Posts Tagged ‘Three Rivers Brewing’

Three Rivers is going all-out for its 20th anniversary party!

During a road trip through Southwest Colorado at the end of June, I was fortunate enough to stop in and say hello to our friends at Three Rivers Brewery in Farmington.

It had been about five months since I had previously visited as part of our Look Back/Look Ahead Series. This time, I spent the night in Farmington, which allowed me to really get the full Three Rivers experience. It was the first night of my three-night road trip, and I did not hold back. As a matter of fact, I have to give a shout out to Lou Go’s Taxi Service in Farmington for providing me with a safe and dependable transportation option. I was disappointed to see that neither Uber nor Lyft were available in the area, but Lou Go’s filled the void well with 24-hour service, clean vehicles, and friendly drivers.

I started at the Three Rivers Brewery Restaurant on the corner of the block. It was a Friday night and the place was packed, but I was able to find a spot at the bar, conveniently located next to the taps. It was my third time eating dinner at this bar, and I was returning with a high expectations for food quality after the previous visits. I ordered the dinner special for the week, which was Rock Shrimp & Andouille Jambalaya. It was excellent. Each element tasted fresh and savory, and was tied together with a flavorful, but not overpowering level of spiciness.

Take flight with this, um, flight!

Of course, my food was accompanied by a flight of beers, which carried the same high standards as the food, again as expected. My personal favorites on the flight were The Black (stout) and the Arroyo Amber. I also sampled others that were not in my flight. The Raspberry Wheat was exceptionally refreshing, and one of the most well-balanced fruity wheat beers I have had in recent memory. Personally, I would pick this beer on a hot summer day over most of the Gose options that seem to have exploded in ABQ this summer.

It resembles Franz Solo’s beer fridge!

After finishing dinner, I walked further down the block (past the Tap Room and Pizzeria, both of which were also a buzzing with activity) to the Three Rivers Brewstillery, which had been under construction during my previous visit. It was exciting to see the finished product.

I sat at the bar, examined the menu, and was drawn to the ‘Beer Geek Bottle List,’ as well as the fridge containing said bottles … some even in boxes… yeah, I definitely nerded out on this. It was at this point that head brewer (really, we can call him head of beverage operations, with the addition of the distillery), Brandon Beard joined me. I hadn’t given him much notice on my visit, so it was great that Brandon was able to meet up. Unfortunately, assistant brewer (now really head brewer), Patrick Liessmann, was out of town.

After popping a bottle of Kasteel Barista, a Belgian quad with chocolate and coffee, Brandon and I discussed the upcoming 20th anniversary of Three Rivers Brewery, which will be celebrated with a party this Friday, starting at 5:30 p.m.

They’re saving the Crew at least one bottle. We hope!

Let me be clear, if I was not going to be at a wedding event in Chicago on that day … I would be attending this anniversary party (He is not the only one missing this for a wedding. — S). Just hearing about the treats that will be available is enough to make any true beer lover salivate. If there are two things (in my mind) that set Three Rivers apart, it has been their success in, 1) incorporating exciting and rich ingredients such as peanut butter and coconut, and 2) barrel aging. Building on what they do best, Three Rivers will be releasing their 20th anniversary limited edition Black Lily Barrel Aged Stout in four variations — Bourbon Barrel, Bourbon Barrel & Peanut Butter, Rum Barrel, and Rum Barrel & Coconut.

Assistant Brewer Austin Jacobs brought out some samples of the Rum Barrel & Coconut, and I was in heaven. I won’t attempt to describe it in too much detail, aside from saying it’s an easy-to-drink barrel-aged beer; you can taste the alcohol content, but nothing like, say, a Marble Reserve (not hating on Marble Reserve, it has its place, too). The coconut is unabashedly present and delicious. It complements the beer in the same way a scoop of vanilla ice cream complements a mug of root beer.

Don’t take my word for it; try it while it lasts. Only a 100-count of 750mL bottles of each variation will be available.

Sorry, Andrew, we didn’t warn you that this job will include copious amounts of delicious foods.

Just when I thought that I had seen and tasted it all, executive chef Jay brought out three of the tapas dishes that are on the menu in the Brewstillery. After I was done complimenting him on the jambalaya that I had for dinner, I happily munched on what he had set in front of me. My pictures do not do this food justice. It’s much easier to take a good picture of a glass of beer then a platter of food.

