Second Street brews up plenty of new beer goodness

Posted: April 29, 2014 by cjax33 in Beer in Santa Fe, Brewery Reviews, Interviews, News

Lately the Crew has been writing a lot on all the new brewers and new breweries in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. That does not mean that the news has stopped with many of our old favorites. The folks at Second Street Brewery up in Santa Fe contacted us about all the wonderful things that brewer Rod Tweet has been working on of late, so without hesitation I hopped in the car and drove on up this weekend.

Since the rest of the Crew were either working, playing music, or catching up on a month’s worth of missed sleep, my friend Erin tagged along as an honorary Crew member. She is from Albuquerque, but now lives down in Australia, where craft beer is hard to find. Even imported craft beer carries a ridiculous price tag (wrap your brain around $22 for a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale). So needless to say, whenever she gets to visit, we inevitably end up at a brewery somewhere so she can remind herself of what good beer tastes like.

So what does Rod have in store for all of us?

Brewer Rod Tweet pours a small sample of Flemish Red from the barrels inside Second Street Brewery.

Brewer Rod Tweet pours a small sample of Flemish Red from the barrels inside Second Street Brewery.

Barrel aged beers

The wonderful barrel aging trend has not skipped Second Street. All told there are currently eight barrels full of two kinds of beer aging within the brewery. The two biggest barrels contain the beer I’ll be excited to try when it’s ready.

“We started barrel-aging over the winter,” Rod said. “We’ve got imperial stout going in these. These are mesquite-smoked whiskey barrels from Santa Fe Spirits. So they’ve been in there in February. They’re coming along.”

Rod gave us a small sample each of the imperial stout. It’s far from being ready, but you can already pick up on the smoky, roasted character of the mesquite in addition to the stout and whiskey flavors. This will be quite the beer when it’s ready.

“We actually put a five-gallon (batch) of this on for St. Patty’s Day, which was pretty way young,” Rod said. “It wasn’t bad, actually. At that point it was really smoky. They make this whiskey with the mesquite-smoked malt. This is called the Preacher’s Share Stout.”

The other, smaller six barrels are aging a Flemish red sour. We tried a little of it as well, and much like the stout, it’s far from being ready. Right now it’s only mildly sour, and this is coming from someone who usually doesn’t drink that style. So I found it rather drinkable. But when the bretts and lacto do their job, I’m sure it’ll be the kind of beer that the ABQ Craft Beer Drinkers will come up to try. (That wild and crazy bunch sure loves their sours.)

“We don’t have a lot of space in here for barrels, so that’s why we’re new to it,” Rod said. “We just kind of keep finding more (space), somehow, just like everybody else. But it gets harder and harder.”

Stoutmeister did not take a picture of the new Pivotal IPA, but Erin did take this pic of Rod pouring the Preacher's Share Imperial Stout.

Stoutmeister did not take a picture of the new Pivotal IPA, but Erin did take this pic of Rod pouring the Preacher’s Share Imperial Stout.

A second house IPA

Rod poured us each a pint of Pivotal IPA, which has just gone on tap at Second Street as a permanent addition to the beer lineup. Second Street’s regular IPA will still be around — it is still one of their two most popular beers along with the Kolsch — but Rod and his staff decided they were overdue to add a more modern take on the style, one that could stand up in the IPA Challenge and other competitions. Of course, dreaming up a new IPA and then getting it just right was not the easiest of tasks.

“We made two batches of it … and then we did three trials off it,” Rod said. “So we did like a ton of different dry-hopping trials, different (hop) combinations, different dry-hopping temperatures and times, we did different yeast trials on it. It is getting to where it’s just about there.”

Pivotal relies on a blend of newer hops than the regular IPA. The Mosaic was the most prominent to me, though the Chinook was quite present as well. Pivotal has plenty of bold flavor, but is not overly bitter. The aroma is quite piney, mainly from the Mosaic and Chinook. It has a smooth, malty finish with just a hint of sweetness on the back end. Erin, who is quite the fan of New Mexican IPAs, gave it a thumbs up. (The IPAs in Australia are by and large done in the English style, which is far less hoppy.)

“This state has some really good IPAs, too; (La Cumbre’s) Elevated is great, he does an excellent job on that,” Rod said. “But some of the IPAs I like a lot, I couldn’t even drink during the day, they’re over eight percent (ABV). You can have a hop bomb without having to take a nap afterward.”

Pivotal, for the record, checks in at 6.9-percent ABV, just a tick below the more standard 7 percent that has become the norm for IPAs in our state.

Two experimental hop beers and one special new bitter are aging in these fermenters.

Two experimental hop beers and one special new bitter are aging in these fermenters.

Experimental hop beers

There are so many new hops out there for brewers to use, it’s turning everyone into mad scientists, in a way. Rod even told us the Germans, those grand guardians of tradition, are importing Cascade hops from the U.S. and creating their own unique beers.

In the meantime, new German hops are making their way to America, and Second Street is among the first in New Mexico to acquire some of these. One of these hops, the Huell Melon, is being used in a traditional, German-style beer.

