Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Grabbing craft beers surrounded by contemporary art, what could be better? Thirsty Eye Brewing Company and Exhibit 208, located in the historic Edo District just east of Downtown, offers just that. Since 2019, Kim and Joe Arthun, along with previous business partners, decided to open a brewery to support their gallery and the countless local Albuquerque artists that exhibit there.

“I think what is unique about is that a lot of breweries show art, but we’re a gallery who owns a brewery,” Kim Arthun said in an interview with The Paper. Before opening Exhibit 208 nearly 23 years ago, Albuquerque native and UNM Alumn Kim Arthun toured much of the Southwest and Europe with his pieces before deciding to open Exhibit 208 near the UNM campus. Exhibit 208 eventually moved to the historic Edo District of Albuquerque and has been an institution of the neighborhood for nearly 13 years.

Arthun and the original founders of Exhibit 208 never expected to have as much success as they have. Through assiduously showing local artists, the studio as Arthun referred to it had become a phenomenon. “When you walk into my gallery, everything that you see is local. There’s nothing from anywhere else. And it’s one of the best contemporary galleries in the state, without a doubt.”

When the craft brew craze hit Albuquerque in the late 2000s, Arthun, who admitted that he had lost interest in drinking beer after college, rediscovered his love for the craft. Arthun, along with artists from the gallery and 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 wasn’t long before the passion became a business. Through his traveling beer club, Arthun met now-brewer at Thirsty Eye, John Kofonow. Brews crafted by Kofonow recently won homebrewer of the year. Arthun commented he allows Kofonow as much creative as needs, and the results have been nothing short of some of the brews in the 505.

Thirsty Eye Brewing Company now boasts a tantalizing selection of both annual and seasonal beers for any taste since officially opening its doors in 2019. Their current seasonal beer to look out for is a Biscochito brew and is the perfect pairing for a night around one of the brewery’s patio bonfires on a cold desert night.

Along with showing over 48 artists, the majority of which have been showing with the gallery since they first opened, 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 know younger artists. It’s important for younger artists to realize that there is a life after school,” Arthun said.

Arthun reflected on the success of the studio/brewery, especially with weathering COVID for over a year. “We’re one of the few businesses I would say that came out of COVID stronger than we went into it.”