It is currently thirty two degrees and snowing in the Duke City. Thanksgiving is less than a week away. In New Mexico, we don’t always get to experience typical seasonal weather that others associate with this time of year. You might be familiar with the phrase “New Mexico, four seasons, one week”. The snow will melt by tomorrow and it doesn’t look like it will be a white thanksgiving. It always seems like a slippery slide after Halloween towards the holidays with grocery stores dressed for Christmas and the annual tradition of playing holiday music in every public space. We make holiday plans, when to travel, who to see and we deal with all of the complications that go along with these plans and decisions. So we drink, to add to our enjoyment and to snuffle our misery.
It might not be fair to say that the thought of being around large groups of family and friends makes many of us want to drink more (I’m being generous here). Maybe it’s having time off, time to celebrate, the act of giving gifts and shopping for others that just makes us want to celebrate. Here at Tractor we believe a family that drinks together stays together and grows stronger and closer each holiday season. Like many craft breweries in New Mexico and around the country, we brew particular beers this time of year. As we take time to celebrate family, friends and cold weather, we also celebrate our favorite seasonal brews.
I’ll proceed with a rundown of some of my favorite seasonal beers. Although there are many beer lovers that stick to their favorite types of beer year round (hopheads I’m calling you out), many of us change our beer tastes to match the weather and our mood. At Tractor, you will notice a change in the tap lineup through the holidays. Beers such as the Javi Memorial Lager, Russian Imperial Stout, Chocolate Milk Stout, Scotch Ale and Turkey Drool will soon be or already are in the lineup. Many beer lovers find themselves gravitating toward Stouts and other darker beers as the temperature gets cooler. My personal taste drives me towards Stouts and high ABV brews when it gets colder. Rather than drinking four or five beers, I’d rather enjoy a couple with higher alcohol content. When the temperature of the beer matches the temperature outside, something with a deeper flavor profile and stronger personality hits the spot.
Turkey Drool is a beer that you might have noticed on the tap list at the Tractor taproom before. It is a seasonal beer that brewer Josh Campbell first brewed while living in Delaware and working at Extreme Brewing, a locally renowned homebrew supply store. At the time, Josh’s sister who is a traveling nurse happened to be working at John Hopkins. While visiting her one weekend they stopped by Penze’s Spice warehouse, a well known distributor of hard to find spices. As a long time veteran of home brewing, Josh immediately began seeking out spices that he had never heard of that would pair well in a beer. He was drawn to mahaleb, sour cherry pit from which the strychnine has been extracted as well as epazote, a Mexican spice, Chinese rock sugar and Mexican Vanilla. The recipe for Turkey Drool was born. Josh used a Brown Ale recipe as the base and added the newly discovered spices to create what became a thanksgiving dinner hit. With an ABV of 9% plus on the first batch, the five gallon kegs that sat by the dinner table were soon empty and everyone was full of turkey, traditional sides, pumpkin pie and lots of Turkey Drool. I had my own tasting of Turkey Drool with friends and family recently and it was decided that several growlers would be more than welcome on the table this year. You will pick up on the flavors of cherry and vanilla immediately, with the epazote teasing your tongue in a way that makes you curious of this wonderfully rich and warm spice.
One of my favorite holiday seasonal beers is Euphoria by Ska. I am a big fan of this Durango brewery and have had the pleasure of visiting the brewery and tasting room on multiple occasions. Part of the reason why I like Euphoria so much is that it comes in a can like Ska’s True Blonde or Modus Hoperandi. It’s a crisp pale ale with a great balance of malt sweetness and hop bitterness. With an ABV of 6.1%, this is a great drinkable, portable beer that’s perfect for the slopes, ice fishing or the living room. Next up is the Nitro Milk Stout from Left Hand Brewing. I love this beer on tap and it is also great from the bottle. I recently enjoyed a six pack of Nitro during a winter camping trip to Hyde Park, northeast of Santa Fe. Twenty degree weather, a raging campfire, it was a perfect companion for frigid temperatures and I discovered that it goes superbly with s’mores. A new addition to my wintertime drinking list is Mountain Standard by Odell brewing company, a double black IPA with an ABV of 9.5%. You can find this beer locally in a four pack for $9.99. I am not usually a fan of black IPA’s because I find that there are conflicting flavor profiles, however this beer is well balanced, smooth and not overly bitter.
As we participate in the family gatherings and celebrations that are common this time of year and wonder what we can bring as an offering, why not pick up some craft beer and introduce those close to us to something they may not have tried before. Beer is fun, that’s why we love brewing it and it’s certainly why we enjoy drinking it. Beyond normal consumption and hasty consumption when dealing with certain relatives, why not get a conversation started about the flavors in the beer, what you like or don’t like about it and learn something about your own pallet in the process. This can be an ingenious tool in justifying excessive libation to more conservative family members, after all you aren’t just drinking the beer, you are studying it.
We hope that you enjoy the seasonal varieties at Tractor, in addition to your usual favorites and share them with your family in friends in a growler or six pack. Here’s to no one throwing up green beans this year, to lots of food, drink, fun, naps and safe travel. Cheers and happy Thanksgiving.