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Czech it out: Canteen brews a second beer for New Mexico State Fair

A limited quantity of the New Mexico State Fair Pils, a German-style Pilsner made by Canteen Brewhouse, will be available at the State Fair. (Courtesy of Expo New Mexico)

New Mexico State Fair Pils, a German-style Pilsner made by Canteen Brewhouse, has sold so well that Canteen has brewed another style of Pilsner to keep up with demand.

“It’s going to be a Czech Pilsner,” said Zach Guilmette, Canteen head brewer. “It’s our house Pilsner, the High Plains Pils. Compared to the German Pilsner, this one has a little more semisweet malt character and a little more hop character. We thought that instead of doing one beer it would be pretty exciting to do two different labels and two different styles. The German Pilsner is brewed with all German malts and German hops. The German Pilsner is a style that is clean and refreshing, with a light malt character of barley and soft bread notes, as well as some herbal lemon hop character.”

Canteen, which recently celebrated its 25th year, produced 400 cases of the German Pilsner that was released on Aug. 12. That is 10% of State Fair beers brewed the past two years. The 100 cases that went out into the marketplace to retailers such as Total Wine and Jubilation Wine & Spirits have sold out, as well as the limited supply at Canteen Brewhouse and its taproom. The only place to acquire the German-style State Fair Pils is at the State Fair itself.

“We went with Canteen, one of our heritage breweries, because of it’s great history,” said Chris Goblet of Expo New Mexico and executive director of New Mexico Wine. “They’ve got great awards they’ve collected. But they’re a much smaller business model. Their focus is local. They’re focus is small-batch production, and Zach, their head brewer, has been really working hard to do seasonal beers that really speak to following the traditional styles.”

Running out of product was not planned, but the demand turned out to be a feather in Canteen’s hat.

“For a brewer, one of the exciting yet nerve-wracking things is you never want to run out so fast but you’re so excited that people enjoy it that much and all you can do is prepare next time and brew even more,” Guilmette said.

Brewing a second style gives fair attendees a choice of the German style, while supplies last, or the Czech style, which will be available on Sunday, Sept. 8, at the fair. The Czech-style cans will feature a bold design similar to that of its German-style counterpart but with a different color scheme. It will be canned on Monday, Sept. 9, and a limited release will be available at Canteen Brewhouse and its taproom.

“I think people will try one and then they’ll try the other,” Goblet said. “I think it’s fun to see this concept evolving and not just the macrobrews, the large producers. These guys have been 25 years in the industry. They’ve proven themselves time and time in the industry that they have the staying power. Canteen is just an awesome, fun partner to work with.”

The popularity of the German-style Pilsner might be an indicator of things to come. Guilmette has entered it in the German Pilsner category in this year’s Great American Beer Festival. It is the first New Mexico State Fair beer to be entered into the competition. The festival, in October in Denver, is one of the largest commercial beer competitions in the world.

“Entering it in the Great American Beer Festival was kind of an exciting thought of seeing ‘New Mexico State Fair,’ seeing our state’s name up on the board, and if we’re lucky, hopefully, we’ll win,” Guilmette said. “Wish us luck. It’s exciting to represent New Mexico and see what we could do for the craft beer industry here in New Mexico.”