Due to communication issues between the Crew and Cazuela’s, we were not able to include a story on them last month in the Look Back/Look Ahead series. We are happy to report that communication has been reestablished and the exciting news that I learned may just make up for the wait.
Let’s start with the year that was. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon on their patio — in February! — I sat down for a chat with owner Francisco Saenz.
NMDSBC: So, 2014, beer-wise …
Saenz: Beer-wise in 2014 we had a phenomenal year. Mike (Campbell, head brewer) won third place in the World Cup.
(NOTE: What Francisco is referring to is Beer for my Horses capturing a bronze medal in the Oatmeal Stout category in the 2014 Brewers Association World Beer Cup.)
Saenz: He also entered nine of our beers in the State Fair competition (Pro-Am), and I believe we got five first places (it was three gold and one silver, actually). And also People’s Choice for lager, which was the Inebriator (Doppelbock), so for being a new brewery we did really well for 2014. It’s been great!
NMDSBC: What would you say — do more new people now come looking for your food or for your beer when they come here for the first time?
Saenz: I would say it’s a combination of both. The beer has definitely been a great hit. It was great to put a microbrewery into my restaurant. We have always had a large customer base because of the food we make, but the beer has helped us out quite a bit.
NMDSBC: It’s such a large place. You have the room for the brewing so that’s great.
Saenz: I’m going to tell you we have some great beers to go with our food. We have the Piedra del Fuego that’s very popular, which is our stone (cream) beer. And we have our Acapulco Gold, which is a lager that is probably our most popular seller because it goes so well with Mexican food.
NMDSBC: I’ve had your beers. I have had them here at the restaurant a couple of times and also at various festivals. I’m not a big lager person, but I think it’s a great lager. I have even ordered a pint with food here because it does go so well with Mexican food.
Saenz: For a lot of people (coming here) it’s kind of an introduction to microbrew for them. But our beers are good. Mike’s been doing a good job. He has been with us since we opened up the brewery, which has been two years.
NMDSBC: You had a booth at the Rio Rancho Oktoberfest last year and I talked to your staff there. Hopfest was the next day, and they said you could not attend because you were low on beer.
Saenz: What happened in that situation was that we were running low on beer. In Rio Rancho, Oktoberfest is one of our main events. We didn’t realize it was going to fall on the same weekend.
NMDSBC: Yeah, that was rough. I hope they don’t do that again.
Saenz: I hope not either. It was one of those things. It was (too) difficult for us to pull out of Oktoberfest, and difficult for us to attend both of them and have beer for both of them. We definitely try to make all the events. Being a new brewery, we want to be in every place we can possibly be to have people taste our beer. It was disappointing because we had done it the first year. Hopefully this year it doesn’t fall on the same day and we will be at both places.
NMDSBC: I hope it doesn’t, because that was a rough weekend for me!
A second location tops 2015’s to-do list
NMDSBC: So what’s happening for 2015? Is there anything new you are going to be involved in that you were not in 2014?
Saenz: We are looking to open up a taproom in the same vicinity as Il Vicino (Canteen) and La Cumbre.
(This is where I started to do a little happy dance in my chair.)
NMDSBC: Are you going to do a restaurant also?
Saenz: We are in the process of that. For sure it’s going to be a taproom, but we haven’t decided what food we are going to put there. It’s going to be a brewery/sports area because the existing people that are there (a family member) do futsal, basketball, indoor volleyball … It’s about 10,000 square feet of some sport going on. There will be a good sized, back taproom and we are planning to bring in some nice-sized TVs. During tournaments they probably average 300 to 600 people in there.
(Since paperwork, etc., always takes so long, there is no estimated 2015 date yet for the new taproom.)
NMDSBC: Is it going to be called Cazuela’s?
Saenz: That depends on the licensing aspect. If they don’t make me keep the same name we might change it up a little bit.
NMDSBC: Are there any new festivals that you plan on participating in that you have not in the past?
Saenz: You know we try to get in any festival that we can. If they invite us we are definitely there. The festival that used to be the Wine Festival …
NMDSBC: Yeah, Bernalillo. Now it’s going to be a beer festival.
Saenz: I am assuming we will definitely be in that. We typically go to any festival that we are invited to. We try to be at all of them.
NMDSBC: I’ve noticed your list of beers pretty much stays the same. That helps with consistency, I’m sure, but are you looking at any new styles?
Saenz: That’s something we have been talking about. Yes, we are looking at changing some things. Mike and I talk all the time about the beers. It’s difficult to take one of the beers off because they all do so well. But we are going to be trying some new, different things, and hopefully we can change up some seasonals. Mike has been brewing a long time. He’s pretty much set in his ways in what he likes to brew but I think that trying different things is the only way to stay alive — to come up with new beers and see what the people are liking out there.
NMDSBC: Do you have the room in your equipment to do that?
Saenz: Yes. There’s also room to expand. We have the humungous batting cage area. I would love to be able to do what Marble, La Cumbre do. Eventually the batting cages could disappear and we will try to brew as much as we can as soon as we start outgrowing this (location). With more fermenters and bright tanks we will be coming out with some new different things.
NMDSBC: Anything else you want to add?
Saenz: This summer is going to be a different summer for us. We are going to be doing more music on the patio. We are going to install screens and do UFC fights out here. We are going to be trying to promote a lot of bands. We will be doing a big Cinco de Mayo celebration. Every major holiday we will be having something different on the patio.
* * * * *
The patio, by the way, is very large. There are both covered and uncovered areas. Francisco and I strolled over to the outdoor bar station where he explained that he plans on not only using the existing outdoor grill set up there, but also hopes to get a trompo (similar to a gyro spit) for al pastor meat.
All right then, that settles it — come on, summer.
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