On an uncharacteristically overcast Saturday, Dave (boyfriend/partner in crime) and I were tooling around in our Jeep and made our way over to visit our buddy Matt Simonds, owner of Broken Trail Spirits + Brew. For some reason as we drove along, we had a discussion about how we missed the old days of hanging out nearby in the onetime micro pub of the original Il Vicino Brewing operation on Vassar north of Comanche. We were feeling especially nostalgic, but little did we know that feeling was about to become the theme of the next few hours.
It was apparent something major was happening from the moment we walked into Broken Trail’s base of operations on Stanford. There was a bit of controlled chaos. Matt waved to us from the back, so we took a seat at the bar. We were the only ones there, but we were completely surrounded — by supplies. Since it was a slow Saturday afternoon, I wondered if they were just doing some major summer cleaning/rearranging. Matt soon set us straight and filled us in on some significant operational news.
It turns out this would be our last time in this taproom as we currently know it. Matt said they need the space for ramped up production, so the majority of the seating in the original location has to go to make room. Dry storage and probably the bottling line will move up front. He hopes to keep the bar intact and use that area as his lab for now, and keep taps operational for occasional drop-ins; he just will not have any regular taproom hours. Essentially, the main taproom business will be at the Uptown location on Menaul just east of Louisiana. I started to get misty and wistful all over again.
It’s bittersweet, Matt said. The whole bar is a piece of him; it’s his baby.
Then the craziest thing happened. I was suddenly appeased when Matt went on to say that he hopes he can have this original location mimic the vibe of the old Il Vicino. He was waxing nostalgic about it, too. What the hell? Is this guy clairvoyant or something?
So hopefully, it will all come full circle.
I told Matt it’s a very good thing he recently opened the Uptown taproom, and he agreed. He said the location has turned out to have a different crowd than he expected. His expectation was that the location would have about a 50/50 split between spirit and beer sales. To his surprise, that number is currently about 70/30 in favor of beer. Not only was the area underserved as far as local brewery taprooms go — because really only the Alien Brew Pub is in close proximity — and having multiple hotels nearby helps as well. The hotel directly across the street is the Albuquerque crew hotel for Southwest Airlines. Southwest crew members have an app for local places that provide discounts, and this provides good exposure for the taproom.
Matt said that since the first day they opened, they have been at 100-percent capacity. The thing is, about every six months, they increase capacity. They are also making beer much more frequently than they used to. He thinks that makes them better at it, plus turning it over faster makes for fresher beer.
So why the sudden, larger increase in production? For the most part, it stems from being super flexible and always willing to try new things, as well as the relationships Matt has built with other related businesses. Broken Trail is naturally increasing production, bottling, and distribution of their own spirits (as well as accompanying sodas and syrups) and kegging their own beer. They are now working with Mother Road Mobile Canning to package their Pepe the Mule malt beverage. (Pepe even has a Facebook page!)
It is this relationship with Mother Road that fostered the latest opportunity, requiring the immediate need for expansion of the production area. Mother Road approached Broken Trail with an opportunity. As of last week, Broken Trail is the western U.S. producer for a nationally distributed ready-to drink canned spirit product (one not distributed in New Mexico at this time).
Matt had to scramble to buy more, larger equipment. He has a new 40-barrel tank ready to go on line. He is waiting for some fittings and other pieces of additional equipment. They are currently using their 15-barrel tank every day. They will need Mother Road to come in and do canning multiple times a week. And, that means, Matt needs more help in the warehouse. He said it may even lead to having two shifts every day. Three weeks ago, he thought there was no way, he didn’t think he could do it. But, he is doing it. Somehow he makes it work, with more equipment and streamlining of processes.
Additionally, they are talking with a few other local businesses about producing some related, non-alcoholic beverage products. Our most loyal readers may remember a previous story where we joked (joked is the operative word; we were not serious) about Matt changing the name of his business every year and having a contest for the best name. Broken Trail used to be called Distillery 365. Now I said this year he needs to change the name to Broken Trail Beverage Company.
For my own purely selfish reasons I am feeling a bit sad about the change, but it’s really a great sign for things to some. Matt said he is excited about the new opportunities; as always, he is full of the giddy, contagious enthusiasm that is quintessential Matt Simonds.
Cheers to new adventures!
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