Craft beer, wines, and spirits from the Land of Enchantment are acknowledged at prestigious competitions each year. There is a method behind the magic and Central New Mexico Community College is the first step to learning what is entailed in making them.
CNM’s renowned brewing program started it all. It will soon be launching its hands-on distilled spirits program for its spring 2023 semester with a new state-of-the-art production facility.
“They’re going to be able to work hands-on with full-scale professional distillery equipment,” lead instructor Antonio Fernandez said. “We’ve got the brewhouses for producing our washes and mashes. We have a 100-gallon still, that’s a combo pot, a column still, so we’ll have full flexibility for making all kinds of spirits from pot stilled Irish whiskey and agave spirits, all the way up to neutral grain spirits that we can use to make vodka, gin, all those kinds of things.”
CNM officials think the sky’s the limit with this new facility.
“We’ve got great capability with a special piece of equipment to be able to produce mash for making things like bourbon where we can ferment on the grain in a traditional manner,” Fernandez said. “And it’s pretty well equipped and fancy. They’re gonna have a lot of access to great lab equipment, a lot of capacity, and it’s a great space. It’s designed for learning, but it’s also designed for being able to produce the spirits in mind as well.”
It has taken several years for the production facility to come to fruition. The master plan began in 2014 and was officially approved by college leadership and the CNM governing board without funding.
“It was a bond question, so it was voted on by our local voters,” said Victoria Martinez, associate dean of the school of business, hospitality, and technology. “We received most of our funding through those bond funds. We did a planning and visioning process. The distilling program came on the heels of the successful launch of the brewing program. We started with the brewing program and saw some success with our local brewers and placing students in jobs. And as the industry really grew in response to that workforce demand, we were approached by the New Mexico Distillers Guild saying ‘Where’s our program?"
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