It has been a while, over a year in fact, since a new brewery (Bosque) opened in Albuquerque. After a long drought, there are some new breweries on the horizon, the biggest and most ambitious of which is The Stumbling Steer.
The Steer is located in the old west side Quarters near the intersection of Alameda and Ellison, just north of Cottonwood Mall. It will combine a restaurant and a brewery. Three of us in the Crew — myself (Stoutmeister), E-Rock, Franz Solo — plus our new associate member T-Bird, were invited to take an early preview of the Steer and get samples of some of the beers they will be brewing.
Now, as some of the pictures we have show, there is still a lot of internal work to be done. The outside of the Steer looks fine, but the interior needs a major overhaul. The plan for restaurant half of the Steer is to open in early December, though the brewery equipment is not going to arrive until around that same time as it is coming from a Gordon Biersch that closed in Miami. So as to when the Steer’s beer will be available, even though they do not know, but let’s face it, rushed beer is not good beer, so we should all be patient. One of the major projects in the brewery area right now is to actually lower the floor by three feet so the fermenters and serving tanks can fit, since the ceiling is not as high as, say, at Marble or Il Vicino.
The Steer’s brewmaster is Kirk Roberts, who has been a professional brewer for 15 years. He spent 12 years at the Newport Beach Brewing Co. in Orange County, followed by the last three years at the San Diego Beer Co. He will eventually have quite the brewing system at his disposal, a 20-barrel beast. It will have six fermenters and eight serving tanks. Eventually the Steer will even have a bottling line to start packaging its beers, though that will be further down the line. For now, the brewery is still waiting to get all of its permits and licensing in place, something that the recent government shutdown only further delayed.
“We’re targeting opening the restaurant beginning of December and the brewery, that’s about when we’re getting the equipment,” Kirk said. “The brewery is not going to be quite ready yet. (The shutdown) definitely didn’t help. So we’re really close to getting our TTB approval.”
So far Kirk has been working on his beer recipes on a SABCO pilot system that he keeps in the area where Quarters used to have its to-go counter. He does not have all the hops he hopes to have when the full system is installed, so for now he’s being a little experimental. The beers we got to sample were a Belgian Wit, a Golden Ale, a Red Ale, and a burly Double IPA. All four should be among the regular beers that will be on tap at the Steer. There will be a regular IPA and some darker beers and a wide range of seasonals, as well. This being New Mexico and all, Kirk is not going to disappoint the large numbers of hopheads with either his regular IPA or DIPA.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people on IPAs, that people really like balance,” Kirk said. “I’m coming from the West Coast, I like unbalanced with the hops. When people try the IPA, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments but to me it’s a little sweet and fruity. I’m kind of messing around with the hops that I have. The good thing about that SABCO system is that I can play around.”
Here is a beer-by-beer breakdown of what we did try.
Golden Ale: This beer had a lot more flavor than most of its blonde brethren. It is closer to a cream ale than, say, a pilsner. “This is kind of a recipe I’ve been doing for 15 years, something similar, just a real basic, something light, real clean,” Kirk said, adding that its primary hop is Tettnanger. This is the beer you should start with when the Steer opens. It won’t hammer your palate right out of the gate.
Belgian Wit: Well, I had a quick sip, picked out the orange peel, and handed it off to Franz Solo. That being said, those who are not allergic to citrus found this to be quite tasty. Checking in around 4-percent ABV, it is another lighter, sweeter beer. Kirk patterned it after his favorite beer from Belgium and for those who enjoy the style, you should enjoy his wit just as much as one from the mother country.
Red Ale: The nice thing about reds is that they are open to all sorts of interpretation. We in the Crew use the Il Vicino to Marble scale for reds, with malty on IV’s end and hoppy on Marble’s end. Kirk’s red falls somewhere in between, using a unique hop mix to produce a different sort of flavor. “It’s Ahtanum and Centennial,” Kirk said. “The Ahtanum is kind of my substitute for Amarillo since even small amounts are hard to get. … My original recipe on this is with Amarillo and Citra, basically 50-50. I really like the fruitiness.” This beer is more for malt lovers, but there is a little hop bite on the back end to please those who prefer Marble’s Red. And for the record, Kirk said he rather likes Marble Red, since it fits his West Coast beer upbringing.
Double IPA: This batch was just ready for drinking and boy, it was a beast. “This is definitely West Coast (style),” Kirk said. “It’s 10-percent. This is Simcoe, Centennial … I’m super happy with it. This is definitely my style.” Kirk isn’t kidding, it offers up a punch of hops worthy of the best beers at the IPA Challenge. In fact, it would not surprise us at all if he enters this in next year’s competition. “I like the piney (flavors),” Kirk added. “I like the really dry, accentuate the hops imperial. That’s probably one of my favorite beers out here is Marble’s Imperial IPA. Not so malty, just extremely hoppy.” Kirk’s DIPA was not so hoppy I couldn’t enjoy it, and this is coming from someone who has never identified himself as a hophead.
Now I could go on about things, but since this is T-Bird’s Brew Crew debut, he wrote up an entire entry and sent it over.
“Being a huge fan of craft beer and the craft beer industry, I was thrilled and honored to be invited by the New Mexico Dark Side Brew Crew to a sampling of a just a handful of the beers that are going to be on the on-tap list at the soon-to-open Stumbling Steer. After a grueling weekend at the 6th Annual Hopfest, tasting many delicious beers from around the southwest, the Stumbling Steer had some stiff competition fermenting in my recent memory.
“When we arrived, there was still a significant line of applicants patiently waiting their turn for an opportunity to work at the newest addition to craft brewing on the west side. And from what I can tell, this looks to be a the next go-to place on the west side for amazing California-inspired craft brew and a menu that will bring a fresh, hand-crafted meal to you as well. Totally looking forward to the food, but for now, I can give you my take on a few beers that were available to sample.
“We started with the Blonde Ale. First off, the clarity was great and the nose let me know there was more to this brew than I was seeing initially. And I wasn’t deceived, this ale is nice and clean with full flavors that lingered on my palate. Every brewery needs a staple light ale and this one can definitely keep the masses happy.
“The Belgian Wit had the classic notes of coriander and sweet and bitter orange peel, and finished nice and dry, avoiding the overly sweet maltiness that sometime overwhelms Belgian ales. These first two brews were a nice introduction to what the Steer is going to have to offer, but from here, the beers begin to show off their aggressive nature.
“The Red ale displays a rich amber color to start off with, and a nose to match. The first sip did not disappoint, with a malty and full-bodied mouthfeel and a Centennial hops afterbite lingering on my palate, I was very impressed AND happy.
“We finished with the Double IPA … simply amazing. From color to nose to flavor profile — wow! Hopped and dry-hopped and obviously a whole lot of malts, this was the highlight of the tour for me.
“Can’t wait for the doors to open and see how The Stumbling Steer is going to push the envelope with an innovative and creative menu paired with great craft brew.
Trust us, T-Bird knows his beers (he worked at a brewery in town for 14 years, after all). We’ll definitely be bringing him to future tastings/interviews/brewery tours.
Anyway, The Stumbling Steer has all the makings of being a great brewpub, and we even got to try one of Chef Thanawat Bates’ awesome deserts (a chocolate cake best described as “decadent”). We can’t wait to go back when the doors are open for business, first for the food, then for the beer.
A huge thanks to general manager Sonny Jensen for inviting us over and setting up our tour, thanks to Kirk for all his time and the beer, and to Chef T and co-founder/managing partner Min Lee for also stopping by to say hello.
When the Steer’s beer starts being poured, the Crew will be there, and we hope the rest of you will join us.