Second Street had another great year, with each of its taprooms humming along like well-oiled machines. The big news wasn’t the taprooms in 2018, although it should be noted that Second Street Rufina is steadily becoming just as much a fixture in the Santa Fe brewpub scene as the Oldery and the Railyard locations already are. The real star of Second Street’s 2018, however, was another machine altogether, one perhaps not as well-oiled (just yet), but one with multiple components whirring to life at the hands of a few good men and women. That machine includes the canning line, the wholesale shop, and the new lines of distribution of kegs and gorgeous cans chugging off the line.
Some time between counting inventory and working on the latest batch of one of his new flagship beers, president and brewmaster Rod Tweet made some time to sit down with me for the latest installment of our Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2018-19.
Tweet meets me after work on a Saturday at Rufina. We take one of the tall tables in the large Rufina space, and I have a hard time deciding on what I want to drink, for once. There’s more than a few exciting beers on the list these days, but I’m in the mood for the Brown. It’s good, and I can’t recall the last time I really enjoyed a Brown Ale as much in years.
After taking a couple sips, I start the recorder. I want to see how business was in 2018, and I want to hear all about the brand-new canning line, and how its first few months in operation went. As we all know, it ain’t easy getting one of those things firing on all pistons. I’m also looking to find out what they plan to do with all the beer they’re pouring into packaging in 2019, and which beers.
“We had a really good year,” Tweet says. “The new place continues to grow. The Railyard, and the original location are like an engine, relatively figured out at this point.”
Second Street is still fine-tuning Rufina, building on what they know, but tweaking everything from food to events as needed. With their restaurant business purring away, they have more time to focus on what we’re all interested in: beer.
2018 was the start of something big for Second Street. It was a year that Second Street shifted its focus toward getting beer out of their production facility and into stores.
Getting their wholesale “shop” up and running, so that they can self-distribute, was a major undertaking, which included the hiring of four additional employees. They hired a sales manager, packaging and inventory manager, and a couple delivery drivers.
In May, they started draft sales around town with a few accounts in Albuquerque. By August, the canning line was running, which they launched with three flagship brands — Boneshaker Bitter, 2920 IPA, and Agua Fria Pilsner. Since then, they’ve released two seasonals, Jack Plane Porter and Skookum Barleywine.
“It was a lot of work, but we’ve got the packaging line well in-hand, and we feel pretty good about what we can do with that, getting beer in the cans,” Tweet says. “And, Steve (Anderson), our sales manager has done a great job.”
Getting the canning line up and running and creating distribution channels wasn’t without its challenges.
“There’s definitely a learning curve, and we’re not all the way through it yet,” Tweet says. “But, we’ve had a lot of help from the industry, from friends and brewing colleagues, those who have been canning for a while already. It’s been great.”
It isn’t just about what’s on the inside, either. Getting the artwork for the cans generated takes a lot of back-end work, as Second Street learned this year.
“There’s hours and hours of back-end work. But, we’ve learned a lot,” Tweet says. “Mariah (Scee)’s done a great job with generating the designs, and I have no doubt that she’ll continue to be able to keep that up.”
In under a year, Second Street has garnered about 75 to 80 new beer accounts, and they’ll be looking at a whole lot more in 2019. And, now that they have some real information and data to work with, they’re focused on making accurate sales projections so they can better respond to what goes on in the market.
“It was a pretty daunting task; we had to go from zero to 75 to 80 accounts,” Tweet says. “I mean, we’ve never had accounts receivable before, until May. And, now we have an accounts receivable manager.”
They wouldn’t be able to get their beer “out into the world,” so to speak, without taking care of business at home. It’s a huge company of staff that makes everything possible, Tweet says.
“I have a great staff and a lot of good managers,” he says. “Obviously with three restaurants and two brewhouses to run, it’s just not even possible, let alone enjoyable, to make it work without a lot of high quality and hardworking staff, which thankfully we have. And, on the brewery side, between brewery and wholesale, we are a pretty lean and mean crew, and it works well because everyone is really good at what they do, and everyone likes working together and wants to be here.”
A major accomplishment on the home front was creating a couple signature events at Rufina, one being a show in the brewery showcasing about 40 vintage motorcycles to a huge crowd of fans. That will be an annual event, Tweet says, with music and food specials.
The second signature event was the Crab and Pilsner Festival.
“It was a huge success, and we were a bit overwhelmed by it, actually,” Tweet says.
The potential for the Rufina space has always been tremendous, but according to Tweet, it wasn’t until Crab and Pilsner Fest that it was fully realized. I’m happy to report that it will be back again in 2019. I’ll be there, crab bib and all.
Tweet says he is very pleased with how everything has come together with the brewing and the wholesaling in 2018. In 2019, his focus will shift more to his “big-picture” responsibilities, but also to honing the beers coming from the brewhouse at Rufina.
