The target is in sight at long last for Bombs Away Beer Company, which aims to join our craft beer community this year. It will be the first brewery in the Southeast Heights, located at 9801 Acoma, right near the intersection of Central and Moon. I had the chance to sit down with brewer David Kimbell and owners John and Hilary Degnaro last week to go over everything about their forthcoming brewery.
“I was in Afghanistan as an explosive ordinance disposal technician, that was my previous job in the Air Force,” John said. “I wanted to move on from that, try something else, so I spent the next couple years deciding what the next thing would be. I narrowed it down to (owning) a brewery and then I spent pretty much about five years to the day putting this together as far as getting the money together, what kind of brewery do I want to have, what equipment to take, so on and so forth.”
To make that final step, John needed a brewer. Enter David, who has brewed and worked previously at La Cumbre and Santa Fe after getting his start in a part-time role at Kellys.
“I had a business in college I started and ran for about four years,” David said. “Got out of that, didn’t know what I was going to do. I’ve always been into craft beer. I’m from Farmington originally so in high school, Three Rivers, all my buddies worked there. I took about a five-week road trip all over the West Coast, Portland, San Francisco, everywhere. I slept in the back of my truck the whole time. I checked out breweries and right before I left to do that I had already lined up a job at Kellys working part-time. As soon as I started I knew I wanted to open up a brewery, and now I’ve been lucky enough to meet these guys.”
David spent just shy of two years at La Cumbre, where he credits the likes of owner/master brewer Jeff Erway, director of brewing operations Daniel Jaramillo, and head brewer Alan Skinner with imparting so much of the knowledge he needed to run his own brewhouse.
“(Jeff) was amazing,” David said. “Man, I learned everything from there. I worked at a couple other breweries, but at La Cumbre, the passion level there is out of the roof and obviously the talent is out of the roof. Learning from Daniel and Alan, I wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for them.”
David also later added that Santa Fe Brewing brewmaster Bert Boyce has been a great mentor during the process of opening Bombs Away.
While Bombs Away is joining an increasingly crowded craft scene in town, John said the relatively isolated location should keep them from being swallowed up.
“Well, first off, I don’t think the scene is (too) crowded,” John said. “There are more breweries here than there used to be, but that doesn’t make it crowded. Secondly, we’re in a part of town there’s really not a whole lot going on. There’s a whole lot that’s starting to come in here, but we’re the only brewery over here.”
Because of that, Bombs Away will not be overly thematic, even with its obvious military ties and location close to Kirtland Air Force Base.
“I’d like a nice touch of that but I’m not going to say that’s what we’re setting out to do,” John said. “Yeah, absolutely, we want to hire vets, not just because of my background or our location, I just think they’re good people to employ. That’s something we’re keeping on the forefront, but I’m not saying you’re going to walk in here and see an all-vet staff. We’re not going to go with a military theme in the place. There’s a touch of it here and there.”
As the pictures show, the interior is fairly spacious and welcoming. There is an exterior area earmarked for a future patio, but it will not be part of the brewery out of the gate. The interior will have more than enough room for folks to enjoy their beer. John said he does not plan on having too many televisions or live music.
“I think a place like this to me is about people meeting and hanging out, having conversations, enjoying your beer,” he said. “I think really as long as the atmosphere is welcoming and comfortable, that’s all we really to do on our side is have a comfortable place where people can have a conversation. Provide the great beer and the rest kind of takes care of itself.”
There will not be a kitchen, but David said he already has connections to food trucks from his time at La Cumbre, so expect one to be parked outside most nights.
The tap system had just been installed by the time I visited. There will be 15 total taps, giving David plenty of room for creative seasonals in addition to the year-round beers. Style-wise, David said he will not stick strictly to the guidelines for his beers, but he will not being going overboard, either.
“It’s (going to be) the beer we like to drink,” John added. “Drinkability, that’s high on our list.”
The sizable brewing room in the back has quite the unique setup. Rather than buy a whole brewhouse, Bombs Away has assembled its own equipment.
“I think something interesting that we’ve put together, it’s not a traditional brewhouse,” Hilary said. “Early on, we had all the stainless steel sitting in our backyard from different industries all around the country. The majority of everything here has been used somewhere else.”
The brewhouse is made up of a horizontal mash tun (see the top photo) and a 10-barrel kettle. There are 15-barrel fermenters in place, giving David the flexibility to go big with his beers or make smaller batches.
There are also offices and an a side room that could be used for private gatherings. The building is big enough for potential expansion if necessary in the future. For now, though, it is just about getting those doors open.
“I don’t think we really want to give a timetable at this point,” Hilary said. “We’ve been wanting to open for a year. At this point, we just want to hold ourselves to it.”
“The City of Albuquerque hit us with (a delay),” John added. “We had almost five months where we sat on our hands thanks to our wonderful planning department. It’s to the point where we really don’t want to put a time on it, every time we have it’s always been a mess. We’ll be open when we’re open.”
Still, based on their progress to date and the fact their small brewer license with the State of New Mexico has been approved, the Crew will project an autumn opening for Bombs Away.
“One thing I’d like to add is I have a desire, there’s not much going on in New Mexico, but the beer scene is killing it and I have the desire to make this the best beer scene in America,” David said. “I think we’re getting there, the beer quality is amazing here for the most part, but I want to make sure we’re up there when we open.”
That is exactly the kind of confidence and enthusiasm we want to see from a new brewery.
Take note, Bombs Away is already looking to start the hiring process for servers and beertenders. You can email your resume to email@example.com.
All of us in the Crew look forward to heading back over to Bombs Away right before it opens to try the beer and see the finished product ready to go.