Los Alamos Beer Co-op hitting the home stretch

Posted: September 9, 2014 by reidrivenburgh in Interviews, News
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Greeting, beer-gazers! As the Los Alamos correspondent for the Dark Side Brew Crew, I don’t often have a lot of hometown news to write about. Los Alamos is kind of a sleepy little town out in the middle of the boonies, about 30 miles past your last shot at a locally-brewed beer. Well, changes are afoot to rectify that! Here in the smaller LA we now have a mega-Smith’s with a beer bar, but even more exciting, the Los Alamos Beer Co-operative (LABC) is aiming to open a brewery/taproom. I conducted an email interview with Micheline Devaurs, the president of the LABC and a long-time Los Alamos resident, to find out what’s going on.

(Disclaimer: I’ve been involved with the creation of the LABC since its very early days, and I also served with Micheline on its Board of Directors for a year.)

We borrowed this photo of the good folks at the Los Alamos Beer Co-op from their Facebook page. We don't think they'll mind.

We borrowed this photo of the good folks at the Los Alamos Beer Co-op from their Facebook page. We don’t think they’ll mind.

RR: What’s your background, and why did you want to create the LABC?

MD: I wanted to contribute to making our community a better place to live, and my passion is having a place where young people can work/live/play. I also wanted to have a gathering place where folks of all ages could meet and gather and hang out in the center of town. It’s all about building community and doing a small part to make our town a better place to live/work/play. And great craft beer is a way to help make this happen … plus there’s outdoor space (beer garden) and a park across the way.

Having lived here 30 years, I felt it was time I worked hard to make this happen.

RR: It seems like there’s a new brewery/brewpub opening every week these days in New Mexico. What’s your experience been like getting one off the ground?

MD: There are many new breweries sprouting up in NM, especially in Albuquerque. However, in Los Alamos, there is not yet a single craft brewery — we hope to be the first and on a cooperative business model. Our experience has been great. One does have to educate themselves about the process. However, the state was very helpful with regards to the state permitting. The federal TTB process online is a bit more complicated — we are working that now.

The experience of getting off the ground is all about making folks aware of what we are trying to do, and explaining our business model. It is a slow process of getting the word out and building community.

RR: Why did you decide to go with the co-operative business model? How does it work, and how will it affect the operation of the place?

MD: When I started, I didn’t know anything about business, so a cooperative model where those who join influence what we become seemed like a logical model. Also, it seemed exciting to be the first craft brewery on such a model in NM, particularly after the success of the cooperative markets in NM.

RR: Many of our readers are in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque areas. Most probably don’t know much about Los Alamos, aside from it being the home of that National Lab thing. How would you describe the town? Will a brewery/tap room work there?

MD: Los Alamos is a great secret if you like outdoor activities such as hiking or biking. There are a lot of trails, not a whole lot of people and all kinds of options, including Bandelier National Monument and the Valles Caldera. So check it out … and after you exercise, in a few months time hopefully there will be a craft brewery to go to to have a beer after your workout. We think a brewery will work because there aren’t many places to go and hang out in town — we need some!

The Los Alamos Beer Co-op will use Bosque's old brewing system, which they purchased earlier this year.

The Los Alamos Beer Co-op will use Bosque’s old brewing system, which they purchased earlier this year.

RR: This being a beer blog, we’re curious about your brewing facilities and the kinds of beers you envision creating. Related to that, have you hired a brewer?

MD: We have purchased a 3.5-bbl brewing system from Bosque Brewing as they move to a larger system. We plan on having ales and lagers, and also brewed root beer and wine (to meet that goal of being a gathering place in as many ways as possible). We are focused on getting a license (both state and federal) at this time (since we do have space and equipment). Next comes hiring a professional brewer. A good brewer and great consistent beer is KEY to our success. As I travel, I am struck that good, consistent beer is key to a good brewery (along with a comfortable, inviting space). We hope to have the same thing.

RR: Do you plan to bottle/can any of your beers or make them available “off the hill”?

MD: We plan to sell growlers at our location for folks to buy and take home. We also will have a distributor’s license so we can sell kegs to various restaurants/breweries in northern NM. We may partake in bottling, but NOT initially (takes different licenses than we are applying for to start).

RR: You recently announced the location of your tap room, a former bar in town. How are the renovations going and when do you expect it to open? Will there be food available there?

MD: We are working in partnership with the landlord to renovate the space. This is a great example of re-purposing space in the downtown and a landlord investing to make it happen. The space has been gutted to the walls, with the exception of the fireplace. Simplistically, we are responsible for redoing the inside and the landlord will redo the outside — the roof, handicapped ramp, covered portale in front, windows, and stucco/insulation. We are, as we speak, working the details of who is paying for what and who is doing what. We hope to apply for one permit for both interior and exterior renovations (from the city of Los Alamos) and get started on remodeling just as soon as the city/county approve that permit. The long lead time items are both the licenses (state and federal) and getting the space ready for our use.

We don’t plan to serve food; however there are several restaurants nearby (and one right next door) from which folks can purchase food.

The co-op projects to open early in 2015.

The co-op hopes to open early in 2015.

RR: Where can our readers go for more information or to join?

MD: Check out our website or send questions to info@losalamosbeer.coop. We welcome your support and interest and questions.

You can also find us at upcoming local events: Ullr Fest at the Pajarito ski hill on Sept. 20 (always a very popular event); a Science Fest Beer garden on Saturday; our Critical Mash homebrewer competition on Saturday and Sunday; and on Sept. 26, we’ll be hosting an event that will feature a band and Taos Mesa brewery outside of our new space. And finally, in October we’re going to be promoting a membership drive, in which current members will get awards for getting new members to join.  (Author’s note: Stay tuned for upcoming posts about a few of these events!)

* * * *

Our thanks to Micheline for taking the time to inform all of our readers about the LABC.  If you haven’t been to Los Alamos before, 2015 will be a great time to do it! Stay tuned for additional updates, including a post about the grand opening early next year.

Cheers!

— Reid

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