Band, The Big Spank, DJ Flo Fader), and some additional fun games and activities.

Of course, the most pertinent question always comes down to what beers are being poured. Well, we can confirm that three beers that recently won medals at the Great American Beer Festival will be available — Turtle Mountain’s Wooden Teeth (gold), Bosque’s Pistol Pete’s 1888 (bronze), Starr Brothers’ Lampshade Porter (bronze) — plus one medal winner from the Great British Beer Festival in The 377’s Schwartzbier (bronze).

These lists were provided by the breweries and are always subject to last-minute changes, depending on availability. For any breweries that have not reported their lists yet, we will add them as they come in right up until the start of the festival.

  • Abbey: TBA
  • Bosque: IPA, Brewer’s Boot, Pistol Pete’s 1888, Elephants on Parade, TBD seasonal
  • Bow & Arrow: TBA
  • Boxing Bear: Uppercut IPA, Black and Blue Tart, Coffee Chocolate Milk Stout, Das Bear German Pilsner, Apple Bear Cider
  • Broken Trail: Double Black, Trailworks IPA, Arroyo Blanco Wheat, Goathead Brown
  • Canteen: Oktoberfest, Exodus IPA, Pecos Trail Brown Ale, Laid Back Lager
  • Desert Valley: TBA
  • Dialogue: Oktoberfest, 3x Tripel
  • Kaktus: TBA
  • La Cumbre: Elevated IPA, A Slice of Hefen, BEER, Witch’s Tit, Project Dank
  • Lost Hiker: TBA
  • Marble: Double White, Passionate Gose, Pumpkin Ale, Westside IPA
  • Nexus: Scotch Ale, Bird of Prey IPA, Coffee & Cream Ale, Imperial “Tribble” Red Ale
  • Palmer: TBA
  • Santa Fe: 7K IPA, Oktoberfest, Freestyle Pilsner, Western Bloc IPA, Hefeweizen
  • Starr Brothers: Lampshade Porter, Rosé Gose, Hanky Spanky, Starrphire Pilsner
  • Steel Bender: Brickie American Stout, Lloyd’s 3 O’Clock Kolsch, Blackberry Dynamite, Skull Bucket IPA
  • Taos Mesa: TBA
  • The 377: Schwartzbier, 377 IPA, Plumberry Sour, Ginger Beer
  • Tractor: Pumpkin Cider, Traktoberfest, Double Plow Oatmeal Stout
  • Turtle Mountain: Wooden Teeth*, Vienna SMLSH, Tropical Menagerie, Turb Majeure (NEIPA), Yum Yum Noir

Also, take note that Left Turn Distilling will be on hand alongside its sibling brewery, Palmer.

Got any questions or comments? Drop us a line.

This is one of those fests where we highly recommend that everyone utilize a designated driver, Lyft, Uber, or other means of transportation than driving yourself if you plan to drink. Stay safe out there!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Head brewer Rob Whitlock was all smiles after winning his first GABF medal.

Life has not slowed down after the Great American Beer Festival for any of us in the Crew, much less for the brewers and brewery owners around town. In an effort to still catch up with most of the medal winners, I managed to track down our last missing first-time winner, head brewer Rob Whitlock of Starr Brothers, late last week.

Then I went to Denver again and saw an epic metal show. Now that my hearing has recovered enough to transcribe the interview, here is what Rob had to say after Starr Brothers brought back its first GABF medal, a bronze for Lampshade Porter in the Other Strong Beer category.

“You go in hoping for the best, but you’re ready for the letdown,” Rob said. “Every time I looked down when they got to one of our categories. I don’t look at the (video) board. I heard them say, ‘Lampshade Porter, Starr Brothers Brewing Company.’ I was like, ‘what?’ and then I was like, ‘bullshit!’ Then I looked at the board and it was up there on the screen. I was like, ‘Yeah!’”

The Starr Brothers team — Rob, assistant brewer Matthew Pullen, owner John Starr — was sitting on the aisle, so it was an easy walk to the stage to get the medal and the fist bump from the legendary Charlie Papazian. The Boxing Bear staff was also sitting across the aisle and had plenty of colorful, yet supportive words.

“Justin (Hamilton) and those guys were sitting on the other side of the aisle, and they’re (yelling), ‘Fuck yeah, Rob!’” Rob said with a laugh.

Rob had never been a professional brewer when he got the job at Starr Brothers. He was a retired plumber and accomplished home brewer, and he did spend several months as a sort of unpaid intern at Boxing Bear, learning all he could from Justin.

Now it has all paid off. Starr Brothers has already earned recognition for its food, and now it has the beer medal to match, if not surpass those accolades.

“It validates us, it validates my beer, that’s what it does,” Rob said. “I always try to be humble, but I know I make good beer. I have a pretty good palate. I’m never 100-percent happy with it, there’s always things that can be done, it can always be made better, but there’s nothing wrong with it.”

Doing it with a year-round offering is even better.

“This is one of our staples, yeah,” Rob said. “I’ve brewed it a thousand times in my garage before I came down here. It was the first beer we brewed on this system. Over the last year, year-and-a-half, I started whittling away at the recipe, really doing this with it, really dialing it in.”

The category proved key for Starr Brothers, as Lampshade had never advanced far enough in the Robust Porter category.

As many other brewers have learned, it is not only all about the quality of the beer, but what category is chosen.

“I always enter it in robust porter and it always advances (up to a point),” Rob said. “This time I really started looking through the categories. I found Other Strong Beer, and there’s a sub-category Strong American Porter. I read the thing and that description fits Lampshade. It’s going to go up against all these other strong beers, there’s three sub-categories. It made it.”

