During the ratification of the small brewer license as part of Senate Bill 413 this past spring, it noted that places with licenses not using them to brew beer would soon have a decision to make. They could either start brewing, with the promise of making a minimum of 50 barrels per year or have their own beer account for 50 percent of sales, or they would have to seek a new license to continue to selling guest taps.
Since distilleries do not fall under the reciprocity law between breweries and wineries in New Mexico, those with small brewer licenses would either have to give them up or starting producing something other than just hard liquor. In the case of Hollow Spirits, it means it will soon be time to add the title of brewer to the business card of head distiller Martin Ulloa.
“Our one-year anniversary will be December 6, so we’re planning to release our first beer then,” Martin said. “I do have a beer background. I’m going to go pretty easy (with) something I like to drink, something sessionable, maybe on the helles side, maybe on the pilsner side, and then go from there.”
Hollow Spirits owner Frank Holloway said earlier this year that he was planning on using his license to start brewing at some point. That point just kept getting pushed back.
“That’s my fault (that it’s taken so long),” Frank said. “(Martin) should have said one of his problems with the industry is him going I want to do this, I want to do that, and me going we don’t have money. The patio cost us a lot of money. The kitchen cost us a lot of money. So I kept on telling him for the past year, as soon as we get that stuff done, then everything is going to go to you.”
Martin said that no one should panic that the business at 1324 First Street NW is hurting.
“All things considered, we’ve been dealing with all of those and (yet) we’re six months ahead of our business plan,” he said. “We’re getting there.”
Hollow Spirits is not going to become a full-on 50/50 brewery/distillery, however.
“We definitely want to do beer, but when it comes down to it, distilling is our (main focus),” Frank said.
“We’re a distillery, we’re not Marble, we’re not La Cumbre, we’re not Bosque, but we want to have the option to make something in house,” Martin added.
The beer plan for the December anniversary party will likely carry forward into 2020.
“We have the license to brew, so I think long-term something simple, like the British pub style, something light and dark, and that’s it,” Martin said.
One unique idea with the beers is to draw a straight line from them to some of the spirits.
“A lot of those mash fills for the beer will really be the same or similar to the mash fills for our single malts,” Martin said. “So people can taste the beer version and the whiskey version.”
Hollow Spirits is also lending out used barrels to Marble and Ex Novo for aging beer, after which the distillery will take them back and fill them again with a different spirit, similar to what Jamesons has done with its Cask Mates series.
In the end, craft is craft, and there is no reason more places cannot make beer and spirits. Thanks to Martin and Frank for the quick update.
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