UPDATE: You can all continue reading the story below, but we have now received official word that Broken Trail has received its state license and will be opening soon! Still, though, read on for details about the space and the battle they went through to get open.
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The mini-mystery of who was opening a taproom in the old Urban Mattress space on Menaul east of Louisiana, next to Fork & Fig and Filling Philly’s, was solved a while back. Now the only mystery is when the City of Albuquerque will allow Broken Trail to actually open its doors.
I met up with Broken Trail owner/distiller/brewer/handyman Matt Simonds last Friday, which was supposed to be the last day before he held a soft opening at the location at 6902 Menaul Blvd. NE.
“We had our hearing (this) September and at this point we’ve opened up a couple of these (taprooms),” Matt said. “I feel like I know things pretty well. We had all our stuff together to the point where I’m laughing with the hearing officer walking out the door.
“An hour later I get a call and they’re like, ‘Uh, Mr. Simonds, we’re really sorry but we didn’t give you the complete neighborhood list of all the neighborhood associations. So we have to deny your license, or deny approval.’ I’m like, ‘You guys gave me a list. You gave me the wrong list. I was compliant.’ ”
Oh, City of Albuquerque, you never fail to amaze. Being the good guy that he is, Matt was able to work out an agreement. Well, or so he thought.
“After much infighting and much discussion, we finally came to the conclusion that they would give me temporary approval under the assumption that I would come back in a month and take care of it,” he said. “I’m like, all right, that’s reasonable. It’s a pain in my butt, but at least it’s a solution. Send my approval to the State and it doesn’t hold me up.
“I’m talking to the State (last) week and we’re ready for our license. What’s our holdup? They said they don’t have anything from the City yet. I’m sorry what? So, I’m sitting there talking with them, they’re like oh, I’m sorry, I thought we were supposed to wait until your October hearing. Our bad! I’m like, that’s awesome, thanks guys, because when we’re not compliant the hammer is dropped down. When they are it’s we’re sorry, our bad.”
It was particularly unfortunate that Broken Trail could not open last weekend since the Sheraton hotel across the street was packed with Balloon Fiesta attendees.
“I know it doesn’t look like it, but we’re really just a good cleaning job away from being open,” Matt said. “Our plan was to have people in here, not necessarily announced, but open our doors (Saturday) and maybe start paying some of my bills.”
The new taproom certainly looks like it will be an inviting space whenever the City allows it to open. It shares an outdoor space with the two eateries, and folks will be able to bring food across the walkway and enjoy it at Broken Trail. That alone was a huge selling point for Matt when he chose the location.
“I have no desire to operate a kitchen,” Matt said. “I’m up to my neck in beer and spirits as it is. We felt like to have some sort of growth we had to do something like this, and here we are.”
Of course, with every other place in town seemingly opening up a new off-site taproom, it behooves the question of why now for Broken Trail.
“Uh, stupidity? Delusion? Insanity?,” Matt joked when asked that question. “You know, it was a number of reasons. Obviously, Green Jeans is kind of our big off-site taproom at the moment, but we only do liquor over there, and it’s only about yay big. And so, we wanted a place that had some room for growth, a place that we could do the beer and liquor together.
“I can’t tell you the number of times that people at Santa Fe Brewing say, ‘Hey, can we bring our Pepe the Mule over?’ Or, ‘Hey, can we take the Happy Camper over?’ ‘No, sorry.’ Being able to do the two together, it’s huge.”
Choosing a location close to a hotel, plus the Coronado, Winrock, and Uptown shopping centers was not the original target, Matt said, but it should work out just fine.
“We really wanted to do far Northeast Heights,” he said. “We were just a week behind the eight ball and all of a sudden Tractor, Red Door and some named-yet-unnamed brewery at Eubank and Menaul (jumped in). We were really too late to hit that.
“I really don’t want to cross the river, yet. We really thought this (area) was an underserved market. You’ve got Alien (Brew Pub) that’s relatively close. There’s some overlap there, but not really.”
Once the realtor showed Matt the current space, he fell in love.
“The location we thought was fantastic,” he said. “Visibility was great, access was great. It has parking, which I guess is rare apparently in the brewing industry. Just a bit, right? The irony is the centrality of this location actually lends itself to the Uber crowd and (yet) we have parking.
“I think a lot of the stars aligned on the location and the timing. For us to maybe stretch our legs a little bit as a brewery … we’re going to have a handful of guest taps, (but) we’re getting our stuff out in the world alongside the spirits.”
The taproom will have plenty of seating inside and a small patio on the east side of the building facing the two restaurants. It will seat just under 100 people, Matt said. The bar is more to the south end of the interior, featuring plenty of unique little touches.
Matt designed a bar top with all the elements of a bike trail through a miniature dirt-and-rock course and other neat little objects covered by a thick coating of resin, similar to the table tops at Anodyne downtown.
“I feel like every brewery (or taproom) that opens up is if it’s put through the craft brewery catalogue — let’s have a chalkboard beer menu, let’s have rustic lighting,” Matt said. “We wanted to have something that really stood apart. The bar top was the first thing and that’s just I can’t think of anything that’s a better reflection of our identity and who we are.”
Customers may not notice the bar top until they are standing next to it, but they will for certain notice the unique taps behind the bar. That is because all of them are encased inside an actual log. As in from a real tree.
“Then the taps, this is really cool, the guy that owns Albuquerque Hardwood Lumber is a friend of mine,” Matt said. “I exchanged him some bourbon for this log and they quartered it off for me and I hollowed it out and put the taps in there. I thought it was so cool and so unique and it actually works.”
As Matt noted before, Broken Trail will have some guest taps, including a Copper Ale from Little Toad Creek down in Silver City. That will mark the first time LTC has a tap in Albuquerque, and it is a partnership that should continue into the future, Matt said. Tractor will have its Delicious Red Apple Cider on tap, plus others will be announced whenever Broken Trail is allowed to open its doors.
The Crew will keep on top of things as far as the opening goes. Keep monitoring the main Broken Trail Facebook page as well for any announcements. Until then, we all wish Matt the best of luck when it comes to being patient with the small-business-hating bureaucracy of the City of Albuquerque.