Archive for May 10, 2018

Somebody has a new home on Candelaria, not far from La Cumbre!

For anyone that was still unaware, Southwest Grape and Grain has moved to a new home at 3401 Candelaria Blvd NE on the north side of the street just west of Carlisle. As the Crew’s main home brewer at this point, I, Franz Solo, headed over to meet with owner Donavan Lane to get a tour of the new space, and gain some sense of what he has planned going forward. We first took a look at the main sales floor.

Donavan: Kind of the same setup as before, a little bit more space up here. It is amazing how much of a difference a few hundred square feet makes. I mean, we had maybe only 400 square feet of additional space in the showroom area compared to the old location, but it makes a huge difference. 

Solo: That it does, because you actually have space around the counter. You’ve got easy access to all of the different sections which are all easier to see. A definite improvement to the shopping experience, in my opinion. 

Space, glorious space!

Donavan: Yeah, this will allow us to look at maybe some other products to bring in, and we have more than enough floor space where if we need to add in another shelf or two we can definitely do that. So we will be looking at that in the next couple of months, some other possible products to carry. 

The grain room is pretty much the same setup we had at the other shop.

Solo: But it’s just so nice and open and …

Donavan: Visible?

Solo: Yeah, visible, it’s not tucked around the corner in the back.

Donavan: Especially for our existing customer base who have been brewing for a long time and coming to us, they knew to go down the hall at the old shop and the grain room is right there. But, for new customers they would walk in and they would never even know this was part of the store, and just having the display bins with all of the different malts it’s just cool looking. So when we designed the space I knew I wanted windows, I wanted this to be visible. The nice thing is that this is kind of a focal point of the store now which is great. 

Southwest Grape and Grain now has a dedicated classroom space.

As some of you may remember from brewing classes offered at the old location, they were held kind of in the middle of everything. I’m glad to say that Grape and Grain now has a dedicated classroom area off of the main floor. We talked a little bit about plans for this space now and in the future.

Donavan: So since we have this space designated as a classroom, I mean we are looking to expand our offering of classes, try to team up with more people on that. I’ve been talking to Brian (Langwell, of Left Turn Distillery) for probably an entire year that we ought to set up a distilling class and things like that. I have a friend who does one of those paint and wine class things, so we will probably look at setting up and doing those here. 

Solo: I mean it is a great space for it.

Donavan: Any other classes we can offer to utilize this space will be something we have in mind. 

The future brewing room and growler fill stations are in the back corner.

New and forthcoming additions to the shop will include a growler-filling station and dedicated brewing area for brewing on site, which is awesome all around.

Donavan: We have our walk-in cooler and our growler-fill station, the intent of it kind of is to brew a few of our own beers, which we will put on tap more as demonstrations than anything. The idea being that if you want to make an IPA or something, here’s one on tap and here are all of the ingredients in a box kind of a thing.

Solo: Yeah, make it and see how yours turns out and then you can learn something and have fun doing it.

Donavan: We eventually plan on putting 20 taps of all of the different local breweries. If a customer wants a pint while they are shopping, that’s great. Overall, however, the focus will be on growler fills, get your homebrew ingredients, get your local beer, and take it home to enjoy while you are brewing. 

This will eventually be our brewing room once we get it finished out the rest of the way. I still have a little 2-barrel system that I had at Broken Bottle, so we are going to set it up and then bring in a few small 1-barrel fermenters and start offering brew on premises. We are looking to do collaborations with Worthogs, Dukes of Ale, with you guys, and so on. Ariel (Figueroa, of Worthogs and a good friend of ours) and I have talked about maybe doing another Battle of the Beer Geeks type of thing, doing another little kind of twist on that with all of the different beer-related clubs in town. 

Make sure to get some reading materials.

Solo: Sounds great to me, the more brewing the better. 

Donavan: We are still waiting, though. We haven’t yet officially submitted our (small brewer) license yet. I’ve got it almost completely done, but the last couple of months with trying to finish up the remodel here and plan the move and everything. 