“It’s supposed to have the character of melon, strawberry, gooseberry,” Rod said. “So we did a German-style pilsner with it, German malts. We’re interested to see how that turns out. If it works out, we might contract more of it.”

The other hop is Hallertau Blanc, which despite the name is American-grown.

“It’s a Cascade-derived experimental,” Rod said. “The description of it is it is a fruit-bomb hop, like Amarillo. I did a single-hop, or almost single-hop, batch of pale ale.”

Beyond those two experimental hop beers, there was also another creatively named new beer fermenting. Prepare yourselves for Boneshaker Bitter.

“That’s for our Bike & Brew event coming up (May 16-18),” Rod said. “A friend of mine came up with that name. Boneshakers were bikes from the early 1900s with hard tires on them. It was a pretty rough ride on those. I love doing bitters.”

They make the most of the space available inside Second Street, which at least has high ceilings.

They make the most of the space available inside Second Street, which at least has high ceilings in the brewery.

Gluten-removed beers

Whether for important health reasons or just by choice to live healthier, many people across America and the world are choosing to live gluten-free. Slowly but surely the brewing industry has begun to catch up, offering what are at the very least defined as gluten-removed beers. Essentially gluten-removed is defined as anything under 20 parts-per-million, and there is a new brewing process that is enabling even smaller establishments to make beers with such low amounts of gluten, while retaining the beer’s original flavor.

Second Street, so far, has managed to accomplish this with its two best-selling beers, the IPA and Kolsch. But how exactly does it work? Rod gave us a science lesson.

“Traditionally the way to have a gluten-free beer is to have an ingredient that has no gluten in it,” he explained. “You could use some experimental sorghum or something like that. So this method is around, it’s not around a lot. It’s nothing we came up with. Have you heard of Omission? They’re fairly good sized, run by a brewers co-op up in the (Pacific) Northwest. They started doing it. What it is, there’s an enzyme made by a company in Holland that was developed 20 years ago as a chill haze. They inadvertently discovered if you double up the dose it denatures gluten in beer. So it’s an enzyme, a protein, it’s almost mechanical and it goes in there and chops up the gluten and turns it into something else. So that’s basically how it works. You (add) it in fermentation.”

The decision to go down this road was not an easy one for Second Street.

“We’re really careful about not saying gluten-free,” Rod said. “I was actually kind of nervous about this whole thing. We spent about three months doing experiments. We did a bunch of batches and sent them to the lab in California and tested them. They were coming back at eight or ten parts-per-million. So it’s not gluten-free, but a normal beer might be about 300 parts-per-million or something like that. We’re sending in every batch to get tested. I’ve got paperwork on them. It’s having no impact on the flavor.”

This method is also more cost-effective and takes less time, two major points for any smaller brewery.

“For me to do a gluten-free beer the old way, I’m going to have a batch of beer that’s going to take a long time to move out,” Rod said. “There are some people around who have done one. I don’t know anyone that’s converting flagship beers. IPA and Kolsch are our biggest sellers, so for the sake of efficiency, I wanted to give that a try.

“So far it’s been OK, I was a little bit nervous about backlash, like we have some regulars here who never want change. But it’s so far been pretty well received. In Santa Fe there’s a decent-sized market for it.”

Rod said he is considering doing another beer gluten-removed, something in between the Kolsch and the IPA on the beer spectrum, but has not yet picked one.

In summary

Second Street has long been a Brew Crew favorite, and these new developments are just making us more excited for their future. While all the new places and new faces in new places can be fun, our most reliable establishments are still the backbone of the New Mexico brewing scene. Rod has proven himself over and over to be one of our best brewers — I had another pint of his GABF gold-medal-winning Steam Bitter while we chatted — and his creativity and enthusiasm have not diminished at all over the years. Whether it is playing with new hops or new malts or new yeasts, or giving us all gluten-removed beers that still taste like their original versions, Second Street is still one of the best places to grab a pint or two in New Mexico.

* * * * *

A big thanks to Rod for taking time out of his busy day to talk to us. And for the free lunch, too, it was awesome. (Seriously, order the Chicken Schnitzel with a pint of Kolsch and sit out on the patio once this wind is gone; it’s the closest-to-Germany experience you can get in New Mexico.) And a bonus thanks to Gaby for setting all of this up, plus always keeping us updated on the latest beers and news from Second Street. (E-Rock certainly appreciates her help for The Week Ahead in Beer.)

I am going to try to light a fire under the rest of the Crew to get out there and write more in the next two weeks, since I have to cover Isotopes games for 12 straight days. My beer time will be fairly limited, though if there is news, I will do my best to get to it during the daytime. Once that is all over and done with we will begin cranking out our ABQ Beer Week stories. And while I’m thinking of Beer Week, let us all congratulate its wonderful organizer, Marne Gaston, on the birth of her daughter last week!

Off to baseball I go. Enjoy your pints indoors or head out to one of the ballgames once this stupid wind is gone. I promise I’ll have a beer guide to Isotopes Park posted this homestand.


— Stoutmeister

  1. […] Second Street brews up plenty of new beer goodness […]

  2. […] only to leave you wanting more. Even Stoutmeister recommends this since he got to have a pint while interviewing brewer Rod Tweet […]

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