A solid 2014 for Second Street now gives way to some interesting new projects in 2015

Posted: January 20, 2015 by Luke in Look Back/Look Ahead Series 2014-15
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We’re letting Luke play around with making our photos snazzier. Let us know what you think of them, dear readers.

Every year the Crew sits down with our local breweries, giving them a chance to take a look back at the year they’ve had and recap for you, beer fans, their wins, their loses, and the challenges they may have faced along the way. We also give them the opportunity to tell us what we should be looking forward to in the year to come. As the Santa Fe Correspondent, I’ve done my best to cover the four breweries in the Santa Fe area. Two of them have already posted. For my third installment, I had a beer with brewer Rod Tweet of Second Street Brewery.

Another Thursday, another brewery I think to myself as I slog through the cold wind toward my destination. As soon as I step inside, however, my day instantly gets better. That’s the magic of a local pub, isn’t it? A little warmth and a beer to wash away the memory of a particularly hard day. Tonight the pub is already packed with families and friends enjoying a good meal, and guys and gals out for a good brew or two. In one corner, there are children laughing and playing games, in another there’s a beer group in serious contemplation of the new German yeast strain (that’s right, I asked). I take a seat and order a big beer, the Trebuchet, an imperial IPA, something I’ve never seen on the menu before. One taste and I wonder where this has been all my life.

My interviewee, head brewer Rod Tweet, is still wrapping up a bit of top-secret brewery business with right-hand woman Colleen Sager and a fellow whose name is so familiar to me, it might as well be silk-screened on a T-shirt. It’s warm inside, the fire is lit, and my beer is as hoppy as any hophead could hope for. Again, I’m fast reminded of why I always love coming in, and why this is one of our fearless editor’s favorite venues when in Santa Fe. (True enough. — S) Off the record, I’ve been here long enough to know that it’s one of the best venues Santa Fe has to offer. That’s why there are two locations.

Rod joins me shortly. He’s sporting the plaid and the beard. Something in my head says, you can take the brewer out of Oregon, but you can’t take the Oregon out of the brewer. But I kid, Mr. Tweet. Immediately I think of some of the (few) things I know about Rod, about his originally coming from an engineering background as many brewers do, and how Sierra Nevada had changed his life on a camping trip in California all those years ago. And he’s probably the same guy to drink a beer with now as he was then. He’s got a very specific twinkle in his eye, the kind a man gets when he absolutely loves what he does. I only recognize it now, ever since I started writing for the Crew. But Rod’s one of the busiest men in the business, I tell people frequently. And respecting that, I jump right into the interview.

So this year Second Street turned 18. The brewery can legally vote, buy cigarettes, and fight for our country. How was Second Street’s year? What were some of the highlights of 2014?

We had a great year, actually. We were busy, and got our numbers up a little bit. We paid for the Railyard (location), which is five years old now. And we’re kinda looking at what we should do next now. But they’re on their feet. I mean, it’s a work in progress down there, so we’re still workin’ on it. But yeah, we had a great year, as far as business. No complaints.

No complaints. How about struggles or challenges? Any to note this year?

Let’s see. I don’t know. It always seems like such as struggle. (laughs) I think we just set an ambitious agenda for ourselves, for the restaurant and the brewery, and I wouldn’t say it was a struggle exactly, but everyone was working real hard, staying busy to keep everything where it should be. In the brewery, we were focusing on a lot of new quality projects, and also more yeast strains than we’ve ever used at one time in there, which has been awesome, and a lot of fun, but just adds to the brainwork of scheduling …

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Second Street began canning some of their beers for the first time in 2014.

Second Street also began doing some canning this year in a limited way with Mother Road Mobile Canning, which was not without its own set of technical challenges.

We had a lot to learn, getting beer into a can; getting it ready to package. It’s a lot different exercise than our normal brewpub process. So, we learned a lot, but that’s been great.

With Mother Road Mobile Canning, you canned the Boneshaker Bitter and the Pivotal IPA. I spoke with those guys earlier this year. How was it working with them?

It was really good. They’re a good outfit to work with. They’re real together, professional. They were actually pretty easy to work with. It was really just the logistics of us having 20 barrels of beer ready that can disappear from our taps, and getting it ready in a way that satisfies what they need to get it into their equipment. We also had to learn about getting the artwork ready for the can, and the shrinksleeves with another party. But, you know, it went pretty well. It’s been really well-received. We’ve got some good attention with it. We’re entertaining the possibility of introducing a third one.

That was my next question.

And we’re selling it all out of here. It’s a little more work, you know. But our customers like it, and it’s another alternative to a to-go package, in a way, except it has a shelf-life.

It’s a different animal than the growler.

Right, with the growler, you can have any beer you want. With the cans you can’t, but the cans have a longer shelf-life, and they’re a single-serving. So I think there’s a place for businesses our size to utilize canning in that way.

Now, this year was Cask and Curry’s first year. You Celebrated the one-year anniversary in November. How did those dinner events go?

They went real well. The kitchen did a great job. Chef Jason (Gleichman) did a great job getting the food presented for that. It’s a ton of work, for him, but they went great. You mentioned the Cask and Curry, which we do every month now. We spent last year getting better at that. If I may say so, I think the food offering now, the curries we’re doing, are really, really good. And, I’m not trying to do a commercial for ya, but it took us a while, and the casks are now consistent.

For those who don’t yet know, Second Street’s Cask and Curry is a special dinner, where, once a month, traditional Indian food is paired with a special beer on cask.

It’s all Indian, pretty traditional. Chef Jason comes up with the recipes. The casks have been coming out great now. It took a little while to get them coming out consistent. They’ve been great, though. Honestly, our focus for this coming year is to get the word out a little bit better about that. I think it’s really a quality, unique offering and we need to do a bit better job of communication on it. So, we’re definitely going to continue doing that. We’ve talked about adding one night down at the Railyard, but we’re not quite ready to do that.

I certainly look forward to getting out there for the event. This year you had yet another list of great beers beyond the usual line-up, including beers like the Chinook Imperial Porter, Pivotal IPA, Red Comet, Outlier Special Bitter, and the Quark, which I really liked.

Yeah, no. The Quark was great.

It was a good, fun, Berliner Weisse.

It’s challenging for the non-aficionado.

Definitely. So, out of all those, this year, which were some of your favorite recipes to develop and brew?

That’s a good question. Well, the Pivotal and the Fulcrum and the Trebuchet are part of a family.

The Trilogy, right?

That’s right. And John (Walker), who works with me in the brewery, those three have sort of been our baby.

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Second Street’s brewing team had a busy year in 2014.

Each one is almost one step up from the other.

That’s exactly what it is. We did the Pivotal, just because we wanted to showcase those hops.

And then Fulcrum was brewed for the IPA Challenge, right?

Yeah, the Fulcrum we really liked. And we thought, you know, we should really work this out a little bit more. It’s great, and it’s different. On paper they look almost the same, but they’re pretty different when you taste them. And we thought, this is so good (and) we don’t want them to go away. So we’re going to do Pivotal and Fulcrum, and we needed a third member. And that’s where Trebuchet comes in (the bigger, more floral imperial IPA). So roughly our plan is to, on an ongoing basis, rotate Pivotal and Fulcrum, and then get the Trebuchet in three or four times a year. So that’s been really fun and really satisfying this year.

We sort of ran wild with the hops this year. We bought anything that our heart desired, and put as much in the beer as we wanted, so that’s been really fun. There’s some other beers, too. The Boneshaker, I like that beer a lot, and it really got some support from the people.

And putting it in a can didn’t hurt.

Yeah, that helped, too. Also, let’s see, some of the big beers have been a lot of fun.

They’re typically bigger beers than you’ve done in the past, am I right or … ?