Please go to the Three Rivers website to see the menu and specific descriptions. It was the perfect food to snack on after a night of beer drinking. Along with the tapas, I sampled a few of the craft cocktails that are available and they, too, were top notch. The Brewstillery drink menu could satisfy any preference at the highest level of quality.

Much thanks to Three Rivers Brewery staff for their continued hard work and success at providing high-quality, local products to the community — the food, the beer, the spirits, the whole package. The passion is visible in the people, and you can taste it in the products. On a more personal note, thanks to Brandon and Austin for hanging out with me and showing me a fun time.

A huge thanks to brewmaster Brandon Beard, on the right.

I encourage all NM craft beer lovers to plan a visit to Three Rivers Brewery, and enjoy what they have to offer. The upcoming anniversary party would be a great opportunity, but any time is a good time.

Furthermore, Three Rivers is a great place to grab a meal, or a drink, or just hang out, for anyone who might be spending a night near Farmington, or traveling through.

On behalf of the NM Dark Side Brew Crew, I want to say congratulations to Three Rivers Brewery on their upcoming 20th anniversary, and we look forward to another 20 years!

Cheers!

— Deezbeers

Three Rivers is upping its game along Main Street in Farmington.

As we bask in the splendor that is the glorious New Mexico beer scene, it can be easy to forget about the great breweries that exist outside of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Oh, there are many others out there. MANY. Do yourself a favor and grab a brewery map from the NM Brewers Guild so that you can find a new place to stop in during your next day trip or weekend away. I did just that a few weeks ago, back at the end of January when I spent some time at Three Rivers Brewery in Farmington on my way to Durango. I got the chance to sit down with head brewer Brandon Beard, and assistant brewers Patrick Liessmann and Austin Jacobs.

First of all, for those who are not familiar with Three Rivers, its website tells the story of how it all started as a corner brewery and restaurant in 1997, and has grown to consume almost an entire block of Main Street in downtown Farmington. It now includes a taproom, game room, pizzeria, and soon a tasting room (don’t worry we will get to that). All of the locations offer delicious Three Rivers brews. Being somewhat isolated in the northwest part of the state has made it challenging for Three Rivers to project their name out into the statewide scene but they have been working diligently to evolve.

The brewhouse is constantly churning.

“The last like year and a half we’ve been doing a lot of changes like doing different yeast,” Patrick said. “We started messing a lot more with the water, and really dialing in our water chemistry. And then, we started messing with barrels and souring, so over the last year and a half we have really been trying to push what the place has been doing.

“All of our standard beers, we have been trying to slowly tweak those down. We changed the IPA entirely. We scrapped the old IPA because we just felt it wasn’t up to today’s standards of IPAs, so we completely re-did that one.”

The hard work seems to be paying off as the re-engineered IPA (IPAC Nugs) took third place in the New Mexico IPA Challenge this past summer.

Three Rivers also recently scored some great feedback from their showing at WinterBrew in Santa Fe. I was not present in SF, however I was fortunate that they had saved some of the Double Stuffed Truffle Butter that was all the rage. It was good stuff. (Decadent stuff. — S) It boasts an in-your-face peanut butter aroma and flavor without being overpowering. It is still a beer, and an easy-to-drink beer at that. Patrick described how they took their standard Truffle Butter (as he handed me a bottle of it) and turned it into the double-stuffed variant.

Those are a lot of lines going from the brewery to all the different rooms.

“So here’s the Truffle Butter right here,” Patrick said. “We took the base beer for that and pretty much just went crazy with the peanut butter. Because we didn’t really get the peanut butter that we wanted out of this one, but we thought it was OK. It’s definitely more on the stout side with all the peanut butter. But, it really … we wanted to go over the top, and we took some of the leftovers that we had and went over the top and took it to Santa Fe.”

Beyond that they also had their Framboise, a sour blonde that is oak-barrel-aged with raspberries, Cerberus, an imperial stout aged in Malbec wine barrels, and a malt liquor aged in a cabernet sauvignon barrel called Brass Monkey. To top it all off, they also brought El Coco Negro, which required the use of the pizzeria.

“We hand toast coconut at the pizzeria, in the big ovens over there, and then we hand add it to the beer and then as it’s done fermenting we will let it sit on the beer,” Austin said. “It’s a really amazing beer. It’s one of my favorites.”

I was happy to hear that WinterBrew was just as much fun for the guys at Three Rivers as it was for the guests at the event. Brandon suggested that they want to make the trip south more often.

