Our Look Back/Look Ahead Series continues from Santa Fe with Second Street Brewery. Back in July, I did an article on the new brewing facility and taproom under construction at 2920 Rufina St. Recently, I sat down with president/brewmaster Rod Tweet and talked about how this year went, how the big expansion is progressing, and what new and exciting changes to expect for Second Street in 2017.
“Business has been good,” Tweet said. “We started construction on the Rufina site in April. That’s moving along pretty well, (but) not quite as fast as we would like. But, we were going into a building, which is a great building for what we want to do, and was pretty affordable, but it had no infrastructure.”
It took Second Street about three months to get proper power, water, plumbing, and sewage, basically everything you need to turn an empty warehouse into a brewing facility. They had to put in their own transformers, a new water heater, and even a fire suppression system. Around the middle of November, the new brewing equipment arrived on four trucks from Portland, Oregon. Tweet said it’s a great system, and it’s different equipment from the original brewpub on Second Street. It’s a proper three-vessel system, with a 20-barrel brewhouse with 60-barrel hot liquor and 60-barrel cold liquor tanks. Right off the line, it’s set up to support multiple brews. With its internal calandria, it’s anticipated to make a big difference in their utilization from the old system.
Tweet said everyone in the brewery was excited with the arrival and installation of the brewing equipment. “It was sort of a lifetime moment,” he said. Second Street had only ever worked with used equipment which they had pieced together. “This was the first time we’ve been able to design it, design all the parameters just the way we want, so that’s been a really fun experience for John and I.”
The brewery also has a decent number of fermenters and brite tanks to start out with, Tweet said. All of the ancillary equipment is here and currently being installed as well. As I’m writing this, the only thing that hasn’t arrived yet is their new Wild Goose WGC 250 (four-head filler) canning line, and Ska Fab Depalletizer, but those will likely be in by the time you read this story.
As one can imagine with all expansions, there were a few minor setbacks and obstacles, but nothing major that delayed their plans. I asked if there was anything they might have done differently when planning a major expansion/building of a brand-new brewing facility and taproom, and Tweet replied, “When you’re in these projects, if there’s one thing that I probably would have done differently, it would be this. You spend a lot of the time getting the funds together, and then you need the design work, and the engineering has to be done. There’s a lot of pressure to submit for building permits. So, you’re under lots of stress to get the architecture and engineering done, to submit because that’s a critical path item. You have to wait, so there’s a lot of focus on getting them in as soon as possible. So, I think, slowing down a bit and spending more time at the design and engineering phase saves some headaches down the line that cost you time anyway. So, any time you saved by rushing the submission in, it all comes back to you. Go fast, but not too fast. You’re burning money on it. You’re paying rent, and you don’t want to waste time, but the more thorough you can be during the design and engineering phase, it will save you money.”
For the most part it has been business as usual at the original Second Street and Second Street Railyard locations, with one major change in staff to note. Longtime front-of-house manager Colleen Sager will be moving on soon to utilize her graduate degree in sports psychology. Everyone is happy for her, but she will definitely be missed, that’s for sure. But, worry not, the ever-capable Eileen Loy will continue on as manager, and Second Street’s service will be second to none.
In addition to the expansion this year, Second Street received a couple of medals. Trebuchet Imperial IPA won silver at the World Beer Cup out of 181 entries. Trebuchet, which will be renamed their Imperial IPA, also received honorable mention at GABF (Great American Beer Festival) after making it into the final round of judging. Another big achievement Tweet added was that the 25-cent drink tax was tabled when it was introduced as a non-binding resolution for the Santa Fe County Commission, a sign that it stands little chance of passing in the upcoming state legislative session. That’s good news for everybody. Cheers to that!