In the end, all the hard work, from making the beer, to refining the beer, and self-transporting it all the way to Denver, has paid off.

“It just lets me know that I can do it,” Rob said. “You go in there and it’s just overwhelming, the (sheer) number of beers. This is my third GABF and I’ve done one World Beer Cup. You start to think, it’s $160 per beer to enter them, and you go to all this trouble and expense and (think) nothing’s going to happen, but then something happens. I can do it.”

Congrats to Rob and the Starr Brothers team. It is always nice to see so many first-time winners among our breweries (New Mexico had four of the 31 first-time winners, in fact).

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

We had to borrow this epic selfie of Turtle Mountain’s Mick Hahn and friends after he won a gold medal Saturday. (Courtesy of TMBC)

Phew, that was quite the weekend up in Denver. We missed some stuff in our constant rush to get from place to place, from beer to beer. Hey, it was just another Great American Beer Festival, but we did have some additional tidbits of info and the like that we wanted to share.

During my brief interview with a joyful Mick Hahn of Turtle Mountain, I asked a tough question about whether it is even sweeter to win with a lager, considering how most casual beer drinkers probably do not understand how much harder it is to brew a lager than an ale. Mick was ready to celebrate, so he could not come up with an answer then, but after a while he messaged this to us:

“I thought of an addendum to the interview (Saturday). You asked about the consumers’ understanding of the intricacies and difficulty of lager vs. ale. I think I can sum it up with an experience from this weekend. Friday, I was at Prost and saw someone wearing a shirt, the back of which said: MALT WATER HOPS YEAST PATIENCE

“I fucking love that. While not a traditional ingredient, patience is so crucial to making a good beer, and that goes 10 fold for lagers. You see breweries expanding and making more and more beer simply so they can turn a greater profit. When your focus shifts from quality of product to quantity, you lose that patience that (is) so crucial to maximizing flavor.

“Working at Turtle has given me the opportunity to let that patience grow, and I think that is the biggest reason we were able to bring home the gold.”

Once again, congrats to Mick for bringing home the first gold/first GABF medal in the 19.5-year history of Turtle Mountain. Owner Nico Ortiz texted us to say he was planning on borrowing the medal to wear all day Thursday for his birthday. The Crew humbly suggests that everyone head to TMBC on Thursday and raise a pint of Wooden Teeth to Nico, Mick, and the rest of their team.

Say, that tattoo looks familiar

New Mexico native Chris Keeton won gold in the English IPA category for Alaro Brewing of Sacramento, California.

Shortly after posting our story about the award winners, we received a tip from reader Jim Bullard that we kinda sorta missed one New Mexico medal winner. The catch was the winner was a brewer from New Mexico who now brews in California.

Jim wrote, “Would like to pass on that Albuquerque native Chris Keeton scored a gold medal with the Alaro Brewing Castillo IPA, from Sacramento, California. Chris had recently collaborated with Justin Hamilton from Boxing Bear on the NABA (North American Beer Awards) winner Cali Common. Chris was in attendance with wife Lauren and 5-month-old Bennett who was present for the showing of the Bennett Pale Ale!”

Jim’s comment arrived at the same time Luke sent over the above photo after randomly running into Keeton, who apparently recognized the Crew symbol on Luke’s shirt. Keeton and his family were on the move, so they did not have time for an interview, but we plan to reach out to Alaro Brewing in the near future. We know there are other New Mexico natives brewing outside the state, but to our knowledge, Keeton is the first to claim a GABF gold medal. His Castillo IPA took the top spot in the English-style India Pale Ale category.

Know of a brewer from New Mexico who now brews elsewhere? Send us the info on him/her and we can put together a fun list.

Sampler tray

  • For anyone planning way ahead, GABF will be back in October next year, specifically from the 3rd through the 5th. The Craft Brewers Conference will also be back in Denver in the spring, but as it is an odd-numbered year, there will not be a World Beer Cup competition.
  • The Crew found a couple new eateries that we recommend for anyone visiting Denver. The Denver Biscuit Company on South Broadway was as good as advertised, plus it is a short walk from there to TRVE Brewing. We also hit up a new-to-us breakfast place called Syrup, on the corner of 18th and Champa downtown. Otherwise, we hit a lot of familiar eateries, including Jelly and Rhein Haus, plus of course we ate while downing all those delicious beers at Bierstadt Lagerhause. Future food suggestions are always welcome.
  • A few of the beers that blew us away, but are probably harder than hell to find on a regular basis: Great Notion’s Double Stack, New Holland Dragon’s Milk Reserve Maple Oak, Bosque Acequia IPA (we had to get it there since we missed the can release down here), the entire lager lineup from Chuckanut Brewing, Brooklyn Hand & Seal (Barleywine) aged in cognac barrels, Liquid Mechanics Barrel-Aged Awesomeness, Horse & Dragon’s BBA Dragonfire Imperial Stout, Black Sky’s Angel of Death Stout, Beachwood’s System of a Stout, Fremont’s BBA Dark Star Coffee Edition, Cigar City’s Coconut Marshal Zhukov’s, the entire lager lineup at Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Speakeasy’s Syndicate No. 4, AleSmith’s Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout, Kane’s A Night to End All Dawns and Sunday Brunch, Modern Times’ Devil’s Teeth and Fellowship of Xul, and of course Avery’s 16-percent BBA lineup of Fimbulvvinter (Quintuple), Tweak (Coffee Stout), Plank’d (Porter), and Rumpkin, with the last two straight from the barrel.
  • How are we not dead? Because Franz Solo drank even more than just those.
  • The others will have more to share this week from their own adventures. We also promise to track down first-time medal winners Starr Brothers and Rowley Farmhouse Ales, as they disappeared into the crowd Saturday.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister