It’s been a couple weeks now since the new brewery/distillery and concert space/taproom have been open, and it already seems as though new life has sprung up in Santa Fe’s brewery/entertainment/nightlife community. With all inspections passed, Tumbleroot’s doors have finally swung open at both of their locations. That’s right, both of their locations. In two short weeks, Santa Feans have already found their way to the hip new joint on Agua Fria Street to grab a beer or cocktail, and enjoy some excellent entertainment while they’re at it.
On three separate occasions, four, if you’re counting a purely personal stop, I visited the brewing facility and the taproom. On two of those trips, I sat down with the co-founding Jasons, Jason Fitzpatrick and Jason Kirkman. And then, on a separate instance, I brought the brewers from another local brewery to visit and conduct an across-the-board cocktail and spirit tasting of Tumbleroot, or an all-in-fun inter-brewery raid. Because, friends, I am but one beer writer.
First off, I met with co-founder and general manager Jason Fitzpatrick. Over a Pale Ale, in a small office, just behind the large stage, I asked him how it all got started.
“My partner Jason Kirkman and I worked up at Bathtub Row,” Fitzpatrick said. “And, the reasons that we went up there, separately, was to learn how to open a brewery.”
Before that, Fitzpatrick worked at Marble Brewery, beginning as a bartender on the plaza in Santa Fe (now the Draft Station), and ending as vice president of Marble. He’s been in the industry for eight years, but he’s been in the restaurant and bar industry for sixteen years, between Scottsdale, Ariz., Los Angeles, and Santa Fe.
At Bathtub Row, he met Kirkman, where they’d worked together for about five months, before heading up to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival. There, they got to spend some time together, really talking about what it would take to open a brewery.
“We thought we had a similar aesthetic,” Fitzpatrick said. “And, just this idea of community and creating this sort of taproom. And, our skills really complemented each other well, because I’m on the business side, and he’s on the brewer/distiller side.”
As they toured around Denver, collecting inspiration and tossing around ideas, the idea of Tumbleroot was born.
Tumbleroot Bisbee (Production Facility)
32 Bisbee Ct, Santa Fe, NM 87508
Co-founder Jason Kirkman, head of brewing and distilling operations, is in charge of what goes into and comes out of the tanks, of course with input from his brewers and Fitzpatrick.
Kirkman was a biochemistry major in college who started homebrewing after taking a microbiology class, and his first job after college was working at a commercial brewery. He’d taught for years, but homebrewed all the while.
“(Kirkman’s) a bit of a savant when it comes to taking the ingredients and knowing what the end-product is going to be before doing it,” Fitzpatrick said.
Kirkman has been homebrewing for over 20 years, but he’s worked the past couple years at Broken Trail Brewery and Distillery, learning how to become a distiller.
I finally caught up with the elusive (and very busy) Kirkman at the production facility in their much smaller, but no-less gorgeous wood-topped taproom. I asked him a few questions about the production side, as what sounded like A Tribe Called Quest bumped some ill beats in the background.
“We’re utilizing the brewery for the fermentation side of the distillation process and spirits production,” Kirkman said as he leaned over the bar. “We start with 100-percent organic base ingredients. If we’re going to do a rum, we’ll take some kind of cane product. We’ve been using organic evaporated cane sugar for the white, the gold rum. Basically evaporated cane juice, so it’s still got flavor and minerals and all that. And then, we’ll add our house yeasts. We’ll use beer yeasts. We’ll use some dry spirit specific yeasts. We’ve been throwing in a lot of French Saison yeast for spirit fermentation, for a little character and attenuation. For the Agave, we use 100-percent blue agave nectar, so we’re using a tequila specific yeast.”
Tumbleroot does all of its base fermentation utilizing the 10-barrel brewhouse, brewing equipment, and fermenters. The staff then puts it through the still, and, depending on the type of spirit, for example, if it’s a vodka, they’ll make a neutral spirit, pure distilling at a very high proof up to 95 percent of alcohol (the highest you can get off of a regular distillation of alcohol coming off the still). Tumbleroot doesn’t charcoal filter its spirits, as the staff wants people to taste some of the base ingredients in there. They want more natural flavor in what they’re creating, which is closer to the European way, Kirkman said.