Well, we’ve always done them; I just think they’re better now. This year we just kept trying to roll things out, as I kept finding hops, like the Huell Melon Pilsner, that’s been really cool to try a brand new hop. It’s out of Germany. Cascade is one of its parents and it’s a really great lager hop, in my opinion. We also introduced another yeast strain that we’ve really run with. It’s kind of opened up things to us, too.

What sort of yeast strain?

It’s a dry-fermented British strain, a dry isolate of another strain. I’ve never worked with it before, but it’s awesome. You can get some good British character and it dries things out, which British yeasts don’t do. One of our other house strains is British, but it leaves a richer beer. I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of other beers we did this year.

I’m sure a lot of brewers out there would say that every beer they make is their favorite, but if you had to pick one, which beer was your favorite to brew this year?

Well, Fulcrum was one.

Cool. I like how it’s grown, how it’s evolving. It’s kind of your project that you’re continuing to work on.

Yeah, thanks, I’m glad you’re an appreciator. John and I put so much effort into those. Lots of meetings, and we’re really serious about it. We have some really good IPAs in the state. We really do. And I respect those beers. And John and I were thinking, you know, I want an IPA where I can have three of them without killing me off. And that’s where the Pivotal started. It’s bright. It’s really bright, bright citrus with a clean finish. So that’s the bright one. Fulcrum is like the darker, more brooding cousin of it, more depth, more of that lingering, interesting character, but still with that clean finish, more complexity. More of that long, deep, contemplative vibe. The Trebuchet is basically just amping it up to imperial. That’s the sipping version.

That’s why I’m still working on this one. Looking forward, is there any big news for the brewery in 2015?

Well, there are some things in the works. They’ve been in the works, for quite a while. We’ll probably be talking more about that in the near future.

Any tiny hints for our readers?

We may go into some limited amount of packaging. We’ll probably leave it at that, for now.

Fair enough! Okay, so an integral part of Second Street Brewery is the live music (for both locations). You had bands like Broomdust Caravan and Busy & the Crazy 88s, and singers like Eryn Bent, even Maxwell Hughes, formerly of the Lumineers played through there as well. As a major venue for live music in Santa Fe, what can locals expect to see in 2015? Any big names on the lineup?

Well, we only book a few months out. So, I guess I don’t have any long-term over-arching news on that yet, but you can definitely expect more of the same.

And so there’s live music pretty consistently on Fridays and Saturdays, right?

Right, and then we have an open mic on Tuesdays down at the Railyard, hosted by Ben Wright. It’s awesome. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Ben, but he’s one of the more accomplished and ambitious people in town here.

I’ve heard him around town a few times. And he hosts the events?

Yep.

And it’s Tuesdays?

That’s right.

Excellent. So, this year, Second Street Brewery partnered with the Santa Fe Conservation Trust to make the Boneshaker Bitter (where 25 cents of each can sold of the Boneshaker Bitter went to help protecting and maintaining public biking and hiking trails). And you had RescueFest back in September, benefiting Atalaya Search & Rescue. Does Second Street already have any plans to do anything like that this year?

So the Boneshaker Bitter is still ongoing. We’re probably two-thirds to our goal of 20,000 pints with that. So we’re getting close. And we did the Atalaya Alt Beer and the Search and Rescue event, we’ll most likely repeat that.

So maybe an annual RescueFest?

Yeah, we’ll most likely be doing that. And those kind of events are great. You really can’t go wrong with that sort of thing.

You get to support local businesses and help local charities. It’s a win/win.

Yeah, definitely. It’s part of our place in Santa Fe, and it’s what the people want.

Speaking of special events, Second Street hosted the first leg of the IPA Challenge this year. I’m sure those events bounce around breweries, but will Second Street be hosting any other beer-centric events in 2015?

There are a couple things we’re talking about. They aren’t really on the calendar yet. We’re just brainstorming right now. But yeah, you can expect some.

Does Second Street plan to participate in any of the brewfests around the state this year? I know you guys definitely do a few of them.

We do pretty much everything these days.

I assume you’ll be at WinterBrew?

Of course.

Note: Stoutmeister will have a full list of beers Second Street is bringing and it will run in his WinterBrew Preview on Thursday.

So, current trends in beer culture are barrel-aging and sours, do you plan to work with barrels or wild yeast strains this year?

Yeah, we did start, finally, barrel-aging last March. So it takes a little time.

Of course.

So we have actually started that, it just hasn’t bared any fruit yet, but we’ll probably be seeing that now in 2015. Well, we did the Preacher’s Share, which was in the Santa Fe Spirits Barrels, and that turned out great. We’ve got a small amount of that rat-holed back there, but not much of that is left. We have a sour red in apple-brandy barrels, also from Santa Fe Spirits, which should be mentioned if possible because they were nice enough to give us the barrels. And then we’ve also got a Strong Belgian Trappist in Dolchera Barrels from Vivac Winery.

They’re up by Dixon, right?

That’s right. And we’re actually brewing another Belgian beer with Bastogne, something dark that’s gonna get blended in with the barrel-aged Belgian. So we’re admittedly new at this whole barrel thing, but we’ve definitely got stuff in the works now. We decided, last year, that we were gonna get ourselves up to speed on that so, we’re getting there.

What about other beers in general? What are you excited to brew or tweak for 2015?

(At this point in the conversation, I hear a mother ask her son, “Warren, do you want Chicken Tenders?” He replied, “No, I want beer!”)

We’ve got five or six new things we’re working on. It might seem cliche, but I tend to be very hop-centric, too. I get pretty excited about finding out about and getting new, offbeat stuff. So, I’m always up for that. We’ve (had) a contract for quite a bit of Huell Melon and Mandarina Bavaria, so we’re gonna be workin’ more with that. And sometimes it’s taking something that we have, already, and really improving it, honestly. So we’ve been doing quite a bit of that sort of thing. And we have four house strains (of yeast) now, which is getting fairly common. We usually have a fifth around. We’ve always done quite a bit of variety, but we kind of started doing that last year, and you can expect more new stuff getting put together because we got all this to work with. You know, one thing I am looking forward to, though, is in February we do Ringwood beers. Nothin’s new about Ringwood, but I love that yeast. In February, we’ll be doing the Outlier (and) Halifax Strong Pale Ale. The Outlier is awesome. The Halifax needs a little … fine-tuning. And there’s the Winter-Warmer. And March, has always been stouts, but we may change that up a little bit.

Can’t wait for that Winter Warmer! Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to the readers and the NM beer drinking public?

Keep it up. We get good support from beer drinkers in New Mexico. Even though we have such a small population in our state, we have a lot of really good brewers that work here, and we have a lot of good beer here, and the more people that get out and take advantage of it, the better it is.

* * * * *

As long as I’ve lived in Santa Fe, three things have been true about Second Street Brewery: 1) every weekend it’s been a great venue for live music, 2) the pub fare has always been fresh and filling, and 3) Rod Tweet has always brewed what Rod Tweet’s wanted to brew. Those three things have been their recipe for success. 2014 was yet another example year where if you make a great, quality product, people will come out and buy it. It’s a good business model, really. In 2015, we can certainly expect more of the same great stuff that makes Second Street an easy choice, whether it’s just for an after-work attitude adjustment, or a hot sandwich and few live tunes. Those things won’t change. Why fix what ain’t broke? But as you’ve read, new and exciting projects are in the works, or in the barrels, as it turns out. And the new epic IPA trilogy will continue on as strong as ever. Those are all reasons enough to renew your membership to one of the most un-exclusive and unpretentious clubs in town. For locals and ‘locals for a day,’ Second Street is your place.

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There’s always something good on tap at Second Street.

Cheers!

— Luke

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Comments
  1. […] Second Street turned 18 in the year gone by. To celebrate, they put their first two beers in cans, Pivotal IPA and Boneshaker Bitter. They will be continuing with their barrel-aging program and should have some new beers out this year. […]

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