It’s not often that I get a chance to make it southward these days with a full work schedule taking up most of my time. But, as I still actively try to get out and see as much of New Mexico as I can, I recently found myself in the lower regions of our beautiful state visiting White Sands, passing through the Organ Mountains, and heading back up through Truth or Consequences.
As it turns out, I had just heard from a buddy who had made the trip out to Truth or Consequences for a dip at the Riverbend Hot Springs, that the brewery in town was making some excellent beer.
The Crew had previously done a “coming soon,” story on T or C Brewing Co., back in 2017, and since I was going to be in the area, it seemed like a great opportunity to do a follow-up/Look Back/Look Ahead Series story, but more importantly I wanted to find out if my buddy was right about the quality of the beer.
We pulled into Truth or Consequences on a blustery, gray Sunday afternoon. Our poor pitbull mix, Memphis, was pretty irritated from being cooped up in the car all morning, so we took him for a walk around the aged city blocks of downtown T or C. At first glance, the scene appeared very similar to many other downtown districts in small-town New Mexico — large brick facades, old storefronts, long abandoned to time and wear. But, T or C was anything but abandoned. Upon closer inspection, there were vibrant colors in every window, signs outside each shop, shopkeepers beckoning you to come in and take a look at their wares from across the street, and bemused visitors just like myself walking around, window shopping, and taking it all in. To twist a turn of phrase, the lights were on, and someone was definitely home.
I entered the brewery and glanced around at the clean, modern, yet hometown-y surroundings. It was a place you were instantly happy to be, and wouldn’t mind coming back for ‘a couple,’ on any given night while in town. It was the kind of first impression that a city slicker like me could only hope for this far from my usual local haunts.
Before I really had a chance to poke around, the bartender greeted me as if he was actually happy to see me (even though he had no idea I was there to do a story). It was a nice change of pace from just having been through Alamogordo, where everyone we met seemed legitimately pissed that we were there to take a gander at the largest known gypsum dune field in the world.
He soon pointed me in the direction of John Masterson, the man with whom I’d been trading brief emails over the past week. Within seconds, Masterson offered me any beer of my choosing from his rather large menu. I ordered the Dark Skies Oatmeal Stout, of course, took a few more pictures, and then we grabbed a table away from the stage and the speakers to talk about how business has been since opening in 2017.
As we chatted, the focus kept coming back to one thing: The beer. And, as I sipped my Dark Skies Oatmeal Stout, I was beginning to find out why.
Truth or Consequences Brewing Company opened in June 2017, pouring guest beers at several soft openings. When their first beer was ready, T or C Brewing was already off to a running start. Masterson said it was a combination of his homebrewing experience, CNM training, great employees, generous mentors, and a fair dose of luck that allowed them to produce good beer from the beginning.
“And, that helps,” Masterson said. “Start with the beer. The beer is what we’re here to do.”
Their first beer was brewed on August 21 of 2017.
“It was the day of the solar eclipse, and that’s what named our Cosmic Blonde,” Masterson recalled. “We knew we had to have a light in color, low in bitterness, easy drinking golden ale. And, so that beer is often our top seller.”
Since then, T or C Brewing has tapped a great many beers, in many styles, shying away from very few.
“We have a 36-tap set-up, so we have options,” Masterson said with a grin.
T or C has six house beers that they try to have on tap at all times, including a light lager, American Blonde, an Irish Red, two dark beers such as a porter and a stout, and then they have an IPA.
“On any given night, any one of those beers could be the top-seller, depending on who’s in,” Masterson added.
T or C’s seasonals are where Masterson and company really get to play around. And, play around they do, with local ingredients and some less-traditional styles. For example, their Good Juju American Brown Ale was made from locally crafted Jujube Molasses, or there was a cardamom-infused version of their Winter Warmer, Bad Santa. There was a Blonde Stout, their Dessert Stout, an oatmeal stout infused with the ”essence” of peanut butter and chocolate. There was their Barleywine, Truth Serum, and a Smoked Porter, all of which they showcased at a bash they called the Winter Beer Blizzard, a small festival of big, bad, monstrous, mostly dark, winter beers they held back in December 2018. That sounds like our kind of party.
T or C has plenty of well-made and interesting beers that will appeal to anyone walking in off the street, from the Dark-Side-pleasing monsters like the barleywines and stouts to the $3, 3.5-percent ABV Airstream Ultra, which was made for the crowd demanding something lighter and cheaper, and more … regular-beer-like, which has received plenty of notice and good reviews, as you can see below.
Every beer I had was solid, in my opinion. If Masterson aimed for a style, he hit it right on the money — no off-flavors, excellent mouthfeel, and all in all a joy to drink. As CNM instructor Nick Jones had put it, only a week or two before, “Not a dud in the bunch,” a statement with which I agree.
