Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
The country’s best college-brewed IPA is made in Albuquerque.
That’s according to judges of the U.S. Open College Beer Championship, who awarded a gold medal to the Galaxy Smash IPA made at Central New Mexico Community College. They also gave CNM – in its competition debut – a silver medal for its “1st Place Stout.”
The performance powered CNM, now in its second year with a brewing program, to second place in the U.S. Open’s rankings of the top brewing schools in North America, behind only State University of New York-Morrisville.
A total of 17 institutions from the U.S. and Canada competed.
CNM brewing student Dorian Fisk called the IPA a collaborative effort for the class. Students produced about a dozen different IPA batches, hopping each one differently. The Galaxy emerged as the favorite.
While students did not assume they would win, she said they were optimistic.
“We were all hoping, and we all liked it,” Fisk said between lessons on how to troubleshoot foamy beer during a draught systems class last week.
Nick Jones, a full-time faculty member in the program, said he had not expected much from the competition beyond the opportunity to introduce students to the competition side of the industry.
“That in and of itself is an important part of working in the brewing industry; you’ve got to self-promote and go after these medals,” he said. “It was fun to go through that whole process with the students and determine what we were going to enter and what category.”
The medal-winning stout resulted from a basic recipe provided by Jones that they made, evaluated for flaws in their execution, then remade with some adjustments.
“(They) brewed a second one, and that one turned out much better and ended up winning this medal,” Jones said of the stout makers, Cathy Racow and Chad Mahan.
Students are brewing only 3-gallon quantities on CNM’s small in-house equipment and have no avenue for selling it to the public – at least not yet. Jones said there are plans to get a larger capacity brewing system, and he may explore opportunities to serve it.
The brewing program so far has graduated 16 students with certificates and another six with associate degrees. Jones said many students have moved onto jobs inside the city’s booming brewing industry – occasionally before they complete the program. He said he consistently fields phone calls from local breweries seeking qualified job candidates.
“Those that want jobs have landed jobs … left and right,” he said.
Marble Brewery, the state’s largest, has already hired four employees from the program.
“We’re scrambling to fill distributor demands, and to have educated, ambitious individuals knocking on our door has been really beneficial,” said Ted Rice, Marble president and co-founder. “It has reduced the orientation time, so we’re moving at Mach speed.”
Fisk, who enrolled in CNM’s certificate of brewing technology program in January, makes a living selling insurance, but the 43-year-old mother of grown children is a longtime homebrewer who would like to eventually to open her own small brewpub.
She said the local brewing industry has embraced the program and supported it in many ways – from donating supplies to bringing students in to see day-to-day operations – and called the overall program experience “exactly what I needed.”
“For someone with only home-brewing experience, you think you know some things, but you really don’t,” she said, laughing.