“We are so far north that we have really never gone down south to show to people what we’re making, so that has kind of … we are kind of being oriented this year with that,” Brandon said. “We are going to try to do as many festivals down there (in Central New Mexico) as possible.”

The swanky new tasting room at Three Rivers.

In the midst of all of this, the upcoming addition to the Three Rivers block should help carry the momentum, if any additional help is even needed. Included in my tour was a walk-through of the as-yet-unopened tasting room, which was already quite impressive in every little detail, a true display of craftsmanship and creativity but with a genuine feel of sophistication and class.

“A construction supply went out of business, so (we picked up) a lot of old lumber from there and another old lumber yard,” Austin said. “All of that stuff is made out of old military ammunition crates and stuff like that, like the seats, and some of the chairs, and the lining of the bar, and all of the metal they found, and it’s all recycled … like the only thing new in there is the floor.”

The plan is to have plenty of Three Rivers’ beer flowing, along with many other top-notch beer options, but the crown jewel will be the offering of cocktails crafted from Three Rivers’ own in-house products from their new on-site distillery. Patrick gave me the lowdown on when we can expect everything to happen.

The distillery is going to be running soon.

“We’re hoping March and it’s going to be just in-house pretty much, there will be bottles to go,” Patrick said. “There’s going to be spiced rum, regular rum, (and) white whisky for now, until we start aging in barrels to make bourbon. We’ll have gin and we’re going to be making our own tonic and our own sodas, and hand-making everything for the cocktails.”

The tasting room will have its own menu, too.

“We’re really trying to up the game here to really try and draw (customers) in and draw a different crowd is the whole idea,” Patrick said. “And offer things that aren’t available (in the eatery) or the taproom or the pizzeria.”

“They are going to have their own artisan dishes,” Austin added. “And they’ll pair maybe some beer pairings and some cocktail pairings.”

If that wasn’t enough, Three Rivers is looking ahead to its 20th anniversary party this summer. Preparations are already underway. Austin struggled not to grin while explaining what is already in the works.

So … many … barrels …

“We have our 20th anniversary, which will be in July of this year, and what we are going to release there is imperial stout aged in Woodford Reserve double oak barrels, and that is kind of the higher end Woodford Reserve,” Austin said, “and then we have two Mount Gay Rum barrels that we are also aging the same base stout beer in, and then one of each of those barrels is going to be aged with coconut as well. So, in a sense there’s going to be four different variants of that beer. We’ll release those (in) bottle only. Then, we have a hopscotch ale aged in a Malbec wine barrel that we’re aging right now, and another stout that we’re aging in … I believe a (Cabernet Sauvignon) barrel … and I’m not sure what’s in the other one … it’s a surprise I guess.”

I had to wipe the drool off of my chin after he finished talking.

The Brew Crew looks forward to hearing and seeing more of Three Rivers Brewery. We also encourage our followers to stop in. Whether it is on the way to Durango, or elsewhere in the region, it is well worth your time. The truth is that Farmington would make a very good base camp for visiting some great sites. Places to check out nearby that I have enjoyed include Mesa Verde National Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument, Salmon Ruins, and Chaco Canyon National Historic Park. Others that Austin insisted are great include Canyon de Chelle National Monument and Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness.

Head brewer Brandon Beard also has his hands full with this little angel.

Lastly, I can’t forget to mention that the food in the eatery was excellent, and that the same quality can be expected on the whole block as all of the food programs are managed by the same chef.

We wish Three Rivers Brewing the best of luck with the opening of their tasting room and congratulate them on their upcoming 20th anniversary.

Cheers!

— Deezbeers

Taos BMF 2014 Pic 6

We sent Luke up to the Brewmasters Festival in Taos a couple years ago. He had a whole lotta fun!

Happy cold, gray Thursday everyone. If you need some light back in your life, there is some good news for this weekend. The Taos Brewmasters Festival kicks off Saturday at the Ski Valley, marking its 21st annual running below the slopes.

Normally, the festival is held in December, but it was pushed back this year due to a lack of snow on the mountain above. Plus, the decision was made to no longer have the spring-time beer festival, but rather have just one fest. This one kicks off at 4:30 p.m. and runs until 7 at Tenderfoot Katie’s and the Martini Tree Bar, both of which are located at the base of Lift #1. It costs $30 at the door and you receive a complementary mug.

While plenty of you love to go skiing and snowboarding, we know ultimately that it is the pull of the beer that can be the deciding factor. Take note that this year’s fest is populated by a lot more out-of-state breweries brought in by their local distributors. There are not nearly as many breweries from Southern Colorado as in the past, as only Steamworks and Carver made the trip from Durango (neither is distributed here in NM, FYI).

The other out-of-state breweries are Alaskan, Boulder, Deschutes, Firestone Walker, Founders, Four Peaks, Full Sail, Left Hand, Mother Road, New Belgium, Odell, Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, Upslope, and the Craft Brew Alliance, which we think is that collection of breweries from the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii that is partially owned by the Evil Empire (InBev).

As for the locals, a total of 10 New Mexico breweries will be present. Here is what they are bringing, as reported to us by the breweries themselves:

  • Boxing Bear — Iron Lung Smoked Porter, Standing 8 Stout, Paw Swipe Pale Ale
  • Chama River — UPDATED: Class VI Golden Lager, Sleeping Dog Stout
  • La Cumbre — TBA
  • Marble — Double White, IPA, Priddy Bueno Porter, Spruce Moose
  • Red Door — Gateway Blonde, Calypso SMaSH, Strong Scotch Ale, Paint it Black Milk Stout
  • Santa Fe — UPDATED: Chicken Killer, Java Stout, Pale Ale, Happy Camper, State Pen Porter, SF Gold, Nut Brown, Black IPA, Adobe Igloo, plus two bottles to be released at different hours of Single Barrel Sour, and two bottles of Lemon Skynard also to be released at different hours
  • Sierra Blanca — TBA
  • Taos Mesa — Kolsch 45, 3 Peaks IPA, Tap Dance Barley Wine, BBA Black Diamond Export Stout
  • Three Rivers — TBA
  • Tractor — Farmer’s Almanac IPA, Farmer’s Tan Red, Mustachio Milk Stout, Delicious Red Apple Cider

Marble’s Tony Calder pointed out that this will mark the debut of Spruce Goose, a new stout made with (you guessed it) spruce tips. The Priddy Bueno just went on tap recently at the Marble taprooms here in Albuquerque as well. Iron Lung returned to Boxing Bear late Wednesday.

If any of us in the Crew were able to head up this weekend, we would also be making a beeline for that bourbon barrel-aged Black Diamond Export Stout and the Tap Dance Barley Wine at Taos Mesa’s booth. I suppose we will just have to hope they bring that down for WinterBrew in Santa Fe on Jan. 13. (Please? Pretty please?)

Of course, skiing/snowboarding and then drinking on an empty stomach would be a terrible idea. Five local restaurants — Bavarian, Blonde Bear Tavern, Medley, Rhoda’s, Sagebrush Inn — will be providing food during the festival.

Keep an eye on the weather, of course, but otherwise if your weekend is lacking in anything to do, we would definitely suggest a trip up north to try some quality brews in a beautiful setting.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were tough calls all around on this tray.

There were tough calls all around on this tray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The Brewers Guild posted this photo of the results from the 3 Rivers round of the IPA Challenge.

The Brewers Guild posted this photo of the results from the 3 Rivers round of the IPA Challenge.

The NM IPA Challenge continued Wednesday night at 3 Rivers Brewery in Farmington, with 80 people coming out to partake and vote for their favorite. The hometown brewery had a respectable showing with 11 votes to give it 22 through two rounds, but Quarter Celtic was the round winner with 18 votes (26 total).

Boxing Bear, though, maintained their lead with another 13 votes to raise their total to 32. The breweries are listed below their voting totals from the first round at Santa Fe Brewing on Saturday and the second round at 3 Rivers.

  1. Boxing Bear: 19 + 13 = 32
  2. Quarter Celtic: 8 + 18 = 26
  3. Blue Corn: 17 + 5 = 22
  4. Starr Brothers: 11 + 11 = 22
  5. 3 Rivers: 11 + 11 = 22
  6. Bosque: 17 + 1 = 18
  7. Canteen: 12 + 4 = 16
  8. La Cumbre: 12 + 1 = 13
  9. Santa Fe: 10 + 2 = 12
  10. Second Street: 9 + 3 = 12
  11. Tractor: 10 + 1 = 11
  12. Chili Line: 8 + 2 = 10
  13. Red Door: 7 + 3 = 10
  14. Sidetrack: 6 + 4 = 10
  15. Taos Mesa: 6 + 1 = 7

The most shocking results from the round were Bosque, the two-time defending champion, and La Cumbre and Tractor getting just one vote apiece after stronger showings at SFBC. Starr Brothers continued to shine among the newcomers, doubling their voting total. (Yes, Quarter Celtic is a new brewery, too, but they have one of the most experienced brewers in the state at the helm.)

