On the first day of summer, a steady flow of thirsty people made its way to Black Snout Brewhouse when the newest Northeast Heights watering hole on Juan Tabo and Menaul opened its doors to the public on Friday.
Since our last visit a little over a month ago, the finishing touches have been put in place right down to the shine on the concrete floor, which by 7 p.m. had already seen some wear from the scuffle of feet throughout its opening day.
“It was spotless at 2 o’clock,” said owner Josh James, in between working back in the brewery, behind the bar, and out on the floor greeting guests and waiting tables, along with his wife/co-owner Natasha and about half of their eight total employees.
As expected on the first day, there was a decent amount of chaos, and the staff was somewhat slow to greet me and take my order at the bar when I first arrived, but that quickly changed after I sat down at a table.
Besides some minor back and forth with the fire marshal, Josh said the last leg of preparations for opening went fairly smoothly, and now he and Natasha are ready to take the next steps as brewery owners.
“Now that we’re open, thank goodness, the first thing I want to do is sleep,” Josh said.
Otherwise, the immediate plans are to settle in and make minor changes as needed. Currently, the north wall is lined with TVs broadcasting a variety of sports channels, and already patrons are asking what will be done with the still mostly blank south wall.
Josh said that eventually he will add some more TVs to that side as well, but with future plans for a restaurant in the space next door, he doesn’t want to put too much money into something that will only be temporary.
“I don’t want to say just yet, but it’s going to be super exciting,” he said when asked for more details about the restaurant. “It kind of goes along with our theme here.”
The sports bar theme is supported in part by collaborations with local athletes, and organizations including Jackson’s MMA, in a business relationship that Josh said he hopes will be good for both the brewery and the community. Donated sports memorabilia already adorns the walls and the space behind the bar. Additionally, what Josh described as a “pretty exciting” endorsement announcement is in the works for the near future.
There is, of course, one more important element to the equation — the beer itself. Currently, Black Snout has three flagship beers: Half Guard Hefe, South Paw Porter, and Triple Double Hazy Pale Ale, along with the limited release, Gummy Bear Hazy Pale Ale.
The first attempt at brewing the Gummy Bear four years ago didn’t go too well, Josh said, and he has tried it again three or four more times since then. Brewer Josh Olivas got the final product right just in time.
“We ended up nailing it on the head when we were not sure if (the brewery) was going to work out,” he said.
Made with actual gummy bears, the brewing process is very specific and requires knowledge of water chemistry. Only one other brewery does it, Josh said, but in a completely different way. The initial aroma is tropical and fruity, like a handful of multi-flavored gummy bears, and the taste is a mild citrus with a very light hop finish. It’s rare that I can drink an entire pint of pale ale, but this one went down easily. Many others must have enjoyed it as well, as it was the best seller on opening day.
I also sampled the Half Guard Hefe and the South Paw Porter. Banana aromas and flavors shine in the Half Guard. Backed up by spicy cloves, it is banana bread in a glass. On first sip, the South Paw is pretty much what I would expect from a typical porter, but the finish is like biting into a bar of dark chocolate.
“We felt like we hit a home run on all of these beers,” Josh said.
In about a week, you can try them all at once when the first flights are unveiled. Growler fills will unfortunately not be available due to the quantity limitations of the 1-barrel brewing system, which Josh says comes with some challenges, but they are working to nail it down.
Guest taps from Santa Fe Brewing and Brew Lab 101 round out the current selection. In the future, Josh said he hopes to develop Black Snout’s relationship with these and other local breweries.
As new breweries continue to open in the Northeast Heights and throughout Albuquerque, Josh said that their goal is not to compete with anyone else, but instead to support American-made beer and the local community.
“We’re just trying to be Black Snout,” he said.
Thanks to both Josh and Natasha for taking a few minutes of their busy first day to talk with me, and congratulations on the successful opening of their new brewery!