Canteen looks to follow a year of change with a year of growth in 2015

Posted: January 20, 2015 by cjax33 in Look Back/Look Ahead Series 2014-15
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Greetings everyone, Stoutmeister here with the 14th post in our Look Back/Look Ahead series for 2014-15. Normally I would list the previous entries, but that’s starting to chew up space, so just go ahead and click on the category link above in the byline and you will find everything we’ve written so far in this series. We hope to get the remaining entries published by the end of January.

Changing the name from Il Vicino to Canteen was the most noticeable change in 2014.

Changing the name from Il Vicino to Canteen was the most noticeable change in 2014.

This time around I went over to Canteen Brewhouse on Monday to talk about how their last year went and what they have in store for us this year. Head brewer Brady McKeown was busy with helping in the two-week renovations over at Il Vicino Nob Hill, so general manager Ror and the always chatty brewer Doug stepped in for a change.

The biggest change this year for Canteen was, well, calling themselves Canteen. After being the Il Vicino Brewery Canteen for a few years, the brewery in effect separated itself from the restaurant. It mostly has to do with certain licensing issues in New Mexico, as the brewery could not distribute their beers anywhere but the IV restaurants (something the Brewers Guild is hoping to change via the State Legislature this year). Overall, it was a fairly smooth transition, Doug said, with a few exceptions.

“Most people know us because we’ve been here for so long,” Doug said. “It’s just same place, different name. But all the branding with the shirts and that stuff, that was tough. We had to redo all our growlers, T-shirts, glassware, coasters.”

Doug did note that if you still have old IV shirts or growlers or stickers, those are collectors items now.

We didn't have Brady to pepper with questions during this visit to Canteen.

We didn’t have Brady to pepper with questions during this visit to Canteen.

Another transition in the back saw a new assistant brewer jump on board after Zach Guilmette departed to run the show at Chama River.

“We picked up a new guy, Scotty, who’s perfect,” Doug said. “Fits right in, easily trainable, wants to brew, used to home brew so he has a little bit of knowledge. Used to be a baker, so he’s been in kitchens, so he understands cleanliness, measuring stuff out, things like that. It’s the little things that some people don’t realize when it comes to brewing. They just see shiny and a bunch of flash, people up there looking like they know what they’re doing. This guy really wants to do it.”

Canteen celebrated 20 years of existence as a brewery during the summer and also went out and made some waves in the beer awards circuit. Dougie Style Amber, named for its creator, won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival and North American Beer Awards. Canteen also snagged a silver at GABF for St. Bob’s Imperial Stout ’07 and a bronze for the Irish Red at NABA. Panama Joe Coffee Stout also snagged a silver at the World Beer Cup.

“It was a good year,” Doug said. “Can’t argue with it. Won a bunch of awards for beer. That’s kind of nice. That’s kind of a little extra.”

2015 should feature plenty of change

The next time Franz Solo or any other Crew member helps with a brew at Canteen, it could be on a much bigger brewhouse.

The next time Franz Solo or any other Crew member helps with a brew at Canteen, it could be on a much bigger brewhouse.

Canteen will be upgrading their equipment this year, starting with the pending arrival of a new 15-barrel brewhouse. The current seven-barrel brewhouse was bought back in the 1990s when the original Rio Bravo Brewing closed. It has more than run its course while producing a ton of good beer over the year. There was not much else Doug and Ror could go into detail about as far as expansion plans go, at least not yet.

“That’s kind of up in the air,” Doug said. “I know we’re going to expand capacity. There are some other plans they want to unleash, but I’m not sure if I can say anything about it right now. But it’s going to take some time for them to get it worked out. But once it does, they want to hit the ground running, that’s what I heard. So it could be some big stuff happening here hopefully within a year, we’ll see how long it takes for them to get stuff in and for we to get it set up.”

Other rumored plans include a full kitchen that would greatly expand Canteen’s food menu, though those details also remain under lock and key for now.

Doug shows off the new crowlers that you will soon be able to fill with purchased beer at Canteen.

Doug shows off the new crowlers that you will soon be able to fill with purchased beer at Canteen.

As we stood there talking, Ror did finally explain why there were a bunch of 32-ounce aluminum cans sitting atop a nearby pallet, looming over the brewery floor.

“So there’s this elephant in the room,” Ror said. “It was supposed to happen a month ago, the crowlers. We’ve got a crowler machine, we’ve got 32-ounce cans, but we don’t have any labels. So it should happen in the next week.”

For anyone who has not been to Ska Brewing or Oskar Blues in Colorado recently, crowlers might be somewhat of a mystery item.

“You get a can, you fill it like a growler, cap it, rinse it off, stick a label on it,” Doug said. “It’s recyclable, you can bring it back in. It’s kind of an interesting angle that Colorado breweries are doing it. I guess we’re the only ones in New Mexico that are going to start it.”

Ror said customers can buy one at a time or more, with Canteen hoping to help out with carrying multiple crowlers out the door after purchase.

“We’re trying to find a sleeve to hold the four-packs,” Ror said. “You can be the hit of the party if you show up with four 32-ounce different beers.”

“It’s good for camping, for traveling,” Doug added. “I think they’re going to fly off the shelves. That’s the beginning of the step up, we’re trying to get into the (distribution) market here.”

One of the many medal-winning beers at Canteen this year.

One of the many medal-winning beers at Canteen this year.

As for some new beers, fans watching the Canteen Facebook page saw that the popular Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout will be back Valentine’s Day weekend. Other beers on the way include a new steam beer, a Kentucky Common, and a Helles lager.

“I want to do some more barrel stuff, but I can’t think of anything off hand,” Doug said. “Malt Madness is coming up in a couple months (in March), we do the brackets. I’m compiling the teams, getting the rosters ready.”

There will also be a fresh new batch of Exodus IPA, nicknamed “Extra-dus” by Doug, that will be out soon. It will be Canteen’s entry in The Brewing News’ National IPA Challenge, which of course last year was won by La Cumbre’s Project Dank.

The Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout will soon be back at Canteen.

The Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout will soon be back at Canteen.

Beyond the new brews, things will stay quiet for a while on the festival front for Canteen, which is just fine with the staff.

“I guess the first thing we’re going to do is the Chocolate Coffee Fest with Panama Joe and Chocolate Cherry,” Ror said. “March and April is when beer fest season is going to start up again. It was kind of nice to have a lull, we put everything back in the trailer.”

Ror and Doug said as more details are ironed out and things begin to get rolling on the potential expansion/distribution/renovation front, they will make sure to alert us in the Crew so we in turn can alert all of you, dear readers. Fear not, 2015 shall be another fun year with Albuquerque’s best bunch of mad beer scientists.

And we have a lot more content due out this week, including The Week Ahead in Beer (as always), Turtle Mountain and Chama River’s LB/LA series entries, plus our preview of WinterBrew with beer lists for all the participating breweries on Friday. And maybe some other little things here and there. Just bear with us if WordPress/Facebook go wonky again as they did when we tried to post the Second Street story earlier.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Comments
  1. To DSBC: By the way guys, great coverage of the breweries start of the year.

  2. […] Canteen Brewhouse has already kicked off this year on a fun note by introducing crowlers, 32-ounce cans of beer that are filled for you at the brewery. Yet that will be just one of the smaller events this year for Canteen, as they have a new 15-barrel brewhouse and additional equipment on the way. Look for lots of fun after all that is done. This all comes after that whole changing-their-name bit and another GABF gold medal in the year gone by. […]

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