Brandon and I will be at the final round Saturday, which starts at noon, to provide live updates and blurry photos and the like. Do remember, Tractor is closing off the front parking lot for the event in case the crowd spills over from inside the brewery. Take this into account if you’re driving over. As always, Uber, a designated driver, or at least a carpool is your best bet.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Let's get this thing started!

Let’s get this thing started!

More than 160 patrons packed The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing on Saturday afternoon to cast their votes in the first of the three main rounds of the 2016 NM IPA Challenge. The initial tallies suggest this is going to be a close one, though a lot can change between now and the final votes this coming Saturday at Tractor Wells Park.

The final results. Voting totals are on the right, the beers by number are on the left.

The final results. Voting totals are on the right, the beers by number are on the left.

Boxing Bear has the early lead with 19 votes, picking up where they left off after tying for the lead in the preliminary round at Rio Bravo last weekend. Those votes do not carry over, so everyone was starting from zero this time around. Blue Corn and two-time defending champion Bosque tied for second with 17 votes.

After that was quite the cluster of breweries who could be sleepers down the line. Canteen and La Cumbre earned 12 votes. Starr Brothers and Three Rivers picked up 11. Host Santa Fe and future host Tractor snagged 10. Second Street snuck in there with nine, followed by Chili Line and Quarter Celtic with eight, Red Door with seven, and Sidetrack and Taos Mesa with six.

Guild director John Gozigian was in charge of tallying the votes.

Guild director John Gozigian was in charge of tallying the votes.

The next round is Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Three Rivers. The hosts have encouraged folks up in Durango to make the drive down, so it could be a different crowd in terms of what they want in an IPA.

A big thanks to Luke for keeping us all up to date on social media. He had more work to do for SFBC, which was hosting a post-event free concert, otherwise he would have written this himself. The pictures are all his, so here are a few more!

DSC_0081

Hello, happy beer lovers!

DSC_0084

That’s being serious right there. Just don’t get any beer up your nose.

DSC_0098

So many hops, so little time.

DSC_0100

Always good to see a familiar face.

DSC_0104

When your GM is smiling like that, you know the SFBC staff has done a good job.

DSC_0115

Cheers to that!

DSC_0124

It’s a meeting of directors past and present.

DSC_0126

Ride on, beer lovers!

DSC_0143

Hey, we know these two! Glad they made it down from Los Alamos.

DSC_0149

Whenever we see brewers gather like this, we hope for future collaborations.

If anyone out there who is planning on attending Wednesday’s round in Farmington and wants to be our special correspondent, please contact us at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com or via social media. The most important things we would need are photos and the voting totals.

The rest of us will see the rest of you at Tractor Wells Park!

Cheers!

— 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.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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

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.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

It's almost here!

It’s almost here!

The first Mountain West Brew Fest is almost upon us. It kicks off Saturday at noon and runs till 6, then repeats that schedule on Sunday in Bernalillo. If you have not bought your tickets yet, go here and get ’em. And remember, if you are unsure of a Premium Ticket, you can upgrade at the fest for just $10.

As always with any festival, we know the number one question is the same: “What beers are being poured?” Well, we would love to share it with you, but we were unable to get much info. Like, at all. It is unfortunate. We would think the breweries, this being a Brewers Guild event and brand new and all, would want to promote things as much as possible. But we get it, sometimes they get too busy and are pretty much just grabbing any kegs they can find the day of an event. Or perhaps they just want you all to be surprised.

(Probably not.)

Anyway, at the very least the Guild did provide us with the list of available beers in the Premium Tent. We also know specialty out-of-state beers Admiral will be pouring on Saturday (waiting on Sunday, will update if we get that list). Sadly, National Distributing will not be participating, so we lose out on some of their products.

We also learned that Las Vegas’ New Mexico Craft Brewing will not be attending, and Duel has informed us they will only be present on Sunday. If any other breweries are withdrawing or cutting back to a single day and inform us, we will update this post ASAP.

Fear not, though, there should still be a lot of great beer out there this weekend. For the Premium Pass Beer Lineup, the Guild has assembled some potentially delicious selections.

  • Abbey Brewing: Monks’ Dubbel Reserve
  • Blue Corn: Barleywine
  • Chama River: WOOT! Saison, Blueberry Kolsch
  • High Desert: IPA
  • La Cumbre: Fievre d’Abricot, Project Dank, Summer Strong (Pale Barleywine)
  • Marble: Saison, Apricot Sour
  • Pecan Grill: Imperial Smoked Lager
  • Spotted Dog: ESB
  • Three Rivers: Imperial IPA, Nitro Scotch Ale
  • Tractor: Berry Cider
  • Turtle Mountain: After Midnight, AmeriKriek

These beers will only be available inside the air-conditioned tent with a Premium Pass upgrade. We gotta admit to being curious about an Imperial Smoked Lager, plus it’s been ages since we had a beer from Three Rivers. Spotted Dog will be coming to the northern half of the state for just the second time (first was NMIPAC). That Summer Strong from LC is new, and it’s always hard to pass up on Monks’ Dubbel Reserve and Blue Corn’s Barleywine.

The Saturday lineup for the Range Cafe/FR8 House booth, provided by Admiral:

  • Avery White Rascal
  • Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin
  • Breckenridge Nitro Vanilla Porter
  • Green Flash Le Freak
  • Lagunitas Brown Sugga
  • Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
  • Ska Vinifera
  • Squatters Ghost Rider White IPA
  • Upslope Imperial IPA
  • Wasatch Apricot Wheat

So what do we have for the in-state breweries at their booths? Not much, but what we do have should excite your palates.

  • Blue Corn: Night Train Schwarzbier, Drone Wars (Braggot), Alpha Reaper 2.0, Brown Paper Bag (Malt Liquor)
  • NEW Bosque: Bosque Lager, Riverwalker IPA, Brewer’s Boot Amber Ale, Scotia Scotch Ale, Driftwood Oatmeal Stout, Scale Tipper IPA, Stoked on Oak
  • Boxing Bear: Bohemian Pilsner, Hairy Mit Hefe, Uppercut IPA, Black and Blue Sour, Cucumber Saison
  • Distillery 365: 4th of July American Ale, 365 ESB, Trail Ride Bicycle Beer
  • Kaktus: Darkness Falls Stout, Target IPA, Yard Sale IPA, Tasty Red, Berna Brown, Wit, Basil Lager, Sweet and Dry Apple Cider
  • La Cumbre: A Slice of Hefen, Elevated IPA, Red Ryeot, Malpais Stout, State Fair Cream Ale, Male Stripper, Acclimated IPA, plus a special cask at 2 p.m. on Sunday of Elevated wet-hopped with Chinook
  • NEW Rio Bravo: Dirty Rotten Bastard IPA, Roadkill Red, Black Angus Stout, Karl’s Hefe
  • NEW Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca: Alien Milk Stout, Alien Amber, Guns & Oil, Bone Chiller Brown Ale, Sun Chaser Pale Ale, Pancho Verde, Desert Pils, IPA
  • Turtle Mountain: Kosmonaut Kolsch, Oku Amber, Hopshell IPA, Stauffenberg Stout

We are still waiting on and hoping for lists from Abbey, Back Alley, Bathtub Row, Boese Brothers, Canteen, Cazuela’s, Chama River, Duel, Marble, Nexus, Pi, Ponderosa, Red Door, Santa Fe, Second Street, and Tractor. When we get them, if we get them, they will be posted above.

For transportation, we recommend the Rail Runner. Train #702 heads north from Downtown ABQ (11:17 a.m.), Montano (11:26), Los Ranchos/Journal Center (11:32), and arrives in Bernalillo at 11:48, just before the start of the festival (it is a less-than-12-minute walk). Train #707 then leaves Bernalillo at 6:30 p.m., heading southbound only. For Santa Fe patrons, Train #703 leaves the SF Depot at 10:44 a.m. and will get you to Bernalillo by 11:43 a.m. You will have a longer wait until you can go back as Train #706 leaves Bernalillo at 7:24 p.m. and arrives at the SF Depot at 8:24, so plan accordingly.

Most of the Crew will be there when the gates open Saturday. If you see us and want to say hello, please do so.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Time to decide who shall be victorious!

Time to decide who shall be victorious!

