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Toast to the frontier

Lincoln’s Bonito Valley Brewing Co. has planted its roots on the most dangerous street in America.

“Lincoln itself, the village here, it was the epicenter of the Lincoln County War in the 1870s, among other things,” said Tim Roberts, head brewer and co-owner of Bonito Valley. “It was a feud between kind of rivals, economic factions here in town, to put it simply. It’s very complicated: That’s a good way to put it. But it led to quite a few people getting caught up in the violence, and in 1879, kind of at the tail end of the war, Rutherford B. Hayes, the president of the United States, in a speech referred to Lincoln as (having) the most dangerous street in America. There were … upwards of 60 violent deaths that occurred along the street between about 1865 and 1885.”

Lincoln is best-known for its association with Billy the Kid.

“The Lincoln County War was where he started getting caught up in all the politics and all the things that were going on in territorial New Mexico, and he fought for one of the factions during the war, and of course when he was finally captured by Pat Garrett, he was brought back to Lincoln to be executed for murder, and this is where he escaped and killed two deputies, kind of becoming a legend,” Roberts said.

Roberts, a historian, had been homebrewing for about six years before opening a small brewery in Florida that is now run by his brother. Roberts moved to Lincoln about two years ago to become manager of the Lincoln and Fort Stanton historic sites. He soon met professional artist Doug Miller and mechanic and electrician John Boutte, who were looking to open a brewery. The trio founded Bonito Valley Brewing Co., which opens to the public today. It is located inside a historic house owned by the Miller family.

Bonito Valley is a small operation, with a two-barrel brewing system. It is offering four house standards and will have guest taps featuring New Mexico craft beer. Some New Mexico wines also will be available.

Bonito Valley’s .44-40 IPA’s name was inspired by the most common caliber of the Winchester rifle used during the Lincoln County War. It is a session IPA that focuses on Cascade hops. The Pale Rider Pale Ale’s name plays off the spaghetti Western. It is a classic American pale ale that showcases Centennial hops.

The LG Murphy stout was named after Lawrence Gustave Murphy, who emigrated from Ireland in the 1850s and became kind of the patriarch of one of the factions of the Lincoln County War. He built himself an economic empire in Lincoln County, which included breweries, according to Roberts.

“The stout is kind of a classic dry Irish stout, so not a big meaty oatmeal stout but more kind of a session in its flavor profile,” Roberts said.

The Billy the Kid Amber was named in honor of the outlaw.

“We’re kind of taking ownership of Billy since this was the epicenter of his early career, so to speak, and then outlaw,” Roberts said. “He kept coming back to Lincoln and considered this area home, so to speak. So if anybody can brew a Billy the Kid beer, I think we’re entitled to do that.”

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