On March 2 my family and I piled into the car after lunch in Denver and headed south, beginning our 12-day journey through the Southwest, visiting small breweries and both homebrewers and brewery brewers. It turned out to reconfirm the news that craft beer from small and independent craft brewers and homebrewers is thriving in both rural and urban America.
It was a thirst provoking six and a half hour cruise under overcast and threatening skies, through wind and snow showers from Denver to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Despite the freezing temperatures, our welcome was hot at the 2nd Street “Railyard” Brewery. Rod Tweet, President/brewmaster and a table of brewers and beer fans greeted us with fine beers and Santa Fe culinary specialties and great food. The chef was presented the table with two special offerings.
An after dinner tour of the brewery with Rod and the beer gang, made me realize that I’d been here before, but that things looked a bit different. Rod reminded me that I gave a talk to homebrewers the last time I journeyed to Santa Fe in 1998 – “…right over there in the corner a year after we started.” The beer and brewing community and their brewery has grown considerably in 14 years. I could feel it – Santa Fe is a good place to be.
The beer and brewing community in Santa Fe is alive, thriving and welcoming. We migrated to the brewhouse tap bar for specialty pours of good stuff and a spectacular dessert brought out by the chef to accompany the aged barley wine. I had road lag, was thirsty and jazzed to be in the company of 2nd Street Brewery brewers and beer fans. It was a Friday night and the joint was hopping in more ways than one.
Saturday morning was bright and cool and already the allure of Santa Fe was grabbing me, “stay longer, kick back, relax and have a beer.” I’ll have to make some time to return on a more laid back schedule, but now I was headed to visit John Bullard, the new brewer at The Blue Corn Café Brewery. A tasting from one of the lager tanks of his new Imperial-Saaz & Hersbruck hopped- Pilsener started my day with startling pleasure. I’d never had such a bright tasting and delicious Imperial Pilsener; terrifically infused with a copious amount of Saaz hop character. Santa Fe resident beer fans are lucky to live here. And for the likes of you and I to visit! We sampled a few more brews including their award winning Blue Corn Porter. Wow!
Continuing on our Saturday journey we headed for New Mexico’s largest brewery, The Santa Fe Brewing Company. I was arrived for “brunch” with a wakeup toast – an Imperial [coffee] Java StoutIce Cream Float. There is no other way to describe it other than “YUM.” It floated my boat and then some. Santa Fe Brewing company’s inviting tap and tasting room displayed scores of awards they’ve won for their beers since they opened as one of New Mexico’s original microbrewers in 1988. They’re packaging in cans and bottles, with their bright hoppy Santa Fe Pale Ale and smooth and popular Irish Red Ale at the top of their charts. Chicken Killer Barley Wine? I remember that one from the very early 90’s – it made beer headlines at the time and still a killer barleywine. It was late in the morning and homebrewers were in the brewhouse for their weekly gathering, brewing up their weekly homebrew on the brewery’s small 15 gallon pilot brewery system.
Craft beer from small and independent brewers is on the rise in Santa Fe, with every brewer struggling to keep up with demand. They certainly are doing a great job with maintaining the quality. Expansions and tank additions were in many conversations.
It was getting close to lunchtime and Albuquerque was waiting an hour’s drive south.
Next: Southwest beer journeys – Albuquerque, New Mexico