The decisive final round of the 2015 NM IPA Challenge is set to kick off this Saturday at noon at Boxing Bear. The first two rounds of the NMIPAC have seen strong showings by current leader Blue Corn (48 votes), second-place and defending champion Bosque (42 votes), and local heavyweight Marble (41 votes). Can anyone else roar into the picture? Or will one of these three breweries finally separate itself from the pack and take the trophy home?

As always, for the newcomers out there, the NMIPAC is open to all members of the public. It costs $20 to join in. You get a tray of numbered samples (which beer is which is revealed after the votes have been submitted) and then a pint of your choice at the end, which is your vote. The competition will run from noon to 5:30 p.m., with the vote likely to be announced within an hour of the event’s completion. The Albuquerque round of the competition usually has in excess of 300 attendees, so plan accordingly in terms of arrival time and transport to the event.

To help everyone out, newcomers and veterans alike, I also checked in on a few points with Boxing Bear brewer Justin Hamilton, our host for the afternoon.

  • Boxing Bear is located at 10200 Corrales Rd NW, for those who have never been before. It is in the northeast corner of the shopping center that lies on that side of the Alameda-Corrales/Coors intersection. Because this is a shopping center with other businesses, please be mindful of where you park. There are no outright restrictions, but this is probably a time where carpooling, using Uber or a taxi, or even riding your bike up the nearby Bosque trail would be appropriate.
  • The folks at Boxing Bear would ask that you do not bring in your own food, such as pretzels or other “palate cleansing” snacks. Either the Brewers Guild or BBB will likely sell such food, plus there will be the full BBB menu available, with sandwiches, appetizers, chips, and the like.
  • Justin was unsure if there will be any tickets available at the door Saturday. You would be best off buying yours online here and playing it safe.
  • There will be separate lines for tray pickup and pint pickup. There should also be dump buckets available for the IPAs you either cannot or simply do not wish to finish. Staff members will also be moving about, helping to clear trays when you decide you are finished.

If we get any more updates from Justin or the Guild about anything you need to know, we will add them above.

Now that all that is out of the way, the rest of this is for NMIPAC newbies. Consider it sage advice from the Crew.

  1. Aroma is your friend. La Cumbre’s Jeff Erway once said a beer’s aroma is its invitation to you. When you get your tray, take a moment to indulge in the hoppy aromas of all 15 beers. Maybe jot down a quick note about each on the paper provided.
  2. Go in whatever order you want. Some people go 1 to 15. Others will go 15 to 1. Some will go even numbers, others will go odd, some will just go all over the place. It is totally up to you.
  3. These are not shots at a college party. Take the time to sip each beer once or twice. If there is food available (or at least water), try to cleanse your palate a bit in between beers. Unless you show up at 3:30, do not rush yourself. Give every beer a fair chance.
  4. Once the beers on your tray have warmed, give them first another sniff and then another taste. Aromas and flavors often change with the temperature. A good beer holds its quality, at least in our humble opinion.
  5. You do not have to drink every drop of all 15 samples. In fact, we would encourage you to not to do that. You will dull your palate and the beers you try last will not get a fair assessment. Once you narrow it down to a few favorites, dump the also-rans. And remember, you get 16 ounces of your favorite at the end.
  6. This is your vote, not anyone else’s vote. You do not have to corroborate your friend or significant other or even the person sitting next to you. If you hear some of the more notable beer geeks, like us (though we would never claim to be true expert judges), picked say No. 10, that does not mean you have to pick it as well. And even if your favorite brewery in all of New mexico is rumored to be No. 7, if that was not your personal favorite, then don’t vote for it. Back at VIPA most of us were convinced No. 4 was Bosque. It turned out to be Canteen. Sometimes even brewery staffers and brewers themselves have a hard time picking out their beer. The fun of this is the blind challenge part.
  7. Have fun. That is what this is about. Oh, sure, it is about getting the trophy and bragging rights for one brewery, but ultimately all of the brewers will still be friends on Sunday, regardless of the outcome. (At least we hope so, anyway.) Come on down and enjoy yourself!

Oh, and finally, to all of those people bashing the NMIPAC set-up and its participants on social media because of the surprisingly low vote total of a certain brewery, we really, really hope you show up and put your palates to the test. Unless you would rather hide behind the anonymity of the internet and continue to spew venom at your fellow beer drinkers, then by all means, stay home. The rest of us will have fun without you.

Shots fired. Couldn’t resist.

See you all Saturday afternoon.

— Stoutmeister