Just like everyone else, the Crew has been patiently waiting for the opening of Flix Brewhouse on the west side of town. A movie theater with its own brewery? What’s not to love about that? While they talked about being open hopefully by the time Rogue One: A Star Wars Story debuts in December, it turned out that things were revving up even faster at Flix. They will officially be open today (Thursday), just in time for the first screenings of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the sorta prequel series to Harry Potter.
Being good beer writers and all, new Bullpen member Shawna and I trekked over to Flix to meet with head brewer Will Moorman and assistant brewer Marisa Bernal for a quick tour of the space and a taste of the first two house beers that will be on tap. Eventually there will be six house beers, plus a series of rotating seasonals. Fear not, though, there are also 29 (!) guest taps, including lots of local favorites from Bosque, Boxing Bear, Canteen, La Cumbre, Marble, Santa Fe, and Sandia Hard Cider.
“We’ve got six house beers that we do year-round at every Flix location,” Will said. “On top of that, I have a grand total of 11 serving tanks. So, I’ve got five other beers that I’ll be doing throughout the year, as often as those tanks empty. I’m projecting doing 25 different seasonal beers. Hopefully I’ll have to do more than that.”
The six house beers at Flix are Flix Golden Ale, Lupulus IPA (both of which are already on tap), 10 Day Scottish Ale, Luna Rosa Wit, Satellite Red IPA, and Umbra Chocostout. Will said his first specialty beer will be an English brown ale. There are also plans to have beers made especially for big film releases. Look for Rebel Yell, a special porter, when Rogue One debuts in December.
Will said he knows Albuquerque beer drinkers have high standards that he expects to meet.
“As far as the beer scene goes, there’s a lot of really good beer here,” Will said. “I’m thoroughly impressed. I didn’t know what to expect, really. I come from Indianapolis. Indy is currently undergoing its own major craft beer boom. When I left there were 150 breweries in the state, somewhere around there. There was a new one opening every day.
“I think Albuquerque is of a similar population size. I think that this city could support a lot more. I don’t think it’s going to be a lot more giants. People are going to see a lot more smaller ones. I think the neighborhood brewpub is going to become a lot more popular here. I think it’s a good thing. … I’ve only been here for two months, but I think there’s a lot of room for growth.”
Like many other people in the business, Will got his start in craft brewing almost by chance.
“I think Albuquerque is exactly where the rest of the country is as far as stylistic drinking.”
“I was in my senior year of business school in Indiana,” he said. “I was looking for a part-time job. I was really not sure what I wanted to do. A buddy of mine started working at a brewery up in Lafayette, Indiana, called People’s. He was cleaning kegs and (telling me) it’s awesome. It’s great, everybody’s fantastic, and there’s beer everywhere. I thought maybe that will be interesting.
“So, I spent an afternoon hitting up every brewery in downtown Indianapolis. I ended up a Sun King getting a job filling growlers. I looked around and every single person I saw was laughing and having a good time. I wanted a job that’s physically engaging and fun, that I look forward to going to every day. When I graduated, do I take the salaried job offer in marketing that I’m probably not going to be ecstatic about, or do I make eight dollars an hour filling growlers and see if I can go from there, and see if this is something I’m truly interested in? And, it was. I’ve never looked back.”
Will eventually left Sun King to work at Great Fermentations, a home brew shop. From there he met the owner of Tow Yard Brewing, which was just starting up in downtown Indianapolis. After a few months of pestering, Will was offered a job as an assistant brewer.
“I worked there for about two-and-a-half years as the assistant brewer,” Will said. “We were running a 20-barrel system. Our head brewer left after a couple months, so it was me and another assistant who had not brewed on a system that size before. We turned out a lot of not-so-great beer, but we learned a lot because of that, a baptism by fire. After a couple years we started pulling some medals at the Indiana State Fair, which is one of the bigger national professional competitions. It was good to see that our beer was going in the right direction.”
So, how did a brewer from Indiana end up all the way out here in New Mexico? Chalk it up to a vacation and a little bit of luck.
“I was out here a year ago just to visit a buddy and do some hiking,” Will said. “I’d never been to New Mexico before. I just fell in love with the place. It was great, the food was awesome, the hiking was great. I casually made it a goal to start looking for a brewing job in New Mexico, about six months ago. I got a text message one day from the Flix brewer in Carmel, Indiana, who said — without knowing that I’d been here and that I was looking — ‘Hey, do you know anybody who’d be interested in being the head brewer at Flix Brewhouse in Albuquerque, New Mexico?’ Yeah, that kind of just jumped out at me.”
Now, Will gets to run his own brewery. The setup at Flix is somewhat unique. The brewhouse occupies the narrow, northeast corner of the lobby. There are fermenters alongside it, plus more on a second floor above. It is all rather vertical. The serving tanks are on the opposite side of the lobby, on a mezzanine level above the long bar area that runs from east to west on the south side.
Patrons can hang out in the bar area, ordering beer and food. No one says you have to go see a movie if you are visiting Flix. Or, say you are waiting a while for your screening, then you can eat and/or drink in advance. You can also order a beer and/or food at the bar and then take it inside the theater.
There are eight theaters, all ranging in different sizes. The smallest theaters will show art films and the like. The biggest, Theater 4, seats 218 people in front of a 55-foot-wide screen. Each row of chairs has a long table in front of them. You can pull out a tray toward you if you have food or a beer inside. There are little rows in between for people to walk through. Take one of the order forms, fill it out, and press a button, and one of the in-theater servers will see it (it is not visible to patrons unless they turn around, away from the screen) and come to you, pick up your order, and then deliver the food/beer to you. They are trained to stay low, as to not get in the way of patrons viewing the screen.
The food menu is extensive with a lot of pub-grub favorites. Flix Favorites include fish and chips, Bavarian pretzel, chicken tenders, chicken wings, carne asada street tacos, quesadillas, and, of course, hot buttered popcorn. Prices range from $5.50 to $11.95. There are also salads and wraps for your health conscious friends, ranging from $8.95 to $10.95. Flix has 10-inch personal pizzas with a variety of toppings, topping out at $12.50. There are also 10 different burgers and sandwiches, including a hot dog, thus proving once and for all that, yes, a hot dog is a sandwich. Those range from $9.95 to $11.50. You can also order some special desserts, including milkshakes and warm, fresh-baked cookies.
So, yeah, you might want to bike or run over, rather than drive. You will need to burn the calories.
Flix officially opens today (Thursday) with special screenings of Fantastic Beasts at 6, 7, and 8 p.m. Go to the official website now to make your reservations, which are highly recommended.
The Crew will see you all out there shortly. We will make sure to add Flix to The Week Ahead in Beer starting next week, to make sure to stay on top of what Will has available. We would like to thank him, and Marisa (an ABQ native, it should be pointed out) for their time and the tour. The samples of the Golden Ale and IPA were tasty, with the latter having a definite Northwest flavor theme. We look forward to going back and trying all the rest.
See you at the movies!