Grabbing craft beers surrounded by contemporary art, what could be better? Thirsty Eye Brewing Company and Expo 208, located in historic Edo just east of downtown, offers just that. Since 2019, Kim and Joe Arthun, along with former business partners, decided to open a brewery to support their gallery and the countless local Albuquerque artists who exhibit there.
“I think what’s unique is that a lot of breweries show art, but we’re a gallery that owns a brewery,” Kim Arthun said in an interview with The paper. Before opening the 208 exhibit nearly 23 years ago, Kim Arthun, a native of Albuquerque and alumnus of UNM, traveled much of the Southwest and Europe with his pieces before decide to open Exhibit 208 near the UNM campus. Exhibit 208 eventually moved to Albuquerque’s historic Edo neighborhood and has been a neighborhood institution for nearly 13 years.
Arthun and the original founders of Expo 208 never expected to be as successful as they were. By assiduously showing local artists, the workshop as Arthun called it had become a phenomenon. “When you enter my gallery, everything you see is local. There is nothing else. And it is without a doubt one of the best contemporary galleries in the state.
When the craft beer craze hit Albuquerque in the late 2000s, Arthun, who admitted he lost interest in drinking beer after college, rediscovered his love for crafting. Arthun, along with gallery artists and a host of friends who worked at Sandia Labs, soon started a beer club. “The only thing we had in common was drinking beer,” Arthun said. It didn’t take long for the passion to turn into a business. Through his traveling beer club, Arthun met now Thirsty Eye brewer John Kofonow. Beers made by Kofonow recently won Home Brewer of the Year. Arthun commented that he allows Kofonow as much creativity as needed, and the results have been nothing less than some of the 505 brews.
Thirsty Eye Brewing Company now offers a tantalizing selection of annual and seasonal beers to suit all tastes since officially opening its doors in 2019. Their current seasonal beer to watch out for is a Biscochito beer and is the perfect pairing for a night around one of the brewery patio bonfires on a cold desert night.
In addition to exhibiting over 48 artists, the majority of whom have exhibited with the gallery since opening, Arthun and his wife also open their doors to UNM art students at the end of a semester. “It’s important for us as artists to get to know younger artists. It’s important for young artists to realize that there is life after school,” Arthun said.
Arthun has reflected on the success of the studio/brewery, especially with the COVID inclement weather for over a year. “We are one of the few companies, I would say, that came out of COVID stronger than we came into it.”