A Moriarty brewery took top honors on the world stage when it won a gold medal for its Alien Amber Ale and Cherry Wheat beer.
Sierra Blanca Brewery won a gold medal in the 2017 Great American Beer Festival with its Cherry Wheat Beer. “The Great American Beer Festival is a tough show to place well in,” said Rich Weber, owner of Sierra Blanca. “There can be thousands of beers and as many as 90 categories.”
Weber also entered the World Beer Championship and won gold medal for the U.S. with its Alien Amber Ale; meanwhile the Cherry Wheat beer won the entire competition.
Sierra Blanca enters lots of different types of competitions every year but winning the World Beer Championship is quite the accomplishment, Weber said. Breweries from all over the world submit their beer into the competition.
Flavored wheat beer alone has 90 categories and some of the categories have as many as 300 entries, and according Weber, it is also a hard competition to win.
To enter the World Beer Championship, breweries send their beers to Tennessee, and from there it goes to Germany or England. The results of the competition then get posted online and the medals get sent out to the winners.
Sierra Blanca also enters “tasting” competitions here in the United States; some beers have been submitted year after year because the feedback from the judges provides a way for the brewery to improve flavors of existing beer.
Weber said that Sierra Blanca enters the same styles over and over until they get good results. In 2017 the Cherry Wheat beer won a gold medal and Sierra Blanca’s English Brown Ale won a silver medal in the tastings competition.
Weber said the 2018 World Beer Cup will be held in Nashville, Tenn., and that he will be going in person to enter his Pilsner, Bone Chiller, Green Chile beer and the Cherry Wheat beer into the competition. For the World Beer Cup breweries are only allowed to submit four flavors.
To come up with new ideas and flavors the brewery does a lot of trial and error. The pecan beer, for example, was created by a bartender who decided it would be interesting to add pecan extract to the Alien Amber Ale. This experiment turned out to be a success and now the pecan beer is a popular brew.
The Cherry Wheat beer that has been stealing shows is made with real Washington cherries, which is not something that every brewery does, according to Weber. The reason for this is that the cherries have to be handled and processed very carefully to make sure that the bacteria created during the fermenting process is edible.
Some of the current endeavors at Sierra Blanca include the development of a sour beer. They ferment the fruit with the barley in a whiskey barrel, and from there it is aged. The brewing team is currently working on creating sour beer with raspberry, cherry and cranberry flavor profiles, and currently has four barrels of each fermenting.
They also use yogurt to help ferment the beer to make them sour which helps keep the pH levels adjusted for a solid sour beer product. For each batch they make a year’s worth of beer, with one tank turning out 160 kegs.
Weber has been in the business of brewing for 22 years. The brewery has a diverse portfolio and 13 different fermenters yielding 13 different styles of beer.
Weber said they have approximately 17 different types of beer on tap at all times, and every three months Sierra Blanca creates a seasonal brew that stays in-house. They serve it exclusively in their Albuquerque Brew Pub, at the Sierra Blanca Beer Garden in Moriarty and at their restaurant in Ruidoso, called the Rio Grande Grill and Tap Room, where as other beers can be bought in liquor stores all over New Mexico.