Welcome to our seventh entry in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14. This series is designed to give a recap, from the breweries themselves, of 2013 while also previewing all that is to come in 2014. We have already visited La Cumbre, Bosque, Kaktus, Marble, Sandia Chile Grill, and Broken Bottle, so click the links if you missed the stories.
This time around, I, Stoutmeister, headed over to Nob Hill to talk to Tractor’s Nicole Duke over a delicious pint of the Brew Crew holiday addiction known as Turkey Drool. We discussed a busy 2013 and all the developments in store for 2014, which will include a new taproom and a new brewhouse located right here in Albuquerque.
Reflecting on 2013
Tractor’s biggest move of the year did not happen at the taproom, but rather on store shelves across the state.
“I suppose it was a big year for us since we started our relaunch of our bottling of the Red and IPA,” Nicole said. “We’re at over 200 places in New Mexico now.”
The Farmer’s Tan Red Ale and Farmer’s Almanac IPA are not just in stores that sell beer and liquor.
“I guess what I like about single bottling is you can find it at restaurants now,” Nicole said. “I went to Red Robin the other day and they have it with their local brews in bottles, which is awesome. I think it’s been a really big push for the brewery itself just keeping up with all the manufacturing of just getting all that together. We had some things with our bottling machine where we were trying to work out some kinks. I think it’s been kind of challenging but hopefully it will pay off.”
Tractor has also continued to be involved in the community beyond just serving beer.
“We worked with a lot of organizations and charities,” Nicole said. “I’m pretty proud of our blood drives that we did. We did them in competition with some of the other (breweries). We did it between Marble, Il Vicino, and ourselves. We won, which was awesome. We had a lot of blood donors. So the Pint for a Pint thing seems to be working very well.”
Another popular activity at the taproom was this summer’s series of adult summer camp classes.
“We had a lot of positive feedback and for the most they were fairly successful,” Nicole said. “I think it was a really good way to engage the community. That was a lot of fun. We might do something similar next year.”
Tractor has also made an effort to get more involved with Nob Hill, as owner Skye Devore has joined the neighborhood association’s board. The Tractor staff is also working with their property manager in an effort to keep the area around the taproom looking sharp.
“We’ve been able to work with them to keep the tractor outside, that was an issue,” Nicole said. “And be able to continue to have people keep their dogs here in a safe way. We’re working with Animal Humane. We added some signage here since we worked with them through the pub pet classes. So we’re hoping that helps a lot. I think that since we started those classes earlier in the year it has. We’ve seen a really dramatic difference in animals at the taproom.”
Letting people have their pets hang out on the patio has helped Tractor keep its diverse, lively crowd that packs the taproom almost every day of the week.
“We’ve got kind of an eclectic crowd,” Nicole said. “I like that it’s not really pegged to a single age group here. We do have a lot of people from the neighborhood, obviously. We’ve got some people with families. I think that we have a really different crowd.”
Preparing for big things in 2014
As I noted above, the new brewhouse and taproom will be the biggest development for Tractor in the coming year.
“The new brewery has been under construction over there for months,” Nicole said. “I think we’re getting a lot closer. I do think the taproom, I’ll loosely say that we potentially will have it open by late January.
“We’re still waiting for some things to come in. David (Hargis), the head brewer, he’s put so much time into the woodwork of the tables and the bar it’s ridiculous. I think he was like ‘what’s the hardest way I could possibly make a table? Let’s do that!’”
All kidding aside, the new location at 1800 4th Street NW, just south of Interstate 40, has a lot of potential.
“I’m really looking forward to that taproom,” Nicole said. “It’s going to be beautiful whenever it finally opens up. There’s a lot of garage doors over there, three or four, and as the season warms up we’ll really let the air in, have a nice patio. The chairs were all on special order, too. That was one of the things that was holding us up. Our contractors are working their butts off trying to get it ready.”
The taproom and brewery will be in the same structure which used to be the showroom space for Hank’s House, a cabinetry factory. Nicole said the taproom will open first, followed by the move of Tractor’s entire brewery operation from its current location in Los Lunas to the new site.
“I hope we don’t lose too much time in the brewing process,” she said. “I was talking to David about it the other day. Ideally we will only be out for several days if we do it right. But it’s a puzzle that I’m really scared of. I know all of our brewers, well, some of them live in Los Lunas, but I think the travel time that we’re going to save will probably be great.”
The brewery will have a mix of new and old equipment as it is a sizable increase in space from what is currently available in Los Lunas.
“We’re going to have so much more space at this new location,” Nicole said. “It’s incredible.”
With that increase in space and capacity, Tractor patrons could see some interesting new beers coming their way in 2014. David now has a small-batch pilot system at his disposal, enabling him to refine some old recipes and try out some new ones. (If the Crew had a vote, I think we would all agree that is past time to resurrect the PTO Smoked Porter, which was the beer we were drinking when we came up with the name for this website back on New Year’s Eve 2011.)
In addition to all of those big moves, Tractor will also be back in partnership with the annual Revolutions theater festival. Nicole said Tractor beers will be poured at all of the popular Reptilian Lounge and the kickoff party, plus numerous other events throughout the year.
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A big thanks to Nicole and the Tractor staff, who remain one of the best teams of beeristas anywhere in town (patent pending on that term). We look forward to getting our tour of the new taproom and brewhouse when they are ready for viewing.
With this story done, we are nearing the end of the line in this series. Still to come are Nexus on Tuesday, Il Vicino on Thursday, and Turtle Mountain on Friday. All publication dates are subject to change, especially since we are in the midst of a holiday week. Hopefully, after the holidays are over, I will be able to swing back and talk to Back Alley, Cazuela’s, and Chama River. Since we can’t get a hold of them on email, in-person visits will be required.
And before anyone asks, yes, we all survived the Brew Crew holiday party, a.k.a. Festivus, on Sunday. Though Brandon did try to kill us all with the amount of rum in the rum ham.