For this edition of our ongoing Look Back/Look Ahead Series, we are focusing on one of the more distant breweries in New Mexico (for most of you, at least). Bathtub Row Brewing (BRB) in Los Alamos has now been in business for over a year and a half, and things are going quite well in terms of brewing and business. I sat down with general manager Jason Fitzpatrick, staff member Doug Osborn, and head brewer Nic Boyden to get their take on how last year went and how this year will fare.
Some of the major changes have involved personnel. Nic was hired in 2016, and he seems to have gotten comfortable in his role after an exciting time learning the ropes.
“I finally feel like I’m getting up to full speed, getting into the groove now,” Nic said. “It allows me to focus on recipe development.” (See our earlier interview with Nic for more details on his life and times.)
To take some of the load off of him, a couple of the bartenders have been helping out with keg washing, milling, and other time-consuming chores. The sharing of duties gives Nic time to focus on other things, like new recipes, and as Jason pointed out, “It’s also a great crossover between back of the house and front of the house. They get to see what actually goes on in the process on a day-to-day basis.”
In addition to a new brewer, the general manager position will see a change soon as well. Jason has been the GM since February 2015, but he has plans for a new venture in Santa Fe and will be leaving in early 2017. (You will certainly see details about his venture on this blog, just to give you an idea what sort of business it will be!) Jason was around in BRB’s early days, and his experience and vision helped turn it into the success that it is today. Replacing him will be Doug, who has been working as a bartender at BRB for about a year and a half. Like Jason, who came from Marble when they had a location on the Santa Fe Plaza, Doug has a background in the beer business. He worked at Marble with Jason and helped get Blue Corn and Chama River off the ground. Prior to that, he was in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, working on a ship and doing layout and design for a local newspaper.
“I haven’t been warm since I got back,” Doug said.
While the crazy days of starting up a fledgling business are behind them, there’s still a lot of work involved in running the brewery. For the most part, the GM handles all day-to-day operations, including purchasing, personnel, accounting, you name it, and the GM probably gets it done. Fortunately for Doug, Jason is planning to stick around long enough so that the handover will be smooth. Jason said he promised to stay in touch and will always have a soft spot for BRB.
Doug said he is looking forward to the challenges of his new position.
“My expertise has always been more front of the house than back of the house, especially when it comes to brewing,” Doug said. “I let those guys do what they do. But, I am looking forward to getting more involved in the brewing aspect.”
There are other changes afoot.
“We’re going to add a transportainer out back, which will help with storage,” Jason said. “We hope to use it as a mill room (too). We’re also going to purchase another 7-barrel fermenter to help with that summertime rush, when Hoppenheimer (IPA) is flowing, but demand is higher than we can meet.”
They may also buy a second fermenter later in the year to help ease the strain.
“Bigger is better in a lot of ways,” Nic said. “It provides bit more control over variables in the brew process. Doing larger and fewer batches can free up time to focus on cellaring and
In 2016, Jason estimated that BRB produced 700 to 750 barrels of beer; in 2017, he said that he expects that number to grow to as much as 1,100. As he succintly put it, “It’s a thirsty town.”
The brewery’s plans to buy and operate a food truck were foiled. The truck was purchased, but unfortunately the landlord didn’t allow them to sell food, so it will have to be sold. There are plenty of food options nearby that deliver, however. On a related note, the local food co-op was providing a simple food menu for awhile, but the logistics proved too difficult, so that has been scrapped.
The outdoor seating area has been redone, and it’s much more comfortable now. It’s taken four months to finish, and because it doubles the occupancy, it’s a welcome addition. In the summer months, it will have sun sails overhead for shade. Complementing the patio on the side is some additional seating directly in front.
Beer dinners at the taproom have been a huge success. The most recent one sold out in three days. Generally, they are done monthly in coordination with Laura Hamilton, the chef at Pig and Fig, a local restaurant.
Other events will continue as well. Tuesday night is usually jazz night with local musicians, and Saturdays often feature a band. Last year’s Stout Invitational looks to become an annual event; this year’s will be even bigger, with 15 breweries featured versus last year’s 12. The brewery will be selling their wares at a monthly “beer and band” event at the nearby Pajarito Ski Area. BRB will also be taking part at WinterBrew, a beer festival at the Farmer’s Market in Santa Fe this Friday.
The beers will continue to be a mix of old favorites (Hoppenheimer, Wit Rock, and others) and new, creative recipes. Nic said he is keen on doing more barreling.
“We want to have more consistent barrel releases throughout the year, not just when we have a slow time,” he said. “In the summertime we are definitely strapped for brewing capacity.”
Recently, BRB featured a pair of excellent chile-infused beers. Expect 2017 to feature plenty of good brews.
2016 was BRB’s first full year of business, and it proved to be a huge success. 2017 should just be more of the same, and we mean that in the best sense.