Driving north on Highway 14 in the east mountains, I immediately noticed a change in front of Ale Republic, my destination for this entry in our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series. Instead of turning right by the post office into a nondescript entrance, there is now a bright turquoise grain hopper with a brewery sign, just south of the other entrance, announcing the new way to approach the building.
Entering using this access presents the building head-on rather than from the side, which is much more impressive. Two and a half years after Ale Republic’s opening, I have seen several changes, and this was only the first change just since my last visit a few months ago. There is now a covered patio in the front, with plans to add gas heaters. On the north side of the building, a stage is taking shape for live music outside. It will be covered in the same corrugated metal roof style as the patio.
The biggest news, however, is the addition of an on-site kitchen. I was excited to be able to grab lunch there with my beer, so I ordered a Cubano sandwich (with house-picked jalapenos added; a perfect compliment suggested by our “beerista”) and a cup of green chile chicken stew. Both items were outstanding. The only nitpick I can even bring up is that the side pickle was not very pickled compared to the jalapenos, making it taste a little like a side of cucumber. A very small slight.
Greta, our beerista, told us that in the front of house, Ale Republic is showcasing a featured artist each month, with an art show each first Friday. Anyone who is interested can submit their work. The art really warms up the taproom space and helps connect the brewery to the community.
Business partners Patrick Johnson and Zach Gould sat down with me to discuss these new improvements and what they foresee happening in the upcoming year. They said they have pushed expansion pretty rapidly on a shoestring budget. They have decided not to take on any investors, so they do what they can when they can. This week sometime, they are expecting another brand-new arrival (Patrick is a new dad, as well). A wood-fired pizza oven will be installed by the new year. If the rest of the food is any indication, this will be a great reason to make the short drive from town.
Zach said he is hoping to do special bottle releases on a regular basis this coming year. Also, they hope to get some taps going in Albuquerque. The addition of new brewing space in the building behind the taproom, and quite a few new fermenters, will help Ale Republic accomplish those goals. Patrick and the brewing team are still using a 3-barrel system, but can turn out the beer faster with their additional equipment. The installation of a tankless water heater provided the ability to almost constantly brew without needing a hot liquor tank. They are brewing two-to-three times per week and are keeping more styles available on tap. Hopefully, in 2019, they will move to a 10-barrel system, they said.
The large amount of space and high ceilings in the new building will allow for larger tanks, and Patrick said they are in the market to purchase some. I also asked him about the water at their location, because I know it is a big issue for some east mountain businesses. Patrick said it used to be an issue for them as well, but they changed the location for well extraction, and their particular source is perfect. One hundred yards away the water is not good, Patrick said. At Ale Republic, it comes straight out of the well pretty much pH neutral. It is always being tested and does not need to be treated. As far as they know, they are the only ones using untreated water right from the ground.
Ale Republic plans to launch its 2019 music series with a big party on 4/20. Yes, it is very intentional. It falls on a weekend this year, so it is just perfect. When they acquired the back building, they moved the lot line quite a bit and the property is much more spacious. We walked most of the property. Long-term plans include a beer garden back there in the next few years. It will be great because there are mountains and hills on all sides.
If you thought you knew Ale Republic, you might want to come back for the expanded beer selection and the thoughtful menu from the new kitchen. There is a chance for snow this week, something that turns the already lovely east mountains into a magical destination.