Craft beer industry thrives in New Mexico
January 10, 2018 08:20 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Bad news typically dominates the headlines in New Mexico, but the state has something it's doing right. The Land of Enchantment is now considered worldwide among the best for craft beer.
With responsible reporting in mind, a KOB news crew hopped into an Uber to investigate. The first stop was Hops Brewing in Nob Hill.
Head brewer Ken Wimmer crafted each beer with a little inspiration. He is an Eldorado High School drama teacher-turned-beer maker.
"It was always one of those dreams that hovered in the background," he said. "I discovered good beer right after college.
Wimmer traveled the world tasting great beers as a hobby. After retiring from education, he turned brewing into a full-time profession. Hops Brewing's addition to the New Mexico craft beer scene adds to a thriving economy with an annual impact of about $350 million.
Meanwhile, Boxing Bear Brewing Company has quickly made itself a West Side staple. Justin Hamilton, who has been brewing for more than a decade, is one of the masterminds behind its success.
"It's really cool," he said. "I've been a part of the microbrew industry for a long time. Craft brewing in the state is a new thing now. I've been doing it for a long time. When I first got into it, it wasn't cool. It wasn't something a lot of people were really into."
Hamilton knows the craft beer scene is growing, and new competition comes with that growth. But for the community of brewers, helping the other guys perfect a brew is actually part of the business model.
"Here's the way I see it. Let's say you're from another state. You come to New Mexico because you are on vacation, you've heard there is really good beer here. On your first stop, you happen to look at a beer map, you see this place is close to your hotel. You go in there," Hamilton said. "You try there IPA and you don't like it. For good reason -- maybe it's not very good. And then you back home and say 'I went to Albuquerque. I tried New Mexico beer. It was OK,' when the reality is there are tons of brewery with really good product."
As the beer scene has grown, so has beer tourism. The New Mexico Tourism Department and the city's Economic Development Department have included craft beer in their strategy to bring in new types of visitors, and it's working.
If there is a success story to drink up, it's Bosque Brewing's story to pour. Software developer-turned-beer pro Gabe Jensen started with an idea at a New Year's Eve party.
"I called Jotham and Kevin, another friend who I met at business school. Called them the next day," he said. "We had been kicking stuff awhile. I said, 'Man, I got an idea' and they both said they had been kicking the idea around too but thought it was crazy. They didn't want to say it out loud. And two and a half years later, we opened Bosque Brewing Company."
Bosque Brewery is doing much more for Albuquerque than just serving up great beer. It's creating jobs.
"We want to be a part of job creation," Jensen said. "We started with six employees including myself, and I think we hit 105 right now. And with Bernalillo coming on in the spring, I think we'll add another 40, so hopefully past 150 by the end of the year."
The economy is on the rebound. With ventures that people like Wimmer, Hamilton and Jensen have risked, more out-of-state travelers have new reasons to visit.
That's something New Mexico can raise a glass to.
Updated: January 10, 2018 08:20 AM
Created: January 09, 2018 08:06 PM
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