“It’s all your fault, New Mexico,” said Mother Road Brewing founder and chief beer officer Michael Marquess with a big grin. “We thought we were shipping enough beer for six to eight weeks, but you ran us dry in less than two.” He was referring to “Big Blue,” the tentative name for the huge, insulated shipping container that had just been delivered moments before this interview took place.
I was in Flagstaff, passing through for the husband’s birthday weekend trip that included both the Grand Canyon and seeing Public Enemy and The Cult on the same stage in Vegas (Chuck D and Billy Duffy all the way). Mother Road Brewing hooked us in a big way, so we spent a little extra time there. It ended up being the true highlight of the entire weekend, due in no small part to the staff and their location. They occupy a charming brewery/taproom that smells like heavenly wort when you walk in, and it’s connected directly to a great bike shop (Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution) and Pizzicletta, a wood-fired pizza joint.
Sharyn, tap room manager and brewery high priestess, relayed the dilemma New Mexico posed for Mother Road Brewing over a fabulous experimental shandy and a crossword puzzle. “We only launched in New Mexico the end of March and we are having to up our capacity in a big way largely because of you,” she laughed. Hence, Big Blue’s arrival.
The shandy, by the way, was phenomenal. It’s not shelf-stable, so you won’t be finding it on New Mexican shelves anytime soon, but if you find yourself in Flagstaff, go immediately to Mother Road and ask for the Roadside Grove. This time around, grapefruit juice was added to their regular Roadside pale ale and was exceptionally crisp and refreshing without being too tart or bitter. At only 5-percent ABV, it is the perfect summer libation.
Experimentation, Expansion, Repeat
I remember the first time I spotted Mother Road’s Lost Highway Black IPA on a New Mexican draft list. Having moved to Santa Fe from northern Vermont — a place ripe with stellar black IPAs — I jumped on it immediately. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. The Lost Highway Black IPA is rich, hoppy, and balanced to the point where it goes down super easy for a beer that registers 8-percent ABV. Behold, a diehard Mother Road Brewing fan was born. All this from a beer that Marquess says was a homebrew experiment. He says people would actually harass him to make more of it, and it became their flagship in a few short years.
Now, Mother Road is working with the City of Flagstaff and their landlord to build a 2,000-square foot expansion on the property. This will enable Mother Road to expand their production to 4,500 barrels per year and build out their patio space, while also increasing the size of their taproom. Cedar, who has been with Mother Road for years, and is a great, knowledgeable host, can’t wait for his taproom space to be reclaimed from the brewers. He’s a patient guy.
What’s next for New Mexico offerings from Mother Road
So what’s the plan for all of us in New Mexico? Well, we have a lot to look forward to. Besides more of the three regular brews that have recently begun appearing at fine package stores and on draft at select locations statewide, we have a brand new IPA to welcome to the fold at the end of August. Currently, Gold Road (a light-bodied, malty Kolsch-style ale, 4.3% ABV, 19 IBU), Roadside (a hoppy pale ale, 5% ABV, 27 IBU) and their stand-out Lost Highway Black IPA (8% ABV, 100 IBU) are available in New Mexico.
“I can’t teach New Mexico anything about dank,” said a grinning Marquess. “You’ve got all that already and you’re killing it. What I want to bring to New Mexico is a crisp, refreshing, mountain IPA that’s very bright.”
It will be canned in 16-ounce tallboys by New Mexico’s Mother Road Mobile Canning (no relation) and will be called Flagstaff IPA. Release parties will be planned in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, so keep an eye on the calendar in August.
When asked if he’d like to say a final word to New Mexicans, Marquess enthused, “We love the market out there. It’s the coolest beer-drinking crowd we’ve ever encountered — earnest and down-to-earth.”
Production manager Campbell Morrissey summed it up, “We love coming to New Mexico because of the people.”
We’re delighted to have you, Mother Road. Bring it on!