Back toward the end of WinterBrew I, Stoutmeister, was talking to the guys at Bosque when founding brewer/co-owner Gabe Jensen dropped some surprising news. I had to hang onto that news for a bit, but then the story broke late last week that Blue Corn brewer John Bullard, who has made quite a name for himself over the past year, was jumping ship to take the reins at Bosque.
Not wanting the Crew to come away empty-handed in the breaking news business, Gabe and John invited me over to Bosque to talk about the latter’s move south in the weeks ahead. With a pint of Amarillo Red in hand and co-owner Jotham Michnovicz sliding over to join us, we chatted for a while about what’s to come before checking out the progress in the brewhouse next door.
John’s beers really stood out in 2013, claiming the IPA Challenge trophy with Resurgence IPA in August and then pulling in silver medals for Gold Medal Stout and End of the Trail Brown Ale at the Great American Beer Festival in October. The Bosque staff, though, had been aware of him before the accolades started pouring in.
“I think as we were poised for growth as Bosque, we knew we were going to need more team members,” Jotham said. “John had caught our attention a long time ago. Then he started winning a bunch of awards and started getting everyone’s attention.
“We’d kind of been kicking around the idea of what was the next move for Bosque. When we were talking about it together it all made sense. We needed to bring on more brewing staff anyway because of what’s going to go on. Having someone who can run the ship back there is a big deal for us.”
Bosque, in turn, had caught John’s eye from the moment it opened.
“First was their branding, their marketing, all their logos, everything about it was just awesome, really strong,” John said. “(They were) straight forward, that was the first thing that caught my attention. Their beer did, also, because honestly I was worried when I read their story I was like ‘oh, man, here we go.’ But you guys have really impressed me.”
All of us in the Brew Crew were initially a little skeptical about Bosque’s lack of brewing experience, but they impressed us with the quality of their beers right from the start, just as they did for John.
“When I got to meet these guys they share the same exact interest that I have,” John said. “That’s been the biggest selling point on Bosque, that’s the main reason I want to come work for Bosque. We share the same goals, the same interests.”
With the construction of a bigger brewhouse next door, plus the pending opening of a Nob Hill taproom, and the desire to expand distribution and even move into a canning or bottling line, everyone at Bosque knew they needed more help.
“It’s going to help with organizing,” Gabe said. “It’s hard when you’re not back there all the time. But really it’s the experience that he brings brewing on something that’s not just a glorified home brew system. That’s what we’ve got back there (now). Fermentation side, I think we’ve got a pretty nice system back there.
“But the brewhouse, that’s something totally different. I’m sure we could figure it out, but we don’t have the time. We’re ready to make the next step. That’s what it does for me, personally.”
John said he cannot wait for the new brewhouse to be ready, comparing it to being a kid on Christmas.
“Exactly,” he said with a smile. “Like buying a brand new car, I can’t wait to see how fast it goes.”
“It costs a little bit more than a new car,” Jotham interjected.
“Yeah, like a bunch of new cars!” John replied, still beaming.
John will wrap up his time at Blue Corn on March 7 and officially join the Bosque staff on March 10. He said that Blue Corn is still in the process of finding his replacement, but it will be a good job for someone looking to make a name for him/herself in the industry.
“It was a great opportunity, because with my level of experience (at the time) I don’t think I could have found another place that would have given me a full-time head brewer job,” John said.
As for his plans for Bosque’s beers, John said there won’t be too much change, just a few new additions to the lineup.
“Just for house recipes, the recipes probably aren’t going to change much at all,” he said. “What I’m really going to bring is procedure, procedure, procedure, because that’s what I know and that’s what I do. I’ve got a lot of stuff these guys have never seen that I’ve learned from some really, really great brewers and that I’ve developed on my own.”
There is at least one beer style that John wants to add.
“Lagers,” he said. “I want to try doing some lagers. I really, really want to do that. Lagers are fun to play with.
“I really like to do lagers. You can’t hide stuff. In an IPA you can hide stuff, a lot of flaws. But if you can make a really good, clean lager, that’s awesome.”
Though some in the industry have expressed concern that Albuquerque is almost reaching a point of over-saturation with local breweries, John said he believes all is well here.
“I don’t think we’re even close to that, especially when you look at Denver, Seattle, or Portland,” he said. “That’s saturated, but new places still keep opening. I love the industry down here. I’ve got really relationships with a lot of the main brewers down here. I’ve missed being down here.”
On behalf of the rest of the Brew Crew and all the beer lovers in Albuquerque, welcome home, John Bullard. We can’t wait to see what you and Bosque can do together.