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Coming of age: Turtle Mountain Brewing celebrates 21 years with special beer, barbecue

Turtle Mountain Brewing Co. is celebrating 21 years with a commemorative Dortmunder Export. (Courtesy of Turtle Mountain Brewing Co.)

**This event has been postponed. However the commemorative Dortmunder Export will be available for take-out starting Sunday, March 22. Food take-out also is available.**


Turtle Mountain Brewing Co. has finally reached the legal drinking age, and it Is celebrating with a commemorative beer and some barbecue.

The brewery and restaurant in Rio Rancho turns 21 on March 22. It will be tapping a special beer to celebrate.

“It’s called a Dortmunder Export,” head brewer David Pacheco said. “What it really is, it’s pretty much a higher-in-alcohol Helles. A Helles is more of a light lager that comes from Munich. It’s pretty much just that, but it is a stronger alcohol. It was produced in the industrial era of Dortmund roughly in the 1800s, and it gained popularity. And we’ve done the Helles before here, and we’ve seen quite a popular liking to it. A lot of people received it well, so I kind of wanted to build on that and do a beer that I knew would sell well. I also didn’t want to do a higher-alcohol beer that would just blow people’s socks off.”

Turtle Mountain’s Dortmunder Export is a much tamer beer than the one made for the brewery’s 20-year celebration. The Dortmunder Export is around 5.3% alcohol content. The special release has a “grainy sweetness” from the various hop contributions, including the Czech Saaz hop, which is a bit floral and spicy, Pacheco said. It has an herbaceous spice flavor profile that is not too overwhelming, he said.

“It’s higher to European standards, certain styles, but today it’s more like kind of a standard strain,” Pacheco said. “But we’re going to have a lot of Germanic hop aromas in there, mixed with a little Czech hops as well, so it’s going to be very delicious, drinkable beer.”

Guests who attend the celebration can take home the Dortmunder Export in commemorative 32-ounce growlers. The brewery also will have celebratory shirts that make a play on the 21st Amendment, as well as New Mexico’s vertical identification cards issued to people under age 21.

“The 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition, but here in New Mexico and everywhere you go, no vertical IDs are accepted and vertical IDs are for people who are under 21, so we’re going to have fun with a shirt that shows a vertical ID that actually shows our birthday of March 22, 1999,” Turtle Mountain owner Nico Ortiz said. “We’re going to play around with the idea that we are now 21 so we can turn in our vertical ID for a horizontal ID. We can actually drink beer.”

Ortiz is using the celebration to raise money for a staff member facing a severe medical issue. Sous chef Zach Van Dyke, known as Badger, was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 non-operable arteriovenous malformation in his brain. Van Dyke, who is 28 years old, has been with Turtle Mountain for about seven years and will be undergoing significant treatment over the next year or two, according to Ortiz. Turtle Mountain will be holding “BBQ for Badger” from 11 a.m. Sunday, March 22, until the food runs out. Van Dyke will be manning the smoker and preparing the barbecue. Offerings will include ribs, chicken quarters, kielbasa and more.

“We’re donating 100% of the proceeds to his medical fund,” Ortiz said. “He has insurance, but obviously there’s a lot of medical expenses that he’ll have to pay. So we are going to be a more tamed-down version of our anniversary, but it will be a fundraiser for Badger.”

This year’s birthday celebration is a little tamer than previous years, to ease pressure on the kitchen. The brewery’s restaurant will be closing a couple days after the celebration for a large remodeling project and relocating the brewery’s CO2 tanks to another area of the brewing area. The food menu also will be revamped. Ortiz has tentative plans for a larger celebration in the summer.

“We are going to have a much bigger 21st anniversary celebration,” Ortiz said. “We’re just kind of kicking it down to maybe in the summertime when the weather will be nicer and we have some more time to prepare. We’re looking to do something of a small beer festival, closing off our parking lot and doing something like that. But like I said, we just have too many projects that need to get done. We might do something three or four months down the road. We’ll do a big-style 21st anniversary celebration. It will be just a little later in the year.”

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