The surge of breweries opening in the Albuquerque metro area has finally slowed to a trickle. Only five new pending small brewer licenses are listed with the State of New Mexico, and two of those (BLUE, Brewstillery) have been pending for so long, they might just be dead projects.
We know that Ex Novo Brewing is coming to Corrales, but it is still a ways off. We know almost nothing about the mysterious place called Colonia.
The only forthcoming brewery that we knew was progressing towards opening sooner than later was Black Snout Brewhouse, all courtesy of its Instagram feed and a short story from Albuquerque Business First. After a quick email exchange, I met up last week with co-owner Josh James at the still-unfinished space at a shopping center on the southeast corner of Menaul and Juan Tabo. Nestled in among a Ross Dress For Less, Goodwill, and Mario’s Pizza will be the latest brewery in town, looking to make its mark in a relatively under-served area.
“We kind of want to do a sports-themed brewery,” Josh said inside the 3,731-square-foot space. “What I wanted to do was like TRVE, like heavy metal, kind of dark, but I don’t think Albuquerque is ready for that. My wife (Natasha) and I are huge sports fans, so we went with that.”
At present, all Josh and Natasha, his co-owner, have is a hollowed-out space. There has been work at setting in the plumbing for the brewery and bar in the back, but otherwise it is currently just concrete floors and walls. Josh expressed optimism that construction would begin in earnest soon, possibly even this week.
“Right now, we have our federal license approved, we have our taproom approved,” he said. “We’re waiting on the State, it’s in legal review right now. Hopefully in like January, late January. I want to be open for sure by the Super Bowl. I’m just hoping and praying. Now comes a whole new set of headaches with permits and plan review.”
The initial plan calls for opening with a 1-barrel brewhouse, similar to what High and Dry Brewing is operating.
“We’re kind of doing it in a couple phases because I wanted to get going,” Josh said. “To open with we’ll be a nano brewery. We’ll be undersized for sure, but once we open, we get going, I collect a little bit of funds, then we’ll go into a 5-barrel system. Right now I’m getting quotes.”
As many other brewery owners have learned, opening a brewery is not cheap.
“I didn’t want to take out loans or anything of that nature, this is all just self-funded,” Josh said. “It’s unbelievable. … This is an insane amount of money (an estimated $100,000), but it’s just my wife and I. This is our dream. Breweries are popping up everywhere, but this is in our (neighborhood). It is what it is, but no one is going to stop us from our dream, for sure.”
The current location at 11500 Menaul NE was sort of a four-times-a-charm for Black Snout.
“This is our third and final spot where we’ve tried to open a brewery,” Josh said. “We wanted to open one out in Placitas. I knew the owner of Anasazi Winery, his name (was) Jim Fish. We were like two weeks away from signing a draft. I was going to buy a half acre next to his winery and build like a production brewery out there and see where it went. He ended up passing away, so that kind of went out.”
Josh and his wife then looked at spots in Albuquerque. The first ran afoul of the apparent proximity to BJ’s Brewhouse.
“We tried down at Winrock Town Center,” he said. “There was some sort of conflict of interest, they didn’t want any other breweries, especially no little guys in there.”
From there, Josh looked at a spot that Cantero Brewing also had its eye on, but in the end neither ended up there.
“Finally, we landed on this spot where we thought this was cool,” he said. “This was like two years ago on San Pedro and Paseo (del Norte). It’s just now starting to go up. Like I said, a year before that, I had one meeting with the commercial real estate agent. He said he had spot, but I just never heard anything.”
In the end, Josh looked right near the area where he grew up.
“My wife and I came by and this was the spot if we’re going to do it,” he said. “I know the neighborhood, I grew up in the neighborhood, I know a lot of the neighbors. I went to high school at Eldorado, I went to middle school up here at Hoover. I remember when I was 10 years old, kicking the curbs, being a little punk walking around in my little death metal shirts.”
Josh did spend a day last week brewing with the staff at Starr Brothers, but otherwise he is following in their footsteps as a homebrewer looking to make the leap to the professional ranks.
“I’ve been homebrewing for 12 years now, never anything professionally,” Josh said. “I took the old college route, I got my undergraduate (degree) in civil engineering. I kind of did that. I got into brewing once I had graduated from college and then I got a job out in Phoenix. My buddies and I on the weekend, we would get together at Four Peaks Brewing over in Tempe. That’s what piqued my interest.”
Josh noted that “after years and years of getting some recipes together which we feel are of high quality,” he ended up with a spare bedroom full of 10 or so beers fermenting at a time. Natasha then decided it was time to give him that final push to get the ball rolling, which finally got Josh started on the project six years ago.
Those recipes will now create an initial beer lineup that will of course include an IPA or two, plus some fruited hefeweizens, a SMASH beer that Josh said he plans to simply call “Brewski,” and perhaps a Baltic porter. Oh, and of course the Black Snout Stout, which like the brewery is named for the family dog.
Slowly but surely, the far Northeast Heights is becoming a destination for craft beer drinkers, with Quarter Celtic opening a taproom just to the south of Black Snout on Juan Tabo, plus of course the existing taprooms by Canteen and Tractor on Tramway, and Marble Heights and Lizard Tail at Eubank and Montgomery.
We wish Josh a lot of luck going forward. There is still a lot of work to do if he is going to get the brewery open by the first weekend of February. If he does, we will be happy to add Black Snout Stout to our annual Stout Challenge. We will do our best to keep everyone up to date on the progress at Black Snout and all the other forthcoming breweries around the state.