Yeah, we know, the Crew has been pretty quiet in the month of June. Our various jobs and/or families have taken precedence of late, so we’ve been away from our computers as far as writing about beer goes (I’ve been personally writing way too many variations of “the Isotopes lost tonight because …”).
Well, no more. It’s time to get back out there and get you, fair readers, some of the beer news you need to know about. With that in mind, I hit the road to check on the progress at two of our new breweries this week. First up was Red Door Brewing on Tuesday afternoon, followed by a stop at Nicky V’s to try Pi Brewing’s first five beers on Wednesday.
Beyond that, as always we are still looking for news and contact info for all the other breweries being planned around the Albuquerque metro area. If you know anyone connected to these various future establishments, pass along our contact info (Facebook, Twitter @nmdarksidebc, email@example.com) so we can get in touch with them.
On to the news of the week …
Red Door has the finish, er, starting line in sight
The team over at Red Door Brewing has experienced their fair share of ups and downs as they progress toward an anticipated opening date some time in August. They have made advances since my last visit, but other issues still remain.
On the down side, they were the victims of a robbery as copper thieves stole all they could, plus some stainless steel clamps, and (this one will blow your mind) Red Door’s 2,000-pound glycol chiller. How anyone could steal a one-ton object in the middle of the night, I have no idea.
Despite that obvious setback, things are moving forward. The taproom space has been largely cleared out and is ready for construction to begin on the bar area. One hurdle Red Door ran into was discovering that if they opened the entire available space to patrons, they would have to install an expensive sprinkler system, which would require a new water line leading out to the street. That was not in the budget, so instead they will erect temporary walls and turn part of the taproom area into a storage area. There will still be a long bar along the south wall and a patio out to the west, with a fair amount of seating still available when compared to other breweries.
The brewery itself is in good shape. Most of the equipment is ready to go. Glycol lines are in place above the fermenters and serving tanks.
Brewer/co-owner Wayne Martinez summed up the rest.
“In order of priority we’re getting the brewhouse plumbed for gas and water, getting our hot water heater set up for the brewery for use in cleaning. Once that’s all done they’ll then move on to getting the walk-in cooler set up. So refrigerant pumped in, getting that done. Those are the priorities so we can start brewing.
“Then we’ll move to the tap room, putting up false walls, running water and drainage lines for the three-compartment sink. After that we’ll focus on the patio. Then we should be in a decent place to actually consider opening. The hope is still August. We have to fast-track our architectural designs for building permits. They’re going to find something, they always do, it’s just the way things work. So hopefully we can have revisions made pretty quickily, get what we want, get all of that actually started here pretty quickly. That’s the plan so far. We’re still hoping for August, even if it’s mid-August, August is the goal, it doesn’t matter if it’s beginning or end.”
“We’re definitely on the downhill (slope). We’re on the last leg and it’s only going to get busier from here. We’re expecting that. We knew this was going to happen. We kind of hoped it would be a little bit easier, there would be a little more time, but definitely this last month, July is going to be nuts.”
Good luck to everyone over at Red Door as they head into the final stretch. I volunteered the Crew to be their first taste-testing group when the beer is brewed and ready to go. Yeah, it was tough to get the rest of the guys (and Mrs. Solo) to agree to that.
Pi Brewing serves up its first offerings next door
Meanwhile, over on the west side, Pi Brewing has its beer ready to go, but must pass the final inspections before it can open. Darn, right? Except, as we explained during our first visit, Pi is owned by the same people as Nicky V’s Pizzeria, which is right next door. So, as luck would have it, they can serve the first five Pi beers at the restaurant. Once the brewery is open to the public expect more beers, but for now, they’ve got things started.
Like most first-time breweries, Pi’s initial beers all came out a little light in mouthfeel. It’s something that happens, and generally the best places are able to make the appropriate adjustments so that their beer feels like, well, beer. Still, as far as the flavor goes, each of Pi’s beers are off to good starts.
First up on the wheel of beer was the Apricot Wheat (4.9% ABV, 20 IBU). My first sip was all wheat and no apricot, but as the beer warmed ever so slightly, the wheat taste dropped away and the apricot went up, but never reached overly sweet proportions. This will probably always be a lighter, summery beer. Not usually my cup of proverbial tea, but it seemed to find the right balance between the wheat and the apricot for those that like such beers.
The English Summer Ale (5.6% ABV, 30 IBU) was reminiscent of the many varieties of English-style bitters you can get up at Second Street, only purposely brewed lighter. It’s a mild yet malty little beer, not too sweet but just sweet enough. You could probably give this to someone that doesn’t like copper-colored beers and they would be just fine with it.
The beer I was undecided on was the Hoppy Red (6.4% ABV, 60 IBU). It has a mix of Warrior, Centennial, Chinook, and other hops. It’s bitter up front, though oddly that does not produce much of a bite. There are malts on the finish and these become more prominent as the beer warms. It’s not on the same level of hoppy reds like Marble, but it doesn’t have to be.
As for the IPA (6.8% ABV, 90 IBU), there is some potential here. Blessed with the many C hops (Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Columbus), plus a strong malt bill, it offers up a nice amount of balance. I suggested they up the dry hopping to give it more of an inviting nose. I think once the body of the beer is strengthened, the hops will shine through even more. The malts give you a little tinge of vanilla sweetness on the back end, which I personally don’t mind.
Finally, the Vanilla Porter (6.5% ABV, 35 IBU) was the beer most in need of a stronger body. Though I could pick up on the vanilla for sure, it ended up a lot closer to Durango Dark Lager than a traditional porter. That’s not a bad thing, since I do enjoy a DDL, especially in the summer. But to truly call it a porter it needs to be a little heavier.
Overall, for a brewery’s first batch of beers, there is promise here. Take a few more batches to perfect their craft and I have a feeling that Pi will be brewing up some tasty brews for thirsty West Siders.
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I’m going to take a two-day trip out of town to check out the bustling brewing scene four hours west of here in Flagstaff (and clear my head for a short while, I need a break from ABQ). Look for a quick summation of the best breweries and beers to try the next time you’re in Northern Arizona.
After that, hopefully I will see many of you at the Yards Craft Beer Premier on Saturday afternoon. Assuming I get enough info from the 19 participating breweries, I will have a preview of what to expect on Friday.
And yes, I also visited Boxing Bear Brewing on Friday and got a tour of the still-under-construction facility from brewer Justin Hamilton. Look for that full-fledged story next week (they’re not opening until mid-July, so as Justin told me, I’ve got time). We’ll also have the revamped Week Ahead in Beer and more to come.