Though beer is a main focus, it’s the total experience that T or C Brewing seeks to nail down.
Both owners have come from a technology and customer service background. There is Masterson, the CBO — Chief Beer Officer (yes, that is his actual title) — and his wife, Marianne, the CEO. They have focused on producing good beer and making sure that the whole customer experience (while enjoying the beer) is the top priority. It’s in their mission statement, and that’s what they brought to the table, which, in the past two years has proved a ”simple-sounding,” yet winning combination with both with the locals and visitors to town.
“We have a total mix of customers,” John Masterson said. “Some nights, everyone in this place is local. There are some nights where locals would not recognize anyone in here. It just depends on who’s in the hot springs hotels, and who’s out and about. We’re starting to become known as not just a hot springs town, but a town that has a great brewery.”
They are now getting beer tourists who then discover that there are hot springs in the brewery town. And, being geographically located between Austin and Los Angeles, and between Denver and El Paso, doesn’t hurt their experience either. They’ve had some fairly big acts play the T or C Brewing stage, as a result.
“(The bands) have discovered that there’s a watering hole here that will treat them well, that has great beer, and a great customer experience,” Masterson said. ”And, this town loves to come out and dance.”
T or C has music at least two times a week rocking their stage.
In 2018, business for T or C Brewing was on a steady climb, with solid beer releases, a few successful events under their belts, as well as a couple of landmarks and accolades to keep pointing them in the right direction.
For one, as newcomers, they took second place in the Santa Fe Open with their barrel-aged Honey Winter Ale, amidst always stiff competition.
Another highlight of the year was figuring out the bottling process and getting bottles to market, selling high ABV special releases out of the taproom, such as their aforementioned Truth Serum Barleywine, their Fireside Tripel, and India Brown Ale.
By the beginning of 2019, T or C Brewing could safely say that it had become a core part of nightlife in the downtown district, alongside a winery housed within a bowling alley. If that doesn’t scream cosplay bowling, I don’t know what does.
2019 for T or C Brewing mainly means doubling down on becoming the destination brewery they’ve been working hard at being for the last two years, Masterson said. He says they couldn’t have made it this far without his operations manager, Dan Schild, and their brewing technician, and the rest of his hardworking crew, most of which had never previously worked in a brewery.
Sure, they’re building upon what they’ve done, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have other plans and big ideas. It does mean producing more quality beer, bringing in more live music, and supporting all of the local events, such as T or C’s Fiesta at the beginning of May, a local bash 70 years running. Masterson said they’ll be pouring special summer beers for the occasion, including one made with the healing water from the springs.
In 2019, T or C Brewing will do a bit of distributing, extending as far as local wineries at first. Masterson said he doesn’t plan to turn any part of his space into a kitchen any time soon, but with a stack of menus beneath the bar, outside food is always just a holler away, and from almost all directions.
The brewery will grow as space and need permits, but Masterson did let me know that they’re currently sniffing around Las Cruces for a second taproom. And, with the caliber of beer currently being brewed on their 10-barrel system, it’s just a matter of time (and luck) finding the right spot.
Right now, they’re most excited about their spring bottle releases, and what new beers will go on tap with the changing of the seasons.
“One of my favorite things to do as the owner/brewer is to sit right up at the front bar, and look up at my menu, and think about what I know is in inventory,” Masterson said. ”How many kegs are left of each one? And, I think about the seasons changing, and I think — what is the missing beer for the person who walks in? I want to have the solution for them, like if they want something sweet and dark, something light and crisp, or something super hoppy. And, so that menu becomes my guide for what’s missing (and what I need to make next).”
On the second Saturday of every month, T or C has Second Saturday Art Hop, during which a lot of the downtown art galleries open up and the restaurants stay open late.
T or C is open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and around 9:30 to 10:00 on weeknights.
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The brewery has come to fit right into the town with such a great reception from the locals and support from the city. As it turns out, a brewery was always part of the plan. When the city got together and produced a masterplan of downtown and Main Street back in 2011, the community had figured out that one of the most important things the town could do for itself was attract a brewery. Well, what a brewery they attracted!
Whether you’re heading out to Truth or Consequences for some hot spring soaks, some hiking and/or biking on their many trails, or just looking for some live music and dancing while you’re on a road trip to elsewhere, there are plenty of reasons to visit this quaint little town. But, really, if I’m being honest, the beer is reason enough to visit. Do yourself a favor, go for the beer, and stay for all the other fun stuff going on around town.
To good beer and great customer experience to go with it, here’s hoping all of your consequences are happy ones!
For more @nmdarksidebc news and reasonably honest Untappd beer reviews follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro.