The Future of Beer

How CNM is producing some of the country’s top brewing students
The Future of Beer
Cathy Racow checking the clarity of a new pilsner at Bombs Away Brewery

May 16, 2018

Cathy Racow has had lots of exciting jobs. She was a Hazmat Lieutenant with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, an emergency room nurse, and on the side she races in an event called Cowboy Mounted Shooting, or barrel racing with guns.

Now beer brewing is what’s next. She’s long been intrigued with the process and first checked out the University of California, Davis, which is well known for its brewing school. That tuition was too high, however, so she shopped around and came across CNM’s new but growing brewing program. Sold on the high quality of the curriculum and the affordable price, she started in January and will graduate with her certificate in Brewing Technology this fall.

“I love brewing because you’re working with a living product, and because you can always strive for more quality,” she says. “So far the program here at CNM has taken me deeper into the process than I ever expected. Part of that quality comes from the program itself, and part comes from CNM which goes out of its way to make sure people succeed.”

And success has come quickly for Cathy. She currently has a coveted internship over at Bombs Away Brewery near Kirtland Airforce Base, where she’s learning from master brewer David Kimbell. She’s part of the Pink Boots Society, a national organization that supports women in brewing, and she recently won a prestigious college brewing award along with Chad Mahan, another brewing student.

Cathy stirring the mash at Bombs Away Brewery

Together, Cathy and Chad pulled in second place for their aptly-named “1st Place Stout” at the U.S. Open College Beer Championship, which is sort of like the Olympics for colleges with brewery programs. CNM also took home gold in the IPA category for the "Galaxy Smash IPA,” and the college was named the No. 2 brewing school in North America, beating out 15 other colleges and universities.

“They asked me what we should name the beer and ‘1st place’ just seemed right,” Cathy says with a grin.

For Chad, the stout award is important because brewing has been a long road for him. He grew up the son of a preacher and was told alcohol was evil. But later in life he found breweries and discovered that they were community institutions, not just places to get drunk.

To make a career of brewing, Chad enrolled in the CNM program and secured a job at Ale Republic in Cedar Crest. Meanwhile, his wife enrolled in business classes at CNM. Their plan is to eventually move back to Clovis (where they’re from) and open their own brewery and coffee shop. Chad says he’s also been able to convince his dad that brewing is a legitimate business.

“My dad understands now that brewing is not just about drinking” he says. “And he also sees that brewing is my path to success.”

According to Nick Jones, a former brewer at Santa Fe Brewing Company and a full-time instructor in the Brewing and Beverage Management Program, CNM went out of its way to ensure students land in good jobs once they leave the program. The curriculum was designed with input from local breweries, and throughout the program students are introduced to local brewers so they have a professional network once they graduate. (According to the numbers, over 50 percent of recent CNM graduates have found jobs in the brewing industry.)

New Mexico is already recognized as one of the best national beer spots per-capita, and Albuquerque has made a name for itself for producing some of the country’s best IPAs. Rural areas are also getting in on the brewing craze. Nick says that when breweries open in underdeveloped areas they not only raise property prices but also spur other businesses, including farms that pop up to grow beer ingredients like hops and barley.

And while it might seem like New Mexico is already overflowing with breweries, Nick says there are still more to come.

“If we look at breweries as community institutions, then we still have room until there’s a brewery or taproom in walking distance from everyone’s house” he says. “The sky is the limit.”

Bombs Away Brewery
Bombs Away Brewery.