In the days before refrigeration was common in commercial trucks, ice plants dotted the map, usually adjacent to truck stops and service stations. As trucks made their way to their destinations, they required regular pickups of large blocks of ice to keep their loads cool. These ice plants also served the public, in need of blocks to keep the icebox cold and crushed ice by the bundle for camping trips. Once reliable refrigeration became widespread and home ice-makers became a regular fixture in every fridge, these plants, along with the entire ice industry, largely collapsed.
One such plant, built in 1959 on Picacho Avenue — what was then the highway — was known over the years as City Ice Service and Sierra Ice and Water. Some of the city’s longtime residents will even remember lining up for ice before heading out on a hunting or camping trip or a day at Elephant Butte. Today, a new generation of Las Crucens will find a place to cool off in that very same depot at Icebox Brewing Co.
In 2017, after leaving the family’s regional industrial supply business, owner John Wright was looking for a change. Along with longtime Icebox
Brewing Co. general manager Brian Weidauer, a fellow craft beer enthusiast, John was intrigued by the community-oriented culture and spirit of friendly competition in the craft beer world, along with the potential for growth in the still- underserved Southern New Mexico.
Brewer Garrett Denmark is also a native, with eight years of brewing under his belt — four at home and four professionally, three of which were spent at the popular Spotted Dog Brewery in Mesilla. While studying at University of New Mexico, Garrett traveled to Oregon through the college’s exchange program. In the Pacific Northwest — America’s craft-beer mecca — Garrett fell in love with craft beer.
Back in the Land of Enchantment, Garrett commandeered his father’s old brewing kit and set to work. After the inevitably unpalatable first batch, he got the hang of it, and was soon brewing for friends and family. Icebox strives to keep 12 to 14 brews on tap at all time — “We want to keep things fresh and exciting, so we’ll have the four core beers and everything else with rotate,” said Garrett. “I want to keep a good balance of colors, different ABVs and IBUs, different styles, different yeast strains, that way, anyone can come in here and find something they like.” Those four core beers are a perfect introduction to Icebox’s approachable, sessionable beers. Icebox Light, the brewery’s most popular selection, is light and dry- bodied with low bitterness and aroma — an easy introduction to craft beer for folks who usually order light American beers; the Black Ice Lager is dark and roasty with light body and hints of chocolate and coffee; the Frostbite IPA boasts an assertive hop profile in aroma and flavor, with notes of citrus and pine; the hazy, ruby-tinted Rasp-Berry Wheat, fermented on raspberry puree, rounds out Icebox’s core selections. With the rest of the beer list, Garrett is able to explore the craft and try something new, for not only himself but his growing number of regulars as well. Keep up with what’s on tap today by visiting iceboxbrewing.com.
“I’m trying to create new styles and things that encourage people to explore the boundaries of what craft beer is or to find new styles they didn’t know they like,” said Garrett. “At the same time, we’re trying to stay up with trends in the craft beer world and stay competitive. There’s so much room for growth still in Las Cruces. The idea of craft beer is still so new and misunderstood here. Our goal here is to show people craft beer can be something they didn’t know it is.” It’s more than just beer, though. Through a partnership with Rio Grande Winery, Icebox Brewing serves several Rio
Grande Winery wines; its house sweet red and sweet white wines are served on-tap and pushed with argon, which maintains freshness and ensures the wine never comes in contact with oxygen. Garrett also brews up root beer in house, and other non-alcoholic offerings include ginger ale and cream soda.
Outside, food is provided by resident food truck Ruby Soho and owner/chef Ben Woods, a longtime culinary force in Las Cruces; his first truck, 138 Sandwiches, was among the freshman class that helped usher in the unique
and forward-thinking food truck culture to Las Cruces. For Icebox, Ben crafted a unique menu distinct from his truck’s Asian-inspired street food. Shareable options include house-made fries, truffle fries, and chorizo fries; green chile wontons filled with asadero and green chile; nachos piled with ground beef, black beans, sour cream, and jalapeños and topped with Amber Ale cheese sauce; and sweet Asian or traditional hot wings. Entrees include the bacon burger, a 70/30 bacon and beef patty topped with sliced
bacon, barbeque sauce, cheddar, and onion straws; the chorizo burger, with house-made chorizo patty, cheese, fried egg, and cilantro aioli; chicken teriyaki skewers with steamed rice and scallions; and the grilled chicken salad, made with strawberries, red onions, feta cheese, bacon, and raspberry vinaigrette on a bed of baby greens. Save room, if you can, for Ruby Soho’s ice cream sandwich — two chocolate-chip cookies stuffed with house- made ice cream.
With a diverse and ever-changing lineup of great craft beer, Icebox Brewing Co. is the perfect place for a post-work drink and a welcome addition to Las Cruces’ craft beer scene.
Written and photography by Zak Hansen