During my visit with the Bosque Brewing command staff at their new office/warehouse space last week, we also spent a lot of time talking about the final preparations for Bosque North and its series of openings. There was an industry-invite-only opening on Wednesday, and it will host the final round of the NM IPA Challenge on Saturday, before concluding with the grand opening Monday.
It has been a long, laborious process for Bosque to get the combined production brewery and taproom space up and running. From a lengthy delay caused by construction on Highway 550 (or, more aptly, waiting to figure out how that construction should proceed), to then converting an old building into a state-of-the-art brewery, it has not been easy.
The trio of managing director Gabe Jensen, director of operations Jotham Michnovicz, and director of culture and engagement Jessica Griego took me through the final days of preparing North for occupancy. I then took another tour with director of brewing operations John Bullard for a fresh set of photographs to show just how far the construction has come since my last visit in early March.
“I was telling Gabe yesterday, every time we’ve opened a taproom, it’s all hands on deck for 12 to 16 hours a day,” Jotham said. “Yesterday, I had a meeting with Gabe in our office and everything that needed to be handled was being handled by our team over in that spot. I didn’t even have to be there yesterday, which is really cool to see our team come together and be able to handle (everything).”
While John and production manager Tim Woodward have things handled in the brewery, the front-of-house staff has come together to take charge of the taproom area.
“We actually have as our taproom liaison, he moved up from Las Cruces, his name is Max Portillo,” Jessica said. “He’s been an essential leader on our Las Cruces team for four years now. We’ve been nudging him every time we saw him to move up here and he did. We’re super excited for him. He’s stepping into a new role, but he’s a seasoned leader at Bosque.
“We’ve had maybe one or two other transfers internally, but otherwise it’s all new people. Well, our kitchen manager, he transferred from Nob Hill, his name is Mitch O’Connor. The key management positions are internal, but for the most part we’ve hired from the community, Bernalillo and northern Rio Rancho. That was really a goal of ours to make sure we hired from within the community and were representative of it.”
The team led by Max and Mitch was going through training while I was taking the tour with John, making sure everything would be ready for the inevitable crush of humanity headed their way.
“I think that’s one of the funnest things about opening a restaurant in general, is that camaraderie than happens whenever there is a launch team,” Jotham said. “We’ve got 30 new hires, they were all in this (conference) room doing orientation, getting to know each other and building that rapport with each other. They were there yesterday, putting everything away. It creates a little bit of ownership for the staff. You get to be a part of setting the building up, knowing where everything is going to go. Some of my fondest memories are of opening a restaurant.”
The brewing staff did have to get bigger as well.
“A lot of our brewing staff came over from San Mateo,” Jotham said. “It’s a pretty light staff over there now. We did bolster the team as well, we hired some new positions. I’d say the majority of the people that were on our brewing team are now at Bernalillo.”
“They were brewers or they moved from elsewhere on staff to join the brewing team, packaging team, cellar, all that,” Gabe added.
The canning line is already up and running, meaning that at last, all Bosque packaged beer is being brewed and canned in New Mexico.
“We’re doing it,” Gabe said. “We got our last shipment of IPA a week ago. That was the last (overall). Everything from here on out that’s produced will be at Bernalillo.
“It’s getting to that point where I can’t keep up. They’ve already canned Elephants on Parade twice. That was the one thing that we were super nervous about because we hadn’t done it. The first run was like oh, that went perfect.”
Bosque did receive a large number of unused cans from Sleeping Giant in Denver, so try not to get confused if you still see the old labeling.
“We’ve had some other hiccups with packaging, but that’s going to happen,” Gabe said. “We got permission from the TTB to put beer in the cans that (still) say Denver, and we’ll just have to stamp them on the bottom to say NM next to the date, just so we can use up those cans. There will be a transition period of a couple months of where we’re brewing it here, but it will still have Denver packaging.”
The first cans with a full New Mexico label, as opposed to an underside stamp, will be the 1888, but Gabe and Jotham said they are waiting on the cartons to arrive before they can can the beer.
What will really get beer geeks excited, however, is what else will be going into cans in the near future.
“We’ll be doing some one-off can specialty releases as well,” Jessica said. “That’s probably our biggest (project). … I’m the most excited about that, to be able to release some specialty beers in cans, and showcase our quality and what we can do out there.”
“I think that’s one of the things that’s John is most excited about,” Gabe added.
John confirmed that he does have four specialty cans on the docket, all of which will come in 16-ounce cans in four packs, as opposed to the 12-ounce six-pack cans for the regular offerings.
So what will a couple of those cans contain? Well, one just might be a past two-time National and New Mexico IPA Challenge winner, and the other might be a former Great American Beer Festival medal winner of a certain fresh hop persuasion.
“There’s a good variety in there, too,” Jessica said. “We’ve got a wide range of styles. We still have to figure out the dynamics of how we release them. Do they hit all the taprooms at the same time? Are they only at Bernalillo first and then they hit the taprooms? We have some logistics to work out on that still. We’ll make sure to communicate that clearly on social media for everyone.”
Overall, Bosque North is an impressive creation in all aspects. It is just another sign of how far our local craft beer industry has come in just the past six years. The days of jamming tiny brewing systems into strip malls and hoping for the best have come and gone. The bar has been raised and will continue to be raised, which is good news for all of us that love craft beer.
Here are some additional pictures from Wednesday night’s industry-only invite opening for a final look before the public gets to join us.
Once again, it is a very good time to be a fan of local craft beer in New Mexico. Thanks to Gabe, Jotham, Jessica, and John for everything.
See some of you at the NMIPAC on Saturday.