Before I disappeared down the rabbit hole of covering the high school basketball state tournament, I went back over to Flix Brewhouse to chat with head brewer Will Moorman and assistant brewer Marisa Bernal for their entry in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series. Flix has only been open since November, but it has already made its mark on the local scene.
“It has become a major place to go on the West Side,” said Marisa, an Albuquerque native. “There didn’t use to be anything out here.”
Flix is, first and foremost, a movie theater, but unlike all the rest on either side of the river, it is the only one that brews and serves its own beer. Will, who hails from Indiana, has quickly learned just what that means to the residents of ABQ.
“This town likes to drink, this town likes to drink,” he said twice for emphasis. “It seems that everyone is very hop-forward (too).”
Even in a slow season for movies, the crowds have kept Will and Marisa busy brewing almost every day. Flix offers up six house beers and a rotating series of five seasonals, plus it has many more guest taps, featuring a mix of local and national craft beers.
It is with those seasonals, though, where the brewers get to have the most fun.
“I’ve been learning a lot about our brewery, just getting our system dialed in, figuring out what we can do,” Will said. “We’ve had a couple of rather big brews that we did, a Belgian quad and an American barleywine. Just figuring out how much we could actually put our system through. That was kind of fun.”
As for Marisa, who started out in the wine industry out in California, moving to brewing has already taught her “a lot.”
“I’ve done my first solo brews,” she said. “I’m just learning the whole system. I love barrels, I love barrel aging.”
The barrel-aging program at Flix is already underway. Patrons can see the barrels upstairs above the bar, in the same room as the serving tanks.
“We’ve got three Chardonnay barrels, two 30-year-old Mexican port barrels, a couple Breckenridge bourbon barrels, and a rye barrel,” Will said. “So we’re tinkering around with that. We’ve got some funky stuff happening upstairs.”
The Rebel Yell Porter, brewed back in December for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is in one barrel. The January Embers Barleywine, a personal favorite among the seasonals to date, occupies another. There are also some kettle sours aging away.
In the case of the barrels, Marisa has taken charge.
“I’ve been learning a lot, barrel-wise, from Marisa,” Will said. “She got to play with a lot more barrels than I’ve seen.”
“I got to rebuild an entire barrel,” she added. “Three years in the wine industry paid off. It was a good time.”
While the barrels are doing their thing, Flix has already picked up its first medal at a beer competition, with the seasonal Brown Basilisk earning the honor.
“We picked up a (bronze) medal at the Best of Craft Beer Awards for our brown ale, which is amazing,” Will said. “I’m super ecstatic about that.”
Will said they will be sending off beers to be judged at the North American Beer Awards next, with an eye on the Great American Beer Festival in the fall.
In the meantime, more unique seasonals are either on tap or on the way. Mr. Cutty Fingers, a Loganberry IPA, debuted over the weekend with the movie Logan. It will be joined by another newcomer this weekend, though this will not have a movie tie-in.
“We have a saison coming out, Saison DeWalt, which is in honor of the original GM at the first Flix Brewhouse, who tragically passed away of a heart attack at a very young age,” Will said. “So every year every Flix does a saison that’s in his honor. That will be out on the 11th (of March).”
Will also brewed a beer he affectionately named Bug Base with an old friend from Indiana. That beer will be entered in the pro-am competition at the upcoming Santa Fe Open. Bug Base is basically a base beer that the brewers can infuse with different strains of brettanomyces and such inside barrels.
“I’m excited to see what our bugs do,” Will said. “They’ve been bubbling away nicely. They smell great.”
In addition to continually working to improve the beer, Will and Marisa are also doing their homework for some additional certification.
“Our main focus right now, apart from brewing beer and producing beer, is getting BJCP certified,” he said. “We’ve been talking to a couple judges, a couple home brew groups out here, and a then some of the brewers that I really admire. … I’m super young at this, I’ve got a lot to learn. We both do, really. I figure that’s a great way to improve the quality of our product.”
This is the time of year to do it, since Logan is just the start of the major movies coming out in the next few months.
“We’re in our slow season right now and it’s still pretty heavy,” Will said. “From what I understand, things should slow down again in August, just based on new movie releases. But then we’ve got the summertime with kids who have nothing to do, and parents who just need to drink as a result.”
Those parents have offered up mostly positive reviews of the beer so far, which Will said he appreciated, but at the same time the best feedback comes from his peers in the business.
“Feedback is hard to get objectively from people,” Will said. “Which is fine, it’s nice to hear, but as far as super objective (feedback), I’ve been talking to a couple other brewers around here, taking my beer around. I’ve gotten some good feedback. There’s a couple things I’ve been tinkering with that will obviously help the quality of the beer. We’re still young. I’m happy with the way our beer has turned out thus far, but I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, totally satisfied.”
That is all one can ask for from any brewer, so it would seem that residents from across Albuquerque, not just the West Side, are in good hands at Flix.
Thank you to Will and Marisa for taking time out of their day to chat, and for the crowler (yes, they have those) of the barleywine.