The brewing conditions at the original Blue Grasshopper Brewery and Pub in Rio Rancho have always been more than a bit cramped. That will be changing in the future, but not through any expansion of that location. Instead, Blue Grasshopper is building a full-sized brewery in a renovated warehouse on the corner of Summer and Second Street in the Wells Park neighborhood.
I stopped by to visit brewer Peter Apers, who is overseeing the construction, on a smoky morning a couple weeks ago. (Remember the compost fire in the South Valley? Yeah, those were some unpleasant conditions to drive into.) Peter gave me a quick tour of the half of the 10,000 square-foot building that will be home to a taproom and a kitchen. The construction/demolition that day was largely focused on the half where the brewery will go.
“We needed a place to brew beer,” Peter said. “Neither of our places over there (on the West Side) really have the room. Rio Rancho can benefit from a full kitchen, so we need to get that brewing system out of there.”
The small brewhouse will become the pilot brewery at the new location, right on the north side of the bar/taproom area where customers can watch the brewers at work.
“This will be our pilot brewing system section,” Peter said. “We’re going to bring that small brewery over from Rio Rancho. We’ll do our recipe development here. The big space that you saw next door is going to be our main (brewing) area.”
The new brewhouse has not been ordered yet, but it could be one of the biggest in town.
“It’s still open for discussion, anywhere between 24 and 48 (barrels), but time will tell,” Peter said. “We’ll see how our beers are developed here and how that justifies growing that quick. If not, we’ll just do a co-op in there and put in a brew system we can co-op with the smaller brewers, give them a chance to go bigger. We have the space.”
Blue Grasshopper will still carry a large swath of beers from across the state. Peter said the cold room they are building can hold around 200 kegs, with the expectation of 100 beers on tap at any time.
“We’re going to represent all the brewing in New Mexico,” he said. We’re trying to get as many of their beers as we can. That’s been the whole idea from the beginning.
“The more beer you put on tap, the more space you need. It’s tough for our existing places to make that switch. They don’t the space to put in the (bigger) cold rooms, or the time to tear it all apart. It’s a bit premeditated.”
There will be a full kitchen on the south side of the taproom area to support all of that beer.
“This area also needs food,” Peter said. “There’s a lot of breweries here, but there’s really no food. For (Rio Bravo and Tractor) it was an afterthought, and it’s tough to do. Here we do it (in advance).”
Blue Grasshopper will also have a sizable patio on the east side of the building facing Second Street. As for the opening date, that is a long way from being set.
“We’re somewhere in the middle,” Peter said. “We’re taking it easy, baby steps. We’re in no hurry.”
There are still issues with the surrounding neighborhood that are beyond the control of Blue Grasshopper and the other nearby breweries. Peter said he hopes over time that the City of Albuquerque will be able to come with an actionable plan to deal with those issues.
“I think this area has tremendous potential as a brewery district, and it’s affordable,” he said. “That’s why we’re taking our time because (the City) is still trying to figure out how to grow this area, so to speak … figure out the infrastructure, all that stuff.”
The Crew will be sure to keep track of the ongoing progress for Blue Grasshopper. Thanks to Peter for the quick tour and interview.