Solo: Yeah, you’ve had enough on your plate. 

Donavan: It finally just got to the point where I was trying to get it done in the evenings and stuff. Eventually, I had to just put it on the back burner for the time being, get the move done and then finalize it when everything else was all done. Hopefully sooner rather than later we will get it all taken care of and be able to start utilizing this brewing space and get the growler station going.

Solo: It’ll be fun for sure. It’s cool seeing this coming to reality having talked to you, what was it, over a year ago?

Donavan: Yeah, when I bought the shop from Kevin (Davis). It took a lot of planning and between finding the right building and getting a landlord that was willing to work with you and all of the different stuff involved there. But yeah, it’s finally done. Well, mostly done. 

The hops and yeast fridges made their way to the new location.

Solo: You have all of the main stuff tackled.

Donavan: The rest of the stuff is pretty much kind of the same. We tried to keep the same sort of layout and flow of it as close as we could to the other shop. You’ve got your hop fridge, your yeast fridge, your DME and LME, and all of that stuff together, your equipment and kits and stuff all together. So that it is the best possible flow we could create for the layout at this point. Of course, as time goes on we will refine placement of items and such, but the basic idea is already in place. 

The other longer-term thing is that when we get our brewer’s license, we had it put in the lease (that) this outdoor space is ours to utilize. So we are going to put a few chairs and tables out here in this little patio space where you will be able to sit out(side) and have a beer if you want to. Saturday at the grand opening for national homebrew day we had everyone out here where it was the perfect space for everyone to set up and do their brewing demos. Our focus isn’t to try to be a brewery or a taproom or a bar, but to try to bring a little bit of that into the shop is what we had in mind, something of the whole beer experience in one place. If La Cumbre is packed on a weekend and you were on your bike, you can just come over and have a beer here, or once people know that we are doing this you can come down and get three different growlers from three different breweries all in one place. 

Solo: Don’t have to drive all around town to get multiple fills which is quite convenient. Awesome. 

Donavan: It’s been a long couple of months, but it’s mostly all done.

Solo: Hey, you’ve got it man, you’re here.

The grain room is so much more open now.

So for all of you homebrewers out there, head over to the relocated Southwest Grape and Grain and check it out for all of your brewing needs. We will keep you posted as well with any updates to the brewer license/growler station as they come our way.

Until next time, I bid you happy brewing and Skål!

— Franz Solo

We think the late, great Leonard Nimoy would approve of Nexus’ slogan.

Nexus Brewery’s seventh anniversary is closing fast, just two weeks away during Memorial Day weekend. Events will span from Thursday, May 24, through Sunday, May 27, with everything from beer releases to food specials, live music and so on. But, I’ll let owner Ken Carson do the talking here.

“I cannot believe it’s been seven years,” Ken said. “I will never forget the effort it took to go from banking, and hanging out in the four or five breweries in town, and beginning work on our Nexus Brewery.”

As a former banker, Ken said he knew that he needed a business plan and capital. He put the plan and capital together, hired consultants for the kitchen and a master brewer to help with the brewery. However, the plan did not work as intended.

Ken said he noticed about three months in that the ratio of food-to-beer sales was moving against his plan. The projection said 80-percent beer sales and 20-percent food, but it was spinning in the opposite direction. Ken said he was surprised that people really liked the food more than the beer. At nine months, the ratio was 50/50.

“Oh, my goodness, we have become a brewery and restaurant,” Ken said.

The trend continued, and after a visit by celebrity chef Guy Fieri and his program Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives stopped at Nexus, it was all over. The ratio today is 65-percent food to 35-percent beer.

“I think it is our attention to detail, and of course taste,” Ken said. “Nothing can be on our menu unless it tastes exceptional. We are almost 100 percent from scratch, and we work on each recipe every year trying to improve it.”

A tradition like no other, Nexus’ chicken and waffles.

Nexus is not only a company that is about the beer and food. It has a social plan, too. The name Nexus was not arbitrarily created. Although there is an underlying Star Trek theme from the 1994 Star Trek: Generations movie, the word Nexus also mean connection, Ken said.

