Bosque has no plans to slow down in 2015 even after a wild 2014

Posted: December 16, 2014 by cjax33 in Look Back/Look Ahead Series 2014-15
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Greetings everyone, Stoutmeister here with the third post in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2014-15. Our La Cumbre story ran last week and our Kaktus story debuted Monday. As the year draws to a close, rather than just write up a single summary review of the last 12 months in beer, I decided to take what free time I have and go talk in person to breweries in the ABQ area to get their thoughts on both the year that was and the year to come. I’m not going to put up any sort of schedule for this series, and it will likely extend beyond December and into January with other Crew members chipping in as well.

It has been a big year for Bosque Brewing and they are only just getting started.

It has been a big year for Bosque Brewing and they are only just getting started.

To say that it has been a busy year over at Bosque Brewing Co. would be an understatement. The little brewery on Albuquerque’s north side has expanded in more ways than one. They hired award-winning brewer John Bullard from Blue Corn, bought a whole new set of brewing equipment that was installed in the space next door to their taproom, began selling their beer at bars and restaurants, and oh, yeah, they opened two new taprooms. Well, technically only the Las Cruces taproom is open right now, but Nob Hill, through fits and starts, is closer than ever to opening as well.

In order to recap all of this madness, during which they have produced some amazing beers and picked up a certain IPA trophy and their first GABF medal, I sat down with co-owner Gabe Jensen and John Bullard.

Bosque's first bottle release is set for Wednesday at the brewery and at Jubilation. (Photo courtesy of Bosque's Facebook page)

Bosque’s first bottle release is set for Wednesday at the brewery and at Jubilation. (Photo courtesy of Bosque’s Facebook page)

First up, there will be a little party Wednesday night. Bosque is releasing their first bottled beer, Scotia Limited, which is their uber-popular Scotia Scotch Ale aged in bourbon barrels provided by Jubilation Wine & Spirits. Bottle sales will commence at 5 p.m. and then at 5:30 there will be live music by The Real Matt Jones. You can also take tours of the brewery and potentially snag some additional samples of some unreleased and rare specialty beers. While not confirmed, it could be the first opportunity to try Jet Black Winter, a Russian imperial stout on nitro (!), as well as Whirlpool Lager, an American pale ale with 55 pounds of Mosaic hops added at the whirlpool phase of brewing and using a lager yeast to create both a hoppy and malty flavor combination with an amazing aroma, John said. Bottles of Scotia Limited will also be on sale at Jubilation, but there are not many available, so get them quick.

This release party caps a banner year for Bosque, though it was hard work to get to this point.

Bosque's brewing staff poses with the IPA Challenge trophy back in July. From left, head brewer John Bullard, assistant brewers Ira Strain-Bey and Ryan Jameson, and founding brewer Gabe Jensen.

Bosque’s brewing staff poses with the IPA Challenge trophy back in July. From left, head brewer John Bullard, assistant brewers Ira Strain-Bey and Ryan Jameson, and founding brewer Gabe Jensen.

“Is it over yet?” Gabe asked with a tired smile. “It’s stretched me as a person, as a owner, as an operator … but it’s been good, it’s definitely been good. Just when you think that you understand delays and hopes and dreams dashed, then you see them in another light. Oh, man, it can get worse. Awesome. But then at the same time as we see Las Cruces is actually open. It really does happen eventually. That’s encouragement for the Nob Hill site.”

Gabe and the rest of the Bosque staff have tried to focus on the positives.

“The ups have been really high — Las Cruces (and) a bronze medal at GABF is probably the highlight of our year, I would say,” Gabe added. “(Winning) the IPA Challenge was awesome. Both of those were pretty big.

“The downs, man, the delays. It’s a weird thing to be so high and also have this thing just out of your grasp. It’s kind of like, have you ever dropped a piece of paper out of your car and the wind catches it as you’re running after it? That’s what it reminds me of.”

The still unopened Bosque Taproom in Nob Hill, located near Central and Girard.

The still unopened Bosque Taproom in Nob Hill, located near Central and Girard.

The most common delays breweries can face in opening new locations are usually tied to issues with government or even just the neighborhoods they operate in. That has not been the case in Nob Hill.

“I wish I could explain it,” Gabe said. “There’s no way to even explain what has happened over there so I’m not going to try. I will say it was not the neighborhood association and it was not licensing. It was all having more to do with the building and construction and things falling through and changing. Any time you have to start over it takes longer.”

While Nob Hill has been a point of frustration, Bosque’s Las Cruces taproom came together fairly quickly and is now open for business.

“Las Cruces, though, we opened on Friday,” Gabe said. “We had a nice, nice crowd for opening day. All we did was post on Facebook saying we’re open tomorrow. We sold a little over 500 pints on our first day. The next couple of days have been solid. You know us, we don’t do a lot of craziness. That’s what we’ll do in Nob Hill, too. One day we’ll be like, hey, we’re open.”

John Bullard atop his throne, also known as a brewhouse.

John Bullard atop his throne, also known as a brewhouse.

All of this expansion would not have been possible without luring John down from Blue Corn, where he had already claimed the IPA Challenge trophy in 2013, followed by two silver medals at the Great American Beer Festival that fall.

“The cool thing about John is not only is he an amazing brewer, we know that and a young one at that so what upside does he have? Oh, man, I’m excited. He fits in here at Bosque. He’s already oozing Bosque culture and assimilating him in as a person was not hard.

“It’s kind of a weird thing, Bosque 2.0 as we called it, it feels like he’s been here forever. There’s been so much change back there that it’s hard to even remember where we came from, where we were at. This is us now and I’ve been looking forward so much it’s hard to look back. I did a little bit when we were helping the (Los Alamos Beer) Co-op load the (old brewing equipment) up. They picked it up a month ago. We had to get it out of the empty space over there because we’re taking it over.”

John agreed that it has been a rewarding experience moving from Blue Corn to Bosque.

Gabe Jensen rocks the awesome Scotia Scotch X-Men-style shirt in the brewery.

Gabe Jensen rocks the awesome Scotia Scotch X-Men-style shirt in the brewery.

“It’s been awesome, amazing,” John said. “We’ve come a long ways just since I’ve been here. We’ve got our first bottled offering and that’s my very first bottle, that’s awesome. It feels really, really good. We’ve got Las Cruces open and Nob Hill right around the corner.

“It’s been so easy to get along with these guys and work side-by-side with all of them. It’s really easy for all of us to understand what Bosque is and what Bosque’s about. It’s such a straight-forward image and feeling for all of us. It’s a good thing.”

The positive buzz around Bosque beers has only continued to increase, which is always music to a brewer’s ears.

“Sales have continued to climb,” John said. “All of the internet reviews keep going up. Everything keeps increasing. I think people are happier and happier with the beers.”

All of that has come despite the adjustments that John and his assistant brewers have had to deal with on their massive new brewhouse and setup.

“With this new system, we’ve had kinks,” John said. “That’s just part of building a bigger brewery and learning how things work, dealing with equipment malfunctions and stuff. We’re understanding the entire brewery setup.”

The Bosque staff poses with their bronze medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. (Photo courtesy of Bosque)

The Bosque staff poses with their bronze medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. (Photo courtesy of Bosque)

Working around those kinks, John was able to win the IPA Challenge again this year while also snagging Bosque’s first GABF medal, a bronze in the Fresh or Wet Hop Style for Acequia IPA.

“We were up there with some really good names (at GABF),” John said. “To be up there with (Barley Brown’s Brew Pub’s) Pallet Jack, that means a lot. That guy has in multiple competitions has beaten me out. To be in the top three with him feels really good.”

As for the IPA Challenge trophy, which sits prominently on the bar top at Bosque, John said keeping it for another year will be quite the, ahem, challenge.

“We’re going to lose that sooner or later,” he said. “There’s so many breweries coming in and really making great beers, too. That’s a really fun competition. I enjoy that competition. Chama got close this year. Marble really made a presence. (La Cumbre’s Jeff) Erway makes something specific, that will always be trouble.”

Bosque's Las Cruces taproom is open and already filled with thirsty patrons. (Photo courtesy of Bosque)

Bosque’s Las Cruces taproom is open and already filled with thirsty patrons. (Photo courtesy of Bosque)

Slow it down and then rev it back up again in 2015

The biggest initial challenge in 2015 for the entire Bosque staff will be adjusting to now having to produce enough beer to keep the two new taprooms humming.

“We hope to have Nob Hill open before 2015,” Gabe said. “We’re doing everything we can to do that. We’re just trying, trying, trying. We’re getting up against the holidays.

“I hope to take a break from expansion for at least a month and then go at it again. We’re going to get our bottling machine, not a line, but a little four-headed bomber. We’ve still got plans on canning but we’ve got to see what these taprooms are going to do. Our capacity is what, 90 to 100 barrels a week right now. That’s about 5,200 barrels a year. All of a sudden we go from this taproom, which is not in the greatest location in the world, to having two taprooms across from universities. I’m guessing we’re going to sell more beer there than here.”

John said he has been prepping for that for a while now.

Awesome brews like Prospect Milk Stout have us in the Crew excited about else John Bullard has planned for 2015.

Awesome brews like Prospector Milk Stout have us in the Crew excited about else John Bullard has planned for 2015.

“We’ve planned to more than double production to keep up with everything that’s opening with Las Cruces and Nob Hill,” John said. “So that’s huge. With the new sales guy on our team, he’s going to start moving in January, really start to push our distribution. Really keeping up with production is going to be the focus for the next couple months.”

In addition to a new sales rep for Bosque, John said they may add a fourth member to the brewing team.

“With production doubling we’ll probably have to add someone,” he said. “Just to clean and fill kegs alone is nearly going to be a full-time position, I think.”

While bracing for the production increase is at the top of the to-do list, John is still planning on keeping things fun and innovative with the seasonal/specialty beer list.

“I can’t wait to start playing with some different yeast strains,” he said. “That’s something Bosque hasn’t done a whole lot of, that’s something I haven’t done a whole lot of. That’s going to be a good opportunity to offer more unique beers, different twists on some traditional beers. We’re really hoping to push some more barrel aging. We’re just going to do everything.”

Two new beers due out in January will be a white pilsner and a black pilsner, two extremely rare styles that should keep beer lovers on their toes.

Bosque has come a long way since the Crew took a tour even before the first pint was brewed.

Bosque has come a long way since the Crew took a tour even before the first pint was brewed.

All of that beer love is showing not only among locals but from around the country. John said he could not be happier to see Albuquerque ranking among the top beer cities nationally, but it is a ranking the city’s breweries will have to fight to maintain.

“It excites me to think we’re getting national recognition that’s being produced out of this city,” he said. “But on top of that, the new places that are opening I hope that they can maintain this quality that so many of the brewers in New Mexico have worked to establish. There’s a lot of places opening. We just hope that they can open with good beers.

“I think that’s going to continue with the more breweries we have, the more craft beer that’s being consumed, that’s more education for the consumer. They’re becoming more and more educated with what good beer is.”

With a little luck and a lot of hard work, Bosque should continue to be at the forefront of the local beer scene. Even if they slow it down for a moment, do not expect that to last for long.

“We’re not going to take a break, but we’re going to take our foot off the gas a little bit at the beginning of the year,” Gabe said. “But I get bored really quick so don’t be surprised if we make more announcements soon.”

Thanks to Gabe and John for taking time out of their days to chat, and thanks to every member of the Bosque staff for all of their hard work and hospitality this year. All of us in the Crew are looking forward to what 2015 has in store.

And yeah, we plan to be among the first to enjoy a pint at Nob Hill. It will open. We have faith.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Comments
  1. LarryB says:

    Nice review of Bosque Brewing. I enjoy reading your information on the ABQ and NM craft breweries. Good job Stoutmeister.

  2. […] Bosque has no plans to slow down in 2015 even after a wild 2014 […]

  3. […] post in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2014-15. Our La Cumbre story, Kaktus story, and our Bosque story have already appeared. As the year draws to a close, rather than just write up a single summary […]

  4. […] the fifth post in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2014-15. Our La Cumbre story, Kaktus story, Bosque story, and our Ponderosa story have already appeared. As the year draws to a close, rather than just write […]

  5. […] the seventh post in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2014-15. Our La Cumbre story, Kaktus story, Bosque story, Ponderosa story, Tractor story, and Santa Fe story have already appeared. As the year draws to a […]

  6. […] the ninth post in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2014-15. Our La Cumbre story, Kaktus story, Bosque story, Ponderosa story, Tractor story, Santa Fe story, Boxing Bear story, and Blue Corn story have already […]

  7. […] Bosque Brewing had an incredibly busy 2014, hiring brewer John Bullard and opening not one but two taprooms (OK, technically the Public House in Nob Hill opened in January, but the vast majority of the work was done in the months before that). They also won the IPA Challenge and brought home a bronze medal from GABF. Once things settle in with the taprooms, expect more big news to surface. […]

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