It has been a while since the Crew got a chance to visit a new brewery in its construction phase. E-Rock and I toured Tractor’s Wells Park location a few months back before it was all up and running, but there is always something a little different about touring a brand-new operation. Fortunately, after a few weeks of constantly noting that new breweries were coming without finding out much beyond their names and (if lucky) their addresses, I managed to make contact with the owners of the new Red Door Brewing Co.
With the rest of the Crew either working (E-Rock, Porter Pounder, Brandon, Mrs. Solo) or on vacation (Shilling, he earned it, even if he tortured us all with photos from Left Hand’s taproom) or too sick to drink (poor, poor Franz Solo), I had to trek over to Red Door by myself. With my trusty digital recorder in hand and the old cell phone camera ready to go, I met up with four of the five owners of Red Door and got the full tour of the still under-construction space.
I will say right off the bat that if the space comes together like they hope, this will be an impressive brewery operation. They have considerable space for the brewing equipment in one part of the building, a taproom that is bigger than anyone else in the back, and even a patio area outside. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the team of Wayne Martinez (brewer), Frank Holloway (taproom manager), Matt Biggs (business manager), Jeff Hart (sales manager), and Rob Stroud (brewer) are all bringing different skills to bear that should help keep the process on track.
“It’s very compartmentalized right now,” Matt said. “Though right now everybody is doing whatever they can to get us toward opening. But once we are up and fully running, everyone will branch out into their specific role.”
The brewing equipment was all purchased from COOP Ale Works in Oklahoma City, which recently upgraded to a larger system to keep the thirsty denizens of Oklahoma’s capital satiated. It may not be new and shiny, but it is battle-tested equpiment that has been used to brew quality beers for many years. Wayne said the eventual goal is to produce about 2,500 barrels a year.
“(We have) 15-barrel fermenters, 15-barrel servers, three seven-barrel grundies, and then the two 40-barrel (fermenters) … we don’t have a need for the capacity initially, so we’ll use them as hot and cold liquor tanks to start,” Wayne said. “On this, if we get the 40s in as fermenters, we could probably do something around 2,500. We definitely won’t do that this first half-year. If we can do 600, 800, somewhere around in there, that would be really good.”
As for Red Door’s brewing philosophy, Wayne said they plan to keep six regular beers on tap covering all ends of the spectrum, lighter, hoppier, darker, and the like. They do not plan to focus on overly hoppy or overly malty beers, nor go overboard with any trendy styles like Belgian Sours or anything of the sort. The goal is to make a place where all beer lovers can find a pint to enjoy.
Right now the focus is on getting the brewery itself ready to go. The building at 1001 Candelaria NE can currently be broken down into three parts, from south to north. The south end that faces the street is office space. Some of it will be kept for the staff, but some of it will be transformed to become a part of the brewhouse that occupies the center portion, taking up about 4,800 square feet. That will require some ceilings to be raise and some walls to be knocked out. There will also be a beer lab, with Red Door working on even harvesting and propagating its own yeast.
As for the north end of the building, that will be the taproom. The bar will dominate the south wall, with bathrooms on the north end (four of the Red Door owners are married, so they have already promised a large and comfortable women’s restroom; you can thank them when it opens, ladies). In between will be plenty of tables, possibly with a couple of pool tables along the east wall, and the west wall will open to what is currently a fenced-off parking lot. This will be transformed into a patio that, come the late afternoon, should offer up beautiful views of those New Mexico sunsets we all know and love.
“Now this is what I’m really excited for, personally,” “We’re going to do an oversized patio out here. Over there in that corner (southeast), we’re going to have a little place for a band to set up. We’re not going to go too crazy with loud music.
“At sunset it’s actually perfect right here, the view (of the west mesa).”
There is also a drive-in area on the north side of the building where food trucks will be encouraged to park, continuing the wonderful symbiotic relationship between breweries, food trucks, and thirsty/hungry customers.
The rest of the smaller parking lot on the west side will serve as employee parking, freeing up the larger lot on the east side for customers. Parking can and always will be an issue at a number of Albuquerque-area breweries, but the hope is that the lot, when redrawn, will accommodate a full crowd for the taproom.
“Well, luckily here, we think we’ll be able to get, after he redraws it, upwards of 60 to 70 parking spaces,” Frank said.
The origins of Red Door were born out of friendship and a mutual desire to turn brewing from a hobby into an actual business.
“I’ve known Matt for years,” Wayne said. “I got into home brewing, like most people, maybe four or five years ago. I started taking it really seriously, built a (home brew) system, got really into that. That’s when I realized I didn’t want to do my job anymore. So I quit, got a job serving at Marble on the west side, then got into the back (at Marble downtown). It was pretty much late last year, beginning of this year, that I met Frank.”
Frank, who had plenty of experience managing bars and spent time working for a distribution company, had been carefully watching the growth of the local brewing scene.
“For like the past four years solidly I’ve really wanted to open a brewery, that’s been my dream,” Frank said. “I’ve talked to a couple people about opening it, things fell apart, but then I heard that these guys wanted to open a brewery.
“So Matt was in the process of running for City Council and he said, ‘We’ll talk about it right after my wedding. I’m interested, but after my wedding.’ So the day after his wedding I called him. I’m like, ‘So, you want to open a brewery?’ ”
Matt shook his head while the others laughed. “I’d hoped you’d wait a a little bit,” he said.
“You said right after your wedding,” Frank countered with a smile. “You could have been more specific, said give me a week.”
The project moved forward from there, with each member helping to fulfill a specific need for the brewery. Wayne and Rob will handle the brewing, Frank will manage the taproom, and Matt and Jeff will handle the business side.
The Red Door staff is not going to commit to a certain date for when they want to open, but they hope it will be sometime this summer. They are fully aware that even when the construction is done and the brewhouse is ready, there are still all the processes a brewery has to go through as far as state and city regulations and permits.
“Our opening day is like, uh, we want this (date), but we don’t really know,” Frank said. “It’s not all in our hands.”
In the end, beer is not something to be rushed, and thus neither should a brewery be rushed into opening. Red Door is taking a deliberate, methodical approach and that should benefit everyone in the long run. They have a building with plenty of space and potential. They have their brewing equipment. Now it’s just a matter of getting it all ready to go and getting all the licensing and permits in place. If it all comes together like they plan, Albuquerque will have another top-notch option to quench its thirst for quality craft beer.
Welcome to the NM brewing community, Red Door. I speak on behalf of the entire Crew when I say we look forward to the day in the near future when we unwind with a pint on the patio while watching one of those epic New Mexico sunsets.