The big plan for Second Street in 2019 is beer, and much more of it. Is there ever a more worthy goal? They plan to build up the wholesaling of both draft and packaging, and vastly expand their accounts around the state, beginning with mid-level retailers like Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Total Wine as a few examples, and then go from there. That’s already in the works, and should be in effect around the first quarter of 2019.
Recently, Second Street named Todd Yocham, formerly the head brewer at Duel Brewing, as its new inventory and packaging manager.
“I’m excited for Second Street’s future,” Yocham sais. “It’s a great time to be Second Street in New Mexico. We’re really moving forward with the products we’re putting out, and they’re doing really well.”
In order to fulfill these new accounts and other orders, they’ll certainly need more tank space. But, they’re not ‘going big or going home,’ instead they’re growing as needed. There are currently just two tanks on the way, a 40-barrel and a 20-barrel.
“From here on out, I think it’s going to be a continuing process of adding tank space,” Tweet says. “I think we’re fine at the moment, but being ready to respond is now a major thing. I picture us steadily adding some amount of tank space over the next couple of years.”
With new accounts and more tank space, they’re going to need to fill them with a lot more beer and beer styles. Tweet’s focuses in 2019 will be expanding their barrel program with more big, barrel-aged beers and sours, and honing what they’re already doing well.
A good amount of the brewing at the old brewhouse, and the Rufina brewhouse, is being done by head brewer Tom Ludzia, with his faithful companion Sheila always close by. Ludzia works on everything from rotating beers to barrel projects, and flagship beers to sours.
And, everyone is very happy with how well the sours are doing at the taprooms, so they won’t be going away any time soon.
Speaking of which, as for new seasonals, we can expect to see them pop up, quarterly, with the first in 2019 being Dragon’s Blood Sour some time in the spring, that is, if this Stark winter ever ends, and a new recipe for an Imperial Pilsner going into summer.
In 2019, Tweet will be focusing on dialing in the product consistency of the package and draft offerings, but there will definitely be a lot of new and interesting (beer) ideas that he’ll be trying out as taproom exclusives as the year rolls along.
With all the new beers and new flagships to focus on, Tweet says he won’t be forgetting his roots. This weekend Second Street is hosting a brand-new, possibly signature event, A Bitter Day at Second Street.
This event will showcase one of Tweet’s signature styles, the ESB (Extra Special Bitter), and will feature ESBs from six different breweries as well as three of Second Street’s own creations. The home team will pour Rod’s Best Bitter, Double X ESB, and Outlier Special Bitter, including a collaboration with Sidetrack called Second Side ESB.
Guest breweries will include (subject to change):
- Blue Corn
- La Cumbre — an ESB served with a gravity tap off the bar
- Turtle Mountain
- Steel Bender
- Sidetrack — Collaboration between Dan Herr and Rod Tweet
And, because the British food theme has been fairly done, and rarely well, this event’s menu will be internationally themed, including five worldly sharable plates.
Menu (courtesy of Chef Milton):
Curried Cauliflower Samosas
Non-traditional play on the classic Indian appetizer, with sweet potato, charred curried cauliflower and onions in a flaky pastry. Three samosas, served with a side of cool Raita, and our new green chutney for dipping.
India (with meat)
Five prawns marinated, and then grilled and served on a traditional South Indian pepper relish and naan bread.
Goat Skewers and Fufu
Two goat meat skewers, grilled and served with a side of Gahannan Fufu dough, garnished with Algerian Chermoula sauce.
Shredded duck on top of crispy fried potatoes, topped with cheddar cheese curds, and bad-ass brown gravy.
Traditional Middle Eastern share platter with a special red pepper hummus, house baba ganouj, cucumbers, cherry tomato, roasted red peppers, two grilled goat skewers, dolmas, olives, feta cheese, and pita bread.
United Kingdom Dessert
Traditional British dessert with whipped cream, broken merengue, and fresh strawberries.
There will also be a great free live show from Fox White at 8PM!
* * * * *
With a constant stream of live music, plus big signature events like Crab and Pilsner fest, excellent food menus, and a huge wheel of rotating beers, it’s no wonder that Second Street continues to find success on its home turf.
Yet, even with a strong fleet of flagship beers leading a bold following of new quarterly can offerings, only time will tell how they’ll fare in the choppy waters of the New Mexico beer market.
This seasoned crew has well-earned their shot out in the open. Second Street’s top-quality offerings, in stunning packaging, deserve shelf space and many, many new palates to experience their craft. They’ve certainly paid their dues, several times over.
To good beers in good bars, and to the ones you can bring home, to thinking globally and drinking locally, cheers!
For more @nmdarksidebc info, #CraftBeer news, and Untappd beer shenanigans, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro.