Bathtub Row Brewing celebrated their “Full House Party” this past weekend, with live music, food specials, and more. It was their way of saying, “Hey, all eight of our taps are now filled with our very own beer.” The good news is the people of Los Alamos turned out in droves, with a number of people driving up from ABQ and Santa Fe and elsewhere in New Mexico. Basically we all ended up learning that what Brew Crew Bullpen member Reid had been telling us for a while — Bathtub Row was making some damn fine beer.
With a big thanks to my friend Gabriel for the ride to and fro, I parked myself at the end of the bar that curves around the inside of the BRB space. In addition to bar seating and tables, there is also a “lounge area” by a fireplace that figures to roar in the winter. There is a spacious outside area as well, though how much of that is permanent and how much was just for the Full House Party was unclear (I should have asked, but the beer came first).
On tap this weekend were the Hoppenheimer IPA (sold only outside, due to the lack of tap space inside), Wit Rock, Big House Belgo Pale Ale, Little Bird Blonde, Mild at Heart, Posh Bitter, Le Becquerel Saison, Red Hammer, and Black Point Stout. Being the industrious beer drinker/writer that I am, I brought a notebook to jot things down as I drank each beer from the sample tray.
Little Bird Blonde (5.6% ABV): Very mild, definitely a starter beer. There was a hint of pilsner malt from a bit of crispness. Wheat notes were present as well. The finish included a slight apricot/peach sweetness. Brewer Hector Santana also brought out a sample of a second version made in a more English-style. I admittedly liked that one better, so hopefully it will be on tap soon (and then permanently, assuming it is cost-effective).
Mild at Heart (3.7% ABV) Ah, the English Mild, which as the name might imply, often lacks much flavor. This one was too thin, coming off as a bit of water-down ESB. The style just does not connect with Americans seeking bigger flavors. Best leave it on the islands.
Posh Premium Bitter (5.9% ABV) Better than the mild, more in tune with what Rod Tweet has been brewing over at Second Street. It was quite sweet, maybe a little too much, with hints of biscuit-y malt on the back end to dry things out.
Le Becquerel Saison (7.1% ABV) As Gabriel, and others, noted, it is big for a saison. There was not much of that farmhouse funk in the aroma that can drive some people (me) away. The spices were a tad muted, compared to others (think Marble). The malt bill gave it a bit of sweetness. In a way, this was the saison for the non-saison drinker.
Wit Rock (6.1% ABV) Like a lot of wits, this had ingredients that are do not agree with me from an allergy perspective. Gabriel, among others, enjoyed this beer, though, so if you like the style, it should work for you.
Big House Belgo (6.7% ABV) Dear lord is this a Belgian-style beer. The huge funk hits you right in the face from the aroma alone. The Belgian yeast produces an almost potent, astringent farmhouse flavor off the bat, but fear not if that is not your thing, it mellows out considerably as it warms. Then the sweeter, more citrus-like flavors come to the forefront and it drinks like a standard Belgian golden ale. It was definitely one of the more complex beers BRB brewed. I would expect some future modifications/tinkering.
Red Hammer Ale (7.1% ABV) Listed as a double red, this beer goes the opposite way of most West Coast-style reds. The sweet-but-dry malts are up front, with the hope kick on the back end. I thought I picked out some Southern Hemisphere hops in there, for the more flowery, less piney/citrusy flavors, but my poor palate may have taken too much by this point.
Hoppenheimer IPA (7.3% ABV) Definitely more in the East Coast vein, with a strong malt backbone and less bitter hops up front. It tends to be fairly sweet on the back. The aroma was not too strong, so perhaps a bit more on the dry-hopping could be in its future. Otherwise, if you like beers like Dogfish Head 90 Minute, you will enjoy the Hoppenheimer. It does not become death, the destroyer of palates. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)
Black Point Stout (4.8% ABV) I know, I know, my favorite beer was the stout. But … damn, this is a hell of a stout. I classified it as a classic American stout. It was not overly roasted/smoky, nor too sweet/chocolate-y, nor too creamy/milky. Instead, it hit all the right notes in between. In the cold of winter it might be a bit thin on the mouthfeel, but that would be the most minor of quibbles. Others who tried this feel the same way, it appears from my Untappd account. Just an excellent stout, especially considering the low, sessionable ABV. If you only have time to drink one beer at Bathtub Row, this is the one.
Overall, the quality of the beer, the location, the staff, and the general vibe of the crowd really combines to make Bathtub Row a place you have to visit. Sure, you may be surrounded by patrons with more PhD’s than you knew existed, but in the end, you are all there for great beer and good times.
I look forward to the next trip I take up the mountain. Bathtub Row, you have one Burqueno in support from now til the end of brews, er, time. (Same thing, really.)