It’s no secret that Second Street is the second largest production brewery in Santa Fe. And, certainly, they’ve made quite a name for themselves on the local scene with their great food, great service, great music, and ‘always great beer, never a cover,’ to borrow a phrase. They have two locations that are well-known to those just looking for a bite and a brew in a pleasant atmosphere. But, with a range of varieties spanning German, British, and American styles, they’ve really become a location for any beer enthusiast to geek out and exercise their Untappd thumbs.
For my third installment in the Dark Side Brew Crew’s Look Back/Look Ahead Series, I sat down with Rod Tweet, president and brewmaster at Second Street, to talk IPAs, Ringwood yeast, and yep, that’s right, expansion!
I met Rod in the bar on a Thursday afternoon. Jazzy tunes played over the speakers, as Ernie Bob made the rounds. If you have to ask yourself, “Who is Ernie Bob?” then you haven’t ‘really been to Santa Fe,’ have you? I kid. But, don’t look him up. Come visit Santa Fe. It’s only an hour, Albuquerque.
Rod suggested I try his Whip Tail Pale Ale, and who am I to decline a brewer’s recommendation? I took a long sip and began the recorder, angling the mic toward Tweet to sidestep the upbeat sounds of Dizzy Gillespie or Miles Davis; I can never remember which is which. I may or may not have slept through Music Appreciation at the back of Woodward Hall. Oh shush, you probably did it, too.
DSBC: How was Second Street’s year?
Tweet: We had a great year. Really happy with it. Business was good, both locations. We had a really good year at the original location, and the Railyard, which has been doing well, and basically has been paying for its investment. It really turned a corner when the movie theater opened (Violet Crown).
DSBC: I bet.
Tweet: So, the third and fourth quarter of this year, down at the Railyard, were really great. So, they’ve got a whole new business pattern down there. And, so yeah, we’re feeling pretty fortunate. Had a great year! Made a lot of progress on some other directions.
DSBC: You mentioned the movie theater, Violet Crown. Did that cause any challenges for you guys? Was it hard to keep up with demand?
Tweet: For a few months of the year, it is, partly because we do such a big variety of beers. We’ve got a 10-barrel brewhouse, and we’re at about 1,800 barrels, so we don’t have too much headroom anymore, which is great, great to utilize your equipment. And, there’s a couple months of the year where we get stretched just a little bit, and it just gets harder to juggle different yeast strains. But, things went well. It’s good to be busy.
DSBC: So, I saw that you guys went through a little bit of restructuring, Cydney (Hallahan) being the new manager here. How did that come about?
Tweet: So, what happened here was we took on a new person in the brewery, Tom (Ludzia), and so we vacated a position when we did that, but Colleen (Sager) needs the help. She doesn’t need a lot of help, but she needed that extra bit, at least, with the extra volume of business at the Railyard. But, that’s kind of an ongoing conversation here, broadening our base, basically in my area and all of our areas, just getting more help. And, so that’s kind of an ongoing discussion. So now, it’s (him), John Walker, and I on the brewery side. We keep finding ourselves getting stretched more and more just because of the business volume, which I think is a great problem to have.
DSBC: It sure is.
Tweet: We’re just trying to get better at solving that. Maybe we shouldn’t just work harder! (laughs)
DSBC: So what’s Tom’s title now? Assistant brewer?
Tweet: Assistant brewer, yeah.
DSBC: Does that mean you have two assistant brewers now? Or, does that mean something more?
Tweet: Well, actually, we’ve sort of restructured there a little bit, kind of preparing for our next move. So, John (Walker) is officially our head brewer now. Tom is an assistant. I’m president and brewmaster, which is the same as it’s always been. I think Tom’s been here five months now.
DSBC: Where did he come from originally, industry-wise?
Tweet: He was teaching school, and then he was tending bar here. After that, he was assistant manager, MOD (Manager on Duty), and now he’s full time with us in the brewery now. And, likely we’ll be taking on one more person here in the next six months.
DSBC: What were some of the highlights for you, personally, this year?
Tweet: Well, as far as day-to-day operations we’ve made some progress on thinking ahead and talking about our structure here. We did a lot of fun stuff with the beers this year, trying out new hops, working through different yeast strains. We came up with a lot of new formulations this year, but that’s kind (of) a usual thing.
Our food operations are running really well. We got a new chef, Milton. He came on in 2015. He’s great and established now. He’s not new anymore. He knows the ropes here, and he’s running a really tight kitchen operation.
I need to mention our book keeper Gaby, who, God bless her, has stepped up to also take on the role of human resources manager/navigator of Obamacare, as well as her other duties, which of course are very important. We couldn’t do it all without her.
Also, our Guild had a good year! We made a lot of progress with our state Brewers Guild, which I take some personal satisfaction in that.
DSBC: And, your position in that, for those who don’t know, is?
Tweet: I’m one of the directors and I’m the treasurer. Also, we have a third site project, which I’m working on constantly right now. So, that’s fairly far along. In 2015, we basically, over that year, (we) found a building, completed all the design work, submitted for building permits, and secured all the funding, both the equity and the bank funding. That essentially happened. There’s other aspects of that project that go back a year before, but 2015, in that calendar year, we essentially accomplished all those things, and at this point we’re just waiting on building permits.
DSBC: That’s big news. Wow. Why don’t we chat a little bit more about that in your projection for 2016? Let’s talk first about some of your beers this year. What were some of those highlights? Did you have any successful tweaks to recipes?
Tweet: We did some tightening up on some recipes. It was really nice. We continued to get new hops in and we came up with some new IPA formulations. John came up with the Four Hour Lunch, which is our IPA Challenge entry for this year. Speaking of which, we made a really nice showing at the IPA Challenge this year. Best showing we’ve made in a decade or a dozen years. That was pretty satisfying.
DSBC: You guys also did pretty well in the 2015 National IPA Challenge or NIPAC.
Tweet: We had the Trebuchet and the Fulcrum in NIPAC, and we made the Sweet 16.
DSBC: That’s right. Congratulations on that, again!
Tweet: Yeah, it was the first time we entered it and John and I were just over the moon just getting into the top 16.
Second Street has entered again this year. The beer’s they’re entering are Fulcrum, Trebuchet, and Four Hour Lunch. Four Hour and Fulcrum will be entered in the American IPA category, and Trebuchet will be entered in Imperial IPA category.
DSBC: Let’s take a look at the year ahead. What’s coming up for Second Street?
Tweet: Well, with the beers, the same constant variety. This beer (Whip Tail Pale Ale), for example, is an ongoing experiment of mine. This is kind of a Chinook and Equinox American Pale Ale. It’s focused on those, but it’s got other stuff in here. I don’t want to be pinned down on this one, so the main description is going to change, but it’s going to be an American Pale Ale. This is the third batch. I think the structure of it is pretty good now, but now I’m going to change out hops and yeast. We’ll do a batch with Ringwood yeast.
DSBC: Oh, that’s right! It’s about Ringwood time!
Tweet: It’s Ringwood time! Right! So, we’re doing my little pet project, Rod’s Folly. We’re going to do the Ringwood Red again, and Outlier is in process. We’re going to do the Ringwood Whip Tail, like I mentioned, called Ringtail. The name is contributed by Tom. And, I’ve got some new, offbeat British hops, one of them is Pilgrim; it’s been around for about 15 years. We’re going to do an IPA with it, with Ringwood.
Rod and John are working on a new stout for the Bathtub Row’s Stout Invitational, which is happening on February 20. It’ll be a 15 plato stout, moderately hoppy, done with Ringwood. The hops will be Cascade, UK Northdown, and Bramling Cross, and then dry-hopped with Bramling Cross and UK Northdown. The two were chosen for their dry-hop descriptors of cedar, berry, pair, and lemon. According to Rod, they’ve never done it before, and they just want to see what they’re like. It’s yet to be named.
Another longtime ongoing project of Second Street’s is that they’re putting in more taps at both locations. They’re aiming to have three more at the original location and six down at the Railyard location. Rod said this is primarily for their own beers, but they’d like to have at least two guest taps, not to add volume, but to feature New Mexico beers that they’re excited about. And, of course the taps will be rotating.
Tweet: I’m going to call up my brewer friends and say, what do you have that you’re excited about? We want to have some fun with it. We did our first nitro beer, here, last month. It was really well received. That was John Walker’s project. He did the LVL Stout (6.8% ABV). He wanted to do a nitro treatment on it and so he pulled that off. It turned out great. The customers liked it. That was our first real nitro stout, but we’ll probably be doing more of that.
DSBC: Last year you guys worked hard on the trio of the Pivotal, Fulcrum, and Trebuchet. You mentioned doing an IPA with Ringwood. Is that the fourth in the series?
Tweet: The Pilgrim IPA is using the British hops, but I’m probably going to structure it more like a West Coast IPA.
DSBC: It’ll be more John Wayne-y then.
DSBC: Well, hello, Pilgrim!
Tweet: Yeah, maybe there’s a name in there.
DSBC: Maybe there is! We’re all very excited to taste the beers you have coming out this year. The variety is refreshing. So, you had mentioned earlier, and I wasn’t going to forget it, that you’ve been working on a third site project. I think it’s time to talk about that. Expansion! Big news!
Tweet: We’re out of barrelage, really, to do anything else as far as taproom opportunities or anything like that, so I want more production. So, this other site is going to be a production-oriented site with a three-vessel system, and it will have a taproom.
DSBC: Size of the brewhouse?
Tweet: 20 barrels, and we have a 20,000-square foot building on Rufina. It’s a warehouse building. And, about 3,500-square feet of that will be dedicated to the public space. We’re going to do a nice taproom there. It’s important that it gets busy and people want to go there.
DSBC: Location is all important.
Tweet: It’s a good location, has great traffic patterns. The reason we’re there is because I need fairly economical square footage. I want traffic patterns that would support a taproom, so, you know, it takes a certain location for that. If you want to be in the city limits of Santa Fe, basically, that’s where it’s at. It’s sort of similar to where the original Second Street location was 20 years ago.
DSBC: What is your current barrelage, and what will it increase to?
Tweet: We’re 1,800 now. Everything will stay status quo here. But, this other site, we want to get that up to the 8,000- to 12,000-barrel range.
Tweet: So, we’re not trying to make a regional powerhouse.
DSBC: It’s deepening your waters. I understand that.
Tweet: Yeah, exactly. We want to make our footprint bigger in the market that we’re already in, and we think there’s opportunity for that.
DSBC: What about packaging? I imagine there’ll be more opportunity for that.
Tweet: We will definitely package.
DSBC: Will there be a canning line in there?
Tweet: Yep. A canning line’s part of it. So, a really nice taproom (and) packaging’s part of it.
DSBC: Will you be bottling anything?
Tweet: We’ll probably start doing some of that, eventually. And, we’ll be working up new formulations for that site, too. So, what John and I are envisioning is basically its own family of flagship beers. And, then we’ll swap beers back and forth in all three places, so we’ll have even more variety.
DSBC: Any word on the lineup for the new flagship beers?
Tweet: We haven’t figured out what the flagship beers will be yet, but they may be new beers you’ve never even heard of. We’re not sure right now. But, the point is we want to have more fun and make our footprint bigger. And, it’s another location that won’t be tied to being obligated to just make more barrelage of the same flagship brands. Likewise, though, if things are popular, we’ll have a minimum of 16 taps over there so we can swap beers back and forth. If people want their Rod’s Best Bitter over there, they can probably have it. I think it’ll be fun and nice for the customer.
DSBC: Second Street is known for having live music available every weekend. Will you also have music over there?
Tweet: Yes, music, definitely.
DSBC: Will it also have food?
Tweet: It’s not being set up as a full restaurant, but there will be some food element worked in, at some point. I’m kind of keeping that out of the conversation, just yet, but eventually we’ll want something. Having food is great for lots of reasons, including business reasons, but the focus in the beginning is going to be on getting the production facility set up. We’re growing a little bit, and one of the upsides to that is there is more opportunity for everyone, and that’s just starting to happen now. We’re starting to do a little bit of restructuring now, and ultimately, the intention is that John will be the head brewer at that site, and then we’ll have to expand our staff, so that’s coming!
DSBC: What’s the timeline on the production facility?
Tweet: Theoretically, January 1, 2017. We’re hoping to have our building permits in hand sometime this month, and then between licensing and buildout, I think we’ve got about 10 months of work. It’ll be fun, though, and Colleen’s got more of a handle on what we’ll be doing there in terms of sports events and pay-per-views. She’s my guidance on that. So, that will probably be more incorporated a little bit more at that location than we ever can do here. I would never use the word sports bar, but if customers want pay-per-view events, we will do that there. If there’s a demand for that, over there, we’ll have the freedom to meet it. We’ll have freedoms down there that we don’t have now.
DSBC: I only have one more question. Do you have anything to say about Second Street’s 2016?
Tweet: We’re looking forward to having another good year. If it’s anything like 2015 was, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about it.
* * * * *
Second Street had yet another successful year. Unbeknownst to many, they’ve been hard at work on that third site, but it’s well underway. Worry not, brew friends, we’ll be taking a look at the new building and equipment in the coming months. Second Street has always been a beer, food, and music destination in Santa Fe, not exactly a secret to locals and visitors. But, with a larger production facility, more barrelage, and larger format packaging on the horizon, the whole state will soon get a taste, that is, if they haven’t already. Much thanks to Rod Tweet for chatting with me, and good luck to them with their expansion! To more success for our rapidly growing industry (because that means more beer for all)!
— Luke (Craft Crusader)
For more #CraftBeer info and @nmdarksidebc news, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro. Untappd: SantaFeLuke.