Before the ugly, grueling Steelers-Broncos game kicked off Sunday, some of us in the Crew — myself, E-Rock, AmyO — headed downtown to check out the new Duel Brewing taproom. Much to our surprise, we were told the taproom would have a soft opening this Tuesday at 5 p.m. Before anyone heads over, here is a preview of just what the new space will entail.
The taproom is located at 606 Central Ave., between 6th Street and 7th Street on the south side of Central, right next door to the Launchpad. It is a humongous space, with a max occupancy of about 250 people, said general manager Milo Carrejo. That does not even count the forthcoming rooftop patio, which will not be ready for a while.
We met with Milo and head of brewing operations Todd Yocham, who gave us a quick tour of the place before we settled in to taste some of the beers while they continued working on getting everything ready.
As noted above, the space is big, with high ceilings. There is a second floor/mezzanine in the back from when you walk in, where a rare beer bar and a special cellaring room will soon exist.
“We’ll have bottles upstairs in the rare beer bar and cellar-aged stuff in the cellar,” Todd said. “As soon as my towers come in, there will be 16 beers on draft up there. Well, up to 16 different beers on draft up there, depending on what we have. We’re going to release all four of our saisons from last year at once. They’re going to be up there until we run out. They won’t be down here. Last year’s Goya (Imperial Stout) and this year’s Goya will be up there. Pretty much all of our sours will be up there, just to keep things separate.”
Milo said he did not know if they will have that area open for anything besides seating. Until those towers come in, they only have four taps upstairs at the moment. The seating includes 100-year-old theater seats that have been in the building for, well, a century. They give people the opportunity to sit and overlook the downstairs area. It’s the ultimate people-watching experience.
The main floor features a zigzagging bar that runs north-south, with a 58-foot long beer cooler behind the bar featuring 80 (!) taps. There will also be tables on the other side of a series of dividing walls for a more private experience, plus there will soon be four community tables set up for larger parties. Duel will have a stage up front (the north end) underneath the big windows.
“I have everything that Duel makes and we’ll have some more guest (taps),” Todd said. “We’ve already got some from Bosque. We’re still going to be going through, figuring out what beers we’re going to have so we have a nice selection from people, not just the same old, same old.
“The beers are grouped into sections. Eighty taps, I know it looks overwhelming but I don’t (expect) to have 80 different beers on (right away).”
There will always be at least three beertenders working, Todd added, with each responsible for only one of those sections of taps (five total, 16 taps per section). There will also be a cooler on the east wall where people can purchase individual bottles/bombers of beers. Todd said he does not know if there will be any bottles poured at the bar. It seems more likely those would be poured upstairs at the rare beer bar when that is ready.
Next to the rare beer bar will be the aforementioned cellar, which probably marks the only time we have ever seen a cellar be upstairs.
“We’ve got a climate-controlled cellar,” Todd said. “As soon as I get it finished we’ll have wine and beer cellared in there. And then (later this) year at some point is the roof.”
That is the next project for the staff once they get interior ready.
“The roof is a project yet to be taken on,” Milo said. “Come the springtime, that’s something we’ll start getting set up for the summer. It’s basically spanning the full ceiling. A giant space up there as well.”
There will be space for live music on the roof, though for now the inside stage will suffice.
“We have a stage up front as well, so we’re prepared to have that,” Milo said. “I’m excited to do that. As you see, the design of the bar is more for a social gathering, keep people towards each other and talking instead of watching TV or checking their phones.”
Nothing may keep people away from their phones, but Duel will have some tasty little finger foods and the like to keep everyone from stumbling out on stomachs full of beer only. The menu will be geared toward Charcuterie plates, with meats, cheeses, breads, and the like. There will be a small preparation area near the south wall below the rare beer bar mezzanine. Duel is not planning to do a full kitchen like they have in Santa Fe, Milo said.
Like most places, Duel will have wine and cider for the gluten-free/intolerant crowd, mostly New Mexico brands, though Milo said their primary focus will always be on the beer.
Head on down to the soft opening Tuesday night, or you can wait for the grand opening on Friday, Jan. 29. Either way, Downtown Albuquerque has picked up another quality addition to what is fast becoming a booming craft beer scene.
Thanks to Milo and Todd for the tour, plus those tastings of Hmwwafiacfw (no, we never learned how to properly pronounce it) plus the 2014 and 2015 editions of Goya. In a shocker, the 2014 Goya was our collective favorite.
Oh, and a special thanks to AmyO’s boyfriend Dave, who snapped all the photos while we were touring and chatting.