Pi Brewing expands their circle of influence

The full re-branding of Nicky V's into Pi Brewing is now complete. (Photo courtesy of Pi Brewing)
The full re-branding of Nicky V’s into Pi Brewing is now complete. (Photo courtesy of Pi Brewing)

As part of our annual Look Back/Look Ahead series, I chatted with owners Greg and Nicole Villareal of Pi Brewing/Nicky V’s restaurant on Coors north of Paseo (Nicole = Nicky V) to find out what’s happening with the brewing side of their business. In 2015, they restructured and opened up their back room for music. They also added lighting and connected the space into their A/V system. They are excited to help improve the live music situation for Albuquerque west-side residents.

Beer-wise, 2015 was a good year for Pi and head brewer Charlie Sandoval. Pi received two medals for their porter at the New Mexico State Fair Pro-Am — gold in the porter category and also best ale. They also received honorable mention for best of show. The first year of the Mountain West Brew Fest in Bernalillo proved to be a big hit for them, as well. At the festival they passed out pint cards for $3.14 pints. The amount of people who came back to the restaurant with those cards showed that the beer was very well received.

The current offerings at Pi.
The current offerings at Pi.

For what seemed like an eternity, I would drive by or stop in to Nicky V’s and wonder when Pi Brewery’s taproom would actually open next door. It looked so intimate and inviting when I would peer through the front windows, but the door was always locked. I couldn’t wait to talk to Greg and Nicole about this. Well, I now have an answer as to when that taproom will open. That answer is never.

That sounds like bad news, but in actuality, it is not.

Greg and Nicole told me there were too many issues with getting the taproom open to the public. The Health Department considers brewery space to be similar to commercial kitchen space and does not allow customers to pass through the “kitchen” area to get to a restroom, and that’s how the restroom in this space is configured.

Greg and Nicole decided maybe they could just punch through the wall and put in a door between the taproom and the restaurant – an easy solution. As it turned out, they discovered that the taproom/restaurant would then be considered conjoining space which would require that the whole site have sprinklers installed at great expense.

Eventually, at the beginning of 2016, they decided to scrap the plan and change the branding instead. They were having a hard time branding Nicky V’s and Pi Brewing together, as well as getting name recognition for the beer, so Nicky V’s has now become Pi Brewing. New signage went up in late January and the new logo is painted on the outside of the building.

A simple selection of tap handles pouring some decidedly non-simple beers.
A simple selection of tap handles pouring some decidedly non-simple beers.

Everything else remains the same, including the menu. This spring they may add a few more beer-friendly appetizers, especially since they have a new happy hour where all their pints are $3.14.

I asked Greg and Nicole if there will be any issues with capacity now that they are really moving forward with the beer side of the operation. Pi does plan to participate in more festivals, including the feBREWary fest this Saturday in Hobbs. Additionally, they plan on having four entries in this year’s World Beer Cup. Greg said that although their system is on the small side, it is a unique and efficient steam-fired system with very accurate temperature control. It is so efficient they can brew twice a day if they really need to, so there are no issues. Long-term plans may include a manufacturing facility with a larger system and perhaps a small taproom, but that is not in the near future. For now, they are focused on marrying the brand. This spring they will also refurbish the patio area.

Beer lovers will enjoy both Pi’s regular and seasonal beers. During my visit, they had a steam beer on tap — one of my favorite styles of beer — and I thought it was very, very good. Perhaps most interesting, however, was their Preacher’s Daughter Red, an homage to Holly Holm. This red ale has a “kick” (sorry, bad UFC pun) due to the addition of red chile pods that brewer Charlie roasted himself. Unlike some chile beers, the flavor was subtle, with just a little hint of warmth on the finish. Just like Pi’s tagline says, this beer was, “Irrational but Well Rounded!”

Thanks Greg and Nicole for the interview, and we all wish you good luck with the “new” Pi Brewing.


— AmyO

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