It’s been a busy first year for Bombs Away Beer Company owners John and Hilary Degnaro, and they show no signs of slowing down, as we found out for our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series.
By 3:30 p.m. on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, the side streets outside the brewery were lined with cars, and the taproom was already packed with thirsty patrons ready to celebrate the long holiday weekend ahead.
Another recent holiday weekend was a significant landmark for the brewery — the Degnaros adopted Veteran’s Day 2017 as their first official opening. But, local residents and employees from Kirtland Air Force Base wouldn’t have noticed too much fanfare either for last year’s grand opening or for their one-year anniversary, since Hilary said it isn’t really their style.
Nevertheless, the brewery has had a considerable list of accomplishments in just a little over a year since opening.
“We’re sitting in the major accomplishment,” John said as he enjoyed a beer on the patio, which was completed near the end of July this year.
“(The patio) really opened up the square footage of the taproom,” Hilary said. “It’ll be standing-room-only in there, which amazes us.”
“People find us,” she continued. “We don’t put up a lot of signage. People like that it’s kind of a hidden gem.”
John said he credits much of their success to the variety and drinkability of the beer brewed by head brewer and co-owner Dave Kimbell.
“We’ve got 16 taps,” he said, “keeping the variety up to (Dave’s) standards.”
All 16 taps are rotating, although they always keep on a few standbys, including Bombs Away IPA, Willie Pete Wit, and the lagers on hand.
“If one of those ever ran out …” Hilary began.
“… it would be mutiny,” John finished.
One current special on a rotating tap is Fusion Fuel, brewed with white wine grape juice, peaches, and hops on an IPA scale. A dollar of every one sold will go to the EOD Warrior Foundation. If a lot of hops is not your thing, you can also contribute to the buy a vet a beer board, which has been a popular way for visitors of the brewery to feel like part of the community.
“From day one, we wanted to be engaged in causes that mean something to us,” John said. “We never had the intention to market to the military, but that’s who we are.”
Also, although not heavily advertised, one beer is on cask every Friday.
“I don’t think we missed a Friday in six to eight months,” John said.
In addition to the rotating taps, there are some new projects in the works for the upcoming year, beginning with a special release to come out once per quarter in a Champagne-style bottle.
While there are no current plans for distribution, the brewery does have one keg account with the new growler-fill station at Southwest Grape and Grain, and the beer currently available is Willie Pete Wit.
For all those hungry guests who have noticed the lack of a food truck outside, the taproom now offers its own food menu.
“It’s something we always kicked around,” John said. “Do we do food or not?”
The Degnaros decided on a simple menu that they believe doesn’t take away from the beer, which they said they want to keep as the focus.
“They’re just sandwiches, (but) we think they’re pretty good sandwiches,” John said.
“We still eat them for lunch,” Hilary added.
And, so do the guests, who call in requesting to pick them up during their lunch break.
In addition to adding a menu, Hilary said she would also like to expand their merchandising. Currently, although there was no big anniversary celebration, you can pick up a souvenir stackable Stanley tumbler engraved with the Bombs Away logo, free with a growler fill or a crowler 3-pack. They can also be purchased for $8.
Both Degnaros said there is still a lot they want to accomplish with the brewery. John referred to it as a never-ending project, chipping away little by little, like building a house, but at its core, he said he strives to keep focused on their original intent.
“We’re not planning to go to the moon,” he said. “We’re just trying to brew beer.”
Thanks to John and Hilary for sitting down to talk on such a busy day.