For part two of Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery’s first year in Santa Fe story, it would be a huge disservice to only talk about the beer. Yes, we’re all about the beer in the Dark Side Brew Crew, but when we talk to a brewery and distillery, with its main taproom doubling as an upscale craft cocktail lounge, and then tripling as a huge family-friendly event and music space — one that will be playing host to Saturday’s Santa Fe round of the IPA Challenge — I would be remiss to skip over such a huge part of the story, especially when it involves putting something interesting and craft into cans.
For the complete Tumbleroot story, I called, emailed, and hunted down director of front of house operations and mixologist, Joseph Haggard, to talk craft cocktails and what they’ll be soon putting into cans. I also tracked down owner/director of business operations Jason Fitzpatrick, to talk music and whether Metal Mondays will stick around, and then I circled back to head brewer Andy Lane to talk about his IPA Challenge beer named Keymaster.
Haggard has been with the company since just about the beginning, taking the lead on cocktails as he helped to guide the direction of the spirits program. Aside from the beer section, the rest of the menu you see at Tumbleroot has been his baby. I got a hold of him one morning as he walked his dog through his industrial neighborhood in Santa Fe.
“In a year, the cocktail list has undergone some interesting changes,” Haggard said. “We started out with wanting to make our list really approachable. I spent a lot of years doing kind of esoteric, weird flavors, weird presentations, and weird textures. I had a lot of fun doing that. And, what I found in the time that I did that, was that it really spoke to some people, but not everyone. I think what we came back to was there’s a reason the classics are the classics.”
They started out with a lot of simple drinks, a lot of classics.
“We were making a lot of things built in Collins glasses,” Haggard said. “We were looking for speed. You know, it’s a huge space. We didn’t want to get bogged down in complicated builds. We were more focused on doing more of the work behind the scenes.
“And then, throughout the year, we kind of stepped it up a little bit, and started trying some more esoteric ideas. And, it was proof that our original idea held water. We got some good responses, but people came back to classic daiquiris, tiki drinks, Moscow Mules.”
People wanted the classics. While Moscow Mules have done well for Tumbleroot, people love the mojito, which, as mentioned in the previous story, will be released soon in a 4-pack can as their initial offering.
Canned cocktails had been on Haggard’s mind for years, ever since he was working in Chicago. They had experimented with kegs in really high volume environments. A typical night would look like pouring a hundred margaritas off of a tap system. In theory, it’s pretty similar.
“It’s just a big version of a 12-ounce can,” Haggard said. “And, we’re like, hey, let’s make a cocktail and throw it in a can!”
Haggard has already done it for events. He did it for the Cocktails and Culture festival.
“We showed up with a bunch of cans of stuff I made before,” he said.
It was well received.
“People are like, uh, I don’t know, at first, and then we crack it open, and then they’re like, oh, this tastes like you just made this for me,” he said.
It may not have the presentation that you get with a pretty drink in a glass, but it’s definitely something you can take backpacking.
“I spent so many years, kind of like I said in the beginning, focusing on the theater of bartending, and really presenting people with an experience,” Haggard said. “We still want to do that. But, we’re really dialing in on what’s in the liquid.”
With a brewery that has always supported and been supported by food trucks, it’s wonder how Tumbleroot came to have a food menu. With food trucks consistently posted outside, why would the brewery feel the need to start a kitchen?
“It came out of the blue,” Haggard said.
As they were interviewing for front-of-house positions, he said they came across a guy who had a bit of experience in the kitchen. The original concept was to focus on food trucks, because they basically didn’t have a kitchen, but they had a space they weren’t using. It was part of the general store, which is the odd area in the corner behind the big beautiful bar at the Agua Fria location.
They brainstormed ideas, with the plan to keep it simple — interesting meats and cheeses, snack food to supplement the food trucks. But, the whole ‘simple’ idea soon evolved.
“It turns out, with a more culinary bar, you do need more equipment,” Haggard said.