“Our intent was to build and organization that would connect the community and do good in our community,” he said. “Our membership program provides for members to contribute to our community fund. We also contribute twice as much as our new members provide with their membership. But, we are happy to be an organization that donates to numerous charitable programs thorough out Albuquerque.

“Additionally we wanted to provide good and respectable jobs for our employees, and we have been on the forefront providing a living wage for all employees, along with full health insurance and dental. In addition, all employees revive personal time off, even our servers.”

There is also a third Nexus location coming, just a block south of Avenida Cesar Chavez, with easy access from Interstate 25, and not far from the University of New Mexico sports facilities and Isotopes Park.

“Under construction on 1511 Broadway SE, you will find a new Nexus,” Ken said. “It will be called Nexus Blue Smokehouse. We will create New Mexican barbecue. A touch of red chile and garlic are just a start. But, do not expect Texas, Kansas City or Memphis from us. Our food will always be a blend of indigenous New Mexican flavors with whatever style of food we prepare.

“It’s just like our New Mexico Hot Chicken. We use some cayenne like they do in Nashville, but we know our palates are used to red chile, so we added that and took out the sugar, cause that make no sense. Same will go for the barbecue. I think we did a good job on New Mexican Soul food, and we are not done, so barbecue can be a great addition to our arsenal.”

This place will be packed for the upcoming seventh anniversary.

To get a good idea of what this barbecue will taste like, Nexus will have some prime examples at its anniversary party, which is officially now an ABQ Beer Week event.

“We will provide a preview into our new style of New Mexican barbecue,” Ken said. “I have always personally cooked the barbecue at our anniversary. I will do it again this year. My dream to have a barbecue restaurant is only a few months away. On Saturday, we will have baby back ribs, available until they are gone.

“And on Sunday, we will bring our fried pork chop back. People really loved our pork chops when we were much smaller, but it was difficult to get the meat the way we wanted and we were struggling with room in our fryers. With some of those issues solved we will bring it back.”

Ken said he has enjoyed seeing the growth of Nexus over the past seven years just as much as his customers.

“I am very proud of what we have accomplished,” he said. “I have a great team of people that work very hard every day to bring the Nexus Exbeerience to Albuquerque. I have to give credit to all those employees who have been with us since the beginning or almost, and the new ones that work so hard. A great shout out to the Nexus crew. And also, a great shout out to our customers and Nexus Neighbors and even to our vendors. The support from this community has been tremendous.

“We look forward to seeing all of our friends and neighbors out at month end from Thursday through Sunday!”

There will be two big beer releases for the anniversary weekend.

Here is the lineup of food, beer specials, and bands for both the main Nexus Brewery and the Nexus Silver Taproom on the west side.

  • Thursday, May 24—Release party for Big Ugly Nasty IPA, a.k.a. the BUN
  • Friday, May 25—Release party for the return of Beam Me Up Scotty
  • Saturday, May 26—Day one of the anniversary party, featuring Ken’s famous ribs, with the Racine Creole band performing from 2-5 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 26—At Silver, DJ Graematter will be spinning the best in Afro beat and Afro fusion sounds from 8:30 p.m. to midnight
  • Sunday, May 27—Day two of the anniversary party, featuring a Southern-Fried Pork Chop plate, with Raven Rutherford & Her Sweet Potato Pie Band perform from 2-5 p.m.

In particular, I, Franz Solo, for one look forward to Big Ugly Nasty, being the main hop aficionado of the Brew Crew; and for that matter I do love some ribs, as the rest of the Crew will certainly attest (Yes, yes we do. — S). Beam Me Up Scotty has been a longtime Brew Crew favorite as well and we look forward to trying brewer Randy King’s take on the beloved Scotch ale. So head out and help celebrate seven years of heavenly food and brews from Nexus during the fast approaching ABQ Beer Week!

Skål!

Live Long, and Prosper!

— Franz Solo