Ponderosa Brewing has endured a fair amount of change since opening in September 2014. They are already on their third head brewer, yet have managed to build up a strong following in the Sawmill District and from beer lovers all around town. To tackle how 2015 went, and what 2016 holds for Ponderosa, it took two interviews with two brewers.
First up, Stoutmeister and I sat down with former head brewer Andrew Krosche, who left at the end of 2015 to take over the same role at Chama River. Andrew said he spent “between seven and eight months” in charge at Ponderosa after coming over from Marble. His highlights while working at Ponderosa ranged from the people he worked with to “the 8 1/2-inch-wide, half-inch deep trench drains.” (These things are important to a brewer.)
Working under the direction of the company’s brewmaster in Portland, Alan Taylor, Andrew said he also became well acquainted with the Reinheitsgebot German Beer Purity Law of 1516. Go ahead, say that name three times fast. As Alan was trained as a brewer in Germany, he makes sure all of his breweries and brewers adhere to those strict laws.
“We grew quite a bit in 2015,” Andrew said. “One of the things I was most proud of was the creation of Ponderosa Distributing Company.”
That meant in addition to serving Ponderosa’s best beers inside the inviting taproom or on the patio while listening to local musical acts, beer lovers were also able to sip their suds at other ABQ-area establishments including Matanza, Duel, Imbibe, and even the new Freight House in Bernalillo.
When asked if he had any parting advice for Ponderosa, Andrew said, “just keep on doing what they are doing,” namely working on streamlining their products, getting their name out there, and making amazing beer. “They have all the elements for greatness,” he said.
Tracking Andrew down at Chama River was easy — it did not hurt that he and Stoutmeister already knew each other (seriously, who doesn’t our editor know in this town?) — but it was a little harder to track down his replacement at Ponderosa. Between his need to hit the ground running and my own free time outside of work and family commitments suddenly disappearing, it took us a while to meet up. Finally, even though they were filming an episode of Better Call Saul at the brewery that day (it was closed to the public), I was able to sit down with Ponderosa’s new “Maine” man, Robert (Bob) Haggerty.
A native of that Northeastern state — he got his start there at Oxbow Brewing Co. — “Brewer Bob,” as the Ponderosa Facebook page likes to call him, came to New Mexico several years ago. He served as an assistant brewer at La Cumbre from 2012 to 2015, and later became one of just three certified Cicerones in New Mexico, as Stoutmeister found out when they met for an interview last spring.
Even though Robert had only had been working at Ponderosa about a week when I spoke with him, his respect and fondness for his new home and excitement for his future plans were obvious. In the vein of “don’t fix what isn’t broken,” Robert said he will stay the course with several of the current house beers, including the American Wheat, Rip Saw Red, Berliner Weisse, and the Blonde Stout. Ever the perfectionist, Robert said he looks forward to further refining Ponderosa’s “top branch,” the Crosscut Kölsch. That recipe was concocted by Alan during his time in Germany; when he returned to Portland, Alan brought his recipe, along with a proprietary yeast strain from the VLB in Berlin. The mix of German Pilsner and Wheat malts and German Magnum and Hallertau hops make it taste just like it came straight out of Cologne. It will be fun to see whatever touches Robert adds!
Having been given the green light to work with barrels, Robert said he plans to carve out his own niche in making new additions to Ponderosa and the ABQ craft beer scene. Robert said he is striving for the “fun and funky” when it comes to styles and flavors. Beer lovers should plan to check back and check often for his upcoming saisons and kettle-soured offerings. The Brew Crew will keep you posted.
For a full list of the current beers on tap, plus their location, hours, and events, visit their website at ponderosabrewing.net. Many thanks to Andrew and Robert for their time and talent, and cheers to Ponderosa on an amazing first full year and all they have in store for this one!
— Bharley Quinn