So they purchased more cookware, tools, induction burners. Their new hire had said they had all they needed for a more elaborate food menu. They rolled with it. From that came some great and admittedly less successful events like brunch at Tumbleroot.
“The brunch thing was super fun,” Haggard said. “The food was really good. I think it’s a challenge to draw a brunch crowd on our side of town, being a little bit further from downtown. But, I firmly believe that our community is evolving quickly.”
With the nearby Siler Yard Project just being approved and funded, Tumbleroot’s neck of the woods is going to see a lot of quick growth.
“My hope is that there are going to be a lot of creative, awesome, interesting people of all different types and ages moving into that area and wanting more of that brunch experience,” Haggard said. “And, we’re just sort of listening to the pulse of the neighborhood.”
Crostinis and other snack items evolved into more filling menus items, like elk brats and French Dip sandwiches, including refreshing summer salads, and of course, because it’s a family-oriented place, they have a kids menu, and options for bite-sized desserts.
It may not be a huge menu still, but what they do, they do right. Their Au Jus is extra dippy, and their beer cheese and mustard treat their soft pretzels right. It’s a great spot for lunch, if you’re just ducking off the beaten path of traffic-jammed Cerrillos, and with the range of food the trucks are providing out back, you’ll find something for the family to munch on while they wait for the next band to start playing.
As far as the cocktail side of the menu, I was informed that Tumbleroot is bringing back favorites like the Bronco, which is definitely my personal favorite. This “Tier 3” cocktail on the original menu was made with their own oro rum, ginger, orange, lemon, and Mexican mole bitters, and it’ll buck you off a barstool if you’re an unworthy cattle-wrangler.
For Tumbleroot’s next year, Haggard said that their goal as a company is to listen carefully, and be intelligent listeners when it comes to where they are and who they’re there for. Haggard said he doesn’t want to see Agua Fria become stagnant, but instead wants it to change and continue to be fresh like all of their offerings, and echoing what Lane said in the last article, adapt to what people are looking for.
“We do get people that come in and they just got off work and they just want a rum and coke,” Haggard said. “And, it’s cool that we can do that for them. A lot of “craft cocktail bars,” might turn their noses up at that, but we’re for the people, out here.”
Before he hung up the phone, he did let it leak that Tumbleroot does have interest in moving into a more tourist-dense part of Santa Fe where a “really nerdy, weird and crazy, molecular bistronomy cocktail program could meet with a little more success.”
The music side of Tumbleroot has been a busy one as well, with live bands most days of the week, and community events. In one year, Tumbleroot has really put itself out there to become a trusted entertainment venue to a really finicky town. For that part of the story I got in touch with owner and director of business operations, Jason Fitzpatrick.
DSBC: Would you say Tumbleroot’s first year as a music venue has been a successful one?
Fitzpatrick: I would. We have been far from perfect, and have certainly learned a lot about the shows, artists, and bands that Santa Fe supports. I rank our success by the feedback from the musicians. They love playing the room and appreciate that a new venue in town supports and appreciates their efforts.
DSBC: What were some of your most successful shows?
Fitzpatrick: Our most recent successes came on two consecutive days, just last weekend. We had a hip hop show headlined by Zion I, and the next day hosted Billfest featuring local 10 unique recording artists throughout the day.
DSBC: What shows/series have done particularly well for the Santa Fe?
Fitzpatrick: Metal Monday is our most consistent series. Metalheads are a loyal, respectful group and I am really glad that we, Tumbleroot, have been able to foster a mutually beneficial relationship.
Jason Reed hosting our Wednesday Open Mic’s has also done particularly well for us. It gives musicians an opportunity to experiment for a crowd of friends.
DSBC: What have you learned in a year of booking music in Santa Fe at the Agua Fria location?
Fitzpatrick: Santa Fe is finicky and doesn’t tend to support lesser-known touring artists. There are some great musicians coming through town that we would love to book, but Santa Fe tends to support what they know.
