A while back in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series story on Second Street Brewery, we learned that they already had plans in the works for quite a large expansion. More recently, Second Street made it official in a Santa Fe New Mexican article, and the cat was officially out of the bag. We in the Crew don’t mind being scooped, so to speak, as long as we get to tell the story that’s important to our readers, the beer truth, if you will. We don’t necessarily care about how the project was funded, though we’ll cover that, too. We care about what new beers will be on draft, and what the new packaging hall will produce and how far that beer will reach. Will Second Street’s new cans make it to the Albuquerque market? Those are the questions we ask at the Dark Side Brew Crew.
To answer those questions, I met with owner/president/brewmaster Rod Tweet to talk about the very near future of Second Street Brewery. Over a couple of their latest delicious creations, Rod told me about how they’d come to choose the space. It was about two-and-a-half years ago when they started looking for another site. At that point it was a good time for them to make that move. They were particularly interested in the Rufina part of town because it was within city limits.
“If you’re looking for relatively cheap space, and within city limits, that part of town is where it’s at right now,” Rod said. He also noted that Rufina Street had good traffic patterns for a taproom. I think that Duel, which is just down the street, will attest to that. Rod chose the spot even before the now-famous Meow Wolf set up their all-ages acid-trip experience in the neighborhood. With two breweries and a wonderland built into the old bowling alley, this area could certainly be argued as becoming a kind of an entertainment district, but it’s too soon to say that out loud. “We had no knowledge about everything else going in there,” Rod said. “But, we’re obviously thrilled about it.”
Rod and SSB’s head brewer, John Walker, had looked at a couple spaces before they chose the 20,000-square foot, rectangle-shaped warehouse. Rod said they were looking for something smaller, actually, but it was affordable and a few things lined up just right. They knew they could make a lot of spaces work, but Rod liked the site and saw potential in it. Of course, as with most warehouse spaces, it lacked the infrastructure for everything a brewery needs — plumbing, an adequate water supply, dedicated transformers, fire suppression, etc., but that’s all being put in place now.
The space itself will be sectioned off by walls, separating a taproom, a cellar, office space, a lab, as well as the packaging hall and the brewhouse. Once the loading dock area is added, the new taproom space will be about 4,000 square feet. They aim to replace the two large overhead doors with modern glass ones, which will lead out onto a raised patio, complete with attractive outdoor seating overlooking the district. Inside, as with Rod’s past successful projects, he will again build the bar. There will be 16 taps, including one or two guest taps, he said. Rod’s vision for the overall experience of the taproom is that he wants it to have a more informal feel, he said, with a generous amount of community tables, both inside and out. This time, he’s aiming for less of a restaurant vibe than the other locations, but there will definitely be food there, which Chef Milton Villarrubia III has carefully crafted the menu. All I’m allowed to say about the menu at this point is that it will certainly be different from the other two locations.
The other 16,000 square feet will be dedicated to a new 20-barrel, 3-vessel system. There will be a large walk-in cooler and supporting rooms, like an office, a lab, and a mill room, of course. Rod’s particularly excited about having a conference room for the first time. It’s a huge undertaking, one much larger than Second Street’s previous projects. The architect for this one is DNCA Architects/Devendra Contractor out of ABQ.
“They have done all of our projects going back about a dozen years,” Rod said. And, to clarify a little misinformation floating around out there, the funding for the project came primarily from a loan with LANB, as well as some internal fundraising through the sale of equity (i.e., shares).
The canning line will find a home, as well, somewhere in the huge new space. The machine itself will be a four-head filler from Wild Goose Engineering in Boulder, Colo. “The plan right now is to go to market with 16-ounce tall cans,” Rod said.
When it’s up and running, it should be doing about 40 cans per minute. Rod said they will be self-distributing at first, and perhaps hiring a sales team later on as they hit their groove. In order to do this, they’ve applied for the limited wholesaler’s license, which was part of the legislation a few years ago. With that, they’ll also be able to retain their restaurant beer and wine license, as well, and they’ll be running their own wholesale shop out of the new space.
“We’re probably going to roll out one flagship brand in draft and package,” Rod said. But, fear not, they’ve already got two more beers planned. The can art is already in the works. The cans will be available at all of their locations as well as a few accounts that Second Street is working on acquiring, or have already acquired. Think Jubilation, for starters.
At this point, Rod turned around and pointed to one of the corners and talked about wanting to do some barrel-aging over there, which he explained they hadn’t really been able to do before due to space limitations. “John, in particular, is pretty keenly interested in getting a sour program going,” Rod said. My tart taste buds perked up at the prospect. At the current facility they have about seven barrels aging, but Rod explained that to do a proper barrel program, you really need something more like 80 barrels.
Walker and Tweet are currently working on flagships that will be unique to that location. This is indeed an exciting thing to hear. Their intention is to expand their portfolio, with some of those beers brewed at the new facility making their way to the other two locations, as well as a few popular beers from the “Oldery” making their way to the newest taproom. Rod explained that a lot of the 2920 beer series currently on tap are formulations that they’re experimenting with, which have a good chance of becoming one or some of the flagships at the new place. A busy brewpub with a 10-barrel system makes experimentation like that possible. Rod said they can do four or five different iterations of something (10 barrels) in five or six months. With that in mind, they’ve just about locked down their formula for their new flagship IPA, which should be the first new beer off the line.
Right now, Second Street does about 1,800 barrels per year, selling pints only. With the new site and its packaging capabilities, they want to reach near 10,000 to 12,000 per year. “We have the space that if there’s opportunity, we can go past that,” Rod said. The aim is to have the doors open to the taproom by January, rolling out their first flagship product fairly quickly after that.
The production staff, however, should already be brewing and producing beer within the mid-fourth quarter of 2016. They’ll be looking to hire new staff for brewing/cellaring and packaging/warehouse pretty soon, but as with all expansions, it’s one of those wait till the last second kind of things. Rod said he expects that John will be down at the new facility, full-time, by October.
You could definitely see the excitement in Rod’s eyes when he talked about the expansion. “That front room is a big deal to us, and we’ll run it right,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of effort into making it an attractive place, a place you want to go. And, that’s the business we know. We’re good at it, at this point. It’ll be a nice room. We’ll have some good food there. We are always family friendly. We get a lot of family business, and that business is important to us.
“I think it’s going to be a really quality addition to what’s going on in Santa Fe that doesn’t really exist right now. It’s a reasonably big-sized space, so we can also do things with music there that we can’t do now. As far as the beers themselves, we’ve been somewhat contained by our footprint here, and this third site’s going to let us grow and expand our portfolio in ways that we haven’t done so far. And, I think that’s going to be really exciting.
“And, we’re going to have a flagship lager, too. We’ve always done lagers, but they’ve never played a big role in our portfolio, and there will be a couple flagship lagers at this taproom, and there’s a good chance one of them is going to be a package product. And, the barrel-aging, pursuing sours, with all of what we’ll be able to do, as far as the beer world and the consumers it’s going to give us a chance to offer a lot more. And, with the extra space, we have a lot more room to grow.”
From zero to 40 cans a minute, from 60 to about 100 staff, from 1,800 to 10,000 to 12,000 barrels a year, Second Street has made it clear that they’re not just opening Second Street Part III. This new facility and taproom will be a brand new craft beer experience in the City Different. It’ll have that classic Second Street feel, but with all new flavor, so to speak. Rod’s success at running brewpubs will certainly transfer over to the new site, and should solidify their place in the brand new entertainment district that nobody saw coming.
And, cheers to having a little room to grow!
— Luke (Craft Crusader)
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