Brew­ing in North­ern New Mex­ico


Pasatiempo - - ON THE COVER - Lau­rel Glad­den

Many paths lead down the boozy rab­bit hole of brew­ing “re­ally lo­cal” beer in New Mex­ico — that is, us­ing as many lo­cally and re­gion­ally grown in­gre­di­ents as pos­si­ble — and hops is one of them. One name comes up over and over again when you ask nearly any brewer about

Hu­mu­lus lupu­lus var. neomex­i­canus — the wild hops that grows in our state and is one of the only na­tive North Amer­i­can hops suit­able for brew­ing.

That name is John Bates. He picked his Neomex­i­canus hops up in Rin­conada, worked to iso­late the va­ri­ety, and be­gan cul­ti­vat­ing and hy­bridiz­ing it. Brew­eries out­side the state — namely, Sierra Ne­vada and the Vail-area brew­ery Crazy Moun­tain — re­leased Neomex­i­canus-based beers in 2014. But these days the dis­cus­sion of lo­cal beer ex­tends be­yond hops, to in­gre­di­ents from malted barley and wheat to fruit, cof­fee, and yeast.

Barley isn’t a solid New Mex­ico crop yet. How­ever, given that the num­ber of brew­eries statewide con­tin­ues to edge up­ward, to­ward three dig­its, New Mex­ico State’s Agri­cul­tural Sci­ence Cen­ter at Farm­ing­ton planted 20 acres of malt­ing barley to test its vi­a­bil­ity as a crop to sup­ply lo­cal brew­ers. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Beer doesn’t know bor­ders,” so brew­ers can source their malted barley re­gion­ally, from providers in Colorado’s San Luis River Val­ley such as Prox­im­ity Malt, which has a fa­cil­ity near Alam­osa; and Colorado Malt­ing Com­pany, which has been farm­ing in the area since the 1930s. Sev­eral lo­cal brew­eries source barley from Prox­im­ity, in­clud­ing Santa Fe Brew­ing Com­pany, which re­cently signed a con­tract with the com­pany to make it their pri­mary sup­plier start­ing in March of next year. “We worked with them on their pro­cesses for close to two years,” Santa Fe Brew­ing pres­i­dent Brian Lock said.

Since 2013, Lock has owned a hops farm just down the road from the prop­erty where Bates’ ad­ven­ture with Neomex­i­canus be­gan. “He’s kind of the grand­fa­ther of the hops move­ment. … He guided me through the Neomex­i­canus va­ri­eties,” said Lock, whose plant­ings have ex­panded to in­clude other strains — among

them amalia and me­dusa (a much more po­etic name than its for­mer “mul­ti­head” moniker) — with the goal of hav­ing up to 2.5 acres flour­ish­ing by the end of next sum­mer. Santa Fe Brew­ing also works di­rectly with Ohori’s to ob­tain cof­fee for its Java Stout. “They ne­go­ti­ate how many pounds they think we’re go­ing to go through in a year and buy that green bean for us. We buy all the lot, and then they roast it for us to our specs.” Lock is ded­i­cated and am­bi­tious. While Santa Fe Brew­ing served a nut brown ale made with his farm’s amalia hops in Septem­ber 2016, he said, “My ul­ti­mate goal is to be able to brew a beer that’s ex­clu­sively made with our hops and lo­cally sourced grain.”

At the fledg­ling Beer Creek Brew­ery, co-owner Rich Headley shows a youth­ful de­light when talk­ing about beer, hops, and grains. Once co­founder and C-level ex­ec­u­tive of an en­ergy com­pany, he opened Beer Creek with his team ear­lier this year, and he’s also the pro­pri­etor of the four-acre Crossed Sabers hops farm in Cer­ril­los. A shiny red hops har­vester is parked just out­side the back gate at Beer Creek, wait­ing to be put through its paces.

In­ten­tion­ally or not, Headley paints a vivid pic­ture of a lo­cal brew­ing com­mu­nity that’s strong and sup­port­ive, with brew­ers, en­thu­si­asts, and in­vestors that are en­cour­ag­ing and happy to see each other thrive. In the same half-hour that he out­lined the story of his own en­deav­ors, he men­tioned and praised other lo­cal hops farms, in­clud­ing Red Hat in Los Ran­chos, White Crow in An­cones, Stone Lizard in Be­len, and La Capilla in La Cienega.

In the com­ing months, Row­ley Farm­house Ales will em­bark on a wild­hops col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shed, also known as The Shed Project, whose pri­vate tick­eted din­ners at Owl Peak Farm in La Madera aim to be “an ex­pres­sion of our place through en­demic plants and nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als all brought to­gether to a ta­ble.” Of the Neomex­i­canus hops, Shed cre­ator Johnny Or­tiz said, “I have been pick­ing these for a few years now, us­ing them in food, soda, and mak­ing beer with other brew­ers. … Be­cause Shed aims to fo­cus on the beau­ties of the ephemeral side of na­ture, we love us­ing these plants that have unique char­ac­ters and sto­ries.” Ul­ti­mately, the beer that RFA brews with the for­aged hops will be served as part of Or­tiz’s din­ners.

Brewer John Row­ley and his team use large amounts of re­gion­ally grown or­ganic heir­loom Sono­ran white wheat, pur­chased from BKW Farms in Ari­zona. That’s on prom­i­nent dis­play in beers like the Sonora Weiss, which also fea­tures prickly pear fruits picked in that neigh­bor­ing state. Fruit and other area in­gre­di­ents come into play of­ten at Row­ley, as in their bot­tled Mixed Dubbels Curl­ing (a Bel­gian dubbel made with lo­cal plums) and in the Kaf­feeklatch, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ikonic Cof­fee Roast­ers us­ing Lake Toba Su­ma­tra beans. The process of mak­ing RFA’s If You Must Ber­liner weisse in­volves lees of grüner velt­liner grapes from Vivác Win­ery in Dixon, and Row­ley uses bar­rels from Santa Fe Spir­its for the No­to­ri­ous BdG, an ap­ple brandy bière de garde. “That’s a lo­cal ‘in­gre­di­ent,’ if you will,” Row­ley said in the brew­ery’s din­ing room on a chilly early Novem­ber night, ad­ding that the bar­rel “ac­tu­ally be­comes an in­gre­di­ent in the beer.”

Get Row­ley talk­ing about mixed fer­men­ta­tion and wild saisons and his eyes light up. “If you’re do­ing spon­ta­neous fer­men­ta­tion … where you cap­ture the wild yeast from the air and it set­tles in your wort and it spon­ta­neously fer­ments the beer — that’s the essence of lo­cal beer. Es­pe­cially if you have all lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, you can’t get any more lo­cal than that.”

Beer Creek Brew­ery’s Rich Headley paints a vivid pic­ture of a lo­cal brew­ing com­mu­nity that’s strong and sup­port­ive, with brew­ers, en­thu­si­asts, and in­vestors that are en­cour­ag­ing and happy to see each other thrive.


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