DSBC: Anything you would do differently?
Fitzpatrick: I have made a lot of mistakes with booking bands that I love and the night ends with just me in the room. Maybe being more in tune with the Santa Fe crowd, but on the other hand I love supporting musicians, both local and touring.
DSBC: What’s your favorite night at Tumbleroot look like, currently?
Fitzpatrick: My favorite night was when David Berkeley played at Tumbleroot. If I could do that consistently, my favorite would change night to night. The room was filled with the energy of a young, family-oriented town, with kids dancing in front of the stage, and a filled room of listeners who appreciated his artistry.
DSBC: Will Metal Mondays continue?
Fitzpatrick: Of course! We are currently trying to book once a month, and Augustine with The Decibel Foundry has been our champion at getting great bands. We will host as long as the community shows support, and from our shows so far, there is a lot of support.
DSBC: Where do you think Tumbleroot fits in within the community and then nightlife scene?
Fitzpatrick: We offer something unique that is oriented toward a varied experience based upon how you feel that night. We host a lot of fundraisers, are family friendly, support food trucks, feature local artists, are a great date night spot. Some say that we are trying to do too much, but what I hope to achieve is a house party type environment where our guests can have five different experiences in the same night.
DSBC: What do you have in store for future crowds at Tumbleroot? Anything you’re really excited about?
Fitzpatrick: We are trying to become more eclectic in our booking. Metal Monday proves that there are supporters of music that are starved for a venue in town. So, you can expect a different style or genre of music every night at Tumbleroot. Folk/Americana isn’t all that Santa Fe has to offer.
Before we’re done, I spoke to head brewer, Andy Lane, one more time about the beer they entered into the IPA challenge, since they’re a host of the Santa Fe round on Saturday, with tickets now available online.
“The Keymaster IPA is my first NMIPAC entry for Tumbleroot,” Lane said. “It’s a super dank and fruity hop bomb that we were able to fill with almost four pounds of dry hop per barrel! Hops include Azacca, Idaho 7, Meridian, Simcoe, and CTZ. The flavor is that of lime peel, stone fruit, and dank herb. It has a very light complexion with the slightest hint of caramel malt. It finishes dry, and at 8-percent (ABV), it is a deceivingly strong beer.
“When I was working at Blue Corn with Paul Mallory, I joked that since we made Gatekeeper, we would have to some day make a Keymaster. Paul’s name for the Gatekeeper was a tribute to one of his favorite West Coast rappers. Every time I said the name however, all I could ever think of was Gozer and Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. I didn’t get a chance to name a beer the Keymaster during my time at Blue Corn, but now only a year later, I couldn’t think of a better name for our NMIPAC beer in honor of Paul and everything he taught me.
“As the IPA Challenge comes to Santa Fe this year, and for the first time is hosted at Tumbleroot, I have a feeling that the Keymaster will be a heavy contender. It is in Santa Fe last year that the Gatekeeper walked away with a large number of votes, and it would only be fitting if the Keymaster did the same this year.”
The IPA Challenge is from noon to 4 with Red Ninja DJ-ing for some palate cleansing background beats.
Tumbleroot will have their regular food menus throughout the day to keep challenge-goers fed. And, the regular list of cocktails will be available to those not looking to participate in the annual IPA palate wrecking.
Tumbleroot is also doing what they can to keep things running smooth and keep things as fair as possible.
“All IPAs will be dispensed under the same pressure through our draft towers,” Fitzpatrick said. “The (New Mexico) Brewers Guild has volunteers cleaning all of the lines the morning of the event to ensure no residual beer flavors from our beers. The kegs will not be visible to anyone except the Guild Volunteers and our staff.”
To another round with the IPA, may the best brewery win, cheers!
For more @nmdarksidebc info and #craftbeer news, and of course pictures of beer with inebriated estimations of their quality via Untappd, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro!