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 V.25 No.38 | September 22 - 28, 2016 


Drink of Ages

Civilization and sustainable economies say it’s good

Tractor’s mash tuns
This is where beer comes from
Beer is good. The brewed beverage has been part of human life for at least 5,000 years. In fact many historians believe that the cultivation of grains and subsequent development of beer and bread led to something we all like better than brewski: civilization.

When consumed in moderation, beer provides a relaxing, tasty and filling diversion from the stresses of everyday life. In the heat of summertime, ice-cold ale goes a long way; in winter, a frothy stout served at room temperature can give one energy and nutrition.

Because of such ameliorative effects, this veritable ambrosia has a distinct place in helping define the joys of human life all over the globe.

On that note, it’s impossible to drive through Wales without sampling the national brand, Brains. Up in the north of Britain, Newcastle Brown Ale represented the hearty and humble lifestyles of a sea-faring, coal-mining population.

Bow & Arrow
Bow & Arrow

And it’s like that everywhere we live, breathe, work and play, from San Miguel in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, to Polar in Caracas, Sapporo in Kyoto and Leinenkugel all over the upper Midwest of our United States.

Here in New Mexico, the sudsy supplement is a relatively recent addition to our culture, but has recently taken the lead as a social lubricant, after-work diversion and even as the basis for booming businesses in the Duke City. And while commercially-produced beers remain popular, the ascendence of craft beer has added a saucy and successful dimension to the proceedings.

Here in New Mexico, the sudsy supplement is a relatively recent addition to our culture, but has recently taken the lead as a social lubricant, after-work diversion and even as the basis for booming businesses in the Duke City.

Although wine has been made in this part of the world since the Spanish colonized the area in the 16th centuryand research done at the University of Colorado revealed that Indigenous peoples of the Southwest made traditional fermented beverages long before European colonizationit took the efforts of immigrants from central Europe to bring beer as we know it to this part of the West.

As the Industrial Revolution and the trans-continental railroad opened up the North American continent to immigrants in the middle of the 19th century, settlers from Germany, Austria, Scotland and Ireland landed in the Southwest. Among their possessions: a working, artisan-based knowledge of beer-making based on sometimes centuries-old traditions from their homelands.

In our state, breweries often popped up in boomtowns, farming communities and mining camps. Beer expert Jon C. Stott, author of the thirst-quenching tome, New Mexico Beer: A History of Brewing in the Land of Enchantment wrote that beer was broadly introduced to this region in the 1850s.

Nearly 40 years later, beer came to Burque in the form of the Southwestern Brewery and Ice Company. Located adjacent to the all-important rail line running through town, the behemoth of a buildingwhich is still standing on the edge of Downtownwas the home of Glorieta Beer.

Like most of the beer produced in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, experts reckon that Glorieta was heavier than the suds we are so familiar with now. Still, it was a popular brand among a host of smaller competing recipes made along the Rio Grande valley, outselling competing brands as the our city grew into the modern age.

Glorieta Beer was borne on the dreams of American immigrants who wanted to bring an essential part of their culture to their new home; they were successful because they turned a formerly small-scale, home-based activity into a commercial, even industrial process that could serve hundreds instead of scores.

Don and Harry Rankin, of Lawrence, Kan. partnered with German émigrés and brewmasters Jacob and Henry Loebs to create the state’s first commercial brewery.

According to local histories and archives, their main product “sold for a nickel in a tall mug at local saloons with names like the White Elephant, Free & Easy and Bucket of Blood.”

All that fun ended in 1917 though, when the State of New Mexico became the 27th US location to enact laws prohibiting the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Southwestern went on as an ice factory, sans suds for decades after the ban took effect.

When the nightmare of Prohibition ended 16 years later, small beer-making operations resumed here and there in the state but no sizable operations came into fruition until near the end of the century with the rise of the Santa Fe Brewing Company. This time around, a middle course was charted. The next generation of brewers embraced artisan quality and traditional methods but loaded the glass with technology, an interest in community and a plan for economic success that surpassed corporate models in scope and execution.

Santa Fe Brewing Company, the state's largest beer-making outfit, was established in 1988. Luke Macias, brewery marketing director says the idea for the operation was realized when the original owner, Michael Levis, realized there was no craft beer in New Mexico even though the sweet substance had become popular up north, in Colorado.

Macias told Weekly Alibi, “He [Levis] and a buddy went up to Colorado and bought a seven-barrel used beer-house they got from Boulder Beer Company. They made nut brown and pale ales, items that are still on our menu, but with slight tweaks, even though a lot has changed. We've grown with the times, IPA is still popular and Happy Camper, the first canned beer in New Mexico, is our biggest seller. What's important to us is that beer-making continues to grow as an industry here in New Mexico. We want to make great beer and help sustain that activity all around New Mexico. Good beer creates jobs and makes people happy.”

Given that beer makes for happiness, imparts a sustainable job-market as the number of breweries grow, and so has a positive influence on local culture, it was only a matter of time until it bubbled back up in Burque.

And while they did not completely eschew the commercial, industrial level of beer-making that made the process a big money, corporate operation in America—along the lines of North American Beer-making giants like Anheuser-Busch and the Miller Brewing Company—local and regional brewers have used their business acumen to create smaller, yet more effective niche markets, serving neighborhoods and small cities like Albuquerque with a cornucopia of flavor, excellent service and a singularly attractive, one-of-a-kind product.

Through this new vision, their products have become symbols of worthy small-business models, gained loyal followers and therefore ensured that beer would continue to flow throughout Albuquerque.

Shyla Sheppard, owner of Bow & Arrow Brewing Company, a relatively new member of the local brewery scene, says her number one goal is to create an excellent product. Along with co-owner Missy Begay and brewmaster Luke Steadman, an expert who has experience in all aspects of the beer-making process, her business is built on authenticity. “We want to be meaningful on several levels, how our name, location and logo convey our core values. We want to be a brand that people can relate to. In terms of our branding, we are inspired by our unique heritage, landscape and people of the American Southwest. Attention to detail is important, bringing local beer drinkers a unique perspective through your brand is important. There would be no industry but for the customers.”

As for their success in Burque, Sheppard adds, “We share [with customers] a love of learning about the environment and culture; we have a sense of place. We're coming from [Native American] culture with a sense of pride and hope to encourage other [Indigenous] businesses.”

Such declarations speak to the diversity available in Burque's collective beer experience. But they're also evidence of how a form of sustenance some say is responsible for our very civilization continues to have profound influence on the way we proceed through life, whether that vitality is for business or for pleasure.


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