Friday, April 11, was a pleasantly warm eveningin Bernalillo County, a perfect time for sitting on the porch, sipping a beer. That’s what Mike Campbell, the brewer at Rio Rancho’s Las Cazuelas Mexican Grill and Brewery was doing. He was also watching the Awards Ceremony from the World Beer Cup, which was being streamed from Denver. He wasn’t just curious — he’d entered three of his own brews in the competition.

When the awards for the Oatmeal Stout category were announced, he smiled broadly. His “Beer for My Horses Oatmeal Stout,” named after a Willie Nelson song had earned a bronze. Two other New Mexican beers won medals: Marble’s Pilsner took the gold in the Kellerbier/Zwickel category, while Il Vicino Canteen’s Panama Joe’s Coffee Stout, garnered a silver in the Coffee Beer category.

It was the first major medal for Las Cazuelas; Il Vicino garnered a gold for its Panama Joe at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival; Marble’s Pilsner earned a silver in the same competition.

“I use dark crystal and chocolate malts in the stout,” Campbell explained. “And I also include oats that I buy from Village Mercantile in Corrales. The beer is dark black, but clear, with a tan head and nice lacing. It goes down very easy. I add just enough hops to smooth some of the roasted notes in the malts.”

Il Vicino’s Panama Joe’s is the creation of Zack Guilmette, who recently became the head brewer at Albuquerque’s Chama River. “The stout base complements the coffee. It has a creamy body. I steep the coffee for a few days in cold water.  The eight percent alcohol adds sweetness and body.  We called it Panama Joe’s after the type of coffee beans and the fact that one of the slang terms for coffee is Joe.”

Although it won it’s medal in the kellerbier category rather than the German pilsner category (which it took a medal in 2013), it’s the same beer that is bottled as “Pilsner”. The kellerbier/zwickel terms refer to the unfiltered brewing technique. It is breadier than Czech and most North American pilsners. Interestingly enough, Marble’s Ted Rice won a bronze medal for his Chama River zwickel at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival.

Reflecting on his Friday night experience, Campbell said that the fact New Mexico beers consistently win at major beer festivals, “makes you be proud to be part of the New Mexico brewing community. So many people are making such great beers, it makes everyone work hard to be the best that they can be.”

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