Welcome to the second entry in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14. I (Stoutmeister) have been sitting down with brewery representatives here in December to get their take on how 2013 turned out for their establishments, while also looking ahead at what their customers can expect in 2014. Our first entry dealt with La Cumbre, while this time around we head a little north to Bosque Brewing.
Brewer Gabe Jensen and I sat down over a pint of Oatmeal Stout (newsy note: it’s going to be permanently on tap now, which is great, though it will replace the Olde Bosky porter, which is kind of a bummer because that’s a great beer, too) and discussed how Bosque’s first year went and the big plans he and his fellow owners have for the coming year.
Reflecting on 2013
Gabe summed up 2013 in one word.
“Patience,” he said. “It was the year of patience. From Subway originally telling me they were going to be out April 15 to finally being out Dec. 1 and many promises in between. That’s the biggest one. That just seemed to affect everything we had plans to do, which is fine. And then we learned a lot. We learned about distribution a little bit, started getting into a couple restaurants. We learned some interesting things there, who you want to work with, who you don’t.
“But overall I feel like it was a good year. We got things done that we wanted to get done, even if it was on a smaller scale than we expected to be at this point. In some ways it was probably good. Just like it was good that we opened a year later than we planned to and it was probably good that we didn’t expand as soon as we wanted to because we probably weren’t ready. Still, I wanted it to happen now.”
While Bosque was delayed by the Subway next door taking forever to move out, it did give the young brewery a chance to get its bearings. That was particularly important considering no one at Bosque ever worked at a brewery before.
“I’ve learned how to be way more on top of things,” Gabe said. “Before I could just cruise through the day. Where now it’s way more I know what I’m going to brew in three weeks. If something goes wrong … we had an issue with one of our batches of Ember (IPA) recently. That’s tough. The restaurants that are selling that are selling more combined than we are here. We got that through by the skin of our teeth. It’s just you’ve got to have your procedures down. You can’t be willy-nilly about things. There’s not a whole lot of wiggle room.
“Our seasonals did drop off for a little while. Now I’m back to 11 (beers total). I think we’ll be able to keep it at 10 to 11 now. Now that we’ve got a routine, now that we know how much Ember is going out, our accounts are pretty consistent, we know how much they’re going to order and when they’re going to order it.”
The emergence of Ryan Jameson as a second brewer also turned out to be hugely beneficial to Gabe and the rest of the staff.
“I would say the biggest help for me is that Ryan can do the brewing while I do quality control. I can do the little things that we need to have consistent, quality beer,” Gabe said. “I can keep the inventory right. I can keep tabs on temperatures and things that at the beginning was even harder to do. Ryan didn’t (initially) know what the heck he was doing. So we would be here 12, 13 hours a day and it still felt like we didn’t have enough time to do everything. None of us really knew what we were doing.
“Ryan hadn’t even home brewed. He had no brewing experience whatsoever. To see how far he’s come this year, without that I don’t know if we’re where we’re at. Without Ryan I don’t know if we’d have any consistency in our beer. He’s freed me up to do the little details that matter.”
Part of those little things just involve making sure the quality of Bosque’s beers remained consistent throughout. Gabe, Ryan, and the rest of the staff realized that importance, particularly with their regular beers and especially with the beers they were selling by the keg to area bars and restaurants.
“I do hear that; they’re impressed with (our) consistency,” Gabe said of his customers. “But we were those customers that wanted that (consistency). We try hard. It’s not always perfect. Of course everyone wants that, to a certain extent.
“We’ve learned a little from (distribution) now. When a keg goes out that’s out there. I can’t sit there and talk to somebody about it. They can’t try the next beer on the list. We’ve really tried to hone in those beers that go out to keg accounts now because the beer is on its own at that point. So I see it when we go through that. I’m scared to death to get a whole new system. I keep telling people I just did this, I just filled out all this paperwork. At the same time I’m really happy about what we’ve been able to do. I’m pretty confident we’ll be able to continue that on a bigger scale, but it’s going to take even more precision in what we do and when we do.”