When it came to choosing their spirits, the staff knew they wanted a full bar at the taproom. And, in order to do that, they distilled with variety in mind, also thinking along the lines of what spirits do we want to make for good cocktails?
“That’s why we have two types of gin, for different kinds of cocktails,” Kirkman said. “We have different kinds of vodkas (that are) great mixers. Our rums are more highly distilled than a lot of sipping rums that you age. Given time, we’d love to have more rye whiskeys. But, right now it’s basically cocktails, right? And, with our plan, we’re doing everything from basic ingredient to glass. We’re actually making mixers, simple syrups, our own vermouth, our own bitters.”
As far as beer philosophy goes, Kirkman said they’re focusing on seasonals. They want to have a regular rotation of seasonal beers and then a few that remain year-round, like their IPA and Farmhouse Ale. One seasonal they just released only days ago was their Maibock, which is the last of the spring rotation. They plan to have season-specific beers, but always present a wide variety in their seasonal rotations, with a sort of formula to their releases. Kirkman said they want to always do lagers, always a Belgian style, always an American style, and always a dark beer.
As for barrel-aging, they currently have a Bourbon Barrel Belgian Dark Strong Ale with cherries on the menu.
“We’re infusing spirits and beer,” Fitzpatrick said. “We want to go back and forth in the barrel. So we’re going to get some barrels. For example, our next barrel project is getting some kind of barrels and putting our Navy Strength Gin in them. And, once the Navy Strength Gin is done, we’ll do a Barleywine that goes into those barrels. Once the Barleywine’s been in there, we’ll go back to spirits. So those barrels are going to be used multiple times. We’ll go back and forth between spirits and beer. We have our Rye Whiskey on now that was aged for 14 months. We have a bourbon in a barrel right now, and a Farmhouse Whiskey — it’s our Farmhouse beer recipe, distilled as whiskey. And, those will turn into beer barrels after we empty them.”
Right now, Tumbleroot has a lot of irons in the fire, from 12 wine barrels full of sours, the Barleywine project, and barrel-aging more spirits. Kirkman talked of actually getting three different spirits barrels, and putting the golden Barleywine into each different barrel for very different effects. Now it’s just finding the time and the manpower to do it all.
The future of Tumbleroot production is wide open at this point. Kirkman said they’re going to focus on refining the base recipes. He’s looking forward to a rotating field beer in the summer, with wild-harvested ingredients or ingredients acquired from a local farmer. He’s definitely got more barrel projects in mind, bigger spirits that take more time to age, like Anejo, more whiskeys, and so on.
Tumbleroot currently brews three times a week on its 10-barrel system, producing about 30 or 40 barrels a week, while sneaking in a fourth brew. But, of course, not all of it is beer.
“Each distillation, each 10-barrel fermentation, depending on what we do, can yield about about two-to-300 bottles,” Kirkman said. “And, that’s pretty much a weekly thing. That’ll keep us ahead, and then we can start distributing. But right now, with demand, I’m going to run out before I can make everything.”
Tumbleroot’s Agua Fria Taproom, Stage and Marketplace
Location: 2797 Agua Fria St, Santa Fe, NM 87507
It took the Jasons and company just six months to transform the remnants of old Club Alegria into Santa Fe’s newest playground (for both children and adults), currently housed by Tumbleroot. But, it started long before that.
They signed the lease on the Agua Fria location on October 24 of last year.
“It really took us a year to get to that point though,” Fitzpatrick said. “Part of it was going through the city process, special use permit and all that. We didn’t want to start doing work until we knew we’d be able to be in this space.”
Any issues they came across, they worked through them, and like any brewery trying to open within the city limits, they had to deal with city obstacles. And, if you’ve ever read one of my articles about a brewery opening in Santa Fe, you already know it ain’t easy like Sunday morning. The construction process took six months for them to become compliant, but then there was also meeting the goal of hitting the visual aesthetic they had in mind since GABF.
Opening two spaces at once wasn’t the original plan. Ideally, they wanted it to be once space. They looked for different spots around Santa Fe for a whole year. It just didn’t work out for the Jasonic Duo. After walking the Alegria space, they said they both loved the potential. They believed it was exactly what they wanted for the bar space, the stage area, the wide open hall. But, they also knew, right away, that they wouldn’t be brewing and distilling on site. This space was what they had in mind for the Tumbleroot experience, but a separate production facility was now necessary.
There are now eight taps at both locations, from which flow Kirkman’s creations.
- Tier 1: Dortmunder, Farmhouse, Irish Stout
- Tier 2: Citra Pale Ale, IPA, Honey Hibiscus Wheat
- Tier 3: Imperial Red Ale
- Tier 4: Bourbon Barrel Belgian Dark Strong Ale with cherries
- Grain Vodka
- Botanical Gin
- London Dry Gin
- Blanco Rum
- Oro Rum
- Plata Agave
- Repasado Agave
- Rye Malt Whiskey
Front-of-house operations manager Joe Haggard came up with the special cocktails mixed at Tumbleroot. Very well versed in mixology, he put together the special list, in collaboration with Kirkman and Fitzpatrick as seen in the picture below.
They plan to keep their food situation simple, offering snacks but mostly utilizing food trucks to keep their patrons fed.
Tumbleroot has music four nights a week. Tuesday is a songwriter’s showcase hosted by Bill Palmer. Wednesday is an open-mic night hosted by sound engineer, Jason Reed. Fridays and Saturdays, Tumbleroot hosts full bands from both in and out of state. The staff said they will also be working with AMP Concerts to bring in national shows, which they aim to be booking for late summer/early fall.
The occupancy is 400, both inside and out. Tumbleroot is open from noon to 10 p.m. from Sunday through Wednesday, and from noon to midnight Thursday through Saturday. Which, if I may note, is awesome to have another place open past 10 in this sleepy city.
In Fitzpatrick’s words, what makes this space unique for Santa Fe is “what we’re able to do because of our size.
“That we can create kids’ areas,” he said. “We have intimate lounge areas. We have a bar that we created, so that people sit across from each other, and can meet and talk — without TVs, so that everybody’s not just staring at a screen, but instead, across the bar, interacting. So I think it’s the flexibility of the space. It can become so many different things, and from hour to hour, change.”
Tumbleroot officially opened the taproom on April 19. The production facility (taproom) officially opened on April 6.
For the future of Tumbleroot, Fitzpatrick said he wants to create community, or help foster community. That’s the focus of the Tumbleroot taproom space. A big part of what they want to do at the taproom is host different events, such as artist markets and fundraisers all built around the the local community. And, next year they plan on distribution, with accounts solely around Santa Fe, for now. Soon, however, they hope to build a real name for themselves within the yet unsaturated craft spirit business.
I’ve visited both spaces and tried everything on the menu at least once. The new Tumbleroot taproom is certainly something to behold. It’s a giant, but a gentle one. It has the funny tendency to make you want to return. And, though they’re dialing in the recipes for the beers, everything I had was solid, though different approaches than one might be expecting in some cases. Don’t expect heaps of heavy-hitting hops here, at least not yet anyway. The spirits are top-notch, light years beyond even our favorite store-bought high-end hooch, but then again, Santa Fe doesn’t produce bad spirits. Perhaps it’s all the churches? I kid. And, the cocktails are inspired, refreshing, and full of flavors that you can easily pick out, if you spend enough time sipping. And, sip you should, lest these spirits turn to poltergeists in larger numbers.
Something great and powerful has come to Santa Fe. But, something deeply welcoming, too. The bartenders and servers are some of the nicest you’ll find in the area, and the seats and smooth wood of the bar tops just beg you to sit a spell and relax. Bring the family, bring your buddies, or bring a date. All are welcome, and well-received. If you need service, just ask for a Jason. There may be more than two around.
For my full-on brewery raid, where I brought the brewers of Rowley Farmhouse Ales to taste everything Tumbleroot had to offer, stay-tuned for my next article. Until then, to exploring broadly, connecting deeply, cheers!
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