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A toast to success: CNM’s 3-year-old brewing program plans its first release

Central New Mexico Community College’s Brewing and Beverage Management Program students work with Sidetrack Brewing Co.’s head brewer, Dan Herr, to create a signature collaboration beer. (Courtesy of Anne O’Neill/Sidetrack Brewing Co.)

Central New Mexico Community College’s Brewing and Beverage Management Program students are sharing the fruits of their labor with the release of a Belgian-style fruit lambic made in collaboration with Sidetrack Brewing Co.

The CNM program, which is 3 years old, does not have its own brewing facilities, so it partners with breweries to use their equipment and provide a hands-on experience for students, according to Victoria Martinez, CNM academic affairs director for culinary, hospitality, and brewing and beverage.

“Sidetrack was a very new brewery right when the program was opening up,” said Nick Jones, lead faculty for CNM’s brewing program. “I was very pleasantly surprised when I went over there. I was struck by their cask ale, in particular. It’s something no one else was doing. It’s something very unique. Whenever I want to show students about cask ales, we go over there for our draft beer technology class. Also, when we need to brew a small batch of beer, because the size of their brewing system is a good size for us and because they’re just good partners of the program, we will just go over there and use his equipment.”

The students created the program’s first release – a Belgian-style fruit lambic – with the help of Sidetrack. It is an intensely sour beer that is a little hazy and medium-bodied with aromas of ripe raspberry and a little bit of balsamic vinegar, according to Jones and Martinez. It is scheduled for release in mid- or late July.

“We didn’t choose a sour as our first release – to say that in a different way, it kind of chose us,” Martinez said. “Two years ago when Nick and his class decided to brew this beer, it happens that they were at Sidetrack, and that’s where this beer was brewed. We didn’t know what it was going to turn into years later. They visited lots of breweries, they worked with lots of partners, and this summer when we had a taste out of that barrel, we decided it was ready for service.”

This fall, students will participate in all four stages of the two-year production process of this beer, according to Jones. The Beer Production I class will brew it. The Beer Production II class will taste the 6-month-old barrels to see whether to add fruit. The same students will then take another batch from another semester and package the beer in bottles and kegs.

“We will be releasing one beer per term, and we’re on trimester, so it will be three releases a year for CNM,” Martinez said. “We’ll do a spring, a fall and a summer. This is our very first release, but we’re hoping to work with another brewing partner in the community and release something in the fall.”

Brewing technology students can receive a brewing technology certificate in one term or choose to be part of the brewing and beverage management program, which is a two-year degree. Students who have finished the program ahead of a beer release will be invited back to celebrate and taste their brew on tap, Martinez said.

CNM was recently recognized by the Master Brewers Association of the Americas as being one of 13 colleges and universities whose brewing programs meet the association’s guidelines and strict learning outcomes.

“It’s very prestigious,” Jones said. “We’re very proud. It shows how serious we are about what we do and the high quality of education we offer.”

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