The first year of operations for Albuquerque Brewing Company featured quite a few changes throughout 2015. I set up a meeting with new brewer/owner John “Carnie” Bevz to discuss the past year and what is coming in 2016 for our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series. When I arrived I found that they had a whole crew there to meet with me — owners Cliff Luckie and Curt Richter, and Mario “Mo” Nunez, who is in charge of music.
As is the case with nearly all new breweries, they had some challenges in the beginning. They opened in March and had to close again after a couple of weeks. The City of Albuquerque came out to inspect and wanted some changes made to the drainage system and the sink. ABC officially reopened on Cinco de Mayo. Since that time, the biggest challenge was parting ways with their original brewer, Michael Marsh. During the transition, they were able to supplement the beer they still had on hand with guest beers. They continue to feature local guest beers and on my visit they had Bosque Riverwalker IPA on tap. Red Door’s cider was also available, as well as select St. Clair wines. They have Arizona Tea and IBC sodas available for non-drinkers and designated drivers, and Carnie said he is thinking about brewing his own root beer.
Carnie started at ABC about five months ago. He had experience as a home brewer and also brewed at Santa Fe Brewing. His first non-home brew was small-batch brewing at a brew day at Santa Fe. After that, he says he “dabbled here and there” until he was laid off in Los Alamos. That event precipitated a part-time job that became full-time at Santa Fe. He had a desire to learn as much as he could about brewing and they were willing to teach him. He worked his way through the ranks, first working in packaging and in time brewing and cellaring. He was eventually in charge of their small-batch program.
October brought a turning point, of sorts, for ABC. The brewery did great business during Balloon Fiesta, as one can imagine given their location on the I-25 frontage road between Paseo del Norte and Alameda. They featured a collaboration beer, “Tom’s Green Chile Beer,” that they brewed in conjunction with Santa Fe Brewing and Bathtub Row. It was reportedly wildly successful and they quickly sold out. Due in part to that successful collaboration, Carnie said he would like to do more collaborations this year. They also want to participate in more beer and/or music festivals, beginning with an event in March in Socorro.
I asked Carnie what his favorite beer to brew is. He said that so far it might be the Dunkelweizen, because he enjoys making wheat beers. I was able to sample the current beers and was partial to the Dunkelweizen myself. I enjoyed the fact that it was a little lighter in body and less sweet than most.
ABC recently purchased a wood-burning pizza oven. That means in 2016 they can start serving more food and not rely on food trucks and their current limited offerings of hot dogs, Frito pie, or chips and “k-so,” as they refer to it. Right now, they are experimenting with wood types and recipes. They hope to start serving pizza in about a month, starting with tasting events for investors and mug club members. Speaking of the mug club, it is a brand new program for them. It just started at the beginning of this new year and the membership cards should arrive this week.
ABC said they wanted the mug club membership to be simple, yet different, in some way from others around town. Since they opened, they have poured their beers in “soda can-style” pint size glasses. However, members will receive a 22-ounce, personalized version of the glass as well as $1 off. The membership cost is $25 per year.
The next beers on tap for ABC will be a red and an IPA. Although they were not yet carbonated, I was able to try these as well. The red was a solid representation of the style. It was malty, but not too sweet. I will be interested to taste the IPA again after it is finished, because right now it seems to be less of an in-your-face-hop-blast, and a little more sessionable. It would be easy to have few of these while listening to a couple of sets from a local band.
Do you want more music, Albuquerque? ABC has live music with no cover charge Wednesdays through Saturdays. In the summer, bands can play on the patio. In the winter, there are several indoor areas where musicians can set up depending on size of the band and type of music. For instance, on Wednesdays, ABC is currently featuring Chris Ravin’s Acoustic Showcase, which promotes the best of our area’s local singers/songwriters. Thursday nights they have the Roger Lewis Blues Band. The base band has four members. Others can co-host with them, jam, and/or appear as special guests. Country music fans can come listen to bands such as 505 Magnum, and for jazz fans, bands like Last Call come to play. They recently even had a reggae band, so the objective is to vary the music and appeal to a wide audience. Curt said that Mo “has been in the music business forever,” and really knows how to book the best music. Curt added that with all the existing and upcoming brewpubs it’s important to step it up for 2016. The addition of the wood-fired pizzas and the expansion of local music with no cover is their main plan this year.
These guys are all a lot of fun to talk to and joke around with. Beyond the subject of beer, we discussed food, music, and travel. All the other good things in life. Thanks, Albuquerque Brewing Company, for the beer and conversation. This is the type of chill vibe that people can expect when visiting this brewery.
Cheers to beer and pizza!