A tale of Turtle Mountain: Purgatorio behind, Paradiso for the taking.

Posted: February 9, 2016 by Franz Solo in Look Back/Look Ahead Series 2015-16
TMBC is hoping new legislation will enable them to distribute their beers beyond the confines of the restaurant.

Turtle Mountain survived a sometimes rough 2015, with big plans ahead for 2016.

Time and work have a way of dominating my creative juices at times. I have sat on this and another of our year-end articles for too long by my reckoning, and to the consternation of my editor to be sure. (Yeah, just a bit. — S) A while back I had the utmost pleasure of sitting down with brewer Tim Woodward and owner Nico Ortiz of Turtle Mountain on a lovely winter afternoon to discuss the triumphs and hardships of our last solar revolution, and the hopes and dreams for this one. Without further ado.

Tim: 2015 was a hell of a year for Turtle Mountain, specifically regarding getting that parking lot development going and getting the fire suppression installed in the building.

The project went quite over what was initially budgeted and unfortunately took up many of the resources that had been planned for other endeavors.

Tim: So, for the readers who don’t know, the City of Rio Rancho came in and told Nico that he needed to improve the parking situation. The parking lot had to be contiguous, joined to the current parking lot. So, we purchased the plot of land just to the north/northwest of us. We bought that from the City of Rio Rancho and then we had to develop it. But, the other thing that they required from us was that we had to install fire suppression in the building to meet code.  Nico contracted a fire suppression company to do the installation and they ended up conning us, and another company, out of a huge amount of work installations. There’s actually a news article about it (that) KOB ran. These guys went in, they go in and install the heads behind the walls, but then they never connected the heads to it and then they fled to Colorado. So, we lost a big chunk of change on that and then we had to fix that up and so that all took a lot of time.

But, now we have a beautiful new parking lot. We have, I believe, 79 new spaces now, probably more parking than any other brewery in town. So, it’s great, I think the customers are much happier that they don’t have to walk down from the post office or down the block. It’s definitely a safer situation all the way through and it’s private property, so I think everyone is much happier now that the project is done.

Tis’ a gorgeous lot, indeed, with loads of spaces and certainly an enormous step taken from where Turtle Mountain was previously. And, now for a blast from the past, we go back to my personally much beloved Wilde Jagd.

The Wilde Jagd is still available at Turtle Mountain.

The first TMBC beer to be bottled was quite the beast.

Tim: Rewinding a bit, in March we released Wilde Jagd, which was pretty fun. That was the first bottle release ever (for TMBC) and the first barrel-aged project in a very long time. And, we had some popular IPAs, a few weird beers — we had a kettle sour — odds and ends, so we had a lot of fun. Evan (assistant brewer) and I had a lot of fun trying to create some esoteric styles and some of them sold really well.

We most definitely look forward to sampling some of these “odds and ends” in 2016. Onward to Hops!

Tim: Behind the scenes things that I think people are probably curious about is that we’ve totally solidified some much better hop contracts for the next few years. The hops that I’ve been using since I got here 19 months ago were residuals from when Matt was contracted. They were a little bit older varieties of hops that people aren’t really as excited about anymore, and I’m happy to say that now we have some exciting new varieties to play with. We got Citra, Mosaic, we got our classic staples. Simcoe is on the books for us (and) we’ve got Azacca coming up. We have some Southern Hemisphere stuff as well.

Franz Solo: Amen to all of these. As the main hophead of the Brew Crew, who has done his best to infect his brethren with the most dangerous dank hops, this is happy news indeed!

Tim: We’re hoping to really work on our house beers this next year, not dramatically changing our beers, but I definitely have some ideas on where I want the specific brands to be. I’d like to see Hopshell (IPA) become a little bit danker and a little bit more citrusy, and kind of drop off on the floral pine, while we boost up the citrus and the pine in the White IPA to separate those two brands out to make them more distinct.

Solo: You can do that with those hops you listed.

Tim: I have a great selection of hops and I have a few fun varieties of European hops (and) German hops. We’re hoping to do a little bit more in the way of German lagers. I want to brew an India pale lager featuring classic German hops, and give it a nice big hop bite to it in the vein of Pivo (a wondrous pilsner from Firestone Walker for those who may not have enjoyed such a brew) or something similar. We have a lot of things we’re definitely going to bring back. I’ll bring back the Kolsch like we do every year, (but) no promises on whether or not we’ll have a cucumber batch. That was a challenge, a lot of fun, and very popular, but definitely a challenge.

Solo: All of the above certainly whet my German blood as one who loves a good lager, or nigh, any brew hearkening from my heritage.

While seasonals like O Tannenbaum are popular, Tim wants to hone in the regular beers. (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

While seasonals like O Tannenbaum are popular, Tim wants to hone in the regular beers. (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

Tim: I think 2016 is mostly going to be me really refining the brands, making sure that I’m very happy with where the house beers will be, and focus a little bit more on some competitions. We have the World Beer Cup competition coming up and I’m anxious to see how my entries do. And, we’re going to jump into the National IPA Challenge this year that we missed out on last year, so hopefully we can do something good with that.

Solo: With the hops secured for this year, I for one cannot wait to see what will be conjured for the national challenge and so forth.

Tim: In terms of any dramatic things for 2016, Nico and I have talked a little bit and we’re anxious and interested in trying to find a taproom location. But, there’s nothing solid, nothing specific. We’re hopeful that by the end of 2016 we’ll have a second location, and is that a full restaurant (or) is that a taproom, I’m not really sure.

Solo: You’ve got to love the legislation that’s allowing everyone to do this.

Tim: Absolutely, and in order for us to do that we have to build some infrastructure in back, of course, as always. We need cooperage, we need a new keg washer, we need a vehicle to move kegs about. The good news, though, is that if we build that infrastructure for the taproom, we will also have that infrastructure in place to develop a small distribution center on a limited basis. We would like to be in our neighbors’ bars. I’d like to see maybe 100 barrels in distribution; that’s not a lot, obviously, but that’s something that I think we could do. With the tanks and our servers we have the capacity to increase production by 50 to 70 percent. Looking long term (things are) very hopeful.

Solo: Amen to all of the above.

Tim, left, always enjoys collaborating with his fellow brewers.

Tim, left, always enjoys collaborating with his fellow brewers.

Tim: On deck, we are going to do a collaboration with Second Street in Santa Fe. Rod (Tweet) and Nico go way back, and I always enjoy sitting and talking with Rod. He’s got an engineer brain, and for better or worse, I do, too, and when we talk it’s fun to talk about what we could do together. Zach (Guilmette), formerly of Chama, now of Canteen, has expressed some interest in doing a collaboration in the spring as well. I’ve always said that one of the funnest things in the industry is the people, all the people in it. And, I figure what better way to celebrate the brothers and sisters in beer than to work with them on some special collaborations?

Solo: Exactly, and it can’t do anything but good for the community.

Tim: So, we’ve got those two tentatively on (deck), and there might be a few more that pop up throughout the year to celebrate the community.

Friendship and brotherhood among breweries can do nothing but good for our dear ‘Burque. With my time with Tim at an end, I also had the chance to sit down with Nico as well, and the following is his take on the year that was and the year that is.

Nico: We’ve been working on this parking lot for five years and it sucks, especially now, because now is the time to strike. Breweries are hot and we just got the ability to have that third taproom. Breweries are going into every single area of town that has an opening and the time is now. Unfortunately, I would have much rather spent that money on two taprooms than I would have on a parking lot. Unfortunately, that was not our decision to make. Moving forward we are going to put in for our wholesalers license since we now have the fix in place. Tim has already warned me about the costs of wholesale. It’s not the license, it’s the cooperage, and the extra employee and the delivery vehicle and all of the other kind of stuff.

Solo: Fortunately the boulder, a la Dante’s purgatorio, of the parking lot and fire suppression system has been successfully pushed over the mountain. Onward to this year!

Now that this is done, it's time to move on to bigger and better things! (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

Now that this is done, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things! (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

Nico: I’d like to get a taproom open. I’m not sure where it’s going to be, but it will be on this side of the river, because this side of the river still seems to be rather barren. A lot of the breweries and the new ones are still on the other side of the river.

We (who live) on the west side, for one, would love for a few more options in our pockets. On the subject of the barrels that were used to create the lovely Wilde Jagd, Nico had the following notes to add.

Nico: We have those two pinot barrels that a brett lambicus stout just came out of, which is going to be blended through for our 17th anniversary beer in March. They are going to put in a bugged plum cream. Evan and Tim were like, let’s do something off the wall, so let’s throw some plum and some cream into these barrels and let’s see what happens. They’re doing some Franken-brewing back there.

Solo: Amen to Franken-brewing, when one has solid ground to work from. As an art, beer cannot stay stagnant, but must of essence push the envelope of possibility and the breadth of our taste buds to maintain life and vigor through the end of this decade.

Nico: I’m looking at 2016 as sort of (a) point zero, where I’m now looking at a five- or a seven-year plan where after five or seven years from now sitting at the bar I will be saying, I have three taprooms, I’m expanding, (and) we have an offsite production facility with a canning line.

For all of these hopes, we wish Turtle Mountain the best of tidings. So endeth this glimpse into time both before and behind, and to either side to quote our Gilgamesh, see you all on the next episode!

— Franz Solo

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