The coming year will bring many new challenges and opportunities for Second Street as the new facility opens up. Tweet said that Second Street is not really going to focus on the packaging at the beginning of 2017. Instead, they’ll be working on getting their brewing equipment up and running, getting the new beers going, and preparing a 4,000-square foot taproom for the public. Though it hasn’t been built yet, Tweet said he is proud of the architectural design for the new taproom done by DNCA/Davendra Contractor Architects out of Albuquerque, as well as the all of small touches that Tweet and his building crew will add to it, such as custom woodwork and light fixtures, and the ever-important 24 taps.
Second Street has worked hard selecting beer, wine, and cider for the new site, including guest handles, to make good use of their small brewer license. At the Rufina site, packaging beer is certainly a priority, and is a means for upping their capacity, but that doesn’t mean the taproom was at all an afterthought. As anyone who’s ever been to a Second Street location will attest, Tweet and company know how to put together a great public house for beer, food, and entertainment.
The new Rufina space will not be similar to either of Second Street’s two current taprooms/brewpubs. Tweet made that abundantly clear. “We very intentionally want it to be its own thing, a whole different experience,” he said. The new space on Rufina will have its own food menu put together by Chef Milton. They’re going to book music differently as well, shifting from routine weekly bookings to slightly larger shows. As far as occupancy goes, the capacity will be somewhere around 220 inside and whatever number can fit comfortably within a 1,000-square foot patio outside. As of now, that number hadn’t quite been worked out yet.
Second Street has begun to hire for the new space, currently hand-picking people for key roles, before they begin actively hiring the rest of the staff. Santa Fe record label owner and social media guru, Eliza Lutz, will be handling the music booking. And, new to the scene, but very qualified, Mariah Scee joins the Second Street team as front-of-house manager at Rufina. “I think she’s really going to be a force of nature there,” Tweet said emphatically. “It’s all starting to come together. The people you hire for all of those positions are just as important as the building.”
At the original location, Tweet assured me that they will keep the original brewing system, as it’s great at what it does. They’re brewing just under a couple thousand barrels a year on it, and it’s supplying beer to the original and Railyard locations just fine.
Second Street is currently transitioning to where head brewer John Walker has been spending a lot more time at the new location. Tweet will join him in another few weeks. Scee will join after that as the taproom begins to take shape. Tom Ludzia and Brendan Lopez will continue as assistant brewers, traveling between both breweries until everything is set in place.
On the packaging end, they already have art for the new core beers; they’re just in the process of finalizing everything. They’ve worked hard on some new beers for Rufina. “We have a flagship IPA and an American pale ale formulated,” Tweet said. “We’ve got four or five other beers formulated for that property between John and I. And, we’ve kind of stopped trying to do more right now, because that’s sort of enough for us to get started with that system. But, we both have a lot of ideas on paper, like a pilsner. John has a stout (recipe put) together, the LVL Stout. We have enough for package product and for a core lineup.” Tweet added they will be on the shelves wherever they can. At this point, they’re just waiting on approval from the TTB.
“In the craft beer market, the world has changed for the better, meaning the market can support more product than it ever used to be able to, by leaps and bounds, and it’s still growing,” Tweet said. “And, the world has changed, and it’s a good time for us to change along with it. We’re going to have abilities with the new venue that we’ve not been able to fully realize here. We’ll have two brewhouses in operation. We’ll have more skilled employees in the brewery, more ideas, more of the idiosyncratic stuff, sours and barrel-aged. So, I think for the consumer, an expansion like this is nothing but good. They’ll just have more products from us than ever. For us as a company, along with the beer, it’s going to add a landmark venue to the city that doesn’t exist right now. Within the city limits of Santa Fe, this is going to be something entirely different that this town has never seen.”
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Despite what 2016 was for most of us, it was a productive year for Second Street Brewery. So much time and effort went into the planning and construction of the new space, and 2017 is going to reap the rewards of all of their hard work. As far as timelines go for the Rufina space, a February opening is the goal, but Tweet took a sip of his beer and said with a chuckle, “Let’s call it March.” And, as with all construction projects we’ve kept our eye on in the industry, I’d say, let’s call that fair. To more beer, new taprooms, and a swift death to the drink tax, raise ‘em up!