Carmen Duran was Instagram famous without even knowing what an Instagram was.
Some called her a legend but everyone who knew her or knew of her loved that she seemed to be living her best life even at the ample age of 102.
The brewery-hopping grandma’s physical life came to an end last month but her memory and inspiration lives on in the brewing community.
Duran stepped into the spotlight in 2019 when her granddaughter Carmen McClelland, 27, began taking her out to local breweries and created an Instagram page to document it all. Known by her Instagram handle hoppygrandma, she gained a local following. She became a favorite of servers and they didn’t even mind that she asked for salt with every beer.
The duo fondly became known as the Carmens.
McClelland, who is named after her grandma, was one of Duran’s caregivers and sat with her two to four times a week. One of those days was always Saturday and instead of sitting at home, she decided to take her grandma out with her while she visited local breweries. At first, Duran was resistant to the outings and then she came to expect it.
“She would say ‘It’s Saturday night. Where are we going?’ ” McClelland said. “And then we would go.”
Shelby Chant, marketing director and co-owner of Steel Bender Brewyard, said the Carmens brought a lot of warmth and smiles to the taproom. She admired the relationship between the two women.
“Hoppy Grandma threw her arms around craft beer and the special community that surrounds it, and we all threw ours right back around her and her granddaughter,” Chant said. “… She became a willing and fun(ny) celebrity, seeming to find so much joy in the simple act of enjoying a pint while doted on by taproom staffs.”
Born July 1, 1919, Duran grew up on a farm in Mesilla and at a young age, she became a bootlegger according to her daughter Gerri Duran. Although, depending on the day, she might not admit to it.
“She even had an uncle that went to the big house,” Duran said. “She was a runner. There she was, 12 or 13 years old, driving a double-clutch truck. She said ‘I was willing to do anything to keep me out of the house and not do diapers.’ ”
Duran came from a big family and anyone who stayed at home was expected to help with chores, including looking after the younger siblings.
She came Albuquerque in her late 20s, married and began raising a family but that didn’t dampen her feisty personality.
Her son Gilbert Duran said his mom had a cutting edge to her and wouldn’t hesitate to put someone in their place. He recalls the time his mom was out back hanging clothes and she heard the dogs barking. She never locked the front door and when she went back into the house there was a man trying to steal her purse.
“She tore after that guy,” Gilbert Duran said. “And she got her purse and he ran away.”
When Duran turned 102, Ex Novo hosted her birthday party. Gilbert Duran said the place erupted in claps and cheers when she arrived.
“She turned to me and said ‘I don’t know these people. Did you invite them?’ ” Gilbert Duran said. “I told her ‘They know you from Instagram and they are buying you drinks.’ She said. ‘Oh, OK, then that’s good.’ ”
McClelland called her grandmother her best friend and said the two hit almost every local brewery in Albuquerque. They had started to migrate to Santa Fe and the East Mountains. Duran didn’t really understand the internet, much less Instagram, so didn’t quite grasp how people knew about her.
That didn’t matter.
There was an outpouring of support on Instagram from her followers and local breweries when she died. Tractor Brewing staff said they were heartbroken and she was their favorite customer. Many others talked about how her adventures inspired them.
“Her impact will always be with us,” Bosque Brewing wrote. “Thank you for sharing her with all of us.”