Bosque has not been adversely affected by the one thing they have no control over, namely the massive amount of road construction on nearby Alameda and Paseo del Norte.
“If anything, business is up since construction started,” Gabe said. “But I have no idea if it’s related. It doesn’t seem to be hurting us, I can definitely say that. Balloon Fiesta was a good week, better than average but it wasn’t insane, but the three weeks after that were our best weeks ever. That’s when construction started. November was a really solid month, but it wasn’t October. We’ve just started December. Weather really does seem to affect (attendance).”
And as the year draws to a close, the sounds of construction have begun in the space next door.
Preparing for big things in 2014
Bosque already leased the space north of Subway, and with that restaurant chain having finally moved to its new location by Planet Fitness further west on Alameda, they have knocked out the wall between those two spaces to begin construction of their new brewhouse.
“It’s a 15-barrel brewhouse,” Gabe said. “We’ll have 15-barrel and 30-barrel fermenters and bright tanks. Six fermenters and then bright tanks to go along with them. I think we have a three-to-two ratio, two bright tanks for every three fermenters.”
Gabe did not want to put any exact dates down as for when he will begin using the bigger system, but the hope is that everything will be ready by February. With the new system in place, Bosque hopes to expand its number of taps around town and begin the process of producing its first canned or bottled beer.
“I won’t decommission this end of the brewery until I’ve done at least one or two batches over there,” Gabe said. “At that point I’ll start pounding the pavement a bit more for some more keg accounts. I do hope to be canning something, probably Scotia some time in 2014. I don’t know when that will be. It won’t be any hoppy (beer) because I don’t have enough hops.
“I’m interested to see how Scotia does. Nobody else has a Scotch ale in bottles or cans right now. It could be shooting myself in the foot. I’m not expecting to get rich off selling Scotia in a can. But I really do want to get something on the shelves with our name on it.”
The original brewpub will not change too much, though eventually they could put a window in the north wall so customers can watch Gabe and Ryan work in the brewery.
“So this space is really not changing,” Gabe said. “Seating-wise, I’m hoping to get more capacity but in the same amount (of space). It’s not that packed here as far as tables. I have eight more seats than I have capacity. So if I get a higher capacity, which we’ll do by the back door becoming an exit, I hope to get the capacity in here up to 60 instead of 45.”
Once the old brewing space in the back is cleared out, the plan is to move the “kitchen” that currently sits on the bar into that area. It will help the kitchen staff and bartenders have more space, though Gabe said to not expect a massive expansion of the menu, at least not in the near future. Bosque will likely never become a restaurant-brewery on the level of Nexus or Chama River, but it will continue to offer plenty of unique food dishes to complement its beers.
In addition to that bit of moving, there could be some developments out front.
“I do hope to have a patio by the summer as well,” Gabe said. “Obviously we don’t have the space for it, so we might have to go up. It wouldn’t be a rooftop, really. I’m talking to the building owner. It would kind of be over the parking lot. I think it would be cool, but it might be too expensive. We’re definitely looking to do something.
“I’ve got preliminary permission from the city to take three parking spaces. But it wouldn’t be a full three parking spaces because you have to have a six-foot sidewalk around it. It’s more like one-and-a-half spaces. We’ll do that because it’s better than nothing but if we can do more we will. A patio for spring/summer should be happening here.”
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There may be some additional developments for Bosque that will be announced in the next couple of months, but until all the paperwork clears, Gabe and I agreed that it can wait.
All in all, there will be plenty of work for Gabe and the rest of the Bosque staff as the calendar flips to 2014. We in the Crew are looking forward to all the positive developments to come, and of course to more Bosque beers.
Coming up on Wednesday, the newest brewery in the state, Kaktus, reflects on their short time since opening and their plans for 2014.